Plein Jeu III-V by UNUM

This mysterious fragrance from UNUM appears to be less a perfume, and more a way of enhancing one’s natural aroma. It doesn’t smell particularly perfumy, like a typical fragrance. But if you wear it, you will smell delicious. What’s different is that somehow Plein Jeu III-IV makes you feel as if you smell fantastic, rather than the scent you are wearing smelling great. And who doesn’t want to feel like they naturally smell amazing?

Listed notes

Vetiver, cedar, sandalwood, moss, amber, resins, jasmine, black pepper, ginger, lemon, mimosa.

The brand

UNUM are an Italian brand who ooze confident, modern, minimalist class. Their offerings are all high concept and high quality. Their scents are split over three lines, and Plein Jeu III-IV is part of the Sauf collection which itself is comprised of just three scents. 

We’ve previously reviewed Spessa from the Nebbia line and Ennui_Noir from the original UNUM line.

If you like Plein Jeu, you may want to try Bois d’Ascese by Naomi Goodsir, Tara Mantra by Gri Gri, or even Shermine by Pierre Guillaume. 

Top notes

The first surge of scent from this fragrance comes in the form of the lemony, slightly earthy vetiver which rises quickly before receding again. It might not last very long, but it is bright and happy smelling, vivid and invigorating. The citrus note is rather sharper than the rest of the scent, which is mellow and rounded, but this is a nice counterpoint to the richness that quickly follows.

Once the vetiver has quietened, a rich, complex, balsamic amber swells up. It is bolstered by the spicy yet smooth tones of resins and sandalwood. There’s something of a calming vibe going on here: the initial vetiver creates movement but then it almost feels as if the perfume is coming to rest. There’s a still, quiet quality that the scent holds, very much like the interior of a church when no one else is present.

Heart notes

Plein Jeu III-IV contains a lovely swaithe of jasmine in its heart, but it isn’t a typical floral at all. The jasmine is very rich and deep – not flightly white petals but a different beast entirely. It has an indolic quality which brings it much closer to the amber in the scent in tone and a thickness which gives substance and weight to the composition. The jasmine here has a piquancy about it, a little je ne sais quoi. The effect this brings is a little frisson of electricity; suddenly you’re no longer just sitting in a tranquil church, but now it’s a church where you fancy the preacher. It’s that raising-hairs effect that the jasmine brings, nice, but oh so naughty as well!

Jasmine, when used like this, has this really clever way of evoking naked skin, hence our comment right at the start about how this perfume really seems to make you smell good, rather than being something you apply to mask your own aroma. We felt this most prominently in the heart of the scent and really, you just need to try it to get a sense of the excitement that it prompts.

Base notes

In the description of Plein Jeu III-IV, UNUM describe it as “a contemporary incense” and the closest the scent comes to being like a traditional incense fragrance is most definitely in the base. If smelled close to the skin, it smells like the interior of a church a couple of hours after the incense has been burnt; woody, slightly smoky, fragrant and resinous. The combination of cool but spicy is bound to appeal to anyone who has been in an old church, breathed deeply and been entranced by the pulchritudinous air. In Plein Jeu, this takes the form of a delightful accord that has a clarity and preciseness about it, and which will no doubt beguile and delight. 

The base and sillage of Plein Jeu is one of those clever constructions that smells different the closer you get to the skin. Further away, it is more ambery and soft, closer up it smells more peppery, spicier and closer to that traditional incense that is being referenced. Scents that manage this duality are fabulous, and it is always a delight to experience such craftsmanship. 

Plein Jeu III-IV will appeal to you if you want a fragrance which smells authentic without being overpowering. If you like incense scents but find them a bit too sinus scraping normally, then the gentle woody, smoky sweetness here will win you over.

The other stuff

The longevity of this scent is brilliant. It was still perceptible at the end of the working day after being applied at 7am. This made us all very happy.

The projection of the scent is moderate to good. We did definitely catch hits of it all day whilst wearing it, but it’s not obtrusive. Other people did seem to be able to detect it on our testers, but mostly at – or just above – handshake distance.

The presentation of the scent is another example of how well designed this brand is, as the bottles are gorgeous and look just like the knobs on an organ. They’re elegant and yet manage to look wonderfully up to the minute whilst referencing something traditional. Beautiful.

In terms of the gender market for this scent, we see it as being something more on the masculine side of the spectrum, but it really will fit anyone who likes it – it’s one of those scents which seems to adapt to different skins and chemistries really well.

Buy it

Plein Jeu III-V is available from Bloom Perfumery London, where it is priced at £99 for 50ml of extrait. Before you wince at the price, do bear in mind that the longevity is really good so you won’t need to reapply throughout the day, and a bottle will go further and last longer than you imagine.

Bloom very kindly supplied us with a sample of this fragrance.


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