Shiver Me Timbers!

The Benevolent Fairy of Undeserved Blessings, aka Tigs, delivered a bottle of L´Artisan L´Eau du Navigateur to my doorstep the other day.  Navigateur is one of those allegedly discontinued fragrances that nonetheless remains on permanent display in L´Artisan Boutiques.  Indeed, it was on my recent visit to the Chicago store that I decided to try it, only because I was so delighted to see something I thought had vanished – or, more precisely, been replaced by the dry, peppery Navegar. 

I´m pretty sure I tried Navigateur before, shortly after Marina´s review, and my reaction was not favorable.  Navigateur was too spicy and masculine and strident for me.  The notes I´ve seen listed vary, but this one is probably as good as any: coffee, spices, woodsy notes, floral notes, rum, resin, incense, tobacco and leather.  The fragrance has been around for 20 years, and for the record, Luca Turin rags on it as “very dated” in The Guide.

We´re heading into this pirate’s tale bass-ackward, so why not continue?  I wanted Dzongkha to be my exotic-travel L´Artisan, because … who wouldn´t?  I´m all arty and creative and mystical and whatnot, and I was dying to smile softly and cast my eyes downward in response to the question of what wonderful fragrance I was wearing before telling all my admirers about Dzongkha and Bhutan and blah blah blah.   The minor glitch in my plan is that Dzongkha continues to smell like hell on me, all that grassy vetiver, bitter and unfriendly like spices mulling a decade too long in the damp hold of a ship.  So much for that grand idea. 

 Here´s what the lovely SAs Lydia, Darcie and Rebecca from L´Artisan Chicago had to say about Navigateur via email:

“Yes, indeed the L´Eau du Navigateur was created by Jean Claude Ellena in 1978 for L´Artisan Parfumeur as it says in our training guide.  It translates to “The Sailor´s Water” and smells of the spices and resins down the hold of a wood ship… the accord is coffee liquor, cedarwood, myrrh and leather… I also get strong notes of the open sea and the smell of wet wood.  If you breathe even deeper you can pick up notes of cinnamon and at first burst fresh bergamot.  At one time it was rumored to be discontinued, but it is now coming in the new bottles and New York confirmed that it is NOT discontinued.  Currently, it is a boutique exclusive and comes in the 100ml size only.

Anyway, I was so thrilled to see it hadn´t been d/c´d that I grabbed it and sprayed it on in celebration of its continued existence, because I am a Perfume Maniac.  And thus I have to ask:  what on earth was wrong with me?  How could I not have loved this and cleaved it to my heaving bosom at first sniff?  It was probably the slightly b.o.-ish opening that scared me off the first time – coriander, cumin or both, there´s a cheerful burst of something sweaty with your coffee.  Pyramus asks if it smells like sweaty men, so I must not be imagining that part.

The rum is pretty minimal, and the tobacco and leather start off strong and only get stronger over the course of the next hour.  On me, Navigateur is an interesting cross between Dzing!s barnyard leather and Idole de Lubin´s sweetly spicy woods. 

The sweaty bits fade after 20 or 30 minutes, and it is the drydown I have really come to enjoy.  Navigateur shifts from Johnny Depp to Keira Knightley – from a jaunty, swashbuckling (but still guyliner-wearing) “masculine” to a sweet, resinous, incense laden unisexy scent.  It is almost (but not quite) as sweet as Idole on me in the drydown.  If it were any sweeter I wouldn´t like it, but the rough-sawn woods in the background provide the necessary planking to keep the whole thing from collapsing on deck like a hot mess in its pantaloons.  I vote for some definite florals, but I don´t know what.

I´ve read this compared to Hermes Bel Ami, and — I don´t see it, guys.   Most of the reviews of Navigateur are by men on Basenotes, and I assume this fragrance is generally pitched toward men, although obviously anyone can wear it.  So do I have crazy skin, or is Navigateur sweet?  Bel Ami smells to me like a straightforward, classy gents´ cologne, whereas Navigateur has the cheerfully lowbrow camp appeal of a Pirates of the Caribbean marathon on cable TV.  Which I have watched.  Next time I know what scent I´ll be wearing.



  • Wordbird says:

    Tarnation! I feel a lemming coming on, me hearties.
    Interestingly, Dzonghka smells exactly like good scotch on me, right down to the oak barrel. Could be worse, but definitely not Bhutan. (Unless the Bhutanese are a nation of dipsos, which I doubt very much.)

    • March says:

      You made me choke on my tot o’ rum, ye scurvy knave! (? Wench?) That’s an interesting reaction on your skin. I smell like something gone wrong at the Yankee Candle Factory when I wear it. Yeah, scotch isn’t conjuring Bhutan for me either.

  • Robin says:

    I had no idea it was by JCE, and boy, it doesn’t seem like it!

    • March says:

      I’ll be honest, it does make me wonder, a bit. I can’t find anything anywhere that lists him for Navigateur, and since I don’t have his email I can’t write him 😉 . It’s been so long, who knows? I’ll welcome a correction.

  • Musette says:

    That Tigs, she be a generous wench, don’t she be? My knavey heart is swimming in blood over your inability to wear Dzonghka!(:| It’s one of my all-time favorite L’As and the one that introduced me to wearable incense.

    I like Navegar, a little, though it does have a touch of an acquatic edge that you need to be prepared for. I think it meshes nicely with the pepper. Is it okay to say it’s in the “L’A-nade” style??

    xo>-) (wearing a tricorne and a parrot)

    • March says:

      Oh, but I’m happy if YOU can wear Dzongkha! >:d< I want its romance and glory to work on my dear friends, even if it doesn't work on me. Um, that aquatic thing in Navegar. Yes, maybe that's what keeps putting me off. I'll have to take it for a test drive and see. I love many of Olivia Giacobetti's scents, but that could be a deal breaker. How does that alien fit a tricorn on his lumpy head? 😕

  • Tania says:

    Sounds like something I’d like to try! How is it’s longevity? Most of theirs fade fast on me.

    Personally, I imagine Jack Sparrow wearing something really strong – maybe patchouli oil or Arabian black musk. By the looks of his hands, he’s a soap-dodger, so he’d need something to cover the B.O! :d And strong scent would go with the guyliner and the grungy matted decorated hair.
    Having said all that, I still think he’s hot… /:)

    • March says:

      My daughters think he’s hot too. :d And I like your choice of scents for Jack Sparrow. I agree he’s a soap-dodger, in a sexy way.

      Lasting power? Hmm. Well, everything lasts forever on me, to be honest. Longevity is not my usual complaint. The louder part of the fragrance only lasts about half an hour (the sweaty part.) The drydown lasts well into the evening, to the point that I have to decide whether I want to put something over it at bedtime, but it is very much a soft skin scent at that point.

  • sweetlife says:

    Dzongkha and I don’t get along either. In fact, its the perfume that convinced me (quite wrongly) I couldn’t wear incense scents. There’s something in it that magnifies X 10000000 on my skin so that I literally jerk my head away.

    But every now and then I try one more time. What the heck.

    Will have to give Navigateur some time and love when I’m at L’Artisan next.

    • March says:

      So glad to hear that I am not the only one who finds Dzongkha difficult. I still remember (with a little fear) our first encounter. 😮

      And yes, I am all for the “one more time” approach.

  • mikeperez23 says:

    I didn’t know LEdN was ‘done’ by JC Ellena! Really!? How did I miss that?

    A few of the Basenotes boys have told me to try this, but I’ve NEVER seen a bottle so now I know why. I need to sample this right away!

    I’m hoping the ‘sea’ notes don’t ruin it for me. Ever since Secretions Magnifiques, I have ‘nose trauma’ every time I get near a ‘water’ note. I just get pure bilge. Blech.

    Coincidence: I’m wearing Idole from a sample today and it’s rum/wood miasma is fascinating, although I’m not sure I would ever use a bottle of this up. But if LEdN is 1/2 Idole and 1/2 Dzing (which I love!) then I’ll love it.

    And BTW – you’re not the only one who can’t wear Dzonghka. Horribly sour on me.

    • March says:

      I remember hearing somewhere that it was done by JCE and thinking, that can’t be right, everyone would know. And I still don’t know, but the gals at L’Artisan say so.

      I *hate* aquatic scents, and if there’s anything aquatic in there, I can’t smell it. In fact I thought about excising that part of the quote, but left it in there because I’d already chopped it up quite a bit. So have no fear.

      I am assuming (sexist me) that men “butch” Navigateur up on their skin a bit — it seems so when I try fragrances on men. Skin oils or natural musk or whatever, in my opinion, fragrances smell more masculine on men, even things like rose and jasmine. The part that reminds me of Dzing! in Nav is that leather/dung (in a good way) circus-tent accord. Mixed with the spices it’s excellent. But I will have to test drive it on a man and see if my theory holds.

  • Carol Sasich says:

    hoist the main and batten the hatches…gonna be a run on rum an Navagateur….*-:)

  • Patty says:

    So do i need to wear this when I watch The Poseidon Adventure for the 305th time?

    • March says:

      Well, yes! And call me, I’ll come over with a bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos and some beer. I haven’t seen that movie in forever!

  • Louise says:

    Oy, matey, we all missed Talk Like a Pirate day 🙁

    I have a tiny samp of Navagateur from you, Marchess, but I think I rejected it too quickly as “masculine” or some such nonsense. Oh how my nose has developed these past few years 😉

    I will now go search in Tupperware container #3.11 for my wee sniff, since it sounds mighty nice.

    • March says:

      Avast, wench! We’ll be swingin’ our rum o’er some nail polish afore too long… okay, I can make myself giggle just typing like that. Stopping now.

      Hey, if you can’t find your samp I know where there’s more 🙂

  • Tigs / Erin says:

    Argh, the blessings be deserved, as alls us knows ye be too generous with our crew. Me believes that LT faulted this un for being “vivid but slightly chemical”. Vivid, aye, but tis a natural-smellin’ beast to me snotter. Or, at least, as much as any other un in these days.

    • March says:

      Aye, lassie, y’er recollection be correct! Gah, I *suck* at pirate talkin’. Anyhoo, I be leavin’ that part o’ the review out this review, on account of Luca Turin bein’ stark ravin’ mad on that “chemical” point. Granted, they’re all chemicals, but it doesn’t have that synthetic vibe.

  • Carol Sasich says:

    Hard A-Lee , Lee I live on a boat an I be nigh ready to cast a whiff on this one…I’ll be doin it in NYC !!
    Thanks for the heads up March! I hope they have it in SoHo .

  • Lee says:

    Avast, me hearties! :d/

    Alas, I’m a rotten scurvy knave, unfit for the sweet trade on the high seas. I did purchase a flacon of EdN once, but findin’ it unwearable, like a wench’s corset – the smoke and coffee combo just didn’t work for me (nor does the slightly more smoky Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier smellalike, Eau des Iles) – I passed it on, in a fine fair exchange of sorts. Aye, it be long gone now, sailin’ on unknown horizons.

    Landlubber I am, fair matey!

    I must be a mountain boy instead, more familiar with prayer flags, snow and the taste of fresh yak’s milk – Dzongkha works wonderfully for me – more and more as time passes, it seems. Though I am too British to tell people its story when I wear it. :”>

    Om with me, baby!

    • March says:

      I was just sayin’, me boy, can’t believe I didn’t put a link to one of those scurvy “talk like a pirate” sites! There’s a link on one of Robin’s posts to a TRANSLATOR that had me wetting myself laughing. Everything wound up with “ye poxy wench” in it or something similar.

      Y’all brits are so modest. :”>

  • divinemama says:

    Congratulations on finding your high seas adventure fragrance, March! (why is there no pirate emoticon?) There is a 8-x, but without crossbones. :-w

    I tried Dzongkha for the first time tonight and am happy to say it smells wonderful. I will be ready with my soft smile and downward cast eyes now…thanks. ;;)

    Still need to try Timbuktu and Dzing…and am now adding Navigateur to the list. Of course, I will whip out my beloved pirate dvd’s when I do.

    • March says:

      Excellent! So you can do the downcast eyes for me. Seems fair.

      Then you should try Timbuktu, because it smells related to Dzongkha to me. And everyone should try Dzing! Have fun.

      I can’t believe I didn’t put a link to Talk Like A Pirate on this post… argh. Damn me eyes.

  • Elle says:

    Am so glad to see you’ve come to like Navigateur! I adore it and have never been able to give Navegar the fair chance it probably deserves just because I so bitterly resented it for replacing (at least for a while) my beloved Navigateur. And Navigateur definitely has sweet notes on my skin as well. But LT says it’s dated?! Hmph! It’s a classic and, as such, timeless.

    • March says:

      Well, now I need to retry Navegar. I seem to recall it being rather dry for me and maybe a teensy aquatic (shudder.) But maybe my memory’s faulty. I think it’s Olivia Giacobetti, right? So I *should* love it. Timbuktu and I don’t get along any better than Dzongkha. :”>

      I’m glad to hear about the sweet notes. And honestly, I often agree with LT (except, you know, when I don’t) but could not see his point at all about it being dated. To me, dated is some big hairy fougere.