Two masters of the indie genre got together to play a transatlantic olfactory game whose only rule was to put their individual spin on the gourmand genre, combining ideas and formulas for over a year until they came up with Cadavre Exquis. They call it their “Frankenstein” twist on the genre but, to me, it feels much more like an oriental fragrance that gives only an occasional or passing nod to gourmand tropes until its drydown. It’s a rich, smoky, earthy, sometimes leathery, and always heavily spiced immortelle-driven fragrance that I think will appeal enormously to some fans of classic Serge Lutens, Andy Tauer, and the much-loved Histoires de Parfum, 1740/Marquis de Sade, though there are a few caveats involved, as you will see.
Cadavre Exquis is a new, limited-edition eau de parfum that was created by Fazzolari‘s Bruno Fazzolari and Bogue‘s Antonio Gardoni, and released just two days ago. The press release that I was sent explains their goal for the fragrance, how its name refers to an old 1920s Surrealists’ game that the two perfumers used to collaborate on the scent, and some of its notes. The explanation reads, in part, as follows:
The term cadavre exquis refers to the game originated by the surrealist artists of the 1920s. In the game, players collectively assemble words or images to create a poem or drawing, with each player making a contribution of his own while totally unaware of the others’. […][¶]
Antonio Gardoni (Bogue Profumo – Italy) and Bruno Fazzolari (Bruno Fazzolari Studio – USA) adapted the game for perfume. They planned and played their game for over a year: swapping, adding and assembling scents, formulas, perfume samples, texts and drawings. The only rule was a keyword: “gourmand” —a popular sweet-fragrance that has been called “insulting to perfumer’s craft.” It is a category of perfume that neither perfumer had explored.
The result is a challenging, experimental eau de parfum produced and bottled in Bruno’s artisan lab in San Francisco. It is a “creature” made of strangely mismatched parts, a smelly Frankenstein, a “monster” that fights against the obvious. [¶]
Notes include: blood orange, camphor, ylang-ylang, tagetes, dried fruit, star anise, chocolate, cypress, benzoin, vanilla and civet.
If you read carefully, you’ll see that the text implies that those are only some of the notes in Cadavre Exquis, and not the full, complete list. I personally think several of the most important elements are omitted, at least judging by what appeared on my skin both times that I tried the fragrance, starting first and foremost with immortelle. My guess for the fuller note list would be something like this:
Immortelle, tobacco, leather, cumin, possibly fenugreek, possibly ginger, blood orange, camphor, ylang-ylang, tagetes [a type of marigold], dried fruit, star anise, chocolate, cypress, benzoin, vanilla, civet, labdanum/cistus, woody-amber synths, frankincense, and possibly patchouli.
Cadavre Exquis opens on my skin with a powerful wave of heavy, thick immortelle that smells of banana leaves, maple syrup, and, above all else, yellow curry powder. Other notes are layered within: a skanky cumin ripeness and muskiness; an immense dusty earthiness from the tagetes; a handful of dry tobacco leaves; and a pinch of powdered, dark cocoa. After a minute or two, they’re joined by dried, plummy fruits that feel coated in crystallized or candied ginger, then by slightly biting star anise, and a faint, fleeting drop of dry, woody vanilla.
The overall effect is a bouquet that has one foot planted within gourmand territory and one outside. Yet, to me, it feels as though Cadavre Exquis inverts the type gourmand tropes and merely pays them passing lip service. With the exception of the immortelle’s syrupy aspects, everything else feels oriental — and not in an oriental-gourmand or hybrid sort of way, either. I’m talking pure oriental, like an ancient spice shop where a patina of dust and age-old spices can be found at the bottom of an old wooden spice drawer. That immense sort of dustiness, earthiness, and dryness not only offset the immortelle’s sweetness, but also call to mind such great orientals as Andy Tauer‘s L’Air du Desert Marocain, albeit an immortelle-centric version. Even if the immortelle is sweet, its other aspects are more powerful. By a three-to-one margin, it’s redolent of curry and cooking elements more than maple syrup, to the point that Cadavre Exquis’ opening reminds me frequently of the banana-leaf, curry, immortelle opening of Teo Cabanel‘s labdanum oriental, Barkhane. When I do smell the immortelle’s maple syrup side, it doesn’t evoke a gourmand to me so much as Histoires de Parfums‘ oriental 1740/Marquis de Sade, thanks to the way it’s mixed with somewhat skanky, musky cumin and with dark, dried fruits.
In the midst of this intense orientalism, the ostensible gourmand elements are far too minor or dry to really have much impact on my skin. The chocolate is dark, somewhat powdered like dry cocoa, unsweetened, and verging almost on the bitter; the vanilla is both dry and so smothered by the deluge of earthy, dusty spices as to be practically irrelevant; and the fruits are the opposite of fresh, bright, pulpy, or sweet. Despite the sense of crystallized ginger, they don’t feel candied so much as dried, dark, and heavily spiced à la Lutens, with Fille en Aiguilles coming to mind in particular along with a fainter impression of the cumin-infused plums from the Feminité du Bois series.
Cadavre Exquis’ rapid changes take it even further away from true gourmand territory as it develops. Less than 15 minutes in, streaks of smoky camphor appear at the edges, feeling black and a bit oily. It’s quickly overshadowed by a new note, a herbal dried greenness redolent of fenugreek and bearing faint undertones of dill. It accentuates Cadavre Exquis’ curry and foodie vibe, especially when it intertwines around the cumin and the immortelle. On the sidelines, dry woods appear, smelling like fresh sawdust from cedar planks. The cumulative effect adds to the Lutens’ vibe (his plum, cumin, ginger, woody fragrances now joined by the fenugreek-dill of Santal de Mysore), but I’m also reminded at times of SHL 777‘s Arab style as well. Lest my point is unclear by now, Cadavre Exquis opens as a hardcore oriental on my skin, regardless of any passing nods to the gourmand genre. The materials simply have not been handled or combined together in a way that feels either like a dessert or a particularly sweet fragrance. That will change in the drydown, but, for now, it’s oriental all the way.
Cadavre Exquis continues to rapidly change and develop. Roughly 30 minutes in, a smoky, woody leatheriness pops up on the sidelines, followed by a slightly boozy amber accord. The sense of camphor grows stronger, and it seems related to the leather, perhaps because both bear a very parched, smoky, (aromachemical) blackness. The vanilla retreats to the background where it will stay for a number of hours. At the same time, the chocolate grows more pronounced, but it’s still too dark and bitter to give off truly gourmand vibes. It weaves in and out, tying the immortelle, spices, tobacco, herbs, dried fruit, dry woods, smoky leather, and amber together.
Yet, the primary focus of the scent continues to the immortelle and the earthy, curried, cumin, fenugreek spice mix. The two accords are so fully intertwined and form such a major part of the first hour on my skin that I’d estimate they make up as much as 65% of the bouquet, perhaps even 70%. The tobacco initially takes second place during the first 30 minutes, amounting to roughly about 15%, with the dollops of spice-coated dried fruits, star anise, cocoa, and dry woods making up the remainder. At the end of the 1st hour, the smoky leather joins the tobacco in second place, but Cadavre Exquis’ core focus remains unchanged.
What interests me is the way the secondary or tertiary notes differ in their prominence, order, or nuances depending on how much scent I apply. When I used a small quantity equal to 1 small spritz from a bottle, the supporting players were different. The curried, banana-leaf, syrupy immortelle was accompanied right from the start primarily by an immensely smoky leatheriness and charred wood smoke. The bitter orange also appeared at the onset, and in a far more visible fashion than the fenugreek, the dark chocolate, or the vanilla, many of which felt negligible to nonexistent. The dried fruits were fainter in this version, overshadowed by a combination of the orange and amber that resulted in a boozy, fruited sweetness. Yet, this version still felt purely oriental in vibe, not gourmand. Its main focus was, as always, the curried, syrupy immortelle but it was now bracketed by an arid, immensely tarry, leather-woody smokiness on one side and by boozy amber on the other, all wrapped up with ribbons of earthiness, dusty spices, and dry, gritty, raw tobacco.
This time, Cadavre Exquis didn’t remind me of the Lutens aesthetic at all and was purely Andy Tauer in feel: an immortelle version of L’Air du Desert Marocain fused or crossed with his tarry, woody, leathery, and smoky Incense Flash (which is not a liturgical incense fragrance on my skin, despite its name) and a bit of his ambered, tobacco, tarry creosote Amber Flash. I’ll be frank, the leathery smokiness was far too abrasive, tarry, rasping, and desiccated for me; it gave me a bad sore throat after only 15 minutes; and it continued for the first two hours in such an intense way that I eventually scrubbed the perfume. But quantity makes a difference, and a larger amount (equal to 2 good sprays) in my second test resulted in the more balanced and multi-faceted opening that I’ve described for most of this review. As a result, when the abrasive woody-amber or leather-woody-smoky synthetics kicked in later, it wasn’t quite so unbearable to someone with my sensitivities. I still had a sore throat, but there were enough appealing aspects to make me hang in there.
Ultimately, regardless of how much fragrance I apply, both versions eventually turn into one, and end up in the same place after 90-120 minutes. Cadavre Exquis becomes an immortelle-spice mix that is layered with tarry leatheriness, black smoke, smoky woods, earthiness, muskiness, dark tobacco, dried herbs, a drop of booziness, and a smidgeon of dark, dried fruits, then cocooned in a dry ambery warmth. It continues to call to mind various Tauer creations, particularly at the start of the 3rd hour when the tarry leather and the woody, creosote-like smokiness surge forward in strength. In fact, they become the second most dominant accord, and transform the spiced, earthy, curried, sweet-dry immortelle as a result, cutting through its sweetness, and infusing it with just as much smokiness as curry and banana-leaf. The cumulative effect is a scent that is dominated primarily by dry, spiced, heavily smoky immortelle-leather. All the other elements run through it, but they’re subsumed within the main accord in such a way that only small puffs are detectable on the scent trail in the air unless I smell my arm up close.
Cadavre Exquis changes again in the middle of the 6th hour. The black leather weakens quite substantially, leaving a smokiness that is no longer tarry. It’s less sharp and desiccated, though I still find it abrasive when I smell my arm up close for too long. Still, the fragrance now smells primarily of smoky immortelle infused with sweetness, earthiness, curry powder, dark dried spices, dark dried fruits, dry woods, and faintly boozy, cognac-style amber. Wisps of leather, camphor, spicy patchouli, and dried herbs linger at the edges.
Cadavre Exquis continues to improve as it time passes. Its smokiness gradually loses much of its abrasive scratchiness and once in a while, particularly during the 7th hour onwards, it actually smells increasingly of real frankincense rather than mere (synthetic) blackness. It’s a more balsamic, faintly resinous, faintly lemony, purer and truer sort of incense smokiness than before. More importantly, the vanilla awakens in the base at the end of the 7th hour, and begins to seep upwards. It’s a dry vanilla but with just enough sweetness and silky richness to offset the smoke’s dryness. It works particularly well with the growing waves of amber that begin to fall over the immortelle, blurring its shape and diluting it.
Roughly 8.25 hours into its development, Cadavre Exquis turns into a hazy blend of labdanum amber, immortelle-ambered booziness, balsamic resins, dry spices, dry woods, earthiness, smoke, and vanilla. Every now and then, I catch glimpses of the immortelle’s curry or maple syrup sides, the tarry, rough leather in the background, or slightly charred wood/wood smoke, but they’re fleeting and largely swallowed up by everything else. It’s the same story for the patchouli that I’m convinced is lurking somewhere in there as well, unless the mix of spiced woodiness, (tagetes) earthiness, cocoa, and tobacco is somehow throwing me off and recreating its aroma. Patchouli or not, the overall effect is delightful: rich, cozy, comforting, not too dry, not too smoky (or synthetic), and wonderfully golden.
Cadavre Exquis’ gourmand side only becomes a distinct and powerful factor on my skin during the fragrance’s drydown phase which begins a short time later, near the end of the 9th hour. That’s when the fragrance becomes far too sweet for me personally, and I think it’s largely due to the vanilla. It takes on a strongly custardy feel that is accentuated by elusive, ghostly whispers of ylang-ylang.
More importantly, though, it heads straight into the caramelized crème brulée territory that is so typical of vanilla gourmands. The vanilla is now just as sugary as it is custardy, its caramel crust slathered on with a combination of boozy amber and immortelle syrup, then blackened at the edges with smoke, before the whole thing is nestled amongst dry, smoky woods. Weaving all around the background are tendrils of tarry leather, frankincense smoke, spicy patchouli (or something recreating its aroma), earthiness, and, once in a blue moon, a wisp of cocoa. I find it very cloying and excessively sweet, though I admit that I have a low threshold for sugariness and am not a gourmand fan in general.
From afar, Cadavre Exquis smells a little differently, though. There, the focus is not on the vanilla but on ambery, spicy, and heavily smoked (raspy) woods. They have a lick of vanilla creme brulée, but it isn’t very distinct or clearly delineated amidst the thick coating of generalized sugary sweetness and syrupiness that lies atop those charred woods. But regardless of whether I smell Cadavre Exquis up close or from afar, something about the scent feels grating to me. It’s either the (synthetic) wood smoke or the cloying syrup. Unfortunately for me, both things remain almost until Cadavre Exquis’ very end. By the start of the 12th hour, the fragrance is a simple blend of spiced, ambery, dry, smoky woods coated in gourmand, vanillic, sugary and syrupy sweetness. Then, in its final hours, all that’s left is spiced, smoky, woody sweetness.
Cadavre Exquis had soft projection, moderate sillage, and good longevity. Using several generous smears equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with about 3.5 to 4 inches of projection, and a scent trail that extended 4-5 inches before it grew after 20 minutes to roughly about 7 inches. The projection dropped at the start of the second hour to about 2 inches, but the sillage was roughly the same. The fragrance softened at the start of the 4th hour: the scent trail dropped to about 3-4 inches, while the projection was roughly between 1 and 1.5 inches. Cadavre Exquis only became a skin scent 8.75 hours into its development, but it was easy to detect up close without major effort until the 13th hour. Then, I had to put my nose right on my arm. In total, it lasted just short of 17 hours. Keep in mind, though, that my skin holds onto fragrances that contain strong smoky, woody, or smoky-amber synthetics longer than the average person.
Cadavre Exquis was launched just two days, May 7th, at the Hammer Museum’s AIX scent fair, so it’s far too new for a Fragrantica page, a Basenotes page, or even blog reviews. I’ve looked, but I’ve found nothing to give you a sense of how other people view the fragrance. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for now.
My nutshell summation is that I think Cadavre Exquis is going to be extremely popular amongst people with particular tastes. While the gourmand lovers will love the drydown, the rest is going to hit all the right buttons with oriental fans of Lutens, Tauer, and SHL 777. There are a few major caveats to this, however. People who share my sensitivity to smoky aromachemicals or to Andy Tauer’s creosote Tauerade base may struggle as I did with Cadavre Exquis’ first 6 hours, while gourmand-phobes who can’t stand any sugariness may not like first the next phase. What I worry about even more, though, is people’s reaction to the powerful and persistent curry aroma of the immortelle. I think that will be a definite challenge for some, and even more so when combined with the musky, earthy, and slightly skanky ripeness of the cumin, or the very food-like vibe of the fenugreek. If you don’t mind the foodie, herbal aspects of early O’Driu fragrances, Lutens’ fenugreek/dill Santal de Mysore, his cumin-heavy orientals, the banana-curry opening of Teo Cabanel‘s Barkhane or the curry-maple syrup elements in Parfum d’Empire‘s Fougère Bengale, then you should be fine here. If any of those fragrances were too strongly curried or foody for you, then I think you may have issues here as well. The note is a lot stronger, more persistent, and heavier here than it was in most of those fragrances, in my opinion.
Assuming that you pass the curry test, then the people who I think will most enjoy Cadavre Exquis are those who fall into at least one (and preferably two or more) of the following categories:
- People who love L’Air du Desert Marocain, Incense Flash, Amber Flash but, also, vanilla gourmands as well;
- Gourmand and oriental lovers who love the old Lutens style, and who would enjoy an immortelle-driven fragrance that gives passing nods to the cumin of Feminite du Bois or Bois et Fruit, the fenugreek/herbs of Santal de Mysore, the ginger-plum incense of Fille en Aiguilles, and the dried, plummy, heavily spiced fruits and wood of his other fragrances;
- Gourmand and oriental lovers who would love an immortelle-centric version of several Tom Ford fragrances: the fruity, smoky leather in Tuscan Leather; the plummy fruits, incense, spices, and amber of Plum Japonais; and a sweeter version of the vanilla in Tobacco Vanille; or
- People who would enjoy a mash-up of 1740/Marquis de Sade and L’Air du Desert Marocain but with more intense smoke, leather, spice, and tobacco before the fragrance subsequently turns powerfully gourmand at the end.
In the absence of any comparative reviews to share with you, these names are intended as guidelines to give you a sense of the general feel of the fragrance, but please note that I am not saying Cadavre Exquis smells identical to all those fragrances, or even to a large number of them. It does not. Moreover, if the names on the list skew rather all over the map, that is because Cadavre Exquis is intentionally meant to be a “smelly Frankenstein,” a creature made up of many parts, though they’re not as “mismatched” in my opinion as they are in the eyes (or words) of the perfumers. I think the parts work very well together and, were it not for the abrasive smoke, woody-amber synthetics, or the inescapable level of sweetness at the end, I’d be tempted to look for a decant. Very few of you share my aromachemical sensitivities or sweetness issues, though, so I think some of you will love Cadavre Exquis quite a bit. Having said that, please don’t overlook my caveats regarding the curry, the food vibe, the Tauerade-style tarriness or smoke, and the immense sweetness at the end.
I’m repeating that because I know the words “limited-edition” tend to make some of you lose all control and venture into blind-buys. I also know how much Messrs. Fazzolari and Gardoni are admired. A collaboration between the two is a very exciting thing, and the lure of Cadavre Exquis becomes all the greater when one hears that there are only 99 bottles of it. That’s it. No more. The fragrance costs $245 for 50 ml of eau de parfum, and is sold exclusively at the Fazzolari U.S. website and Luckyscent. It will not be sold on Bogue nor at any international retailer.
But, please, don’t let that sway you, and get a sample to test it first. I suspect Cadavre Exquis will be a challenging, possibly even a polarizing, fragrance. Having said that, I urge you to get a sample if you fall into any of my 4 categories, if you love immortelle in all its many facets, if you thoroughly enjoy gourmands, Tauerade, and the various fragrances mentioned here, and if my caveats only increase your anticipation. In that case, then I think you’ll find this “smelly Frankenstein” to be quite endearing.
Disclosure: My sample was provided courtesy of Luckyscent. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.
Well, I wasn’t….and now I am! Thank you for the review on this. I might be a match for this Frankenstein, so off I go to Luckyscent. I saw the name up I think at STC, and pondered it….I love Fille, Feminite, and Santal, as well as any of the Bois, and L’air. This sounds right up my alley save for the aromachemicals, which you recently just responded back to me with respect to G. Ambre Eternal. I love immortelle. Your description did remind me of SL’s Araby, which overcame me. That is a monster on me, and, since you did not mention, I’m hopeful it doesn’t head into that direction. Thank you again!
Actually, now that you mention it, LOL, it does nod to Arabie as well. Ha. (I tend to block out Arabie as it’s too sweet and cloying for me.) But this is so much drier and earthier at the start, not quite so sweet, imo, and it feels as though there is more going on in general. Hopefully, it won’t have too much of an Arabie vibe on you and will skew more into an immortelle L’Air du Désert Marocain instead.
On a completely unrelated topic, don’t feel you have to insert a blog url when you comment. That’s just for people who want to link their own websites, companies, or blogs. On an equally unrelated topic, I’m glad to see you again, and I look forward to learning more about your perfume tastes. Let me know how you fare with Cadavre Exquis! 🙂
Thank you so much for your revealing review. I am a Huge fan of Bogue and have drained nearly 2 bottles of Maai. Have only sampled a few of Bruno’s scents but was not Wowed enough to buy a full bottle.
I fall into that category of ” Oh, look. A limited edition! ” But after reading your review and hearing some other friends opinions have decided to pass.
I’m a huge fan of Mr. Gardoni as well, and Maai is truly exceptional. This one is challenging in a different way. I don’t know much about your tastes or what notes you like/dislike, so what was it that made you decide Cadavre Exquis wasn’t for you? The immortelle’s curry, the fragrance’s sweetness, or something else?
I got the word from Bogue Profumo about this new collaboration and I have to say, Mr. Gardoni’s right: it appropriately does sound like a freak show of a perfume. The combination of sweet and spicy notes does it sound like you either love it or hate it.
Also, on an unrelated note and like Tami H., I got a sample of MAAI from Mr. Gardoni and BOY, is it amazing! It’s a paradoxical “potion”, indeed: clean yet dirty, bright yet dark. I don’t come across perfumes like that these days…
Maai is brilliant. Utterly superb. I put it as #1 on my 2014 list of best new releases and also at #1 for my personal favourites of that year. I’m like wearing a time-traveling potion that takes you back to when perfumes smelt… well, magnificent, charismatic, powerful, and lush. But you know, that’s quite a polarizing and challenging fragrance, too. Some people really shy away from the skankiness, finding it positively feral. (His Aeon 001 is much, much easier, but it has a definite Maai signature amidst the vetiver.)
My point, though, is that I think Cadavre Exquis will be challenging as well, but in different ways and for different reasons. As you so aptly deduced, the intensity of the sweet-spicy combination will make people either love it or hate it. Or, as in my case, admire it but simply be unable to wear it. lol
Going to order some samples .Thanks always for your insightful reviews.
You’re very welcome. 🙂
Many thanks for the review. I was a bit put off by the name Cadavre Exquis in the first place and now that I’ve learned the fragrance is akin to Amber Incense, then I know I will have to pass. All righty, then.
There is far more going on than just the aromas similar to Amber Flash. Cadavre Exquis is NOT akin to *just* Amber Flash, as I tried to explain. That is only one piece of at least 3 or 4 other things going on in the larger puzzle or picture.
Dear K, I won’t pass the curry test, nor the cumin; however, everything else sound so good that I must get a sample (a small one).
Your review was compelling, and spot on. I received my sizable sample from STC & was indeed reminded of Serge Lutens perfumes on all accounts that you mention but also Borneo. I got a heavy patch w/a salicylate/camphor & chocolate. I kept feeling the scent was out of season, more Thanksgiving and Christmas: 1) Joyva chocolate orange sticks; 2) Yankee Candles (vanilla chai, pumpkin pie, chocolate truffle, just FAKE petroleum “holiday” candle smell, heavy, throat itching; 3) s/w Chinese 5 spice; 4) retreats to any of the SL stewed fruits with Yankee Candles. Longevity & sillage have been monstrous (2 days & going w/1 tiny spritz if I didn’t take a shower today…). Leather, benzoin, smoke never appeared, alas. Finally, the most pleasant food smell emerged the last 12 hours as opposed to the first: “candy cap” or “curry cap” mushrooms. My mushroom-hunter mother would get these dried for me to bake with–a naturally, intensely sweet & curry mushroom, non-hallucinogenic, however still mind-blowing to smell (very butter-curry-maple syrup). They are L. Camphoratus, L. Fragilis, L.Rubidus. One website says (dried) “these are powerful enough to perfume a room for an entire year.” I can attest they do–as does CE, and that part has been quite lovely. I’m not sure how wearable this is for me; perhaps fall is a better time. It definitely skewed gourmand on me, thick, dense, powerful, enduring.
Eating hazelnut nougat in the herb garden behind an Indian restaurant. Neither good nor bad, and incredibly interesting, but still, not a smell I imagine reaching for. Glad I sampled it, though.
Heh, your description made me smile. No, it’s not a smell that I imagine a lot of people would reach for unless they really adored gourmands and food notes, but I share your feeling that it’s very interesting.
I enjoy this fragrance but the beginning hour of it is heavily reminiscent of beef bouillon cubes, and that’s all I literally get.
Oh dear, that does not sound joyous. At least it doesn’t last, though. You may want to consider giving Serge Lutens’ Arabie a try. On my skin, its first few hours are somewhat similar to Cadavre Exquis, only smoother, better blended, more seamless, more polished, not as loud, and more enjoyable. Subsequent parts of the fragrance are more resinous, ambered, and quite delectable, in my opinion. My Arabie review is the most recent post so you should be able to find it easily on the blog home page, and the fragrance itself is much cheaper than Cadavre Exquis. You can find it for about $58 on discount retailers for 50 ml of EDP. So, it’s worth a test.
I’ve had the sample for some time and enjoyed the Chocolate, spice and curry mix. It’s an interesting concoction for sure. It reminds me of some high end chocolates I had once. They were an interesting mix of sweet and savory, adding curry and other spices to chocolate. I wasn’t crazy about these as much as I found them interesting. This scent has grown on me and I’m in love with it’s comforting quality and eerily transporting underbelly. With Bruno’s sale this weekend, I had to take the leap and commit to a full bottle. From what I understand, only a few remain.
First, welcome to the blog, Marc M. Second, my apologies for the delayed reply. Last week was a holiday in America, as you may or may not know, and the weekend when you wrote was a busy time.
I’m glad you had an enjoyable experience with Cadavre Exquis and that you managed to take advantage of a sale to get a bottle at a good price. The chocolates you describe sound interesting with their addition of curry. Who made them? In terms of perfume, if you enjoy a mix of sweet, spicy, dark, and savoury, I suggest trying some Serge Lutens’ fragrances, if you have not already. Arabie might be a good place to start but also Santal de Mysore and Borneo (if you like patchouli).
You can find the chocolates here:
Very interesting flavors and beautiful presentation.
I’ll try to get my hands on those. I noticed Borneo and Mysore were a little harder to find. Are those more limited?
I’ll try and get my nose on these;-) thanks.
Gosh, this was not something to peruse on an empty stomach! 😀 😛 What an absolute treasure trove of temptation. I’m particularly tempted by the balsam and roasted collections, so perhaps the Intense box would be the way to go. Thank you, Marc. It shall serve me in good stead as a possible source of holiday gift ideas as well, so it’s much appreciated.
With regard to the Lutens, I’m not sure how familiar you are with the export vs. bell jar situation and how things cycle around, but it’s the answer to your question. Basically, Serge Lutens offers fragrances in two main ways: 1) an export line where the fragrance is available worldwide in narrow, tall, 50 ml atomisers; and 2) the famous 75 ml bell jars that were a Paris exclusive until he made them available around 2005 or 2008 at his US online website and Barney’s New York. Prior to that point, you could only find those particular bell jar fragrances at his Paris store. They were not offered in the 50 ml atomisers or anywhere else.
That said, at some point, most of his bell jar fragrances (most, but not all) are eventually offered worldwide in the “export” 50 ml bottles for a short while. So, those fragrances become available in two formats for a certain amount of time, then they go back to being bell jar exclusives. By the same token, some of the “export” fragrances are retired and turned into exclusives as well. I don’t know how the decision is made, if the company has a set number of years for open vs limited availability, or how it works, but it happens to many of the fragrances in both lines.
Now, Borneo, Santal de Mysore, Fumeries Turque (a tobacco fragrance that you may want to look into), were all part of the export line. So was Fille en Aiguilles, one of my personal favourites and a scent that is definitely worth trying if you love spicy, sweet, smoky fragrances (or if you love Plum Japonais, Tom Ford’s bastardized, poorer copy of it.) All of these were released in a sub-collection called the Black Label Haute Concentration scents which were darker, richer, stronger, and, as a result, also slightly more expensive than the regular export line. With the exception of Fille en Aiguilles, each of these fragrances seems to have been retired to “bell jar only” status. That means, in the US, you can only find them at Barney’s or Serge Lutens online. The problem is, to ensure the exclusivity situation, Serge Lutens has hiked up the price of all bell jars in the US by 80% as compared to their Paris price. Since the fragrances have been made exclusive, all existing stock of the 50 ml bottles has shriveled up. And forget about the discount retailers where many people obtain their export 50 ml Lutens for half the price. Borneo vanished from there about 3 years ago, Fumerie Turques around that time (? I think?), and Santal de Mysore became impossible to find in 2015.
Your best bet to try them now is to order samples from places like Surrender to Chance or go sniffing at Barney’s, if there is one near you. Please keep in mind that all the fragrances have been reformulated from what they once were, so if you read old reviews for any of them, they’re likely to be describing a slightly different balance of notes. Be that as it may, all of them are worth checking out. I don’t know your particular perfume tastes or how much you’ve explored the Lutens line as a whole, but all the ones I’ve mentioned are fragrances which come up again and again in conversation regarding certain types of dark, woody, spiced, plummy, smoky, resinous, sweet and/or savoury compositions. If you go on the men’s discussion section of Basenotes, you’ll see that things like Borneo and Fumeries Turque are major, major cult hits, so they’re definitely worth sampling. I would suggest ordering a sample to test at home. I hope that helps.
This has inspired me to give Serge another shot. Early in my sniffing, Chergui was THE scent i heard so much about. All the notes sounded perfect and an easy pick for me. I got it home and couldn’t stand the powdery-ness. I couldn’t get anything past the powder. No tobacco, no Honey. Just the icky powder (can you tell, the powder turns me off). Anyhow, I was so disappointed, I gave Serge a rest (despite the obvious accolades and praise).
Then, a Fellow fragrance friend, Andrew, sent me a green liquid version of Chergui (I’m confused now) to try. This was much different than the light brown juice I had experienced earlier. I could finally smell those notes I had read so much about. Although, I’ve never seen the green juice since – so any info? 😉
I have 5 samples coming – the above mentioned and a few more. I’m looking forward to giving this much praised house another shot.
Haha, green juice… I know exactly what you’re talking about. Marc, I would not expect your Chergui sample to be something you’ll enjoy. Put aside all expectations of that right now. Chergui was released around 2005, more than 11 years ago, and companies typically reformulate 4-5 years after a launch for cost-of-production reasons and/or IFRA/EU restrictions. Chergui has been reformulated more than once.
I bought my bottle about 4 years ago (??) and I think it was older than that because it was from FragranceNet which typically carries older stock (which I think is often a positive thing), but the juice was still brown in colour and has become even browner since then. It wasn’t green but, even so, the fragrance wasn’t all that powdery. Not like now….
Whatever sample you ordered is bound to be from an even more recent bottle, and I’m afraid I’m not keen on the current version. Not only is it is very powdery but, even worse in my personal opinion, all the old Lutens are now brimming with clean white musk. It practically verges on laundry musk, and I think it’s godawful. In fact, many Chergui fans who have tried the fragrance over the last 12-18 months have commented or written to me about their dismay at the changes. The powder, the white musk, the reduced hay and tobacco, the thinness of the scent, etc. etc.. I don’t know when you tried Chergui originally and how long ago it was, but I think you won’t enjoy your sample. So, please, don’t have heightened expectations.
I hope you got a sample of Fille en Aiguilles, though. I haven’t heard about that one being gutted (yet), and I think it may be more up your alley because it was never a powdery scent. Chergui always had a tiny bit of that, although minimally so in the old days, but Fille en Aiguilles didn’t.
I hope so much that the other fragrances you’re sampling are not ones which have been badly gutted and that you enjoy a few of them. I’ll tell you now, though, what I wrote in my earlier comment: Fumeries Turques has been reformulated. So if that is one you ordered in your sample set, keep your expectations low for that one as well, so that you don’t end up feeling hugely disappointed. 😐 Let me know how you fare, okay?
Oh, I almost forgot, I had meant to tell you that if you end up enjoying any of the fragrances which are now bell jar exclusives, there is an alternative to paying the ridiculous 80% US mark-up fee. There is a personal shopper service that many people use to buy the bell jar fragrances directly from Paris at the much lower, more reasonable price. (Even more reasonable with the current dollar-euro exchange rates.) Suzann charges a small commission for her services, but it’s not a huge amount and the end price is still cheaper than buying from Barney’s. If you end up loving one of the bell jar fragrances, like Santal de Mysore or Fumeries Turques, I’ll give you all the additional details then.
PS — for a great, great Tobacco-Amber fragrance, please look up my review for Rania J’s Ambre Loup. It was my obsession all last year and, even though it’s supposed to be an amber fragrance, it smells like rich, spiced, smolderingly resinous tobacco even more so. SUPERB!!!
Such the enabler! 😉 I’ll have to hunt down the Ambre Loup! As for the Chergui and all its reformulations -Ugh! How can it be green and brown and have the same name and packaging. What a bait and switch. I have the following on order…
Muscs Koublai Khan (Because I want to know what all the polarizing fuss is about), Ambre Sultan, Fumerie Turque, Borneo 1834, Santal de Mysore and Arabie. So I have some sniffing to do. I bought a bottle of Fille en Aiguilles and love it. At first I was a bit turned off by it as it was a bit too strong and sharp for my taste. I went back to it and loved the spice, fur and smokey woods. I love Balsam fir/ Pine but find its a tough note to crack in Perfume. I have Arso as well which has a similar smokey pine and Good Fir which is a very different fresh, almost citrusy pine.
Anyway – thanks for the Lutens education and the wonderful recommendations. I’ll be sure to give you my thoughts after a decent wear.
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