There is no secret that I dislike gourmand perfumes: I can’t stand them! But, there’s another side of myself that secretly adores the sort of gourmand that doesn’t make itself out to be one. Shalimar and L’Heure Bleue are considered gourmands to an extent, but perhaps because whilst they themselves are totally and utterly edible perfumes (Shalimar oscillates beautifully between incense oriental and vanilla dessert amazingly), they do not actively come across as perfumes designed to be eaten. This is where my distinction is drawn. I am a gourmand loving anti-gourmand fan, who happens to love vanillas, chocolatey patchouli and milky woods when they don’t market themselves as edible.
Photo by Hermès
Jean-Claude Ellena (my favourite perfumer) has treated Santal Massoïa as a meditation on the characteristics of wood notes in perfume. ““There are linear, vertical woods like cedar, and others that are horizontal, round, supple and velvet-smooth, such as sandalwood and massoïa”. Ellena grapples the curvaceous facets of sandalwood and massoïa, and bolsters it to intensify comfort, like an embrace or a soft blanket. Gone are the vertical conventions of wood found often in masculine scents, as Santal Massoïa has been scrubbed down to reveal a genderless woods fragrance, with its apparent lightness an overall illusion.
The result then is a creamy creation, round and indirectly delicious, pushing Ellena’s trademark minimalism to the very edge, described by Chandler Burr as: “maximal minimalism”. Massoïa wood and sandalwood maintain inherent lactic qualities, cradled gently in a bath of warm milk and carmel. To add complexity, Ellena adds an additional dimension of florals and fruits, taking indolic creamy white florals (jasmine, and perhaps tuberose stripped of its carnal severity) with moreish fruits, such as apricots and the sweet skin of green figs. Together, this creates an encompassing impression of coconut and dulce de leche (custard), again, this is warm, decadent and skin-like. A sort of luminism with a clear depiction of calm, and a natural stillness creating beauty.
The sandalwood here is assertive and importantly doesn’t smell synthetic, opening with a tropical humid quality that at certain angles appears wet and nutty, with a tame oiliness. Thus, there are pleasantly pungent aromatic hits from time to time, which is nasally very pleasing and thankfully breaks the wooded monotony. Inviting yet distant, Santal Massoïa trails away with frothy lactic notes and a green fruitiness, but always pulls back into familiarity with gourmand impressions of creamy desserts and scintillating florals.
This fragrance becomes a very elegant second skin that moulds with the wearer and additionally with the seasons. It smells clean and inviting, with it smelling dense in nature but not heavy. I wear this for quiet periods and nervous moments, as I closely project a welcoming and warm presence.
A warm milk bath. Astonishing skin scent.
Subjective rating: 4/5
Objective rating: 4/5