Gone with the Wind and Light in August, Kiste takes you straight into the heart of the American deep South. It’s the latest fragrance from Josh Lobb of Slumberhouse, released today without fanfare or advance press, and it is utterly beautiful. In fact, it is my favorite creation from Slumberhouse to date, and the first one that I would buy for myself.
Kiste is a deeply evocative fragrance, but I can’t make up my mind if it evokes Gone with the Wind or one of William Faulkner’s set pieces. The meticulously balanced composition has the genteel qualities of Tara, conjuring images of Scarlett O’Hara sipping sweet tea and eating a peach cobbler on the plantation veranda, as Rhett Butler smokes a honey-laden cheroot and takes a swig of bourbon under a honeysuckle tree.
Yet, Kiste also has an underlying ruggedness, a pronounced muskiness, and a tiny streak of masculine rawness as well, even though the fragrance is far too perfectly balanced for it to ever verge on brutish strength. Something about the mix creates a sense of underlying earthy darkness, subtle though it may be. But it’s enough to create a parallel image that is far removed from the sun-dappled sweetness of Gone with the Wind.
This other side of Kiste evokes the darker, grittier world of William Faulkner’s South (or Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana) where things are less pristine, less simple, less a land of sweet tea and peach pie. Here, the muskiness and earthiness that were such a big part of Light in August abound. The more animalistic strains of honey, the sensuous muskiness of a fleshy peach, the rawness of tobacco spittoon juice, and spiced, dark earth all strain at the leash, threatening to spill over and darken Tara’s summer light like an eclipse. In the end, they don’t. What triumphs is a creamy sweetness and golden warmth that tame the musky darkness, as though the South’s gentler side had overcome. The result is so comforting, so delicious, I feel like saying, “Bless my stars,” and “Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn.”
Kiste is an extrait de parfum that Slumberhouse describes as follows:
The honeysuckle hammer & the sundial
The cigar skinned chevotain
The thimble of peach cocoonase
Here is where the world becomes so silent and so still
The nothingness of it all becomes my own laughter
The honeysuckle referenced there is not listed in Kiste’s official notes, though it is commonly mentioned by retailers like Luckyscent and Twisted Lily in their descriptions. Both also talk about a tea note, as well as the fact that the perfume was “[i]nspired by the relentless heat of Savannah in August.” Luckyscent adds the additional information that the tobacco in Kiste was extracted from four different strains. Slumberhouse doesn’t mention any of that, but merely gives these notes:
Tobacco, Peach, Scotch Heather, Tonka, Henna, Elderberry, Patchouli, Honey.
Kiste opens on my skin with honey-laden tobacco and musky peach, drizzled with elderberry wine and streaked with wisps of an abstract floral that seems like a mix of creamy magnolia petals and delicate honeysuckle. Pinches of earthy henna powder are sprinkled on top, along with that Slumberhouse spice accord which is such a common element in Mr. Lobb’s earlier scents and which feels like a potpourri mix of clove, nutmeg, and something else.
The overall bouquet is beautifully robust, rich, dark, and sweet, dominated primarily by honeyed tobacco infused with a sticky, lightly spiced, grilled peach compote that also bears a touch of honey. I can’t decide which one I like more. Peach is one of my favorite fruit notes, but what is so nice about it here is that it is never cloyingly sweet, gooey, or suffocatingly heavy. Mr. Lobb’s creations tend to have a surfeit of richness, often too much so for my personal tastes, and the heaviness can also skew excessively sweet at times, like the ghastly strawberry jam that popped up in one of my tests of his Sadanne. That is not the case here at all, thank God. Yet, for all that I love peach in perfumery, I like tobacco just as much, and the note here is so rich that it conjured up images of Cuban farmers rolling the sun-dried leaves, as well as the more fragrant, sweeter kind found in pipe tobacco.
What fascinates me are the secondary notes. I’m familiar with henna from my time in the Middle East and India, and it is such an unexpected note. It works surprisingly well in perfume. Though it is only a light touch, it adds an earthiness that complements the musky peach and tobacco very well. I can’t decide if it is also responsible for Kiste’s very quiet touch of spiciness, or if Mr. Lobb has used a pinch of the spice accord that was often a big part of his earlier creations. What is more interesting is the tea note referenced by the various retailers. Slumberhouse may not mention it but, from afar, Kiste absolutely smells like sweet Southern tea with tobacco and a touch of honeyed, lemony florals. The latter really doesn’t read as actual honeysuckle to me, but more like the nebulous idea of them. When combined with the creaminess that appears in Kiste at the start of the 2nd hour, the abstract floralcy sometimes feels more like the ghost of magnolia which, lord knows, is a Southern Belle flower completely suited to a fragrance inspired by summer in Savannah.
Kiste is not a fragrance that changes substantially from its core essence on my skin. The strength, prominence, and nuances of some of the secondary notes fluctuate, but the main bouquet remains largely constant. 30 minutes in, the sweet tea grows stronger, melding beautifully with the honey-thick tobacco and henna-spice sprinkled peach cobbler. Even better, tiny splashes of boozy bourbon appear out of the blue to complete the picture.
At the end of the first hour and start of the 2nd, Kiste turns even smoother, taking on a beautiful creaminess that coats every note. It may stem from the tonka, but it somehow creates that vision of magnolia in my mind when combined with the subtle streak of floralcy. The latter feels hazier than ever, and sometimes seems to vanish entirely. Yet, at other times, it pirouettes on the sidelines. There, it joins the muskiness, earthiness, henna spice mix, and patchouli (as well as a tiny, indistinct touch of aromachemicals), all of them encircling the main accords like druids supplicating before Stonehenge. At the top of the 3rd hour, the muskiness surges forth, Kiste turns into a hazier blend of notes that aren’t very easy to dissect, and the overall bouquet is an equal parts mix of golden warmth, fruited sweetness, tobacco darkness, and almost buttery creaminess. The 5th hour heralds the advent of a subtle, slightly aromachemical, almost incense-like smokiness that wraps itself around the bouquet like a ribbon. It joins the main notes on center stage an hour later.
That’s really it for Kiste in terms of olfactory development, though the perfume’s texture, sillage, and projection do change. By the end of the 3rd hour, Kiste takes on a dreamy quality that almost feels like a mood and sensation more than a concrete set of notes, thanks to a petal-soft, creamy, and satiny cloud that gently envelops you with incredible warmth, light, and sweetness.
The odd thing about Kiste is how it is simultaneously so soft and so strong. Mr. Lobb sent me a little atomizer, and using a few spritzes roughly equal to 2 big sprays (or perhaps 2.5) from an actual bottle, Kiste opened with about 4 inches of projection while creating a scent trail that initially extended several feet. The numbers drop after 30 minutes: the projection is about 2 inches, the sillage is about a foot, but the perfume’s actual notes are much richer. It’s like a wine that becomes more full-bodied as it airs. Kiste turned into a skin scent on me at the end of the 7th hour, though it was easy to smell up close without any effort for a while to come. All in all, the perfume lasted just a hair under 16 hours. I suspect the numbers would be substantially more if I applied a greater quantity. Kiste feels like the sort of fragrance that would quietly coat your skin for a full day, if you gave it half the chance.
Anyone who’s read this blog for any amount of time knows that I take a pros-and-cons approach to reviewing, that I often have caveats, and that I rarely rave about a scent. With Kiste, from the very first moment, my response was: “I love it. I want it.” I’ve never said that before for any Slumberhouse fragrance. My admiration for Mr. Lobb’s originality, inventiveness, and talent has always been tempered by my personal difficulty in wearing scents that are so high-octane in some manner or another, be it unctuous over-abundance taken to exhausting extremes, sweetness, a heavy hand with a core accord, or something else. Sometimes, it is the aromachemicals which Mr. Lobb likes to use, including the ISO E Super that is my nemesis. With Kiste, I could absolutely tell that something was up in the base even before the streak of smokiness showed up, but Mr. Lobb has woven it so masterfully into the other elements, used so little and with such a precise hand that — to quote Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind — “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Kiste simply made me happy. It joins two of the Arabian Oud oils that I will be reviewing in the next week as the only fragrances that I’ve tried so far this year to make me feel genuinely happy and almost giddily joyous. It brought a sense of comfort and peace that only really good fragrances can do. It’s the sort of thing where you don’t even want to analyze the fragrance or how it works. You just want to enjoy it.
If you love rich tobacco, fruited sweetness, creaminess, delicately spiced earthiness, quiet smokiness, glowingly golden warmth, and endless coziness, you should order a sample of Kiste. Immediately. I mean it. Go, go now and order it.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Josh Lobb and Slumberhouse. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.