Cold Water Canyon and Surrender are two different takes on jasmine, both by the same master of all-natural perfumery, both surprisingly sweet, fresh, and green. The two fragrances are part of the debut collection from Surrender to Chance, the American decanting service, and were created by AbdesSalaam Attar (or Dominique Dubrana) of La Via del Profumo.
He is a man who I think has a particularly masterful touch when it comes to jasmine, and the new Surrender to Chance fragrances are no exception. They both highlight a very tender side to the flower, a side that I did not expect from the perfumes’ descriptions or one that I encounter very often. At the same time, however, the tender, sweet fragility and the fresh greenness were also (and quite cleverly) given an original twist through the inclusion of unexpected notes, be it licorice with a wisp of darkness, or the aromatic sweetness of sage, pine, myrrh, and mountain plants. The end result is different, charming, and appealing, though not without its flaws.
COLD WATER CANYON:
Cold Water Canyon is intended to replicate the aroma of a mountain canyon in summer. Surrender to Chance’s press release describes the scent and its notes as follows:
Coldwater Canyon was suggested to us by a friend and long-time customer who asked for a fragrance inspired by the scent of a summer canyon full of sage, pine and mountain plants with sweetly scented night-blooming jasmine perfuming the night air. Coldwater Canyon is a perfect balance between a green perfume and a floral.
In general, AbdesSalaam Attar does not like to give detailed note lists, preferring for people to feel his creations emotionally and just experience them. In the case of Cold Water Canyon, he provided Surrender to Chance only with the main notes which he boils down to:
jasmine, sage, pine, and mountain plants.
Cold Water Canyon opens on my skin with musky, ripe, slightly indolic jasmine that has been deconstructed to show its mentholated, black side. The camphorated element isn’t substantial, though, and the minor muskiness is very short-lived. Within minutes, it gives way to a very aromatic accord composed of: fresh sage leaves; dried sweet sage; a touch of sweet thyme; green woods; and the aroma of wild shrubs growing in dry earth. It doesn’t smell like strong herbs but more like mountainous shrubs in a way that is a little hard to explain. Something intangible about the mix somehow manages to authentically suggest the various sweet, fragrant, aromatic, herbal, dry, and also floral qualities of a wild canyon in bloom in the summer.
At the same time, the jasmine quickly turns sweet, green, and tender, evoking baby offshoots or tightly curled buds. For some reason, I keep envisioning sweet pea flowers tossed into the mix, along with a few gardenia petals. There is a wonderful liquidity to the aroma, as though the flowers had been doused with a light nectar, and their stems had been crushed in water to release a fragrant greenness. It’s not a bitter or murky aroma, but crystal clear in nature, cool, and a little chilled.
The overall result is extremely pretty but also genuinely interesting, drawing me in again and again for a sniff at all the unexpected nuances. I don’t commonly encounter such a fresh, green, almost clean jasmine note, let alone one that is also infused with herbal sage, dewy liquidness, a sweet pea-like quality, dry shrubs in earth, and that intriguing, original, rather mysterious “canyon” effect.
Yet, right from the start, there is enormous softness to the sillage that gives me great pause. Using 2 good sprays from my atomizer, I initially experienced 2 inches of sillage. Cold Water Canyon felt so light and quiet that I added a 3rd spritz to ensure I could detect all the fine point, but it didn’t seem to increase the projection at all. In fact, after 10 minutes, the fragrance lost body and flattened, the notes collapsing inward in a very unexpected way and the sillage dropping to just 1 inch. Another 10 minutes after that, and a mere 20 minutes into Cold Water Canyon’s overall development, it hovered half an inch (or a hair more, at the very best) above my skin.
My skin consumes certain types of fragrances, particularly floral soliflores, very rapidly, but it is a longevity issue, not a projection one. So, the speed with which the numbers devolved here was very frustrating to me, and it happened on both occasions that I tested Cold Water Canyon. Yes, it is an all-natural fragrance, but none of the prior 6 or 7 fragrances that I’ve tried from La Via del Profumo have ever been like this on my skin. Nor have all-natural fragrances from Aftelier or Hiram Green Parfums. I think only one of the eight DSH Perfumes that I tried was similar, but that was pretty much the one exception to the rule. Until now.
Cold Water Canyon’s notes change quickly as well. A mere 20 minutes in, the focus shifts and the perfume is centered primarily on sweet, green jasmine with fresh sage. Trailing behind the main duo are tiny slivers of green woodiness and wild mountain shrubs, along with a pinch of dry earth. The jasmine’s camphorated nuance has almost completely disappeared, and there is nothing indolic or languid about the scent at all. Even the liquidy, nectar-like greenness is dissipating, and the fragrance feels less dewy. On the sidelines, the wood note is slowly starting to take shape as pine, but it is still quite abstract for now.
In the background, there is also the first hint of something sweet and vaguely honeyed. It feels exactly like the creamy beeswax that appeared in the drydown in AbdesSalaam Attar’s jasmine Tawaf, and which came from myrrh. AbdesSalaam Attar seems to love the mystical resin, and I’m convinced that he’s used it here in Cold Water Canyon as well. The note doesn’t smell like creamy beeswax for long, and soon takes on an undertone of dry, slightly earthy smokiness. At first, it is a very muffled, minor element, but it blooms fully at the end of the first hour, sending tendrils of smokiness to curl like a ribbon around the sage-infused jasmine.
The start of the second hour marks further changes. The pine emerges, and soon replaces the sage as one of the main notes. Cold Water Canyon turns more aromatic, woody, and smoky, as the pine and myrrh cover the jasmine like a veil. I find the smokiness to be interesting, because it sometimes feels more like the scent of singed woods than incense. It’s a dry, outdoorsy smokiness that is fully interwoven with the pine and the green jasmine. Behind the main three players is the chorus, an ever-softening whisper consisting of sage with the abstract, “mountain” notes of vegetation, shrubs, and soil.
Cold Water Canyon turns even softer. Soon, the notes all overlap, turning into a haze where only the pine jasmine is visible in any clear way, followed by a tendril of the smoke. Everything else is subsumed within. Cold Water Canyon turns into a skin scent roughly 1.75 hours into its evolution, and dies away a few hours later as a mere blur of green floralacy with a vague suggestion of something aromatic about it. All in all, Cold Water Canyon lasted 5.5 to 6 hours, depending on whether I used 3 sprays from my atomizer or a little more.
Surrender is an all-natural eau de parfum that is intended to be a twist on a bridal scent. I don’t have a photo of the bottle to share with you, and La Via del Profumo’s website does not show either STC fragrance at the moment, but I’m sure the packaging is similar or identical. What I can tell you is the inspiration for Surrender and some of its notes. The company describes the fragrance, in relevant part, as follows:
Surrender is a rich jasmine floral that blends different jasmine absolutes with licorice, carrot, myrrh, gourmand notes and hyraceum. When we approached Dominique Dubrana we wanted to create a beautiful wedding scent and we were inspired by brides. Jasmine is used often as a wedding flower because of its narcotic and indolent qualities. After some testing of the fragrance, it was suggested that we add hyraceum to add a subliminal eroticism. […] While created as a wedding perfume, it is perfect for those who appreciate a glorious jasmine. One of our testers stated: “I am not generally a jasmine fan, but this is superb. It is soft and almost milky. A jasmine fragrance for a non-jasmine fan!”.
As noted earlier, AbdesSalaam Attar does not like to provide a detailed note list, so the partial one of Surrender’s main notes can be succinctly boiled down to:
mixed jasmine absolutes, licorice, carrot, myrrh, gourmand notes, and hyraceum.
Surrender opens on my skin with indolic, blackened jasmine that is also green, sweet, and fresh. There is none of the mothball note that is characteristic of hardcore, undiluted indoles, and the deconstructed camphor aroma is both minor and brief in duration. Within seconds, it is overshadowed by a light veil of muskiness which sweeps over the petals. It’s not properly animalic, definitely not raunchy, and far from the sort of urinous hyraceum found in such scents as Montecristo or Maai. It’s not even a feline note. At worst, you can describe it as muskiness that feels a little sour on brief occasion. For the most part, though, it’s merely muskiness with a tiny whiff of sharpness lurking deep, deep, below.
Within minutes, Surrender’s other elements stir in the base. There is a tiny speckle of something vaguely vegetal and fresh, though it doesn’t smell like actual carrots. More noticeable is the licorice which adds a spicy sweetness. At first, it is merely a slightly anisic note with greenness, but it quickly morphs into the sort of black licorice that you’d find it chewy candies. Yet, to be honest, all of this feels secondary to the green, fresh jasmine, including the muskiness. The flower overshadows the other elements by a mile.
The jasmine changes shape within minutes, losing much of its indolic nature and all of its camphorous blackness. Surrender is now wafting a surprisingly clean, sweet version of the flower that is infused with black licorice, and flecked with fresh greenness. The whole thing lies atop a sliver of creaminess in the base. There is a twist, though, and it comes in the form of a pepper note amidst the smooth, silky depths. It has a bit of an unexpected, fiery bite, almost like a chili pepper. Exactly 15 minutes in, Surrender has suddenly turned into a very fresh, creamy, green and sweet jasmine bouquet, laced lightly with black licorice and sprinkled with black pepper, along with a rapidly disappearing drop of musk.
The overall result is a far cry from what I had expected from the perfume’s description and from the use of hyraceum. Nothing about Surrender makes me think of “eroticism,” “subliminal” or otherwise. It isn’t musky, animalic, or indolic, and I wouldn’t describe it as narcotic, languid, or particularly sensual, either. It is certainly nothing like the lascivious, fleshy, lushly ripe jasmine showing off its knickers in Tawaf. It’s also not bombastically “debauched” like Xerjoff‘s Al-Khatt, or intoxicatingly narcotic like Serge Lutens‘ A La Nuit. Instead of “death by jasmine” or even a hyraceum jasmine, we have a bridal bouquet, just as intended and promised in the press release, composed of largely half-opened jasmine buds. To the extent that fresh, dewy jasmine in nature can be “heady,” then I suppose there is a little bit of that, but that wouldn’t be the first adjective that I’d use in describing the fragrance. (Not even the second or fifth, either.)
I think Surrender is the sort of fragrance that would appeal to those who usually dislike or struggle with jasmine, who loathe the flower’s richer, fleshier qualities, and who want a clean version. I’m not one of those people, so I’m a little uncertain how I feel about all this. I prefer “death by jasmine,” as loudly and lustily as possible, but this bright, happy, cheerful, little ray of sweet greenness is surprisingly appealing.
The only thing I’m not fond of is the black pepper which grows stronger as time passes. Something about its spicy bite scratches the back of my throat in the same way that chili peppers always do — and I’m allergic to chili peppers. I can’t figure out the source of the note but, wherever it comes from, it slowly becomes intertwined with the smokiness that appears at the 30-minute mark. It floats quietly in the background, more of a nebulous suggestion than a concrete, clearly delineated note, and it doesn’t smell like incense. While it only lasts about 20 minutes, the smokiness serves as one more layer of blackness to go along with the licorice and black pepper, all of which stand in sharp contrast to the whiteness of the jasmine.
Surrender slowly begins to change, as the creaminess seeps up from the base and the licorice grows stronger. 45 minutes in, the scent is primarily licorice jasmine, which is incredibly inventive and different, if you ask me. It’s sprinkled with black pepper, and infused with that supple, almost lactonic quality that probably comes from the use of myrrh again. The jasmine still feel fresh, but it’s much less green now.
When the second hour rolls around, the creaminess surges to the forefront, creating a silky, textural softness that is really lovely. It conjures up images of velvety petals being soaked in buttermilk. Soon, Surrender is a soft bouquet of spicy, creamy, sweet jasmine with tiny streaks of licorice and light greenness, as well as a rapidly shrinking dash of black pepper. But Surrender grows simpler quite quickly. At the end of the 2nd hour, it’s nothing more than a blur of spicy, greenish jasmine with creaminess. In its final moments, all that’s left is the gauziest wisp of creamy beeswax.
Surrender suffers from the same sillage and longevity issues as Cold Water Canyon. It’s a very airy fragrance with a lightweight feel and discreet, intimate sillage. Surrender initially projected 2.5 inches with 2 good sprays from my atomizer, before dropping to 1 inch after 30 minutes, and 0.5 after 75 minutes. It became a skin scent on me 1 hour and 45 minutes from the start. In terms of longevity, the fragrance generally lasted between 4.25 and 4.75 hours, depending on whether I used 2 sprays or 3.
ALL IN ALL:
I really enjoyed both Surrender to Chance fragrances, and would absolutely wear them myself if the sillage and longevity numbers were not so low. However, you may fare much better than I did. As I mentioned earlier, my skin typically eats through floral soliflores very quickly, which is one reason why I tend to stick to orientals. That said, I’ve had better numbers from other florals in the past, and generally average about 6-7 hours when there is no heavy note like amber involved. Other La Via del Profumo creations, including Tawaf, have lasted longer than that. On the other hand, I’ve also experienced much shorter duration from other fragrances, many of which were not all-natural in nature. For example, Kilian‘s Flower of Immortality was the very furthest thing from “immortal” on my skin, and I still mourn the tragic brevity that I experienced with Serge Lutens’ A La Nuit.
My longevity numbers may not be representative of what you will experience with either Surrender or Cold Water Canyon, but I think it’s likely that you will find both fragrances to have very quiet, intimate sillage. If you don’t mind that, and if you’re looking for a very natural-smelling jasmine that is fresh, green, and sweet, then you should give both fragrances a sniff. I think you may enjoy the originality of jasmine being paired with such unexpected elements as sage or licorice, and there is no doubt that the overall result is distinctive. I found it very appealing.
Disclosure: My samples were provided courtesy of Surrender to Chance. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.