Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens : Perfume Review

There are many perfumes which put the focus on patchouli currently on the market, but few have inspired as much devotion or as many ravings among perfume aficionados as Serge Lutens’ Borneo 1834. While it might not be my favorite rendition of patchouli within the Lutens Line – Fumerie Turque has that honor, actually a far more complex scent than Borneo, but still centering around a most gorgeous patchouli scent and adorning it with leather, prominent, fabulous tobacco and accents of fruit and honey, for that extra pissy hiss that drives me absolutely mad- a patchouli series on any self-respecting perfume blog would be incomplete without a review of Serge’s patch hero. As Marina of Perfume-Smellin’ Things mentions, Borneo 1834 gets its name from the year patchouli was introduced to Europe wrapped in the luxurious imported silks in order to act as an insect repellant. The fabrics retained the beautiful aroma and the European high society is said to have subsequently developed a taste for the scent which was associated with luxury.

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.


5 comments:

Radi NAYDEV said...

Nice!

waftbyCarol said...

hmmm...I hope Bergdorfs has this for me to sniff next week in NYC .

Ines said...

So this is one from the export line? I'm happy to say in that case, I might actually be able to try it out now here as well. :)

Anonymous said...

Hello Lovely: this fragrance evokes very strong and bittersweet emotions for me. My ex wore this and I have never smelled a more exquisite scent on any other human being. It was love or chemistry? probally chemistry, because on me, it is truly awful xxxoo Michelyn

Zazie said...

Hi There! This fragrance is a total mystery to me. I fail to recognize what I smell in the many, discordant descriptions found online. Even on my own skin, my impressions seem never settled. As I tested the export version in different shops, I even came to think that the juice might be one of those hyper-sensitive (to light/heat) creatures, thus accounting for the very different impressions it conveyed to me (I know, it is quite ridiculous!). On the average, I get a LOT of dark chocolate (veering from extra bitter in the opening, to the vanilla sweetened dry-down) and a camphorous note perking up the patch-choco-vanilla + leather combo. Except for the first 20 minutes, where I get loads of smoke, patch, chocolate and other strange stuff (that I’m not able to point out), the scent wears close to my skin, and seems quite linear. Sometimes I love it and get ready to buy it, often I find it interesting but unwearable. The first 20 min are always a problem for me… I am intrigued, a bit scared and curious about this weird creature. I too find it related to fumerie turque – the latter being too sweet and smooth for my taste. ;(