Towards the end of last year I was contacted by Fabrice Croise about his new fragrance line. He enticed me with a set of three mystery vials containing perfumes for his Scents of Wood brand. They were all interesting to me. I spent some time learning about the brand on the website. As I read there seemed to be a gilding of the lily effect they were describing. The concept was to use alcohol aged in different types of wood barrels as the carrier for the perfume oil. I liked my blind samples, but I really wanted to understand if the alcohol thing was a gimmick.
M. Croise jumped on a videocall to explain it to me. He sensed my skepticism and sent me a set of just the different wood-aged alcohols and just the fragrance before being added to the alcohol. I also received a set of the perfumes with labels, too. With all three forms I was able to detect the effect these wood-aged alcohols give.
The fragrance concept is to take wood-focused perfume oils and add them to the wood-aged alcohols. Thus each name is a keynote of the oil first followed by the type of wood used to age the alcohol. I have spent most of the first part of the year enjoying what was sent to me. I was really waiting for warmer weather because with only a couple of exceptions I expected them to be best in warm weather.
M. Croise then took the next step of collaborating with a set of talented perfumers. This has resulted in a collection of fragrance for those who can’t get enough wood perfume in their life. Instead of just clobbering you over the head each scent is a layered effect beginning with the alcohol out of which the perfume oil can rise in waves. Over the next three days I am going to give reviews to most of the current releases.
I’ll start with the ones which really seemed like they were going to be overkill but turned out not to be.
Sandalwood in Oak by perfumer Mackenzie Reilly– Prior to trying any of the perfumes my biggest concern was they were going to be too heavy. It seemed like it was unavoidable. One of the things I have admired about Ms. Reilly’s career to date is her ability to create a sense of openness even with the strongest ingredients. This is another great example of that.
This is a gorgeous sandalwood dry and austere. The oak-aged alcohol provides a subtle texture. Places for her to hang things on. Early on it is a set of discrete smoke in a burnt sugar accord and smoked sage. This adds an engaging odd contrast. It leads to a carrot-like iris and vanilla adding vegetal and baker’s sweetness to the sandalwood. It is another perfume which shifts its mood as it evolves on my skin.
Oak in Oak by perfumer Celine Barel– When I spoke with M. Croise he told me this was coming. It was impossible not to think about overkill. Then he told me Mme Barel was going to be the perfumer. She has a fascinating way of plumbing the depths of her keynotes. I was wondering how far down she would take us into the oak tree.
The oak-aged alcohol probably does the least here of any other perfume it is used in. That’s because the oak at the center of this is so rich. It is the reason the natural scent is so prized. She enhances it using incense and saffron early. They add a silvery resin and a golden glow to the wood. This is where the oak feels less dense without sacrificing depth. A precise amount of cumin and orris add in a textured earthiness as if the roots of the oak are speaking up. It turns back towards warmth as tonka adds the final piece.
Both have 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I will continue these reviews tomorrow with two of the most interesting designs in the collection, Orange in Chestnut and Plum in Cognac.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample set provided by Scents of Wood.