Timbuktu by L’Artisan Parfumeur

In philosophy, there is a concept known as the “Theory of Forms”. It is a relatively ingenious notion, with an expected sense of enigma also. This theory was postulated by Plato – who believed that there are two worlds; one that exists on a sensuous and material level, and another on a substantial yet abstract non-material world.

The material world we populate contains particulars – Chairs, cats, balls and perfumes or simply put, physical entities . The abstract ‘non-material’ world contains forms. These are ideas stemming from rational thought. A form is the perfect example of something -the form of a chair is the perfect chair, as the form of beauty is the most perfect state of beauty. These forms are the most fundamental kind of reality, as every particular is shaped (or a shadow of) from its perfect form. For example, every tangible spherical ball in existence shares the feature of roundness; and the perfect form of roundness exists on an abstract level. Thus every particular is a physical embodiment of a perfect and thus unchangeable form.

This entire idea implies that perfection exists on a separate stratosphere to reality, and to sincerely have a good life may not necessarily require physical possessions, or particulars, because they can never perfect.

How does this relate to perfume? Or in particular Timbuktu by L’Artisan Parfumeur? I believe Timbuktu is the closest particular to the form of a perfect scent. It fills the criteria for perfection.

Timbuktu by L'Artisan Parfumeur  © 2014 Liam Sardea

© 2014 Liam Sardea


What is Timbuktu? Other than perfect, Timbuktu is a city in Mali, Africa and Timbuktu the perfume captures the African temperament. Bertrand Duchafour, perfumer responsible, visited Africa and was enchanted by a native fragrant ritual. A cyclical event, this ritual has a passing quality from mother to daughter of every generation; from old to new. This ritual is like a spell for love, adornment and the sly imposition of enamour of a subject. Timbuktu the fragrance contains some of the materials used in the ritual, and by fragrance alone it has worked on me.

What makes Timbuktu very impressive on my account probably stems from the similarity it has to Jean-Claude Ellena’s minimalism works. Duchafour is another, and probably the only other proponent for this line of minimal fragrant creation. It relies deeply on a sense of space and a pleasurable yet teasing sense of atmosphere. If anything, it seems that many of his creations including this one, has all the compositional elements but not the imposing results from base notes; without loosing a dry down stage. Both enchanting and somewhat translucent, Timbuktu is no fuss and full on cause and effect.

It opens with vetiver, dry woods, sandalwood, a green mango note and peppery incense. Somewhat spiritual in the opening, it is much like ceremonial incense and puffs of scented smoke. The mango gives it a sense of adventure and new lands – calling to mind a tropical setting and slightly arid lands. This opening stage is still and round; with vetiver being slightly green, mango being slightly sweet-and-sour, peppercorn spicy, woods dry and sandalwood creamy – unrivalled balance.

A spatial calm, Timbuktu delivers roughness and jump against reverent calmness. Mistakably simple, it is what Timbuktu omits that makes it so worthwhile.

One many wonder how a fragrance can be dry, crisp and translucent without a sense of oiliness or seeming too fidgety. Bertrand explained to Luca Turin (perfume critic) that the use of cypriol oil (which I have discussed slightly in Journey Man) is a smokey and burnt woods note without the oiliness or tar. Cypriol oils channels the exotica with a nice range of earthy and damp smells. The vetiver imparts an earthy greenness working to achieve an outstanding overall effect; as does patchouli with a hint of funk.

The incense is peppered with pink peppercorn, which is certainly not overwhelmingly spicy. This works best with the woods notes calling to mind many masculine dry wood chypres, however subtle yet important additions makes all the difference. It is a shimmery woods that is fresh and cleansing spiritually. It is elaborate in an understated manner, that is neither simple nor confusing – just somewhere in between.

Finally, cardamom is the on-off switch spice note that blows both cool and hot air. Papyrus too exudes a soft woody scent with a round dryness. These notes create contradictions, but somehow work out very well in the final blend. I love very much how this diffuses softly in a room at a diaphanous level, tweaked with a modest boozy character, a bit like a dry red wine and dry vermouth- can you smell that impression of dry wine? Timbuktu maintains a never-bracing level of radiance that may be forgotten throughout wear, but never disappears entirely. A memorable understatedness.

Alternatives: Kyoto by Comme Des Garcon; Dzongkha by L’Artisan Parfumeur; and Sycomore by Chanel 

Moist woods and delicate smoke. Timbuktu blurs the line between two and three dimensionality; a spatial calm. 

Subjective rating : 5/5

Objective rating: 5/5

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5 thoughts on “Timbuktu by L’Artisan Parfumeur

  1. Sounds like you can’t get anymore unique than this! That amazing bottle encompasses something for the daring and with the contribution of incense will sure bring a new dimension to the smell, I’ll sure try this one!

  2. A very underrated fragrance in my opinion. Does anyone see a small similarity with Smoke for the Soul By Killian?

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