Borneo 1834 begins with a tantalizing, subtle gourmand opening, presenting accents of anise, licorice and beautiful, sweet and herbal tarragon to the nose. This beautiful lightly sweet trio renders the top notes clearly aniseedic and very reminiscent of Histoires de Parfums’ 1826. But while 1826 continues to focus on the aniseedic elements and to supplement the beauty of patchouli with the sweetness of oriental notes such as vanilla and sweet ambers, Borneo 1834 slowly lets go of the aniseedic elements completely and gets darker and dryer with time. The aroma of roasted coffee that has been shyly wafting in and out since the opening now manages to find a secure foothold and blooms on the skin deliciously, spreading its inky darkness over an extremely delicate undercurrent of golden, caramelized floralcy. The scent of patchouli itself, so far seemingly sleepy and subdued seems to suddenly surge forward, its dominant nature finally revealed for all to see. Its rendering is so grand it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to claim that it inspires awe, almost demanding a moment of silence from the wearer. The famous Borneo 1834 chocolate aspect enters fashionably late, just when the ballroom is coming to life. Swathed in a cloak of shimmering bronze, it is actually cacao, not chocolate, and an excellent pure, dark Dutch cacao at that. There are intimations of the same smoky, deep and round tobacco found in Fumerie Turque accenting the luscious blend as well, lending a purely exotic richness to the fragrance. In the drydown the dryness further relents to reveal resins both smoky and round, balsam to the woody, leafy character of the beautiful patchouli.
Testing Borneo 1834 in the past few months has been rather revelatory, for the notes listed were few and as such I was expecting a rather linear, even monotonous scent. What I found however, was far from it: this beautiful woody oriental has a gorgeous structure and is anything but linear. Its changes are both fascinating and enticing and each stage is well worth individual attention. One thing that surprised me, is that I did not get a camphorous note from this at all (something that most online reviewers report). As such I find myself wondering whether different batches of Borneo 1834 have different qualities, or whether the export Borneo differs from the juice offered at the Salons du Palais Royal (I have been testing the export version for the year 2008). If you have any information on this, please do share.