The still sky of a Greek island at the height of a hot summer’s day.
Capers flowers, fig tree wood, leather, minerals.
Imagine a remote Greek island, 500 years BC. The unrelenting sun beats down on the stones of an amphitheatre where the town council meets to debate law. The heat is unbearable, oppressive, and it changes the character of the things that must endure its gaze: the stones become bleached, vegetation is tough and sparse, and the sky is the most perfect azure blue.
In a courtyard, a bearded man in white robes steps forward. The white of his clothing vibrates against the searing light, almost making him too dazzling to look at. Your gaze drops to his feet where brown ankles give way to dusty leather sandals.
This is the picture that the start of Ciel Immobile paints.
There’s a hot, dusty dryness to the start of the fragrance, leather that has baked in the sun even as it has toiled. A spiciness flitters around the edges of the scent as if our senator has anointed himself with some rare and exotic ingredient before taking the stage for his oration and we can just catch hints of it as he moves about. Everything feels bleached by the sun, but as if it has been created by that process rather than diminished by it.
Beyond the heat of the sun, a lush, vegetative type scent lurks. It has the feel of a succulent – tough and rubbery – and of sap and water locked deep within. This is the smell of a plant which hasn’t seen raindrops for a very long time, so instead has to make do with meagre dew, and what it can gleam from deep within the soil. The sort of plant that is a survivor. It is aromatic and tenacious, clinging on to life even as the sun tries to beat it into submission.
The vegetation sits behind the road-dusted leather and spice that start the fragrance, as if it is screened from our view. At times the scent moves a little towards the metallic as the mineral notes make themselves known. Often mineral notes can be reminiscent of the sea, but here they are more like salts and minerals drawn from rocks by the heat of the unforgiving sunshine. This is heat that all living things must seek shelter from in the shade, in the cooler, deeper corners of the building.
The middle phase of a wear of this fragrance feels soporific, like very hot places can do. It’s a very aromatic place to be, but also dreamy and a little un-real. Perhaps your eyelids begin to close as you listen to the speech going on before you, perhaps you drowse a little against the warm stones…
Finally, the senator’s oration draws to a close and you realise that whilst your mind has wandered, the sun has set and the heat has gone from the day. A creeping, cool sense of relief has stolen across the temple now, allowing the vegetal notes to take over from the dustier dryness that dominated the day. The leather too has relented as the coolness of evening has taken over.
Warm woody notes now enter the field. The woody aspect of the fragrance is interesting because it feels very cosy like a cedar note, but coloured with a green sappy tone. If there is any actual fig to be found in the fig wood it is an unripe kind of fig, slightly bitter and astringent, the sort of fruit that would set your teeth on edge. At times it could also be the tough, leathery skin of a cucumber just before you bite into it. Whatever it appears as to you, the green note counters the early dryness and brings the sense of relief that the sun has finally dipped below the horizon and that the heat has abated a little.
Ciel Immobile has a thoughtful deliberateness about it that makes it very appealing. It doesn’t feel like the most complicated fragrance ever, but that isn’t what the perfumer was going for here. Instead it evokes the clean lines and high contrasts that you will be able to relate to if you have ever visited a Roman or Greek ruin on a hot summer’s day. It feels like the sort of fragrance which evokes a place that would smell exactly the same now as it did two-and-a-half millennia ago. Perfumes like that enable us to time-travel.
The other stuff
The longevity of Ciel Immobile is fair. It lasts around 3-5 hours following an early morning application at least, sometimes longer. We felt that it projected to around handshake distance or less.
In terms of who could wear this scent, for us it felt that it leaned towards the more masculine side of the spectrum. Perhaps this would be a good choice of scent for someone who wanted to smell a little on the masculine side, but without resorting to being too obvious about it. Ciel Immobile feels like a more unusual choice, but an impactful one nevertheless.
Ciel Immobile is the sort of fragrance that would wear best on bright, warm days. We were a little concerned that the full heat might kill it too quickly, but on warm Spring days it does very well indeed, keeping you cool and fresh but also provoking a little anticipation for even more heat.
Phaedon are a standing favourite here at The Sniff. They’re a French brand which is often overlooked but which turn out cracking fragrances at fair prices. Phaedon are operated by Pierre Guillaume, master perfumer and head of his own, eponymous brand, and they’re definitely a line to check out if you want quality craftsmanship and class without showy and gaudy trappings.
We have previously reviewed Cendres de The (soft and refreshing tea), Hesperys (aromatic, watery herbs), Ilanguara (ylang and almond blossom), L’eau de Phaedon (beautiful aquatic jasmine), Pure Azure (honeyed orange blossom), and Pluie de Soleil (summery fruity floral).
Ciel Immobile is available from Bloom Perfumery London, where it is priced at £125 for 100ml EdP. It is also available from the Phaedon web boutique at a cost of €95 for 50ml or €145 for 100ml EdP.
We were very kindly given a sample of Ciel Immobile by the Phaedon brand when we visited their stand at Esxence in 2019. Thank you to them for their generosity.
Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Unsplash.