Parfums de Nicolaï Cuir Cuba Intense

Imagine a land in an alternate universe, a parallel Cuba called Cuir Cuba Intense. There, an old tobacco farmer rolls out tobacco leaves, not on the thighs of nubile virgins, but on cedar tables covered with thick, black licorice paste. The leaves are still a bit raw, half-moist, and wet, with a certain dirty darkness that borders on the leathery. The farmer layers the tobacco with generous amounts of sweet coumarin crystals, then more black licorice, before dusting them with geranium rose, bits of lavender and mint, and a touch of lemon. Rolled into cigars, they are lightly doused with civet and musk, then nestled between sheaves of sweet hay, and left to dry in a room filled with golden ambered warmth which carries the faintest traces of rum and honey.

"Tobacco Rolling, Vinales, Cuba." Photo by April Maciborka and David Wile. Their sites: (link to full website gallery embedded within) and

“Tobacco Rolling, Vinales, Cuba.” Photo by April Maciborka and David Wile. Their sites: (link to full website gallery embedded within) and

Over time, the cigars change. The licorice melts into their body, the civet awakens to add a slightly sharp edge, and the tobacco starts to dry. They lose their raw darkness, tempered by the coumarin crystals which bloom into a subtle creaminess. Eventually, by some alchemical transformation of this alternate universe, the tobacco is no longer even tobacco. It has turned into leather. First, into a dark, sweetened leather dusted with spices and, then, finally, into the creamiest calf-skin with supple smoothness and a hint of sweetness.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

That is the world of Cuir Cuba Intense, brought to you by Patricia de Nicolaï, a talented perfumer who is, in my opinion, the true, rightful heir to the Guerlain throne. You can read more about that, her childhood in the Guerlain family, the glass-ceiling for female noses within both the family and the perfume industry as a whole, and how her Parfums de Nicolaï brand was really the first, truly “niche” house in a profile piece I wrote a long time ago. Here, I will only say that we’re all probably better off that Madame de Nicolaï (hereinafter spelled simply as “Nicolai,” sans the dotted “i”) is following her own vision and not subject to the dictates of a corporate overlord like LVMH. In fact, this year marks Parfums de Nicolai’s 25th Anniversary, so a huge congratulations to her and to her husband who co-founded the house.

Cuir Cuba Intense in the 100 ml bottle. Source: Parfums de Nicolai.

Cuir Cuba Intense in the 100 ml bottle. Source: Parfums de Nicolai.

Cuir Cuba Intense is an eau de parfum that was inspired by both the island of its name, and by Madame de Nicolai’s childhood memories. The press release states:

Patricia de Nicolaï is happy to introduce her new creation: Cuir Cuba Intense, inspired by the colorful and sunny island where we cultivate tobacco leaves.

‘Although I hate smoking, I have always loved the scent of tobacco leaves used in the making of cigars.’ explains Patricia. ‘When I was a child, at my parent’s, I appreciated when I was asked to go and collect the cigar box’ continues the creator. ‘What a pleasure to open it and to smell these delicate scents…It was a fragrance that really transported me! Many years after, I have found out this scent in my lab thanks to the tobacco leave absolute, starting point of Cuir Cuba Intense.’  [Emphasis in the original.]

I always like it when companies have an actual pyramid graphics for the notes, so I thought I would share with you the image I was sent by Parfums de Nicolai:

Source: Parfums de Nicolai.

Source: Parfums de Nicolai.

To put all that together, the succinct list of notes is:

Top: Sicilian Lemon, Anise, Licorice, Mint.
Heart: Lavender, Geranium, Ylang-Ylang, Magnolia and Coriander.
Base: Patchouli, Cedar, Tobacco Absolute, Hay, Liatrix, Iris, Sage, Musc and Civet.

Dried Liatris or Liatrix leaves. Source:

Dried Liatris or Liatrix leaves. Source:

That’s a lot of notes — 17 to be precise. I’m one of those people whose perfume experiences were shaped by the ’70s and ’80s, so lengthy perfume lists always bring joy to my heart. Yet, one name was new to me: Liatrix. According to my research, it’s a North American plant that is also known as Liatris or Deers Tongue, and is part of the larger tobacco family. Ayala Moriel Parfums says the leaves (which are what most people use in fragrances) have an intensely sweet smell due to their massive coumarin content. (Coumarin is one of the main reasons why so many perfume houses, particularly Guerlain, use tonka beans as they contain a lot of it, too.) Charabot, a French perfume ingredient company, says Liatris leaves also have an aroma like tobacco or hay. Luminescents says that Liatris was, in fact, historically used to flavour tobacco products. I find it rather impressive that Madame de Nicolai has used such an uncommon but historically authentic ingredient for her tobacco fragrance.

Kephalis. Source: Givaudan.

Kephalis. Source: Givaudan.

Cuir Cuba Intense opens on my skin with essentially the same contours as the story I recounted at the start of this review. But I omitted one key component in that tale: aromachemicals. Something in Cuir Cuba Intense’s opening phase and particularly in its middle stage smells chemical to my nose, and I think it is Kephalis. It is a very intense, powerful tobacco compound from Givaudan with a subtle ISO E Super-like whiff in its undertones, and with a warm, leathery, woody, and slightly ambered warmth about it. The official description from Givaudan states:

Kephalis is a very versatile and rich product, used as a long lasting heart/basic note. It blends well with floral notes (jasmine, rose, violet, lavender, etc.) as well as sophisticated amber, woody-aldehydic, tobacco and masculine creations.

I’ve tried Cuir Cuba Intense about four times now, and I think of Kephalis each and every time. There is something very similar to ISO E Super’s antiseptic vibe in the first minute, though it fades rapidly to leave simply a strong, powerful “tobacco” that I can only describe as aromachemical on my skin. Yes, it is also the raw, concentrated, dark aroma of actual tobacco, but… something is a bit wonky about it. For me, at least. It is not, for example, similar to the raw tobacco absolute aroma that I’ve experienced with Abdes Salaam Attar’s all natural creations for his Via del Profumo line. There are a number of aromachemical tobacco compounds on the market and, for all I know, a similar product may have been used in Cuir Cuba Intense. I’ve written to Parfums de Nicolai to ask, but I haven’t heard back yet, so I’ll go with “Kephalis” for now.

It shouldn’t be a big deal for most of you. I have sensitive to aromachemicals, but many people can’t detect them at all or don’t care when they do. Still, it would be dishonest not to mention it, especially as something about the fragrance occasionally irritated the back of my throat and caused a reaction when I smelled Cuir Cuba Intense too closely for too long. It wasn’t a frequent thing, but it did happen because Kephalis is quite heavy-duty in potency. Still, I have to emphasize that the majority of people have no issues with such ingredients, so let’s move on.

Licorice. Source:

Licorice. Source:

Cuir Cuba Intense opens with dry, dark tobacco that is followed within seconds by black licorice, an ISO E Super-like whiff, spiciness that feels like cloves, sweet hay, and patchouli. Tiny bits of mint, geranium, and lemon are sprinkled on top, but they’re barely perceptible against the powerful duet of tobacco and licorice. The coumarin and hay are in the second wave, followed by a third wave consisting of an ambered warmth that is sweet, almost rum-like, though not actually boozy. A subtle, quiet floralcy wafts nebulously at the edges, but it doesn’t really translate into a specific flower at this point.



For all the specific notes, my general sense is of something else: a definite tropicality where sweetness, spices, darkness, humid moistness, dryness, and gooey, almost resinous licorice note all cha-cha-cha down avenues made from dry, fragrant tobacco leaves. I’m not keen on the aromachemical quality which is also involved, but the rest of it definitely manages to conjure up a sunny, hot, humid place like Cuba, filled with sweetness, heat and spiciness.



Despite all my talk of sweetness, Cuir Cuba Intense has dryness as well, thanks to the tobacco. It is not the fruity pipe tobacco of Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille or HermèsAmbre Narguilé. Nor is it precisely the honey-sweetened sheaves of Serge Lutens‘ lovely Chergui, though that is the closest approximation due to the Liatrix’s very prominent hay and coumarin notes. Finally, it’s also not a pure cigar box aroma, either. I’ve smoked cigars, I’ve been in humified cigar rooms, and my father keeps a cigar box, so I know the pure, unvarnished aroma of the finished product. Here, the tobacco resembles the leaves in what I imagine would be their rawest, almost dirty stage, when picked off the plant and left to dry. The smell is half-wet and moist, half-dry and sweet. More importantly, it is coated with a thick layer of black licorice. In Chergui, the leaves are dry in smell, and coated with as much honey as hay. It’s altogether something different here, in Cuir Cuba Intense, something rawer, spicier, blacker, more tropical and imbued with just the slightest suggestion of something almost rum-like.



Fifteen minutes into its development, Cuir Cuba Intense begins to shift. The lavender, lemon, and patchouli weaken substantially, while the geranium and cedar grow stronger. The coriander never appears in any clearly delineated way at all, the spices are quite abstract, and the mint is only a faint whisper.

The perfume’s floral component is interesting. On occasion, Cuir Cuba Intense’s opening bouquet demonstrates a subtle streak of lemon-like creaminess in the base, but it never reads like a clear, strong magnolia note on my skin. It’s the same thing for the ylang-ylang. However, the geranium is a different story. It really smells like rose geranium more than the green, piquant, peppery, aromatic sort that evokes the image of crunchy, fuzzy geranium leaves. Rose geranium has a very floral smell, like a dark, blood-red rose, and that is what begins to stir behind the main tobacco-licorice duet.

By the 30-minute mark, Cuir Cuba Intense is primarily a mix of raw and dry tobacco, black licorice, spicy sweetness, rosy florals, coumarin, and hay, all lightly flecked by dabs of lemon, cedar, mint, and leatheriness, and then cocooned in a golden warmth that has a vaguely rum-like quality to it. In the base, the civet awakens, and starts to slowly creep its way to the top. It’s not feline, urinous, skanky, or powerfully animalic. Rather, it’s simply a musky sharpness. It’s a little too sharp in quality, if you ask me, and sometimes sour in nature. It reminds me of the sort of synthetic civet that is now in Guerlain‘s Jicky, though it is used with a much lighter hand here.

Artist: Helen Abbas, Mosaic Collection, Summer 2013, "(Erdowaz) Slate." Source: (Website link embedded within photo.)

Artist: Helen Abbas, Mosaic Collection, Summer 2013, “(Erdowaz) Slate.” Source: (Website link embedded within photo.)

Cuir Cuba Intense is a very well-blended fragrance, so one of the most noticeable changes at the end of the first hour pertains to the shape of the perfume’s notes. At first, they merely flowed seamlessly one into the other, often overlapping. Several of the secondary elements don’t stay in the same place, continuously ebbing and flowing, changing order as well as their prominence. Every time I thought a few of them had vanished, they would reappear to wave a small hello from the sidelines, particularly the abstract florals, woody cedar, and lemon. Most noticeably, however, the black licorice merges completely into the raw tobacco absolute, making it impossible to distinguish its shape or to pull the two apart. Some may view that as “muddled,” but I generally tend to see it as an example of seamlessness and well-blended technique.

Artist: Eskile on deviantArt.  (Website link embedded within.)

Artist: Eskile on deviantArt. (Website link embedded within.)

Here, however, it’s both. From the start of the second hour onwards, the layers of notes really do blur into one. I noticed that the scent on my left arm, in particular, consistently turned into some indeterminate, muddled haze of tobacco with civet sharpness, abstract spicy, sweet and dry components, an aromachemical whiff, a vague floralcy, and something that occasionally suggested leather. The notes were clearer on my right arm, undoubtedly due to some quirk in skin chemistry, but it was a relative thing as the parameters were still extremely muddled. On both arms, though, the specifics generally felt unclear, the notes were increasingly difficult to pull apart, the perfume’s weight felt sheerer, and the sillage softer.

Initially, Cuir Cuba Intense had opened with 3 inches of projection when I used 3 sprays from an actual bottle, and with 2.5 inches when I used 2. At the 90-minute mark, those numbers were down to an inch above my skin, though the fragrance itself was still very strong when smelled up close. I think some of that is due to the power of the Kephalis tobacco, because the other elements really don’t have the same clarity or strength.

I have to say, I wasn’t hugely keen on this secondary stage of Cuir Cuba Intense. Matters weren’t helped much by the civet whose sharpness had a sour quality on my skin. I far preferred it when the licorice was evident, not subsumed within the tobacco, because it added a sweetness to the notes and countered the aromachemical nuances. When the licorice weakens, the perfume turns drier and darker, particularly once the Kephalis’ woodier, more leathery undertones bloom.



Thankfully, the best part of Cuir Cuba Intense lies ahead, because the drydown is really lovely. This is where the leather finally makes an appearance, aided along by the creamy qualities of the Liatrix’s coumarin and the indirect effects of the magnolia. The first hints of all this occur during the middle of the 3rd hour, when the leather emerges from the haze. Cuir Cuba Intense is increasingly dry, “cigar” tobacco with streaks of musky, lightly spiced, rather sexy leather, followed by abstract florals and civet. It rests upon a sliver of creaminess from the coumarin. Think of tonka beans, and you’ll know what I mean.



By the start of the 4th hour, though, the leather takes over and, even better, the cream rises to the top to coat it. Cuir Cuba Intense’s bouquet is now primarily creamy leather with civet, tobacco, and a very quiet, muted touch of skin-like muskiness. Were it not for the civet’s continued sharpness, the main impression would be of high-quality, expensive leather that is slowly turning into buttery, silky smooth, even more expensive calf-skin.

The rest continues to be a bit of a blur. Once in a while there is a speck of white floral creaminess that vaguely calls to mind magnolia, but it’s as tiny and minor as dandelion fluff that breezes past you. I suspect the magnolia is working indirectly with the coumarin to create all that lovely creaminess which is softening the leather, but it’s not a direct, prominent, or clear note on my skin. There is also no geranium rose, ylang-ylang, spiciness, or licorice, but a bit of ambered sweetness remains, wafting slivers of caramel and honey in the quietest way from the background. Even the sense of cigar tobacco is gradually giving way, and it will continue to weaken further over the next 90 minutes, before vanishing completely. In its final hours, Cuir Cuba Intense is simple, creamy, supple leather with a touch of something musky about it. It’s beautiful, though hard to detect without putting my nose right on my skin.

NuBuck leather via

NuBuck leather via

All in all, Cuir Cuba Intense consistently lasted over 9 hours, but the full time-frame depended not only on the amount I applied but on which arm. I’ve noticed that there can be occasional variations in how a fragrance will smell from arm to arm, particularly in the nuances which manifest themselves. It’s not common, but it does happen, so I always try to test on both. Here, my right arm retained the scent much longer: as much as 12 hours in one case with 3 sprays from an actual bottle, while the same quantity only gave me 10.5 on my left arm. With two sprays, the duration was 8.75 and 7.75 hours.

In terms of sillage, the two arms yielded roughly the same result. With two sprays, Cuir Cuba Intense turned into a skin scent on me 2.5 hours into its development; with 3 sprays, that number became 3.25, though the fragrance was generally easy to detect up close until roughly the middle of the 6th hour. Interestingly, the rose note from the geranium was really prominent on my left arm, and the perfume turned into a blurry haze much sooner, while my right arm wafted a hardcore aromachemical smell with the tobacco to a much greater degree than the other one. Luca Turin may think that skin chemistry doesn’t make a jot of difference to how things actually smell and that we’re all misled by our clouded, subjective perceptions, but I couldn’t disagree more. I think skin chemistry makes a huge difference, from person to person, but sometimes even from one part of your own body to the next.

Cuir Cuba Intense is quite new, but you can check Fragrantica for comparative reviews. There is only one entry thus far, and it is a nicely detailed assessment which is very positive. The chap there experienced substantially more magnolia than I ever did, from start to finish, but his version of Cuir Cuba Intense sounds lovely. There is also a long, detailed review for the fragrance by Fragrantica’s Serguey Borisov that you can read.

The perfume is reasonably priced at $65/€53 or $185/€153, depending on whether you buy it in a 30 ml or 100 ml size. It is already available from Parfums de Nicolai in Europe and from Beautyhabit in America. The other, usual vendors like Luckyscent, Twisted Lily, and First in Fragrance will get it shortly.

I think Cuir Cuba Intense is a great addition to the Nicolai collection, and quite different from anything else in the line. It is a strong, oriental fragrance with an almost gourmand-like opening that begins as a tobacco scent before going through some changes and ending up as lovely, supple leather. I liked parts of it quite a bit, but my favorite Nicolai scent continues to be the simple, less distinctive, less complex Amber Oud. (Zero actual agarwood, but endless lavender ice-cream with patchouli, and some amber. It’s so comforting and delicious that this lavenderphobe bought a full bottle!) Cuir Cuba Intense didn’t move me in the same way, but I blame my personal sensitivities for that. For those who love tobacco or leather fragrances, it is definitely worth a test sniff.

Disclosure: My bottle was provided courtesy of Parfums de Nicolai. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

Cost & Availability: Cuir Cuba Intense is an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes. A 30 ml/1 oz bottle costs $65 or €53; the large 100 ml/3.3 oz bottle costs $185 or €158. In the U.S.: Luckyscent normally carries the PdN line, but does not yet have Cuir Cuba at the time of this review. Beautyhabit, however, already carries the fragrance in the large and small sizes. Other Nicolai retailers are Parfum1 and Twisted Lily, but neither one has Cuir Cuba yet either. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, The Perfume Shoppe carries the Nicolaï line. In the U.K., there is a Nicolaï shop in London on Fulham Road. You can check the Store Link below for the exact address. For all European readers, you can order directly from Parfums de Nicolaï which sells Cuir Cuba Intense for €53 or €158, depending on size. In France, the company has numerous boutiques, especially in Paris. Germany’s First in Fragrance carries the Nicolai line, but I don’t see Cuir Cuba Intense listed yet on their website. Other Nicolai retailers are the Netherlands’ ParfuMaria and Annindriya’s Perfume Lounge, Spain’s Ruiz de Ocenda, and Hungary’s Neroli. For locations in France and the address of the London store, you can turn to the Nicolai Store Listing. It doesn’t show any vendors outside France or the UK. I found no stores carrying the line in Asia, the Middle East, or Australia. Samples: none of the decanting sites have the fragrance yet, but I’m sure that will change soon.

25 thoughts on “Parfums de Nicolaï Cuir Cuba Intense

  1. Dear Kafkaesque,
    I was for a very short holiday in Amsterdam, and…happened to smell Cuir Cuba on my skin in the lovely Annindriya Perfume Lounge. Absolutely love the shop and very knowledgeable and kind staff.
    I recognise some of the notes you describe, as always I am impressed by your nose, but what I so clearly smelled, and don’t read in your review, is (Cuban?) coffee, nice and roasted. Clearly for an inexperienced nose Cuir Cuba is a bit of a challenge, but I really liked it very much, it could have been love and still may be…I will order a sample as I kept smelling on the way home this really very nice and persistent dry down.
    In the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, which ofcourse you have to visit as a good Dutch citizen (or tourist for that matter 😉 ) we were so amazed how many dogs appear in the paintings, esp. the 1700 ones. Ofcourse the Nachtwacht has a famous dog, but there were many more. I will mail you a photo of a stunning statue of a Windhound (recreated perfectly by 3D printer). A. sends her happy pheromones!

    • I’m so glad you loved the fragrance, Hamamelis! No, there was no coffee on my skin — either as a nuance or full, strong note — but I think it sounds like a glorious, wonderful addition to the other elements. I will have to try the fragrance again to see if it pops up, since most of the notes turned into a hazy blur on my skin, melting into each other and into one big ball. Maybe the coffee will show up in subsequent wearings.

      BTW, thank you for the photos of the Windhound. It’s lovely, my dear!

  2. I have to laugh, because if you left your review at the first over-the-top gorgeous paragraph, you’d have a typical review. Oh, the description and writing was uber-luscious!!

    I adore tobacco and hay notes. Not so keen on anise & licorice for wearing, though I love eating it and just about anything with anise. Funny how I seem to love foods with certain scents (lavender being a prime example) but not to wear. And conversely, I neither drink nor smoke but love the scents of these! I see a pattern (and I digress)!!

    All in all, this review makes me realize something else: I have a number of scents I adore unabashedly and there’s really no reason to look for more. Chergui is one of my personal favorites. I consider it a perfect scent. I also quite like Phaedon’s Tabac Rouge. So, why on earth am I looking for a new tobacco fragrance? Well, I’m not, but I’m always interested. Thus is the silly quandary of the hobbyist!

    I have to admit that PdN almost always miss the mark for me. I have an old fb of Vie de Chateau, which is totally unlike anything I normally like, and generally feel “Why did I ever get this?”, but it’s good on a hot day. I will add that Guerlains don’t do much for me either, ‘cept for Jicky (and again, on a hot day), but I appreciate their historical importance.

    I will refrain from saying “sorry for the rambling and mostly off topic message” as that’s what I always do and then by saying I will refrain I’m doing it anything. . .oh gawd! That’s part of the nature of the perfume experience for me, and my brain is a-rambling today. I will let it stand. To anyone who reads comments, here’s the public service announcement: This is what your brain looks like on chronic pain. It works, but in an odd way,

    Thank you for another in-depth review. I did note it has all the buying info, only the link to Fragrantica, but is still long. I hope you found some pleasure in writing it! Your friends and fans worry about you, y’know!

    • You know, I actually think you’d find Cuir Cuba Intense to be nothing like the rest of the PdN line. It really isn’t, imo. None of them have such a strongly oriental character as this one. It has more spices, richness, gourmand-esque qualities, but also a dirty darkness that is noticeably lacking from any of the others. In some ways, it feels more like something put out by Masque Fragranze, Naomi Goodsir, or some other house — not Parfums de Nicolai. It also doesn’t read “French” and “classical” at all, which are traits that I think all her other fragrances demonstrate.

      As for my review and its length, my new goal of shorter reviews seems to be very difficult to meet. I’m trying, but…. *sigh* I’m not sure I’m built that way. lol. I had to laugh, though, at your comment that the review initially seemed like a typically lyrical one from some other blog before it quickly turned into something that was more me. It was the aromachemical discussion, wasn’t it? 😉

  3. Yes indeed! And, as you can see, I can not keep things terse myself, but for other reasons. However, that’s not entirely true, as my mind has always wanted more, more and more information. . .and one idea leads to another and another and another. . .

    For you, I see, too, that for each hour you give such in depth and detailed reports. It’s really stupendous, Kafka! That level of attention to detail is a gift. For the person who has it, it is sometimes not. Finding what works for you is the issue, of course. You will find your way forward, I’m sure. Your readers love you, as you’ve come to find out. I’m sure many of us are information junkies and avid readers, in addition to perfume fanatics. If we weren’t, we be watching YouTube reviews!

    Fyi: your “typically lyric one” was better than typical by a long shot! 🙂 When that’s done well, it is a pleasure indeed, though, as you know, it can cause lemmings in droves.

  4. Lovely review! As always, I like how you juxtapose images along with your prose.

    I am not the target demographic for this fragrance – I can only handle leathery notes when they’re tempered with some fruit; see Rochas Femme and osmanthus-based scents – but I imagine it smelling luscious on someone who is much cooler and self-possessed than I am. 😉 Also, I like how many PdNs smell in theory, but I rarely feel compelled to wear the ones I own… they are a little too light for my usual tastes, I think. Odalisque, Temps d’Une Fete and Sacrebleu are all very nice, though, and I’m glad to have them in my collection.

    • I agree that the regular line feels quite light and gauzy — definitely too much so for my personal tastes — but some of the Intense Collection counter that nicely. Have you tried the Sacrebleu in Intense version? It’s one I own, but I wear it very infrequently, I must confess. The Amber Oud is the only one I turn to often.

  5. Thanks for the review here, I’m quite curious about Cuir Cuba being a fan of a lot of de Nicolai masculines, especially Baladin.

    I wonder about the aromachemical note you detected. Not much of a fan of the AC notes and often find them lurking in scents that otherwise i would like. Admit probably am oversensitive to them, and will likely reincarnate as a sniffer hound who only ever finds cans of Glade in suitcases :-).

    • HA, about the sniffer hound and Glade! That made me smile to no end. I’d love to hear what you think of this one when you get the chance to try it, Blacknall. I’ll keep an eye out for its review on your site. 🙂

      P.S. — when the new season of Downton Abbey starts, I hope we get one of your special Fellowes-like perfume posts!

  6. Even though I don’t love a strong licorice note (well, there are exceptions: I do like it in SL Borneo 1834), this sounds like it could be my kind of perfume, as I love tobacco-leather combos, and your description of the way the dry-down on this smoothes out into calfskin leather makes it sound very sensual in that stage of its development.

    A lovely review, Kafka (even knowing that the perfume has some of those aromachemicals that you’re particularly sensitive to). And, as always, you chose great photos to illustrate how this smells. I look at that licorice photo and it makes me ask why, why can’t I can’t learn to love it? (Because it looks so delicious in pictures!) 😀

    • I really sympathize about the licorice, because it’s something I can’t stand to eat or as a taste sensation but, oddly, I do love it in perfumery, especially when combined with dark notes. I’m intrigued that Borneo 1834 demonstrates a strong note of it for you. How I would love to smell it on your skin, because I know how much you love it and your descriptions of it always sound amazing.

      PS — Will send you a reply to the email late tonight or tomorrow. I’ve been a bit swamped over the last few days. xoxox

  7. …a definite tropicality where sweetness, spices, darkness, humid moistness, dryness, and gooey, almost resinous licorice notes all cha-cha-cha down avenues made from dry, fragrant tobacco leaves…

    Oh my, dear Kafka – ‘evocative’ doesn’t even touch it!

    Kephalis notwithstanding, I’m in love with this already. I have been seduced by Pardon (swoon) and am awaiting a decant of M7 Absolu (tamer than the original of course but it does so appeal to me) and I’m definitely (if somewhat tentatively) coming over to the dark side. With winter advancing, my old flame Vol de Nuit is snuggling back into my heart and, in spite of its chaos, I find Café Rose intriguing.

    You initiated this conversion with your spell-binding review of Kalemat – which sure is ridiculously lovely but which had me craving darkness. Now there’s no turning back – am I getting closer to my holy grail?

    Must. Have. Anubis. Must. Have. Anubis. Must. Have… (exits, shuffling, stage right).

    Yep – another fab review, dear Kafka. Thank you!

    • Awww, you’re always such a sweetheart, GaiaHR, and it makes me so happy that I could lead you into temptation with a few things. (Anubis!!) I have to say, I had a big smirk on my face at you “definitely (if somewhat tentatively) coming over to the dark side.” HA! HEH! HURRAH! 😀 About bloody time, girl! 😉

      Teasing, joking, and perfumed darkness aside, how great that you’ve found a huge love in Nasomatto’s Pardon. (Have you tried the Black Afgano yet? LM Parfums’ Black Oud has some similarities, if you can’t find the Nasomatto one.) With regard to the new Nicolai Cuir Cuba, I really hope that some place near you carries the line, as it seems you really should try it. I hope you’ll let me know what you think of the Cuir Cuba but also the Anubis, if or when you test either one. 🙂

      As always, it is a joy to hear from you, my dearest Gaia.

  8. With 17 notes, I thought I would have been able to smell more than what I did. I was disappointed with this sample Kafka. Everything really did “blur” together. I’m far from being an expert nose, but I all I got was the leathery musk with bits of a flowery, minty lemon. I didn’t realize to use both arms when testing-I only use my left arm, but silage was minimal/skin scent. Longevity was about 3 hours, but I had only the little sample. I loved Amber Oud when I sampled that one last summer. I haven’t smelled anything else from Nicolai.
    After reading your review of Fille en Aiguilles, I ordered a 3ml spray from STC, that was also last year back when I started sampling. That’s on my full bottle list. I love the pine/conifer, incense-y and resinous smell it has. Plus the dark green color of the liquid. I’ve smelled MKK and love that. You cleared up the confusion about why I saw it for sale on many sites, then it disappeared. Oh, I’ve Amber Sultan, too. I’m thinking I would enjoy more of Serge Lutens like Chergui, Serge Noir, Cuir Mauresque….what do you think?

    • How much of the perfume did you try, Don? Even a little sample vial should give one enough for a few tests. Did you apply the quantity all to one place, or did you apply little bits all over the way that you might if you were using a full bottle of your favorite scent? You need to apply several big, good smears in one broad patch on your forearm. Preferably, smear from the vial upside down and without just using that little plastic wand. Don’t use that to give a few swipes of the scent. Up-end the vial, smear it broadly in a 2-3 inch wide patch across your arm, and repeat that about 2-3 times.

      Quantity makes a huge difference in the notes which are manifested, and in the blooming or layers of a scent. Also, be aware that smearing/dabbing makes another sort of difference. Aerosolisation or spraying can make a scent stronger and/or have greater projection. If you’re used to spraying from sample atomisers but are now dabbing from vials, you’re going to have to adjust your methods or quantities accordingly to compensate. Or, just keep in mind that there WILL be differences, due to the change in application method. I hope that helps a bit.

      Perhaps you can try Cuir Cuba again with all that in mind? Still, as you know, I had issues of my own with the middle stage and the blurring of notes. But, if you try with a double or triple quantity, perhaps you will experience the first stage with more elements beyond just the minty lemon and some flowery bits. You should definitely get more longevity, if nothing else!

      In terms of other Lutens, all the ones you listed are good choices. Serge Noire is something I would normally advise caution with, but you’ve said you’ve grown to love a lot of cumin, and I think you love cloves as well, so it might work for you. Chergui is a “must” for anyone exploring the Lutens line. Cuir Mauresque is one of my favorite Lutens, but it’s not as good with reformulation now as the synthetic undertone has increased a bit. Still, I think Surrender to Chance’s bottles are still the old ones (I hope they haven’t run out and had to buy the newer version), so you should get to experience the proper Cuir Mauresque. I think it’s very sexy.

  9. Hi Kafka, I don’t use the plastic wand when applying my samples. I do upturn the vial and smear on my left forearm, but I
    make a long 1″ wide smear from wrist to inner elbow. You know what I realized I do? Rub that arm on the other arm, so maybe i’m kind of minimizing the effect instead of concentrating it in the size area you use. Thanks for this help and I will give it another go.:)
    There is some allure for me when I hear the Lutens name. I’ve read every review for most of the Lutens fragrances. I really am mad for Cumin. Lol. And cloves are one of my fav spices. I know Chergui is very popular. Also STC has MKK back. It’s funny that the skanky animalics with cumin don’t bother me in the least- I don’t that that sweaty, fecal whiff so many people smell. I have Absolue Pour le Soir and Montecristo which are full bottle contenders. I love them, can’t stop smelling them. Violettes du Czar is a surprise for me. I think that’s so unusual(for me). 🙂 Chypre Mousse is deliciously most green and damp earth……Rudis is boozy, leathery, clovey and smoky. All hits for me. I’m so thrilled to find so many excellent
    scents thanks to you my friend!
    Off topic: I was on Amazon and see Kalemat listed for $100. Our bottle is half empty and I don’t care because i’ll order again. I still want to experiment with Arabian perfumes since their prices are ridiculously low. Cheers!

    • It does sound like you might be minimizing it, but who knows. It’s hard for me to guess. 🙂 Thank you for letting me know that Kalemat is back on Amazon. It’s a shame the others aren’t, but it’s a start at least with Kalemat. How amazing that you’ve gone through so much of your bottle already! You must be an over-sprayer like me. lol

  10. Ooops: I meant to say I don’t get that sweaty note people say…..and Chypre Mousse is moist and green I meant too. My OCD again to correct. 🙂 Alahine is so full-bottle worthy. I see Alahine skews to feminine on Luckyscent’s scale, but to me a guy could definitely wear it.

  11. I should have said that Tony and I share Kalemat, but I am an oversprayer nonetheless. lol
    I’m going to blind buy Rasasi’s La Yuqawam. Supposedly is better than Tony Ford’s Tobacco Vanilla and less expensive.

  12. Only now I’ve got a sample of Cuir Cuba intense and I like it very much. I’m not really into the perfume notes and I don’t recognize many of them, but I was intrigued by “cuir” in this scent and this is where I must admit – I did not smell it…
    On the other hand I have no idea how fresh tobacco leaves smell, but the way you described them: wet, with hay, covered with licorice – yes, that is exactly what I smell from the beginning and this impression lasts longer. Also it feels a bit boozy, which is the “Cuba” part for me (I mean rum, of course :-).
    The smell it leaves on shawls and sweaters is absolutely gorgeous and to me it’s a fresh but warm winter scent and worth buying a full bottle.

    • How wonderful that you’ve found a scent that you think is full-bottle worthy. I can completely see how the richer notes would be lovely on clothing. Enjoy! 🙂

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