Monday, 8 February 2010

Les Parfums du Soleil - Reprise

During my recent Belgian trip (documented in the December post "Choco Chanel"), I briefly tested on paper the Moroccan range of unisex eaux de toilette, Les Parfums du Soleil, for which the interiors and jewellery store Dar Mima acts as sole stockist outside Marrakech. Thanks to Erika, the proprietor of Dar Mima, I am now in possession of samples of five of the six scents in the line, which I have been able to re-test more thoroughly on skin.

The perfumer behind this range, as I noted in my earlier post, is Abderrazzak Benchaâbane, a botanist and photographer. Benchaâbane's interest in scent goes back to early childhood: he was fascinated by his mother's collection of herbal remedies and by the perfume sellers occupying a whole street in the Aattarine souk. His love of scent was further nurtured during his botany studies by his tutor, Camille Peyre.

A turning point came when Benchaâbane agreed to undertake the restoration of the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, at the request of his friends Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, who had assumed ownership of the garden in 1984. Under the close supervision of YSL and Bergé, Benchaâbane was also commissioned to create a fragrance named after the garden, which was to symbolise the beauty, culture and way of life of Marrakech. This wish to capture the essence of his city in fragrance also informs the Les Parfums du Soleil collection that was to follow.

The five scents tested are set out below, with note listings, comments by the perfumer (translated by me!), and my own impressions.


Notes: jasmine, orange flower, green lemon, amber, musk, vanilla, patchouli.

"Marrakech is an evocation of the sun and of the East, a harmonious blend of the scent of flowers in town gardens and the aromas of its markets. Oriental and heady, Soir de Marrakech is the expression of people's way of life in the red city."

This was the standout beauty of the collection: it has a dark, sensual edge like PG L'Ombre Fauve, but the quiet gentleness of Kenzo Power. The floral notes are especially muted on my skin. I found this scent very wearable and have no hesitation in pronouncing it FBW. At 50 euros for 100ml, Les Parfums du Soleil, whilst clearly positioned as a niche range, are priced in line with high end designer perfumes such as Prada.


Notes: green lemon, bergamot, thyme, star anise, geranium, Damascene rose, Turkish rose, lavender, iris, vanilla, sandalwood, vetiver.

Couldn't find any comments from the perfumer about this one. I quite liked it - it was astringent without being acerbic, and the star anise, geranium and lavender gave it a distinctive character that would work well as a unisex scent - but ultimately it wasn't really "me". Closest scent to this would be Urban Retreat's Reverie, though Reverie is quieter and more of a skin scent by comparison.


Notes: bigarade, mandarin, green lemon, grapefruit, patchouli.

NB My translation is very loose here!:

"L'Agdal - evoking sun-drenched fresh, citrus aromas from this thousand year old garden founded by the Almouahades dynasty."

Initially, I found the very sharp citrus notes quite offputting, possibly compounded by the bitterness of the patchouli. I don't remember ever smelling patchouli in such a intensely citrus context. However, the far drydown was as pleasant as Festival, and more "mainstream" in its interpretation of citrus by this stage.


Notes: ambergris, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cedar, thuya wood.

"Mogador is a confluence of the trade winds, the aromatic riches of the forests around Essaouira and the scent of damp wood at the port or in the workshops of cabinetmakers. Woody, fresh and oriental, Mogador is a work of alchemy."

I did not care for this scent at any point. Mogador was like a rich, spicy, ginger cake - DSH Mahjoun springs to mind - with a strong and slightly rasping woody background that conjured up images of ships' hulls and barrels of rum! "Damp wood at the port" is a good catch-all phrase for it. The overall feeling of this scent is heavy, rich and brooding.


Notes: rose, jasmine, incense, vanilla, ambergris.

"Sultane des Coeurs is a perfume of refinement and seduction. Spicy and floral, SdC is a fragrant evocation of Oriental nights."

This was the biggest disappointment to me of the ones I tested, for from its name and notes it was the one I had most expected to like. I imagined an exotic floral-incensey number like OJ Ta'if or Kenzo Flower Oriental - or even Tauer's L'Air du Desert Marocain. There was a lot of incense and pepper, but I failed to detect the floral notes, or the vanilla and amber particularly. It just felt very grey and monotonal.


Notes: anise, geranidum, sandalwood, iris

A sample of Soir de Marrakech is currently on its way to Katie Puckrik, who expressed an interest in trying it, following my enthusiastic description on her blog, Katie Puckrik Smells. I will come back and report her thoughts when she has had a chance to test it. Meanwhile, I am teetering on the brink of buying a bottle. My next work project may take me to Belgium, so let's see if I could make a detour to Bruges again...


lovethescents said...

It's always exciting to read about unheard of fragrances but always a little sad to know you won't be able to try them as they're inaccessible. Thank you for the descriptions and reviews; all Belgians, heed!

Vanessa said...

Sadly true - I wonder if Soir de Marrakech is known in the USA beyond my sample winging its way to Katie P?

You are lucky with your Guerlain Spa, come to think of it. : - )

The Left Coast Nose said...

I've never heard of any of these scents-- so sad!! All things Marrakech are cat-nip to me...

Vanessa said...

All things Marrakech are cat-nip to me too! - OJ Ta'if and Tauer L'Air du Desert Marocain are two of the most evocative perfumes I know. One day I will have to go there, but I feel a purchase of Soir de Marrakech coming on regardless...

Anonymous said...

Soir de marrakech is now available at Takashimaya ny on 5th ave

Vanessa said...

Why, thanks for the update - it is good to know that there is a stockist your side of the pond!