Byredo is a brand which has a very distinctive aesthetic which has been in place from their very beginning in 2006. Founder and Creative Director Ben Gorham wanted to make understated fragrances which use top-notch raw materials. Over the past 10 years and 29 releases working with perfumer Jerome Epinette they have created a recognizable Byredo-ness for every new release. When faced with choosing five to start with it was a difficult choice. One reason is there might not be a line I’ve done Perfume 101 for which has entries which might be called Perfume 201 because they are very good but I think not good entry points. That group includes some of my favorites from the line: Pulp, M/Mink, and Black Saffron. They are impressive to me because while staying true to their desire to keep it lighter those have undeniable strength. Those are not where one should start. The five below are where I think you should begin.
Encens Chembur was one of the inaugural releases. M. Epinette was able to provide one of the most transparent incense-centered perfumes I own. Through a veil of lemon buttressed with elemi he combines a mannered ginger with an opaque frankincense. It all ends with a sheer amber and musk base. This is one of the few incense perfumes I wear in the summer.
Bal D’Afrique was inspired by a romanticized version of Africa as seen through Parisiennes of the 1920’s. The fragrance is also an impression as if M. Epinette watched a few National Geographic specials on Africa. A beautifully lilting neroli is contrasted with a shot of astringent marigold. Buchu leaves take up the case with the marigold turning it greener. Before this gets too strident a floral heart of jasmine, cyclamen, and violet bring things back to a floral heart. The base is vetiver and cedar classically framing this picture of Africa.
Baudelaire might be my favorite of all the perfumes M. Epinette has made. Inspired by the poet of the same name; M. Epinette compose a three stanza perfumed poem of his own. Starting with a fabulous duet of juniper berry and black pepper. The second verse is led by hyacinth caressed with incense and caraway. The final part is the beginning of a style which will reappear frequently in other Byredo releases as M. Epinette creates an arid desiccated accord of papyrus, patchouli, and amber.
When I first tried Sunday Cologne the name on the bottle was “Fantastic Man”. I laughed out loud at that name feeling like I should put my hands on my hips and jut my chest out while saying it. Thankfully Byredo also realized the name was silly and in less than a year changed it. The new name describes it perfectly; a cologne for a lazy Sunday. It is a classically constructed lavender cologne tuned to the Byredo transparency. Starting with a breath of cardamom into lavender and incense followed by patchouli and vetiver.
Bullion is another Byredo which takes one of my favorite notes, osmanthus, and shows how it can be made more interesting for having it used with a lighter hand. The osmanthus is the focal point. M. Epinette uses plum in the top notes to blend with osmanthus’ apricot nature. He then doubles down on the flower’s leather character by adding in even more. It all rests on another arid sandalwood foundation.
There are some who find the lightness of the line to be an issue. I appreciate it because it allows me to wear some of my favorite notes on the hottest of days. Give the five above a try and see what you think.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.