Tobacco: Smoky, Soft, Sweet


Well, well, well. Take an extended drag while scrolling through with us and this full house of fragrances! As a non-smoker I cannot truly vouch for the pleasures that are sought in the world of tobacco, however I think I’ve searched and found several wide uses and interpretations in the world of unique (and classic) takes on the note. And excuse me for not including the immediate go-to’s like Mäurer & Wirtz’s mid-century original Tabac, or Mugler’s Pure Havane, I am more interested in how these addictive leaves are re-invented as an ingredient, incorporated amid other notes that make it sing out loud (or whisper). I did not rate these by way of how reliant on tobacco these are, moreso along the lines of how flexible the note can actually be, and by now some of you may have noticed that I have a sweet spot for the more unusual approaches taken as opposed to more classic takes – but both are covered here, and I can appreciate the generous artistry and concepts that go into their making, for their own complexities and simplicities. This dozen hail from various nations, with release dates ranging from the 1960’s to the 1990’s to the present, and each carries with it that note that is sometimes smoky, sometimes soft and dry and sometimes sweet and a bit mischievous..

1981X (Alexandria Fragrances, USA, 2018)
Nose: Hany Hafez

This comes on softly but goes big in seconds. It seems to have one of those cloud-like balances between the spices that fill the room and the warm vanilla-tinged, or blonde tobacco. This rotates like the moon, moving so slowly you cannot catch it with the naked eye. But in this light the shapeshifting moves in this way that captures a ton of tiny nuances of synthetic keynotes and the honeyed herbals. I definitely get that really fresh haze of lavender, and it helps wax and wane the more heady side of the perfume. There are what some might refer to as Mediterranean vibes built into this fragrance. After only ten minutes the waft of tender vanilla moves in and this begins to settle into a sensuous dusty sweet musk of sorts. Everything is considered smartly here and though I have no clue what the name means, it was most definitely one of my favorite years in my youth – and this one will take you out on the town and treat you well! (85%)

Aviation Club (Monsillage, Canada, 2019)
Nose: Isabelle Michaud

A quite different take on the use of tobacco, which doesn’t come in until later. At the opening I get this fresh outdoor breeze, dark greens and resins – I’m definitely above the trees in a cool whoosh of air. This is more amber than nicotine, but for me the impression is less of old dried out nicotiana plants and more freshly broken leaves. It’s as if the plants were recently tied into bundles and are just starting the aging/drying process in the sun. This offers a chlorophyll still oozing from its stalk. In this way the tobacco acts more as a stimulant, and seems a second cousin of vetiver let’s say – oh, and by the way, this also contains coffee, what a pairing! Think Med Men — my guess is it is likely meant to conceptually emulate one of those cool midcentury refurbished club lounges at your local airport. If you haven’t taken this flight of fancy before, join the Aviation Club today, this one has delightful sharp notes and a yummy herbaceous finish. (87%)

Black Tourmaline (Othús, USA, 2020)
Nose: Colleen Keenan Nelms

As an organic blend of botanically infused oils this immediately comes off with this effervescent peppery freshness! The fragrance gives me a cooling balsamic sensation without camphor or mint. It’s so so dry and yet so refreshing, filled with chai-like spice and perhaps some dried orange peel for a twinge of bitterness. The pixelated resinous nature of this perfume brings an organic forest floor to life, while the tobacco here is rather gentle and more about making for a great base to warm up and dry down to. Funny this takes me into one of my favorite all organic shops, Natural Grocers – and yet it much more inwardly focused, trading a shopping cart for big giant pillow to meditate upon. There’s a vague waxiness, but its more of a smooth caress like beeswax than anything industrial. Speaking of which – If this isn’t a candle it should be – it just has a certain aromatic flow that would work so well for a prolonged olfactory experience. A dreamy hike into the dappled light of the evergreens and nature is on your side today! (84%)

Bois Tabac Virginia (Le Jardin Retrouve, France, 1967)
Nose: Yuri Gutsatz

A Limited Edition of 150 bottles, signed and numbered! Most definitely one of those timeless type fragrances right off the bat. There’s this almost live-smoking effect generated by its gentle to generous pulse. This feels dressed up, but a bit reluctantly so (maybe slightly bitter spirits rise?), as its doused with the soft essence of lavender and toned down woody aromatics. It’s the smoky green quality that is at the center of this perfume, it’s distinctive and a bit enigmatic. And this is where the tobacco story sort of begins in its life cycle here. It’s an old school Parisian garden, slightly more frilly along the edges than at it’s center stage where the sense of air blowing, a breeze, in some way emulates the breath, perhaps a drag of a cigarette, and a long fumigating exhale. However, even that said, this rather is they type of soft smoke of a daydream, and will not by any stretch choke you up. The blend of patchouli and the tabac of yore in the final stage here is quite luminous, all warm + fuzzy. This transports me back to Versailles now. (83%)

Gratiot League Square (Chatillon Lux Parfums, USA, 2016)
Nose: Shawn Maher

This transports me to an outdoor shopping mall back in the late 70’s with my Mom. The sites and smells of new clothes and furnishings as you walk by shop doors opening and closing. However this is not stuck in time by any means. There’s a lot going on here, however, and it ranges from exotic spice to bitter inflections to a musky tobacco. There are long stem roses in front of a Woolworth’s, thorns and day old leaves intact. I get an oily slick, maybe from big ole Chevy that was double parked in front just minutes before? The man behind the house seriously knows how to project sense of place – helping me dive deep into a scene that would otherwise be lost in the rolodex of my mind. When the leather and tobacco collide right smack dab in the heart of this unusually conceived perfume, it’s like a PBJ in the world of fragrance, a perfect marriage. Honestly this gives me the impression of digging for ingredients only available during a specific time in history. I get 70’s as I mentioned, you may get the mid 90’s or even the 60’s depending on your own experience – it’s like that, a bit of a chameleon. (85%)

Murmure Chypré (Motif Olfactif, USA, 2019)
Nose: Oswald Pare

A blast of assorted floral devices with a dash of desiccated citrus that comes off 10% sweet and scintillatingly dry for the good part of the opening. This has a pliable bite, and a sense of reserve. There is jasmine and an animalic musk on the air, and rather than competing they seem perfectly content in this genteel landscape. I could get lost walking in this world at dusk. And that would be alright. There’s this slightly dirty earthen undertone and that is where the tobacco begins is formless odor at first. And by the time you reach the heart here the balsam is warm with a sweeping drift of rich buttery smokeless tobacco. This is one of those quenchless chypres that toys between past and present in terms of tweaking a classic for the better. This one’s got my tongue…and my imagination. (87%)

Nefertiti (Maher Olfactive, USA, 2020)
Nose: Shawn Maher

This takes the wearer into forbidden territory that is as provocative as it is heady. It’s got variable solid and opaque shadows filled with a wonderful floral bouquet that is green and honeyed. A stimulating mix with the always illustrious delight, the ‘jazz cigarette’. I chose this fragrance as it’s a bit like an alternative or sibling of tobacco rather than your typical sweet smoke. This refrains from sweetness as well as manages to go out on a limb, literally with agarwood. This just be one of my personal faves from the nose behind it as it offers a kinder, gentler take on a cannabis note sans any of the age old skunk references. It is also a fragrance so nuanced that I’d imagine a skinny hipster with an up-pony and a septuagenarian in a kitchen apron might rock this. It’s got a clash of sophisticated and subliminal accords that when they cross-over at every stage here are not just risky, but completely unorthodox. Hats off to its references to the beginning of my favorite era of Miles Davis! (88%)

Or du Serail (Naomi Goodsir, France, 2014)
Nose: Bertrand Duchaufour

A hooch of delightful tropical fruit in heavy cream yet it sparkles like diamonds. You heard that right, this is a tad boozy, like a Hawaiian cocktail (Blue Curacao crossbred with Pina Colada) offering a waxy honeycomb and some indistinguishable flowers for a lei. The tobacco here comes up in between a cultivated vanilla note and these juicy fruit accords, smoldering oh so gently. It’s all incredibly warm and inviting, this crisp cascade of dramatic notes. This colorful haze lifts one of its many veils after some time, making way for the woody tobacco to caress the walls of your senses. You’re on a desert island, or is it a dessert island? No matter, you now have no cares in the world. (88%)

Rebel (Roux St. James, USA, 2019)
Nose: Krista Lacey

Thoughts: A botanical variation on a stiff upper lip type tobacco, as this one claims to contain ‘attitude’. Don’t you love that? I know I do. This is a straight shot of greased lightning so to speak – that classic blend of leather and tobacco with it’s own peppery spice. Maybe this is a nod to James Dean or to Jack Kerouac? Or maybe just to anyone who might want to release the handbrake and hit the open road. This has that coy cheshire grin, that pledge of freedom, that throw your cares to the wind attitude, but it does all this under the auspices of all things of the earth. In this case, kicking up the dirt somewhat. The leather is slightly cracked, though the tobacco is fresh and smooth. Rebel has a great balance of herbaceous cleanliness with the little extra something-something that would furrow anyones brow with a curled lip and an appetite for taking the path less travelled. This one has a cause. Two-seater anyone? (86%)

Tabacco (I Profumi di Firenze, Italy, 1992)
Nose: Dr. Di Massimo

A frothy, almost saponaceous composition so clean and marine-like you may just drift off to dreams of the Amalfi coast. The tobacco here, unlike in other presentations is quite floral, actually in full bloom. This has a gel-like amber quality, a somewhat resinous coating upon which the beautiful tabac floats. If you weren’t aware these lush thick leaves protrude when ready for harvest with lily like creamy pink flowers and they have to be included here – it’s pretty and peculiar to a smaller extent as this has a miasma of piquant brackishness. This is a big Springtime explosion of fragrant warmth. It’s deep, it’s elegant and the floral continues to beam brightly until the soft woody tonalities draw the last breath from the plant. This, however, will be long-lasting, and quite a unique take on our featured note, and as a perfume in general. (83%)

Tartan (Sarah Baker, UK, 2017)
Nose: Sarah McCartney

Back in the Fall of the year that shall not be mentioned I made my first impressions of this perfume known. I like it because it’s just the right amount of odd, and familiar. The fact that this plays on a yeasty or beer-like paradigm without being heavy or too referentially boozy (though it is a lil’) draws me to it’s origin story, it’s back to basics construct, yet finds a way to take elements that may have been foraged in the 18th Century and make them quite real, and ready for our times. What is most amazing about this is all the different elements of cedar, making for images of the hearth, images of peasantries, of a cragged organic landscape. This combines tobacco in a whispery way, again pairing so well with a skin like leather accord, but so differently than elsewhere on this survey. For me I get this Autumnal feel of hard work, of sweat dripping from the brow, and on to a leather vest perhaps. This has that perfect dichotomy that breaks with the domestic by utilizing commonly found notes of tea, lager and that leaves of the unknown into a gorgeous tapestry known as Tartan. I appreciate this with the passing of time. (90%)

XJ 1861 Naxos (Xerjoff, Italy, 2015)
Nose: unknown

And lastly, but not leastly, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Italia’s unification this fragrance is quite well known, though this is the first time under my passages. And though I spilled it all over my hand I’m not going to cry over spilt perfume! Named after the island from Greek mythology, still part of the Cyclades island group today. Likely the most classic of our selection, this brings the wearer the super supple blend of honey, vanilla and tobacco from the first spritz. This is exactly as scripted and doesn’t veer from its boast-worthy, in-depth composition that also features fruits and spices, but they are truly secondary to the dynamic duo here. For me this seems to lean toward classic masculine references, a fine cigar shop, a European red light district, Mr. Green in the Ballroom with the candlestick — in the end it offers a sensuous sense of confidence and virility. Though this doesn’t have a specific age limit as to who would wear this my guess is this is for the upwardly mobile gentleperson looking to snare a partner. Once you are deep into the heart f this the florals blush a bit, some jasmine never hurt nobody! It’s undeniably Italian and a bit carnal. (89%)


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