My Favorite Things: Camphor

One of the things I enjoy about writing on fragrance is how one perfume makes me view previous releases differently. One of the more recent examples was Cadavre Exquis by Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni. The keynote was the use of camphor which opened my eyes to its versatility. Which then sent me back to try some of the fragrances on my shelf which contain it. I’d have Cadavre Exquis on the list, but it is a sold-out limited edition. Instead here are five of my other favorites which feature camphor.

Perfumer James Heeley wanted to turn the liniment Tiger Balm into a perfume which he does in Heeley Esprit du Tigre. The camphor is amplified by mint and wintergreen before clove and vetiver close the loop on the desired accord. It is medicinal, but it is also refreshing in an odd way especially on a hot day.

Camphor doesn’t have to dominate the opening which Diptyque Oud Palao shows. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin constructs an oud accord which he doses a bit of camphor in to mimic that quality in some of the younger natural ouds. This is an example of what camphor can do to complete an accord.

It can also be used to tease out a facet within an overdosed ingredient as it does in Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle Carnal Flower. Perfumer Dominique Ropion uses the camphor to draw attention to the underlying green vein within tuberose. Without its presence the tuberose would have lost much of its carnality.

It also amplifies that kind of mentholated quality, if it is present, as it does in Comme des Garcons x Monocle Scent One: Hinoki. That titular note is given the sheen of fresh-cut cedar when perfumer Antoine Maisondieu uses it in the top accord leading to the eventual presence of the wood itself.

Just as with Carnal Flower, Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle serves up camphor and tuberose. Except this time more of the former and a bit less of the latter. Perfumer Christopher Sheldrake turns the sultry white flower into something with a bit more malice courtesy of the camphor.

If you need a little something bracing from your perfume give these five camphor perfumes a try.

Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Diptyque Oud Palao- Trick or Treat

As we approach the end of October in the US we look forward to celebrating Halloween on the 31st. It is also a time stamp for me which ends the shoulder season between summer and fall. After Halloween it seems we are fully in fall with the snap of cold in the air. When American children go out on Halloween and knock on neighbor’s doors when it is answered they say “Trick or Treat?” The implication being you can choose to see a trick or hand out a treat. In all my years of cruising my neighborhood nobody picked “trick”. When I was wearing the new Diptyque Oud Palao I came to realize this was a perfume which wanted to have it both ways.


Fabrice Pellegrin

When it has come to the crush of oud fragrances over the last few years it has been the dirty little trick underneath most of them that there isn’t any real oud in there. The great majority of the oud fragrances you find are an oud accord consisting of cypriol as the core. Each perfumer will use a different running mate to twist it into a facsimile of oud. Particularly in the last year perfumers have embraced using an oud accord. I have enjoyed the control using an accord gives a perfumer as it has allowed for a given fragrance using it a little more room to breathe around the oud. If a real source of oud had been used it would have been more difficult. It also allows for an oud perfume to have a lighter touch. Perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin has accomplished all of that with Oud Palao.

Oud Palao opens on a rich Bulgarian rose. Oud and rose go together like peas and carrots as Forest Gump would say. If M. Pellegrin was using real oud it would have forcefully bullied its way onto the scene. The flexibility of using the accord is really evident as it reaches out and cradles the rose as it floats on top of the accord. The final piece of the heart is a very gentle wafting of sandalwood as if a breeze is bringing it to your nose from a distance. This is a beautifully delicate composition at this point. The base gets sturdier as patchouli, labdanum, and vanilla exercise their power a bit. Even with a little more volume it doesn’t ever drown out the rose/oud/sandalwood heart notes. The final little grace note is a small dollop of camphor. It mimics that chilly nose clearing feeling when you breathe deep on a cold night.

Oud Palao has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

In my mind’s eye I have knocked on M. Pellegrin’s door and said “Trick or Treat?” His answer is both in the form of Oud Palao.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Diptyque.

Mark Behnke