Rising Phoenix Perfumery: Musk Rose, Sicilian Vanilla, Amber Oud & Yeti Ambergris Attars

Source: Rising Phoenix Perfumery, Etsy.

Today, I wanted to take a quick look at four attars, Musk Rose, Sicilian Vanilla, Phoenix Amber Oud, and Yeti Ambergris, from the American indie brand, The Rising Phoenix Perfumery. Each one has something appealing or interesting about it. Musk Rose is a chypre-oriental-musk that was chosen as a finalist at the 2016 Art & Olfaction Awards. It layers several complex attar blends over a truly lovely rose bouquet that blew me away, and I’m saying that as someone with well-known rose issues. Sicilian Vanilla is a delectable, perfectly balanced gourmand-oriental centered on beautifully smoked, oak-barreled Bourbon vanilla with tobacco, singed woods, and nuances of black tea and autumn bonfires. It’s bound to be a hit with anyone who ever wanted a rich, long-lasting, heavy version of Aftelier‘s Vanilla Smoke or a good vanilla-tobacco fragrance. Phoenix Amber Oud attar would appeal to fans of Profumum’s cult classic, Ambra Aurea, thanks to its dark, chewy, mixed amber accord infused with smoke and oud. Finally, Yeti Ambergris attar takes vintage Mysore sandalwood and combines it with a famous piece of ambergris that was featured in the book, Floating Gold.

Collage: my own.

JK DeLapp. Source: VoyageATL.com via JK DeLapp.

The Rising Phoenix Perfumery (hereinafter just called “Rising Phoenix”) is a small American indie brand founded by JK DeLapp with his brother Kyle in 2013. JK DeLapp is the nose, and he seems to have taken over the running of Rising Phoenix in recent years. He is a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine and a formally trained medical herbalist.

Originally, Rising Phoenix began with eau de parfums and some distilled oils (apparently, they have an excellent aged patchouli) before moving into more of a Middle Eastern vein with hand-distilled oud and Mysore sandalwood oils as well as a number of attars. The brand’s influences are not, however, solely Middle Eastern in nature. On his Etsy About page, Mr. DeLapp states:

Our scents run the aesthetic gamut of historical and modern formulations, and cross-cultural influences. From ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt, and the Orient, the Renaissance, Medieval, and Victorian eras to modern French perfuming, as well as our own intriguing formulation–our creations are formulated to be as organic as possible and free from any synthetic ingredients, all blended by hand with an artist’s attention to detail.

I’ve tried a large number of the brand’s creations in recent weeks and selected four that stood out to me and/or would have the widest popular appeal to readers. Each of the fragrances covered below is an all-natural or almost all-natural concentrated perfume oil (“CPO”) or attar.

MUSK ROSE ATTAR (2015 or 2016):

Source: Rising Phoenix Etsy store.

Musk Rose was chosen as a finalist in the 2016 Art & Olfaction Awards. Mr. DeLapp explains on his website that the musk rose at its heart is an actual rose varietal as opposed to being a mere scent description:

Musk Rose (Rosa moschata) is an actual flower – but distillations of the flower are quite rare. I wanted to make a beautiful perfume that smelled like a very vivid Musk Rose. But how to recreate such a rare beauty…?  [¶] I searched far and wide for materials that could help me recreate the scent of a Musk Rose…and I found them in traditional Indian Attar distillations. [¶] I began with the finest Rose extract I could find. I wanted this Musk Rose Attar to be more than just Rose – I wanted it to be so incredibly juicy that just a pinch of it would transport the Listener to a Sultan’s private Rose Garden. [¶] I chose the best Rose distillation I have experienced, from a place normally not on the Top 3 (or even Top 5) list for their Roses. I found this beautiful Russian Centifolia Rose that I chose to be the core of the fragrance.

Source: Rising Phoenix Etsy store.

Mr. DeLapp then layered this rose with complex attar blends and other materials. One of them was a Hina Musk that “took more than 100 different materials and a total of 3 months to distill. [¶] The ingredients – ranging from a variety of mosses, dozens of woods, spices, and resins, floral extracts of Gulab (Rose), Chemeli (Jasmine), Davana, Kewra and other florals – all distilled into Indian Sandalwood.”

The complete note list for Musk Rose attar is:

Champa Attar, 2009
Russian Centifolia Rose Absolute
Hina Musk Attar, 2003
Custom-Distilled Mysore Sandalwood
Cambodian Oud

Photo: paulbardenroses.com

Musk Rose opens on my skin with a truly head-turning, stunning, and super-charged rose that smells of sticky honey, tart lemons, slightly tannic red wine, and syrupy purple grapes, the latter no doubt stemming from the jasmine in the Hina attar blend. The rose completely blows me away. It has such a remarkable textural thickness that I feel as though I’ve been swaddled in crimson and purple velvet. Beautifully naturalistic and sweet, its concentrated bouquet smells as though a whole garden of flowers had been reduced down to a sticky teaspoon. A rich and inordinately plush greenness surrounds it on all sides, smelling of vetiver and oakmoss. The vetiver is quietly smoky; the moss is generous and authentic-smelling. (Remember, American perfumers are not bound by EU restrictions on oakmoss.) The verdant greenness lies atop a dark base which is shot through with quietly animalic musk that accentuates the fragrance’s velvet texture even further. Running even deeper below are whispers of balsamic resins, patchouli, spices, incense, and smoky woods.

Source: Pinterest & Twitter. Photographer unknown.

Musk Rose changes in small, incremental ways that serve to add layers and nuance to the gorgeous flower at its heart. A mere 15 minutes in, the dark musk rises, creating a swirling vortex around the fruity, honeyed, moss-laden rose. To be clear, the musk is not “animalic” in the sense of any actual animal aromas; there is nothing fecal, urinous, skanky, or furry about it and it’s purely more of a dark, skin-like or velvet-like textural plushness that falls over the rose like the veil of night. The flower beneath its tender embrace glows like a 3D crystal hit by the light, radiating different notes at different times. Sometimes, it’s more grapey, sometimes more lemony, musky, honeyed, or smoky, but it’s frequently all the above, simultaneously. Roughly 40 minutes in, additional nuances are added when wisps of sweet nag champa incense, oud, and sandalwood begin to rise from the base. At the start of the 2nd hour, they rise fully to the top. Trailing at a distance behind them are lesser amounts of spices, balsamic resins, and an orange-scented, cognac-like floralcy. (Davana? Champaca?) Together, they turn the rose darker, more oriental, and more complex. And, yet, the overwhelming and main impression continues to be of a rose laden with dark, quietly animalic musk then nestled within a verdant valley of plush greenness.

Musk Rose remains that way for hours with any change except to the prominence, order, or strength of its accompanying notes. At the start of the 3rd hour, the spices, oud, incense, resins, and smoky vetiver grow stronger, making the rose feel more purely oriental rather than chypre-ish or green. Roughly 6.5 hours in, the green notes and musk retreat to the background, replaced by an explosion of saffron, Mysore sandalwood, amber resins, oud, and boozy champaca. While still beautifully velvety, the rose is longer dark or driven by musk; now, it glows red and gold, laden with spices, dark woods, caramel-laced amber, a boozier and more syrupy floralcy, and delicate puffs of incense:

Source: hrhwalls.com

Near the end of the 10th hour, Musk Rose changes direction completely when it turns into a saffron, Shamama-style oud. The oud is thinly veined with amber, sandalwood, smoke, and rose, in that order. For the first time, the rose is no longer the central focus of the bouquet. In fact, it’s not even a secondary note on my skin. What is far, far more significant is the dark musk which hangs over everything like a cloud. It’s velvety-soft and almost suede-like in feel but, on my skin, unlike what a friend of mine experienced, it’s not redolent of deer musk or anything animalic. It’s also not urinous, skanky, or furry. It’s simply a beautiful, dark velvet-suede textural quality.

This constitutes the first half of Musk Rose’s drydown on my skin; in its second half, the notes turn into a blur, an inviting and sensual oriental haze of spiciness, woodiness, and resinous sweetness, all with a skin-like, musky softness about it. Musk Rose remains that way until its final hours when all that’s left is sweet-spicy, velvety darkness.

Like many attars, Musk Rose had excellent longevity but modest projection and sillage. I applied roughly one large drop. With that amount, the fragrance opened with about 2 inches of projection and about 3-4 inches of sillage. However, the actual bouquet itself was deep, rich, and wonderfully concentrated. The fragrance became softer and more intimate at the end of the 3rd hour and a skin scent in the middle of the 6th hour, but it wasn’t difficult to detect up close until the 9th hour. It lasted roughly 14.75 hours in total. Obviously, you’d get higher sillage and even greater longevity if you applied more than a single drop but I deliberately sought to use the amount similar to what someone might use if they bought a sample and wanted to get a few tests out of it.

I loved Musk Rose. Even though most rose-based fragrances send me running for the hills, I would happily wear this one. In fact, if I’d tried it in the year of its release (2015 or 2016), it would unquestionably have made my year-end list of noteworthy fragrances. It’s beautifully done and a joy to wear. If I say that as someone with major rose issues, then actual rose lovers should seek out a sample immediately. (See the Details section at the end for pricing information and links.)


The photo chosen by JK DeLapp to represent Sicilian Vanilla.

Sicilian Vanilla was inspired by Sicilian pipe tobacco fragrances but, on my skin, the emphasis is on its many vanilla components. Dark and smoky, it’s perfect for people like me who dislike the gooey, saccharine-sweet, and artificial-smelling sugary vanillas that abound in both the mainstream and niche sectors.

On his website, JK DeLapp describes Sicilian Vanilla as the “historical recreation of a scent not smelled in nearly a century” that was inspired “by an old advertisement and some historical tobacco formulary research.” Its notes are:

Jasmine Absolute, Black Current Absolute, Bourbon Vanilla Absolute, Tobacco Absolute, Vanillin, Ethyl Vanillin, Benzoin, and Mysore Sandalwood.

Source: thestylespy.com

Sicilian Vanilla opens on my skin with a fantastic note of Bourbon vanilla that’s been steeped in an oakwood casket singed by flames. It’s a dark, sticky, treacly, dry, sweet, woody, and wonderfully smoky bouquet that instantly made me think of Aftelier‘s Vanilla Smoke, only this one has meat, depth, and chewy heft to it. Like Vanilla Smoke, Sicilian Vanilla has undertones of smoky, black Lapsang Souchong tea, burnt paper, and fires, all in a wonderfully autumnal/wintery bouquet that makes one feel like curling up by the fire. The difference, however, is that Sicilian Vanilla’s base also bears trace amounts of pipe tobacco and the drier, greener, spicier aroma of its sun-cured leaves.

Artist: Helen Abbas, Mosaic Collection, Summer 2013, “(Erdowaz) Slate.” Source: IslamicArtMagazine.com. (Website link embedded within photo.)

It takes quite a while for Sicilian Vanilla to change on my skin. For the first hour, all that happens is that the vanilla grows darker, smokier, and richer. It smells like the thickest absolute, a fantastic richness that is laden with woodiness, black tea, and, once in a blue moon, a whisper of Bourbon booziness. As regular readers know, I have an extremely low threshold for sweetness, so what delights me here is that there is not a single whiff of diabetes-inducing saccharine, sweetness, sugar, sugared musk, or artificiality. Sicilian Vanilla’s other notes only make themselves known at the end of the 2nd hour. Wisps of tobacco begin to slowly rise from the base. Tiny drops of grapey jasmine and benzoin take its place, but they’re minor, muffled notes and I have to sniff hard to detect their presence. At the end of the 3rd hour, the tobacco finally rises to the top but, even then, it’s not a major presence on my skin. I’d estimate that roughly 40% of the bouquet is vanilla, 35% is smoky wood and black tea, 10% is the tobacco, and the rest is made up of treacly, dark amber resins with a microscopic drop of indolic jasmine thrown in. With regard to the woods, they smell more like charred oak on my skin than sandalwood.

Dried tobacco leaves. Source: pipesmagazine.com

It’s not until late in the 5th hour that Sicilian Vanilla heads into tobacco-vanilla territory but, even then, it’s never the cloying, heavily fruited concoction that you find with some fragrances like the one from Tom Ford. This is a perfectly balanced, seamless bouquet of dark, slightly boozy, wood-smoked, oaky Bourbon vanilla and unsweetened, fragrant pipe tobacco, wrapped up with ribbons of smoke that are simultaneously woody and tea-like. Sweetness is offset by smoke and woods, and everything bears the texture of satin and cream. It’s absolutely scrumptious, comforting, cozy, and addictive.

Sicilian Vanilla doesn’t change much beyond this point. It merely turns into a blur of vanillic sweetness, dark smoke, and woodiness, all ensconced within a resinous cloud. In its final hours, all that’s left is a smoky sweetness.

Photo: my own.

Sicilian Vanilla’s sillage and projection were similar to that of Musk Rose, but it didn’t last quite as long. With one good drop, it lasted just a bit over 12.25 hours. Again, I only used one drop because that would be roughly comparable to the amount that someone testing the scent from a small sample would use. Sicilian Vanilla is the sort of fragrance that I think would easily yield 15 hours if one applied a generous amount.

I thought Sicilian Vanilla was one of the most appealing oriental vanillas that I’ve come across, and I plan to buy some for myself, but I want to take a moment to talk about scent categories. You may notice that I keep classifying the scent as a “vanilla” rather than a tobacco or tobacco-vanilla fragrance. That’s because the vanilla always trumped and overshadowed everything else on my skin. At no point was the tobacco the driving note — which is fine by me because it’s much, much harder for a gourmand hater to find a good vanilla fragrance than a good tobacco one.

I think skin chemistry is likely to influence the ratio of notes which you may experience if you test the fragrance. For Claire Vukcevik, writing for Basenotes, there was very little vanilla but lots of dark notes, ranging from an almost oud-like aroma to tobacco and benzoin. For Craig Karoses, there was vanilla, but the balance seems to have tipped towards primarily to the tobacco side. In his Etsy review, he calls Sicilian Vanilla his “Holy Grail” for “vanilla flavored tobacco fragrances.” Note how his description implicitly emphasizes the tobacco over the vanilla in that equation. His review reads, in part:

I think I’ve found my Holy Grail. My search is probably over. Because I don’t know how this combo could be done any better. Sicilian Vanilla (2011 Batch) by The Rising Phoenix Perfumery is a very natural, pure oil Attar. It’s extremely thick, dark, almost black in color.

Source: cigarettezoom.com

The aging of this blend has done magnificent melding of the flavors. It’s so smooth, decadent, rich, sweet, kinda syrupy, very natural, delicious, silky, sexy, addictive and a generous performer. It puts every vanilla flavored tobacco fragrance that I’ve smelled, “To Bed without Dinner.” It’s like the most gourmet, premium, vanilla flavored pipe tobacco. It has a root beer, sarsaparilla, cream soda type flavor to me. Just gorgeously delicious, absolutely comforting and satisfying. I can’t stop smelling my hand. This might be the most I’ve ever done this. This fragrance is definitely competing. I’m in tears just thinking about it. I think this fragrance could help someone quit using tobacco. It satisfies my craving in the most unbelievable way.”

Another chap, “Kenny Cologne,” bought Sicilian Vanilla and loved it enough to buy even more a second-time around in a larger size. He summed up the scent as follows: “Think Sean Connery in his 40’s and you’ll begin to get how this scent smells and feels when you wear it.” [Bolding emphasis added by me.] A female reviewer also loved Sicilian Vanilla, calling it one of her favourite oils. So, as you can see, it’s a completely unisex composition that appeals to men and women alike.

If you love dark, smoky oriental vanillas or vanilla-infused tobacco fragrances without any painfully excessive sweetness, then I strongly recommend that you try Sicilian Vanilla for yourself.


The photo chosen by JK DeLapp to symbolize Phoenix Amber Oud.

Phoenix Amber Oud (hereinafter just “Amber Oud”) is based on a classic Middle Eastern combination but the attar includes more than just the two titular ingredients. Its full note list is:

Phoenix Amber, Gangaridai [Hindi] Oud, and a touch of Mysore Sandalwood, Oak-aged Patchouli and Mitti Attar.

When taken as a whole and from start to finish, Amber Oud’s development can be summed up as a constant shift in focus between its two titular elements. Each one takes turns as the focal point and star, with the other acting as an encouraging chorus and the tertiary notes merely lending further nuance or layers of depth.

“Black Widow v1” by *smokin-nucleus. Source: DeviantArt. (Website link embedded within photo.)

In the attars’ opening moments, it’s the amber which leads the way, and everything else (including the oud) seems to exist merely to give it additional shading. The attar opens with labdanum that smells rich, chewy, musky, and toffee’d, with undercurrents of chocolate and root beer cola. It’s dusted with soft, fragrant, warm spices — seemingly cinnamon with a pinch of buttery saffron — then bracketed on all sides by a trio of other elements. The first is a beautiful patchouli note that is warm, spicy, and softly earthy. The second is musky, caramel-scented ambergris, and the last is a woody pairing of smoky Mysore and peppery, musky, smoky oud. Unlike many Hindi ouds, this one has no aromas of blue cheese, goat cheese, barnyard funk, cow poo, fur, or animalic skank about it, although streaks of resinous, smoky leatheriness soon begin to flicker within it. Running through the base are ripples of vanilla that smell like creamy cupcakes laced with a splash of Bourbon vanilla. The cumulative effect is a labdanum fragrance that is delicately spiced, woody, musky, leathery, sweet, dry, vanillic, and smoky.

“The Dark Hedges in Antrim, Ireland.” Photographer unknown. Source: sun-surfer.com & Pinterest

The balance shifts towards the oud as the fragrance develops, then back to the labdanum, before eventually, in time, becoming a harmonious, co-equal marriage of the two. Roughly 20 minutes in, the oud grows in prominence, adding more woodiness to the bouquet as well as a peppery, almost chili-like bite and a dark, fuzzy, chewy muskiness. The latter is not animalic in any traditional or animal-based sense, but it definitely has the dark, buzzing quality which is typical of many Hindi ouds. Roughly 40 minutes in, the patchouli and spices fade away, the ambergris doubles in strength, and the oud finally takes over. The result is a fragrance that emphasizes the oud, albeit one that is infused with a mixed amber (labdanum, ambergris, vanilla) accord.

However, 1.75 hours in, the fragrance reverts back to its original amber focus. The oud disappears almost entirely except for an occasional ripple of peppered woodiness in the distant background. What’s left is toffee’d labdanum laced with thin streaks of caramel and a whisper of vanilla.

Source: flavourfog.com

In the hours that follow, Amber Oud continuously rearranges its notes and their nuances. For example, smoke arrives roughly 2.5 hours in, either from the oud or the sandalwood, binding the labdanum and ambergris together in a way that is 100% identical to Profumum‘s cult hit, Ambra Aurea, before it was reformulated. The difference is that this attar does not have even a small whisper of synthetics. It’s also quieter and softer on the skin. Then 3.25 hours in, the oud returns and the attar reverts to being an amber oud or, to put it another way, the oud version of Ambra Aurea.

Source: playbuzz.com

Amber Oud continues this dance for hours without any major transformations or even any clear, distinct stages. There is merely a cyclical and circular movement. That applies to the secondary or tertiary notes, too. Whenever I think one of them, like, say, the sandalwood or the patchouli, has finally died away, it eventually makes a comeback as a background note before disappearing once again. As the hours pass, Amber Oud merely turns simpler and hazier, a blur of musky, sweet-dry, softly spiced ambered warmth with fluctuating levels of smokiness and woodiness layered within.

Like Musk Rose, Amber Oud’s sillage and projection were on the modest-to-low side, but its longevity was a hair greater. With one good drop, the fragrance lasted just shy of 17.5 hours on me. For most of that time, the attar was modest in its presence but it took almost 8 hours for it to turn into a skin scent. Even then, the bouquet wasn’t difficult to detect if I brought my nose to my arm.

I confess, I haven’t made up my mind about Amber Oud, even though I’m a labdanum fiend. At times, I was underwhelmed by its simplicity, finding it to be a little boring in its one-note or two-note focus. It may be my skin that is to blame in not bringing out more detail. I also wasn’t crazy about the oud’s peppery undertone. At other times, though, the Ambra Aurea-like swirl of labdanum, ambergris, smoke, and muskiness was very enjoyable. I own Ambra Aurea, so I’m bound to like a richer, deeper, attar version of it.

I think how you feel about Amber Oud is ultimately going to come down to the degree of nuance that your skin brings out and the notes that you personally enjoy. The attar is definitely worth a sniff if you love any of its main notes or if you’re a fan of the traditional amber-oud pairing.


The famous “Yeti” Ambergris. Source: Rising Phoenix Etsy page.

Yeti Ambergris is a Mysore and ambergris blend. According to its website entry and Mr. DeLapp, its ambergris comes from the very same famous “Yeti” piece discussed in Floating Gold: A Natural (and Unnatural) History of Ambergris, the leading scholarly text on the subject. Mr. DeLapp says that the fragrance was made using “a special technique that allows for super-saturation of the Mysore with Ambergris 8x more potent than maceration of raw Ambergris alone.” As a side note, the Mysore in question is a vintage oil.

Photo: Garðar Ólafs Photography. Source: his Facebook page. (Direct link embedded within.)

Yeti Ambergris opens on my skin with authentic, top-of-the-line white ambergris layered with smooth, creamy Mysore sandalwood. The ambergris is oceanic, salty, musky, marshy, and minimally laced with caramel sweetness. The sandalwood is spicy, quietly smoky, and redolent of buttermilk and sour cream. When combined together and by some process of alchemy, the two materials create some unexpected secondary aromas: wheat, creamy peanut butter, mineralized moss, sweet grass, salty tree bark, and salty caramel popcorn. The cumulative effect makes me feel as though I’m at the seaside, watching waves crash against moss and lichen-covered rocks, occasionally getting sprayed with salt water. I’m wrapped up warmly in golden fleece and a blanket of green-gold, spicy, sweet-dry, smoky sandalwood and I’m snacking on salted caramel popcorn, peanuts, and sour cream.

Source: StoneContact.com

It’s a lovely, nicely balanced, and very harmonious bouquet. There is nothing too sweet, sour, milky, aquatic, or marshy about it, just a seamless mix of clearly first-rate, top-notch luxurious ingredients that, together, become much more interesting than they might be on their own. It’s a blend that is made all the better after 20 minutes by rising levels of smoke and spice from the sandalwood. I like the fact that the latter is not excessively green, clean, pure, or airy; milky, buttermilk sandalwood is really not my thing at all. While this is not the red-skewing heartwood with loads of spice, smoke, and resins that I prefer, it’s not wholly green, lactonic, or insipid, either. It’s also not powdery or dusty the way that some vintage Mysore oils can be. Its bouquet is green-laced gold in visuals, and its aroma is strong and rich in a weightless way.

The ambergris is similarly appealing in its facets. It’s neither too aquatic, too marshy, or too musky. Instead, it radiates a salty-sweet skin-like warmth, like the best version of your body after a long day at the beach when you’ve dried off but still retain that salty tang and sun-kissed warmth. The difference here, though, is that skin also happens to be coated with a lotion made from salty caramel, peanuts, moss, buttercream, and loads of beautifully aged Mysore sandalwood.

Carl Warner, “Bodyscape 1” via his website, Carl Warner. (Direct website link embedded within.)

Yeti Ambergris only has two ingredients, so it’s obviously a simple bouquet. It’s also an unchanging one for its first three hours. At the end of that time and at the start of the 4th hour, the ambergris weakens quite considerably, and the Mysore overtakes it. When the 5th hour rolls around, the ambergris has become an occasional blip on the far horizon. From the 6th hour onwards, all that’s left is the Mysore. It’s a diaphanous, gossamer-light, green-white bouquet of woody sour cream and buttermilk, lightly smudged at the corners with black smoke. Yeti Ambergris remains that way until its final hours when it turns into a simple sour-milk woodiness.

Yeti Ambergris had the softest sillage and projection of the four attars, and the airiest feel and weight. In terms of longevity, it initially seemed like it was going to have the shortest lifespan of the lot because the oil was extremely discreet at the end of the 5th hour and seemed close to death at the end of the 10th hour. However, Yet Ambergris surprised me. Wisps of it clung on tenaciously and, if I buried my nose right into my arm, I could detect traces of it into the 16th hour. I should note, however, that, once again, I only used a single drop. I would have liked to see how Yeti Ambergris fared with a larger amount but my sample of this one had the least amount of oil of everything that I was sent, so only one test was possible.

I liked the first half of Yeti Ambergris and thought it was delightful. The second half did nothing for me, I’m afraid, because it skews from my personal sandalwood preferences quite substantially. My ideal sandalwood style is represented by Ensar Oud‘s Santal Sultan, which my personal Holy Grail for sandalwood oils.

But I’m extremely, extremely picky about my sandalwood and it’s ultimately a question of wholly subjective, personal taste preferences. Yeti Ambergris is bound to appeal to those who love the milkier, greener, purer sort of sandalwood, like my friend Claire Vukcevic, who raved about the attar in her long Basenotes piece on JK DeLapp and Rising Phoenix fragrances. The article is both an interview and a series of reviews. If you scroll down towards the end, you’ll see the section on Yeti Ambergris:

This is a sandalwood lover’s dream. It coats the skin in a liquid hug of savoury-sweet sandalwood with nuances of creamed coconut, peanut shell, and melted Irish butter. […]

Yeti Attar has a relatively simple structure – sandalwood, then ambergris, and then sandalwood again, like the best sandwich ever made. When materials are as good as these, they are like the best conversationalists at a party; your job is to introduce them to each other and then leave them alone to do their thing. The ambergris used here is a subtle, golden one, with a range of aromas ranging from earthy tobacco to damp newspaper and finally to dry, salty newspapers left out on a beach to curl up and yellow at the edges.

The ambergris used here is truly beautiful – soft, earthy, saliva-ish, intimate, and golden, like just-licked skin. It is not overbearing, dirty, or animalic in a horsey way, rather it is salty, musky and skin-like. Very sensual, and most importantly of all, delicate to the point of being ethereal.A must-try for any sandalwood and ambergris lover.

I agree, if you love the combination of ambergris and sandalwood, this is one that is worth a test sniff.


I chose these four attars because I thought that, cumulatively, they would have the widest appeal to a variety of reader tastes, both men and women alike, and they were also the ones which caught my attention the most. Each one has something appealing to recommend it, but I think it’s pretty clear that my favourites were Musk Rose and Sicilian Vanilla. I loved them both, couldn’t stop smelling myself, and had a smile on my face throughout. And I don’t love them merely as a reviewer; I plan to buy both of them for myself when my vet bills are little less insane. ($1000 last week for just four hours with two specialists, and twice-weekly vet injections scheduled each week for the next four to six months. These two attars may be at the top of my wish-list, but The Imperial German Overlord comes before all else.)

I recommend reading Ms. Vukcevic’s Basenotes article for another perspective on the four attars I’ve covered here or if you’re interested in learning more about JK DeLapp’s approach, materials, and the rest of his Rising Phoenix creations. Her discussion of Musk Rose is particularly good and covers the attar’s many components, one of which seems to be kewra or pandan, a green leaf used in some South East Asian cuisine. If you want the TL;DR version, she loved Musk Rose as much as I did and she calls it “astonishing” for its recreation of an animalic, deer musk-like aroma without actually using any deer musk. I think her Sicilian Vanilla review is also worth reading because she had a completely different experience than I did, and hers did not involve a lot of vanilla!

If you would like additional perspectives, you may want to look at the Basenotes pages for two of the attars that I’ve covered here today: Musk Rose and Yeti Ambergris. There is no page for Phoenix Amber Oud at this time, while Sicilian Vanilla has an entry but no reviews. You can find reviews on its Etsy page, though.

Rising Phoenix oils are not dirt cheap (it would be highly suspicious if they were), but their prices are roughly in line with those of other high-end artisanal attar brands. And, remember, a little goes a long, long way. A mere drop will suffice if you want a long-lasting, rich scent, although obviously you’ll need to apply more if you want to get more noticeable sillage. In light of the longevity, the quality of raw materials, the absence of any aromachemicals to sear your nose, and the tiny amounts you need, the pricing isn’t too bad. Sicilian Vanilla is the most affordable; its price starts at $65 for a one-gram vial, with larger sizes available. One gram is roughly equal to 1 ml. Musk Rose is $85 for the same size. There is also a 0.3 gram sample for $30. I got several good wearings out of my sample which was roughly the same size. The other two attars are more expensive. Details and links are at the end of this post, along with a link to the main Rising Phoenix store which has 85 items at the moment, ranging from fragrance products to incense and oud chips for burning.

All in all, if you love good, high-quality, smooth, rich attars, then Rising Phoenix is a brand worth exploring.

Disclosure: My samples were provided by JK DeLapp of Rising Phoenix. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

Cost & Availability: Each of the fragrances covered here is a concentrated fragrance oil. They are available exclusively from the Rising Phoenix Etsy store. Musk Rose starts at $30 for a 0.3 gram sample. A 1 gram attar is $85. Prices go up from there. There is also the option of a sprayable EDP version. Sicilian Vanilla starts at $65 for a 1 gram sample. Phoenix Amber Oud Attar starts at $165 for a 3 gram size. A smaller size is not listed, but I’m sure you can ask Mr. DeLapp if samples are available. Yeti Ambergris starts at $99 for a 0.3 gram sample. International shipping is available, but I’m not sure of the scope and if any countries are excluded. You can contact Mr. DeLapp via his Etsy page if you have questions.

22 thoughts on “Rising Phoenix Perfumery: Musk Rose, Sicilian Vanilla, Amber Oud & Yeti Ambergris Attars

  1. Ciaoo super article et bien écrit comme toujours ! Maintenant tu m’as donner envie d’essayer !!

  2. You’ve inspired me to wear this in today’s snowstorm. I bought it in 2015. I intended to get the 1/4 tola attar but mistakenly was sent the EDP. Admittedly it got a bit lost in the avalanche of my purchases and hasn’t received a proper outing. So when I saw this post, I hopped out of bed and sprayed some on. Unbelievably warm and opulent. Now I want the Vanilla, too.

    I shall get back to you after I have given it a full day’s wear. Snow hasn’t begun yet, but is imminent. Happy Holidays!⛄️❤️

    • Stay safe and stay dry! We had snow in the wee hours of Friday morning. I couldn’t believe it!! Everything looked like a magical fairyland. And His Highness was in heaven. Alas, it all disappeared and melted away when the sun came up. I doubt yours will, and I hear it’s going to be a big one. So, again, stay safe and dry.

      As for Musk Rose, I can’t wait to hear the rest of your thoughts. And, yes, you definitely must try Sicilian Vanilla. I think you’ll enjoy that one too, although I think it’s the Musk Rose *attar* which really has your name plastered all over it.

  3. Thanks Kafkaesque. Have you sampled any of their mysore sandalwood oils? Its seems like a more affordable option compared to Ensar Oud.

    • I’ve tried a few. They were smooth but not really my thing. You have to keep in mind, however, that I’m extremely, *extremely* picky about sandalwood oils and very few (from any brand, not just this one) suit my personal tastes or meet my expectations. Too many are green, airy, light, and extremely milky/buttermilky. Quite a lot of people love that that style of sandalwood. I don’t. I described briefly the sort I liked in the article but, again, it’s all a completely personal, subjective thing. By objective standards, the Rising Phoenix ones are smooth, pure, and real. The rest is up to individual taste.

      • Thanks Kafka!

        I believe i have smelt sandalwood that may not be the green type?
        I have the The Royal Santal Kit from Ensar Oud and it was mind-blowing to smell a sandalwood that was smokey and resinous, quite different from the tangy Australian sandalwood essential oil (i always associate green with tangy, maybe its wrong?).
        The last step in order to complete my education is to get my nose on Javanol. I’ve never smelt synthetic sandalwood in isolation before so I’m really curious.

        I would probably order a sample from JK in the future and see how it compares. I do like green sandalwood so maybe this will be up my alley.

  4. It probably goes without saying that I didn’t even get all the way through the review before ordering Sicilian Vanilla. Thanks! I’ll report back.

    • Haha, I thought so much of you while writing the review. You and Julie Rose. Fingers crossed that it’s as vanillic on you as it is on me, although I think you’d also enjoy it even if it skews more to the tobacco side. But if it skews vanilla and if it smells on you like it did on me… boy howdy, I think you’ll have a new favourite. So crossed fingers, legs, and toes that it goes that way on your skin. Let me know how it turns out, okay?

  5. Unlike you, I tend to like rose scents. Sulatan Pasha’s Ame Sombre is one of my faves, and ASAQ’s Royal Blend is a typical go-to for me. For some reason I’ve had a gram of Musk Rose in my Etsy shopping cart for four months but I just couldn’t get myself to complete the purchase (maybe because I already have a near lifetime supply of the ones I mentioned.) Thank you for talking me off the fence!

  6. Thank you for reviewing JK’s work. I am a huge fan of his work, thanks to you – you have opened my heart , mind and my wallet to the world of attars with Sultan Pasha’s reviews. Rose Musc blew me away, and so did Sicilian Vanilla as well as about 10 other attars. BTW I would never have discovered these gems if not for your reviews and guidance.

  7. Thank you Kafka for this wonderful review! I tried a few of his oils thanks to the basenotes sample pass organised by Claire and loved them all, but I haven’t yet got to try these that you reviewed. Now I need to put them at the top of my wish-list. I think an order from his boutique would make a good debut for the new year! 😀

  8. I’m a big fan of Musk Rose and Sicilian Vanilla Attar. By the way I’m thebeck@basenotes and also known as kennycologne sometimes – as that’s me on Etsy.
    It was a pleasure reading your reviews. Spot on, as usual.

  9. Hello stranger! I have returned. I finally have moved and am settled in so I will be catching up on fast forward lol.

  10. I am glad that you reviewed this gems from JDL. You are an inspiration and a great guiding soul for the scent seekers. The Pandanus or Kewra is a very interesting flower. I would love if you could do a separate review on these traditional Indian scents that come from the pots. Pandanus flower is white almost looks like baby corn covered in leaves. It has spicy smell like Pan Masala. Its very exquisite. If recently came across Itr Kaafila, an unusual artisanal attar with Kewda, Vetiver, Mitti and Mitti from Agarwood Assam on Etsy. It’s a very exotic scent. An artists version of the mechanical Majmua of Kannauj. You are a saviour of natural perfumery. May god bless you with more and more.

    • For some reason, when pandanus is mentioned, i thought the article was referring to the pandan leaves? I didn’t even know the pandan plant has a flower. You learn something new everyday 🙂

      I miss the smell of pandan leaves. They remind me of home.

  11. Just a word about JK DeLapp the man. JK is a very passionate man and truly cares about the people who enjoy his scents. His customer service skills are equal to his great attars.
    I keep coming back to buy because he really understands the super high quality rare ingredients he uses, and manages to blend them in a consistently beautiful way.

    There are other small artisan houses’ out there working with some ultra high ingredients trying to blend them, but frankly I find most of them to be a waste of fine materials. It kind of bothers me when I see a company distill some fine oud, ambergris deer musk etc….or whatever, and try to blend them(when they should be hiring someone who knows how)

    I think they should realize their in over their heads and hire a professional nose. There’s a big difference in producing great materials and blending them into a great Attar, EDP or Extrait. Most of you reading this know who I’m referring too, so I won’t call them out here.

    When it comes to fine attars JK and Sultan Pasha consistently offer the best of attars with the finest ingredients available.

  12. K., you convinced me to take the plunge and order some Sicilian Vanilla attar and I cannot thank you enough. I’m utterly smitten and my hopes/expectations were far, far surpassed. For the foreseeable future I don’t want to smell like anything else.
    On my skin the opening is a quick rush of smoke and vanilla but the currants really take center stage for about the first half an hour. I’m still mystified by how it smells so clearly like dried fruit but isn’t in the slightest bit sweet or cloying.
    For the next hour or so, the buttery tang of the sandalwood comes right to the forefront while the currant and smoke, and vanilla swirl and endlessly leapfrog each other. I’ve seen you describe a few fragrances as “prismatic” and, for me, anyway, Sicilian Vanilla is exactly this for the next several hours.
    The tobacco never really comes to the forefront but it flits around the edges, just barely peaking out from time to time. If my sense of smell could be described as having peripheral vision then the tobacco is always just there, off to the side, but disappears the moment my nose tries to look for it directly.
    The dry down is beautiful and centers very much on the sandalwood with occasional puffs of soft, far-off charred oak and vanilla. It’s cozy and warm, and feels especially perfect on a winter day like today.
    Thanks again for your time, your nose, and your eloquence. I hope the holidays wonderful for you and the Hairy German!

    • I am thrilled. Utterly and completely thrilled! I’m so glad it worked out so well for you, James. I honestly can’t recall you ever writing that you were smitten by a scent to the point of not wanting to wear anything else! Hip, hip, hurrah! I’ve sent a copy of your comment to Mr. DeLapp, and I’m sure he’ll be even more delighted and overjoyed by your reaction.

      BTW, I’m glad to hear that the tobacco is not a major factor on your skin either! Peripheral vision tobacco is such a good way of describing how it was on me, too. Where it sounds like your scent experience differs from everyone else’s is in the prominence of the black currant and then of the sandalwood. I think you’re the first person who experienced a lot of fruit. But what you, I, and everyone else seem to have in common, though, is that this is the least cloying scent in its possible genre, whether that genre is vanilla, gourmands, tobacco, or something else.

      I’m so, so happy I could help you find a fragrance that you love as much as this one, James. Happy Holidays, my dear!

      • Update: I woke up this morning and indeed distinctly smell vanilla and tobacco on my arm — mind you this is a full SEVENTEEN HOURS later. (And still with an inch or two of projection from my skin!) So I’ll say that in the extreme dry down I’ve finally found the tobacco to be front and center. And it smells wonderful!
        JK and I have been corresponding via Etsy. I actually messaged him within the first half-hour of putting on Sicilian Vanilla to effusively thank him for his work and talents, though I still owe him a public review on over there, as well.
        I bought some of his 2016 Reserve Mysore, which smells divine. JK was kind enough to include a sample of Musk Rose, which I cannot wait to test out. Like you, I dislike rose, but your glowing review has me incredibly curious.
        Thanks again, K!

  13. Ok. Here I go with sharing my impressions on jk’s Two attar: musk rose and yetti ambergris.

    I won’t say much on the musk rose true to my aversion of it. A strong dislike that started some 15 years ago. I do however want to acknowledge that objectively speaking this is a real deal deep and transcending rose scent. The dark vortex our host speaks of is particulrly charming and enjoyable during the development in early half of the drydown.

    Yeti amber: ah so perfect. Aged Mysore with subtle butter and perfect amount of santal spice is sitting in the heart. Cleanest softest teeny tiniest bit sweet, mild oceanic, baby breath after feeding mom’s milk. This is some killer raw material I can tell you. The very bests and oldest white via Pat Lillis category we are talking here. Then the stir technique and possibly others resulting in extra extra extra maceration concentration oil shows itself. The rest of the trip is back and forth and in unity Amber sandal amber sandal…. until Amber goes to the background and Mysore finishes the story.

    Overall some great stuff. For another terrific Mysore amber attar I strongly recommend imperial oud out of uk. Their is a very different type of ambergris. I don’t know it’s actual colour and description but comes across as dark silver black gold piece. If ensar Ambra is the the most elegant and feminine and yeti most balanced the imperial oud Ambra mysuru is the most masculine and one with oomph.

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