It’s taken me three tests to wrap my head around Musk Lave from Areej Le Doré’s new S6 collection and I’m still not entirely certain what I think. The only things that I’m certain of is that Musk Lave has a number of paradoxical aspects and that I’m completely the wrong audience for this type of fragrance.
All fragrance perceptions are highly individualistic and subjective, dependent on a person’s tastes, and there are a few things that make Musk Lave a challenge for me personally: I’m a lavenderphobe, although I’m fighting it and I do own two lavender-driven fragrances; I cannot stand laundry fresh, clean notes, particularly anything that resembles white musk; and I have an incredibly low tolerance for anything sugary or candied. All three issues are at play with how Musk Lave presents itself on my skin.
Musk Lave is a pure parfum with the following note list:
Top notes: bergamot and lavender from 1920Heart notes: lavender absolute from 1915 – 1920, osmanthus, aged Mysore sandalwood and wild Siberian deer muskBase notes: iris accord, oakmoss and labdanum
Musk Lave opens with a fascinating lavender paradox: clean, fresh, sweet, bright, and strangely aerated lavender that is also dry, dusty, dirty, musky, woody, leathery, smoky, and resinous. It is lavender that has been plucked straight from the fields and splattered with drops of warm but crisp, full-bodied bergamot but it is also desiccated lavender that’s been stored in an ancient wooden chest next to dried, earthy, dusty deer musk pods and dried, mineralized, slightly fusty oakmoss.
The polarities don’t end there. This is also lavender which is liberally tufted with practically laundry-fresh balls of cotton picked from a field —which is the most unusual, confounding iteration of either osmanthus or iris that I have ever encountered, almost as if one were smelling fresh, clean cotton towels straight out of the dryer— but it is also lavender that smells masculine, smoky, incense-like, tobacco-like, darkly musky, leathery, and resinous. This must be from the aged, and I’m guessing intensely concentrated, Mysore absolute, and the notes are further amplified and darkened by the labdanum and the oakmoss. Not all labdanum smells like toffee and not all oakmoss smells of greenery; some labdanum absolutes can smell of everything from gunpowder to tobacco, woody tar, leather, and tobacco, while some oakmoss absolutes can also smell of those same notes.
There is something else which appears after 15 minutes: licorice. To be precise, salty, sticky, resinous black licorice. I’m guessing it comes from the oakmoss but, whatever its source, it’s not particularly sweet. That’s probably just as well given that the lavender turns intensely candied on my skin after just 10 minutes, almost like it had been dunked into crystallized sugar. And, yet, this licorice lavender candy also smells like freshly plumped cotton towels, Bounce laundry dryer sheets, charred wood smoke, incense, resinous leather, and dried earth from the deer musk.
Certain aspects of Musk Lave seem familiar. The licorice lavender combination calls to mind the same combination in Francis Kurkdjian‘s Eau Noire for Dior Privé, albeit minus the latter’s immortelle. The candied, vanillic, but inordinately clean lavender with sandalwood recalls elements of Gaultier‘s Le Male, while the same sugary sweet, dried lavender with painful amounts of laundry white musk as well as incense smoke, wisps of green, and dark, dry woods evokes Serge Lutens‘ reformulated version of Gris Clair.
Yet, something about Musk Lave as a cumulative whole feels different to me, as though lavender has been rendered topsy-turvy somehow. Maybe it’s all the juxtapositions and contrasts, particularly of light and dark. Maybe it’s because Musk Lave is an unusual twist on the sorts of oriental fougères that I’ve previously encounter (not that I’ve encountered all that many since it’s not a widely done sub-genre) and because the more common aromatic fougères are so completely different. Or perhaps it’s a question of expectations: I had expected Musk Lave to be an animalic lavender, or possibly a hybrid of an animalic, aromatic fougère with some chypre-like traits, and it turned out to be something altogether different. I don’t know. I can’t explain it and it doesn’t make complete sense to me, but I can say that Musk Lave left me feeling a little confounded the first time I tried it.
There is also something else. Musk Lave’s development falls into two halves, neither of which feels like the same fragrance. While it’s not uncommon for fragrances to morph across genres, they don’t typically split into two, very distinct, and very long stages, each of which lasts over 8 hours in length. Areej Le Doré fragrances are often shape-shifters on my skin but they typically have a minimum of three stages that flow quite naturally from one to another. Musk Lave doesn’t really follow that pattern, although there are certainly elements in the second half that flow from the first, like the musk, smoke, and wood. Again, for reasons that I’m having trouble articulating or even figuring out, the cumulative feel and focus seem different, as though Musk Lave veers off in a completely unexpected direction. Perhaps it comes down to the pre-existing perceptions I had going into the scent and what I had anticipated it would be like.
Musk Lave’s long first half consists of the paradoxical contrasts that I’ve outlined and they don’t vary much over the course of the first nine hours. The changes are mostly of degree. Musk Lave consistently turns sweeter after 90 minutes, reminding me of a lavender marshmallow. It had traces of ambered warmth and goldenness in one test, but the more consistent accompaniment was a wave of darkness and dryness, smelling both of incense and of wood smoke. In one test, when I applied a much larger quantity of scent, roughly 4 spritzes from the atomizer, Musk Lave’s warm cotton towels, cotton puffs, and vanillic sugar were much weaker while the Mysore’s resin, leather, incense, wood smoke, and dark muskiness were more profound. Again, these are all really changes in the degree or strength of some notes, nothing more.
Regardless of test or dosage, however, Musk Lave consistently turns blurry about 4.5 hours into its development, becoming a haze of candied, aromatic, clean, desiccated lavender rendered dark and brittle through smoke. It’s infused with clean cotton, black licorice, smoky woods, smoky leather, and a hint of abstract floralcy. There is no real sense of osmanthus or iris in an concrete way. Ditto for the oakmoss.
Another consistent change is the advent of creaminess. It pops up initially around the 4.25 hour mark as a subtle thing, but it isn’t a major part of Musk Lave at this stage. It also constantly fluctuates in strength or obviousness. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to the smoke, darkness, dryness, and woodiness that become particularly profound after 5.5 hours. During this time, there are also small hints of something fruity buried within the haze, possibly something peachy, perhaps from the osmanthus, but they’re fleeting and they’re as engulfed by the other major elements as the oakmoss is on my skin.
At the end of the 6th hour and start of the 7th, Musk Lave starts to transition into a very different fragrance than it was at its start. It’s turning into a woody musk, now laced with an increasingly abstract and nebulous lavender note as well as cleannness, vanillic sugar, incense, and wood smoke. There are fluctuating, sometimes very random, hints of elements that are indecipherably creamy, vegetal, herbal, green, and possibly citrusy or fruity, but they’re miniscule flickers in the heavy fog.
Musk Lave’s long second half begins roughly at the start of the 9th hour. It is now wholly a woody musk and the creaminess is no longer a hint but a clear, strong, unmistakable essential element, one that feels almost tactile. It stems from the Mysore sandalwood and it floods the other notes with an almost custard texture that I find incredibly beautiful and mesmerizing. It’s as though buttery calfskin leather has merged with wood custard and cream, fused together with small ribbons of incense and wood smoke. What I’m grateful for is that the sheer amount of Mysore cream has muffled and halved the sugary sweetness, the cottony cleanness and freshness, and the other parts of Musk Lave that I’ve struggled with up to now. To be clear, Musk Lave is still painfully sweet for my personal tastes when I sniff my arm up close, but it’s less than it was and it’s also less profound on the scent trail.
What strikes me about this second half is just how distinct it feels from what came before. It’s one of the reasons why I tested Musk Lave three times despite the rapidly approaching launch date for S6 on or about September 12th/13th. I wanted to ensure that the transformation from a quasi-oriental fougère or a lavender fragrance into a woody musk that, in many ways,rightly or wrongly, feels almost unrelated wasn’t simply some fluke on my skin on my skin but a consistent pattern. And it is.
There aren’t any significant or major transformations after this point, though there is one smaller change around the 11th hour: Musk Lave turns more powdery on my skin. It’s unquestionably related to the musk; it’s as though the deer musk pod grains got caught up in the Mysore’s velvety custard, cutting through some of the butteriness, turning the texture more granular, and also drenching the wood with far greater amounts of powdered musk.
There really isn’t much more to Musk Lave’s bouquet from this point forth: it’s a simple sweet, smoky woody musk infused with fluctuating amounts of creaminess, cleanness, powderiness and, after the 15th hour, a subtle, nebulous goldenness from the labdanum amber in the base. When the fragrance finally dies away, all that’s left is a slightly sweet-dry creaminess that is vaguely woody and sweet in nature.
Musk Lave has fairly good projection and sillage on my skin and very good longevity. With a small dosage equal to roughly 2 or 3 small squirts from the atomizer, the opening sillage was about 8 to 10 inches and the projection off my arm was around 5-6 inches. The numbers dropped after 7 hours, but Musk Lave was easy to detect up close. It didn’t become a skin scent until the end of the 10th hour, and lasted just a bit over 17.5 hours.
With a larger dose, about 4 or 5 squirts, Musk Lave’s opening sillage was about 12-13 inches, though the projection was roughly the same. Again, the sillage dropped late in the 7th hour, but Musk Lave didn’t become a skin scent until the 14th hour. Even then, it wasn’t hard to detect up close; it only took more effort to detect after the 21st hour when I had to bury my nose more deeply into my arm. In total, however, Musk Lave lasted just over 25 hours.
A few final fragrance and house-keeping matters before I conclude this review. First, I’m not certain of when exactly and precisely the new S6 fragrances will launch but I believe it should be on or around September 12th or 13th. Second, Musk Lave is a pure parfum that comes in a 30 ml bottle and costs $220. Roughly 400 bottles were produced, and around 100 were sold as part of the pre-launch special involving purchases of all five S6 releases, so around 300 bottles now remain. They will sell exclusively on Areej Le Doré during the initial launch, but Luckyscent may get some bottles later.
Lastly, this will be the last S6 review that I’ll do on this site. I may do Grandenia and Cuir de Russie on Twitter in either text screenshots or in a tweet thread style, I may do only one of them, or I may do neither of them. It’s not a reflection on either one of those fragrances; I have not yet tested them. Quite simply, these days, I’m taking everything on a day-by-day basis and seeing how things go. Be safe and be well, friends.