Sova by Slumberhouse

Year: 2012

Notes: hops, broom, cassie, sweet clover, hay, tabanon, cocoa, Tahitian vanilla, tonka bean, amber, poplar bud, black locust, beeswax, castoreum
Shamelessly ‘borrowing' Andy Tauer's idea of part-filling 50ml bottles with glass beads, to reduce the volume to 30ml, Sova is largely a variation of Baque. One also had the good fortune of acquiring two samples, within less than a year of each other... but they smell remarkably different.

One's sample from 2012 is warm, balsamic and soft – with sweet and fruity tea-like undertones from the hops, and a honeyed dried fruits aspect accentuated by the broom. Both of these accords also possess herbaceous and spicy properties, with the broom fusing with the warm aroma from the hay. As for any booziness, it's more comforting than brash, conjuring images of an old Spanish country barn converted into a sherry distillery.

Some dry tobacco consistently weaves in and out of the composition, courtesy of the aroma chemical tabanon (or tobacco cyclohexenone). Meanwhile, there's a spicy and maple-syrup-like presence throughout. This stage also smells quite similar to labdanum but is actually the poplar bud – imparting a balsamic, resinous and spicy aura, which may explain why gingerbread is often cited as being part of the composition.

As it settles down, a dark and bitter cocoa note surfaces, slightly tempered by ambery-vanillic reinforcements. The honeyed sweetness still remains but a sudden shift has taken place – from its warm, spicy, resinous and boozy beginnings to a dark woody-gourmand drydown, with a subdued animalic edge from both the castoreum and beeswax. Once again, projection isn't stellar and longevity is over six hours.

With regards to the sample from 2013, it's sharper, boozier, and more rugged and resinous (rather than smooth and balsamic). In fact, it almost smells like a dupe for Norma Kamali's Incense, but with a fruitcake sweetness substituting the copal. All the other aspects are reasonably intact, but it's darker in its general demeanour and is neither comforting nor unique. Both longevity and sillage are also similar to that of the 2012 sample.

And that's what's so self-indulgent and unprofessional about this house. Why should there be acute differences in a relatively new fragrance, within 12-18 months of its release? Why should it be acceptable for a niche house to regularly reformulate its creations, and expect the public to willingly pay for rough drafts of an idea? And why should buying a bottle be like the lottery, when not much is known about when these reformulations occurred? But as Josh once stated, if he ensured product consistency, he would "quickly become bored".

Based on all the above, investing in any fragrances from Slumberhouse is a real crapshoot.

* The final rating takes both samples into account.

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.