Back in 2003 there were a great number of people looking to find a way to catch a ride on the rising fragrance tide. One opportunity was for independent brands to provide alternatives to the bigger brands. Randi Shinder was one of those who took the chance on marketing her perfume which evoked the smell of being freshly showered called Clean. Clean was a big success story eventually being picked up by Sephora. Over the next twelve years the brand would make many, many variations on fragrances which matched the name on the bottle. These were perfumes for people who wanted fragrance on the down low; unobtrusive and unchallenging. After Ms. Shindler sold the brand the new creative team wanted to try something different and the Clean Reserve collection was born. Over that first year there were nine Clean Reserve releases and I could feel the creative team looking to diverge from the long-time Clean fragrance formula. There seemed to me to be a hesitation to really embrace the change. Of those 2015 releases, there was always a part of the development where it would touch base with the brand DNA. There was one, Smoked Vetiver, where it tried with a very warm base of myrrh, vetiver, and amber that came close but the early moments were crisp citrus and cotton accords. At the end of 2016 two more were added to the Clean Reserve line and this time Sel Santal managed to finally break away.
One thing about the Clean Reserve collection is they are working with some excellent perfumers. For Sel Santal, Patricia Choux was the perfumer. Mme Choux was very familiar with the brand having made three previous Clean fragrances. Sel Santal is the most different perfume that has ever had Clean on the bottle. It is a gourmand heart over an Oriental base. On the bottle it calls itself a “Green Oriental”. Not sure where the green comes from because it isn’t particularly green.
Sel Santal opens on a rich nutmeg paired with mandarin leaves. The latter is the only green in the entire perfume and it is more used as a contrast to the nutmeg than a primary focal point. The heart of Sel Santal is where this gets different as hazelnut and fig combine into a ripe fig coated in Nutella. A sugared violet along with iris provide lovely floral shading. The one thing which is true to the Clean brand is even though this might sound heavy Mme Choux keeps it much lighter than that set of notes might sound like. This goes to a sandalwood base where amber, styrax, and musk complete the Oriental base accord.
Sel Santal has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
There is a place for traditionally heavy genres to be made lighter, less intrusive. In other words if Clean Reserve can Clean them up there is the early building blocks of a collection which can fill a spot in the fragrance counter spectrum. Sel Santal is a great start towards that.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Sephora.