Tabac Tabou by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2015

Notes: grass, daffodil, white flowers, honey, tobacco leaf, immortelle, leather, animalic notes, musk

Comment: 2015 vintage review
Boasting "a high quantity of extremely rare and precious materials", and produced in very limited quantities with the label indicating the vintage (like a bottle of wine), Tabac Tabou aspires to be a tobacco-based parfum extrait but is anything but.

Opening with an ominous pairing of grass and white florals, the top notes smell plastic-like and artificial. With a touch of honey, a clinical aura continues to persist. Personally, one is hard-pressed to discern much tobacco – instead detecting more of a leathery presence with animalic nuances (albeit probably synthetic).

With minimal projection and longevity of at least six hours, anyone searching for a prominent tobacco fragrance would be advised to investigate elsewhere – beginning with Molinard's Habanita, Serge Lutens' Fumerie Turque and Chergui, Caron's Tabac Blond, and Santa Maria Novella's Acqua di Cuba and Tabacco Toscano.

However, even within the context of a leather creation, Tabac Tabou is still very much a failure in comparison to Guerlain's Derby, Knize's Knize Ten, Serge Lutens' Cuir Mauresque, Montale's Oud Cuir d'Arabie and even this house's own Cuir Ottoman.

Whichever way one looks at it, Tabac Blond is bland and utterly trite, with hardly any redeeming qualities.


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Musc Tonkin by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: fruits, flowers, resins, woods, hyraceum, musk

Comment: Eau de Parfum review
Prized for its aphrodisiac qualities, and considered a very precious ingredient in perfumery, Tonqin musk comes from the Tibetan musk deer but is no longer used for ethical reasons. As a result, Musc Tonkin is supposedly an olfactory reconstruction of this now extremely rare musk, using numerous accords to capture its "myriad of facets".

Unfortunately, as much as one loves animalic musks, it comes nowhere close to possessing the raunchiness, warmth, complexity and depth of the real thing. Instead, one is met with an astringent hodgepodge of gasoline-induced synthetic notes, which are more mind-bogglingly derivative than offensive.

With leathery undertones and salty-floral nuances, it's in no way a multi-faceted musk, smelling cheap, clinical and soulless. There's certainly nothing faecal or even sensual about it at all, and anyone who claims otherwise has probably never had the opportunity to sample either civet or castoreum absolute, a rich ambergris tincture, or even a high-quality Hindi agarwood oil.

With moderate sillage and good lasting power, Musc Tonkin is nothing but an overpriced impostor (and a pretty atrocious one at that).


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Corsica Furiosa by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: eau de vie, nepita, pepper, tomato leaf, lentisque, cistus, oakmoss
Corsica Furiosa serves as a tribute to Marc-Antoine Corticchiato's homeland of Corsica – the nucleus of which comprises of three different types of lentisque (a resin also known as mastic): the essential oil ("peppery, fruity, aromatic, then earthy with mushroom overtones"), the absolute ("hay, blond tobacco, honey and straw accents, darkened with a tinge of liquorish") and a special type of extraction ("resin, spices and leather").

It starts out as dry, crisp, vegetal and slightly bitter, with a galbanum-like greenness from the tomato leaf. With an underlying pepperiness, one doesn't detect any booziness from the eau de vie (or 'water of life' – a clear and colourless fruit brandy) nor much mintiness from the nepita (a Corsican herb that strongly recalls oregano and peppermint). What one discerns, instead, are demure peppery and herbaceous flourishes, which merely serve to embellish the composition's lentisque core. However, beyond that, all that remains is a light oakmoss base, slightly sweetened with a touch of cistus.

Although the composition exhibits discreet grassy, mossy and hay-like facets, it isn't even remotely verdant or bracing. Moreover, the lentisque aspect isn't as rich or intense as originally anticipated – leading one to wonder how a supposedly heady cocktail of three different extractions of lentisque could pass by relatively unnoticed. While one is aware that lentisque isn't a loud accord, one was still expecting something both substantial and memorable. As a result, one can only deem this excursion as a missed opportunity.

Labelled as an Eau de Parfum, its performance on the skin is closer to that of an anaemic Eau de Toilette. And while Corsica Furiosa is slightly better than Sisley's Eau d'Ikar, it could have been much better. With that said, Sisley's Eau de Campagne still remains a reference point for any olfactory creation that claims to be green and rustic... which Corsica Furiosa sadly isn't.


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Azemour les Orangers by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: grapefruit, lemon, orange, clementine, tangerine, blackcurrant, iodine, coriander, pink pepper, black pepper, cumin, galbanum, neroli, orange blossom, geranium, rose, henna, hay, moss
Azemour les Orangers is partly named after the ancient city of Azemmour, near the Atlantic coast of Morocco. However, from an olfactory perspective, it's also a tribute to the orange groves where Parfum d'Empire's founder, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, spent his childhood.

Classified as a fruity-chypré, it's a gloriously succulent and vibrant scent, which successfully strives to capture the olfactory facets of an orange grove close to the sea. With an array of citrus accords, the opening is zesty, buoyant and clean, with both the grapefruit and blackcurrant providing an additional dimension to a rich orange-clementine-tangerine alliance. The galbanum bequeaths a leafy greenness, and the incidental aromas from the dusty Moroccan winds are represented by dry spices and a subtle oceanic saltiness from the iodine.

With a soft floral core, the citruses are further fleshed out by the neroli and orange blossom – the combination of which adds a honeyed sweetness to the proceedings. The rose is discreet yet discernible, and the geranium acts as a floral-related segue between the galbanum and the woody-aromatic base. With the foundation largely comprising of henna, hay and moss, the final moments on the skin are redolent of dried grass, on a hot sunny day, with gentle wafts from an orange grove intermingled with the salty air.

On the whole, it's a sweet yet graceful release, with a soapiness that could be attributed to the stealth addition of some white musk in the base. As for the inclusion of cumin and grapefruit, any fears of a body odour aspect can be promptly discarded. And while its staying power of over six hours is impressive, it tends to remain close to the skin.

Regardless of this, one is unable to deny that it offers an abundance of complexity, depth and charm.


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Wazamba by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2009

Notes: aldehydes, apple, Moroccan cypress, fir balsam, Somali frankincense, Kenyan myrrh, labdanum, Ethiopian opopanax, Indian sandalwood
"Wazamba takes its name from a musical instrument, a type of sistrum used in West African rituals."

During the early years, Parfum d'Empire had a nasty habit of releasing orientals that stylistically 'alluded' to the baroque exoticism of Serge Lutens – Ambre Sultan for Ambre Russe, Arabie and El Attarine for Aziyadé, and Daim Blond for Cuir Ottoman. With Wazamba, it's yet another questionable Serge Lutens 'tribute' but, on this occasion, it's more of an amalgamation of more than one Serge Lutens offering.

With stewed fruits and an ambery-herbaceous leaning, one is immediately reminded of both Arabie and Ambre Sultan. But the heart of Wazamba mainly comprises of resins and lashings of fir balsam, which is what Chypre Rouge (another Serge Lutens creation) also possesses in abundance. Yet, unlike the transient Chypre Rouge, Wazamba has better tenacity – featuring a full-bodied foundation of myrrh, labdanum and opopanax that, when combined with the fir balsam and apple, yields something intriguingly reminiscent of immortelle.

But, for all its virtues, one is unable to abide with the apple-infused sweetness that intermingles with the syrupy balsams and resins. Noticeably linear, the end result is a somewhat bizarre high-pitched ambery-green aroma, with an underlining burnt woodiness.

Sillage is moderate, with below average lasting power.


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3 Fleurs by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2009

Notes: mint, galbanum, Bulgarian rose, Egyptian jasmine, Indian tuberose, white musk
"This petal-rich floral tells three love stories in three voices, through three flowers... Rose for passion. Jasmine for romance. Tuberose for forbidden pleasures... Flamboyant and seductive."

3 Fleurs is a vividly rich green floral, which could be considered flamboyant in its general demeanour.

With a soft spearmint note running throughout the composition, the galbanum accentuates the verdant aspects of the florals. The jasmine is slightly indolic, the tuberose is creamy, and the rose is citrusy, dewy and elegant. There may also be a hint of geranium but one isn't entirely sure. The end result is a beautifully lush and radiant floral bouquet, with a skeletal structure that serves only to emphasise the olfactory attributes of the florals.

Exhibiting a honey-infused sweetness, the composite aroma occasionally shifts into champaca territory before minty facets intervene. But during the drydown, it becomes more of an ethereal and musky rose affair, which is less vibrant and captivating than what went on before. Actually, it could easily pass for the mid notes stage of a Les Parfums de Rosine creation, at this point.

Using good quality materials and smelling very natural, it's a gorgeous unisex floral effort that could have fared better with the odd tweak in the base. However, as mentioned before, it's all about the florals with any potential distractions kept to a bare minimum.

Staying power is above average, with good sillage.


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Yuzu Fou by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2008

Notes: yuzu, bitter orange, kumquat, mint, verbena, neroli, green bamboo, cedar, white musk
Influenced by Japanese civilisation, both ancient and modern, Yuzu Fou is a woody-citrus release that ventures into Eau de Cologne territory.

Opening with a tart and leafy-green citrus aroma, the yuzu isn't as prominent as originally expected. And while the kumquat adds a faint exotic dimension, the citrus-packed top notes are merely a fleeting prelude to what is largely a verbena, mint and cedar offering. Embellished with green bamboo and soft vegetal nuances, Yuzu Fou comes across as a modern rendition of Balmain's Monsieur Balmain.

With good longevity, its bittersweet minty-citrus demeanour is reasonably pleasant. However, it tends to remain linear once the citrus introduction has largely dissipated. All in all, it's a respectable release but there are more worthwhile fragrances from this French niche house.


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Aziyadé by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2008

Notes: orange, pomegranate, prune, dates, almond, cardamom, ginger, Ceylonese cinnamon, Egyptian cumin, carob, frankincense, tobacco leaf, Madagascan vanilla, Indian patchouli, Moroccan cistus, animal accords
Inspired by a Pierre Loti novel of the same name, Aziyadé is an interesting fruity-resinous oriental that strongly calls to mind various Serge Lutens creations.

With a salient orange and pomegranate opening, its initial olfactory exoticism of tea, spices and candied fruits is in the same spirit as Serge Lutens' Arabie. However, due to Aziyadé being less fruity, syrupy and opulent, its general demeanour is actually closer to that of another Serge Lutens' offering, El Attarine (interestingly enough, released the same year). But what really sets Aziyadé apart from these two Lutens fragrances is its emphasis on the resins and (what appears to be) a notable floral heart.

Although there aren't any florals listed, it could simply be an olfactory mirage, largely due to the featured carob note (often used as a health food alternative to chocolate). Along with the tobacco, frankincense, cistus, vanilla and patchouli, it would be understandable to assume the presence of, say, ylang-ylang in the composition as a result (especially when occasional pink bubblegum nuances are discerned from time to time).

During the slightly dusty final stages, more vanilla emerges but, interwoven with remnants of almond, fruits and spices, subtle cherry accents unexpectedly greet the nose. Throughout this stage, one is gently reminded of a loukhoum-style scent, such as Serge Lutens' Rahät Loukoum, albeit less nutty and sweet. As for the so-called animal accords, they remain very much in the background but, at a guess, castoreum is among them.

Overall, one finds it a reasonably pleasant creation but it isn't entirely original. Furthermore, while it lasts rather well, its projection falters after the first hour or so. Still, for those seeking a more feminine version of El Attarine or Arabie, Aziyadé makes an acceptable alternative.


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Equistrius by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2007

Notes: green notes, violet, Florentine iris, rice powder, chocolate, vetiver, sandalwood, ambrette butter, ambergris
In honour of the horse that gave Parfum d'Empire's Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, a former competitive horse rider, his greatest victories, Equistrius is allegedly "built around the noblest of raw materials" with iris being the star accord. But, where most offerings of this ilk explore the rooty, buttery or candied aspects of iris, this rendition treads its own path – resulting in a soft, powdery and slightly fruity affair.

Starting out fairly sweet, the rice powder and iris come into play almost immediately, with a slightly green violet adding a little edge. Coupled with the chocolate, the composition exudes suede undertones, as opposed to a gourmand premise. Resting on a foundation of ambrette, sandalwood and ambergris, the resultant woody-musk drydown is pleasantly creamy, nutty and slightly ambery.

Ultimately, it's a well-blended fragrance that's comforting, inoffensive and relatively easy to wear. And although there's nothing particularly riveting about it, it would certainly appeal to those who prefer a far less challenging iris-dominant scent.

Staying very close to the skin, its lasting power could have been considerably better.


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Fougère Bengale by Parfum d'Empire

*****
Year: 2007

Notes: mint, tarragon, laurel, gingerbread, spices, lavender, geranium, Assam tea, blond tobacco, hay, tonka bean, patchouli, vanilla, oakmoss
"Fougère Bengale revisits the [fougère] genre with a powerful, honeyed blond tobacco accord, and carries us off to India..."

Inspired by the Bengal region of the ancient Mongol Empire, one wouldn't really view Fougère Bengale as a true fougère. However, its Southern Asian olfactory theme is undeniable.

It starts off with a haphazard flurry of mint, herbs and spices. At this stage, there's a lot going on – a celery-like greenness, a culinary herbaceous leaning and a cumin-led spiciness. Although not listed, one can also discern some immortelle (with its earthy maple syrup properties), underscored with liquorice, aniseed and camphorous accents. As for the lavender, its interaction with the immortelle results in a chocolate-like effect.

While it sounds like a complete mess, it actually works – immediately bringing to mind comparisons to Annick Goutal's Sables and, in particular, Christian Dior's Eau Noir. But what separates Fougère Bengale from these two is its more complex structure of herbs, spices, tobacco, hay and woods. Actually, in some ways, Fougère Bengale takes the olfactory swarthiness of Eau Noir much further, with a warm woody-aromatic mélange of tea, blond tobacco, hay and woods replacing Eau Noir's more austere base of leather and cedar.

With a mellow, and slightly honeyed, foundation of tobacco, hay, tonka bean, vanilla and patchouli, there sadly isn't much oakmoss present. As a result, one isn't completely convinced about its fougère classification. Also, one found it too muted, after the first hour, and in need of a liberal application for a satisfactory experience.

Overall, it's an admirable effort, which could have been more rewarding with sufficient oakmoss and a higher oil concentration. And while it's not a fragrance one would personally wear, it still comes recommended.


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