Naomi Goodsir Or du Sérail: Harems, Hookahs & Gold

Sir Frank Dicksee, "Leila," 1892. Source:

Sir Frank Dicksee, “Leila,” 1892. Source:

An alcoholic harem master lies drunk in a pool of Calvados brandy in a seraglio made of amber, tobacco, and gold. A hookah lies next to a vat of booze, and wafts a fragrant fruitiness that mixes with the smell of musky cedar from the swamp which circles the harem like a moat and fortress barricade. Within the palace’s high walls is a small apple orchard dotted with bales of hay that are lightly coated with honey. In the lush gardens, exotic Indian davana flowers emit a tiny apricot scent, next to the custardy richness of ylang-ylang. At the palace’s heart is a courtyard where nubile concubines lounge on aromatic woody divans, dressed in thin silks made from vanilla. They dust their bodies with a light sprinkling of cocoa, as they nibble on toasted nuts and puff on a hookah. The sultan’s favorite, Leila, watches with a smile, glowing like a jewel in red and gold fabrics that match the stream of fruited liqueur pouring from a nearby fountain. The air is indolent, warm, musky, sweet, and filled with the smell of decadence, but darkness lies just around the corner. Slowly, shadows of tobacco and dry woods sweep over the ambered gold, covering it like an eclipse does the sun, until night finally falls over the harem. And, still, no-one bothers to help the drunken man collapsed in their midst. They all know what happens when you overindulge in the delights of the seraglio, or l’Or du Sérail.

John Frederick Lewis, "Reception," 1873. Source: Wikipedia

John Frederick Lewis, “Reception,” 1873. Source: Wikipedia

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Majda Bekkali Fusion Sacrée (Lui): Drunken Gourmand

“Rum is for drinking, not burning,” is the opinion of one hardcore rock group with a song by that same name. Apparently, Bertrand Duchaufour and Majda Bekkali think otherwise, judging by their fragrance Fusion Sacrée Pour Lui. It is a firmly unisex celebration of hot buttered rum that sets sail like a battleship in a sea of a thick, gooey caramel flecked by flotsam of sweet oranges, bitter neroli, lavender, coffee, vanilla, and seemingly every other element under the sun. The whole thing is then set on fire, burnt with smoke, though it does little to alter the vessel’s gourmand heart. Hours later, it washes up on vanilla sands where it rests in a haze of sweetness.

Wallpaper by Njanj. Source:

Wallpaper by Njanj. Source:

Majda Bekkali launched her eponymous perfume house — Majda Bekkali Parfums or Majda Bekkali Sculptures Olfactives — in 2010. According to her website, she did so after years of developing fragrances for luxury brands because she wished to move away from commercial imperatives and marketing approaches. Initially, Ms. Bekkali began with two fragrances for her new house but, in 2012 or 2013, she released Fusion Sacrée.

Fusion Sacrée via Luckyscent.

Fusion Sacrée via Luckyscent.

The eau de parfum comes in dual Men’s and Women’s versions, both of which were created by Bertrand Duchaufour. In my opinion, Fusion Sacrée Pour Lui is, despite its name, a very unisex fragrance, thanks to its richly gourmand heart. Speaking of names, Luckyscent calls the scent Fusion Sacrée Obscur (Lui), but that seems unusual. “Obscur” is also not part of the perfume’s title on Ms. Bekkali’s website, where it is listed as “Fusion Sacrée Pour Lui.” (For convenience and speed, from this point forth, I’ll simply call the fragrance, “Fusion Sacrée.”)

On her website, The Sculptures Olfactives, Majda Bekkali describes Fusion Sacrée as follows:

A battle of contrasting forces is at the heart of everything. A divinely balanced equilibrium.

A contrasting note which in the first place proposes its delicious, mouth-watering facet with a drop of rum and celery and an outpouring of opulent spices. Fusion Sacrée Obscur then reveals a voluptuous and velvety heart where creamy notes of white coffee and tuberose unite. The base notes are earthy, woody and resinous conferring this miraculous moment of sacred fusion with a vibrant and unforgettable aura.

Caramelized sauce amberAccording to Luckyscent, the many notes in Fusion Sacrée include:

Rum, citron, celery, sweet orange, neroli, cardamom, lavender, davana, bergamot, white coffee, tuberose absolute, cloves, geranium, sweet william pear, liquorice, benzoin resinoid, opoponax [sweet myrrh] resinoid, ambergris, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, caramel and musk.

There are 23 notes on that list, and I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say that they all hit me at once when I put Fusion Sacrée on my skin. At once. Simultaneously. All of them! Well, all right, there is a wee bit of hyperbole, simply because the tuberose, cloves, sandalwood, and davana flower took a little longer to show up, but, honestly, I felt as though I’d been hit by a force-field of incredibly strong, multifaceted olfactory notes.



Fusion Sacrée really is that intense of an opening salvo, especially if you commit the error that I did the first time around and apply a lot. In the case of Fusion Sacrée, though, “a lot” is quite a relative thing; 3 sprays from my tiny atomizer (or the equivalent of 2 good sprays from an actual bottle) sent me reeling. You really need to get used to this scent and its concentrated richness. The second time around was better, because I expected the early blast and had steeled myself. In fact, I generally prefer really potent, strong fragrances but good God, that first time….! And even on subsequent wearings, working my way up with cautiously larger amounts and a slow sense of adjustment, even then, Fusion Sacrée is quite something.

Source: Chef Keem at

Source: Chef Keem at

Part of the issue is the nuclear velocity of the perfume in the opening half-hour, but I found myself equally overwhelmed by the sheer deluge of notes. I could smell a good 15 of those 23 ingredients in the mere opening seconds alone, but they don’t hit you one after another. No, they hit your nose simultaneously. The most obvious, dominant elements are burnt sugar, rum, fierce artemisia, bitter neroli, syrupy orange, green celery, amorphous spices, buttered caramel, nutty sweet myrrh, dusty cardamom and lavender. These are just the most obvious ones….


Source: (website link to recipe for caramel sauce embedded within. Click on photo.)

Fusion Sacrée is overpoweringly cloying, syrupy sweet, pungent, bitter, green, herbal, boozy, woody, spicy, and gourmand, all at once. My initial notes are headlined by “drunken gourmand,” in capital letters with lots of exclamation marks, and a few mutterings about “Sybil” (or multi-personality disorder). Yet, for all that Fusion Sacrée is meant to be a boozy fragrance, its core essence doesn’t translate to actual “rum” to my nose. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a lot of sweet liqueur in Fusion Sacrée, especially in its opening hour, but the dominant impression I always have is of generalized syrupy, sweet goo.

The caramel, hot buttered rum, and sticky orange sherbet congeal into a giant, dense ball. From its curves jut out other elements like little shards of coloured glass: bitter green neroli, pungent purple lavender, cream-laced coffee, and burnt black smoke, to name just a few. In fact, the hard, dense mass of diabetic sugariness throws out random notes like a disco ball. They vary in their prominence and role, making it even harder to dissect the perfume as I usually do.

Artemisia Absinthium

Artemisia Absinthium

There are a few notes that stand out amidst that buttered, orange-caramel syrup. On my skin, the artemisia (or wormwood) is particularly powerful with its very sharp, woody, green bitterness. Artemisia is a note that was used in absinthe liquor and, according to one Basenotes thread, is also central to Krizia Uomo, Aramis, and One Man Show fragrances where it was used for its long-lasting, intense pungency.

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

Here, its green forcefulness in Fusion Sacrée is matched by equal amounts of neroli. They infuse the hot buttered, diabetes-inducing goo with intense bitterness, and, yet, none of it balances out. In fact, in a strange feat, the end result feels even more cloying and sickly to me. Honestly, this odd match of green, extremely sharp bitterness with extreme sweetness may be the most difficult part of the entire scent for me. Have you ever bitten deep into the rind of an orange? If so, you know how you get that bitter oil lying thickly like a mealy layer in your mouth? Well, imagine that taste multiplied tenfold, then covered by heavy caramel, sharp bitter herbs, pungent lavender, Bourbon vanilla, and hot buttered rum. That is what Fusion Sacrée reminds me of, and I find it much worse than the perfume’s sweetness.

Coffee with cream. Source:

Coffee with cream. Source:

Other elements are tossed into the mix as well, though they are hardly as dominant on my skin. There are brief, subtle pops of geranium, usually manifesting themselves as the slightly peppered, fuzzy leaves. During one test of Fusion Sacrée, using a slightly higher dosage, there was even a moment of tart tanginess from the orange, but it was soon blanketed by the hot buttered rum. After 20 minutes, even more notes arrive. There is a lovely dose of coffee, followed by hints of black licorice, and a burst of smoke. The coffee note is smooth, creamy, but also a tad spicy, thanks to a light dusting of cardamom. I wish the it were stronger, but the coffee is an extremely subtle, small wave in the tsunami of hot, buttered, boozy, caramel, orange, artemisia and neroli.

It is probably at this point that I should repeat what regular readers know full well. I’m not particularly enamoured with the gourmand genre. I don’t have a sweet tooth when it comes to perfumery, which makes Fusion Sacrée even harder for me to deal with. In addition, my skin amplifies both base notes and sweetness as a whole, though Fusion Sacrée is clearly intended to be an over-the-top boozy gourmand on everyone. It is loved for precisely that reason, and the perfume certainly accomplishes its task well.

I may not be in Fusion Sacrée’s target audience, but I struggle with the perfume for other reasons. To be honest, this is one perfume that has too much going on even for me! It feels as though someone told Bertrand Duchaufour, “More. No, more, more, more. No, I mean it, seriously, I want MORE!” And he so responded by throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the wall, to mix one’s metaphors, to see if that would finally be enough. I would like Fusion Sacrée if the balance didn’t feel so grossly out-of-whack, with certain elements being as overpowering as a Five Alarm Fire.



The degree of ridiculous excess is clearly intentional, for there is no other way to explain it, especially from a master of finesse like Bertrand Duchaufour. Majda Bekkali must have specifically sought everything from the diabetic sweetness that hurts my teeth, to the overpowering barrage of notes that shoot out at you in the opening minutes like bullets fired from a .50 caliber rifle. All this makes Fusion Sacrée a scent that is heaven for many people. I, unfortunately, am not one of them.

Nonetheless, I fully recognize the skill behind Fusion Sacrée. For one thing, it is a very prismatic scent, something which is never easy to accomplish. As a result, the exact progression of notes has never been precisely identical on the different occasions that I have worn it. Sometimes, the nutty sweetness of the opoponax is more apparent in the opening hour, at other times the licorice, clove, and geranium. Cedar flits in and out like a darting bee, and there is always a subtle suggestion of celery that lingers as a very disorienting, odd touch.

Sulphur smoke at an Indonesia mine. Photo by Andy VC. Source:

Sulphur smoke at an Indonesia mine. Photo by Andy VC. Source:

Yet, the mass at the heart of Fusion Sacrée doesn’t change enormously until the end of the first hour. At that point, the smoke suddenly intensifies, if one can even call it smoke. The note is extremely hard to explain, but it is simultaneously a bit sulphurous, a bit like burnt plastic, and a bit like badly singed woods — all at once. The first time that I tested Fusion Sacrée, something about the scent reminded me of how really concentrated honey can feel sharp and burnt to the point of actual sulphur smoke. The second time I tested Fusion Sacrée I was reminded instead of the smell of burnt plastic. Neither description actually fits the smell perfectly, but they’re as close as I can come to convey the oddness of that “smoky” accord.

I don’t like either version. I particularly don’t like how it adds to Fusion Sacrée’s strange discordance. Diabetic sweetness, artemisia bitterness, unctuous buttered hot rum, pungent herbs, sticky orange sherbet syrup, caramel, coffee, celery, and now some sulphurous smoke. (Celery? Seriously? With everything else?! Why, for the love of God, why?!)

tuberoseThen, making matters more difficult is the sudden, ghostly burst of a green tuberose that pops up. Yes, tuberose, on top of everything else. It darts about with the other tertiary notes, like the cedar and the occasional whisper of sweet myrrh. None of them are prominent or key aspects of the perfume on my skin, least of all the tuberose, but they add to the dizzying quality of the scent. God, I wanted to like Fusion Sacrée so much, and yet I frequently found myself feeling utterly queasy instead. Like, “get it off me, I feel sick” queasy. It is probably the fault of my skin, amplifying the sweetness, but Fusion Sacrée on my skin is both cloying and completely nauseating.

The perfume’s potency doesn’t help matters. This is one powerful scent, even for me with my admittedly skewed love for fragrance bombs. In the opening minutes, Fusion Sacrée wafted a good 6 inches around me with a few tiny squirts from the atomizer. To put this into context, 3 atomizer spritzes of Fusion Sacrée felt to me like the equivalent of 5 sprays of Coromandel from an actual bottle, all applied to the same area. Another equivalent example, 4 large sprays of either Hard Leather or Alahine. All of these fragrances are very potent at the start, but even a small amount of Fusion Sacrée can easily match them.

Yet, Fusion Sacrée is also imbued with a surprising airiness. A reader of the blog, Tim, who kindly gifted me with my sample of the Fusion Sacrée is a huge Bertrand Duchaufour fan. Tim coined the perfect phrase to describe the perfumer’s signature style: “heavy weightlessness.” That is precisely the situation with Fusion Sacrée. The cloud that billows out around you may feel like a ten-ton frigate, but the forcefulness of the notes belies their actual lightness. At the end of the first hour, the powerful sillage drops, and Fusion Sacrée hovers a mere 1-2 inches above the skin. (Yes, I was grateful. No, it did not help my nausea.)

Photo: Anita Chu via

Photo: Anita Chu via

Fusion Sacrée may be quite prismatic when it comes to its notes, but the perfume itself is rather linear as a whole. I frequently say that there is nothing wrong with linearity if one likes the notes in question, and I hold to that view here. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this marvel of gourmand engineering if that is your personal cup of tea. Fusion Sacrée glorifies hot buttered rum and caramel syrup to an impressive degree.

At the start of the third hour, the fragrance hovers just above the skin, but the gourmand cocktail is imbued with a growing amount of dryness. There is also a very nebulous tinge of woodiness that lurks in the shadows, though it never reads as “sandalwood” to me. At most, there is a touch of cedar. By the start of the 4th hour, Fusion Sacrée is a skin scent centered around buttered caramel, sticky orange, bitter artemisia, neroli, vanilla, and burnt notes (that are occasionally sulphurous), all on a warm, golden base.

Image "delicious caramel cream" by Scaloperion on

Image “delicious caramel cream” by Scaloperion on

A few hours later, all the notes lose their shape and individual distinction. They blend seamlessly into each other, as Fusion Sacrée turns into an abstract haze of golden, sticky, resinous sweetness with vanilla, smoky dryness, and a lingering but subtle vein of green bitterness. In its final moments, the fragrance is a mere coating of sweetness. All in all, Fusion Sacrée lasted a little over 11.5 hours with 3 atomizer sprays, with that number rising or dropping depending on how much more or less of the fragrance I applied. Generally, Fusion Sacrée turns into a skin scent on me around the 4th hour, though it’s easy to detect until a good number of hours later.

I seem to be in a distinct, tiny minority when it comes to Fusion Sacrée, for this is one very beloved scent. Some bloggers didn’t find the sweetness to be intolerably cloying at all, though I don’t know what their definitional standards or tastes are like when it comes to gourmand scents as a general rule. Take, for example, Ron from Notable Scents who found Fusion Sacrée to be “sweet but not overly sweet.” He added that “[t]his is a gorgeous scent which is sold as a masculine but could easily be worn by women.” One reason is that Fusion Sacrée’s “base is a snuggly mix of caramel, vanilla, and woods.”



Mark Behnke who wrote about Fusion Sacrée on CaFleureBon also enjoyed the sweetness, writing:

Fusion Sacree for Men is connected to its feminine partner by tuberose in the heart and benzoin in the base. Despite that Fusion Sacree for Men strongly displays its genetics with a deep resinous woody chest bump. Cardamom, orange, and lavender whisper across the early moments before M. Duchaufour uncorks a bottle of rum. M. Duchaufour is much too versatile a perfumer to be pigeonholed by one note but speaking solely for myself when he adds rum to the early going of a perfume he makes it always seems to work for me. It is probably why I often envision M. Duchaufour as a bit of a pirate. The boozy rum accord finally starts to be pushed aside by tuberose but the tuberose is accompanied by clove to accentuate the mentholated quality of the tuberose over the sweeter aspects. Geranium also keeps it slightly greener than you might expect from tuberose. The base begins with an unusual candied diptych as M. Duchaufour combines licorice and caramel. The bite of really good black licorice is tempered with the thick nature of caramel. This combination is so surprisingly good I look forward to its appearance every time I wear Fusion Sacree for Men. Benzoin, opoponax, ambergris, musk and sandalwood apply the finishing depth.  I wore Fusion Sacree for Men on the first bitterly cold day of 2013 and it was a perfect companion under my cashmere sweater.



On Fragrantica, the vast majority of people absolutely adore the fragrance. Five reviews use the word “masterpiece,” while others opt instead for gushing raves. To give just one example of the latter:

Before Fusion Sacree, there were none; after Fusion Sacree there will be no more. I hope I have everyone’s undivided attention…This stuff is so good it made me edit my other reviews. This aroma is competitive to all the gourmand greats such as Gourmand Coquin, Ambre Naugille, etc. So many notes to choose from where do I start.. A rummy opening aggregated with extreme caramel capsized by tons of harvest. There’s also a slight smokey ingredient that I have yet to figure out. To sum up everything, Rum and Caramel headlines the scent throughout making pit stops to each note. The Rum and Caramel then races back onto the track in search of the next set of notes to tangle with. IMMEDIATE WORDS: Comforting, Smooth, Sweet, Dandy, Delicate, Delicious, Week at the knees, Will You Marry Me. It would be disrespectful to call this sublime. The word to describe this haven’t been concocted.

A woman wrote that she didn’t care if Fusion Sacrée is for men, she had to have it. Really, the fragrance is so unisex, she shouldn’t have to worry about ridiculous gender marketing. It would be like calling Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille a scent that is meant only for one gender. Nonsense! Speaking of vanilla, I should add that one chap found that note to dominate on his skin, instead of the boozy rum: “A masterpiece indeed for gourmand lovers. Very vanilla on me. I was hoping for more rum and licorice.”

I was more interested in two other comments. First, one Fusion Sacrée admirer warned that you need to go easy on the trigger when applying the perfume, which is excellent advice. Second, I was glad to see a second person notice the odd, smoky element underlying Fusion Sacrée:

Ok, this one is getting on me. A true gem I have to say. At first I wasn’t blown away by this, but after a few testing and wearings this one gets better and better. It’s so good that this will be one of my favorite fall/winter scents. And I’m not talking about the amazing gourmand vibe from the caramel and the rum, the vanilla and amber sweetness, no, what I really love is the smokiness that kicks this scent into another level. I don’t know where this bonfire smoke comes from, but I guess it’s the amber in combination with the musk that is of superb quality. This smoke melts every note into a notes trip through the whole process from beginning to end. This one makes you hunger for chilly fall days and cold winter evenings.



In the midst of Fragrantica’s love fest for Fusion Sacrée, a rare handful were distinctly unenthused:

why is this shit right here so overhyped ? it smells like celery mixed with rum. who whants to smell like that?? if you want a nice caramel scent go for a men. it beats the shit out of this one.

The other review entailed too many strings of “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz”s denoting extreme boredom to be worth quoting, but the basic bottom line is that the reviewer found Fusion Sacrée to be largely generic in nature.

As you can see, my perspective on Fusion Sacrée is distinctly that of the odd man out. Perhaps it’s because my skin amplifies sweetness, or perhaps it’s because I don’t share the current obsession with syrupy gourmands. It’s probably both those things, combined with the nature of the scent itself: a discordant, chaotic barrage of notes. For me, Fusion Sacrée is not a case of “everything but the kitchen sink” because the sink actually has been tossed in as well — along with every other contradictory note in sight.

That would still be fine in many cases. I love complicated, complex fragrances, not to mention powerhouses, but there needs to be harmony and balance when you have a profusion of contradictory notes. I found neither here in the juxtaposition of cloying goo with pungent bitterness, sharp herbal elements, syrupy fruits, dessert caramels, coffee, tuberose, hot buttered rum, and a burnt plastic note that verged on sulphurous smoke. In fact, I would give anything to know how the creative process went with Bertrand Duchaufour, because I suspect his personal tastes skew towards a much more finessed approach than this explosion of excess. But over-the-top excess seems to be what the client wanted, and it’s what he delivered. In spades.

If gourmand fragrances are your passion, do not listen to a thing I say. Go order a sample of Fusion Sacrée immediately, as there is every likelihood that you will fall in love with it. If you’re a woman, then pay no heed to the “Lui” or Men’s label, as this is a fragrance that you could easily wear so long as you enjoy booziness to go with your sweetness. Plus, it is very affordable (in the skewed world of niche prices) at a “low” $125 for a 50 ml bottle.

However, if you’re one of the rare few nowadays who dislikes ultra sweet fragrances and whose skin amplifies such notes, then it should be obvious by now that Fusion Sacrée is one to avoid. You might end up huddled in a foetal position, rocking back and forth with queasiness, and whimpering Lady Macbeth’s refrain at your tainted arms, “out, damned spot! Out, I say!”

That may or may not have happened to me….

Cost & Availability: Fusion Sacrée (Lui) is an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes. There is a 50 ml bottle which costs $125 or €90; and a 120 ml/4 oz bottle which costs $230 or €185. In the U.S.: you can find Fusion Sacrée in both sizes at Luckyscent and MinNY. Outside the U.S.: Majda Bekkali has a website with an e-store, but Fusion Sacrée is, oddly enough, not one of the handful of choices available. In France, you can find Fusion Sacree at Paris’ Jovoy for €189 for the large 4 oz bottle. Germany’s First in Fragrance has both sizes for €90 and €189, respectively, as does Italy’s Alla Violetta. In the U.K., Majda Bekkali’s fragrance’s are sold at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie on the 5th floor of Harrods. In Russia, you can find Fusion Sacrée at ry7. For all other European vendors from Armenia to many others in Russia, you can turn to Majda Bekkali’s Store Locator page. Alas, I don’t think Majda Bekkali is carried in Australia, Oceana, the Middle East, or Asia. Samples: I obtained my sample from a friend, but you can order from Luckyscent or MinNY. You can also try The Perfumed Court where prices start at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.

Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin: Baroque Grandeur

Blenheim Palace. Photo: (Website link embedded within.)

One small part of Blenheim Palace, England. Photo: (Website link embedded within.)

Somewhere in an alternate universe, there must surely be a European palace that smells of Chypre Palatin. The massive, stony Neo-Classical structure opens onto a vast entrance hall decorated with mossy, emerald velvet and gold in an opulently ornate Baroque and Rococo style. An enormous chandelier hangs from the vaulted ceilings painted in citrus yellow, ambered gold, delicately pastel florals, and more mossy greens. Light sparkles off the prisms, bouncing into ambered air filled with just a trace of incense.

Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via

Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via

The vast hall gives way to a long, mirrored passage way filled with dancing ghosts called Shalimar, Bal à Versailles, Sacrebleu Intense, Coromandel, Habit Rouge. and Yvresse/Champagne. They blow you scented kisses, and the aroma melts into the citrus and mosses that waft off the velvet covering the walls, mixing with the vanilla that seeps up from the floors. The Bal à Versailles ghost is particularly naughty, flashing you her knickers and a glimpse of her musky, naked breasts. It seems as though you’re in that ornate passageway forever, but after a few hours you enter the heart of the house. The royal bedchambers are decorated with more velvet, this time in shades of resinous black, vanilla custard cream, golden amber, and refined patchouli brown. There, you curl up to sleep, covered in aromas like the finest, sheerest, but richest, silks that glide over you in a whisper of softened, ambered sweetness. That is the palace of Chypre Palatin.

Drottningholm Palace, Sweden. Photo: CubeFarmEscape at

Drottningholm Palace, Sweden. Photo: CubeFarmEscape at

Chypre Palatin is an eau de parfum created by the famous Bertrand Duchaufour for Parfums MDCI. The French niche house was founded in 2003 by Claude Marchal with a specific philosophy: that perfumes “should be an art more than an industry, a source of pleasure, pride and beauty more than a commodity.” Mr. Marchal was inspired by the luxurious opulence of the Renaissance, and the masterpieces that came out of it: the palaces of Catherine de Medici; the lush gardens of the Luxembourg; Greek and Roman antiquities; gold and rock-crystal vases; the vast treasures of Louis XIV, the Sun King, or those found in Florence’s Uffizi museum and Vienna’s Treasure Room.

Parfums MDCI decided to ask the world’s most famous perfumers to make a small number of fragrances with almost total freedom, and a no-holds-barred, unlimited budget. There were only two caveats: use the most expensive, richest ingredients possible; and don’t create scents that copy trends or caters to the crowd. The cost didn’t matter, but excellence did, no matter how long it took. Parfums MDCI is not one of those houses that puts out several fragrances at year, let alone several collections every few months. (Tom Ford, I’m glaring straight at you.) In fact, Parfums MDCI had only 5 fragrances in their line at first, but the number has slowly risen over the years to include 8 more scents. Chypre Palatin was released in 2012 and, as noted earlier, was made by Bertrand Duchaufour.

Chypre Palatin, regular Tassel Bottle. Source: First in Fragrance.

Chypre Palatin, regular Tassel Bottle. Source: First in Fragrance.

First in Fragrance has what looks like the official press release description for Chypre Palatin, as well as the most complete set of notes that I’ve found. I think the description is accurate to large degree, so I’ll quote it in full, even though it is quite long:

The opening is green, a warm, woody and strong green, peppered with a few hyacinths, garnished with the fragrant ripe flesh of clementines, spiced with a sprig of lavender and a hint of thyme. All this creates cozy, warm frissons, intrigues and generates a great appetite for more.

The skilled use of aldehydes lets Chypre Palatin shine, but without getting into too-familiar waters. We can already imagine the soft growl of a wild cat. She lolls pleasurably, full of devotion and delight on the sun-warmed forest floor, crushing the dark velvety roses, iris, gardenia and jasmine. It is so mysterious that our senses are in turmoil. Here and there, dried fruit and peppery Oriental spices join this lascivious game of the lioness as her birth-giving becomes more enticing and the fire blazes.

Here is masculine animality and feminine lust perfectly united and masterfully enacted. It is an indulgence and a stroll in brocade and velvet, courted by the most beautiful leather and the delicate touch of Immortelle. Balsam of Tolu and vanilla show themselves along with the extreme complexity of benzoin and storax that perfectly harmonize with typical chypre oak moss.

Chypre Palatine seems to have fallen directly through time where nostalgic, magnificent ball-nights combine with wild cat-like grace and flirt with the melting of feminine and masculine fragrant notes on the skin.

Top Note: Hyacinth, Clementine, Aldehydes, Labdanum (Rockrose), Galbanum, Thyme, Lavender
Heart Note: Rose, Jasmine, Iris, Prune, Gardenia
Base Note: Benzoin, Storax, Leather, Vanilla, Balsam of Tolu, Castoreum, Costus, Oakmoss, Everlasting Flower [Immortelle].



Chypre Palatin opens on my skin with mossy sharpness infused with bright, sun-sweetened tangerines, zesty lemon, and tons of smoky sweetness from the styrax resin, along with a hint of its leathered underpinnings. In the base, there is a rich plumminess mixed with incense and leather. A quiet floracy weaves through the top notes, though it’s impossible at this point to tease them out. Seconds later, the castoreum and animalic costus root arrive. Costus root is something that gave vintage Kouros is urinous growl, but here, it add a civet-like muskiness that is perfectly balanced. Sharp and definitely a bit skanky, but never urinous. It’s damn sexy. My God, is this a sexy perfume.



Completing the picture are sparkling aldehydes, and the dark, green pungency of galbanum. Now, I normally struggle with both notes, as galbanum can be painfully sharp in its green-blackness, while aldehydes often turn to pure soap on my skin. Not here. Not with Chypre Palatin. They are so perfectly calibrated, I can’t get over it.



The aldehydes combine with the utterly spectacular, velvety, rich oakmoss (how can this perfume be IFRA compliant???!) to conjure up the fizzy, sparkling elegance of YSL’s gorgeous fruity chypre, Champagne or Yvresse. The galbanum somehow manages to evoke the famous Bandit from Robert Piguet, only in approachable, less dangerous or brutal form. There is something of Bandit’s green leathered feel lurking about that normally difficult note, but it’s just the faintest suggestion and somehow serves to amplify the overall depth of the oakmoss. The latter never feels fusty, dusty, or like grey mineralized lichen, but it’s not the bright, fresh, springy moss note generated by patchouli, either. On my skin, it smells like really expensive oakmoss — and a lot of it. I really have no idea how this perfume passed IFRA/EU compliance tests. Whatever combination of elements or tricks Bertrand Duchaufour used to create this vision of endless, forest-green velvet, it really feels genuine.

Bal à Versailles.

Bal à Versailles.

The overall effect of the avalanche of notes that falls over me is not just the impression of incredibly baroque grandeur, but a flashback to the past. Chypre Palatin feels like a greatest hits remix of: Bandit, Shalimar, Habit RougeChampagne/Yvresse, Coromandel, and vintage Bal à Versailles. I’m not complaining. Not one bit. In fact, I gulped at the opening, said “Oh my God,” promptly dabbed on some more, and then felt like one of those possessed figures you see in horror movies whose head spins around and around. Only here, I was joyously possessed by such incredibly opulence, such intense deepness, and sensual headiness in such a seamless, luxurious blend that I didn’t know what to take in first.

The Green Velvet Room at Hardwick Castle, England. Photo: NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie.

The Green Velvet Room at Hardwick Castle, England. Photo: NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie.

Yet, Chypre Palatin is more than various parts of its ghostly, perfume predecessors, and is quite its own thing. Yes, it is retro and classique; the fougère elements, the aldehydes, galbanum, oakmoss, and skanky touches all harken to the past. However, it also feels modern with the definite oriental foundation. This isn’t a Chypre to me, not even at first, but a Chypre-Oriental hybrid done with a lightness that belies the heaviness of its super-rich notes. Perhaps the most modern aspect of Chypre Palatin for me is that careful calibration that I talked about earlier. There is none of the excess of the past, whether it is vintage Bal à Versailles’ hardcore, dirty, skank, Bandit’s brutal bite, or the tidal waves of aldehydes in any number of classics from the 1920s Chanel No. 5 to the 1970s Van Cleef & ArpelsFirst. Everything here is measured, to the point of being super refined, even muffled to an extent. Perhaps that is why I keep envisioning extremely thick, forest green, velvet curtains around a four-poster bed, drowning out the sound.



Yet, there are dainty touches that subtly waft around the baroque splendour. Delicate hyacinth adds a floral pastel colour to the opulent decor, while the iris brings in a touch of sweet, powdered suede. Initially, I don’t detect the lavender in any concrete, individual way, but after ten minutes, a definite strain of something herbal creeps in. It’s not the revolting, pungent, almost abrasive dried sort that evokes barber shops or something medicinal. Instead, it’s creamy, slowly turning into lavender-vanilla icecream. Tiny pops of bright colour come from the yellow citruses, while the orange tangerine brings in a dash of sweetness.

Chypre Palatin sometimes feels more like a seamless movement of notes, a piece of richly elaborate music, or a mood than a set of distinct notes. It rolls over you like a plush, seamless mix that is simultaneously mossy, fresh, dark, bright, animalic, fruity, leathered, smoky, resinous, vanillic, skanky, and sparkling. It overwhelms my senses, in the best way possible. Coincidentally, around the time that I sat down to do a full, proper test of Chypre Palatin, I put in a DVD of Carmen, the opera from Bizet. (No, I swear, contrary to what it may seem like these days, I don’t listen only to opera! My favorite groups are actually Rammstein and Depeche Mode, and I also tend to listen to a lot of ’80s music.) In any event, Carmen’s overture is pretty famous, one of those things that many people will recognise once they hear it, and I’ll be damned if the movement of the music didn’t feel exactly like the movement of Chypre Palatin in the first hour.

So, the best way I can convey to you how Chypre Palatin’s opening feels like to me is to share with you this short, 2 minute clip of Carmen’s overture. Take note of the rapidity of the musicians’ movements, their enormous precision, the music’s moments of daintiness, the occasional bursts of something darker from the drums, and how seamlessly everything fits together. They manage to create a mix that has sparkling vibrancy, symphonic complexity and opulent intensity. For me, it’s not only catchy but representative of Chypre Palatin’s initial deluge of notes:


It’s hard to decide what is my favorite part of the scent’s opening phase. At first, my favorite part of Chypre Palatin is the skank naughtiness that lurks in the base. It strongly evokes Bal à Versailles, but MDCI’s version lacks the powderiness and extreme dirtiness of the famous legend. Ten minutes later, like the most fickle person imaginable, I decide the real beauty is not the faintly raunchy take on oakmoss, but the way the fruits are so beautifully nestled into the dark styrax. Out of all the resins, that is the one which is the least sweet, the most smoky and leathered. Then again, the growing flickers of labdanum is gorgeous, as is the subtle patchouli. They show up after 20 minutes, with the labdanum giving a quiet touch of nutty toffee in the base.

Tolu Balsam. Source:

Tolu Balsam. Source:

On the other hand, Tolu Balsam is my second favorite resin (after Peru Balsam), and it adds a rich, opulent, treacly layer to the base. It is faintly spiced with what feels like cinnamon, but it is also infused with a growing sense of vanilla. Something about the overall combination of the citrus-flecked oakmoss on top, with the smoky, leathered, animalic, resinous and vanillic accords at the bottom, keeps bringing vintage Shalimar to mind, as well as Shalimar’s cologne counterpart, Habit Rouge, and Shalimar’s descendant, Parfums de Nicolai‘s Sacrebleu Intense. Shalimar has Peru Balsam (a brother to the Tolu kind in Chypre Palatin), along with citruses, vanilla, civet, rose, jasmine, orris, and leathered, smoky touches. Those notes are either the same as, or one tiny degree apart from, the notes in Chypre Palatin. It’s the same story with Habit Rouge, though I think that has Chypre Palatin’s styrax instead of either Tolu or Peru Balsam. In contrast, Sacrebleu Intense is more overtly floral but also shares fruits, vanilla, cinnamon, smoke, patchouli and the same tolu balsam base. 

There are obvious differences, however, primarily the heady and hefty amounts of greenness in Chypre Palatin. For the first few hours, that is the dominant colour of the scent, mostly from the oakmoss but also from small strains of the galbanum and patchouli. The oakmoss is thoroughly lemony and slightly fruity, though the latter is never strongly sweet. The herbal and lavender accord fades away extremely quickly on my skin, thereby ensuring that Chypre Palatin never ventures into cologne or barbershop territory.

Chandelier reflections


It’s very hard to deconstruct Chypre Palatin because it is a prismatic scent. By that, I mean that the perfume throw off different notes like light hitting crystals on a chandelier, with each wearing revealing different facets at different times. Part of it, again, is how beautifully Bertrand Duchaufour has blended the fragrance, as well as the obviously expensive, high-quality of the ingredients. Chypre Palatin doesn’t change dramatically in its core essence for the next few hours, but different notes feel highlighted at different times. Sometimes, it is the vanilla; at other times, the skank, the leather, citruses or resins take turns. At all times for the first 4 hours, those notes radiate out from the green-velvet oakmoss core. The weakest elements on my skin are the hyacinth, lavender, orange, iris and jasmine. In fact, the overall floral accord is the hardest to tease out into individual notes. The jasmine might be the most noticeable one, but, as a whole, you merely have the sense of a truly lush, velvety, oakmoss-infused “floral bouquet.”

The more obvious change to Chypre Palatin over time is not the development of a particular note, but the perfume’s sillage and weight. At first, it wafted out about 3 inches from the skin. The overall bouquet feels much thicker and heavier than it actually is, since the perfume itself is quite airy in weight. Chypre Palatin is so potent up close, that it feels opaque, concentrated and ornate. That is deceptive and fools you into not realising how the projection is slowly dropping, but it’s hard to miss after 45 minutes. Chypre Palatin turns thinner, lighter, and less rich in weight. It also becomes very soft and discreet in projection, wafting an inch above the skin by the end of the first hour.

90 minutes in, Chypre Palatin is a blur of vanilla, citruses and oakmoss, trailed by incense, dark resins, and a subtle, muted touch of very abstract florals. Unfortunately, you have to sniff hard to detect all the layers and details because, from afar, Chypre Palatin seems primarily like a vanilla-oakmoss scent with some citruses. The vanilla is lovely, though. Smooth, deep, air-whipped, and with only a dash of sweetness. It’s too gauzy to feel like custard, but there is a wonderful eggy richness to it.

Still, everything else seems to have collapsed on each other like a house of cards blowing over. It’s partially the fault of how well-blended and seamless the fragrance is; all the secondary notes have melted into each other. Only the prism’s core — that triptych of oakmoss, vanilla, and vaguely citrusy fruits — really stands out easily. I just wish it hadn’t happened so soon, especially as Chypre Palatin feels as though it’s about to turn into a skin scent any moment now. It doesn’t, but it’s a frustrating feeling that continuously plagues me. In reality, Chypre Palatin tenaciously hovers just above the skin for several more hours, and doesn’t turn into actual skin scent until the 5.5 hour mark. I’m constantly taken aback by how rich it is up close. The weak sillage is very misleading.

The more immediate change is that the scent turns more and more vanillic. By the start of the 3rd hour, when I smell Chypre Palatin from afar, I primarily get a blur of sweet, rich vanilla that sits atop a layer of vaguely spicy, smoky, dark resin. The fruited-oakmoss duo occasionally joins the vanilla, but, more and more, it lurks in the background.



With every passing hour, the resins move closer and closer to the surface. By the start of the 5th hour, Chypre Palatin is halfway transformed into an amber scent dominated by toffee’d, caramel labdanum. There are strong veins of smoke, Tolu balsam, vanilla, and lightly spiced, brown-red, woody patchouli, all blended within the amber’s golden-brown folds. But every time I think the oakmoss-citrus accord has finally vanished, it somehow pops back up. On two occasions, I briefly thought that Chypre Palatin had reverted back to being a vanilla-oakmoss fragrance, only for the amber to push the duo back and take the lead again. The overall effect is a beautiful, concentrated richness that belies Chypre Palatin’s sheerness.

New elements arrive to weave their way through the amber. There is a really subtle, muted hint of booziness that lurks about Chypre Palatin’s edges, no doubt thanks to the patchouli in combination with the labdanum. There is also a lovely cinnamon that is sprinkled over the vanilla. Much of this is due to the Tolu balsam. According to Fragrantica and other sites, Tolu balsam has a deeply velvety richness with a vanilla aroma that is much darker than that of benzoins. To my nose, however, it is always a very spiced, slightly smoky, rather treacly, dark note with a subtle leathered nuance; it doesn’t feel like a truly vanillic element. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are a some of the perfumes listed by Fragrantica as scents that feature Tolu balsam (or its close sibling, Peru balsam, in some cases): Bal à Versailles, Opium Ormonde Jayne’s Tolu, Estee Lauder‘s Youth Dew and Cinnabar, MPG’s Ambre Precieux, Mona di Orio‘s Ambre, Guerlain‘s Chamade, Rance‘s Laeticia, Memo‘s Italian Leather, Reminiscence‘s Patchouli Elixir, and many others.



If I’m spending more time talking about all these ambered or dark elements than the florals that technically make up a “chypre” fragrance, it’s simply because Chypre Palatin isn’t really a floral scent on my skin. It was muted and largely abstract at the start, and it soon becomes the last horse in the race. By the start of the 3rd hour, I’m not sure it’s even there any more. It certainly isn’t by the time Chypre Palatin enters into its heart phase which is dominated by the aforementioned tolu balsam, then labdanum, vanilla and refined patchouli.

And what patchouli it is too! Beautifully red-brown, slightly spicy, and wafting tendrils of incense-like smokiness. Like the Tolu balsam, it has a subtle nuance of something leathered, but there is nothing earthy, green, minty or “head-shop”-like about this note. Actually, the overall combination strongly — strongly — conjures up Chanel’s glorious Coromandel for me. It has to be the way the patchouli is simultaneously vanillic and smoky. The only difference here is that Chypre Palatin feels significantly darker. There is white chocolate or visuals of chai lattes. Also, there remains the faintest hint of skankiness that occasionally waves its musky arm at you from the edges.



For hour after beautiful hour, Chypre Palatin radiates a plethora of brown, golden, umbered, and ambered hues. The notes are perfectly balanced between dryness, sweetness, and darkness. Somehow, to my utter confusion, Chypre Palatin almost seems to have increased in projection, or perhaps the resinous balsams are simply so rich that they’re throwing out little tendrils in the air. I could have sworn it had turned into a skin scent but, when the wind blew as I took the Hairy German out for a walk around the 10th hour, I could feel the flickers of Chypre Palatin’s incense-patchouli-balsam notes lightly swirling around me. Chypre Palatin remains that way until its very end when it fades away in a blur of abstract, dry sweetness. All in all, 3 medium-ish dabs gave me 14.75 hours in duration. I’m astonished, especially given my wonky skin. It really is a testament to the richness of the notes in question. No expense spared, indeed!

In case it wasn’t obvious by now, I’m rather in love with Chypre Palatin. If the perfume were the imperial official that the “Palatin” part of its name references, I would ask him to… well, never mind. Just trust me when I say that… No, on second thought, really, never mind. All I’ll say is that I wasn’t alone in having an intensely strong reaction to the fragrance. I made The Perfume Snob #1 try it, primarily because my sophisticated, haughty mother has loved and wore every opulent, over-the-top, oriental, chypre and/or skanky classic ever made, from vintage Bal à Versailles to Joy, Opium, Femme, Jolie Madame, and many others.

However, she’s extremely hard to please with modern scents, unless it’s an Amouage. Otherwise, whenever I’ve approached her lately at the weekend dinners, wafting some new scent that I’ve been testing, she’s given me a definite “don’t even think about it” look. (One scent that I shan’t name resulted in an ultimatum that I leave the house if I didn’t scrub it off immediately.) Many of my favorites from Fille en Aiguilles to Fourreau Noir, De Profundis, and Ambra Aurea trigger a dismissive Gallic shrug, while the glorious Mitzah resulted in a violent shudder. Perfume Snob #1 is often impossible to please, but she took one sniff of Chypre Palatin, clutched her wrist, and went glassy-eyed. She then spent the rest of the time until I left sniffing her wrist compulsively and, by her reserved standards, raving about it. I’m still blinking thinking about the intensity of her reaction.



For The Scented Hound, Chypre Palatin also “struck a nerve upon first sniff[.]” My sample was a gift from him, and he clearly has phenomenal taste. However, his experience was very different from mine, and shows another side to this very prismatic scent. In his review, he writes, in part:

Chypre Palatin’s first offered up a rush of citrus and cedar and then quickly a warm amberish lavender and what seemed to be eucalyptus (but I’m not seeing eucalyptus in the notes?? hmmm).  The fragrance goes on very warm without being heavy and it’s very comforting.  In a little while the scent then moves to an even warmer almost floral setting.  It’s very peaceful and serene.  The kind of scent where you want to close your eyes and breath in its aromatherapeutic qualities.

As Chypre Palatin continues it’s drydown it moves into a very familiar what I would call barbershop phase.  It’s traditional and old world and masculine at this point.  But stop, don’t let me confuse you by thinking this fragrance is old-fashioned and masculine.  It’s not.  The opening and the dry down make it much more universal and modern.  In the end, Chypre Palatin quiets down to a nice oak moss and vanilla scent with just a touch of powder.  However, depending on what you’re doing, those middle warm aromatic notes will still come to surface as the day wears on.

Longevity is average as is the sillage.  Chypre Palatin is a lovely surprise that feels old and new world at the same time and I think would be perfect for men and women alike.

Alexandre III bridge, Paris. Source:

Alexandre III bridge, Paris. Source:

For Suzanne of Eiderdown Press, Chypre Palatin wasn’t masculine but more akin to Amouage’s Jubilation 25 (Women), and a scent that swept her off her feet by bottling the majestic grandeur of Paris. She writes, in part:

This is one of the richest smelling chypres I’ve ever worn; to the degree that I’m not sure I would have identified it either as a chypre or as something created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour if I had smelled it blind without knowing its name or maker. […] Chypre Palatin smells stately, grand and what I think of as classically French in terms of its construction … and maybe because it is a Duchaufour creation, it doesn’t go overboard in this direction. It’s got just enough heft and richness to suggest opulence without crossing over into ostentation.

Before I describe it further, let me say that while it’s marketed as a masculine, I wouldn’t characterize it that way at all (for maybe all of thirty seconds it is masculine-smelling on my skin) and would go so far as to suggest that Chypre Palatin would appeal to women who love scents like Amouage Jubilation 25, which it reminds me of, except that Chypre Palatin is more refined and less challenging, not having the cumin and animalic emphasis that Jubilation 25 possesses, while still smelling every bit as expensive.

The rest of the review is too long for proper etiquette to let me quote it in full, but, for Suzanne, Chypre Palatin basically has a gentle touch of fruitiness in its floral heart, “hypnotic custard-creaminess,” “golden richness, seamless blending” and cashmere-like oakmoss. You can read her review for the full details.

Remember how I described Chypre Palatin as prismatic, throwing off different notes each time you wear it? Well, for Angela at Now Smell This, a full week of Chypre Palatin seemed to reveal several different olfactory profiles. Her review describes each day; how Chypre Palatin seemed like Seville à L’Aube‘s big brother on one occasion, to a fragrance that seemed to reference fougères with its “floral-lavender aspects” on another. Sometimes it conjured up an entirely different impression with its “spicy-mossy amber” and “complex tapestry.” She was fascinated by “how Chypre Palatin could be so intricate, but yet so robust.” As she writes:

The result is a fragrance with the structure and delicacy of an 18th century French table. I’ve been wearing Chypre Palatin all week, and every day the fragrance reveals something new.  […][¶]

Ultimately, Chypre Palatin seduced me with its beauty and craftsmanship, but like a Versailles-era oil painting, it isn’t quite “me.” If my budget didn’t limit me, I’d order a bottle in a second to sniff when I wanted reminding of the skill and imagination of a gifted perfumer. This is the sort of fragrance that rewards the nose you’ve developed through all the years you’ve sniffed through piles of samples. It also rewards a mind open to beauty that melds tradition and modern sensibility.

Blenheim Palace. Source:

Blenheim Palace. Source:

On Fragrantica, reviews are split, primarily because a number of women think the scent is too masculine for them. One person put it best: it’s really going to come down to skin chemistry. I would also add personal tastes and experience with the classics into that equation as well. If you are the sort who finds Shalimar to be too heavy or “old lady-ish,” don’t bother with Chypre Palatin. If you dislike any bits of lavender with citruses in the opening of your fragrance, or your skin amplifies herbal notes, then you may find Chypre Palatin to skew too masculine. If you’re not a fan of even a tiny bit of naughty skank in your scents, or fragrances with a leathered, dark undertone, this won’t be for you, either. But if you love the legendary classics or deeply opulent scents like the modern Amouages, then I think Chypre Palatin is a must sniff for you.

On Basenotes, there are several discussion threads raving about the scent, but the official entry page only has 6 reviews, 5 of which are positive. The lone negative rating seems to be from a woman who finds Chypre Palatin to be too expensive, too masculine, and a bit old-fashioned, though classically elegant. For almost everyone else, Chypre Palatin is a “luxurious chypre,” or “Proudly classicist and grand in scale” like Habit Rouge or the Amouage Jubilation.

One repeated theme in the discussion pertains to Chypre Palatin being “old-fashioned” in feel. Most posters approve of that fact, but one positive review actually disagrees on the retro issue, finding that the perfume isn’t vintage enough in feel. “DrSeid” experienced a rather powdery scent for the majority of Chypre Palatin’s lifetime, not the super-rich oakmoss fest that I had, which probably explains part of his review:

Chypre Palatin is billed as a “throwback” vintage chypre, but I have to respectfully disagree. I find it quite modern, and that is my biggest problem with it. The powdery nature of the scent just does not remind me of the best chypres of old, instead Duchaufour plows new ground in having Chypre Palatin remain classy and elegant in its mild powdery nature throughout but it just does not mesh with my tastes. I personally like my chypres heavier on the oakmoss and lower on the powder showing a bit less polish and a bit more “spunk.” While I won’t be buying a bottle, I can see why many folks who have tried this have really fallen in love with it as it is top quality. If you like powdery modern scents Chypre Palatin is absolutely worth a sniff and maybe even a purchase if you can afford its relatively lofty price tag. I give Chypre Palatin a solid “good” rating and 3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The two different 60 ml bottles of Chypre Palatin. Source: Luckyscent.

The two different 60 ml bottles of Chypre Palatin. Source: Luckyscent.

As you may have noticed, the issue of price comes up a lot. Chypre Palatin does indeed have a “lofty price tag.” A 60 ml bottle called the “tasselled version” costs $250. And that’s the “cheap” version! Apparently, Parfums MDCI really takes its whole philosophy about art very, very seriously. Their regular bottles are famous for having a Roman or Renaissance-like bust statue on the top. The price: $375 for 60 ml. (There is the additional option to have your statue in exclusive Limoges china if you should so wish for the princely sum of €1200!) 

Frankly, the “discount” version sends me rather into a tizzy as it is, given the measly 60 ml/ 2 oz size and, more importantly, Chypre Palatin’s weak sillage on my wonky skin. Others had way more luck in that last regard, but I’m still frustrated by the situation. Nonetheless, if I had endless spare cash lying around, I would have ordered not only a bottle of the scent already, but a back-up as well. Low sillage, be damned! Instead, it’s going straight to the top of my Wish List.  [UPDATE: one of my readers, The Smelly Vagabond, informed me in the comments that the bottle is actually closer to 75 ml but MDCI’s owner decided to list it as 60 ml due to bottle variations. They’re all hand-blown, so he wanted to err on the side of caution. Also, there is a special deal exclusive to the MDCI website where the cost of a sample set will be credited to the cost of buying a full bottle. In short, things are looking much better than I had thought, in terms of price-per-ounce value, decants, and accessability. See the DETAILS section at the end for more.]

The Marble House, Vanderbilt "cottage," Newport. Photo: Gavin Ashworth. Source:

The Marble House, a Vanderbilt “cottage,” Newport, RI. Photo: Gavin Ashworth. Source:

Bottom line, I think Chypre Palatin is grandeur and sensuality on a scale that would have made Leonardo, half the Medicis, and all the bloody Borgias wet their pantalones. It’s been a months and months since I had such an immediate, intense reaction to a scent, such awed amazement, and a lemming turned into Moby Dick. (The last time was for Hard Leather, lest you’re curious.) I’m all in a tizzy, discombobulated, and hot under the collar. In fact, I better end this now before I spend a few thousand more words raving about Chypre Palatin and its baroque glory.

Cost & Availability: Chypre Palatin is an eau de parfum that comes in two different sorts of a bottles. There is a regular 60 ml bottle called a “tasselled” bottle which costs $250 or €215, and a fancier bottle with a bust statue on it in the same 60 ml size for $375. {UPDATE: One reader let me know that the bottles are much bigger than 60 ml and closer to 75 ml, or 2.5 oz. Various readers as a whole have also kindly shared that Parfums MDCI has a deal exclusive to their website involving their discovery sets. Apparently, if you order either of 2 discovery set (set of 5 or set of 8), that amount is credited towards the purchase of a full bottle. The sets are, respectively, €90 or €140 with shipping. At today’s rate of exchange, that comes to roughly $123 for the small set, or $191 for the larger one. One reader informed me that you can get all of the bottles in the same fragrance, i.e., all Chypre Palatin. To buy the sets or a bottle, you apparently send the company an email with the catalog # of the item you wish to purchase. The catalog numbers are listed on the page in the link. Afterwards, you pay MDCI directly via Paypal.} In the U.S.: Luckyscent has both bottles of Chypre Palatin, along with a Discovery Set of 8 different Parfums MDCI fragrances in a 12 ml size for $210. Regular sized samples are also available for purchase. Osswald also has both versions, but sells the basic bottle for $263, not $250. Outside the U.S.: Parfums MCDI has a website which shows pricing on its bottles, but no e-store for direct purchase. (You have to follow the procedures outlined above.) In Canada, the Perfume Shoppe carries the full line and sells the regular Chypre Palatin for $230, as well as a travel size of your choice of Parfums MDCI fragrance for $50. I’m not sure those are Canadian prices, even if that seems to be a Canadian link, but then I find the company quite confusing. It is US-based, so Canadian readers may want to email them to be sure. In the UK, Parfums MDCI is available at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie at Harrod’s. In Paris, Chypre Palatin is available from Jovoy for €215 in the regular bottle. The perfume is also carried at Sens Unique, but they don’t have an e-store. In Italy, Sacro Cuore Parfumi sells the bust version for €325, but doesn’t have the cheaper bottle. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells the regular bottle for €215. The Netherland’s Lianne Tio sells Chypre Palatin for €229. You can also find the perfume at Hungary’s Neroli Parfum and Russia’s Lenoma. For all other European countries, you can use the MDCI’s Retailers List to find a vendor near you. However, there are no sellers listed in Australia, Asia, or the Middle East. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Chypre Palatin starting at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Interview – Neela Vermeire: Ashoka, Perfume, Food & Life

In Rig Veda Psych4u  blogspot

Source: In Rig Veda Psych4u blogspot

A while ago, I asked Neela Vermeire of Neela Vermeire Créations (“NVC”) if she would be kind enough to do an interview. She graciously agreed, and I sent along some questions. “Some” is an understatement — not being one for brevity, I’m afraid I inundated her with rather a lengthy list. Ms. Vermeire never blinked, and never once said that her incredibly busy schedule couldn’t accommodate such a barrage. Instead, she spent a portion of her holidays answering them. (And she never told me to fly a kite when I came back with follow-ups, twice!) I’m incredibly grateful for her graciousness, her time, her enormous patience, and her always sunny disposition.

Neela Vermeire. Source: NVC

Neela Vermeire. Source: Ms. Vermeire.

My goal with the questions was for us to learn as much about Neela Vermeire the person and perfume lover, as about the one who creates beautiful perfumes. Many of you know the brief outlines of Ms. Vermeire’s story. She was born in India, living life in the lushness of Calcutta (now Kolkata), before travelling around the world. She studied in America, completing a Master’s Degree in social sciences, then eventually moved to England where she studied law and became a solicitor. She spent a little time in Aberdeen, Scotland, practiced in London, and, for a brief period, moved to Paris where she remained for two years. She went back across the pond to England, then, six years after she left Paris, Ms. Vermeire and her Belgian husband moved back for good, this time for her husband’s work.

Bertrand Duchaufour. Source:

Bertrand Duchaufour. Source:

Ms. Vermeire was always passionate about perfumery and, in an almost organic process, she decided to express her love concretely by starting her own line. So, she approached Bertrand Duchaufour — one of the most famous perfume noses in the world, who has worked with everyone from Dior, to Acqua di Parma, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Comme des Garcons, Givenchy, Penhaligon, and many others. The result was Neela Vermeire Créations, three highly acclaimed fragrances, an award nomination, inclusion at the top of many perfume sites’ annual “Best of” lists, and a passionate following of admirers. And now, a fourth creation whose release is just a week away: Ashoka, Imperial Buddhist, a scent intended to capture the essence and life of India’s most famous Emperor, the man whose very symbol (a chakra) is now placed right in the center of India’s flag.

Emperor Ashoka.

Emperor Ashoka.

I asked Ms. Vermeire about Ashoka, its creation, and the feelings that she sought to capture. But what about the woman herself? As I said earlier, I wanted you to know the complex, intellectual, extremely diverse, fascinating woman behind the fragrances, as much as the perfumista who created them. Ms. Vermeire kindly shared everything from some of her favorite perfumes that she used to wear, to her favorite television shows, her culinary weaknesses, and even her favorite type of chocolates. I hope you enjoy the answers as much as I did.

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What are some of your favorite notes in perfumes? Notes that make you sit up with excitement when you see them on a perfume list?

There are too many to list but here are some: iris, jasmine sambac, tuberose, rose, lavender, vetiver, galbanum, sandalwood and most precious woods, styrax, resins…

Are there any perfume notes that you struggle with or that you don’t like at all?

Certain fruits, heavy patchouli, overtly sweet “gourmand” notes.

Which fruit notes don’t you like? Peach? Grape? Grapefruit? Blackcurrant?

I have difficulty with fruity notes in general – difficult to point to and blame certain fruits. It really depends on how a perfumer works with some of the fruity notes.

What was your earliest perfume memory? 

It comes of course from my childhood years in India –smell of sandalwood paste, incense, tea, spices, flowers…

Before you started your own perfume line, what were some of your favorite perfumes?

There are too many to list as I collected many fragrances over the years. What I reached out for the most were:

Chanel Bois des Iles Extrait; Chanel No. 22 Extrait; Guerlain Jicky, Vega, and Sous Le Vent; Frederic Malle Iris Poudre and Une Fleur de Cassie; Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist and Bois de Violette. used to wear the Le Labo Tubereuse 40 NY exclusive, Iris 39 and Labdanum 18.

Also, I love and collect vintage perfumes. My main haul this year include an unopened Shalimar extrait in the box from the 1940s with the original wrapping paper, vintage Femme, and vintage Madame Rochas over summer from an antique fair, among a few…. [All font emphasis to the names added by me.]

Did you ever have a signature fragrance?

I don’t have a signature fragrance; I have always been too interested in experimenting or trying new scents. That said, I do wear NVC Mohur frequently, and a future creation which is still work in progress. [Font emphasis added by me.]

When you started your own perfume house, you obviously had a clear overall vision and inspiration for the perfumes that subsequently became Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling. What happens after you have that initial idea for a scent? Can you share a little about the steps in the creative process, and the methods by which you and Bertrand Duchaufour rendered your initial idea into something concrete? For example, would both of you test out different formulas each week? 

Once I have clear vision – it is expressed to the perfumer. Sometimes we can start with a part of the entire vision and then build the foundation of the fragrance – we usually work on a couple of options in line with the original idea.

For Ashoka, the challenge was rather different compared to the first trio (which express vast periods of history) and not a legendary personality who helped spread a magnificent religion Buddhism. [Font emphasis to the name added by me.]

Can you expand a little on the process of building the perfume’s foundation and working with different options in line with the original vision?

It is one of the ways for me to develop and flesh out ideas – when you express an idea – you may not get (as a mod) what you think it is going to be. [Me: “Mod” is industry-speak for “version.”] The guiding factor is in imagination of the notes and the balance of the work-in-progress creation.

A perfume can take shape from those early stages to something very different from what was presented at say stage one. It is truly a matter of being on the same page for all parties involved in the creation.

Things take time in general – it is either a matter of being quick/hurried and accepting mods which may not be fully formed or the tougher route when one decides to carry on with the development and make sure that one reaches a satisfactory stage where the “eureka moment” actually happens!

Why did Emperor Ashoka appeal to you in the first place as a source of perfume inspiration, as opposed to some other Indian figure representing peace? Has he always interested you?  

Emperor Ashoka's Chakra, which is the very symbol in the center of the Indian national flag.

Emperor Ashoka’s Chakra, which is the very symbol in the center of the Indian national flag.

Personally as an Indian, Ashoka has always held a very special place since my childhood. One cannot ignore his importance if you grow up in India.  In a nutshell – he was a true humanist (after his self-realization) and possibly one of the greatest emperors ever. He believed in secularism and was way ahead of his times.

NVC LogoIn fact, our logo was adapted from Ashoka’s famous Chakra.

The bottle for Ashoka, as designed by Pierre Dinard.

The bottle for Ashoka, as designed by Pierre Dinard.

Our new bottle, designed by Pierre Dinand, has 24 ridges just like Ashoka’s chakra. The logo [adaptation of the chakra] is also embossed on the metal cap. [So, the perfume] is about the meaning of this important symbol.

H.G. Wells summed up what you need to know about Ashoka in his book A Short History of the World. (1922):

“Asoka was at first disposed to follow the example of his father and grandfather and complete the conquest of the Indian peninsula. He […] was successful in his military operations and —alone among conquerors—  was so disgusted by the cruelty and horror of war that he renounced it. He would have no more of it. He adopted the peaceful doctrines of Buddhism and declared that henceforth his conquests should be the conquests of religion.

The Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India, constructed by Ashoka. Two monks are meditating in front of it. The tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment is on the left, behind the monks. This temple is the number 1 pilgrimage site of Buddhism in the world.  Source: Wikicommons.

The Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, India, constructed by Ashoka. Two monks are meditating in front of it. The tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment is on the left, behind the monks. This temple is the number 1 pilgrimage site of Buddhism in the world. Source: Wikicommons.

His reign for eight-and-twenty years was one of the brightest interludes in the troubled history of mankind. He organized a great digging of wells in India and the planting of trees for shade. He founded hospitals and public gardens and gardens for the growing of medicinal herbs. He created a ministry for the care of the aborigines and subject races of India. He made provision for the education of women. […]

Such was Asoka, greatest of kings. He was far in advance of his age. He left no prince and no organization of men to carry on his work, and within a century of his death the great days of his reign had become a glorious memory in a shattered and decaying India. […] But beyond the confines of India and the realms of caste Buddhism spread—until it had won China and Siam and Burma and Japan, countries in which it is predominant to this day…”

Perhaps the sole sculptural depiction of Emperor Ashoka that remains today.

Perhaps the sole sculptural depiction of Emperor Ashoka that remains today, though the identity of the figure has not been fully established.

What made you both decide on certain notes, like fig, being a perfect way to reflect a stage in Emperor Ashoka’s life?

The main idea was to ensure that the fragrance has a contrasting start from a strong top note to a gentle drydown. We included some floral notes, fig leaves and fig milk, styrax, and sandalwood as some of the important notes to bring about this contrast.

Buddha achieved his enlightenment while meditating under a Bodhi tree/Sacred Fig (Ficus religiosa) and the fact that Ashoka converted to Buddhism to gain his own enlightenment.


The new NVC bottle design by Pierre Dinand.

For each of the perfumes, including the upcoming Ashoka, when did you finally know that a particular version or formula was “the” final, perfect one? Was there one of the perfumes that was a little harder to finalize and perfect (according to that mental vision) than the others?

I could go on perfecting a perfume forever and I do not care to rush towards any deadline. In the case of the trio, Trayee was the toughest to declare “final” as well as Mohur. Bombay Bling appeared to be relatively less complex to finalize in comparison to the other two.

Ashoka was incredibly tough and took many iterations. [All font emphasis to the names added by me.]

Speaking of Ashoka, there is already a tidal wave of anticipation and excitement. I read your interview with Fragrantica back in April about the two versions of the perfume that you showed at Milan: versions 108, 110 and their differences. To quote the relevant part of the Fragrantica reviewer’s perceptions: “108 is more masculine, green and harsh, with a fierce start recalling the period of the youth of Ashoka—a fearless hunter, cruel warrior and a great conqueror. 110 is more lactonic and sleek; it shows Ashoka after his enlightment [sic], as a kind and compassionate person…” Given his description and your own words about having different versions in Milan, it sounds like you went through numerous different interpretations for the scent. Did you finally settle on #108? And, if so, what made one formula seem like a better, truer, more representative fit for Ashoka than the other?

The numbers got juxtaposed somehow and did not get amended! It is 110 we settled for as it “is more masculine, green and strong, with a fierce start recalling the period of the youth of Ashoka—a fearless hunter, cruel warrior and a great conqueror.”

110 was the overall character of the perfume that we had in mind for Ashoka.

108 was relatively gentle in the opening.

One of the many, many things that I think will make Ashoka such a hit is that it hits that sweet spot in your line-up for a comfort fragrance. Each of your other ones represent a certain type of fragrance: Trayee is the seductive temptress with flair; Mohur is quiet, refined elegance; and Bombay Bling is fun, jubilant, exuberance. For me, Ashoka represents soothing comfort, a sort of serenity mixed with a mother’s protective embrace. Obviously, that’s my subjective interpretation of it, but I’m curious if you thought about the types of perfumes that you had already, and if you sought to create a type of refined, sophisticated comfort fragrance for your line-up?

Thank you for your faith in our fourth creation! To answer your question, for us – it is about the general mood of a fragrance.

Trayee is spiritual, contemplative and refined.

Mohur is elegant and glamorous as the same time.

Bombay Bling is sheer sophisticated fun.

Ashoka is intended to be that sophisticated comfort fragrance that you describe, both powerful and gentle.

All are created for men and women. We wanted everyone to be able to select a fragrance wardrobe from the collection. [All font emphasis to the names added by me.]

If you had to choose a painting, picture, photo or place that you think sums up the overall feel of Ashoka, perhaps as an emotional experience, what would it be? 

It is very much a collage of various images – it is very tough to link it to one single image. The only image I can think of right now is the Ashoka’s chakra.

Emotionally it is a fragrance that works from a powerful top note to a very warm and comforting heart and base notes.

Ashoka's Chakra in stone

I’m always in awe of the quality of your ingredients but, especially, of that stunning sandalwood in your original trio. Without getting into trade secrets, can you tell us anything about the sandalwood or perhaps the Laotian Oudh that you use?

I have faith in a specialist perfumer like Bertrand Duchaufour’s choice of materials – naturals and aroma chemicals he uses in the compositions and we know that in the case of the NVC perfumes we did not cut any corners for the sake of economics.

We have used some precious woods like Mysore sandalwood oil and Laotian Oudh.  We hope to continue on this path.

To what extent has your creative process or the perfume’s development been impacted by sourcing issues for ingredients? For example, that beautiful sandalwood is neither cheap nor in great abundance.

As mentioned above, I leave this to the perfumer and the essence company. The perfumers are specialists and know their materials well. It is their tool. Using some of the rare and precious raw materials can make a formula exorbitantly expensive.

When you work with experts/professionals in the fragrance world and I will underline experts – who know how to create a formula and know that if the ingredients are excellent – the end result will usually be very good.

There is a level of complexity to get an idea or message across through the perfume – even though the message is used mainly as an intellectual prop.

The perfume should make one “feel”/emote…

You make very French perfumes, even if they have an Indian inspiration. I think there is a very definite style to French perfumery as a whole or, at least, there was. Do you think that may be in danger in the years ahead due to things like IFRA or EU restrictions? Do you see any changes ahead for French perfumery?

Yes, but as long as one can conform to the new rules – it will hopefully be ok.

Perfume and your company obviously take up a vast amount of your time. What do you do to relax? Or, to put it another way, what are some of your non-perfume-related passions? Do you have any guilty pleasures — whether in television, books, food or something else — that you would confess to? 🙂

Music – all forms – I do enjoy going to classical concerts and productions of baroque opera.

Theatre when we visit London or NYC. We enjoy some French Theatre.

Art – everything from street art (like Space Invader), to Chagall.

Food – see below.

I adore the Cinema but rarely find the time to go.

I am also a fan of intelligent TV series – enjoy some excellent HBO productions, BBC and Nordic productions.

I know you love the TV show, Borgen, but what else? Which HBO or BBC series?

Borgen, Wallander, The Killing, The Bridge. On the BBC, there are too many to list, as I grew up with the BBC – crime, justice, comedy. But I am a Downton Abbey fan. I’m also a HUGE Poirot fan.

From HBO or American television, there are also too many, but some include The Wire, Boardwalk Empire (fabulous), The Sopranos…. I also watch other shows like: Engrenages (French), The Shield, and The Good Wife.

I’ve enjoyed Mad Men very much. It’s very stylish, and I love John Slattery’s part, as well as many other characters. Homeland is also great, and I liked the original Israeli version, Prisoners of War. Another show I like is the new Netflix series, House of Cards, mainly for Kevin Spacey. I’ve been a fan of his since early in his career with The Usual Suspects.

I do not dare to mention feature films, as I am film buff and have an endless list that may bore everyone.

Source: Ms. Vermeire.

Source: Ms. Vermeire.

Since you live in Paris with all that glorious food, and since I’m a foodie myself, I have to ask as my last question: what are some of your favorite dishes, cheeses, patisseries, breads, or other aspects of French culinary life? Please let us live vicariously through you!

Even though I live in Paris, I remain a huge fan of all types of Asian cuisine (which I still like the best). Second for me comes Italian cuisine. I also enjoy savoury Persian and Lebanese cuisine. In fact, I am known to impose Asian or Middle Eastern cuisine on my friends.

There is nothing like good organic bread and we have some excellent artisanal boulangeries near us.

Sadly, we have not found a truly great Indian restaurant in Paris, the UK and the US just seem better for that.

In India, the cuisine is varied – I love most regional cooking. My favourite type of cuisine is Dum Pukht. If you are in New Delhi, you must try the restaurants Dum Pukht and Bukhara for an excellent culinary experience.

I also enjoy creative meals from any of the great French chefs and from chefs from all over the world. There, I go more for quality than quantity.



However, if I have to go for general French cuisine, I enjoy good fish restaurants. I enjoy platters of my favourite French oysters — speciales Gillardeau with some vintage champagne — followed by a deliciously cooked sole (grilled or fried), or grilled sea bass with olive oil or cooked in salt crust.

Biscuits Roses de Reims. Source:

Biscuits Roses de Reims. Source:

I also enjoy wine tasting wherever we go. And we enjoy looking for good champagne houses that are rather niche in production. My favourite champagne maison is Jacquesson. I also enjoy dunking rose biscuits from Reims in champagne.

I’m not fond of heavy patisseries, but I enjoy some good dark chocolate from time to time. My favourite chocolatiers include Pierre Marcolini (Belgian), Patrick Roger, Debauve et Gallais (French)…

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Oh my God, I don’t know about you, but I salivated like a dog reading her food answers! Wouldn’t you love to go eating and drinking across Europe with Ms. Vermeire?! Coincidentally, I went to the famous Bukhara in New Delhi years ago, and can attest that it is as good as Ms. Vermeire says it is. (Actually, it was completely mind-blowing. And I gained 6 pounds to prove it!) Ms. Vermeire clearly knows her food. And her oysters, too! The New York Times calls Gillardeau “the most famous name in oysters.” If you’re curious about Jacquesson, the champagne house has a fascinating history that goes back to 1798 and not only pre-dates Krug, but arguably gave rise to the latter.

Macarons, Pierre Marcolini, via Wikicommons.

Macarons, Pierre Marcolini, via Wikicommons.

Lastly, if you’re a masochist who loves to torture yourself with food porn from afar (as I do), then you really should check out the handsome Pierre Marcolini, his lovely website with its various chocolate collections, and his e-Boutique that offers everything from macarons to your own choice of chocolate selections. (No U.S. deliveries, alas.) A much less visually appealing website is that of Debauve & Gallais, and it offers chocolate deliveries on a more global basis, including FedEx shipments to the U.S. The company was founded in 1800, and became the official chocolatiers to Emperor Napoleon, as well as to several kings who followed him.

As for the perfumes, I think we would all agree with Ms. Vermeire that the fragrance should make us feel. And the very best ones always do. I have felt the soothing comfort of Ashoka, and I think many of you will love the Emperor’s embrace. I’m still madly in love with the upcoming Mohur Extrait above all else (yes, even more than Trayee!), but I think Ashoka has a refined gentleness that makes it very appealing and perhaps the most versatile of all the NVC creations. I can’t wait for you all to try it!

I would like to repeat my grateful thanks to Ms. Vermeire for taking big chunk of time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer my questions. She is working on a new fragrance, is constantly on the move, and is also preparing for the new launch of Ashoka that is mere days away. The fragrance will be officially released at the Pitti Immagine Fragranze Faire in Florence on September 13th! In light of all that, her graciousness, and patience mean even more. I shall see if I can one day repay her with dark chocolates or, perhaps, with some grilled sea bass.…

[AVAILABILITY UPDATE: Ashoka will be available for sale starting on September 23, 2013. In the U.S., it will be sold at Luckyscent and Min New York. I asked Ms. Vermeire about Ashoka samples and the Discovery Sets. This is her reply:

Here is what we are planning till we have Ashoka in the sets.
Try your India sample sets (3×2 ml) and Discovery sets with Ashoka EDP from late autumn from the site.

We will include a free glass vial sample of Ashoka with every purchase of the NVC Discovery set 10 ml x 3 of the first trio.

Please stay tuned for news on e-boutique.

The full flacons of Ashoka will be available at 190 Euros plus shipping.

So, starting on September 23rd, if you order the Discovery Set, you will get a glass vial of Ashoka. Ms. Vermeire says that samples of Ashoka won’t be available to go with the smaller “Try your India” sample set until much later in the Fall. So you can only get a sample if you order the NVC Discovery Set. As for a possible 10 ml bottle of Ashoka, at some point much later in the Fall, Ashoka will be added to the Discovery Set, but it is not offered being right now. (When it is, the Discover Set’s prices will presumably change for 4 x 10 ml, instead of 3 x 10 ml, but that is just my guess).]