Sana by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: raspberry leaves, thorns, fir balsam, magnolia, marigold, honey, suede, sweet birch
Slumberhouse is a US independent niche house, based on Portland, Oregon, where most of its fragrances are constructed around syrupy, resinous, balsamic and fruity accords.

Most of the compositions are so dense and full-bodied, one is left to conclude that many of them aspire to the style of Christopher Sheldrake's work for Serge Lutens (pre-2007). But, in contrast, the Slumberhouse offerings lack any finesse – often generating crass, ill-conceived and under-developed results. Based on this, one does wonder what all the fuss is about.

With a lot of the praise strangely coming from the US and Canada, where many of its natives tend to complain about 'strong' fragrances and other people overspraying, is this merely a case of drumming up support for 'one of their own'? It's quite an intriguing thought but one digresses.

As for Sana, it practically comes across as a dupe for Serge Luten's Chypre Rouge, but less smoky and more honey sweet. One would say it's both the raspberry leaf and fir balsam that primarily contribute towards such a comparison. But it's not as dark as some have purported it to be (and there's a huge difference between 'dark' and 'dense'). With a birch tar base, it soon mellows out with a leathery sweetness.

With moderate sillage and longevity, and based on one's experience with this house, one can confidently state the following: don't believe the hype.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Kere by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: aldehydes, apricot, plum, liquorice, orange honeysuckle, rose, hay, white chocolate, caramel, styrax, Mysore sandalwood

Comment: Kere is a limited edition release
After the short-lived fruity aldehyde opening subsides, Kere is very much an exercise in creating an immortelle fragrance... without the actual presence of an immortelle accord.

With some fruity undertones persisting, it's more about the liquorice, hay, honeysuckle, chocolate and caramel re-creating an immortelle (or maple syrup) aroma, while forsaking the 'controversial' cumin or curry aspects. It also possesses a sweet warmth, with spicy nuances, that's briefly reminiscent of stewed apples and cinnamon (with the sandalwood being partly responsible for this). During the drydown, the styrax and sandalwood help to convey a sharp, leathery and slightly charred finale.

Unfortunately, it stays very close to the skin but has excellent lasting power. One also feels that using Mysore sandalwood was a scandalous waste, as New Caledonian sandalwood would have been far more suitable (due to its complementary berry-like undertones).

It's an interesting creation but the execution lets it down. However, it does have some potential.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Eki by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2011

Notes: jasmine, magnolia, natural damascenone

Comment: Eki is a limited edition release
If one asked other fragrance lovers what the word 'perfumista' means to them, the popular reply would probably be something like, "A lover of all things fragrant". Personally, one considers that a true perfumista should also be able to distinguish between genuine quality and third-rate swill, while not being easily swayed by deceptive hyperbole. Unfortunately, not every 'perfumista' is prepared to adopt this way of thinking.

Eki is supposed to be an ethereal floral but starts out smelling musty, grey and horribly artificial. All that one is able to discern are mainly florals and synthetic white musk, with the magnolia crudely fighting with the jasmine for dominance. With smoky and metallic facets, Eki smells like a rejected prototype for Montale's Greyland.

Another limited edition, another guinea pig experiment for the Slumberhouse cohorts. Pass.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Ore by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2009

Notes: scotch, clary sage, black pepper, cocoa, palmarosa, guaiac wood, Peru balsam

Comment: Eau de Parfum review
Not only is Ore a dusty, dark and sensual ode to cacao, it's also edgy and quintessentially masculine.

Beginning with a boozy opening, the black pepper and cocoa make their presence known almost immediately. The woods enhance the dry bitterness of the cocoa, but it never gets too woody or even smoky. Although the entire composition is barely sweet, only the Peru balsam manages to provide a tender sugary reprieve. By the drydown, all that largely remains is a balsamic chocolate whisper.

Providing great longevity, whilst remaining close to the skin, it offers a unique twist to the theme and should be seen more as an earthy (rather than a confectionary) gourmand. However, there are more superior alternatives to choose from, such as Parfumerie Générale's Aomassaï and Cozé (another niche fragrance house that Josh Lobb is reportedly an avid fan of).


*****
Year: 2013

Notes: whiskey lactone, oregano, cocoa, vanilla, mahogany, oak, guaiac wood, Peru balsam, Mysore sandalwood

Comment: Parfum extrait review
Unfortunately, something went terribly wrong during the re-interpretation for Ore...

The extrait smells far more musty and woody, the vanilla is almost nondescript and the cocoa (its main selling point) has been toned down several notches. Setting aside the relatively light and pleasant spicy undertow, it's not as endearing as the Eau de Parfum, resulting in a seriously botched-up reformulation.

Although the Eau de Parfum version was discontinued, due to the difficulties in finding all the right components, the parfum extrait is inferior in every way.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Grev by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2009

Notes: fir, clove, orris, birch, cedar, copaiba balsam
Described as a "post-modern version of an elegant masculine cologne", Grev is a gentle and soapy concoction of citrus, spices, woods and balsams.

With a sparkling opening of citrus and (what seems to be) rosemary, both the fir and clove add an aromatic flair to the proceedings. It has been mentioned that the clove is overwhelming, but one doesn't sense that... unless the sample this review is based on is from a reformulated batch.

The coniferous aspect soon goes into full swing but is fleeting, allowing the orris to infiltrate and intensify. With a subtle grassy nuance present throughout the spicy haze, the birch and cedar apologetically surface on a bed of copaiba balsam. Overall, its lifespan is disappointingly short and it largely remains a skin scent, with a tangy mineral aroma that turns sour during the drydown.

Personally, there's nothing particularly special or interesting about Grev. While the execution isn't as crude as some of this house's other fragrances, there's still something decidedly hollow and amateurish about it. As for the clove issue, Josh Lobb (Slumberhouse's founder and 'perfumer') is known to regularly tweak and reformulate his creations, and it's not always due to the costs or availability of the components.

Based on the above, one is totally miffed as to why this house is so popular, especially when most perfumistas view reformulations to be the ultimate betrayal. Enhancements? Well, why not perfect the compositions before putting them out on the market? Such product inconsistencies may be considered novel to some, but it seems that Josh is incapable of releasing definitive versions of his olfactory ideas and standing by them.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Vikt by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2009

Notes: laurel, Madagascan ravensara, aniseed, frankincense, styrax, oud, Mysore sandalwood

Comment: Eau de Parfum review
Slumberhouse's founder, Josh Lobb, has publicly proclaimed that his works should be considered "outside the mainstream", and has also admitted preferring to use absolutes and disliking essential oils.

However, anyone experienced enough will know that absolutes aren't necessarily superior. Furthermore, such a stance greatly narrows down a perfumer's palate, as many components are only available in essential oil form. So, one is surprised to learn of Vikt, consisting of oud (or agarwood) oil... which is an essential oil.

From all the Slumberhouse releases, the closest point of comparison would be Norne. Although both possess green and resinous aspects, Norne is darker, denser and more coniferous, while Vikt is woodier, drier and more spacious. Vikt also exudes an aromatic flair, with some laurel and aniseed intermingling with a vegetal-resinous underscore. As for the oud, it's fresh but also verdantly fruity.

There's hardly any evidence of smoke or frankincense, and it's certainly not the dark woody animal as regularly purported. However, it's better composed than most of the offerings from this house, with a drydown that's just as satisfying as the opening. By Slumberhouse's standards, that in itself is a rare feat.

With moderate sillage and excellent tenacity of at least 12 hours, although Vikt comes across as another oud bandwagon jumper, it eschews the typical floral and amber combinations that other houses frantically exploit. It also smells natural and should be considered as a quality benchmark for future Slumberhouse releases.

Finally, there's something to write home about.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Jeke by Slumberhouse

*****
Year: 2008

Notes: lapsang souchong, clove, tobacco, patchouli, labdanum, benzoin, cade

Comment: Eau de Parfum review
Many of this house's creations revolve around resins, balsams, dried fruits, spices, tobacco and leather, with a molasses sweetness, a la Serge Lutens (Josh Lobb is a self-confessed worshipper of Christopher Sheldrake). Jeke is another example of what's considered to be Slumberhouse's signature style.

Apparently, it "evokes autumn twilight with masculine fragrance of burning wood" but one is unable to identify with such a description. Instead, it's more reminiscent of a sweeter and denser version of Black Tourmaline by Olivier Durbano, but with tobacco and clove replacing the frankincense. Granted, it's spicy and leathery, with a prominent burnt caramel note, but there's nothing particularly complex or endearing about it.

And that's the problem with Jeke – it smells clumsy and unfinished, with no indication that it was developed or blended properly. Overall, it smells like a hodgepodge of essential oils and absolutes thrown together, with very little foresight. The tobacco is unable to really shine, the patchouli comes across as stifled and the sweetness overpowers any smokiness detectable. There are no nuances, layers or evidence of any genuine development – just one sweet woody mess.

As for longevity and projection, there's too much hyperbole surrounding the general performance of this house's fragrances, which one considers to be utter poppycock. The thing is, most of them range from average to good, in the longevity department, often with very little sillage and Jeke is no exception.

With that said, it could have been much worse, hence not being rated any lower.


*****
Year: 2013

Notes: tobacco, patchouli, labdanum, benzoin, cade

Comment: Parfum extrait review
In comparison to the Eau de Parfum, the extrait is markedly smokier and drier. One also finds that the cade is given more opportunity to breathe, with any sweetness and spiciness drastically reduced. It's also structurally sparser than its predecessor but it hardly projects – one has to sniff extremely close to the application point, to detect anything at all.

While the parfum extrait smells more balanced, the Eau de Parfum is richer and stronger. Those who found the Eau de Parfum too sweet and cloying may derive some satisfaction from this whimsical pseudo-extrait, but one found it lacking in substance.

With regards to the Slumberhouse releases, in general, one gets the distinct impression that Josh is basically throwing his underdeveloped maverick ideas against the wall and seeing what sticks.


Disclaimer: Since some Slumberhouse releases are always being 'improved', and with various formulations of the same fragrance in existence, this review is based on the sample(s) received. Due to the lack of information about these reformulations, one is unable to confirm the actual formulation(s) that has/have been reviewed. As a result, your experience of this fragrance may greatly differ. Understandably, it's all very confusing.


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Classic Orange by Von Eusersdorff

*****
Year: 2013

Notes: Sicilian blood orange, petitgrain, Chinese osmanthus, black tea, suede, Hawaiian sandalwood, musk
With the emphasis on the sweetness of blood orange and the bitterness of petitgrain, Classic Orange is a very respectable citrus aromatic, particularly for the first few moments.

The opening is true to the olfactory sensation of piercing a fresh orange, with its succulent tangy juice gushing forth. The piquancy of the petitgrain provides a complementary foil to the sweet nectar of the blood orange. The aromatic notes remain mostly in the background but the osmanthus is clearly noticeable – prefacing a demure creaminess found in the impending sandalwood.

Alas, within an hour, all that's left are mute traces of orange, suede, sandalwood and musk. Within a couple of hours, there's hardly any evidence of it at all. While it's decent, it simply isn't as satisfying as Atelier Cologne's Orange Sanguine.

Projection starts out loud but dies down considerably, within a matter of minutes.


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Wode by Boudicca

*****
Year: 2008

Notes: juniper, clary sage, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, saffron, tuberose, angelica root, black hemlock, opium, tonka bean, styrax, amber, labdanum, leather, tree moss, musks

Comment: Eau de Parfum review

Wode is derived from the word 'woad' – the name of a flowering plant from which a vibrant blue dye is extracted and, in paste form, was allegedly used by Queen Boudicca / Boadicea as war paint. When exposed to air, the paste's initial muddy hue turns into a deep shade of blue, thus inspiring Wode's reverse concept of oxidisation: vanishing paint.

Within moments of applying, the cobalt blue pigment, from the sprayed mist, fades completely, leaving only the scent behind. Created by Escentric Molecules mastermind Geza Schoen, it's thankfully available both with and without the aforementioned marketing gimmick, dubbed as 'Paint' (Eau de Toilette) and 'Scent' (Eau de Parfum) respectively.

Upon application, one initially observes an abundant sweetness, followed by its spicy aromatic properties. The juniper-led opening is brisk and crystalline, as the composition heads down a smoky woody-green route. With the inclusion of black hemlock (Queen Boadicea's preferred method of suicide, after being brutally defeated by the Romans), many of the notes remain indistinguishable as they meld into one another effortlessly.

Although the sweetness soon recedes, the potential dryness of both the styrax and leather is counterbalanced by complementary accords of tonka bean, labdanum and amber. As the tree moss gradually emerges, a sultry chypré-esque drydown ensues, against a soft bed of various musks (with synthetic castoreum allegedly being one of them). It's only during these final moments when a charred bitterness faintly presents itself.

Not to be confused with Boadicea The Victorious (another English niche house that surfaced the same year), Wode is packaged in an inappropriately shiny spray paint can, to symbolise "rebellion and anti-establishment values". Sadly, the fragrance itself fails to live up to expectations.

For while Wode is a pleasant creation, it isn't as provocative as the packaging, the vanishing paint concept nor the sentiments that fuelled Queen Boadicea's uprising.


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L'Eau de Phaedon by Phaedon

*****
Year: 2014

Notes: yellow mandarin, aloe vera, agave leaves, white neroli, jasmine, woods, musk
L'Eau de Phaedon is a floral-woody musk that's "an allergen-free, fresh, suave cologne for the whole family".

With fleeting mandarin top notes, plastic white florals and spurious watery green chords, it exudes a cheap and synthetic aroma. The light woody-musk base complements its laundry clean premise but, overall, it just smells artificial, innocuous and exceedingly bland.

There's absolutely nothing at all that's redeeming about it, with low sillage and poor longevity.


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