Okay, onward! The folks at Xerjoff sent me some samples of their fragrances. Maybe they just knew deep in their Russian-Italian hearts that I wanted to smell a fragrance line that I pronounce in my head as … well, my best guess is that it’s properly pronounced as “serjoff,” or maybe “zeryoff,” but I am not the only person with a problematic misfire concerning the brand name. The Xerjoff website and their literature is in English, Italian and Russian; the following scents are from their XJ collection.
Homme – Mediterranean citrus, spices, clove, lavender, ylang, woods, leather, vetiver. Starts off with the leather and clove and is rich and ripe – almost like a hint of dirty oud? Becomes darker and more bitter as it dries down, stays leather throughout, on top of a woodsy amber man-scent. It’s too horsey and assertive to interest me as a personal fragrance, but it’s a wonderful non-birchtar leather, and I definitely want a room in my house that smells like this.
Femme – hesperidic and fruity accords, galbanum, orange blossom, iris, leather, patchouli, amber, musk. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? It is blisteringly sweet on me, and I don’t know why, given those notes. I give up.
XXY– bergamot, peach, jasmine, ylang, black pepper, patchouli. This is, I think, intended to be unisexy. A not especially novel fruitchouli, heavy on the peach, registering somewhere between Badgley Mischka and one of the lesser, fruity MDCIs, and if that sounds like damning with faint praise, it’s not — there are far worse things to be said about a perfume, yes? Very, very pretty.
Richwood — Mysore sandalwood, citrus accord, rose, patchouli. This is a “masculine” although a woman could easily wear it. I had high hopes for this based on the Mysore sandalwood. I will not be surprised if this is one of the perfumista favorites, along with Irisss. Vaguely Lutens-ian in its intense, liquid sweet-woodiness, plus there’s something about the rose (?) that makes the fragrance boozy, like a woody cognac, or a wine cask. Boozy notes are not for me, but if you like that sort of thing, well, here it is. Packs a wallop on the skin, lasting (rather like a hangover) well into the next morning, when the sandalwood finally emerges on its own. I wish I could have that part without the first 24 hours.
Irisss – carrot seeds, orris, absolute of rose and ylang, rare woods and resins, incense and musk. Irisss is easy to love. It is all about the orris (I can pick out the rose if I squint really hard), and tilted slightly toward the violet-inflected end of the spectrum rather than the rooty or earthy, although it’s certainly not “feminine.” It doesn’t have the spare elegance of Chanel 28 La Pausa, and it’s not as operatic as Lutens’ Iris Silver Mist, the scent I’d probably choose as the reference iris in perfumery if I were backed into a corner. It’s less woody than the Van Cleef Bois d’Iris, the closest iris I can compare it to, with Irisss being warmer and less dry. My personal supply of ISM, the Van Cleef, and 28 La Pausa satisfy my iris needs; there just aren’t that many times a year I want iris. For those of you for whom there is never enough iris – this thing has edged itself up to #2 on my personal favorite iris list, in part because it stays exactly as it is and I don’t become anosmic to it over time, as I do the Van Cleef.
Damarose – “a classic rose chypre,” Turkish rose, sambac jasmine, freesia, red fruit, patchouli, amber, woods, musk. The lone review on LuckyScent complains that 30 minutes after application it disappears and the staying power is “not acceptable.” Which I note here with amusement only because on my skin, Damarose makes YSL Paris look like a wan little slip of a thing. Damarose is not just huge; it also approaches a personal record on my skin (three days). I should be weeping and removing the top layer of my skin with a steel wool pad by now. I don’t want my own bottle, and I wouldn’t want to share a cubicle with someone who wore this to work every day. It’s got all the subtlety and sophistication of a Macy’s parade float, and … that’s okay with me. Every scent can’t be canned air, right? Damarose is for fans of rose-chouli frags and/or dark roses like L’Artisan’s Voleur de Roses, C&S Dark Rose, Malle Portrait of a Lady or Une Rose.
The Xerjoffs are expensive — glancing at their website, I didn’t see a bottle less than 500 euros, while LuckyScent stocks them at $650ish and up, part of the price being reflected in their fancy bottles. I have no opinion on whether these are “worth” their price. I’m not qualified to judge the raw materials, and I’m pretty much immune to fancy packaging, which is a big part of the Xerjoff thing … actually, I can’t think of any hyper-expensive frags where packaging isn’t part of the big deal, can you? Since I already own enough perfume to frighten most mortals, who am I to judge?
An aside on pricing – since I mostly deal in samples and decants, I don’t pay that much attention to bottle pricing on new releases unless it’s pointed out to me – for instance, the recent (and shocking) news that Tom Ford Lavender Snooze-Thingy is $250 for 50ml (or $950 for 250ml.) When I was getting into perfumery a few years ago, back when the earth’s crust was still cooling and I had to swat away the occasional pterodactyl before it could swipe my vintage bottle of Chaos, I used to think of anything more than $150 (certainly more than $200) as “expensive” perfume. I am not sure this holds any more; given the aspirational pricing on some releases, maybe that “expensive” line should be drawn at $300 – $500. Of course there are exceptions – Les Exclusifs in their giant vats are actually quite the bargain, per ml. I also think I declared anything under $100 as the new “cheap,” and was it $50 and less was free? (Doesn’t even count against your budget.) Maybe less than $100 is free now…
What’s a bottle “worth?” Are the Lutens bell jars worth their current price? What about the MDCIs in the non-fancy refills? (Has anyone bought the fancy bottle?) Is Shalini worth the price? Is/was Les Larmes Sacrées de Thebes worth it? What about JAR? (Yes.) What have I missed in the upper brackets? You all can ‘fess up here if you want to on what makes a bottle worth it – let’s leave out vintage bottles, okay? That’s a different can of snakes.
So, do any of these Xerjoffs sound appealing? Are you likely to try any of them?
PS on Wednesday morning I will
probably be gone for awhile, seeing the Gauguin exhibition at the NGA with my father. be right here, cold and rainy today, dad and I have rescheduled for Friday. Also, is there anything better than 10 min curled up in bed in the morning with a sleepy little boy, watching him play with his Transformers?
image: Murano glass bottles, Xerjoff website; samples, courtesy of Xerjoff.