Friday, 9 October 2009
Bal d'Afrique - perfume review or something not resembling one at all
I had never heard about Byredo before I started digging on eBay, felt an urge to check something, found something else and when I was at it, I checked what else the seller had. Bal d'Afrique sounded quite exciting as a name of a fragrance so I looked for the company... and found out that it was a Swedish one.
Not that I doubted that there'd be a perfumer or two in Sweden, they seem to be everywhere but, well, it was somewhat surprising.
The whole range comes in identical bottles - to enjoy a piece of good glass sculpture, one needs to turn to Guerlain or some other huge fragrance house that can afford to have their own designs made in bulk. I however love the packaging. The ornamental logo, stickers with some trellis pattern sealing the box... as a neat coincidence, the perfume arrived when I was reading Ernst Hans Gombrich's The sense of Order.... Or, not actually reading, it was a library copy and several arseholes made so many underlines and notes that I couldn't, I only checked that the book is highly useful, I want to own one, and bought it on eBay, in the lovely first edition with ornamental designs on the dust jacket. While speaking of books, Byredo has a range of candles, featuring one named Bibliotheque.
Back to the fragrance. After the very citrusy start, there indeed is quite a handful of violets - I read them spicy and woody, that's maybe the reason why I perceived the whole fragrance as citrus-oriental, a sparsely inhabited realm. In fact, the notes taken from the Byredo site describe it rather as citrusy-floral but those are the weird flowers which I don't perceive as typically floral. Violet is simply peculiar to me, I guess I need to get a bottle of ionone (there's a bad drugstore back in the Podunk and they should have food flavourings, not the bestest start but good enough, and I love violet bonbons so I could make some when I'm at that) to get the fragrance separated from disturbing elements. Jasmine - nope, this is not a jasmine fragrance as such. I know jasmine when I meet it, I wore jasminum sambac in my hair for the whole May and I do have several jasmine perfumes; I guess that jasmine stays hidden, only making the whole thing seamless and generally neat.
There was a neat little envelope with a neat little card in the box. On the card, there was a romantic rant. Something about a hut with floor of red mud, and how the people gather there. I'm not romantic, I'm afraid so I had a nice laugh - my imagination immediately produced some highly serious gathering interrupted by a wandering chicken. My grandparents lived in the countryside until relatively recently, cottage with mud on the floor (not mud floor, it was concrete, but people went in their wellingtons to the kitchen so the result was pretty much similar) and it was much less cute than one would imagine.
Escapism is easy with the abstract nature of perfumes but it can be somewhat tricky. But... the fragrance is nice. It doesn't evoke exotic natives and red soil to me but I suppose it doesn't matter. I like it anyway - if nothing else, it's one of the fragrances that are prominently citrusy but don't turn foul on me.
Top notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Neroli, African marigold, Bucchu
Middle notes: Violet, Jasmin petals, Cyclamen
Base notes: Black Amber, Musk, Vetiver, Moroccan cedarwood
You can get the whole range of perfumes for 950 SEK /115 euros for 100mlhere.
I tried the whole range of Byredo perfumes at Fragranze back in Florence. Their new Blanche didn't really impress me but I'd happily get Pulp. Apparently, the authors imagine smashed fruits under the word pulp where I'd go for ground redwood tree on its way towards a bajillion of sheets of copier paper.
Thinking of it, it's maybe the creators that long for somewhere exotic else. Bal d'Afrique, Chembur, Gypsy water... one cannot but think about, say, Patou's Normandie, Colony or Vacances. I'm really tired by travelling and the idea of creating something like I'm Not Leaving My House (with notes of three days old bread, wilting plants and dust bunnies on a bleak autumn day, for example) is already kicking my shin.