New Perfume Review Suleko Albho, Vy Roza, Djelem, and Baba Yaga-Tales of the Russian Woods

When there is a close relation between creative director and perfumer, working in tandem, is often when magic happens. At the recent Elements Showcase I found another example of this thesis to be true. I am a big fan of perfumer Cecile Zarokian and believe 2014 is poised to be a breakout year for her. When I met her at Elements she introduced me to Anastasia Sokolow the owner and creative director of Suleko. Together they told me the story of creating four fragrances to reflect Mme Sokolow’s Russian heritage and one for each season. When I was talking with both of these talented women and hearing their description of each fragrance it struck me how this was a true match of equals. Each brought their passions to bear and together have created a beautiful collection of four special fragrances.

anastasia sokolow

Anastasia Sokolow

Albho represents winter and the name comes from the Indo-European root for the Russian word for swan, Lebed. The concept for Mme Zarokian was to evoke “strength and power, but at the same time calm and gentleness”. When I tried Albho on a strip at Elements it didn’t show off all of those charms but I had a feeling once I wore it there was a chance I would feel differently. Albho captures the feel of that icy inhalation on a winter’s morning, if it is adjacent to a stand of sentinel pine trees. Mme Zarokian begins with that frigid pairing of mint and eucalyptus. It is vaporous and frosty as the eucalyptus in particular sets the winter milieu. Then a frigid pine note arrives. By framing this pine note in cedar Mme Zarokian makes it feel separate, much as smells in the cold feel detached. The eucalyptus and pine form a winter’s breath accord that lingers for a good while. Eventually one has to warm up and the base notes of benzoin, labdanum, and tolu balm provide the olfactory heat.

Vy Roza comes from Pushkin’s novel, Eugene Onegin where the heroine Tatiana is referred to as “Vy Roza belle Tatiana” (You are a rose, beautiful Tatiana). Vy Roza is meant to evoke spring and it does so be being a “beautiful rose”. Mme Zarokian surrounds the central rose with some other spring-like floral compatriots and finishes back in the woods. The opening of Vy Roza takes lilac and muguet which form a slightly green very fresh floral duet. The rose combusts to life like a phoenix rising as it takes over and dominates. Vy Roza ends with a series of woody notes but it takes hours before you notice anything but the rose.

Cecile Zarokian1

Cecile Zarokian

Djelem refers to the name of the song which became the anthem of the Gypsies in 1971. Mme Sokolow wanted the fragrance to capture all of the freedom loving proud impulsive pride of the gypsy spirit. To do this Mme Zarokian created a fragrance which captures a summer night around a gypsy fire. As you sit down you smell the hay field around you freshly threshed. Then the music of spicy carnation is deepened even further with cloves and made slightly sweet with a bit of immortelle as it begins to swirl around. The base is the ambery warmth of the fire as only glowing embers are left. Djelem seems as persistently variable as a gypsy song, at turns joyous and solemn. It felt like it was in constant motion during both days I wore it.

Baba Yaga is the Russian child’s boogeywoman. She is the witch of the forest, all that makes up the darkness. When I think of storybook witches I think of a swirl of cape with a lot of flying about accompanied with magical gestures. The witches of our dark tales always seem to have a physical power equal to their magical ones. Mme Zarokian captures that feel of power waiting to be unleashed with a gesture and a cackle of glee in Baba Yaga. When I tried this at Elements the kinetic nature of the notes swept me away. Baba Yaga opens with a furious rush of red berries, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper. All of these notes seem to orbit and fly past each other as you sense the berries, then the pepper, then the cinnamon, then the nutmeg. Like gathering the strands of a spell that just won’t come together. In the heart a core of darkness arises with a deep patchouli trying to form a focal point as you sense the earth in the dark forest. Finally the base notes of leather, cade, and moss combine to form a powerful completion to this olfactory witches’ brew.

All four Suleko fragrances had above average longevity and above average sillage.

The ceramic sculptures which hold the atomizers for each of these fragrances were designed by sculptors Joelle Fevre and Alain Fichot. They add a very unusual visual element to each of these fragrances.

This collection truly does carry through the thread of Mme Sokolow’s Russian heritage with a seasonal aspect. Mme Zarokian listened carefully and skillfully translated the words into perfume. Baba Yaga is my favorite for all of its kineticism but Albho really runs a close second for all of its chilly charms. Taken together this is another example of creative director and perfumer working together on the same wavelength to produce beautiful olfactory music.

Disclosure: this review was based on sample provided by Suleko at the Elements Showcase.

Mark Behnke

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