My Favorite Things: Cedar

Where I live we have received the first signs of the upcoming heated days of summer. When it comes to perfume wearing you have to choose wisely. This is the season when the cleaner less complicated fragrances are the ones I choose. For this time of year when I want something woody I begin to look in the area of my perfume collection which holds the cedar-based fragrances. Cedar is often described as smelling like “pencil shavings” or a “hamster cage”. While these are accurate they turn a woody note which provides structure to so many perfumes into something unappealing. Cedar is what I think of as the unobtrusive frame around the more flamboyant perfume raw materials. When it comes to summer though I mostly want my cedar unadulterated. For that here are five I turn to.

Serge Lutens (Shiseido) Feminite du Bois was the perfume which not only put Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake on the map it would also set the stage for many “Bois” perfumes to come from M. Lutens. Collaborating with perfumer Pierre Bourdon the bois here is cedar throughout. What Messrs. Sheldrake and Bourdon do is to dress it up with rose, honey, and spices. This is one of the great masterpieces of perfumery and it all starts with the very plebian cedar.

armani prive bois dencens

Armani Prive Bois D’Encens is one of the only incense perfumes I can wear in the heat of summer. That is because perfumer Michel Almairic keeps the incense very transparent. When it does become recognizable it is that cool slightly metallic church incense. M. Alamiric chooses cedar as the wood because it can also be pitched at the same level. What remains is a sotto voce duet of cedar and incense that never overstays its welcome, especially in the heat.

IUNX L’Eau Sento is Olivia Giacobetti’s perfume of a steamy sauna with its cedar lined walls. There is a palpable humidity as water droplets form on the planks. The same effect occurs with L’Eau Sento as Mme Giacobetti is able to add a watery sheen to the clean woodiness of the cedar. This is one of the perfumes I keep in the refrigerator during the summer. Not for any preservation effect but because spraying this on chilled is one of my favorite ways to beat the heat.

Les Nez Let Me Play the Lion is the flip side to L’Eau Sento. Perfumer Isabelle Doyen has created a dry sauna with a brazier of lava rocks releasing their heat into the surrounding wood. The effect is meant to make you feel like a lion prowling the savannah. Every time I wear it I am meditating in a small overheated cedar room.

Byredo Super Cedar has rapidly risen to inclusion on this list. Perfumer Jerome Epinette layers so many different sources of cedar it forms a woody palimpsest. This has been the cedar perfume I’ve sought out for these first few scorching days. My recent review of it can be found here.

If you’re looking for clean uncomplicated woody fragrances for the summer these are five of My Favorite Things.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased except for Byredo Super Cedar which is a press sample supplied by Byredo.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Byredo Super Cedar- IKEA Dreams

Guilty pleasures are things you know you shouldn’t like but are irresistibly pulled towards. When it comes to perfume I like complex, evolving, layered compositions. Which is why I am surprised at how much I like the new Byredo Super Cedar because it is as advertised; essentially a cedar soliflore.

Cedar is one of the most distinctive notes on the perfumer’s palette. Its clean woodiness was one of the first notes I could confidently pick out of a fragrance early on. It is easy to describe; most often as “smelling like pencil shavings”. In the press materials which came with Super Cedar creative director Ben Gorham mentions he was looking for, “Evocative of log cabins and Scandinavian furniture”. That line capture what I think is fascinating about Super Cedar. Perfumer Jerome Epinette moves away from the more obvious pencil shavings. Instead he channels his interior IKEA and captures the smell of a warehouse of disassembled blond wood shelving stacked high to the ceiling.

I am not sure what the sources of cedar M. Epinette used to build Super Cedar. I know Robertet has a full array of fractions and different extractions of cedar for him to consider. My belief is he must have spent a lot of time working with a number of those raw materials finding just the right balance to allow the cedar to be pulled all the way through the development. There are only a few grace notes which provide minimal contrast.


Jerome Epinette

Right away Super Cedar opens with a sotto voce version of cedar. It doesn’t carry that intensity that cedar usually imparts to a fragrance. A tiny bit of rose floats through but it is left way in the background. Over the next hour the cedar accord slowly forms gathering intensity as I suspect each new cedar raw material adds itself to the mix. This all leads to a pure cedarwood accord which I found compelling. It is here where Super Cedar holds for quite a while. Eventually a bit of vetiver and white musks become apparent but it really is the cedar accord holding together for hours which predominates.

Super Cedar has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

The engineering of the central cedar accord is what elevates Super Cedar from just being a flat cedar perfume. It is as densely engineered as a piece of IKEA furniture. As I was wearing it I could almost see one of those pictorial assembly instructions in my head as each new piece of cedar was added. Super Cedar is both super and cedar, if you like the latter I think you will also find it pretty good.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Byredo.

Mark Behnke