The desert is vast and still. Silence reigns under the thousand stars. Dawn is around the corner, and the Bedouins have just started to awake. Soon, they will feed the camels and put out their wares for trading. Soon, the sun will shine intensely upon the sandy dunes and the dry desert wind will pick up traces of the spices, mixing it with the dust and the scent of Morocco, filling the air with the riches of the ancient spice route and the mysteries of the desert.
That is the promise of L’Air du Desert Morocain Eau de Toilette Intense, a unisex fragrance by Tauer Perfumes. And it is a promise that it delivers upon, lock, stock and ten roaring barrels. It is an incredibly impressive perfume, created by a Swiss scientist who has absolutely zero formal training in perfume making, and it explains why both L’Air du Desert Marocain and the Tauer line of perfumes itself have become such a massive hit.
Tauer Perfumes was founded by Andy Tauer, a molecular biologist with a PhD who left the world of science in 2005 to become a perfumer. L’Air du Desert Marocain was his second creation, made to be a lighter version of his hit, Le Maroc pour Elle. And it has become not only adored, but, also, critically acclaimed. L’Air du Desert Marocain received a 5-star rating as a masterpiece from Luca Turin’s co-critic, Tania Sanchez, in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.
It is the smell of Morocco and is immensely evocative, but, for all that I think this is one absolutely marvelous scent and for all that I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrists in the beginning, I don’t think this is a scent for me. It is too dry, and one of those rare perfumes that I think actually leans a little too masculine (despite being unisex) and it is also something that would be hard to wear every day. But, on the right man, though, I think that it would be rhapsody and heaven — the sort of scent that would make another woman or man want to sniff him for days on end and to dream of his scent. On a man, this is a fragrance that could make his spouse or significant other find it impossible to keep his or her hands to themselves.
Head: Coriander and cumin, carefully blended with petitgrain.
Heart: A warm heart note with rock rose and a hint of jasmine.
Body:Dry cedar woods and vetiver, brilliantly joined on a fine ambergris background.
However, I have seen a fuller listing of notes elsewhere. For example, Bois de Jasmin gives what seems a much more comprehensive account, and that is what I’m going to work with:
coriander, petitgrain, bitter orange, lemon, bergamot, jasmine, labdanum, geranium, cedarwood, vetiver, vanilla, patchouli and ambergris.
L’Air du Desert Marocain opens with such forcefulness that my head spins. It is a good forcefulness, and I absolutely love it, but I recall Fragrantica‘s statement that this was made as a “lighter” version of Le Maroc Pour Elle and blink. Quite frankly, it is almost a little overwhelming in its spiciness, and I rarely say that. Yet, it explodes with such a marvelous opening that I find myself testing it out three different times on different places. And each opening was different.
The very first time, I got a very strong scent of orange petitgrain with spices. You can read more about petitgrain and all the various notes in the Glossary, but, in a nutshell, petitgrain is the distillation of the bitter twigs of a citrus tree, usually orange blossom. It is a woody, bitter, but highly aromatic scent. Here, the strongly woody, faintly bitter notes recall a wooded version of orange blossom. To my nose, there are also lovely saffron notes, mixed with spices. They are not easily identifiable, individually, but create an overall impression of a Middle Eastern spice market. The notes are sweet, but dry and far from cloying. There is, in fact, almost a smell of dust or dusty sand which suddenly explains one commentator on Fragrantica who disdainfully asked: “tell me, is one willing to smell like the baked, parched sediment that is sand?”
I happen to think that dry note is essential to cut through the extremely heady, powerful spice notes that are apparent from the very start. There are notes of woody, sweet incense and amber from the labdanum (also known as rockrose or cistus, and similar to ambergris). The incense in L’Air du Desert Marocain is some of the sweetest incense I’ve smelled in a while, perhaps because it is laden with the patchouli which is very rich, black, dirty, 70s kind of patchouli. The whole thing is very strong, and it never goes away, though it does fade to an underlying sweetness after about five hours. (Yes, this thing is a sillage and longevity monster!)
With the dust and wood undertones, I keep remembering an artsy, funky antique shop here which sells hundred-year old wooden Chinese apothecary cabinets; they smell faintly dusty, woody, and carry the lingering traces of old spices. I go to my own spice cabinet and drawers, hoping to pinpoint exactly what spices I’m smelling here. I find nothing. My coriander does not smell exactly like the coriander in L’Air du Desert Marocain, and neither does my cumin. But those are mere powders and, from interviews that I’ve read with Andy Tauer, he seems to use the most expensive oils and distillations. It certainly smells like it. You can smell the incredible quality of the perfume.
My second try with L’Air du Desert Marocain yielded a totally different, but equally fascinating, opening burst. This time, I smell lemoned coriander and tea. Amazing Earl Grey tea with notes of bergamot, an ingredient which falls between orange and lemon in scent. There is Earl Grey but there is also something else, something smokier, darker and almost tarred. It evokes Lapsang Souchang, a black tea which Wikipedia says “is distinct from all other types of tea because lapsang leaves are traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires, taking on a distinctive smoky flavour.” The black, bitter, smoky tea is tinged with pine notes but also the lightness of the bergamot and the piney aspect of cedar. I feel triumphant at finally pinning down one of the more elusive notes in the perfume, but I’m astounded at how different this opening is from my first go-round.
My third try yielded a mix of my prior two attempts. This time, the opening was of cedar, lemon, vetiver and pine needles with a strong element of dust. Actual dust! The wood and dust notes are complimented by the earthy sweetness and amber notes of the vetiver, but cedar is the predominant star here.
This undulating wave of shifting notes is, in my opinion, a characteristic of a “prismatic” scent. The Perfume Shrine has a very thorough explanation of scents which may appear linear but which, in reality, have prisms and shifting weights amongst several key components.
A variation on the linear scent is the “prism”/prismatic fragrance, whereupon you smell a humongous consistent effect all right, but when you squint this or that way, throughout the long duration, you seem to pick up some random note coming to the fore or regressing, then repeating again and again; a sort of “lather, rinse, repeat” to infinity. A good example of this sort of meticulously engineered effect is Chanel’s Allure Eau de Toilette (and not the thicker and less nuanced Eau de Parfum) where the evolution of fragrance notes defies any classical pyramidal structure scheme. There are six facets shimmering and overlapping with no one note predominating.
Here, with L’Air du Desert Marocain, sometimes the opening gave me notes like the petitgrain, orange and labdanum, sometimes bergamot, coriander and cedar, and sometimes a combination of all three, including the base or bottom notes (the heavier molecular compounds which last longer on the skin).
Regardless of which version I start out with, two hours in, the heart of L’Air du Desert Marocain starts to unfurl. It is labdanum, patchouli, and sweet incense with cedar and faint touches of cumin that, at this point, in no way smells like body odor or sweat. The overall impression is of spiced amber and perfumed wood. The sillage is slightly less overwhelming at this point, but there is still significant projection.
Three hours later, the cumin starts to turn and shift a little. There is a faint, tiny element of sweat that creeps in. If you’ve read any of my reviews for perfumes with cumin, you will know that I’m highly sensitive to the scent of cumin and its inevitable turn to a sweat note. It happens on me each and every time, whether it’s Serge Lutens’ Serge Noire or Amouage’s Jubiliation 25. And, each time, I struggle with it. Here, it is fainter than it was in Serge Noire but, still, 6.5 hours, I have to give a faintly worried sniff under my arms. It’s my own issue and my own neurosis because, again, my nose is extremely sensitive to cumin (it’s why I can rarely cook with it). Here, it’s very subtle, but the faint trace of body odor is definitely apparent at this point.
The cumin note doesn’t impede my enjoyment of the perfume’s dry-down which is rich and almost narcotically boozy in its smoky amber and patchouli. It’s not a cozy, “let’s snuggle under the blanket” sort of amber. This is far too incense-heavy for that. It’s more masculine and rugged — and much sexier. On a man, I can imagine his partner or spouse thinking, “let me nuzzle you, sniff you and run my hands over you.”
I can’t think of the person whom I think embodies the L’Air du Desert Marocain man. This is not for Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, nor for the Marlboro Man or John Wayne. The character which consistently comes to mind is the Bedouin chief, Ardeth Bay, played by Oded Fehr in The Mummy (1999). Or Omar Sharif’s character in Lawrence of Arabia.
Women can certainly wear L’Air du Desert Marocain and, again, it is officially a unisex scent “for women and men,” but I don’t think it’s the most versatile scent or the sort of thing that one could wear daily. In fact, some men on a Basenotes thread I read found that it was perhaps a little too much for them, too. That said, I think it’s a fantastic scent and well worth a sample for those who like their scents spicy and heady. It will take you to the deserts of Morocco and, if you’re lucky, make you feel like a Bedouin king.
Sillage & Longevity: This thing lasts and lasts! My skin consumes perfume voraciously and, yet, L’Air du Desert Marocain had serious projection or sillage for the first 2.5 hours, then slightly less for the next hour, and only becoming close to the skin a little under 5 hours in. Nonetheless, it was still easily detectable at that point any time I brought my nose to my wrist. In terms of longevity, it lasted just under 10 hours on me, which is pretty remarkable. On others, the fragrance is reported to last eons with only a few sprays, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasted a good 16 hours on someone, if not far more if you used a lot.
Cost & Availability in General: In the US, you can buy a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle for $125 from Luckyscent and The Perfume Shoppe, as well as directly from Tauer Perfumes from February 2013 onwards. (See further details below in the Tauer section.) If you want to order now from Lucky Scent, please be aware that they are backlogged until the end of January 2013 on all orders for the perfume. They also sell a sample vial for $4. Samples are available from Surrender to Chance as well, starting at $5.99. In Europe, First in Fragrance sells the perfume for €95.00 for a 1.7 oz/50 ml, or for €190.00 for a 3.4/100 ml bottle from. It too carries samples. In the UK, Les Senteurs carries the Tauer line but the online website only seems to carry samples, not the full bottles. It may be different in the actual stores, but you will have to check. I don’t know about the shipping rates for any of those sites. The Tauer website’s store locator also provides locations in over 10 countries — ranging from France and the Netherlands to Russia, Singapore, the UK, Poland, Romania, Spain and more — where its products are available. You can find that list of stores here.
Cost & Availability from the Tauer Website: The Tauer Perfumes website lists the cost of the 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle as as: Fr. 96.00 / USD 103.70 / EUR 79.70. Tauer Perfumes also sells a sample 1.5 ml/ 0.05 oz glass vial of L’Air du Desert Marocain for: Fr. 6.00 / USD 6.50 / EUR 5.00. Though they used to ship to most places in the world, you need to know that they can’t ship to a number of places in Europe right now and that they will only be able to ship to the U.S. from February 2013 onwards. For various reasons due to a sudden problem with their shipping supplier, as of this post in January 2013, they say that they can only ship to customers in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria. They also state they they hope to remedy this situation soon.
As a side note, the Tauer website also sells a sample Discovery Set of 5 different Tauer perfumes (for free shipping to most places in the world) which you can choose at will for: Fr. 31.00 / USD 33.50 / EUR 25.70. The website provides the following information:
Free selection: It is your choice to pick a set of 5 DISCOVERY SIZE perfume samples in glass spray vials. 1.5 ml each (0.75 ml of 0.75 ml of UNE ROSE CHYPRÉE or UNE ROSE VERMEILLE or CARILLON POUR UN ANGE) are at your disposal. Pick any scents from the Tauer perfumes range. The amounts of 1.5 (0.75 ml) are minimal amounts. Usually , we will ship around 2 ml (1ml). The DISCOVERY size vials are spray vials and will allow you to enjoy our fragrances for several days.
Packaging: The DISCOVERY SET comes in a glide-cover metal box for optimal protection.
Shipment: This product ships for free within 24 hours after we received your order world wide. Exceptions: Italy, United Kingdom, Russia, Belgium, Czech Republic.