Copal Azur comes with the promise of all the colours of the Mayan Riviera, captured in one bottle: from the turquoise of its foaming seas to the green of its jungles, the white of its beaches and the plumes of Copal incense smoke, and the gold of fire-burning amber laid at the altars of the Jaguar God. Inspired by a Mayan citadel on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, it is a fragrance whose aroma is painted in the most beautiful strokes, conjuring up a truly vivid image that transports you visually and mentally. Yet, words can differ from actual reality, and what sounds so good as a verbal picture may not translate to the same thing in terms of scent. There are parts of Copal Azur that I found quite enjoyable, but other parts got lost in translation. Or, to be more precise, it may have been better had they not been translated at all.
Copal Azur is an eau de parfum that was created by Bertrand Duchaufour, and released on November 15th. Whomever wrote the Aedes de Venustas’ press release did a magnificent job, if only in describing the beauty of the Yucatan Peninsula and its feel. You can read the full details on the Aedes website, but I’ll cover a few of the points here. First, the company explains that Copal Azur tries to capture the scent of a Mayan incense called Copal, but that the resin “cannot be used as a perfume ingredient.” As a result, “three different extractions of frankincense are used to conjure it from top to base notes, making up an extravagant 30% of the formula.”
The remainder of the perfume’s notes were cleverly chosen by colour category as much as scent:
- Blue, for the Caribbean Sea and the limpid depth of the cenotes, the subterranean fresh-water pools that riddle Yucatan: a cool breeze of ozonic and salty notes.
- Green, for the lush Mexican jungles: a flash of cardamom glinting in the moist, woody undergrowth of patchouli and myrrh.
- White, for the purest quality of copal and the pristine beaches of Tulum: a lick of almond-scented tonka bean smoothed into creamy notes.
- Amber for the Jaguar God of Terrestrial Fire – the fire that burns the sacred copal… Hypnotic, spiritual and forceful, Copal Azur might well indeed open the “Gate to Heaven”.
The succinct list of notes is therefore:
Top: Marine notes, Ozonic Notes, Frankincense
Heart: Cardamom, Patchouli, Frankincense
Base: Ambergris, Myrrh, Almond, Tonka Bean, Frankincense
Copal Azur opens on my skin with clean, cool incense and the smell of salty sea water, followed by ISO E Super and a golden, spiced, ambered sweetness that has dabs of cardamom and patchouli in it. On their heels are a trio of other notes: the cool, dusty, fustiness of myrrh; a general sort of smokiness; and the aroma of fresh pencil shavings mixed with a cedar-like woodiness.
A growing touch of clean, ozonic synthetics hovers at the edges, and this is where my problems begin. Their aroma here is redolent of a dry-cleaning shop, one that happens to be down the block from a public swimming pool, as artificial, chemical cleanness vies with a slightly chlorine-like, Calone note. Regular readers know my views on ISO E Supercrappy, but I’m not particularly fond of Calone, either.
For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Calone is an aromachemical that replicates a watery, sometimes oceanic “sea-breeze” aroma, though it can also have a honeydew melon nuance at times as well. Calone was a huge thing in the 1990s and early 2000s, thanks to Acqua di Gio and Davidoff‘s Cool Water, but there are many other fragrances which include the note as well.
Its use in Copal Azur is logical given Aedes’ goal of capturing the Mayan Riviera, but that doesn’t mean it’s a great idea, if you ask me. I also don’t think it works seamlessly in conjunction with the other notes, particularly the warmer ones. As for the clean, “ozonic” element, it feels like something taken straight out of Comme des Garcons‘ playbook. In fact, its Synthetics 2 is specifically intended to replicate dry-cleaning aromas. I’m sure it has its fans, but I’m not one of them. I do not want to smell like my dry-cleaners.
10 minutes into its development, Copal Azur shifts a little. The ISO E Supercrappy vanishes, but the clean, ozonic, and salty aquatic notes bloom in strength and potency. The musty myrrh grows stronger, too, along with the sweet warmth that has almost a caramel-like nuance from the ambergris. The overall result is an odd mix of contrasts where ancient notes compete with very modern ones. I appreciate it intellectually, respect its cleverness, and admit there was something quite fascinating about the paradox the first time around, but it is a novelty act which grew cold for me by the third wearing.
At the 30-minute mark, the ambered sweetness retreats to the edges, leaving behind a mix that is primarily frankincense, myrrh, ozonic, and calone aquatic notes in the foreground. Once in a blue moon, I could detect something that almost smelled like aromatic pine trees, but it was extremely muted, lurked in the distance, and eventually disappeared entirely at the end of the first hour. Like the spices and amber, it was vastly overshadowed by the “dry-cleaning” note.
I will be honest, at times, there is something appealing from Copal Azur from afar. At a distance, a good portion of the bouquet which initially swirls around you is a multi-faceted, beautifully done incense bouquet, laced with a wonderful ambered sweetness, an abstract spiciness, and a subtle tinge of something vaguely woody. Up close, the problems begin and can be glaring at times, but the first hour in particular is quite enjoyable. Later, the perfume grows simpler, cooler, more linear, and more synthetic, but the opening is nice. From afar.
The first few hours also demonstrate the Duchaufour touch in terms of Copal Azur’s sillage and body. A friend describes the perfumer’s signature as something like “hefty weightlessness,” and I agree with him. Copal Azur initially opens with a light, somewhat wispy, but strong cloud of moderate projection that weaves little tendrils around you. Three very large smears from my sample created 2.5 inches of projection at first and, even when that number dropped at the end of the first hour to a mere inch above the skin, those tendrils continue to linger.
The end of the first hour marks a significant change in Copal Azur’s character. The perfume grows simpler as the aquatics and calone weaken quite a bit, joining the amber, spices and woodiness in the background. The sweetness is now muted, while the amber loses much of its caramel undertones. The saltiness disappears entirely. At the same time, the myrrh turns softer, putting an end to its faint vestiges of mustiness, but the frankincense grows stronger and blacker.
A new element suddenly appears in the base, the first stirrings of something creamy, almost milky. Now, Copal Azur is primarily a blend of frankincense with dry-cleaning aromachemicals and small streaks of myrrh, all atop a creamy base. Three hours in, the milkiness and sweetness both grow stronger, while the tonka awakens to add a wisp of powderiness to the proceedings. The latter isn’t like actual powder but is simply the sort of textural quality that tonka usually imparts. It doesn’t last long in any event, so don’t worry about Copal Azur being a truly powdery scent.
At the start of the sixth hour, Copal Azur is merely frankincense and creaminess with persistent lashings of ozonic cleanness. A tiny sliver of sweetness lingers at the edges, but Copal Azur never feels like a hugely ambered scent after the first hour. My skin tends to amplify base notes, so I had expected a stronger and more long-lasting ambergris element. It didn’t really happen. The perfume veers back and forth between a cooler profile and something less austere, but I think it’s due more to the creaminess of the tonka than any great warmth from the amber.
In its final moments, Copal Azur is merely a puff of incense, and nothing more. All in all, the scent lasted quite a good length of time on my perfume-consuming skin, but I had to really sniff hard with my nose right on my arm to detect it after a certain point. To be precise: with three very large smears equal to 2 big sprays from an actual bottle, Copal Azur lasted 13.25 hours with sillage that remained just an inch above the skin after 90 minutes. The perfume turned into a skin scent at the start of the 6th hour, but was easy to detect without much effort up to the 8th hour. After that, I needed to put my nose right on the skin. When I applied 2 good smears, equal to 1 big spray from a bottle, Copal Azur lasted just over 10 hours, became a skin scent at the 4 hour mark but was easy to detect until midway during the 6th hour. In all cases, the sillage was merely okay after the first hour, though there were those lingering tendrils that I mentioned earlier.
As some of you may know, incense is a common thread in several Aedes de Venustas fragrances, such as Iris Nazarena and Oeillet Bengale. The former is perhaps the closest in style to Copal Azur, as the latter is primarily a floral scent, in my opinion, and the incense is not a significant, driving force. So, a few comments on how the two compare may be useful to you. I find Iris Nazarena to be a cool incense fragrance with little to no creaminess, and a quiet floralcy whose iris character doesn’t endure throughout its lifetime on my skin. There are no strong synthetics, though it does have a clean, white musk, if I recall correctly. Generally, it is a crisper incense that seems focused primarily on frankincense.
In Copal Azur, the myrrh competes just as much, and is backed by an ambered warmth. Comparatively speaking, I think it’s a more complex fragrance with greater nuance, though I do not think Copal Azur is a particularly complex or multi-faceted when taken as a whole or generally speaking. It’s merely a relative thing because, when Iris Nazarena loses its namesake note with its stone-like coolness, the perfume turns into a largely linear, simplistic frankincense bouquet. Copal Azur has a bit more to it, particularly as Duchaufour’s treatment means some of the opening notes fleetingly pop up once in a while at the edges to say hello. That doesn’t happen with Iris Nazarena on my skin.
I would have liked Copal Azur if the “ozonic,” clean, and watery aromachemicals had played a less prominent part. Had they been the most fleeting and abstract suggestions at the edges, I might have fallen hard for the appealing combination of incense with sweetness and ambered warmth. Myrrh is a note which can be very enticing when combined with amber, as it muffles or erases the resin’s innate dusty, fusty mustiness. When the two are combined with frankincense (my favorite sort of incense) and then tonka creaminess is added to the mix as well, the result should be right up my alley.
Unfortunately, I simply cannot get past the powerful whiff of my dry-cleaner’s shop or how long-lasting it is during the perfume’s duration on my skin. Copal Azur is not a dirt cheap fragrance, not at $245 for 100 ml, though there are more affordable refill options starting at $110. It’s still not something I would want to pay, given how mixed the results are. ISO E Supercrappy may be my own personal bête noire and something that the vast majority of people can’t detect or aren’t bothered by, but I guarantee that you will smell the calone and “ozonic” elements to some degree or another since they are explicitly and intentionally meant to be a big part of the fragrance. Whether you enjoy them more than I did will be a matter of individual, personal taste. I’ll pass.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of the company via its distributor, Beauty Enterprise. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.