Today, I wanted to take a quick look at Incident Diplomatique, the new masculine vetiver-patchouli fragrance from Jovoy Paris. As always, my Reviews en Bref are for fragrances that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to warrant my usual in-depth, detailed analysis. In this case, the reasons will become soon become apparent why I’ve opted for that approach.
Every week, I get at least three or four emails from people seeking fragrance recommendations. The vast majority of them are men, but there are some women, too. Most of them are not long-time readers of the blog and have simply stumbled upon it, so they don’t know my long-time favorites that I talk about often, but a few are subscribers who seek specific suggestions. Sometimes, people start by giving me a brief idea of their tastes and/or names of prior fragrances they’ve worn. Typically, though, the information is insufficient for me to know what might really suit them, so I write back with a list of questions, trying to narrow down what notes they have issues with or love best, how they feel about sweetness or animalics, how their skin deals with longevity or projection, and what sort of power they want in both of those last two area.
What I’ve noticed is that I tend to make certain recommendations time and time again for particular genres or fragrance families. So, I thought I would share them with all of you. However, please keep in mind that these names are in response to some pretty set criteria given to me by the person in question, even though many of those factors end up being quite similar. For example, the men who like dark, bold, rich or spicy orientals all seem to want a certain sillage or “to be noticed in a crowd,” as several have put it. In contrast, most of those who want clean, crisp scents prefer for them to be on the discreet side and suitable for professional business environments. Men whose favorites are classical designer scents that fall firmly within the fougère, green, fresh, or aromatic categories (like Tuscany, Guerlain’s Vetiver, or vintage Eau Sauvage, for example) tend to want very traditional scents, even “old school” in vibe, and not something sweet, edgy, or with a twist. So, that is what I try to give them as recommendations, which means that there are a whole slew of fragrances that fall outside the category.
A man in a library before a crackling fire, sipping cognac on a leather sofa, as the air around him swirls with a phantasmagoric stream of colours. Burnt umber, raw ocher, dusty terracotta, dark tobacco, golden caramel, nutty toffee, and a touch of blackened green. There are hints of spice and smoke in the air, along with a musky earthiness, but it is a scene of endless warmth, coziness, and richness.
Then, as if a magician waved his hand, the swirling coloured mists dissolve, and the scene changes. The man has been transported outdoors to a land filled with dark, mentholated greens, touched by earthy browns, and a hint of reddened dust. It’s muddy at times, and a muted chanting sound in the background momentarily conjures up the Summer of Love in 1968. It’s only a brief trip, though, and soon, he finds himself in his bed, surrounded by the finest, gauzy, silky sheets made of soft red, ambered caramel gold, and creamy vanilla. Did it actually happen, or was it a trip most Psychédélique?
Psychédélique is a fragrance from Jovoy Paris, an utterly glorious patchouli scent in all its best, truest, spicy-sweet-smoky red-brown incarnations. The fragrance (which I shall spell here on out without the warranted accents, for ease and speed) is really close to my ideal patchouli, though it doesn’t have the best projection after its opening stage. But what an opening it is!
Psychedelique is an eau de parfum, created by Jacques Flori of Robertet and released in 2011. Jovoy’s owner and creative director, Francois Hénin, describes the scent and its notes as follows:
“Psychedelic: my great patchouli fragrance, dark and smoky, ambered, generous and opulent… Even the rain and mud of Woodstock won’t wash it away.”
Head notes: fresh hesperidium [citrus]
Heart notes: floral rose, geranium, ambered, woody (patchouli, cistus, gum cistus)
Base notes: vanilla, musk
Luckyscent has rather a wonderful description of Psychedelique:
Psychédélique, Jovoy’s magnificent ambered patchouli, largely stays in the shadows, meditating on the synergies between a cocoa-like amber and an inky-dark patchouli, although rose and geranium offer a touch of freshness to its earthy sexiness.
The synaesthete might say that on the olfactory color wheel, patchouli resides somewhere between black and chocolate brown, with a bit of iridescent chartreuse green shimmering in between. Camphory, inky, aromatic, and even darkly refreshing, the elegant patchouli in Psychédélique […] is like an olfactory Mark Rothko painting that explores the gradations between dark colors — in this case, patchouli, amber, and musk.
Luckyscent finds the name unfortunate, as do I, because it tends to create the impression that Psychedelique is a dirty, filthy, head-shop, incense-y fragrance best suited to hippies. It’s not. It’s extremely refined, elegant and well-done. For me, the image which came to mind again and again was primarily that of a traditional men’s club or a rich library, filled with dark, studded, stuffed Chesterfield leather sofas, a crackling fire, aged cognac, a hint of smoke in the air, and a plate of caramels. Yes, there is a mentholated, camphorous stage redolent of green patchouli, but it’s not significant on my skin, and really far from the core essence of the fragrance. In fact, most of the time, the green undertone translates as wonderful peppermint.
Psychedelique opens on my skin with strong labdanum amber and patchouli, infused by a huge amount of boozy cognac. The patchouli has all its true nuances: leathery, spicy, smoky, sweet, dry, woody, and with a hint of something almost resembling tobacco. Psychedelique even carries the faintest whiff of a fruited element that smells like cinnamon-studded oranges. A definite blast of chilly peppermint follows, arm in arm with chewy, dark chocolate. Patchouli’s camphorous, green side lurks underneath, along with a tinge of black, almost “head-shop” like incense, but they’re only the subtlest of suggestions on my skin. Much more significant is the utterly glorious toffee and caramel amber, just lightly flecked by creamy vanilla.
It’s a very potent brew in the opening hour, especially when sniffed up close, but Psychedelique has a soft quality about it. It feels a lot denser and more concentrated than it actually is, and is only truly intense within its small 3 inch bubble. To me, the opening has the best aspects of Oriza L. Legrand‘s Horizon and of Reminiscence‘s Elixir de Patchouli, but with none of the latter’s swampy, smoked cedar and sharp vetiver. When smelled from afar, Psychedelique is a beautiful swirl of ambered caramel gold and reddened, spicy patchouli, infused with cognac, toffee, peppermint, dry cocoa, sweetness, and a hint of fruitiness.
Within 5 minutes, Psychedelique starts to morph. At first, there is a dusty, dry earthiness that smells like damp, wet soil. To my regret, it cuts through some of the aged, boozy cognac which I love so much. At the same time, the rich amber in which all the notes are nestled turns slightly musky. There is also an increasing whiff of the salty-sweet aspect of the ambergris, mixed with the labdanum’s nutty, toffee’d caramel aroma. Chocolate and peppermint continue to be laced throughout, and there is the faintest stirrings of vanilla in the base, but there is nary a hint of a citrus, rose or geranium note in Psychedelique, regardless of what the ingredient list may say.
It takes 25 minutes for Psychedelique’s greener side to become apparent. The fragrance becomes much more mentholated and camphorous; at the same time, the amber’s lovely caramel, vanilla, and toffee tonalities weaken. The boozy cognac retreats almost completely to the sidelines, and eventually vanishes before the hour is over. Psychedelique feels simultaneously softer, sharper, and dirtier. The dusty cocoa powder and chewy chocolate remain, but both are significantly more muted. Psychedelique is now very green-black in visual huge, instead of the red-brown-golds of the opening.
I should point out, however, that the degree of greenness in this stage varied depending on the amount of perfume that I applied, and that the note was not a huge part of the scent in a few of my tests. The more Psychedelique you spray, the more the green phase seems to come out around the 30 minute mark. A number of times, the main duo of golden caramel and patchouli remained as the dominant focus alongside with the mentholated, green-black note. In other words, if you don’t spray on a lot of Psychedelique, the greenness doesn’t take over the scent.
In all cases, however, the stage is pretty short-lived, and lasts under an hour or so. Generally, it begins to recede 90 minutes into Psychedelique’s development. At that point, the fragrance begins its slow transformation back to its original stage, minus that wonderful cognac booziness and heavy richness. At the end of the second hour, Psychedelique is a soft, smooth blend of patchouli with amber and sweetness, and only vestigial traces of the greenness lurking to the side. The sillage is low, unfortunately, and Psychedelique hovers an inch above the skin.
About 3.5 hours in, Psychedelique is a soft, spiced patchouli sweetened with creamy vanilla, and flecked by nutty, toffee’d labdanum. There are hints of cocoa powder, smokiness, and earthiness, but the whole thing is beautifully balanced. It’s neither too sweet, nor too spicy, smoky, chewy, or earthy. There is almost a dry woodiness to the plant, but Psychedelique never feels truly woody like some of its kin in the genre, many of whom are heavily infused with cedar and/or vetiver.
The whole thing is absolutely lovely, but it’s also a sheer, discrete skin scent — too much so for my personal preference. Unobtrusiveness seems to be the Jovoy style and signature, as all the other fragrances that I’ve tried from the line have been similar. They start with a bang that eventually fades to sheerness in a polite whimper. Here, I feel almost cheated. I’ve been looking for a great patchouli for ages, so to find one with a truly lovely opening and drydown, only to have to sniff my wrist with determination by the 4th hour is incredibly frustrating.
On the plus side, however, Psychedelique lasts and lasts. It may take some determined whiffs to detect it at the end, but that end phase frequently lasts over 14 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. No, seriously, it does. The smallest quantity of Psychedelique will yield 12 hours at a minimum, with minuscule traces lasting up to the 14th hour. With a larger amount, the perfume’s longevity is well over-night. Just 3 small sprays from my tiny atomizer sample, amounting to 2 sprays from a regular bottle, made Psychedelique last 19.5 hours on me. I couldn’t believe it. Again, it did take some determined sniffing to detect, with my nose fully on the skin, but Psychedelique was definitely pulsating away in a few quarters on my arm.
In all cases, the drydown was a perfect, slightly spiced patchouli with vanilla and amber. Up until the 9th hour, the golden haze was flecked with a hint of chilly mentholated peppermint and a touch of cocoa powder. In its very final moments, Psychedelique was just a smear of golden sweetness.
On Fragrantica, Psychedelique has very positive reviews. A number of people compare the scent to Reminiscence’s take on the note, and one mentions Montale‘s Patchouli Leaves. On my skin, the Montale was very different and quite gourmand, while both Reminiscence fragrances were significantly woodier in nature. I think a much closer comparison would be to Oriza‘s Horizon, except the Psychedelique has greater heft, depth, and body. It’s also got better projection and longevity, as Horizon was painfully diaphanous on my skin. The Psychedelique feels much chewier as a whole, more ambered. It has more cocoa, and substantially more greenness than Horizon, too. If only it didn’t drop in projection after 2.5 hours!
In terms of helpful commentary, I think the reviews on Luckyscent are more useful than the Fragrantica ones in showing how Psychedelique may turn out on some skins. The two comments there read as follows:
- Psychedelique starts out on the sharp, dry end of the patchouli spectrum — not at all unpleasant, and rather similar to L’Artisan’s Patchouli Patch. But an hour later, the sharp notes have dropped back into place and the fragrance becomes warmer, more rounded and much more nuanced. There’s a really nice play between the drier and warmer elements of the fragrance. I totally agree that the name Psychedelique, and its connotations with dirty hippies and cheap patchouli, is rather unfortunate, because this is a sophisticated, very wearable patchouli-based scent.
- It’s funny, this one – I have almost a love/hate with it. If you’re patient and can wait for the drydown 30-60 minutes later, you’ll be thrilled. The [Luckyscent] description is as good one, but it takes awhile to get intoxicating. Initial blast is super sharp, but with time, your skin is left with a beautiful woodsy, ambered patchouli. My patience is good though and I bought a FB.
As a side note, a number of people in the blogosphere have been talking lately about Von Eusersdorff‘s Patchouli scent, and I got to try that while at Jovoy too. It was a brief, cursory test in the midst of a lot of other sniffing, so my perceptions may be a little skewed, but I thought Psychedelique was much better. It struck me as richer, deeper, chewier, darker, boozier, and significantly more intense. I remembering telling the manager at the time, “Ah, this is a proper patchouli.”
I’m seriously considering getting a full bottle of Psychedelique, but I keep hesitating. The perfume costs $180 for 100 ml, and the cheap-skate side of me is saying that $180 is quite a lot for what is essentially a patchouli-amber soliflore with sillage issues. At $180 with fantastic projection for the first 5-6 hours, I would have no problem whatsoever. At $140 with soft sillage, I probably would not hesitate, especially as 100 ml gives me the opportunity to reapply frequently. But something about the $180 figure with the sillage gives me pause. There is a cheaper option with a 50 ml bottle, but that seems to be limited to international, EU vendors like London’s Bloom Perfumery and Jovoy itself. Besides, I loved Psychedelique enough to want a full 100 ml.
At the end of the day, however, pricing is a personal determination, so if you are looking for a great, traditional patchouli, you should at least give Psychedelique a sniff. It’s definitely unisex, it’s not at all difficult (especially after the brief, muted 40-minute green stage), and might be appropriate at the office (if you spray it 2 hours before you leave for work). It’s a perfect winter scent, but I have no doubt that true patchouli lovers would enjoy it all year round.
Disclosure: I obtained my sample from Jovoy itself, but it was while I was in the store, browsing as a customer. My sample was not given to me for the purposes of a review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.
Cost & Availability: Psychedelique is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle that costs $180, €120, or £100. It is available directly from Jovoy Paris which also offers a smaller 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for €80. Some British vendors also sell Psychedelique in the smaller 50 ml size for £70. In the U.S.: Psychedelique is available at MinNY, Luckyscent, and Aedes. The line is usually carried at NY’s Aaron’s Apothecary but the site had malware on it, so I didn’t risk getting a link. Outside the U.S.: In Canada, Psychedelique is available at The Perfume Shoppe for US $180, but you may want to email them to ask for the CAD price. In the UK, Psychedelique is available in both sizes from Bloom Perfumery, with the smaller 1.7 oz bottle retailing for £70. Samples are also available for purchase. The larger 100 ml size is also sold at Roullier White for £100, with a sample similarly available for purchase. Other retailers include Harvey Nichols and Liberty London. In France, the perfume is obviously available from Jovoy, but you can also buy Jovoy fragrances from Soleil d’Or. In the Netherlands, all the Jovoy line of perfumes are sold at ParfumMaria. In Italy, you can find them at Vittoria Profumi and Sacro Cuoro Profumi for €120. For Germany and the rest of Europe, the entire Jovoy line is available at First in Fragrance in Germany (which also ships worldwide and sells samples), but the price is €5 higher at €125 a bottle. Same story with Germany’s Meinduft, though the latter does offer the smaller bottles at €85. In Croatia, Jovoy is sold at Flores in Zagreb, but their website is currently undergoing construction. In Romania, Jovoy fragrances, including Psychedelique, are available at Createur5. In Russia, Jovoy is sold at iPerfume, and in Greece, the line is available at Rosina Parfumery, though the site doesn’t have an e-store. Samples: I obtained my sample while at Jovoy itself, but a number of the retailers listed above also offer vials of the fragrance for purchase.
Mad Max in black leather, burning up the roads. A bomb blast that left bubbling, tarry, rubbery asphalt. The burning, black tire bonfires used as smoke signals in Black Hawk Down. Vetiver on steroids, then nuked with napalm. Peppermints and candy canes at Christmas. Peaty single-malt Scotch, and aged cognac. The quiet, firm, confident masculinity of Gary Cooper or Rhett Butler which hides a sensitive heart. And, beatnik patchouli from the 1960s “Summer of Love.”
Those incongruous, contradictory thoughts are what come to mind when I wear Jovoy Paris‘ fragrance, Private Label. Most hardcore perfumistas have heard of Jovoy, a Paris boutique that is a mecca for buying the most high-end, exclusive, or rare fragrances. What many people don’t know is that Jovoy was once a perfume house going back to the Roaring Twenties, and “known for selling perfumes for the ‘gentlemen’s nieces’, a polite way Parisian dandies described buying gifts for their mistresses[.]” The house declined in the bleak years of the Depression, and ended completely during WWII, but it was resurrected in 2006 by Francois Hénin who launched a new range of fragrances.
In 2012, Private Label joined their ranks. It is an eau de parfum created by Cécile Zarokian, and Aedes says that it was “commissioned for a Jovoy client looking for a strong, oriental fragrance that is masculine, woody and ‘oud-free’.” Private Label is actually Francois Hénin’s personal favorite, his “ideal oriental scent.” He says, “This is the archetypal parfum de silage: it leaves a distinct trail while remaining consistent over time.” Luckyscent lists its notes as follows:
Papyrus, vetiver, leather, patchouli, sandalwood, Cistus labdanum
Each and every time I smell Private Label from afar, my immediate first impression is peppermints. To be precise: twisted, deranged, napalm-smoked, nuclear, apocalyptic, smoked peppermints in the middle of the snowiest pine forest somewhere in Siberia. It’s an impression that I can’t shake off, and it’s one I generally like.
The problem, however, is when I smell Private Label up close, as the result is distinctly less enchanting. In a nutshell, Private Label has a consistent structural backbone of burnt rubber and bubbling tar from a hot, melting asphalt road. The note is there in Private Label’s development from start to finish, varying only in its prominence, order of appearance, or forcefulness. It is always mentholated and camphorous, with a subtext of eucalyptus and peppermints, but also of sharp smoke and burnt rubber. Whenever I think that it has been tamed by patchouli, whenever I think that Private Label has been softened with labdanum amber and a big splash of aged cognac, I’ll smell another part of my arm, and that rubbery, Mad Max, medicinal, burnt napalm smell will suddenly pop back up.
Private Label lists “leather” in its notes and, yes, the fragrance is often summarized as a vetiver-leather fragrance. To me, however, that description doesn’t tell the whole story. On my skin, Private Label isn’t a leather fragrance so much as it is birch tar one. There is a huge difference to my mind. Huge. Birch tar is a resinous extract that has been traditionally used to coat and treat rawhide and, as such, the camphorous, pine-y, phenolic, sometimes sulphurous ingredient is often used in perfumery to replicate the aroma of a certain type of black “leather.”
The Perfume Shrine states that “[r]endering a leather note in perfumery is a challenge for the perfumer[,]” and that what is “actually used” to create that olfactory impression are vegetal or synthetic ingredients which can include birch tar, juniper cade and quinoline. To my nose, Jovoy Private Label reflects multiple facets of each of these notes which really dominate the fragrance’s overall bouquet for much of its evolution. I could tell you that Private Label smells of “leather” and smoke, but those general terms have the potential to give you a very misleading impression of this utterly uncompromising, aggressively intense, very hardcore scent.
So, let’s take a look at The Perfume Shrine’s explanation of what the key notes actually smell like:
Birch: Betula Alba, the tree known as birch [….] Traditionally used in tanneries in Russia, Finland and Northern Europe in general, its bark produces birch tar and resin, an intensely wintergreen and tar-like odour, which has been used in Cuir de Russie type of scents in the distant past.
Juniper and cade oil:
Juniper trees produce dark viscuous oil (cade) upon getting burned which possesses a smoky aroma that reminds one of campfires in the forests. Also used in Cuir de Russie type of scents in the past along with birch. […]
The major revolution in the production of leathery notes in perfumery came in the 1880s with the apparition of quinolines, a family of aromachemicals with a pungent leather and smoke odour that was used in the production of the modern Cuir de Russie scents appearing at the beginning of the 20th century such as Chanel’s (1924) as well as in Caron’s Tabac Blond (1919), Lanvin’s Scandal (1933) and, most importantly, Piguet’s Bandit (1944). […][¶]
isobutyl quinoline … possesses a fiercely potent odour profile described as earthy, rooty, and nutty, echoing certain facets of oakmoss and vetiver and blending very well with both. Isobutyl quinoline also has ambery, woody, tobacco-like undertones: a really rich aromachemical!
I suspect all three things are used in Jovoy’s Private Label when it summarily mentions mere “leather.” The perfume is a vetiver scent in many ways, but it is vetiver transformed into one living in Mad Max’s world, a scent that the Road Warrior would wear with its uncompromising smoke, tar, asphalt, and rubber facets. If any of you love the toughness of Robert Piguet‘s vintage Bandit and the birch tar smoke of Andy Tauer‘s Lonestar Memories, but want both taken up a notch and infused with smoked vetiver, then Jovoy’s Private Label is for you.
Private Label opens on my skin with a forceful blast of mentholated tar, medicinal astringent, chewy patchouli, smoky vetiver, and piney juniper-cade smoke. The patchouli has hints of aged cognac underlying it, but its more dominant nuance is an earthy, almost medicinal, slightly mentholated note that evokes a black, 1960s “head shop,” hippie scent. Private Label most definitely has leather seeping all throughout, infusing all the other notes, but as explained above, this is really birch tar and cade “leather.” It smells like campfire bonfires, smoked rubber, diesel fuel, and a tarmac set aflame until the asphalt is hot, almost bubbling, and smoking. I rarely think that notes have a heated temperature, but the “leather” in Private Label starts off feeling as though the piney, sulphurous resin has been set on fire.
One reviewer for the fragrance had a very different impression of both the note and Private Label’s opening blast. For Freddie of Smelly Thoughts, the leather made him think of a rubber dildo. No, he said that, really!
Private Label opens with a harsh, nail-varnish leather. A raw, earthy, smoky vetiver comes in quickly and together – the combination is pretty foul. It smells black and rubbery (yes, dildo was the first word that came into my head then too), with squeaky vinyl (stop!!!), and underneath, a resinous amber (lots of labdanum), a bit of incense and other bitter greens that just make it worse and worse.
I can see why he’d think that way, but I don’t hate it the way he does, and a large reason why may be due to the peppermints. On my skin, the patchouli’s underlying sweetness interacts with the mentholated, chilled accord to create a definite, very strong impression of hard-boiled, peppermint sweets. Christmas candy canes, perhaps, except these have been burnt and are emitting a sweet-bitter smokiness that is infused with eucalyptus. It’s an interesting aroma, and makes Private Label quite an arresting fragrance. From afar.
Ten minutes in, Private Label starts the slow (very, very slow) process towards softness and mellowness. The labdanum starts to move in the base, the aged cognac and sweet peppermint elements increase, and Private Label loses some of that bubbling asphalt feel. It’s a fractional change, though, as the perfume’s primary scent is that of the darkest, smokiest vetiver mixed with the very tarriest, smokiest, eucalyptus, cade rubber. It is simultaneously bone-dry, and sticky with chewy patchouli earthiness and the minty sweetness.
As time passes, the amber and vetiver elements becomes more dominant, and the birch-cade tar recedes, but it takes a lot of time and the rubber element never fully vanishes. What is interesting to me is the contrast between the mentholated, sweet peppermint, candy canes in the top layer, and the aged cognac in the bottom. In some ways, there is almost a peaty, single malt Scotch vibe to Private Label.
Around the second hour, when the juniper tar has receded to glower menacingly and threateningly from the sidelines, the other notes create a lovely winter bouquet from afar. I think of pine forests in the snow, candy canes on Christmas trees, aged cognac in a snifter beside a leather armchair by a warm, amber fire, and a chimney that is lightly smoking. It’s a visual that shatters whenever that resinous, burning,tar pops back up, skipping around different parts of my arm to show up at different times, and always taking me back to Mad Max in an apocalyptic world where the men are clothed in black, rubbery leather and the sole plant left on earth is a vetiver bush turned mutant through a napalm bomb.
The core essence of Private Label doesn’t change for hours on end. All that happens is a fluctuation in the prominence of certain notes, and a dropping of the fragrance’s sillage. After 60-minutes, Private Label hovers about 3 inches above my skin; by the end of the fourth hour, it is a skin scent, though it remains extremely potent when sniffed up close. The prominence of the smoke elements varies, with the birch tar seeming softer and more manageable for a brief period around the second hour. Then, suddenly, at the start of the third hour, Private Label somehow seems even smokier! Though the mentholated notes are much less, the vetiver has overtaken the birch tar as the dominant element, and my word, is it dark! I’ve never encountered vetiver that is quite so smoked. This is not smooth vetiver like in Chanel’s Sycomore, but some sort of mutant hybrid created in a peaty bonfire.
The vetiver continues to dominate the rest of Private Label’s development. By the end of the fourth hour, the perfume is a peppermint-eucalyptus vetiver over a soft amber infused with patchouli, cognac, leather, menthol, and the tiniest hint of sandalwood. It is soft in sillage, but still sharp and hard in actual scent. By the start of the seventh hour, Private Label is a peppermint vetiver over amber. The burnt rubber element continues to pop up here and there, hiding behind the other notes on some parts of my arm, while smelling of full-on acrid smoke and melting asphalt on a few tiny patches. In Private Label’s very final moments, the fragrance is merely a blur of woody sweetness with lingering traces of sharpness, rubber and smoke. All in all, it consistently lasted over 12 hours on my skin, with soft sillage but sharp notes.
I’m very torn on Private Label. The whole thing is a medley that, at times, fascinates and intrigues. At other times, however, it bewilders with a bit of cacophony, and those occasions tend to trump the more positive ones. From afar, it can be really pretty, but do you want a fragrance that you sometimes don’t dare to smell close up lest you singe your nostrils? I’m also not sure how versatile the perfume is, because it feels like a definite mood scent. Would anyone want to wear Private Label outside the snowy months of winter? Still, the seasonal issue doesn’t seem to matter so much as the gender one.
I generally believe that all fragrances are unisex in nature, but I think Private Label definitely skews more masculine. I suspect a number of women would recoil sharply at the fragrance, finding it medicinal, “chemical” (to quote one disgusted woman who smelled it on my arm), pungently aggressive, and unpleasantly rubbery. Hell, even some men do, judging by the reaction of Freddie from Smelly Thoughts. And he’s a chap with very avant-garde, extreme tastes!
However, I think that there is a narrow group of people who may very much enjoy Private Label: men and women who adore vetiver, but who also love birch tar, smoky fragrances, mentholated eucalyptus blends, and black leather notes. For me, it’s as though Andy Tauer’s Lonestar Memories and Naomi Goodsir‘s Bois d’Ascece had a swingers’ orgy with bucketfuls of tarry cade, a very hippie Woodstock patchouli, Santa Claus’ peppermint-eucalyptus muscle rub, Olivier Durbano‘s Black Tourmaline, and Serge Lutens‘ Fille en Aiguilles. Nine months later, the baby that resulted was Private Label.
If that sounds like an odd fragrance that is far too harsh, I should add that I also see softness lurking in Private Blend’s heart. On the right man and the right skin, Private Blend would be a smoking hot fragrance, oozing sex appeal. It is a scent that exudes tough, confident masculinity but with glimpses of an underlying softness and sensitivity. The smoky rubber side might seem appropriate for Christian Bale’s Dark Knight, but I can’t help but also see Gary Cooper or Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler wearing Private Label. Peppermints, tough leather, smoky woods, aged cognac, and amber seem like an incredibly sexy combination. If I close my eyes, I can actually conjure up the man who would wear this, and envision sniffing the scent wafting from his neck. It would be damn hot.
On Fragrantica, guys seem to love Private Label, calling it a fragrance that is unapologetically masculine, or perfect for a true vetiver lover. Take one commentator, “Alfarom,” who writes:
Probably my favorite among this line…at least so far.
A no-compromise, extremely woody-earthy, peatchouli-vetiver concoction enriched by warm leathery undertones (castoreum?) and dry sandalwood facets. What’s not to like? Absolutely assertive and straight forward. It has an overall “familiar” vibe which I can’t currently put my finger on but the general feel of the composition, is of something “pushed to the limits”.
If you like unapologetic, masculine, dark-&-dry fragrances, you have to try this.
Outstanding projection and extremely good lasting power.
Others echo his words and general impression:
- probably one of the most true to life vetiver fragrances out there. the leather creates something dark and smoky that is balanced by a good dose of sandalwood.
- One Of The Best Fragrances Money Can Buy, Fullstop
- As if a sandalwood/Champaca/patchouli incense stick has been liquefied. Resinous, smokey and altogether as perfectly done as any fragrance can get. There is a hint of sweetness that makes me reminisce of another fragrance, but I can’t put my finger on which one it is. Guaic wood isn’t mentioned but it seems to make an appearance.
- A very sexy, dry and smoky vetiver. This is a fragrance for true vetiver lovers. Very well balanced and a truly finished product. Excellent sillage and longevity. This one is a 10 out of 10 for me.
I think Private Label is too potentially difficult a scent to buy blindly (not that I ever recommend that in general!), and it’s certainly not for me, but I do think it would be a great fragrance for a very narrow group of people. If you love deeply smoky juniper cade, mentholated birch tar, rubbered black leather, chewy patchouli, and peaty, smoked vetiver, you should give Private Label a sniff. When I say that it would be “smokin’ hot,” I mean it in all senses of the phrase, good and bad….
Disclosure: I obtained my sample from Jovoy itself, but it was while I was in the store, browsing as a customer. My sample was not given to me for the purposes of a review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.