Yet, that is only one part of the tale because 1861 Naxos is like a kaleidoscope where the images change and realign themselves into different shapes with every click, especially in the first half of its life. Over time, the images and the notes change faster and faster, thanks to the impact of silky vanilla, dry woods, incense-like smokiness, spicy patchouli, and even some ambered booziness. The result is a bold powerhouse that has already become a big favourite with perfumistas, chosen by Basenotes readers as one of the best niche fragrances released in 2015 and frequently sold out on places like Luckyscent or Twisted Lily.
XJ 1861 Naxos (hereinafter just “1861 Naxos” or “Naxos”) is an eau de parfum that was released in 2015 as part of Xerjoff’s XJ 1861 Collection. On its website, Xerjoff describes the fragrance as follows:
Naxos celebrates Sicily’s deep and sensual heart with a rich perfume, imbued with tradition yet not overly baroque, but striving to be contemporary.
With its Mediterranean and passionate character Naxos conveys a joyous vitality thanks to its citrus notes, blended with mellow flower notes and enhanced by the sharp and audacious contrast of precious spices. It embodies the richness of a unique land, whose olfactory trace mirrors a thousand-year old heritage of conquests and dominations, of extraordinary artistic achievements marked by a stylistic hybridity ahead of its time.
Naxos expertly blends classical, light and fruity citrus top notes with precious scents ranging from the exotic notes of cinnamon to the sweet notes of vanilla and honey.
Bergamot, Lemon, Lavender, Jasmine Sambac, Cinnamon, Honey, Cashmeran, Tobacco, Tobacco Leaves, Tonka Bean, Vanilla.
1861 Naxos opens on my skin with a bright blend of juicy, sun-kissed lemon and bergamot that bears an almost candied sweetness, thanks in part to indolic, lush, and immensely syrupy jasmine. Bucketfuls of honey are poured on top to add yet another layer of sweetness, then the whole thing is strewn with a generous heaping of tobacco that is raw, aromatic, green, and like cured sweet pipe tobacco all at the same time. In the background, a tonka-lavender accord attempts to impart some freshness, but it resembles lavender ice-cream more than anything truly fresh or aromatic.
1861 Naxos changes with great speed on my skin. The jasmine turns bombastic, the honey seems to triple in strength, and the result feels quite cloying at times, though I admit that I have a low threshold for sweetness. It reminds me of Xerjoff’s jasmine Al Khatt mixed with a slug of its honeyed Mamluk. The one glaring difference, though, is the tobacco. Like a rapidly growing snowball, it sets off an avalanche of astonishingly rich fragrancy, wafting floral facets like the blooms on a tobacco plant as well as the rest of the plant itself, like its unripened green leaves, the sweeter and spicier aromas of its sun-cured leaves, and even the fruitiness of pipe tobacco.
The effect is immediate. A mere 10 minutes into its development, 1861 Naxos’ focus is fully centered on a full-scale but very multi-faceted tobacco-jasmine bouquet drenched in swathes of sticky honey. That core accord is so powerful that, at times, especially when one sniffs 1861 Naxos on the scent trail from afar, it feels as though there is little else. But it takes only the smallest sniff up close to detect the flurry of other notes — syrupy and almost candied citruses, indolic florals, lavender-tonka ice-cream, and a pinch of cinnamon spiciness — darting about like bees called home to their honeyed hive. I think it takes great mastery to have each note be so clear, yet simultaneously feel wholly submerged into the main accord at the same time.
The result is a scent that throws out different notes or facets every few minutes, like rays of light bouncing off a crystal chandelier. It’s what I call a “prismatic” scent: at first glance, it seems linear in its olfactory simplicity, behemoth chewiness, and heaviness, but it constantly shifts in those “rays” and the notes it puts forth, never following the exact same path twice from one wearing to another. Take, for example, the lavender. One minute, it is merely a quiet breeze passing softly in the background; the next it is as strong, powerful, and occasionally, even medicinal, as a freshly picked bunch bought in the markets of Grasse. Or the lemon which veers from feeling completely swallowed up by the tobacco only to waft, moments later, a scent as sweet as lemon candy in the forefront of the notes.
A few things, however, consistently remain on center stage during the first three or four hours. One of them is the tobacco’s green leaves that shoot up around the main accord like a protective barrier. Their scent is rawer than anything I’ve previously encountered in a fragrance, and I mean that as a positive. So many compositions focus only on the sweetness of cured pipe tobacco but this feels far more authentic, as though the aroma of the entire plant had been bottled long before the sun-dried leaves were rolled into a cigar or shredded for the pipe. The one fragrance that I’ve tried with something very close to the multi-faceted style on display here is AbdesSalaam Attar‘s superb Tabac for La Via del Profumo with its tobacco flower, raw green leaves, and cured, spicy, gingerbread finished blend, but the accord here surpasses Tabac in its sheer brawn, heft, and might.
Depending on your tastes, particularly your tolerance for sweetness, the sum-total effect may feel bombastic, loud, and suffocatingly heavy, or it may be gloriously perfect in its dense opulence and powerhouse forcefulness. I fall somewhere in the middle, because I love the richness of the tobacco, the way it’s combined with the jasmine and honey, and the accompanying touches of aromatics, but 1861 Naxos is far, far too sweet for my personal tastes during the first few hours. Again, I have a low threshold for sweetness to begin with, so keep that in mind. But one thing seems rather unquestionable, in my opinion: the quality of the materials used here is very good. No cutting corners with in-your-face abrasive synthetics, no shrillness, no attempts to create powerhouse sillage through excessive white musk or super-charged aromachemicals, and no laundry musk at all, in fact.
Dense, “prismatic” scents like 1861 Naxos tend not to change constantly or in easily noticed, dramatic fashion, but in incremental steps that are so small that it takes a number of hours for you to realise that the scent has actually changed quite a lot from its debut. 1861 Naxos follows the same pattern. All the notes begin to overlap a mere 30 minutes in and several fuse together completely, becoming commingled layers painted atop that sticky, molten core which is so heavily dominated by various types of tobacco. For brief moments of time, even the tobacco’s main partner during the first 3 hours, the jasmine, seems swallowed up by it but, then, the kaleidoscope shifts, the images click into a new formation, and the core returns to being tobacco-jasmine. At least, until the next image rotation….
Despite all that, there seem to be a few general trends that occur as the hours pass. One is 1861 Naxos’ slow move to a woodier tobacco scent. The very first hints of what is to come occur about 75 minutes into the fragrance’s development when the cashmeran pops up on the sidelines. Lurking behind it is the suggestion of something woody and synthetic that feels like a completely separate woody ingredient, as well as an elusive, rather ghostly wisp of what I’d swear is spicy patchouli. The note list for 1861 Naxos only mentions “cashmeran” but, judging by what appears on my skin, particularly later on, it smells as though there were far more going on than just that one material. Be that as it may, the cashmeran is the first to appear, cutting through some of the fragrance’s heavy, intensely honeyed sweetness, turning 1861 Naxos a shade drier, as well as a degree woodier in its nuances. I think its dryness has slightly harsh and medicinal undertones when smelt up close, in addition to an undertone of something synthetic, but none of those things are major elements at this point.
Slowly, like a turtle crawling towards a honey-laden tobacco-jasmine plant, the woody accord grows more pronounced until, at the start of the third hour, it joins the main notes as a co-equal partner. At times, it actually supplants the jasmine as the tobacco’s second in command. From afar, though, neither one is hugely noticeable as 1861 Naxos wafts nothing but honeyed tobacco on the scent trail. True, there are woody, green, floral, spicy, and occasionally aromatic aspects to it, but they all feel part and parcel of a multi-dimensional accord that encompasses the plant from top to bottom and across all stages of its development, from the field to the pipe.
A new element emerges as a recognizable force at the same time. The vanilla appears, smelling creamy, silky, supple, and perfectly balanced, with nary a screechy sugar or gooey caramel nuance in sight. It runs under the tobacco and through it as well, resulting in a plush, rather delectable scent that resembles Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille but minus the plum pudding, booze, and Yankee Candle tonalities, and with copious honey and lush jasmine instead.
While all of this is happening, 1861 Naxos’ texture also changes at the start of the third hour. Part of it is due to the vanilla and cashmeran, but part of it also seems to be the tonka which has finally separated itself from the lavender, kicking it into the background, at least for the time being. Combined with the vanilla and cashmeran, the result is a textural plushness underlying the honey-laden tobacco as well as a sort of roundness to the notes as a whole.
Like a Photoshop finish, everything feels more polished now, nicely balanced, devoid of bombast and loudness, as all the heavy, dense notes are buffered into a smooth glow. The corollary of all this is that the notes fully fuse together into a hazy blur, but it’s so balanced, fluid, and pitch-perfect now that it’s a worthwhile trade-off. You know when you taste a really rich, chewy, almost beefy red wine that’s been aged to perfection, then also aired so that it’s a perfect yet mellow mouthful? 1861 Naxos is the olfactory and tobacco equivalent of that wine which, by the end of its 3rd hour and the start of its 4th, has reached the perfect stage of mellowness. It lacks the brute force and rawness of its just-uncorked opening, and everything sings in harmony without any one note feeling, if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor, like an off-key bulldozer. The candied citrus is now merely a minuscule ripple in the background, while the lavender has momentarily taken a breather, but the main notes feel as rich and as nuanced as ever, except they’re much more refined. The overall composition is so appealing that I keep sniffing my arm with appreciation.
The notes keep fluctuating in strength and prominence, but it’s especially true for the woody cashmeran that seems to explode about 4.25 hours into 1861 Naxos’ development. It mutes the honey, vanilla, jasmine, and tonka, rendering them thing, muffled, and minor in nature. It also amplifies the woody side to the tobacco, turning it very dry. Yet, some form of sweetness remains as a quiet counterbalance and, to my surprise, it now smells purely boozy rather than honeyed. To be precise, it smells like oak-casket cognac which leads me to wonder yet again if the note list omitted a few ingredients, like amber in addition to unstated wood accords, incense, and patchouli.
The bottom-line, though, is that 1861 Naxos has suddenly turned into a dry, minimally sweetened, but very boozy mix of tobacco and woods, wrapped up with thin filaments of tonka, vanilla, and sweet jasmine. To my surprise, the lavender returns, weaving in and around the woods, smelling almost as strong as it was in the earlier stages but, this time, wafting mostly dried and aromatic tonalities instead of being creamy like lavender ice-cream. Dark smoke curls up at its edges, not purely woody in nature but not completely like incense either.
Once again, though, there is a difference between the way the fragrance manifests itself on the scent trail in the air versus up close. From a distance, 1861 Naxos continues to smell predominantly of tobacco, but this time it’s more woody than drenched in honey. Up close, though, the new layers are unfolding with sufficient strength and clarity to signal further changes ahead.
Those changes kick in at the end of the 6th hour and the start of the 7th. The dry, synthetic, and rather smoky woods actually take over and edge out the tobacco, then silence the tonka, vanilla, and jasmine completely. The result is a dry woody bouquet that is smudged at the edges with tobacco, splattered with a few drops of sweet boozy liqueur, then blanketed in dark, (synthetic) wood smoke and placed against a thin backdrop of dried lavender. I’d swear that there was patchouli mixed into the scent as well because small streaks of something that smells identical to it run through the base of the woody accord. Half an hour later, they start to expand and seep upwards, changing the fragrance’s focus yet again.
By the end of the 7th hour, 1861 Naxos turns into a full-on wood and “patchouli” blend, shot through with smoke, a minor touch of tobacco, and a wisp of tonka, then set against a quiet, thin, fluctuating lavender backdrop. It feels like the darker, more muscular and macho brother to Serge Lutens‘ Fourreau Noir, but with different proportions on my skin. 1861 Naxos emphasizes the woods over the lavender or tonka, in addition to being heavier, stronger, and significantly drier. On my skin, Fourreau Noir is more equally balanced between all the notes except for the lavender which has a strong edge in the debut, then a slighter one later on. This stage of 1861 Naxos is extremely woody, and it also has the addition of some tobacco which the Lutens lacks. Furthermore, the type of smoke is very different in Fourreau Noir, smelling purely like incense as opposed to Naxos’ mixed blend which is dominated by rather parched, singed wood smoke. Also, the tonka in the Lutens is far stronger than the mere sliver showing up at this point in 1861 Naxos. As a whole, I think the Lutens blend is more refined and harmonious, but it’s also thinner and lighter than the Xerjoff. Still, the differences are largely one of degree; the DNA and general vibe of the two fragrances are extremely similar.
I love and own Fourreau Noir, so this mix of notes is right up my alley. Having said that, I find 1861 Naxos is too dry for my personal tastes at this stage, and the synthetic wood smoke too intrusive. The other parts are appealing, though, especially the patchouli-like accord. Nevertheless, the Fourreau Noir stage only lasts about two hours on my skin before the notes realign once again when Naxos’ long drydown begins midway during the 10th hour. The “patchouli” surges to the forefront, dusted just lightly with cinnamon. At the same time, the tobacco, tonka, and vanilla return, thereby ending the fragrance’s dryness and the domination of the woods
Naxos is now centered primarily on spicy “patchouli” goldenness on my skin. It’s rendered plush and faintly creamy with tonka and vanilla, then smudged at the edges with warm, lightly sweetened tobacco. In the background, puffs of smoke appear next to even softer whispers of lavender that smells, once again, creamy like ice-cream instead of dried, but both of them are elusive notes that fade away a few hours later. The real focus on my skin is the “patchouli” which feels almost ambered at times. In its final hours, all that’s left is a wisp of cozy, snuggly, darkly golden warmth with a lingering vestige of sweetness and spiciness.
1861 Naxos had enormous longevity, good projection, and initially major, powerhouse sillage that took a while to turn softer. Using several generous smears equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, 1861 Naxos opened with 3-4 inches of projection and sillage that was around 6 inches, but both numbers grew rapidly as the fragrance and its rich oils melted into my skin. Roughly 15-20 minutes in, the projection was up to 5-6, while the scent trail reached just over a foot. The numbers grew fractionally by the end of the first hour, leading me to suspect that, if one applied a lavish amount far in excess of my 2-spray baseline, 1861 Naxos might spread across a whole room. About 1.75 hours in, the numbers dropped but not by much: the projection went back to 3-4 inches, while the sillage shrank a bit to about 8-9 inches. Every hour thereafter, the numbers went down fractionally, but it took 7.25 hours for 1861 Naxos to turn soft, lose all sillage, and turn into a skin scent. What surprised me is that the fragrance seemed almost gone by the start of the 12th hour, and I had to put my nose right on the skin to detect the thin wisps that coated the skin like glue. Yet those wisps lingered on for hours to come. Most of 1861 Naxos finally died away at the end of the 16th hour, but one small, narrow patch of skin continued to waft ambery sweetness until the start of the 20th hour. Other people had very high longevity as well. In fact, on Fragrantica, the majority of votes for duration and sillage fall in the highest categories, by a landslide.
On Fragrantica, 1861 Naxos receives mixed reviews, but the reason is almost entirely due to its reported resemblance to Thierry Mugler‘s very popular A*Men Pure Havane. So, there are two camps. On the one hand, men and women alike rave about Naxos’ “outstanding,” beautiful,” “must-have,” “head turning” scent, including two people who actually say that they wish they had bought that Xerjoff instead of another one. One chap says he owns Xerjoff’s Nio and Kobe but this one outperforms them both, and it’s the first fragrance that he can actually smell on himself hours after he sprayed it. For him, “jasmine and cinnamon bounce of each other then a world class tobacco accord comes in and blends it to perfection.”
The dissenters think 1861 Naxos is too much like Pure Havane (as well as some other fragrances), and that it is therefore “redundant.” For a few, Naxos doesn’t bring enough to the table to justify its price as compared to the cheaper alternatives. Fourreau Noir is mentioned in two comments, but the real debate is an ongoing, detailed one about Pure Havane. I’ve smelt the latter only in passing and it was some years ago, so I will leave it to the Mugler experts as to how the two fragrances compare. You can read Fragrantica for the full details, but I’ll highlight a few comparisons here. For “Houdini4,” Naxos was more gourmand and honeyed than Pure Havane with its “cherry” aroma, but he found the result reminded him of Parfums de Marly Oajan more than anything else. One person thought the clear floralcy of Naxos’ opening made it closer to Parfums de Marly Pegasus instead. A third person found a clear difference in quality between the Mugler and Xerjoff scents, writing “Pure Havane is a garage band and Naxos is a orchestra in comparison.”
I think the strength of the Pure Havane similarities may depend on the extent to which Naxos’ jasmine comes out on your skin, since that’s not part of the Mugler. For “Seekritdude,” Naxos had so much jasmine in its opening stage as to feel like a “girly” or “feminine” fragrance by his standards. He wrote, in large part:
I dont get the pure havane comparison at all. If anything I found the first few hours of this fragrance to be quite feminine. The florals in this really came out on my skin, and the jasmine was quite strong. Instead of pure havanes sorta sticky sweet candy sorta honey this is more of a soft powdery honey. This fragrance is much more creamy as well than something like pure havane. I guess if you forced me to compare it to pure havane though I would say its something like perfumes de marly pegasus mixed with pure havane (sorta). Now that kinda mix I could see for sure. [Emphasis to other perfume names added by me.]
It lasts for a good while, and once it starts drying down you get a bit of the cinnamon to give it a bit of a kick and different aspect, and the rest of the fragrance comes together and it becomes more delicious to say. […][¶] Anyway a little to girly for me at the beginning, smells nice, and although im pleased it isnt a pure havane knock off as others seem to think, it just doesnt do it for me to justify its price.
On Basenotes, as I already mentioned, 1861 Naxos is loved enough for readers to have nominated it as one of their favourite 2015 niche releases. However, there is the same split in opinion resulting from Pure Havane in the discussion threads, like this one, where one person flatly said “I do not get the hype for Naxos at all.” On Naxos’ official Basenotes entry page, there is only one review thus far, a positive one from “Aquilina_ 2009” who writes, in small part:
A tobacco aroma with sweet undertone of honey.X1 1861 is a extremely charming perfume full of finesse in which particulary the balance between sweetness,wamth who is equally suitable for men and women. however it is more masculine but surre to attract women who like classy kind men.too sweet but in a nice way and gives you feel cozy and Surrendering yourself to its temptation is akin to reaching erotic zenith.Medium Heavy,Wonderful Pleasant and Simply Intoxicating.in one word Deliciousness.
I liked 1861 Naxos quite a bit and, given the quality, smoothness, heaviness, power, and longevity of the fragrance, I don’t think it’s hugely expensive at $245/€190 for a 100 ml bottle when all the factors are taken together. There is no question that you can buy Pure Havane for much less (roughly $74 at discount retailers for a similar size bottle), but I have to think that you get what you pay for in quality (and synthetics), and even some of Naxos’ detractors admit that it’s a “smoother” composition. Ultimately, though, the extent to which the two fragrances are alike is going to depend a lot on what notes appear on your skin and their strength.
The same point applies to Fourreau Noir. For me, the Lutens only becomes a point of comparison late in Naxos’ development, but not when the two fragrances are taken from start to finish. There is simply too much jasmine, candied syrupy citrus, and honey on my skin for the fragrances to truly be alike.
Personally, I think one of the big sticking points with 1861 Naxos will be its sweetness. People who have a low tolerance level for sticky, syrupy fragrances may find Naxos to feel almost suffocating and cloying in its early hours. (Even more so if they apply a great quantity because that just amplifies things further.) I don’t know if I would classify Naxos as a gourmand take on tobacco, but it’s certainly close. If the honeyed Mamluk or the jasmine Al Khatt felt too cloying for you, then I think you’re likely to find Naxos just as excessive, at least initially. It’s certainly just as loud and forceful, in my opinion. If you prefer demure, sheer, light, or only moderately sweetened fragrances, this is not it. Not by a long shot.
Having said all that, I would wear Naxos myself from time to time if a bottle ever fell into my lap. I’m not sure I’d wear Mamluk or Al Khatt. But I definitely would not wear any of the Mugler fragrances that I’ve tried in the past, because I’m not enthused by the quality of his materials and the overt synthetics.
The bottom-line is that you should try 1861 Naxos for yourself if you like honey-coated tobacco, tobacco combined with jasmine, tobacco with lavender and tonka, or any of the fragrances mentioned here. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable scent that was great fun to wear and is well worth a test sniff.