“What fresh hell is this?!” That question repeatedly crossed my mind as I smelt the new Jeroboam fragrances, and it wasn’t solely because some of them were indeed “fresh” (and excessively clean). The question really arose because I physically recoiled from the very first sniff of the sample wand for fragrance after fragrance, one after another, like a falling domino. When a scent wafts a brash, often brutish amount of chemicals merely from the wand and far before the liquid has even developed on my skin, then I know I’m in trouble.
There wasn’t even the promise or potential of something different and interesting in the synthetic cocktail to make the effort of wearing the fragrance seem worthwhile. For some of the Jeroboam fragrances, the molecules wafting from the wand and, later, on my skin were the most generic of bouquets whose quality and distinctiveness veered between being worse than a Montale, on par with a Montale, or like something you’d find in an Arab bazaar. For others in the line, the scent was all too familiar, evoking a richer or stronger aroma of things like Terre d’Hermes or one of the thousands of creme brulée caramelized vanillas on the market. At least two of the fragrances could be summed up flatly as “Bro Juice” on chemical steroids, with the added benefit or catnip of “Beast Mode” projection. If you like that genre of perfumery, great, all the more power to you, but it’s not my thing.
Jeroboam is a new brand founded by Francois Henin of Jovoy Paris. It launched last year with five fragrances, all pure parfums that were created by Vanina Muracciole and based around what Jeroboam describes as “enigmatic musks.” I don’t know what the hell that means. Do the musks flash a Mona Lisa smile as they bat their eyelashes at you coyly? Do they give you a hard-to-decipher stare like Harry Potter’s Snape before he twirls his cloak around and flounces off? Or are they simply mysterious like Garbo? I don’t know why “enigmatic musks” irritates me so much, but it does. Perhaps because it’s one thing to use hyperbole for official perfume copy and quite another when it comes to the actual ingredients in a perfume. Or perhaps it irritates me because I think it treats the client as an idiot, as I’ll explain in my summation at the end.
When I actually applied the fragrances to my skin, the experience was as unpleasant as I had anticipated. I tried to last for as long as I could, but I managed only an average of 3 hours across the line: I endured one fragrance for a little over 5 hours, another drove me to scrubbing after an hour, while the rest got around 3 hours each. So I can’t provide my usual lengthy, in-depth, detailed analysis, and I’ll merely give my overall thoughts or impressions. I’ll skip the company’s description or backstory, but I’ll provide the notes along with links to a vendor, Jeroboam’s website, and/or Fragrantica in case you’re interested in finding more information about a particular scent. So, let’s get to it.
Notes: Vanilla, jasmine, enigmatic musks.
Insulo is your basic sugary caramel vanilla drenched in equally sugary white musk. It opens with a rich, strongly caramelized crème brulée vanilla that immediately made me think of Raghba, only without its fruity component. Parts of Insulo’s vanilla aren’t bad initially, but then the clean musk goes a little nuts after 45 minutes. Its power renders the vanilla into something airier, less dense, and less creamy/custardy than it was at the debut. By the start of the 3rd hour, Insulo becomes your common Pink Sugar-style of vanilla, only significantly stronger in sillage and with possibly even more clean musk. I didn’t detect any jasmine on my skin at any point during the first 3 hours. I thought the fragrance was cloyingly sugared and had a painful degree of white musk that skewed into Bounce/laundry territory. There are hundreds upon hundreds of this sort of vanilla out there, most at a much lower price.
Notes: Bergamot, pink peppercorn, juniper, nutmeg, sandalwood, enigmatic musks.
Origino opens on my skin with crisp citrus and aromatic freshness laced with a delicate floral sweetness and a lot of clean musk. A base of generic woods lies below, smelling synthetic and slightly peppery. The citrus note is the nicest part, but the overall bouquet feels nothing special as compared to other low to mid-range men’s fragrances.
The scent in the opening stage consistently reminds me of Terre d’Hermes. Origino’s bergamot is brisk and almost grapefruit-like at the start; there is a pinch of abstract spices; a noticeable amount of ISO E Super; and the aromatic freshness (which never reads as actual, solid, clearly delineated “juniper” on my skin) quickly takes on a mineralized quality. The cumulative effect feels like a cousin to Terre d’Hermes, only creamier, slightly sweeter, and much heavier. Terre d’Hermes is crisper, significantly brighter, and with a distinct vetiver note; this is cleaner because, man, there is a lot of musk after 10 minutes. Something about Origino, maybe the pepperiness of its ISO E Supercrappy, made me sneeze repeatedly but the aromachemical also blocked my nose’s sense receptors at various times and made me slightly anosmic to the scent if I sniffed my arm up close for too long without a break. (See the ISO E Super link above regarding how the very large size of the molecules has an impact on sense detection.)
After roughly 45 minutes, Origino turns more floral. It’s not an actual, real or true flower at play but a clean, soft, lemony, abstract floral whiteness that, on my skin and to my nose, smells identical to the blurry, shimmery, lemony, quasi-“jasmine”-ish aroma of hedione. It’s one of Jean-Claude Ellena‘s favorite synthetics and one that he used in large quantities in, yes, Terre d’Hermes. In Origino, as in many instances involving a combination of hedione and white musk, the scent gradually turns soapy and creamily clean, though it doesn’t venture into “lemon dish-washing liquid” territory as hedione sometimes does on my skin.
Origino shifts in small degrees over time. After an hour, it is no longer mineralized or crisp in feel. The white musk expands to smell like American Bounce drier sheets and fabric softener. Near the middle of the 2nd hour, the white woods turn stronger, begin to seep up from the base, slowly cutting through some of Origino’s creamy and subtly sweet aspects. After 4 hours, woods arrive on center stage, wafting tiny tendrils of smokiness and feeling darker. Origino is now primarily centered on lightly spiced and hedione-like, floral-ish, citrusy softness lightly layered with dry, quietly smoky woods. Unfortunately for me, all the signs are pointing to the woods really being Javanol, an ultra-smoky, immensely arid and powerful sandalwood aromachemical that I loathe immensely and to which I have the worst physical reaction.
That is the case here as well. Between the blaring foghorn of white musk, the intensely abrasive Javanol, the ISO E Supercrappy, and the large quantities of whatever it is that smells exactly like hedione, Origino gives me a whopping headache. After 4 hours, my throat seized up; after 5, it felt as though someone had taken a cheese grater to it. I tried to scrub the fragrance, but that only seemed to eliminate only the milder notes and to amplify the dark, smoky, and clean musk base chemicals even further. Eventually, after great effort, I got rid of most of the scent, but there is no doubt in my mind that Origino contains a huge quantity of intensely powerful synthetics. On Luckyscent, one of the few comments left for a Jeroboam fragrance at this time (Hauto) says “most in this line are loaded up with an absolute, impenetrable wall of Iso E Super” but, in my opinion, ISO E Super is only the tip of the iceberg with Origino. Sadly, it wasn’t even the worst case. That would be Miksado, followed by Oriento.
Notes: Bergamot, Labdanum, Saffron, Cedar, Geranium, Gaiac, Patchouli, Vanilla, Musks.
Nutshell: a Niagara Falls of chemicals in a fragrance that is “Bro Juice” to the max.
Miksado (or, as I refer to it in my mind, “Mikado”) was the Jeroboam fragrance that I had the highest hopes for but which turned out to be the worst experience of the lot for me. It opens on my skin with rough, purely synthetic, Montale-style oud woodiness that smells like bandages, hospital corridors, and antiseptic. It’s actually a tsunami of ISO E Supercrappy combined with equally large amounts of Guaiacol, that phenolic, tarry, smoky wood aromachemical that replicates the scent of a four-alarm forest fire.
The brutish chemical cocktail has other elements as well. For a few fleeting moments, there is a strange, almost fruity, crisp freshness, but it’s quickly silenced by an intensely synthetic saffron sweetness that smells like large quantities of Safraleine. 10 minutes later, a syrupy caramel goldenness appears, but it isn’t a clearly delineated, authentic labdanum to my nose. Like everything else here, it merely smells synthetic. The final component is a clean, white musk.
Everything in Miksado feels loud, garish, unbalanced, and abrasive to me. After 30 minutes, the aggressive duet of peppery ISO E Super and guaiacol forest fires turns up about 10 notches, blaring like a foghorn in a sea of cheap saffron and cloyingly sweet, syrupy, ambered caramel. The overall effect doesn’t feel on par with a Montale; I think it’s even lower in quality. It reminds me of the sort of low-end, cheap, very loud Arab scent that is a dime a dozen in one of their bazaars. After an hour, I couldn’t take it any more and tried to scrub it off but, as in the case of Origino, the chemicals held on like glue. As I scrubbed away, the smokiness of the scent bloomed and bloomed, making me feel like a rodent being fumigated by some sort of toxic extermination cloud. There are no words to describe awful my experience was from start to finish, so I’ll just stop here.
Notes: Lemon, saffron, styrax, rose, ylang, apple, sandalwood, patchouli, enigmatic musks
Oriento opens on my skin with fruity patchouli goop smeared over a fiery saffron rose that’s been laced with synthetic woods and a vanilla-ish creaminess . The patchouli smells like a molasses of red berries, while the saffron is fiery. Clean white musk weaves all around, though it’s a light touch at first. The rose is deep, dark, and okay in quality relative to the ridiculously overt synthetics of the rest of the notes. For about 20 minutes, Oriento feels on par with a Montale rose-saffron-oud of moderate quality.
That doesn’t last. After 30 minutes, it becomes more and more peppery as the ISO E Super grows stronger. When combined with the Javanol sandalwood, they give the impression of an oud-ish woody accord more than a truly sandalwood one. By the end of the first hour, the fragrance smells like one of the rougher, more abrasive, louder, fruity rose-saffron-woody Montales. By the middle of the 2nd hour, the Javanol grows expansive and more aggressive, smelling smokier and spicier. The ISO E is almost as loud. In short, it’s as though there were a battle between the Javanol, the ISO E Super, and the syrupy fruitchouli for the rose’s attention. It’s another “bro juice” on steroids. I lasted an additional hour, then gave up.
I don’t have the words to try to sum up Oriento because everything about the fragrance has been done before. And done far better at that, too.
Notes: Bergamot, pineapple, tuberose, rose, spices, enigmatic musks
Hauto opens on my skin with a nice, cool, watery and clean white floralcy that smells far more like gardenia on my skin than tuberose. It’s a petal-soft, creamy white flower that is non-indolic, green, fresh, and drenched in dewiness. It’s a pretty, lightly sweetened floral creaminess that makes me think of a lady wearing a camellia at times, though it’s not rich, heavy, opulent, or intense enough to evoke the actual La Dame aux Camelias story. But it certainly doesn’t smell intensely of tuberose on my skin, and tuberose is my favorite flower both in perfumery and in nature. The aroma here is more abstract, more amorphous. If anything, it’s closer to an impressionistic, gauzy gardenia.
The floral accord is accompanied by other elements. A wave of clean white musk circulates all around, while a wisp of something like synthetic, generic white woods briefly pops up on the sidelines. After 30 minutes, the white musk grows louder and is joined by a demure, pale, almost abstract watery rose. The two together merge to recreate the scent of expensive American floral hairspray. By the end of the first hour, Hauto is centered primarily on a watery, fresh, clean, sweet, creamy, white floralcy cocooned in a cloud of rose floral hairspray. By the middle of the 3rd hour, the white musk turns louder, sharper, and is gradually taking on more of the aroma of American floral Bounce drier sheets. That’s when I gave up.
There isn’t much to say about Hauto. It’s all been done before. The fragrance basically fills the “clean, fresh, feminine floral” slot in Jeroboam’s line-up. None of it smells interesting, distinctive, compelling, or good quality to my nose. You can find this sort of shapeless, anonymously generic, fresh white floral bouquet in any Sephora or mall, although some of them may actually have less white musk than this one does. The only plus side to its mundane blandness is that it’s not so aggressively in-your-face like the rest of the Jeroboam releases.
ALL IN ALL:
In my opinion, each of the Jeroboam fragrances feel as though they were designed with a checklist in mind. Each one takes on an extremely popular genre, popular fragrance, or popular note combination, then amps up the concentration of the notes to make the perfume more powerful through a larger quantity of powerful synthetics and clean white musks. In the case of the Terre d’Hermes and Raghba-style fragrances, Jeroboam has added creaminess or body as well. Insulo satisfies the need for both a gourmand and a unisex entry in the collection; Hauto is clearly feminine and checks off the “fresh floral” category; Origino appeals to the wide swathe of people (men and women) who like Terre d’Hermes or citrusy, aromatic, fresh woody fragrances; and at least two could be described as “bro juice” with the added catnip of having “beast mode” projection and the added cachet of seeming (supposedly) like an elite, exclusive, or luxury brand in a way that few niche perfumistas consider Montale any more.
Personally, I think Jeroboam is very over-priced for the scents and quality in question. $130 for only 1 ounce/30 ml is too much for a brutishly unbalanced chemical cocktail with a wholly generic, mainstream scent profile when there are very similar fragrances around for much less. You can buy 100 ml of a Montale fragrance for between $89 and $120. Nothing that appeared on my skin with any of the Jeroboam fragrances showed an increased improvement in quality or luxury that would justify the price differential to my eyes. But it’s not only the price; I think the fragrances to smell so godawful that I wouldn’t want to be in the same room as someone who was wearing Jeroboam. And if I smelt Miksado and Oriento, I would leave the vicinity immediately.
In fairness, I am very sensitive to fragrances that have a massive quantity of extremely powerful aromachemicals and most people are not, but the synthetic issue is only one of my problems with the line. It would be one thing if the fragrances emitted intense synthetics if they were also original, distinctive, compelling, and interesting in the manner of things from Bogue, Slumberhouse, Bruno Fazzolari, and even some LM Parfums and Amouages. But that is not the case here. On my skin, these fragrances felt merely like louder, more brutish, or more intense versions of things like Ragbha, Terre d’Hermes, Montale, or any number of mainstream scents. In short, I found them unremarkable and mundane in every way except for their brashness and strength.
To me, the marketing angle of the “enigmatic musks” symbolizes my larger issues with the brand. “Enigmatic” is defined as: difficult to interpret or understand; secret; obscure; cryptic; or mysterious. To my nose, there is absolutely nothing “enigmatic” — let alone hidden — about the musks because they are the common sort that is found in almost every basic mainstream fragrance around, and they’re used in such quantities here that they practically slapped me in the face. Hidden? I wish. Difficult to understand? Hardly. We are not talking about attempts to recreate Tonkin deer musk through mysterious, secret natural alternatives (à la Parfum d’Empire), nor are we talking about any sort of moderately dirty, golden, or completely novel form of musk. There is absolutely nothing enigmatically mysterious about the garden variety of clean laundry musk — and any attempt to pretend otherwise is, in my opinion, treating the consumer as a jackass, a sucker or, in French terms, un con. Jeroboam’s target consumer is the precise sort of niche buyer who would (or should) recognise basic clean musk a mile away and, yet, the company seems to think they are idiots who wouldn’t know better, idiots who can be fooled into believing that both the musk and the fragrances as a whole are something mysterious, prestigious, and different. Even if wasn’t their explicit intention, it feels like it to me and annoys me immensely.
Be that as it may, if any of this is your ideal style of perfumery and if you have no sensitivity to very large quantities of extremely powerful aromachemicals, then you should check out Jeroboam for yourself. I’m staying very far away.
Disclosure: Samples of all five fragrances were generously provided by Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.