In late January, I had such a lovely blogger experience! I was in Nice for a week, taking a break from work to accompany my husband on his business trip, and free to do whatever I wished during the day. I reached out to a blogger whose fragrance blog I love, Megan in Sainte Maxime, and asked if she might like to get together for coffee or lunch. She said yes! She was working in Cannes, which is a short train ride from Nice, so I met her there. My very first blogger meet-up! And let me just tell you how much grief I got from my oldest daughter, who spent her teens being told “Don’t talk to strangers on the Internet! Never go meet someone you met online!” That child has been waiting for ten years to say that stuff back to me, even tongue in cheek.
Megan is as charming in person as she is in her blog. She graciously took me to a local coffee shop, then invited me to the offices of Atelier des Ors, where she has been doing some work for the line and its founder, Jean-Philippe Clermont. The two of them spent a generous amount of time showing me the house’s latest fragrances, also created by perfumer Marie Salamagne as are all the Atelier des Ors fragrances. Marie Salamagne is the perfumer behind Alaia and its flankers, Mugler’s Aura, Yves St. Laurent’s Black Opium and several flankers, and others you would recognize immediately, including several for Jo Malone. She is a great talent.
The first five fragrances of Atelier des Ors were launched in 2015, joined by two more in 2017 and four new ones in 2018. Jean-Philippe wrote his own account of how he came to the creation of a perfume house for CaFleureBon, in 2016: CaFleureBon Creative Directors in Perfumery: Jean-Philippe Clermont. It seems he has been surrounded by interesting scents in exotic locations since his youth, including extensive travel in Asia and the Middle East. For some years, he ran a business dealing in fine cigars, and that experience sparked a passionate interest in fragrance and the materials that combine to create great fragrances, because of the variations among the cigars and the blends of tobacco that give rise to fragrant smoke.
Three of the four 2018 fragrances are the “White Collection”, inspired by Gustav Klimt’s “Beethoven Frieze” in Vienna, Austria. Sergey Borisov wrote a lovely piece about the collection and its inspirations on Fragrantica. The fourth fragrance of 2018 is Bois Sikar, considered part of the “Black Collection.” It was inspired by Jean-Philippe’s cigar business, a very masculine scent, evocative of the scents one might find in a traditional London private gentlemen’s club:
A beguiling smoky tobacco scent with robust woody tonalities swirling against the heady vapours. The unique, smoky, peaty character of Islay’s single malt whisky is simultaneously conjured to create the essence of Bois Sikar. These addictive facets entwine with cedar leaf creating an intensely intoxicating fragrance.
Bois Sikar is powerful stuff and not for the faint of heart, but it’s brilliant. A little goes a LONG way. The opening is woodsmoke and it is strong. It mellows slowly on the skin, as I imagine an Islay whisky mellows on the tongue after a rough start. Not that I’ve had any Islay whisky myself — I don’t care for Scotch, although it was my father’s drink. I have read that Islay whiskies are especially strong and have an intense flavor of peat smoke, which is used on that Scottish island — known as the “Queen of the Hebrides” and the “burning heart of smoky whiskies” — to smoke the malted barley that is used to make this distinctive local whisky. One writer describes this process: “The peat fuels the fires that roast the barley used in whisky-making, and it gives the finished product a robust flavor that recalls a campfire by the sea: smoky, earthy, a little salty, slightly medicinal.” Big, powerful, fierce, distinctive, super-smoky — these are the descriptors used for Islay whisky.
Commenters on Fragrantica are polarized about Bois Sikar, and their reactions are really all about the smoke. Either they love it, or they hate it. Several refer to it as smelling like a campfire; some who dislike it even use the word “barbecue.” It doesn’t smell to me at all like anything related to barbecue, as there are no food or meaty notes, but “campfire” is accurate. However, this campfire is stoked with fragrant wood, like the apple, mesquite, and cedar wood chips one can buy to add to regular logs in a firepit. This makes sense, given the deliberate evocation of peat fires; I suspect that some of the commenters have as little direct experience with Islay whiskies as I do!
Let us not forget the cigars. Here too, my firsthand knowledge is sadly lacking, although cigars were another pleasure my father enjoyed occasionally. It is interesting that, like whiskies, fragrances, wine, cigars are said to vary widely in their flavors or notes. Like fragrance writers, those who write about cigars review them and post “Best of” lists, such as Havana Insider’s Best Cuban Cigars of 2018. After the initial blast of woodsmoke fades away, I do smell the tobacco in Bois Sikar. I’ve never smoked myself, but I do like the scent of good tobacco, and that is what I smell here.
As Bois Sikar dries down, the smoke slowly dissipates and one is left with a pleasantly woody, dry, tobacco scent, reminiscent of an old tobacco shed, or barn, in the middle of a dry field, after harvest. (I do have personal knowledge of those, as I grew up in Connecticut, where a tobacco industry was established in the early 1600s and continues to this day). The drydown and base note stages are warm, woody, complex, and quite alluring. I applied two small sprays of Bois Sikar on my wrists last night, and this morning it was still fragrant on my skin when I woke up.
I think the dryness of the base comes from the vetiver that is listed. I like Bois Sikar a lot, though it’s not my style of fragrance for myself and you have to be ready for that powerful opening. Although I believe that anyone who likes a fragrance can wear it, Bois Sikar is definitely a fragrance at the far end of the traditionally masculine spectrum. It lasts a long time, and the opening is intensely smoky. For those who want to wear it on social occasions, I recommend spraying it in small amounts a good hour before you leave home, as the powerhouse opening may overwhelm bystanders! If you want to wear it to work, proceed with caution and apply very lightly, allowing even more time for it to dry down before you go to your workplace.
I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Cannes, my meet-up with Megan and Jean-Philippe, and my introduction to Atelier des Ors! The “White Collection” is much more my personal vibe, and will be the subject of a separate post, as its three scents warrant closer attention on their own.
What traditionally “masculine” fragrances do you enjoy, on yourself or on others? What do you think of strongly smoky fragrances? Any favorites?
Review based on a sample provided by Atelier des Ors, opinions my own.