Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review - "L'Air du Désert Marocain" & "Incense Extrême" by Andy Tauer

A little over a week ago I wrote about receiving some of the samples I had sent away for, including a wonderful set of 6 samples from independent Swiss perfumer Andy Tauer. Tauer has created quite a buzz with his beautifully designed fragrances, in particular his blockbuster "L'Air du Désert Marocain".

Tauer fragrances are not specifically marketed by gender, and many of the fragrances are very unisex in feel. When I chose my 5 samples (the 6th is assigned by Tauer) I opted for the fragrances that favoured spice, woody, aromatic, green and citrus notes. So the first two fragrances I'm going to review are No. 2 L'Air du Désert Marocain & No. 5 Incense Extrême.

Photos by Andy Tauer

No. 2 L'Air du Désert Marocain
Head Notes: Coriander and cumin, carefully blended with petitgrain.
Heart Notes: A warm heart note with rock rose and a hint of jasmine.
Body Notes: Dry cedar woods and vetiver, brilliantly joined on a fine ambergris background.

Powerful, sensual and pure. Laying on the bed, watching the moon raising over the sandy hills of the Saharan desert, he dreamt the fragrance of a Moroccan night.

No. 5 Incense Extrême
Head Notes: Coriander with fresh petitgrain.
Heart Notes: A rich incense, softened with orris wood.
Body Notes: Dry and vibrant woods over a rich ambergris base.

Minimalist, intense, clear. A perfume built around a natural CO2 extract of Boswellia serrata, aka incense; it captures the roughness of the climate of the semi desert where Boswellia trees thrives. It is translucent like the first whiff of incense smoke from Boswellia resin on red gleaming coal. Yet, it is crisp like a night in the desert.

[All notes and descriptions by Andy Tauer.]

5 Minutes
No. 2 L'Air du Désert Marocain
The first time I sprayed this the first words out of my mouth were "Oh, wow" and just now they were the first words to cross my mind again. First impression is a big, transparent, airy hit of spice from the coriander and cumin, supported by a lovely soft green floral accord. A few minutes in and peppery dry spice notes start to soften and the dry cedarwood and vetiver notes become more noticeable. Maybe I'm being swayed by the name and the marketing, but 5 minutes in and LAdDM is evocative of a desert landscape; sun dried timber, scrubby vegetation, warm ambers and spice.

No. 5 Incense Extrême
Like "L'Air du Désert Marocain", this also opens with a strong hit of coriander spice, but with a bitter, green accent. Oddly, my first reaction is that it has a fleeting pyrethrum insecticide note. Very short lived and not totally pleasant while it lasts. If LAdDM is painted in golds and ambers, Incense Extrême is painted in flinty mineral greens. At this stage I find IE interesting, but not very approachable.

30 Minutes
No. 2 L'Air du Désert Marocain
The volatile coriander and cumin notes have dissipated quite a bit, and the fragrance has settled into a beautiful warm, musky, slightly spicy feel, with some floral sweetness from the jasmine and rock rose. I'm not certain if the "rock rose" is labdanum resin, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was as labdanum has sweet, citrus, warm, woody and ambery qualities that seem present in the heart of this fragrance.

No. 5 Incense Extrême
The frankincense incense note (which makes up a large part of this fragrance) is much stronger now and some of the green bitterness has dissipated. Where many frankincense fragrances emphasise the warmer aspects of frankincense, Tauer has pushed this in a different direction; colder, more bitter, darker and with a dry transparent quality. This is not hippy frankincense, this is the cold stone floors, dark corners and the smoking censers of a chilly Gothic cathedral.

2 Hours
No. 2 L'Air du Désert Marocain
The dry down of this fragrance is gorgeous. The expansive desert night skies are largely gone, and in its place is the warmth of the caravan. Curls of incense smoke. Dry aromatic timbers, and warm amber light. Beautiful.

No. 5 Incense Extrême
Although Incense Extrême is an Eau de Parfum format, the intensity of the dry down is not as strong as the Eau de Toilette Intense format of LAdDM. I don't mind it in an ascetic sort of way, but while LAdDM enfolds you in aromatic warmth, IE holds you at arm's length and casts a critical eye over you. It might partly be a holdover from the orris/iris in the heart note, but the dry down makes me think a little of hairspray.

Despite the commonalities of the coriander, petitgrain and cedarwood, these are two fragrances are an exercise in contrasts. Both have an incense element to them; in L'Air du Désert Marocain this is achieved through dry spice, vetiver and aromatics, and in Incense Extrême a big slug of Boswellia Serrata extrait (Indian Frankincense, or Salai).

While I'm an unabashed fan of the warmth of LAdDM, the chilly smoke of IE interests me intellectually but misses the wow factor. That comes down to personal taste however. Both are very well constructed fragrances that go through distinct and exciting stages from first spray to the dry down. These are not boring, linear, mass market fragrances, but fragrances with life, a point of view and a bit of heart.

Do what I did and try the sample set, it won't cost you that much, each spray has enough for quite a few wears in it, and it's fun to sample a range and see the differences and the similarities. Hopefully you'll find something you like enough to shell out for the full sized bottle. Oh, and the service was good, I received my order in less than a fortnight from ordering, and the packaging and presentation were excellent. Recommended.


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