Well, this is certainly the best way to “drink” and drive! Pure whisky of the wonderful single-malt variety, infused with dry cocoa powder, butterscotch, smoky woods, dark resinous amber, peppermint, and a hint of green herbs. It’s hard not to think about drinking when you wear Ore, a dry, woody, sweet, and virtually alcoholic fragrance that swirls about in a rich, unctuous, deep bouquet that can be compulsively sniffable at times.
Ore is the creation of Slumberhouse, a niche, indie perfume brand out of Portland, Oregon. The company describes itself as follows:
Slumberhouse is a boutique cologne label in the heart of Portland, OR; created and inspired by urban and street culture, art, film and music – especially the new school of hiphop and graffiti artists. We are a group of young gents who march to our own beat, embracing an absolute disregard for other brands, trends and marketing cliches. Slumberhouse represents an unequivocal love for the art of fragrance making.
It’s a fascinating background, matched by the equally fascinating candour and genuine commitment shown by one of the founders, Josh Lobb, who now seems to be the sole force behind the brand as well as its perfume creator/nose. In his personal blog on the website, the 31-year old Mr. Lobb reveals his personal struggle with keeping costs down while using the best fragrance absolutes; his realisation that he was barely breaking even with many scents; and his personal journey in making some of the Slumberhouse fragrances.
Mr. Lobb is a very admired Indie perfumer, not only because he seems like a genuinely nice chap but, also, because he’s astoundingly talented for someone who is so young and wholly self-taught. He also is a perfectionist who works constantly at honing his creations, which explains why he essentially scrapped much of the original Ore perfume and re-released it this year in a new version. The reformulated Ore is not only an extrait de parfum in concentration, but, apparently, a fundamental re-working of the notes and their proportions.
Ore is classified on Fragrantica as an “oriental spicy” perfume, and the Slumberhouse website describes the new Extrait version and its notes as follows:
A swim with the caramel nettles
flooded with the dusky murk
I wish I could dream it again.
Oakwood, Cocoa, Mahogany, Guaiac, Dittany of Crete, Vanilla, Whiskey Lactone & Peru [Balsam] Resin.
Mr. Lobb frequently uses extremely unusual ingredients that I’ve never heard of and end up having to research (which is something I absolutely love about Slumberhouse), and Ore is no exception. Looking up “Dittany of Crete,” it seems to be a very rare, healing, aromatic shrub that only grows on the island of Crete, that was referenced in ancient legends about aphrodisiacs and wounded warriors, and that is apparently a type of oregano used for centuries for medicinal reasons, including the curing of snake bites. Who knew?! And how cool! Honestly, I absolutely love the places Mr. Lobb takes me when I review one of his fragrances.
Ore opens on my skin with a blast of pure whisky that is slightly smoky and peaty, much like a lighter version of the Islay single malt, Laphroaig. It’s swirled in with dark, dusty, dry cocoa powder flecked with hints of vanilla. It’s sweet, but it’s not cloying. It’s boozy, but never feels as though you’ve been drenched in actual alcohol. It’s not sharp or abrasive, but as smooth as satiny caramel with a dry, lightly smoked nature.
Inside the golden-brown haze are other surprises. There are flickers of a dark green freshness that is hard to describe in any way other than Slumberhouse’s own analogy to nettles. Yes, it has the feel of dark, forest-green nettles on a Scottish moor somewhere, but it’s extremely mild and muted. Underneath, there is a foundation of dark, smoky woods, dominated by guaiac wood’s whiff of autumnal burning leaves. There is a touch of peppermint which is a little surprise. I’d read that the original Ore eau de parfum had a strong aroma of Carmex medicated lip salve, but Mr. Lobb seems to have sharply tone it down in the extrait, leaving only something that smells to me like hard-boiled, pink-and-white peppermint candies.
Ore’s primary bouquet, however, is of whisky infused with dark cocoa powder. Not sweet chocolate, but dusky, dry cocoa. I’m an absolute sucker for the note in perfumery, and to mix it with peaty, slightly smoky whisky seems like utter genius to me. It’s such an intoxicating swirl that the opening moments of Ore leave me sniffing my arm like some sort of alcoholic in need of a fix.
There is a profound richness to the scent which is a somewhat odd mix of sweetness with dryness. Sometimes, I think Ore verges on the gourmand. The Peru Balsam, which is one of my favorite amber resins, has a dark, chewy, thick quality here, and mixes with the dry vanilla and the whiskey to create something that smells a lot like butterscotch at times. Yet, the dark woods add a subtle smokiness and strong hint of dryness to the scent as well. The dry “nettles” and the dusky cocoa contribute an additional counterbalance to the sweetness. I suppose this is my idea of a ideal “gourmand” fragrance: a dark, woody, slightly smoky, dry sweetness that doesn’t actually smell of food or dessert.
Thirty minutes into Ore’s development, it smooths out into a well-balanced, dark cloud of cocoa whiskey with hints of peppermint atop chewy, sweet, amber resins that are lightly flecked by dry vanilla and slightly smoky dark woods. There is finally a subtle whiff of that Carmex medicated lip salve that I’d read about in Ore’s previous incarnation, but it’s very subtle. Less subtle is the sense of something slightly synthetic in the dark woods in the base. I tried Ore twice, applying different quantities, and it was rather noticeable the first time when I applied quite a bit of the fragrance. Or, at least, quite a bit for a Slumberhouse perfume: 3 large-ish smears.
Slumberhouse is well-known to create extremely potent scents that work best with only one spray, and which can otherwise overwhelm you with their intensity, projection and longevity. I tried to approximate that amount with my dabber vial, keeping in mind that Ore, as an extrait, is the most concentrated type of perfume available. Yet, just to be sure, I did a second test where I applied only one, very big, smear. The perfume smelled the same each time, with the exception of the synthetic element in the base which was noticeable only the first time around with the larger quantity. It didn’t give me a headache, exactly, but it did bother me with a small, brief throbbing behind my eye. It was never enough, however, to detract from my enjoyment of the scent.
Ore really feels like something well-suited for a cold winter’s night. The whisky-cocoa with butterscotch undertone really transports you to a cozy room before a fireplace while the snow falls gentle outside. You snuggle with your partner, one of you sipping Laphroaig, one of you drinking dark, hot chocolate, and both of you nibbling on a peppermint candy. I can’t see anyone wearing Ore Extrait in 100 degree heat, but what a perfect scent for Winter!
Ore is fundamentally linear in nature, and never really transforms beyond its opening bouquet. It’s a glorious scent in those opening hours, especially the first time around. There were moments where I felt like rolling around in it, the way a dog does in a particularly smelly patch of grass. Then, something happened. Around the star of the fourth hour, I started feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. It was perhaps too much unleavened, unalloyed richness. The linearity of so much unctuous heaviness, without change, felt almost cloying. Now, Ore itself isn’t cloying in terms of sweetness, but the forcefulness of all that thick, gooey caramel whisky really got to me. It is the primary reason why I tested the fragrance a second time; I wondered if my feelings would change, and if Ore merely required a lot of patience. My feelings didn’t change. If anything, I was significantly less enamoured of the opening, and found it less addictively, compulsively sniffable. Was it all just the novelty of such an unusual combination? Perhaps.
I think the more accurate reason with my slight change of heart is really the linearity. I always say that there is nothing wrong with linearity if you really love the notes in question, and I really enjoy certain aspects of Ore. However, it is such an incredibly rich, heavy fragrance that the only way to describe its feel is “unctuous” — and endlessly buttery unctuousness can be a little exhausting. Perhaps the best way to describe it is in terms of food. I love Devil’s Food cake, but a really large slice of it can be a little much. Wearing Ore feels a little like you’ve eaten not a slice of Devil’s Food, but the whole damn cake! It’s gloriously wonderful in one bite, even a bite that stretches on for a few hours, but it can be too much for 10 hours on end unless you have something to balance it out.
And Ore doesn’t. Ore was hours of unchanging, heavy butteriness until the very end when it became a simple smoky sweetness. All in all, it lasted just under 11 hours, with about 8 of them feeling very rich indeed. (On some people, Slumberhouse fragrances can last for 24 hours at a stretch!) I had problems at the end of the third hour, so the full lifespan felt a little like Rammstein playing at maximum volume right in my ear. I adore Rammstein, but I can’t listen to Du Hast or Ich Will at full blast, on repeat, for 11 hours straight. (Okay, sometimes, I can, and do. But extremely rarely!) Ore’s smoked, whisky butterscotch is like my beloved Du Hast and Devil’s Food Cake.
I think my difficulty with Ore encapsulates my difficulty with Slumberhouse as a whole. I want to love the fragrances. Oh, how I want to love them! There is always something in each one that I greatly enjoy, and I have nothing but the deepest respect for Josh Lobb who seems like an incredibly nice chap, in addition to being very talented. At the end of the day, however, something above the overall, sum-total effect of each fragrance just doesn’t work for me on a personal level. I think each one is great in its own way, highly original, and always boldly creative, but I haven’t found one that I can wholeheartedly love.
I’ve struggled to figure out why, and I’ve finally concluded that it’s the unctuousness and richness of the base which seems to be a common signature to all of Slumberhouse’s fragrances. What bewilders me is that I have never once had problems with a fragrance being too rich, until it comes to Slumberhouse…. In truth, it’s not so much a question of richness or power — two things I specifically look for in fragrances for my own personal use — but rather, the unalleviated, unalloyed nature of their unctuousness. Even when applied lightly or in a small dosage, the almost buttery, viscous thickness to the base — especially in conjunction with one other, extremely dominant, element — ends up being too much for me. For example, the potpourri-like element in Jeke‘s base, or the sweetness of Pear + Olive.
It’s hard for me to compare my experience to that of others because, as noted, Ore has been completely changed from its original character, and the majority of reviews pertain to the old Ore eau de parfum. The most useful comparative explanation of the differences comes from Mark Behnke of CaFleureBon who writes:
Ore was one of the first fragrances Mr. Lobb released back in 2009. Of all the updates this one shows the evolution of Mr. Lobb as a perfumer and also the evolution of the slumberhouse aesthetic. It is by far the biggest difference between the original and the extrait of the fragrances which have undergone this re-imagining.
If I was pressed I would’ve said the original Ore was my least favorite of Mr. Lobb’s earlier creations because it had all the subtlety of a right cross to the nose. An overpowering dry cocoa seemed to overwhelm every receptor in my brain. It took nearly an hour for me to realize there was anything else as it went through a slightly caramel aspect on top of an edgy green balsamic base. Coming to this after trying other things by Mr. Lobb made me exhibit some patience with it but it was really close to being unbearable. […][¶]
The extrait of Ore opens with the same dry cocoa but this time it is toned down enough to let other things come out to play. There is a subtle touch of thyme which picks up the less sweet aspects of the cocoa and adds some of the green quality of the original early on without being as sharp. The transition seems more smoothed out with less of an abrupt shift happening as there was in the original. The mix of woods: oakwood, guaiac and peru resin turn Ore into a creamy balsamic mix coated in cocoa. Right here is where Mr. Lobb shows his improvement as perfumer; all of this is present in the original but it collides with each other like a pinball against a bumper making an unappealing thunk. In this new extrait the notes are well-balanced which allow for a more complete picture to be presented and that picture is something to behold. A bit of vanilla added in the late going turns all of this into a slight tobacco accord that lasts for a fleeting moment.
I never tried the original Ore, but it seems to have been quite appreciated by those (other than Mark Behnke) who tried it. On Indiescents, there are raves about its “smoked Tootsie rolls” quality, although one person had problems with the medicinal element from the much talked about Carmex-like undertone. The general character of the old Ore can be seen in some of the following descriptions:
- Earthy, sweet but not cloying, very sensuous. Amazing.
- Dark and Boozy. I get nothing of Carmex in this scent. However, the chocolate and sage come out in this when I wear it. My husband loves it-once it dries down.
- Since i am addicted to and love the smell of Carmex i had to buy this…i was soo pleasantly surprised, this is a super nice sexy beast of a gourmand fragrance……i can definitely pick out the cocoa absolute in the dry down and love it.
- Very nice! If you love rich,not so SWEET gourmet scents,this is worthy of sampling! I was expecting something more off-beat,due to the Carmex comparison,but its quite feminine and soft.
- I’m smitten. Seriously, it takes a lot to interest me and this fragrance has had me distracted all day. Delicious. What I love is that it is sweet and feminine without being cloying. It’s sexy and strong. The dry down is lovely and soft but still has strength. Beautiful.
There are similar accounts for the old Ore eau de parfum on Fragrantica where men seem to be as much a fan as the women. One commentator, “Alfarom,” described the scent as:
Balsamic chocolate. Ore opens dry and rough with a desweetened cacao note. Dark woods remark their presence right away while a boozy accord concours in adding some warmness during the middle phase and the drydown. […] This bizarre concoction between edible and inedible elements makes of Ore one of the most original takes on the gourmandic theme. Intense but barely sweet, mysterious, dark and dangerously sexy.
If you take the accounts of the old Ore and read them in light of CaFleureBon’s assessment of the new Extrait version, the result seems to be a more toned down fragrance. Better modulated, perhaps, but my experience seems to indicate a scent that is also much less dark, smoky, and balsamic than it was before. I certainly don’t think that Ore I tried was particularly smoky or dark; it seemed quite caramel, butterscotch golden — in both visuals and aromatic feel — to me, but it might well just be my skin which always amplifies the sweeter elements in a perfume’s base.
All in all, I think Slumberhouse is an incredibly original perfume house that every serious perfumista should explore for themselves, especially if they like very rich, potent scents and especially if they’re jaded about the sameness of many fragrances put out there today. Maybe you will fall in my boat or maybe you’ll find one you love, but, either way, you really should experience (at least once) the uniqueness, originality, and creativity that is Slumberhouse’s ultimate hallmark. As for Ore, it may not be to my personal tastes at the end of the day, but I strongly urge those of you who like fragrances that are boozy, rich, almost (but not quite) gourmand, and feature dark cocoa powder, to give it a try. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you found it quite addictively delicious.