Carner Barcelona Palo Santo

“Sacred wood” steeped in mysticism, and coveted by shamen over the centuries for its ability to protect and purify through its aromatic, earthy, incense, and woody aromas — that’s how the Spanish niche brand, Carner Barcelona, describes the heart of its newest fragrance, Palo Santo. My experience, however, never once evoked images of spiritual shamen purifying the world through mystical, smoky woods. Instead, I was taken back to childhood with memories of sweet treats and hot milk.

Source: Essenza Nobile.

Source: Essenza Nobile.

Palo Santo is an eau de parfum that was created in part by Carner Barcelona’s founder and nose, Sara Carner. “Palo Santo” is another name for Guaiac Wood, which the company describes in the way mentioned above. It also adds a few more details on the fragrance and its notes:

“Warm caramel, sweet tonka bean and vetyver fuse with the intensity of Palo Santo creating a fragrance that calms the soul.”

Indian Davana [Artemisia or Wormwood], Rum Accord
Warm Milk, Paraguayan Guaiacum Wood, Venezuelan Tonka Bean
Moroccan Cedar Wood, Vetyver from Haiti, Dominican Republican Amyris

Artemisia or Wormwood. Source:

Artemisia or Wormwood. Source:

As a side note, Fragrantica adds sandalwood to the mix but omits mention of the cedar and amyris. It also calls one of the two top notes “Artemisia,” probably to avoid confusion with the Indian davana flower which smells quite different. For those who are unfamiliar with Artemisia, Fragrantica describes it as a “bitterish, herbal and strong smelling plant note known as wormwood which aromatizes absinth and vermouth.”

Palo Santo opens on my skin with a thick blanket of white sugar granules and clean white musk lying atop creamy, beige woods. Moments later, the mix is dunked in sweet, equally sugared milk that has been infused with vanilla, then sprinkled with a few cedar pencil shavings. The main wood note is generally indistinguishable except for tiny curlicues of smoke that puff up, often smelling like burnt autumnal leaves which is one of guaiac’s characteristics. The quiet smoke signals attempt to cut through Palo Santo’s intense sugariness, but rarely succeed. Almost the entire opening bouquet in the first few minutes is nothing more than sugared white musk, sugared vanilla, sugared milk, and sugar-coated white woods. There is no artemisia or vetiver. In fact, at no point in Palo Santo’s development is there any herbal, mossy, green, or bitter accents to offset the multiple forms of sweetness.

Flour, Cream of Wheat, milk and sugar mix. Photo & Source: IndoSunGod blogspot. (Direct link embedded within.)

Flour, Cream of Wheat, milk and sugar mix. Photo & Source: IndoSunGod blogspot. (Direct link embedded within.)

Palo Santo soon shifts to take on another core element. A small undercurrent of flour appears after 5 minutes, and grows stronger every moment thereafter. It’s a soft, occasionally wheat-like, foodie note that works really well with the warm, sweetened milk. The combination evokes childhood bedtime treats or breakfast ones, images of hot milk to help you sleep at night or sweetened Cream of Wheat in the morning. I’ve never tried L’Artisan‘s Bois de Farine, but I understand perfectly why two people on Fragrantica voted for it as a comparable scent. On my skin, it takes a mere 15 minutes for Palo Santo’s creamy, sugared flour note to become the sole focus of the scent trail from afar.



Up close, the layers reveal themselves and aren’t quite so pleasant. There is so much granulated sugar and white musk, it sets my teeth on edge. I have a low tolerance for sugariness in fragrances, so the quantity here is a struggle that only becomes harder as the various sugar (and musk) accords intensify further.  30 minutes into Palo Santo’s development, the back of my throat feels coated with a thick layer of sugar granules. At the same time, the clean musk feels shrill, pointed, and sharp.



The whole thing leaves me feeling torn. I really like flour notes in perfumery, and I think I must be a sucker for the childhood innocence themes conjured here because I enjoyed this one aspect of Palo Santo — so long as I never smell my arm up close and too carefully. That’s not an ideal trait for a $130/$195 fragrance, but there is such an appealing “cozy comfort” aspect to the notes wafting from a distance in the first hour. If only Palo Santo weren’t so ridiculously unbalanced and painfully cloying in its sugar, white musk, and Aquolina/Pink Sugar-style vanilla, it would be very pretty.



To some extent, a very small one, the guaiac’s curlicues of smoke grow stronger as the sugar and flour accords develop. Yet, for the most part, it manifests itself merely as a subtle smokiness on my skin, more like the autumnal bonfire of leaves that I mentioned earlier. It stands out like a jarring anomaly and sore thumb amidst the waves of sugared, slightly foodie flour dunked in warm, vanillic, sweetened milk.

Then, for a brief hour or so, Palo Santo shifts its focus slightly. At the start of the 2nd hour, the flour retreats to the sidelines and the fragrance turns slightly woodier. It’s now basically a simple bouquet of highly sugared white woods, smudged faintly by a few dabs of smoke, flour, and sugared vanilla, then enveloped in a cocoon of clean white musk and more white sugar.


Photo from Corbis via

When the 4th hour rolls around, the drydown begins. The flour returns from the sidelines, switching places with the guaiac and its smoke. The latter remain for a short while longer as faint whispers, but Palo Santo is back to being sweetened, milky flour and faceless, abstract, undefined beige woods slathered with vanilla sugar and sweet, sugared, clean musk. I keep thinking of childhood puddings (and even porridge), doused with sugar and accompanied by a glass of warm milk. To my relief, both the sweetness and musk feel fractionally softer, less screechingly unbalanced, but it’s a very relative thing. Still, it’s a cozy scent (when smelt from afar), even if it is still excessively sweet for my personal tastes and filled with too much white musk. On the other hand, do I really want to think of porridge or Cream of Wheat (Farina) when I wear a fragrance? Hm. I’m a little dubious about that, especially at $130/$195 a bottle.



Palo Santo doesn’t change much until its final hours. For the most part, its notes simply become blurrier and softer. By the middle of the 7th hour, the scent merely smells of sugary sweetness that is vaguely woody and clean. At the 8.5 hour mark, all that is left is sugared musk. In its final moments, Palo Santo is merely a smear of laundry cleanness. All in all, it lasted 10.25 hours with 2 very large smears equal to 2 sprays from a bottle. In the opening minutes, the projection was 3 inches and the scent trail about 5-6 inches. The projection hovered just above the skin after 3.5 hours, and the fragrance turned into a skin scent about 30 minutes later.

Rice Pudding via

Rice Pudding via

Palo Santo has no reviews on its Basenotes page at this time, and very few comments on its Fragrantica page. There, only two people write about what the scent actually smells like and neither one likes it, though for very different reasons:

  • Milky, stodgy rice pudding. Thick, syrupy and cloying. [¶] A huge misfire from this house.
  • Very creamy milky vetiver scent. Sweet, and still very woody and grassy from the vetiver. I hugely dislike the grassy scent that comes from vetiver, so this is a miss for me.

I honestly don’t know what to say about Palo Santo. It has some nice bits, I suppose, and people might enjoy it depending on their nostalgia for childhood treats or their love for gourmand, foodie twists on the woody genre. When I smelt the Carner Barcelona line in Italy, it was El Born which caught my attention and my interest, though that is a fragrance with other issues. (I will try to review that one later this week if I can.) Both scents are incredibly (and excessively) sweet on my skin, but Palo Santo suffered in comparison because it’s not bold, boozy, or rich.

Your reaction to Palo Santo will probably depend on what notes your skin brings out and your tolerance for sugariness. I suspect anyone who is anticipating a smoky, woody fragrance laced with vetiver and drizzled with rum and herbal artemisia might be quite disappointed if they get hot milk and flour pudding. On the other hand, Palo Santo might appeal to anyone who loved the rice pudding in Etat Libre‘s Fils de Dieu or sought a sweeter, non-citrusy, more vanillic version of it, not to mention those who like Bois de Farine. If you’re a vetiver lover, maybe you’ll be lucky and experience a large amount of it, since 20 people on Fragrantica voted for vetiver as Palo Santo’s main note, but you better like a lot of sweetness and milkiness to go along with it. (On Fragrantica, the milk came in second with 17 votes.)

Bottom line, Palo Santo is not for me, but you may want to try it for yourself if you like gourmand or foodie twists on woody scents.

Cost & Availability: Palo Santo is an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes. There is a 50 ml bottle which costs $130, €90, or £81; and a 100 ml bottle that costs $195, €135, or £122. In the U.S.: Palo Santo is available at Twisted Lily. OsswaldNYC carries Carner Barcelona, but they seem to be sold out of Palo Santo at the time of this post. (Osswald takes down a perfume’s listing when it is sold out, then puts it back up when more stock comes in.) Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Tardes is sold at Masc. In Europe, you can purchase it directly from Carner Barcelona. They also offer a Sample Set of all 6 fragrances in the line in 2.5 ml vials for €30. In the U.K., Bloom Perfumery sells Palo Santo in both sizes, but they are currently back-ordered. Roullier White carries the line, but does not show Palo Santo on their website at this time. For the rest of Europe, Carner Barcelona is carried by First in Fragrance, Premiere Avenue, and Essenza Nobile, all of which ship worldwide. Premiere Avenue does not show Palo Santo at this time. In the Netherlands, ParfuMaria has Palo Santo in the 100 ml size. Other Carner Barcelona retailers are: Parfumswinkel in the NL; Paris’ Sens Unique; Spain’s Regia; Romania’s Madison Perfumery; Russia’s Rive Gauche; and the Middle East’s Paris Gallery. Several of these shops do not show Palo Santo on their websites yet. For all other countries, including many more U.S. stores, and European retailers ranging from Sweden to Italy and Poland, as well as vendors elsewhere in the Middle East, you can use the company’s Store Locator listing. Samples: Many of the sites linked here sell samples, including Twisted Lily. Osswald has a Sample Program, but, as noted above, they seem to be sold out right now. You can call them at (212) 625-3111 to see when they will receive more in stock, or check their website at a later date. Surrender to Chance does not have Palo Santo.

19 thoughts on “Carner Barcelona Palo Santo

  1. I might get a sample of this one. My tolerance for sweetness is fairly high, and I genuinely enjoy milk notes, although I dislike clean laundry musks a lot and tend to want spice with milky notes, and it sounds like this one lacks all spice. I do have a decant of El Born in the works and am eager to hear your take on that.

    • It will be interesting to see what you think of it, and how it manifests itself on your skin. I definitely don’t think you’ll get any spices, but you may experience some vetiver. I hope the wood turns into that floury, milky pudding instead of what it did for one of my readers who said on the blog’s FB page that it turned rancid and stale on her. I’ve found that guaiac can be an odd note on my skin depending on the scent and accompanying notes, so I hope it works out well on yours.

  2. That was an absolutely fascinating review! I have a low tolerance for sweetness so now my curiosity about this one has evaporated. I LOVE your photo picks! So evocative – so perfectly colorless. There’s a real beauty in that that was not captured in fragrance (though that wasn’t really the intent, was it?). Great reviewing!

    • It’s an INTENSELY sweet fragrance on my skin! Even apart from the sweetness issue, I’m not sure you would enjoy the quantity of clean white musk in Palo Santo.

  3. Once again I had a “feeling” you posted a review because at this moment ( I swear the truth) my partner is eating a post- midnight snack of cream of wheat, albeit maple brown sugar, because he can’t sleep. lol Tasty, yes; but would I like to wear it? No.

    • I can’t see Palo Santo fitting your tastes and perfume style at all, Don. And I definitely can’t see you smelling of Cream of Wheat in any variety. lol

  4. Great review, K ! I really enjoy milky fragrances, love Bois Farine and Vetiver so I Will definitely try this one. Would have loved Palo Santo to smell like THE real Palo Santo when you burn it as I really like iTS sweet fragrance. Curious about your El Born review. My favorite from this line is Tardes which I always enjoy during summer. Have a wonderful sunday !

    • I hope it turns out on your skin as it does on mine, Esperanza. On the blog’s FB page, one of my readers didn’t have a good experience with it. She wrote: “Too much caramel with something quite unpleasant underneath, a sort of rancid, roasted wood. A little bit stomach turning tbh.” I think that’s the Guaiac note turning funky on her, so I hope it’s better on you. I think you have a much higher tolerance for sweetness than she does, so I think you’d enjoy any caramel or sugar that appears on you. As for Tardes, it’s very pretty. My favorite from the line, too, though it seems to have become even sweeter and sweeter on me in the last few months than it was before. Must be the summer heat amplifying the sugariness.

  5. My sweet K,
    I adore the smell of palo santo which I burn without any shamanic purpose but just for its incredible smell, on a daily basis.
    mmmmmmmh sweet treats and hot milk sounds delicious but I guess I’d pass since there is no palo santo to speak of and any excess sugariness makes me sick. Have you tried Omnia Madera?

    • No, I haven’t tried Omnia Madera, but I will look it up, my dear. Are you recommending it as something good, or merely mentioning it because Palo Santo might seem similar? 🙂

      • Oh my dear K, I apologize for my ill constructed sentences such is the spirit of these days. I have not tried it but people speak of it as smelling of breakfast, sweet treats, someone said fruity loops whatever that is. I have read quite polarized things about it and hence have always been on the fence about trying it. I am always searching for that sweet, cozy embrace without the nausea of sweetness and stumbled upon this name many times.

  6. Between your review and the ad copy, I’m somewhat less enthused about Palo Santo than I was. I’m still going to order a sample, but any thoughts of a blind buy are gone from my mind (that’s how appealing the ad copy was!).
    Now, if it ends up smelling like Fils de Dieu minus the lime, I’ll be happy.

    • Heh, you and your blind buy addiction. Well, it’s always a toss-up and a gamble. In this case, start with the sample, and you can go from there. 🙂 As for the ad copy, I’m curious as to which part put you off? The caramel?

      • The ad copy about shamans, mysticism & “a light misting” that will “cleanse the soul” immediately gave me a mental picture of the Long Island Housewife waving a smoking sage stick around some client’s house to ward off unhappy spirits. After reading that, I thought the perfume might be too quiet and/or smoky for me.

        I was interested in the note list, esp. the milk/caramel, but not if it’s that sweet. Will sample someday.

  7. This is too sweet for me. Smells like a maple-sweetened instant breakfast cereal called Maypo that that was popular when I was a child. I’m going to scrub now.

    • It’s excessively sweet for me, as well. As I wrote in the review, I really felt as though the back of my throat were coated with a blanket of grainy sugar at one point. Interesting that you got the breakfast cereal resemblence on your skin, too. I had to laugh a little at the resigned but almost desperate tone underlying “I’m going to scrub now.” Heh.

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