Dries Van Noten

Grinling Gibbon Carving

Grinling Gibbons  Carving

Some years ago sandalwood was nowhere to be found.  The white sandalwood that I remembered from my childhood was produced by too few trees in India, and as a result, Indian authorities  shut down production for some time.

In the interim, you got imitations of sandalwood, Mcqueen’s Kingdom for instance, a fragrance that was a flop with the market, but not at all bad as a sandalwood mock-up.  Worse, far worse, to my mind was what happened to perfumes that were constructed around sandalwood.  Bois des Isles one year  smelled of Santalum spicatum though really the scent was thrown off by this kind of substitution, but what was a fashion house to do?  There was no Santalum album to be had.  Chanel merely made the best of a bad business.


Grinling Gibbons

Grinling Gibbons

Dries Van Noten, to break it gently to anyone expecting a classic sandalwood note, may use santalum spicatum too. I suspect a great deal of what is sold as santalum album is actually spicatum these days.  The substitution really doesn’t bother me as much as it might.  And this perfume done by Bruno Jovanovic is an interesting rethink of the oriental woody.

Normally, somewhere in the composition there is a big fat old amber note sitting on its labdanum backside, and filling the scent with the clicheed aura that everyone has come to expect of woody orientals. However there is no amber taking up all the space on the sectional at this get together.  Instead a succession of hot spices, saffron at first  then nutmeg followed by cloves, mingle in a warm gathering with only a little jasmine and what smells like a fair dose of tonka bean darting in and out of the party.

The end with its big sandalwood and more moderate guaiac, patchouli and musk is balanced by a woody synthetic base, where you might normally expect that amber.  Dries manages to climb out of its bottle in a way that references classic woody fragrances like Feminite du Bois rather than your average oriental like BdI or even Bal d’Afrique.

What Dries really reminds me of is woody gourmands like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s Prana, which is similarly woody and spicy with a big sandalwood and patchouli presence made appetizing  by nutmeg and cardamom, as well as a floral mid-section bulging with champaca.

Dries actually verges on being a gourmand with a liberal use of saffron, vanilla, and nutmeg,  and brings another woody gourmand to mind, namely the delightfully tubby Kalimantan of Chantecaille.

Jacobean Chest  Early American

Jacobean Chest
Early American

I wonder though is this a good scent to represent the very intellectual, rather austere clothing of Dries Van Noten?  Dries the perfume makes me think of tea time in warm rooms and second helpings and old waxed wood.  In fact it makes me think of the Jacobean chest in my dining room.  But I doubt that this chest which smells very like Dries, would work as a concept. Who would buy “Jacobean Chest”?  So even if it’s not the best moniker- to my mind- for this sophisticates’ epicurean scent, Dries it is.





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