As the halcyon days of summer fade into memory, our fragrances turn towards the darker, the more autumnal, mirroring the closing in of the evenings. Bonfires, cough medicines and cold air all punctuate our lives replacing sunshine, long evenings and sun cream. This is the time of year when Alcools by Jardins d’Ecrivains wears best.
Artemisia, birch tar, lilac, tonka bean, benzoin, styrax.
There’s something distinctly wild about bonfires. Maybe they call to our pagan ancestry and ritual or maybe they remind the old part of our brains of the need for safety and warmth. Either way, one cannot fail to stand in front of a blazing pyre and feel something deep within us stir, awaken.
If any fragrance were to summon the ancestral beasts within it would be Alcools, which opens with a blaze and crackle. The fragrance begins with a wonderful, leathery tone that feels like a cross between a leather jacket and leathery leaves. It only lasts for a few moments though before the whole fragrance leaps into flames.
This is a smoky fragrance and then some. It lifts from skin with abandon, as if the very flesh it adorns were set afire. A cloud of birch tar rises, and it feels as if it is almost enough to set off smoke detectors if you were to stand too near them.
If you like some fragrance with your smoke then this is definitely going to be the scent for you.
The smoky, tarry notes don’t quit at any point in this scent but they round out more as they wear. To say that they soften isn’t quite right, it’s more that they seem to become more fulsome as the fragrance goes on. Although the smokiness never goes away, it is joined by shades and tones, the result being that the fragrance feels like it is a study on smoke in some of its different guises.
In the heart of the scent a floral note does colour the smoke and it feels as if we are trying to view a bloom through the obscuring particles. The flower never quite comes into focus though, but it feels sweet and a little heady, rather like a hyacinth bloom at full stretch.
A more resinous sweetness sits under the smoke too, alongside the gentle florals. It’s sticky and vaguely edible, like jam that has burned to the bottom of the pan. At times there’s a distinct whiff of cola bottles about the overall composition which makes the bonfire seem a bit less threatening and a bit more nostalgic.
As the fragrance wears, it mellows further, but again, the smoke never dies completely. The base is thicker, more sticky than the earlier parts of the scent and it clings to the wearer beautifully, like a shadow. The fragrance becomes sweeter, more resinous still as benzoin and styrax join the party, and they bring with them a slightly more mellow vibe. It’s as if the bonfire has got over its initial inferno and is now at a more moderate stage, roaring away and slowly, slowly reducing everything to embers.
An interesting coolness creeps into Alcools towards the end of the wear. It’s there fleetingly, as if the wind has momentarily changed and brought with it the fragrance of cold evening air, wet leaves and earth. And then it is gone again and the smoke of the bonfire masks that perspective again.
The other stuff
The longevity of Alcools is very good, lasting all day from an early morning application, and into the evening. The volume of the fragrance does lessen as the day goes on, fairly significantly, but it is very much still there at the end of the day.
The sillage, or projection, of the scent is decent too. It does feel as if it stays closer to the body than might be expected, but to around handshake distance, or perhaps a little further, others will be able to smell it on you.
In terms of the gender of the scent, it sits towards the more stereotypically masculine end of the spectrum. Don’t let that put you off purchasing though if you don’t fit into that bracket. Wear whatever you like.
Jardins d’Ecrivains are a French house who make fragrances based on literary references. With their headquarters in Paris, they pride themselves on using ingredients from Grasse. Alcools is in reference to Guillaume Apollinaire who was a poet in the late 1800s.
We were very kindly given a no-strings-attached sample of Alcools by Bloom Perfumery and we thank them for their kindness.