Succumb To Your Desires.
That is what Roja Dove tells you when he talks about Fetish, his line of chypre-leather fragrances. Yesterday, we explored the men’s version of Fetish Extrait, and, while it didn’t awaken any desires in me, I certainly concede that it is a leather scent. However, I’m wholly unconvinced on that matter when it comes to Fetish for Women (also in pure parfum Extrait form). There was nothing remotely leathered about this white floral chypre on my skin.
On his Roja Parfums website, after he’s ordered you to succumb to your desires, Roja Dove offers the following description for Fetish:
WARM, DRY, FRESH, SWEET, & LEATHERY
“Nothing is darker than leather in all its guises. Beware once you have entered there is no escape, as I have created a perfume that once under its spell there is no return”. Roja Dove
HEART: Jasmine, Rose, Tuberose, Ylang Ylang
BASE: Castoreum, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Clove, Galbanum, Musk, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver
Fetish for Women Extrait (hereinafter just “Fetish“) opens on my skin with galbanum sweetened by jasmine. It’s a combination of great crispness, freshness, and greenness, but without the usual pungent froideur, distance, and iciness that I typically find with galbanum. The ingredient’s sharp edge and unapproachability render it something that I often struggle with, but here, it’s very different. The jasmine adds a fragrant sweetness and warmth, while the galbanum keeps the usually indolic, sometimes heavy flower quite crisp, clean, and green. There is the faintest trickle of jasmine’s sweet syrupy nature lurking underneath, but it’s always kept in check and balance.
On the heels of the two main notes is the oakmoss. It feels simultaneously pungent and mineralized, but also a wee bit plush, fresh, and lightly sweetened. In Fetish’s middle layer, hints of dry, woody vetiver and slightly sweet, green patchouli round out the tableau of variegated greens. The one exception to the colour spectrum are the flickers of aldehydic soapiness that dart about. In Fetish’s depths, there are elements of tuberose and extremely dry cedar. Even deeper below, the castoreum briefly stirs. Here, it thankfully lacks the animalic raunchiness or sweaty perianal parts prevalent in Fetish Pour Homme; instead, it merely feels like something velvety brown and soft in the base. A mere drop of animalism, if you will, instead of whole bucketfuls.
For the most part, however, Fetish for Women is primarily a triptych of jasmine, galbanum, and oakmoss on my skin. The degree of each note fluctuates in prominence and strength, but the perfume’s core essence never changes. Not once.
What happens instead is that Fetish goes through a small shrieking period. The galbanum becomes more forceful and incredibly sharp; so, too, does the oakmoss. Something about the two notes in tandem, along with that aldehydic soapiness, consistently creates an almost synthetic sharpness that I find abrasive. I tested Fetish three times, and there is always a brief 20-25 minute period when the jasmine retreats. The loss of its sweetness permits the galbanum’s inherently icy, sharp edge to come out, along with the more fusty, pungent aspects of the oakmoss. I don’t know to what extent the latter may be partially synthetic in nature, but the effect of the overall combination repeatedly causes a tightening sensation in my nose. It’s almost like something verging on sinus pains, but not quite.
I want to take a moment to briefly talk about that oakmoss which I suspect is mousse de chene. It is actually a specific type of oakmoss (Evernia prunastri) that is an oakmoss absolute according to The Aroma Connection blog, and, in some people’s eyes, seems to be considered the “true” oakmoss. It’s a grey lichen which grows on trees and has an intensely dank, pungent, fusty aroma that can also be salty and smell like tree bark. Still, “real” oakmoss of any type is largely banned out of perfume existence, and substitutes are often used, either by themselves or as complements to smaller portions of the real thing.
There is a very interesting, detailed, and somewhat technical discussion of the different types of oakmoss on The Aroma Connection, including the various synthetic versions or additives thereto:
we are left with a few synthetic oakmoss chemicals, such as Evernyl (methyl 2-4-dihydroxy-3-6-dimethylbenzoate) and formerly, the less popularly-utilised Orcinyl-3 (3-methoxy-5-methylphenol), which the hype from synthetic aroma chemical producers would try to persuade you ‘represent the essential character compound of oakmoss’.
… It should also be mentioned that a range of commercial oakmoss products exists, some offering a warm, leathery-mossy character, whilst others offer have woody, mossy – almost marine-like aspects.
Here, the oakmoss never has a leather aspect on my skin, but it does have an incredibly sharp character that occasionally smells a little salty and like the bark of a tree. There is a subtle smokiness, but it is mild and overwhelmed by the more pungent, almost acrid characteristics. More importantly for our purposes here, the oakmoss has an undertone that, to me, smells synthetic to me. I don’t react with the equivalent of a sinus headache or pinching otherwise, and it happened to me with both men and women’s versions of Fetish.
On all three occasions with Fetish Woman, the shrieking phase was brief, and never lasted beyond 20-25 minutes, ending about 50 minutes into the perfume’s evolution. Part of the reason why is because the jasmine returns in greater strength to counterbalance the green notes, tame them, and turn them into something less forceful. A Fragrantica commentator described Fetish Pour Homme as being very “shouty,” and I think Fetish for Women has a brief period of the same thing, despite being a considerably softer, tamer fragrance. Actually, “shouty” isn’t so accurate in this case, and a more apt description would be “unbalanced.” Regardless, it’s not a very long period, and Fetish soon calms down.
In fact, it turns a little too mellow and goes too much the opposite extreme. On each occasion where I tested Fetish, a little after one hour, the perfume dropped in sillage, hovered just an inch over the skin, and became a virtual blur of white florals with green notes and oakmoss. By the 90-minute mark, it’s a skin scent.
At times, the oakmoss turns so gentle and muted, it felt like the description that one reader emailed me about with regard to another very oakmossy, green fragrance: “green tea and honey.” To my surprise, the oakmoss in Fetish’s base might truly be described that way from afar. Something about the green accords has the soft, fragrant gentleness of green tea, albeit a very concentrated one that has been infused by a very delicate touch of sweet, white floral syrup. Unfortunately, the somewhat synthetic elements remains, lurking far below, and whenever I take whiffs that are too forceful of my arm, the sharp tightening in my nose returns instantly.
There really isn’t much more to be said about Fetish’s development on my skin. It remains as a blur of white florals atop a chypre base. For a brief period, the jasmine and oakmoss are vaguely distinguishable in their own right, but the notes are generally a haze, overlapping each other, and rarely having any definitive, firm shape. In its final moments, Fetish is merely a nebulous floral smear with something vaguely green about it. All in all, it lasted just over 7.5 hours with 2 large sprays, and a little under 9 hours with double that amount.
I liked Fetish for the most part, but what manifested itself on my skin was also a big disappointment. If I hadn’t been told that this was a “leather” fragrance, I never once would have guessed it. For me, Fetish is exactly and precisely the “floral chypre” that Fragrantica classifies it as on their site. My skin always amplifies base notes, and that includes leather, yet none showed up in any of my 3 tests of the perfume. I was also a little taken aback by the lack of complexity, nuance, and body of the largely simplistic scent that appeared on my skin. Fetish was a perfectly nice — even occasionally lovely — white floral perfume, but nothing more. I’d still enjoy wearing it, however, were it not for the synthetic feel in the base and the fact that it consistently became a skin scent on me between the 60-90 minute range (depending on quantity). For $425 or €395, I expect more. A lot more.
On Fragrantica, the only review for Fetish Woman in extrait version comes from Dubaiscents, a reader and a friend who loves the fragrance. She describes it as “both elegant and feminine but, also tough and a little dirty. One of my all time favorite leather scents!” It sounds infinitely more interesting on her skin than on mine, and I envy her her complex experience. If I had experienced some grit, some toughness, something other than linear two-dimensionality, then perhaps I wouldn’t have been so bored. As it is, I’ve struggled to write this review from sheer lack of inspiration, enthusiasm, and interest. In fact, Fetish bores me so much that I will end this here and now.