Here’s a fragrance to get excited about if you like things a little off the beaten track but not a challenge to wear all day like some of the more unusual perfumes can be. Based around notes which are technically edible, this fragrance never strays into sickly sweet gourmand territory. It could, quite easily, have smelled like Christmas, and yet it manages to neatly sidestep that little pitfall and retain relevance outside the festive season. This is Fragrance number 3 by Nikkos-Oskol.
Pepper, nutmeg, ginger, violet, lavender, wormwood, cedar, vetiver, pine and sandalwood.
What makes Nikkos-Oskol different to regular perfumes is that they have no alcohol in them whatsoever. The alcohol has been replaced by oils and distilled water instead. These oil-based fragrances moisturise the skin instead of drying it as alcohol can, and they are good for people who have sensitive skin and who may otherwise be unable to wear perfume.
The other great thing about this company is that they have a significant range to choose from. Bloom’s website lists around 12 different fragrances, and Nikkos-Oskol’s own website shows around 20. They’re handmade in small batches and the company controls everything from sourcing materials to sealing the bottles.
Fragrance number 3 is a really interesting scent to experience. Due to the oil-based formula, it wears slower than alcohol based perfumes can. By that we mean that rather than the top notes dissipating within a few seconds to minutes, they last slightly longer – well into minutes in length. This gives the impression that the perfume is unfurling more slowly than it can do with an alcohol base.
The other elements of interest are the notes that it begins with. The perfume takes a few moments to warm on the skin, and the initial wafts that you get from it are dry and spicy: ginger, nutmeg, cloves and a raisin type sticky sweetness. It’s reminiscent very much of a clove studded orange slowly drying out in the fruit bowl long after Christmas has finished. It’s very pleasant and warming and although the spices do have the potential to evoke memories of Christmases past, the fragrance manages to sidestep the festive season by the inclusion of pepper notes, slightly later in the top. These give an earthy grounding and just keep the perfume the right side of Advent. They make it clear that this is a spicy scent rather than a Christmassy one.
Slowly, slowly the fragrance unfurls and a sweetness tiptoes into the bouquet. Very pleasant indeed, it starts off with that dried fruit unctuousness and transforms into a gorgeous soapy lavender. The use of lavender here is very clever: it bridges that divide between spiced and floral really neatly, having a foot in both camps. The result is a perfume which draws you through its notes rather than having them butt against each other.
Lavender gives the fragrance a nice clean edge as the spices retreat a little. This isn’t a cloying perfume at all, which is really nice as it could quite easily have been. It’s composed of dense, heavily scented ingredients but they are used skilfully to invigorate rather than dampen down. It’s not what we would necessarily describe as an energetic perfume, but it is strong and self-assured. This isn’t a sheepdog of a fragrance tearing about in all directions, instead it’s solid, slower, but confident in where it’s heading. Steadfast rather than crazy.
Whispers of pine wood creep through into the base of Fragrance number 3, but the perfume retains its herbal qualities throughout. It also remains fairly aromatic right to the end, with touches of the bitterness of the wormwood sneaking in too. This is a green, twiggy and slightly spicy note that is reminiscent of the dry forest floor and of roots dug up and left to dry out in the air. The bitterness isn’t the kind that comes with decay, however, instead it’s also quite invigorating and enlivening, countering the sweetness that we had earlier on very nicely.
If a criticism needs making of this fragrance it is that the base isn’t quite as bold as the top and heart notes and it sort of whimpers away once it’s been on a few hours. Given the punch that it packs initially, this is a little surprising but it’s really not the end of the world for an otherwise interesting wear.
The other stuff
The longevity of all the Nikkos-Oskol perfumes we have tried so far has been excellent, this one wears slightly shorter than the others we have tried but is nevertheless an all-day stayer without the need for reapplication.
The projection, or sillage, of the scent is quite low (this is the cloud of fragrance that surrounds you when you are wearing the scent, and how apparent that is to others). It’s an intimate fragrance that you would need to get quite close to someone to tell that they were wearing. That said, the fragrance oils really seem to meld with and penetrate the skin so much so that if you wore it often it seems as if it would radiate from your pores with a delightful hum.
In terms of the gender bias of this perfume, for us it felt as if it sat more into the male end of the spectrum due to the spicy and earthy qualities. That said, because it’s not a ‘shouty’ perfume it could quite easily and comfortably be worn by anyone with a penchant for lavender and spices.
Fragrance number 3 is available from Bloom Perfumery, London, who very kindly provided us with a sample of this for testing. It is priced at £59 for 15ml extrait in oil, or £98 for 35ml EDT in oil. Remember though that you need much less of the oil based scents go for go than you do for an alcohol based spray so it’s not as expensive as it first appears.