Ring it up: Byredo Bal D’Afrique

Dear Scent Diary,

I try never to buy perfume on first sniff. First of all, it’s impossible to get a sense of how it wears on your skin during the course of a day. Will it last? Will it change? If it does, in an interesting way or in a way you’d rather it didn’t? And then there are the less quantifiable reasons – will I get bored with it or decide in a week that the gorgeous elixir in the store is actually unwearable in my daily life.

DSC03426The key word in the first sentence above of course is ‘try’. My perfume hobby is useless to me if it isn’t entertaining and enjoyable and sometimes illogical and impractical. And so on my recent trip to Seattle, when I fell in love with Byredo’s Bal D’Afrique at Barney’s, I happily committed the first sniff purchase sin.

DSC03429The initial whiff reeled me in: a slightly musky, juicy citrus note – a blend of bergamot, vetiver and orange blossom gives the impression of sweet juicy orange (I gather since orange isn’t listed as an official note on their website). At this point early on, there are similarities to Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal’s opening blast. As it develops though, they diverge down different paths – Vetiver Fatal towards a dry green woodiness, and Bal d’Afrique towards a musky, cedar-y, yet still juicy dry-down.

DSC03430Overall, Bal D’Afrique is light, juicy to the end, extremely well-blended, lasts and is downright gorge-licious. And how does it fare on all the caution points I listed above? Pretty damn well. It does last (10 or more hours on me with liberal application), it does change to a take on a musky, woody character but retains the sweet juiciness that grabbed me originally, and it does keep my interest.

One of the most telling perfume occasions is when you’re going to be meeting someone for the first time and you’d like to make a favourable impression. Which scent do you choose? Sure it depends on the type of person you’re meeting and how they fit into your life (is it your mother-in-law or a new business associate?). But regardless, this kind of stress test for my perfume collection often produces some very useful information.

DSC03425On two such occasions (a dinner party and a new client meeting) I reached for Bal D’Afrique. Granted, it has the shine of a new love, but the boxes it checked for me are what was telling – it’s what I chose to give a breezy, appealing, carefree, and happy impression at the dinner party and a ‘not trying too hard’ impression at the client meeting. Huh.

As far as new acquisitions go, I’d call it a great success.


Seattle Sniff Spree Part 1: Barneys (Frederic Malle, Byredo, Arquiste, L’Artisan)

Dear Scent Diary,

A semi-planned, semi-spur-of-the-moment trip to Seattle materialized this past weekend and not only provided the opportunity for some perfume scouting and recreational sniffing, but also to meet a fellow perfumista. Live. In the flesh. With the ability to speak to one another, not through comments on a blog, but in real time over a table, and eventually over a Frederic Malle counter. (Those lucky enough to have friends who aren’t bewildered by your perfume hobby might not understand how exciting this was.)

DSC03408Dasi and I met at the entrance to Barneys (natch). After an enjoyable exchange of non-perfume related info (she’s as interesting and intelligent as I’d imagined) we descended upon the fragrance department where Dasi is a regular visitor (natch again).

Seattle’s Barneys is a small, intimate store with a very well-curated selection of, well, everything they sell. If you’re interested in drooling over shoes or handbags, they have the ones to do it over (read Celine ‘it’ bags and Isabel Marant shoes). Their fragrance section is the equivalent. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an ‘it’ fragrance, but the ones they do carry are very much coveted.


Frederic Malle






L’Artisan Parfumeur, Serge Lutens

I’ve been itching to try some of the fragrances in the Arquiste line and finally got a chance to take a sniff. I tried Anima Dulcis on skin (but was not as impressed as I wanted to be). None of them particularly grabbed me to be honest – more testing is required.

Dasi has ruined Seville a L’Aube for me. If you have it, go take a whiff. Now smell it again and see if you smell tortillas. Yep. Same thing happened to me. Sorry. You can blame Dasi.


A Frederic Malle scent chamber.

I came dangerously close to buying Frederic Malle’s En Passant on first sniff. Gorgeous ethereal, watery lilac that is very soft up close and has a beautiful billowy, feminine sillage. Managed to stay coy for now. It’s only a matter of time, however.

On this day, it was the Byredo line that seemed to get the better of both of us. We tested each of them and spent all too much time trying to figure out the vegetal note that seems to dominate Pulp (it’s green pepper). But it was Gypsy Water that stole Dasi’s heart and Bal D’Afrique is the one that followed me home (biased review to come).

Kudos to the Barneys staff who knew just when to help and when to leave us to our happy huffing.

All in all, it was a perfumista’s dream date.