A strange concept for a perfume: the Marquis de Sade has opened a BDSM cafe where you can sip coffee whilst indulging in your proclivities. But don’t be put off by that if you are as vanilla as Hyacinth Bucket. This is a bitter gourmand with a strong coffee and leather personality, and is (almost) suitable for everyday occasions.
Coffee absolute, Russian leather, suede, javanol, lavender, amber, benzoin, tobacco, cade, Atlas cedar, tonka bean, beeswax absolute, cherry, patchouli, cashmeran, rose.
It’s easy to imagine that the less open-minded audience may read the description for SM Cafe and run a mile from trying the fragrance itself. It’s a full on description surely designed to provoke and prompt debate if nothing else. That said, a spray of SM Cafe will whisk all those kinky notions aside in favour of transporting you to a regular cafe, the air redolent with the scent of really good, strong coffee.
The coffee notes that open SM Cafe are excellent. Really full-bodied, utterly realistic, bitter and rich. Just exactly like coffee should be. If you like espresso in scent then you need to try this fragrance for one of the best representations of coffee around.
There’s a fruity sweetness that hides behind the front-and-centre coffee bitterness though, it’s like a sticky dried fruit kind of vibe, somewhat reminiscent of the sweetness of Cigar Rum, also from this house. It’s as if the coffee is sweetened with some sort of date extract and it cuts through the bitterness perfectly to bring a bit of balance to the composition right from the start.
The coffee persists well into the heart of the scent but it is joined by a soft, pliable and yielding leather, itself forming another sweet counterpoint to the coffee’s tones. The leather starts off feeling suedey and natural but turns more plasticky and PVC orientated as the fragrance wears. It’s very much in keeping with the sort of outfits one imagines one would find at a BDSM cafe, if such a thing exists.
In keeping with the Strangers Parfumerie style, there is a hidden complexity here, with a slightly smoky vibe tracing its way across the face of the scent, and a playful hint of cherry peeping out from behind the corners.
SM Cafe is the sort of fragrance that it would be very easy to be intimidated by, but once you peek behind the facade, you find that it isn’t as serious and intense as you might imagine. Instead there is the typical Strangers playfulness at work here as well, flashes of different notes appear and then disappear: cherry, patchouli, a roasted nuance, even a kind of kitchen detergent piquancy which adds a rather interesting and unexpected dimension.
In some respects, SM Cafe is a tale of two halves; half the scent is taken up with the bold espresso and the other half is a procession of sweeter and quieter things which come and go to balance this out. In the base of the scent there’s a more earthy sweetness, the leathery warmth of tobacco, and a cozy resinous vibe. The sweetness never quite wins in the battle between the light and dark, but it does manage to hold the coffee back just enough to provide interest and stop this being a one-trick-pony of a scent. A woodiness also enters towards the end of the scent, it’s a dry and almost clean wood, not something which particularly stands out, instead it adds another layer of backbone to the mix and supports the other notes unobtrusively, but yet is there should you choose to notice.
SM Cafe is a gourmand, but it’s a bitter one with guts and steel. It’s not for the faint-hearted but not for the tawdry reasons one might imagine – those notions fall away as soon as you get beyond the bottle. Instead of relying on a gimmick, the quality of the scent speaks for itself: bold, a little playful, and full of Strangers’ hallmarks. This is a fragrance which will delight lovers of the brand, and win over those who just really enjoy the scent of fresh coffee and want to take it with them throughout the day.
The other stuff
The longevity of SM Cafe is good. It lasts for about six hours after application, sometimes longer. The sillage or projection of the scent is also pretty good; it goes to just beyond handshake distance or thereabouts.
SM Cafe may lean slightly more towards the masculine side of the fragrance spectrum because of the bitter and woody notes, but consider that a rough guide only. If you like it regardless of the gender you present, then wear it and love it.
Strangers Parfumerie are a quirky and interesting brand. They seemed to come out of nowhere and win followers over left, right and centre. Prin Lomros, the perfumer behind the range, is incredibly prolific, with a couple of sister brands under his belt alongside Strangers.
Strangers Parfumerie boasts around 17 scents now, across four lines: Main Stories, LGBTIQ Series, 24/7 and Unidentified Objects. This brand draws inspiration from the world of film, amongst other things. Definitely a brand to try if you delight in fusion and cross-pollination of ideas.
SM Cafe is available from Bloom Perfumery London, where it is priced at £70 for 30ml EdP.
It is also available from the Strangers Parfumerie web boutique.
We met Prin Lomros, the founder of Strangers Parfumerie, where he very kindly gave us a sample of SM Cafe to try. This was freely given with no strings attached. Thank you to Prin for his generosity.