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Good wood, Part 2: The Luckyscent Decennial anniversary perfumes

The Scent BarThe remaining two scents of the Decennial anniversary perfumes are very much a part of the set. Both have startling juxtapositions elegantly executed; both involve beautiful wood notes; neither is spicy to my nose, like Nuit Épicée and Santal Sacré, but both involve very creative comestibles that one seldom smells in perfume. The bourbon in Bois Bourbon is not an abstraction of bourbon, it’s really a very naturalistic invocation of bourbon; it’s not a generalized “This Is What Bourbon Smells Like”, it’s very specific, very closely related to actual bourbon on the tongue. Lys du Desert has a similar effect we’ll discuss in a moment.

Ari at Scents of Self liked Bois Bourbon and said that if bourbon really smelled like this, she’d drink it. I am a bourbon drinker, and I don’t smell much of actual bourbon in Bois Bourbon. To my nose there’s just a faint note of bourbon itself, a very slight woody sweetness that’s my favorite feature of actual bourbon. It’s very slight, though, so don’t think of this as a sticky scent, at all.

In fact the primary feature of Bois Bourbon is an amazing light greenness and the way it plays off the rich brown bourbon. I’m afraid to say “green” because then you will think it’s galbanum-y, like carnation stems, but that isn’t the green at all. Somehow the effect is of a green piece of wood that’s been cut. The bois in Bois Bourbon is a young tree – maybe only ten years old? – that smells of fresh young life and somehow supports, complements, and also completes the age of the bourbon.

As part of a set with the scents I previously reviewed, Bois Bourbon makes it clear that the Decennial scents are all about wood. There’s the dry astringent wood saved for a special occasion of Santal Sacré, and the wreathed-in-flowers-and-spices wood of the homey cedar chest of Nuit Épicée; with Bois Bourbon we move outside, perhaps to an orchard where we are trimming a branch or two. There are no flowers here, no fruit; just the air of a young world in spring and the wealthy indulgence of a good glass of bourbon. It’s a very curious juxtaposition to my nose and I can’t stop sniffing it. Is this what men’s clubs used to smell like? No, this is like a rich man’s California porch in the Napa Valley. Or what they smell like in the imagination of Jerome Epinette, the nose? Or perhaps what L.A. smells like?

I like the work of Jerome Epinette, who did many of the scents for Atelier Cologne and also for Byredo. He has a nice way with juxtapositions that are surprising but not heavy-handed. He was also the nose for Santal Sacré and Nuit Épicée. It’s interesting to experience his work in these perfumes, all labeled Eaux de Parfum rather than the “colognes absolues” that Atelier produces. His juxtapositions are just as creative, just as light a touch, but with more presence, and the results are far departures from the classic citrus/toilette water flavors of any type of cologne, absolue or not.

I tried all of Epinette’s scents before I tried on the one scent Andy Tauer did for the Decennial collection, Lys du Desert. I had rather a reaction against the blogosphere’s slavering adoration of Andy Tauer, and the repeated mentions I saw of Lys du Desert without any mention of the other three in the set. It seemed like my fellow perfume fans were gallumphing around in a herd, snorting Lys du Desert and muttering “Andy Tauer! Andy Tauer!” in some sort of religious observation-slash-stalker fandemonium.

Full disclosure: I’ve won one of Andy Tauer’s Advent giveaways before, so I’ve corresponded briefly with him, and from my own interactions with him and from everything everyone else in the perfume world has ever said about him, he’s one of the nicest perfumers in the world. He’s super committed to his art but also very pleasant to fans (which most creators are not). At the same time, I do not own a full bottle of any Tauer scent (except the one I won) and I’ve never fallen madly in love with a Tauer scent. So I’m all for saying nice things about Andy Tauer, but I’m not a slavering fangirl either, and the sheepling surrounding the release of Lys du Desert (especially to the exclusion of the other three scents in the collection) kind of irritated me.

So I saved Lys du Desert till last, and here’s what I thought as soon as I finally put some on:

This is really goddamn good.

The wood that is the focus of Lys du Desert is mesquite. I have some mesquite flour I have tried cooking with, and its smoky maple scent/flavor is the platform on which Lys du Desert is built, but slightly drier than the mesquite flour itself – rather more like the wood one often uses for smoking meats, I imagine. There’s a touch, maybe just a hint, of that smoked meat hint here as well, but nothing as full-out meaty as Lonestar Memories, which I really can’t wear. No, on top of the mesquite wood here there are indeed dry desert flowers, the hardy kind of delicate ephemeral flowers that can live on less than a foot of rainfall a year.

I am from southern California, and something in the floral hints here spoke to something deep in my brain, so deep I can’t really identify it. I know my backyard used to have prickly pear blossoms in it part of the year, and dry grasses flowered from time to time. Is there some of that in here, pretending to be the lily of the desert? I don’t know. I do know that Lys du Desert speaks to me of my relationship to the outdoors when I was very young – of lying on hot outdoor rocks in the sun, looking for rattlesnakes and coyotes. When I first wore it, I dreamed that night of the tiny frog, the size of my thumb, that settled in the water fountain we put outside for the dogs – because water was that precious, and life was that tenacious, out there.

Despite the delicacy of what I perceive as its floral petals, Lys du Desert isn’t shy. Lily is one of my favorite florals, and I’m delighted to have a new interpretation of it; it makes it feel more “mine”. It’s not as light a hand as Epinette’s concoctions. You’ll know you have this baby on, and with more than a spritz or two so will others. I hope they like scent, because if you’re wearing Lys du Desert, you absolutely will not smell like anything else they’ve ever smelled and you won’t smell like anything soapy, department-store, or cookie-cutter. This stuff is unique, complex, evocative, satisfyingly beautiful, surprising, and somehow oddly luxurious.

So then I went from being annoyed that Andy Tauer’s perfume was all anyone was talking about, to being annoyed that it was so good.

This slightly smoky mesquite lily is a star. I was wrong, everyone else was right. It’s gorgeous, no doubt. But the reason I wouldn’t recommend picking up Lys du Desert, even in sample form, without getting the rest, is that actually LdD is so stunning that I don’t think I would wear it unless what I wanted to do was wear Lys du Desert. It’s not a background perfume. It’s not difficult, but it’s pretty damn attention-grabbing, even if it’s your own attention we’re talking about. I honestly think I will reach for the others to plain old wear just as often, if not more often, than Lys du Desert. Luckyscent offers a sample set of all four scents; as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way to go.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m going to wear Lys du Desert, and I’m going to enjoy the almost amazing experience of wearing it. But I’m going to wear all four of the perfumes in the Decennial collection, and I particularly enjoy contemplating them together, because to me, together they are a string quartet of woods: sandalwood, cedar, green young wood like ash or vine, and mesquite. I like the scent of wood, from carved wooden bowls to antique rocking chairs, and I like how these talented perfumers have mixed those woods with everything from flowers to foods to make four beautiful perfumes. Fitting for the temple to scent that is the Scent Bar, these scents are not like anything else, but they’re also completely wearable and delightful while also representing new directions in development for their noses. What an achievement. What great perfumes.

Image is of the Scent Bar, storefront home of Luckyscent, swiped from their site.

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13 comments to Good wood, Part 2: The Luckyscent Decennial anniversary perfumes

  • What great perfumes indeed, and what a beautiful review! I would happily take full bottles of Santal Sacre, Bois Bourbon, and Lys du Desert.

  • Barbara

    You make me want all four! I regret not buying the sample pack now, since I’m on a strict no-buy!

    • Judith

      I’m trying so, so hard on not buying right now too, so just tell yourself – it’ll still be there some future day. It’s unlikely to be going anywhere anytime soon.

  • Hey!!! What are you doing to me?! I planned to skip these… Well, I’m not buying a tiny vial of $2/ml perfume for $4.50/ml plust shipping. I’ll wait and if these perfumes are actually that good I’ll buy into a split.

    But I must say that your reviews are very persuasive.

    • Judith

      They actually offered a free set of samples for quite a while to Basenotes readers, and that’s how I got mine. The code was available to anyone, so I don’t feel bad about being able to take advantage of it. Lots of people won’t buy the full bottles of perfume without sampling them, so I’m glad they did a sample set; and since most people won’t buy the full bottles at all, and they’re hardly Coty to absorb all the costs of marketing, I don’t mind the price of their sample set at all. But then, as I said, I was able to not pay it – and I feel free not to buy it if I don’t want it (and if I do want it, $18 would not be out of the question for me.) But then, I don’t look for reasons to get cranky about prices.

      • What can I say? They aren’t Coty. But then maybe they don’t need to develop 4 (four!) expensive (?) fragrances to celebrate their business? 😉 I’m not talking about giving those samples away for free. But since they are in business of decanting perfumes (it means vials and labels cost them pennies) they could do samples of their own perfumes at cost. All other companies/brands who develop their own perfumes spend at least something on marketing – otherwise they’ll probably won’t even get into the Luckyscent shop. So why the shop itself should be that different? Bottom line, I’m not paying $5.50 ($4.50 for the perfume & vial + S&H/4 vials) for 1 ml sample of a generic perfume (I’m with Scented Hound on that: stores’ perfumes, no matter who developed them, still feel to me generic, like a mouthwash from Target or cereal from Safeway – I never buy those). (rant is over 😉 )

        But if I get a chance to swap those samples or get small splits at cost, I’ll take it!

        • Judith

          I think they are doing those samples at cost. Usual samples are done at a loss, because they expect/hope people will buy the perfume, and/or the vendor has supplied the perfume for free, so they (Luckyscent) can invest in the time it takes to make the samples and mail them.

          Let’s say a $1.50/ml perfume. 1 ml = $1.50
          Vial = $.10
          Mailer = $.12
          Labels = $.05
          Labor (to decant perfume, apply label, and put it in package) – even if the staff person is making $15/hour, this can be easily $3)

          So costs are at a minimum $4.77. Add advertising and house overhead and it’s got to be at least $5/vial, probably more. Luckyscent is selling these at $4.50 a vial. It’s STILL discounted; just not as heavily discounted as the big commercial brands. They are probably doing them not just at cost, but below cost.

          Anyone who thinks a company can make a profit on a four-scent, $18 item has never broken down the costs. There’s no profit to Luckyscent in these sample packs, except/unless inasmuch as it gets us perfumistas to be able to try them, even if we can’t visit the Scent Bar, and we like one so much we buy it. It’s really a service to perfumistas; no one at the Scent Bar is soaking anyone for extra money.

          They’re four very different perfumes from each other, not like an eight or twelve perfume launch, and actually they’re quite different from everything else on the market and quite reasonably priced (compared to that Amour de Palazzo from Juls et Mad, for instance!). So the perfumes aren’t overpriced, and the samples aren’t overpriced either. You’re basing your idea that they are generic because they are store perfumes on something you already believe, without smelling them. Not pertinent, in this case – these were commissioned by some of the foremost purveyors of perfume in the United States, not Target! And faulty logic.

          • I hope we both understand that this is just an exercise. Those were good reviews and I will test these perfumes because of your reviews. Now back to arguing 😉

            About the price.

            If we’re talking about an indie brand that blends perfumes manually (SSS, Tauer Perfumes, etc.) the cost per ml in those quantities that they can sell is really high and producing samples is an overhead. And I do not mind paying actual costs to indie perfumers but even they have to make themselves known to some circle first – meaning loose money on samples and promotional packages.

            If you’re a store or a decanter that has to get an actual product, pay for it retail (or close to it) price, decant it from an original bottle on demand, etc. $5.50 for a sample, including delivery, doesn’t seem extravagant at all (I did my portion of decanting and I know both what efforts it involves and costs break-down). That’s why I do not complain when Luckyscent charges $3-$7 per 0.7 ml sample of perfumes from other brands they sell. I do not mind paying decanters’ prices if I want to try something they offer: a sample in this case is a product so its production and sales are supposed to be profitable.

            But in this case we’re talking about Luckyscent as a brand that produces their own perfumes. And I do not believe that perfume itself costs to the producer all those dollars per ml – see the article on Bois de Jasmin last year. I understand that it costs more for a niche brand to produce a perfume – so a high price per bottle sold is understandable. But to produce just an extra juice for marketing purposes shouldn’t be that expensive – unless it’s done manually, of course – but then, if it is produced manually, maybe they shouldn’t have done four perfumes at once? And to produce samples for the perfume you launch (if you do it manually, I mean) you do not hire somebody for $15/hour who makes just 5 operations for that same hour but get a minimal wage person for a project who makes 30+ samples/hour, produce and label the number of vials you planned to have in bulk (unlike those samples that are made to order) and cover the price of putting those together into the order, as well as the price of a mailer and an external label from $4/shipping (since an actual shipping cost is $1.95).

            Luckiscent is a known perfume distributor but it isn’t a known and desirable perfume brand. They haven’t earned (yet?) my trust as producers of great perfumes. They haven’t spent enough time and money to market themselves as a great perfume brand. So I do not think they should expect me to pay for their samples as for samples from a premium perfume brand. And if it actually costs them $4.50 before shipping to produce those samples it’s not a good business organization of the launch and I shouldn’t be asked to pay for that.

            As to the “generic perfume” part… That is definitely just a perception. But I, as a consumer, am entitled to my own perceptions, right? I do not think stores should have their own perfumes. Any stores. I do not trust perfumes commissioned by Barney’s either. Or Aedes’ one (even though it was done by Duchaufour). The same way Missoni or Neiman Marcus for Target doesn’t impress me or seems desirable. The same way Nordstrom’s or Neiman Marcus’s own labels interest me only deeeeeply discounted: I’m not prepared to pay premium prices for a store brand. And I, as a consumer, do not have to justify my preconceptions – I just have them. And I’m not the only one with that preconception so it’s not I who should adjust my expectations or behavior but the store.

            If Luckyscent wants to be a premium brand they should first become one – yes, by investing (read “loosing”) money on advertising and distributing free or at least at cost samples: that’s what other new brands do it. And when they are recognized as a premium brand I’ll pay $4.5+ for a sample.

            Please, do not be offended – it’s not against you.

  • Thanks so much for the report on these! I had been not very curious (and I’m maintaining that stance for the reasons Undina mentioned), but now (thanks to you) I feel at least informed. 🙂

  • […] Decennial Collection from Luckyscent sound so appealing that I almost want to buy those samples: I’m going to wear all four of the perfumes in the Decennial collection, and I particularly enjoy c…. Almost but not quite: I know that Luckyscent is in this business for money but something bothers […]

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