The last fragrance in this collection is something “new” to the Le Galion line. When Nicolas Chabot acquired Le Galion he also acquired all that was left by perfumer Paul Vacher upon his death in 1975. The notebooks by themselves were a treasure trove of information to allow perfumer Thomas Fontaine the knowledge of the detail M. Vacher added to each composition so M. Fontaine could re-formulate where necessary. If that was all M. Chabot had it would be enough. Except during the examination of the Le Galion archives they came across a box they believe dates from 1930-1935 and in it a small bottle of fragrance. This was an unreleased composition by M. Vacher and is now being released under the name 222.
222 is really the culmination of all of the work M. Chabot and M. Fontaine put into reviving Le Galion and M. Vacher’s perfumes. It also feels like the perfect coda to my exploration of this collection as it encompasses the dedication of M. Chabot in obtaining and using M. Vacher’s original source material to re-introduce the line. It also shows how skillful M. Fontaine is in using modern materials to replace the ingredients from the past that no longer are available or available to be used. 222 smells retro and it smells modern which maybe makes it the Nouveau Retro poster child.
222 opens with violet and Kashmir wood. The Kashmir wood pulls the woody aspects of violet more to the foreground and as a result the opening feels more like light wood with a hint of floral. Lavender adds a bit more floral before the resinous mix of myrrh and styrax set the heart. This is a slightly sweet and comforting warmth at this point in the development. M. Fontaine adds in a cocktail of white musk as contrast to the softness and they intersperse themselves throughout the resinous core. It is right here where it seems M. Vacher and M. Fontaine come together with the old and the new. Sandalwood forms the base and it is bolstered by oak moss and a soft leather accord.
222 has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I have spent the last week reviewing this revived Le Galion because I believe this is the best re-formulation of a vintage perfume line to date. It helps that besides Sortilege few are familiar with the other fragrances in the line although they are out there to be acquired. The truth is few perfume lovers know this line very well, including me. The one thing I do know well is Paul Vacher was one of the great perfumers of the early 20th Century and even though Lanvin Arpege, Miss Dior, and Diorling live on as testament to his timelessness it really was these creations for Le Galion which was where he allowed his creativity free rein and I think it shows. There is not a weak link in the entire collection and all of them have a modern aspect on top of the vintage feel. Nicolas Chabot is to be congratulated to his attention to detail in getting this just so. There have been a number of these kind of projects over the last year which have gone badly astray, M. Chabot just wouldn’t let that happen. Finally Thomas Fontaine’s work in re-formulating and updating the six fragrances he had a hand in maybe makes him the best perfumer working when it comes to the Nouveau Retro genre. I know his work here has my hopes very high this same magic will be applied to his re-formulation of my beloved Jean Patou Vacances. All of this together has created a magical confluence where the past and the present co-exist in a singularity of quality.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Le Galion.
When Nicolas Chabot acquired the rights to Le Galion he also acquired the original notebooks perfumer Paul Vacher wrote down his recipes in. For most of the collection perfumer Thomas Fontaine was required to lend a hand to update these formulae. Whip and Eau Noble were two of the three that were able to be reconstructed without change from what was written in M. Vacher’s notebook. Both of them share some similarities in that they are floral citrus cologne compositions. That they were separated by almost twenty years shows an interesting difference in what M. Vacher thought a cologne should smell like in 1953 and 1972.
Whip was the one from 1953 and of all of the perfumes in this very excellent collection is my favorite. M. Vacher creates a cologne full of bullwhip-like pops of percussive notes. He takes traditional cologne architecture and snaps in spices in between. Then a very green jasmine heart leads to a greener base over the supple coils of the whip.
The best colognes all have a bit of an olfactory snap to them from the first moments. Whip ups that to something that lives up to its name. M. Vacher marries lemon, bergamot and lavender but then lashes them with high concentrations of tarragon and cardamom. I really like this beginning it gets my attention and it is fascinating. The heart is jasmine and violet again lashed with a healthy amount of galbanum. This forms a floral encased in green which is dominant and very spiky. The green theme continues into the base as oak moss, vetiver, and a little patchouli usher Whip towards its end. In the very end the titular leather of the fragrant whip forms the final accord.
Whip has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Eau Noble would be the last perfume by M. Vacher before his death in 1975. As in Whip he is again exploring a citrus floral leather trio in a cologne structure. Where Whip is all about power Eau Noble is much gentler, a more subtle perfume experience. It also reflects the prevailing trend towards citrus focused fragrances that Edmond Roudnitska has ushered into style in 1966 with Eau Sauvage.
Eau Noble, like Whip, uses lemon and bergamot on top but this time there is only a bit of galbanum to turn the citrus aspect more towards the rind than the pulp. It modulates the citrus into something softer. Lavender and sage form the heart of Eau Noble and here it takes on almost classic cologne formula with sage substituting for the rosemary. We finish with a leather accord of patchouli, oak moss, and musk. This is a soft supple leather befitting the softer nature of Eau Noble. Cedar provides a bit of woody framing at the end as well.
Eau Noble has 6-8 hours of longevity and average sillage.
Disclosure: These reviews were based on samples provided by Le Galion.
In Iris and Tubereuse, Le Galion perfumer Paul Vacher wanted to create beautiful soliflores. With 1950’s La Rose he was not interested in adding to the rose soliflores out there he wanted to create a full-throated rose fragrance that would make a larger-than-life version of the bloom. It is said in the press materials that M. Vacher smelled over 70 species of rose to find the right one for La Rose. I am not sure if perfumer Thomas Fontaine who is in charge of the re-formulation of La Rose was able to find that specific species but whatever he has found has a special character to it and makes La Rose feel like one in a million, or at least one in seventy.
The opening is violet leaf and bergamot. The violet leaf sets the stage like the green surrounding a rose bud. In the heart this imaginary rose bud bursts into life sending out waves of floral sweetness. The rose used here has a subtle fruitiness which is amplified by a bit of peach to allow it to flourish. There is also a lovely dewy quality as if this rose has bloomed in the early morning capturing dew drops within the petals. La Rose finishes with a patchouli and cedar pair of base notes and they are also very pronounced. La Rose is no soliflore it is exponentially rendered rose exquisitely done.
La Rose has 8-10 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.
When I sat down with owner of Le Galion Nicolas Chabot at Esxence to try out the line he made a very wise choice on which fragrance to show me first, Snob. First the name itself brings a smile to my face simply because I am a snob about so many things, especially perfume. As I raised the strip to my nose and smelled I immediately understood why everyone was buzzing about Le Galion. Snob was created in 1952 but this could have been created in 2052 because it seems so forward thinking in its construction and aesthetic. Snob at its most basic is a white flower fragrance but it is a perfume for a lover of fragrance because hidden throughout its construction are buried grace notes which add pleasure enough to satisfy any perfume snob. I also have to mention that M. Fontaine’s re-formulation here had to be extremely difficult to achieve this kind of delicate complexity using modern materials.
Snob opens on a pedestrian combo of bergamot and mandarin but just underneath there is something decidedly less ubiquitous as saffron and crisp apple turn the pedestrian into provocative. It was this initial sniff which made me think these Le Galion perfumes were going to be special. The heart breaks out a chorus of floral notes centered on jasmine and orange blossom radiating their indolic beauty. Iris adds powdery contrast while rose adds a hint of spicy floralcy. Together they proudly lift their floral nose high in the air the better to look down on those other mere perfumes. The base is sandalwood and a cocktail of white musks. There is not a moment when I am wearing Snob that this feels like a creation from 62 years ago it feel like it was from 62 minutes ago.
Snob has 8-10 hour longevity and significant sillage.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Le Galion.
The second soliflore from Le Galion is Tubereuse and it was these creations of specific soliflores that inspired perfumer Paul Vacher to branch out on his own. As a perfumer he was drawn to the creative challenge in essentially creating a perfume featuring one singular note. What I have always enjoyed is seeing the different visions every perfumer brings to their version of a fragrance of a single flower. M. Vacher’s vision for Tubereuse is very different than most other tuberose soliflores out there. Tuberose is a floral that is hard to like, for many, and one of the reasons they will cite is that it is too much, too bold, too flowery. In short tuberose is a pushy note. M. Vacher wanted to display a softer side of tuberose and he has made a downy soft version of it in Tubereuse.
M. Vacher, I believe understood that the natural exuberance of tuberose, if turned inward, could create a special effect and so the construction of Tubereuse is all about taking the showy aspects of tuberose and calming them down. The taming of tuberose starts with a fruity foil of raspberry and pear. You might think this would make the tuberose sweeter but it has an effect here of adding a crisp fruity quality more than sweetness. Galbanum and mandarin also provide opposition to the sweeter nature. It takes all of this to keep tuberose from getting out of control and it works surprisingly well. In the current day of fruity florals this exudes a sophistication not often seen within the genre. Tuberose displays its floral charms in the heart but it also has competition from rose and orange blossom to, again, temper the tuberose. The base uses cedar to add a clean woody outline to allow amber and musk the opportunity to welcome tuberose to the finish.
Tubereuse has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage, unusually modest for a tuberose fragrance. If you’re looking for an office friendly tuberose this might be the one.
There are three of the nine fragrances in this re-launch of Le Galion which were able to be re-made from M. Vacher’s original recipes, 1947’s Special for Gentlemen is one of them. At this point Le Galion has survived World War 2 and France was beginning its post-war revival as the center of style. M. Vacher has positioned Le Galion as a major perfume player in that. Along with Jean Carles he would create the iconinc Miss Dior also in 1947. For his own line he wanted a gentlemen’s fragrance that also exhibited a savoir faire. I wonder if he envisioned a stylish Parisian couple wearing these two fragrances walking alongside the Seine as he composed Special for Gentlemen. It is definitely a throwback to a time when men wanted a fragrance that was less clean and had some oomph to it.
Special for Gentlemen opens on a duet of lavender and galbanum. I like this combination a lot as galbanum reminds me that lavender has a bitter underpinning lurking underneath the more familiar floralcy. Cinnamon and labdanum hold the central part of the development and as with the tuberose in Tubereuse M. Vacher makes the cinnamon atypically soft. The use of the labdanum is what makes this work as it provides foundation for the cinnamon to push against. The base is castoreum modulated with a bit of vanilla, oak moss, and patchouli. This is the kind of animalic finish masculine fragrances had until the words “Sport” started showing up on bottles. Special for Gentlemen reminds me how much I miss those perfumes and how happy I am that the pendulum might be swinging back a bit.
Special for Gentlemen has 6-8 hours of longevity and moderate sillage. This is for a night out on the town.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Le Galion.
If you remember anything about Le Galion you probably remember Sortilege. Sortilege was the first perfume Paul Vacher created for his brand new Le Galion line in 1936. By this time the use of aldehydes had become de rigeur in perfumery and M. Vacher wanted to create his version of a floral aldehyde as his first fragrance. M. Vacher created three distinct floral layers before his base notes set things into a deep musky foundation. Thomas Fontaine’s challenge in re-formulating was to get that layered effect and to keep the depth in the base while using modern ingredients that could replace the restricted earlier ingredients.
When it comes to the perfumes of this era there is almost a “No.5” like intensity to any aldehydic perfume and the early moments of Sortilege are no different. The aldehydes carry energy and power with which to elevate the floral layers to come. The first layer is muguet, lilac and ylang ylang. Muguet provides a bit of green, lilac a bit of light floral and ylang ylang sweetness. The second layer is provided by jasmine, narcissus and a tiny bit of mimosa. This is indolic white flower territory and it is pure and extensive reaching for the bass notes of the florals. The remaining aldehydes add a bit of St. Elmo’s Fire crackling around the perimeter. The last floral layer is rose and iris and the transition from indolic to pure beautiful rose underpinned by the powdery aspects of the iris is striking and it occurs languidly as the rose seductively pushes its way forward and eventually the trailing iris catches up and adds to the effect. The base leaves all of this floral stuff behind as sandalwood, musk, vetiver, and amber combine into a musky woody finish. M. Fontaine pulls off the musk here especially well as it has the power of the old nitro musks M. Vacher undoubtedly used in 1936 but M. Fontaine cannot use in 2014.
Sortilege has 10-12 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.
M. Vacher followed up Sortilege a year later with his first soliflore Iris. Iris is a deceptively simple construction with much of the pleasure coming from the places where the simplicity of the phases overlap. Iris reminds me of something much more modern and it is hard for me to accept that this was made 77 years ago. If I sniffed this blind I would spend a lot of time naming current perfumers for whom Iris feels like their style. This is also one of the many reasons I like the whole Le Galion line so very much. While these are vintage fragrances made fresh through M. Fontaine’s efforts they feel much more contemporary to me. Iris perhaps is the one which carries this characteristic the most of any of the Le Galion fragrances.
Iris opens up with the iris and it is matched with green mimosa and ambrette seed. The iris used here is very powdery and these notes accentuate that quality. Galbanum adds a green intermezzo before lily and rose return the powdery feel. The base notes are cedar and amber which provide a delineated framework for the iris to take root upon.
Iris has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Le Galion.
Editor’s Note: Sortilege has never been out of print in the US because Irma Shorell of Long Lost Perfume has provided her re-formulation of Sortilege for many years and she holds a US Patent for the rights to Sortilege in the US. As such that might mean the Le Galion Sortilege reviewed above may only be available in markets outside the US.
It is exciting to be in a place where you can feel an organic groundswell of approval begin to form. When I attended Esxence in March of 2014 I watched this happen. Esxence is one of the largest perfume expositions in the world and their well curated exhibitors show off the best of niche perfumery. As such it attracts a pretty knowledgeable crowd and as you meet people the most common question you ask is, “Smelled anything good?” Everyone usually has a different answer but when you start hearing the same answer from a number of people you might want to make sure to check it out. This year the answer to that question was almost overwhelmingly, “Have you tried Le Galion yet?” I met Roja Dove in the lobby of our hotel on the morning of day two and this was the exchange we had. I had already heard enough the previous day and so set out to visit the booth.
When I arrived Nicolas Chabot greeted me and told me the story of the line. In 1936 perfumer Paul Vacher purchased Le Galion so he could produce his own fragrances. M. Vacher was most known for his Lanvin fragrances that he co-created with Andre Fraysse; Scandal and Arpege. He would work for other houses as he continued to expand Le Galion, most notably working with Jean Carles to create Miss Dior in 1947. M. Vacher would guide Le Galion through the post-war world and continue to make perfume for Le Galion until his death in 1975. The brand was sold in 1980 and was mismanaged into oblivion; another classic line of perfume lost, or so it seemed.
M. Chabot acquired the brand and began the work of resurrecting it. One bit of good fortune was unearthing M. Vacher’s original notebooks containing the recipes for all of the perfumes he created for Le Galion. Obviously one of the challenges for bringing back to life perfume that was created originally in the early 20th century is the sourcing of some of the raw materials and the restrictions don’t allow for the ability to just use the same ingredients. M. Chabot had to turn to a current perfumer to help with those and he chose Thomas Fontaine. M. Fomtaine is currently taking on the monumental task of re-formulating the classic Jean Patou collection and his early efforts there have made me hopeful. After experiencing the six fragrances he worked on for Le Galion I am now more than hopeful as M. Fontaine has done a fantastic job for Le Galion. There are three of the new Le Galion that didn’t need any re-working as their raw materials were still able to be used. The real proof of how well M. Fontaine did is I wasn’t able to pick out the three “untouched” ones as being different from the rest of the collection.
As I wrote in my wrap-up of Esxence when I named my top 10 fragrances from the whole exhibition I could have just listed these nine and added one more and been done. The Le Galion collection might be the best Nouveau Retro collection to be released so far. I have spent the last two months getting to know these fragrances and want to share that. So for the next week I am going to give extensive reviews on all nine perfumes in the “new” Le Galion line.
When it comes to the perfumes I find that are supposedly targeted to me as a man I am very disappointed. With Father’s Day coming my trips to the mall have been especially dispiriting as the reps are spraying these aggressively overloaded woody fantasias or citrus cocktails more suited to the bar than my skin. I know woody or citrus is what I as a man should desire but it isn’t what defines me as a man. What I want is a fragrance that exemplifies my modern exterior but never forgets underneath there is an uncultured beast who wants to be let out from time to time. Those fragrances are few and far between and no mass-market perfume brand is going to be interested in selling something like that these days. Which is why I am always thankful for the community of independent perfumers as they don’t have to hew to the popular and can let their imagination and creativity hold sway. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is one of my very favorite indie perfumers and her latest creation, under her DSH Perfumes label, for men called Metropolis is a spectacular example of what I want in a men’s fragrance.
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz
On her website Ms. Hurwitz sets out what she wants Metropolis to be, “Modernism. Minimalism. An abstract masculine design with notes of brushed steel, glass, and motor oil.” She achieves all of that as Metropolis has a very modern glossy feel to it at first but later on there is a steady beat of a strong human heart beneath all of the contemporary trappings.
The brushed steel is represented by a combination of bergamot and aldehydes; a bunch of aldehydes. Very often in this kind of concentration they give off a hairspray aspect but Ms. Hurwitz chose her grouping well and it is the metallic aldehydes which are dominant. The bergamot is like the afternoon sun glinting off the surface with a single point of brightness diffused across the metallic surface. Geranium and oakmoss adds a greenish tint to it all like you’re looking at it through sunglasses. Then the glossiness gives way to something more primal as castoreum, patchouli, leather, and musk take Metropolis into something human. Ms. Hurwitz wanted this to be a motor oil accord and there are times I get a hint of that but I am more enchanted by the animalic ingredients separately and so the petroleum products never coalesce for me and I prefer it this way.
Metropolis has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I would pay a lot of money to arm a faux sales rep to stand next to the real ones in my local department store and spritz them with Metropolis. I think they wouldn’t get a lot of takers but for those few who did stop they would be entering a brave new world of perfume appreciation. I entered Ms. Hurwitz’s world many years ago and it is still one of my favorite places to visit. Metropolis, and Ms. Hurwitz, make my kind of men’s fragrance.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample of Metropolis provided by DSH Perfumes.
It is difficult for me to believe that it has been fifteen years since I first tried Keiko Mecheri Loukhoum, her first fragrance. There might be no more emblematic first fragrance of a line than Loukhoum has been for Keiko Mecheri. In the years since Ms. Mecheri has continually explored all of the potential paths away from that original first release. I always visualize the entire line as a sort of fragrant family tree with Loukhoum as the sturdy trunk from which the other fragrances branch off of. Ms. Mecheri has found fertile ground and has tilled it incessantly turning out fascinating perfumes. The latest release Bois Satin is a little closer to Loukhoum than some of the more recent releases and as such feels like a cyclical return to the beginning and a start of a new creative cycle.
Many of the best perfume lines have a signature note or accord and what ties Ms. Mecheri’s together is the use of vanilla. Vanilla is probably the ultimate comfort scent but Ms. Mecheri has displayed its multiple personalities ably over the years. Bois Satin is a vanilla fragrance made exotic by adding in saffron. Citrus, floral, and an ambery finish combine with the vanilla backbone to create a comforting unconventional vanilla fragrance.
Bois Satin opens with a bright mandarin adding citrus sparkle over the vanilla and saffron. The vanilla-saffron axis that Bois Satin spins around smells gourmand-like at first but fairly quickly it becomes soft spicy warmth. It stays this way for the duration. Jasmine, with rose in a supporting role, provide a sweet floral accord in the heart. This is my favorite part of the development and it lingers here for a long time. The base is amber and patchouli and it is more amber than patchouli. Together with the vanilla this is an olfactory soft pillow to finish on.
Bois Satin has 8-10 hour longevity and modest sillage.
Ms. Mecheri may have been one of the original indie perfumers but Bois Satin shows the development of her aesthetic since Lokhoum. It shows a creative director still finding new paths to explore. Long may she add more branches on to this family tree.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Keiko Mecheri at Esxence and another sample I purchased.
I tend to remember the fragrance which makes me sit up and notice a perfumer for the first time. Diptyque is responsible for two of those moments. When I tried Philosykos in the late 1990’s I had never considered fig to be something I would want in a perfume, Phiolsykos changed that. It was one of my earliest impulse buys because I couldn’t walk away from it. It wasn’t until years later that I found out the perfumer was Olivia Giacobetti. A similar encounter happened in 2003 at the same Diptyque counter as I tried Tam Dao and found one of my favorite sandalwood fragrances of all-time. Perfumers Fabrice Pellegrin and Daniele Moliere were the co-creators but this was the start of M. Pellegrin’s amazing run at Diptyque. It is really the work of these two perfumers, Mme Giacobetti and M. Pellegrin, that I consider to represent the continued artistic excellence of the Diptyque brand. It is why I was delighted to see that both of them were back at work each doing one of the two new releases from Diptyque, Geranium Odorata and Eau de Lavande.
In Geranium Odorata M. Pellegrin returns to green themes he explored previously at Diptyque in 2006’s Eau de Lierre. That fragrance was the smell of ivy growing on a brick wall. Geranium Odorata is the smell of a geranium stem snipped away from the bush. M. Pellegrin combines the “green rose” quality of geranum with very different green notes on top and bottom. It has the same realistic aspect as the ivy in Eau de Lierre but there is also more artistic flair in how that is achieved in Geranium Odorata.
Cardamom is one of my favorite notes in all of perfumery and by pairing it with bergamot M. Pellegrin highlights the lemony and minty aspects of that raw material. The geranium arrives at first smelling a lot like rose before its characteristic green aspects begin to take hold. It is this rougher, rawer kind of rose that makes me like geranium as a perfume ingredient and here M. Pellegrin displays it beautifully. There is a bit of pink pepper to allow the spicy facets to not get lost. The last bit of green comes from a powerful Haitian vetiver. This vetiver leaps into a clinch with the geranium and together they dance a green tinted quickstep through to the finish.
Geranium Odorata has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.
Mme Giacobetti’s trademark is the creation of perfumes that seem almost inconsequentially lightweight but have surprising structure and power for that fragility. I’ve always likened them to a soap bubble floating on the breeze. You can see through it as if it is clear but if you look closer there are all of the colors of the rainbow swirling on the surface. This is Mme Giacobetti’s gift and it is on full display in Eau de Lavande. Lavender Water is one of the earliest fragrances known but Mme Giacobetti also wants to do something different and she does so by combining the two major sources of lavender oil and infusing them with spices.
There is the more precious and expensive Lavender oil from the L. angustofolia species. Lavandin is the more plentiful L. x intermedia species. Because of the lower cost this is the smell of lavender in most laundry products and soaps. Mme Giacobetti uses almost equal amounts of each as the spine of Eau de Lavande. Early on she uses coriander seed and basil to create a haze of green to surround the lavender. In the heart cedar is used to accentuate the more familiar lavandin. This will give you a soapy moment but it is quickly removed form that by cinnamon and nutmeg and together they banish any thought of the laundry room that was beginning to form. The base is a beautifully composed mix of the lightest sandalwood and incense. This is where Mme Giacobetti always impresses me as when I read those notes I’m expecting something strong and instead I get delicacy, she does it to me nearly every time.
Eau de Lavande has 4-6 hour longevity and deceptive sillage. I often thought it was gone only to catch a sniff again.
Both perfumers have very different styles but their success at Diptyque has helped define the way I think about the brand. Geranium Odorata and Eau de Lavande both contribute to that history quite ably.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples I purchased.
I think every young boy goes through a phase where they are fascinated by rocks and minerals. The texture of different types, the density, or unusual lightness, of something which looks so hard. I remember going to the store which sold pieces to trade in a gift certificate. From the moment I received the gift I knew with a certainty what I wanted; a piece of obsidian. I was enraptured by the different textures on display in the hunk I purchased. On one side it was smooth as glass and black as night, it felt like it was drawing me in to an alternate dimension. On the other side it was rough with whorls and sharp edges. Like a cloud I could stare at it for hours seeing shapes forming in the complexity of the lines and topography. Of the few things I still have from my childhood that piece of obsidian is one and it sits near my desk. When I received my bottle of Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Oumma I realized almost immediately that it was my obsidian in olfactory form.
Stephane Humbert Lucas
Stephane Humbert Lucas’ eponymous 777 line is one of the best new entries into the ultra-luxe perfume market. M. Lucas uses large quantities of high quality raw materials and this collection is heavily tilted towards Middle Eastern influences with many of them containing oud. Oumma has probably the highest concentration of oud in the entire 777 collection. It seems like almost every ingredient in Oumma is present in near overdose quantities. M. Lucas shows a precise hand in taking the disparate loud voices and finding a harmony that allows them all to sing in unison albeit at high volume. Prima facie Oumma is a typical woody rose oud combo and it is certainly that. It is also so intense it draws you in like that smooth surface of the obsidian into a dimension defined by the familiar but made unconventional by its energy. Once inside, the development abounds with remarkable textures which allow imagination free rein.
There is no easing into a fragrance like Oumma, M. Lucas tosses you into the deep end of the pool and you are floating in a bath of jasmine and rose. It inhabits every receptor in your nose and then as you break the surface you take a deep breath of oud. It is so prominent in all of its schizophrenic glory. The woodiness, the odd medicinal quality, the subtle floral aspect, the smoke; it forms its own fragrant whorls and ridges to let one decide where they want to place their attention. The source of the oud is a Burmese oud which also carries a significant peppery character and M. Lucas takes that and ups the ante by adding in cade. It makes everything that can be fractious about oud even more cantankerous in quality. This ridge is so sharp it could cut if you’re not careful. The base is a cocktail of tolu and Peruvian balsams which are also very strong but they are the easiest thing to cling to throughout the entire torrid development.
Oumma has 24 hour longevity, and then some. It also has prodigious sillage a little goes a very long way.
There are many oud fragrances on the market and there are even many woody rose oud fragrances on the market. None of them approach the mesmerizing intensity of Oumma. It feels as ageless as my piece of obsidian swallowing all of the surrounding light in its inky beauty. If you like oud dive in to the Stygian depths and breathe deeply there are rewards in excess.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle of Oumma I purchased.