In the second part of my look at Orlov Paris‘ debut collection, I thought we’d look at Dominique Ropion‘s woody oriental parfum, Flame of Gold, and the floral, Orlov. The latter was not a success on my skin, so let’s start there.
According to Luckyscent, Orlov’s namesake fragrance is built around:
Bergamot, jasmine, tuberose, orange blossom, vanilla, white musk
Orlov opens on my skin with clean, fresh, green-white flowers drizzled with crisp bergamot, sweet vanilla, and lemony musk. The flowers are faceless at first but rapidly turn into gauzy, non-indolic, syrupy orange blossoms. Within moments, their bright, sweet juices swirl around the lemony accords, making me think of a fruit salad, but in a good way. It’s a fresh, almost summery brightness that takes the edge off any acidity from the various lemony notes. But what really captures my attention is the vanilla accord. It rapidly takes on a very custardy quality that is appealing and works well with the bright fruit.
The cumulative effect of all these elements in the first 15 minutes essentially amounts to a summery floral parfait where fresh, sweet, non-indolic orange blossoms are plucked straight from a tree, then strewn with small chunks of bright, fresh fruit and a few dollops of custardy vanilla.
To be completely unambiguous and clear, though, Orlov isn’t a fruity-floral fragrance on my skin, but a floral one. The balance of notes and primary focus is different between the two genres. On my skin, Orlov’s fruity elements are incidental to the star note, rather than being fully intertwined around it. If anything, the orange blossom’s main companion in Orlov’s opening phase is a lemony cleanness, compliments of the musk.
The other flowers are essentially invisible. There is no trace of the tuberose in any clear, solid way, merely indirect hints of it through ghostly whispers of a leafy greenness and, once in a blue moon, a green floral wateriness. The jasmine doesn’t show up at all.
The opening is mildly pretty in an inoffensive, generic way, but then everything changes and goes pear-shaped about 20 minutes into Orlov’s development. The orange blossom suddenly turns immensely soapy; the bergamot smells like a lemon and feels quite sharp; the white musk and green freshness become equally shrill; and neither the orange pulp nor its syrupy sweetness can provide any counterbalancing assistance because both things weaken so substantially that they’re essentially irrelevant. The end result of all these changes is a scent that smells like floral hairspray mixed with high-end hotel soap. It’s simultaneously crisp, creamy, cool, shrill, and sterile all at once.
Things devolve further as time passes. At the 45-minute mark, the soap’s creaminess (which had been the only vaguely decent part of the changes on my skin) fades away, leaving only the screechy hairspray on center stage. It’s a synthetic floral cleanness whose scratchy white musk irritates my nose and the back of my throat. There is no real, solid, defined floral note to grab onto, no unmistakable orange blossom, merely a swirling, intangible suggestion of feminine floralcy subsumed amidst a cleanness that is also soapy, lemon-flecked, wholly artificial, sharp, and shrill. It’s extremely similar to a higher-end American hairspray that one of the women in my family used to use (before I complained vociferously about it). I wish I could recall the name or brand, but I think my mind has blocked it out.
There is no improvement in sight, alas. Roughly 75 minutes in, the white musk takes on the raucous screech of floral-scented, Bounce fabric softener sheets for the dryer. It’s one of the notes or aromas that I despise the most, but part of me was briefly relieved that the vanilla hadn’t shown up to lend a saccharine sweetness to the mix of Bounce and hairspray. That might have been a step too far. But then… it happened.
Ropion’s beloved “vanilla” arrived towards the end of the second hour, a cascade of white sugar granules pouring onto the Bounce dryer sheets and the floral hairspray. I loathe each of those accords individually, but together? Simultaneously? I couldn’t take it. I scrubbed the sickly, shrill, saccharine floral-laundry-hairspray mess off my skin. Months later, when I re-tested all the other Orlovs, I simply couldn’t bear to go near this one, so I’m afraid I can’t tell you how it ends or how long it last.
So classy and expensive smelling. All the notes are so well blended but I do get the best tuberose with delicate orange blossom. Just the hint of citrus. Ooh gets better as it goes on. Reminds me of other classics but unique and updated. To me it is like getting a really good vintage but fresh and new.
I’m glad someone liked it. Since I have nothing remotely complimentary or positive to say about the fragrance (and its $330 price tag), I’ll just move onto the next one.
FLAME OF GOLD:
Flame of Gold is the one fragrance out of the four that I tried that doesn’t have a floral bent. Instead, it focuses on woods and, in particular, cedar. On its website, Orlov describes the scent as:
An extravagant overdose of velvet-smooth musk suffuses the scent with a luxurious, captivating aura, fired up by powerfully radiant amber notes. Sweetly smoky guaiac, cocoa-dark patchouli, bracing Virginia cedar and luscious sandalwood: the richest wood essences fuel this lustrous Flame of Gold.
Luckyscent has a slightly different note list that omits some of those woods, but adds in leather and vanilla:
Amber, musk, patchouli, cedar, vanilla, leather.
Based on those two descriptions and on my own experiences wearing the scent, I think the full note list is an amalgamation of the two and probably looks something like this:
Musk, Cedar, Guaiac, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Amber, and Vanilla.
Flame of Gold opens on my skin with cedar that smells like pencil shavings infused with light, clean, slightly floral-tinted, somewhat cedary ISO E Super. Weaving around it are microscopic threads of smoke, but they’re heavily muffled and almost microscopic. Roughly 10 minutes in, the ISO E’s subtle floral nuance fades away. Not long after that, a whiff of abstract spiciness appears in the background, presumably from the patchouli, but it’s as minor as the smoke. I’d estimate that as much as 95% of the bouquet on my skin consists of clean, cedar pencil-shavings and a generalized, slightly cedary cleanness.
It’s a light, sheer, quiet, and subdued affair, and a very innocuous, wearable fragrance, the sort of thing that one would put on to have just a discreet suggestion of scented cleanness with a woody aspect to it. The ISO E actually helps in this instance because it’s so mild; there is none of the antiseptic or chemical whiffs it can generate in powerful amounts, merely a sort of fuzzy, wooded cleanness that is fresh and, for a brief while, faintly powdery as well.
At its core, Flame of Gold isn’t a fragrance that twists and turns on my skin with multiple stages or layers. It’s a completely linear composition centered almost entirely on cedar and its various facets. Those facets are underscored by other elements, but they don’t really show up prominently in their own right; they merely work indirectly to add different nuances to the cedar or to bring out its inherent facets.
As a result, I can essentially summarize Flame of Gold’s entire development on my skin with a simple equation:
Cedar with cleanness –> cedar with cleanness and smokiness –> cedar with cleanness, smokiness, and spiciness –> cedar with clean white musk —> cedar with clean white musk and sugary vanilla —> clean, sugared woods —> sugared laundry musk —> laundry musk.
The changes happen gradually, one atop another. Roughly 45 minutes into Flame of Gold’s development, the smokiness becomes more noticeable, as if it had grown from 2-3% of the bouquet to about 10-15%. At the 90-minute mark, the patchouli makes an appearance, smelling primarily of clean, woody spiciness, particularly when I smell the fragrance in the air from a distance. There, Flame of Gold is really just a clean, smoky, spicy cedar bouquet. Up close, the nuances are clearer, at least when I concentrate and sniff hard. The smoke occasionally gives off whiffs of guaiac. In the background, the white musk and woody (ISO E) cleanness continue to weave in and out. But really, it all coalesces into a simple blur of cedar flecked with strands of cleanness, spiciness, and a tiny wisp of smokiness.
The nuances change as time passes. At the end of the second hour and the start of the 3rd, the patchouli emits puffs of BBQ, BBQ meat, and earthiness. At the same time, there are hints of something vaguely, nebulously leather-ish stirring in the base. As a whole, the fragrance feels darker, spicier, and smokier, although it still retains an element of cleanness at the same time, thanks to the white musk’s persistence.
At the start of the 6th hour, the nuances change again, as the darker elements fade and Flame of Gold returns to its opening bouquet of cedar pencil shavings and cleanness. There are differences, though. This time, the cleanness is almost entirely due to white musk rather than ISO E. Moreover, in a harbinger of things to come, sugary vanilla pops up for the first time in the wings, and slowly begins to inch its way towards center stage. Step by step, it transforms the cedar into something heavily sweetened.
Around the same time, Flame of Gold’s note structure or note clarity starts to break down. All the accords blur into one, and the cedar turns into an amorphous, indeterminate woodiness. By the end of the 6th hour, I feel as though I’m wearing sugar-frosted woods layered with the aromas of my laundry room. An hour later, the woods disappear, and I’m left with the Ropion signature of vanillic sugar and clean musk. The former is as cloying as saccharine, while the latter’s Bounce-like sharpness gives me a headache whenever I smell my arm up close for too long. I think there may be a sliver of woodiness lingering on somewhere in there, but I confess I didn’t want to smell my arm too often to be sure. The simple, vanilla-sugared bouquet continues for a while but, in the final hours, all that is left is laundry cleanness.
Flame of Gold had decent longevity, discreet projection, and low sillage on my skin. Using several generous smears equal to 2 good sprays from a bottle, the opening projection was about 1.5 to 2 inches. The scent trail extended 2-3 inches when I moved my arm; it wasn’t easy to detect the fragrance if I remained still and at a distance. At the end of the 2nd hour and start of the 3rd, the projection hovered right above the skin, and there was no sillage at all. In my two tests, Flame of Gold typically became a skin scent 3.75 to 4 hours into its development, and lasted 10 to 10.5 hours on average. Keep in mind the fact that my skin holds onto fragrances with a lot of white musk much longer than the average person’s. This is an extremely soft, quiet, sheer fragrance, in my opinion.
On Fragrantica, there are only two reviews at this time, both positive. The first is merely a single word: “amazing.” The second is from “Houdini4” who saw Flame of Gold as an amber or woody-amber fragrance. His review reads, in full, as follows:
Opens with almost cream soda like playful vanilla which soon dissipates to reveal a throbbing Amber core. The sweetness retreats too which is welcome and it becomes much more dusty, and woody after a sweet couple of hours. There could even be a hint of patchouli earthying up the drydown but make no mistake this is an amber dominant fragrance of the highest quality and lasting power. Really, really good stuff for Orlov and I only applied a tiny amount and it lasted for hours.
I rate flame of Gold but does it have enough to set it apart from other high quality ambers? That’s for you to decide….I’m saying it’s worth a sniff and was a pleasure to wear for me.
I liked parts of Flame of Gold, but I’m not sure if that’s a relative thing as compared to my feelings about some of its siblings. It’s basically inoffensive for much of its life (until that drydown). Aesthetically and in terms of feel, it reminds me of a Byredo fragrance; something clean, light, discreet, and easy to wear (if you like synthetic freshness). On an olfactory basis, though, I would compare it to a mash-up of: a basic, generic cedar soliflore; a pinch of patchouli and guaiac; a slug of Escentric Molecules 001; and a ton of 4160 Tuesday‘s gourmand cedary-vanilla-musk fragrance, “Sexiest Scent On the Planet.” (In her opinion.) As a side note, I don’t think Flame of Gold resembles Byredo‘s latest release which is an ISO E Super-filled cedar called Super Cedar, at least judging by my quick, passing test of it. Super Cedar was a far bigger scent at the start and more overtly chemical in its ISO E Super; it has a lot of vetiver and some rose; but there is no patchouli to give off spice or BBQ aromas, no smoke, and no sugared vanilla. Plus, it doesn’t feel like a pure soliflore like Flame of Gold.
I’ve already shared my thoughts and conclusions about the Orlov brand, the quality of the fragrances, and their price in my post on Star of the Season and Cross of Asia, so I won’t repeat myself here. I’m simply say that, while Flame of Gold is moderately better than some of the others, it’s still just an okay fragrance and, in my opinion, over-priced at $330 a bottle in light of its simplicity, linearity, synthetics, wispiness, quietness, and lack of oomph. I actually enjoyed the part where it smelt like patchouli-spiced pencil shavings and fuzzy woody cleanness, but that’s only a brief stage and, in all honesty, a rather forgettable one in the general scheme of things. In the months to come, I suspect I’ll remember Flame of Gold as bland, wearable, occasionally pleasant inoffensiveness that ended badly. That’s not worth $330 a bottle to me. Maybe you’ll feel differently, so, if you like cedar or woody fragrances, you should try it for yourself.