Scent on Canvas is a relatively new perfume house, based in Barcelona, Spain. It is the creation of Béatrice Aguilar-Cassarà, a formally trained perfumer who also loves art. She collaborated with perfumers Alexandra Kosinski, Shyamala Maisondieu and Jórdi Fernandez to create fragrances, which were then presented for visual interpretation by artists. The boxes containing the fragrances are printed on the inside with these original works of art (signed and numbered); you must unfold the box to see the entire work.
I haven’t seen the artwork except online. But I thought this was an interesting concept, and I was delighted that the Scent on Canvas website offers a sample pack, sturdy 2ml spray samples of each fragrance, for 12 Euro including shipping. Each fragrance is offered at €130 for 100ml. Blanc de Paris is an eau de parfum; the others are all extrait de parfum.
There are five fragrances in the Scent on Canvas lineup, and I’ll review each one briefly. From the website:
The collection spans five fragrance genres with nuanced olfactory work within them: the starchy, woody musk, a predetermined crowd-pleaser (Blanc de Paris); the dark musty-mossy with guts (Noir de Mars); the mysterious, coppery woody (Ocre Doré); the rosy floral with mysterious, spicy-suede tonalities (Rose Opéra) and the complex hesperidic-leathery (Brun Sicilien).
Each of the scents has a color in its name: Golden Ochre, Sicilian Brown, Parisian White, Mars Black, and Opera Pink. More specifically, each fragrance shares a name with a specific color of paint.
Blanc de Paris, for women, was created to evoke “dancing on an early spring morning among flowers,” by Béatrice Aguilar-Cassarà. The notes list includes green mandarin, Calabrian bergamot, citron, iris, Bulgarian rose, white flowers, white musk, sandalwood, and benzoin. The artwork for this one was done by Maria Torróntegui.
I’ve tested this one three times. The first time, I applied a hefty spritz to the inside of my wrist, and the second application was a half-spritz, more like a large one-drop application, to the web of skin between thumb and first finger. That’s my optimal site for “I’m not sure I’m not going to hate this, so I’ll put it somewhere that’s easily washable.” As you might imagine from that strategy, the first test was a resounding failure. But the second and third were not, and since those took place seven weeks after the first, I’m not sure what the difference could be. The fragrance was freshly made and needed some time to meld fully? I had something on my skin (my bath gel? A stray drop of soap from washing the dishes?) that reacted badly with the fragrance? The third application was another hefty spritz on my forearm.
The first time I wore it, the citrus was very noticeable, a sharp freshness that I enjoyed, but it was followed by an overwhelming note of toilet cleaner, very harsh – like Comet or Ajax. I often get this toilet-cleaner effect from fragrances containing a linden flower note (for example, L’Artisan’s La Chasse aux Papillon and Tauer Zeta, though there are others as well), and I suspect that it just goes harsh on my skin. I never perceived any rose in this fragrance, and that disappointed me. What with the toilet cleaner and the white musk, I felt like a hotel maid pushing my cart down the hall for a full eight-hour day. You probably know that white musk is a very persistent base note, and it sticks around for a long time, even on my scent-eating skin. I did notice a wisp of iris root, and the benzoin was definitely there under the musk, but that first test was not pleasant.
The second and third tests were certainly more enjoyable. There was less citrus, and the fragrance seemed to move much more quickly to its floral heart. I can pick up on some clean jasmine, and there might be some muguet in there as well as the linden blossom. The benzoin was more prominent on the subsequent wearings, and since I love the stuff, this was all to the good. The white musk still tends to dominate the fragrance, and I’m not particularly fond of that, but it was much nicer in the later tests. It still lasted approximately eight hours on me, and smelled pleasantly clean.
This is really not my kind of fragrance; I didn’t get much of a spring-flowers effect. It is more of a clean musk fragrance with floral notes for freshness and benzoin for a powdery softness. But if you want to smell clean without smelling overtly like laundry, this might suit you quite well.
Brun Sicilien I wasn’t sure I was going to like. It’s a unisex leather fragrance, created by Alexandra Kosinski, and according to the website, it was meant to evoke “instinct, courage and freedom; the redolence of wild horsemen.” I sometimes have difficulties with leather fragrances being too woody, or too harsh, but this one is actually rather nice. In fact, it might be my favorite of the five. The accompanying artwork was provided by Tano Pisano.
The notes for this fragrance include Sicilian mandarin, white flowers, jasmine, leather, suede, black pepper, cardamom, heliotrope, musk, amber, birch, Indonesian patchouli leaf, and Madagascar vanilla. I don’t get much citrus in this, and in fact it reminds me quite a bit of a slightly-louder Cuir de Lancome (which I love). The spices are smooth, staying in the background, but I get quite a bit of jasmine and what might be narcissus.
There is leather in this, but if you were hoping for rawhide or saddles, with that birch tar accent, you might be disappointed. I’m not. I like my leather purse-like, thank you very much, and this scent pleases me. As the fragrance draws to a close, approximately six hours after application, it becomes more and more vanillic and creamy, and reminds me more of Parfums d’Empire’s ultra-comfortable Cuir Ottoman. It does keep its leather focus throughout, however. It’s not as heavy on the amber as Cuir Ottoman, or as sweet, and I think I like Brun Sicilien better.
I’ve worn this scent several times and will probably use up my sample with enjoyment. If it’s still available when my stash of Cuir de Lancome gives out, I might buy some.
Noir de Mars is not my usual sort of thing, and after testing it I’m positive that aficionados of the Truly Dark would laugh at its pretension to evoking black. If you liked CdG Black, or PureDistance Black, or LM Parfums Black Oud, or even Le Labo Patchouli 24 – or if those weren’t dark enough for you, forget this one. It’s nowhere near as cuddly or as much fun as I find Bvlgari Black (new bike tires! Ice cream!), but it won’t bite you. The perfumer, Jordi Fernandez, says this of the scent: “Every path is open to he who vibrates to the authentic aroma of oud.” The website explains that the perfumers traveled around looking for a source of oud of a certain quality, and finally settled on a source in Laos.
I don’t have much experience with oud, other than the admittedly synthetic oud used by Montale (which, oud connoisseurs would sneer to hear, I like). It’s just not my thing, and the fragrances I like that claim to contain it are typically focused elsewhere – on rose, usually. I like the Montale rose-oud things (Aoud Roses Petals is really nice), and I really enjoyed By Kilian’s Rose Oud and Amber Oud, neither of which have a noticeable quantity of oud, synthetic or otherwise. So if you demand the Real Deal – well, I have no idea. This one I’m reviewing from the perspective of an avowed floral lover.
This one comes with artwork by Jordi Trullás. Its notes include agarwood (oud), guaiac wood, sandalwood, cyperus esculentus, myrrh, leather, gurjan balsam, amyris, and amber. Cyperus esculentus, or yellow nutsedge, is considered an invasive weed in the US, but in Spain its tubers are used to produce an almond-milk-like drink called horchata. I’m not familiar with it, and I’m not particularly familiar with gurjan balsam or amyris (elemi), either. Oh well. What I was expecting was a dry woody fragrance, and that’s what I got. It’s dry and woody, and reminds me of Clint Eastwood somehow.
It opens up with, yeah, wood. Wood wood wood wood. Dry, almost charred wood, and a slight hint of leather work gloves (The CEO wears them on the farm), as well as a very tiny thread of sweetness among the resins, which become more significant as the fragrance progresses. There is some bitter mustiness to it, which is never an effect I enjoy. Noir de Mars does become more comfortable as the burnt note dissipates, and the sweetness deepens somewhat. Wood and resin is pretty much the deal here, and unfortunately I don’t know enough about these particular woods and resins to say to myself, “Oh, hey, there’s the elemi!” Ehh. It might be laziness on my part, but I am not inclined to do a lot of research in this area, since I don’t foresee myself wearing a lot of fragrances in this genre.
The fragrance lasts a long time on me, about eight hours even with a very light application.
It is meant to be unisex, and undoubtedly a woman could wear it. Just not me.
Ocre Doré, meant to highlight the luxurious aroma of white truffle, was composed by Shyamala Maisondieu. The brand’s creator says of it, “true luxury is found in nature’s perfection: on virgin land, in cascades of crystal water, in the reflection of light on a diamond and in the white truffle, an aroma that penetrates everything around it with an intense fragrance of flowers, woods, silence and mystery.” Its notes are interesting – it’s not often that an oriental type fragrance opens up with galbanum! The notes list includes Iranian galbanum, tea, maté, white truffle, oakmoss, “undergrowth,” guaiac wood, Paraguay wood, Virginia Cedar, Indonesian patchouli, and labdanum. The accompanying artwork, an abstract featuring varied tones of gold, yellow, brown, and orange, with a surprising streak of chartreuse, was provided by artist Mariona Esteba, and it makes me think of the Grand Canyon. The artwork is really lovely.
Ocre Doré opens with a sharply herbal/medicinal cast. Despite the presence of galbanum in the list, I don’t smell much of it. It’s there, yeah, but I really get more maté than anything else, with a raspy dryness underneath it. I dislike raspiness in my fragrances, and surprisingly I found this fragrance even more dry and raspy, more difficult for me even than Noir de Mars. Eventually the labdanum shows up, and it has that peculiar wet-canvas-tent profile that I also dislike in certain grades of labdanum. All in all, the two tests I made with this scent were a true trial of endurance for me.
It’s rare that I love a fragrance in the oriental genre. I have trouble in particular with balsamic notes, particularly when they are the focus of the fragrance, and I sincerely do not appreciate that raspy effect of very dry, earthy patchouli. For that reason, Ocre Doré is pretty much a failure for me personally. I did not scrub it; I gritted my teeth and rode out the six hours of wear. (Eight hours with a three-spritz application. Why did I do that? Urgh. Quease city. But that’s me, y’all. If you don’t have any trouble with Shalimar, or Obsession, or Parfumerie Generale L’Oiseau de Nuit, or… well, pretty much any oriental on a classic framework… you won’t have any problem.) If this is luxury, y’all can keep it, thanks. I repeat: my preferences are coming to bear in great degree on my verdict, but there it is. You never wear a fragrance in a vacuum. If you don’t like green florals, then no matter how often someone tells you that Chanel No. 19 is a beautifully balanced, elegant, dry green floral/chypre, then you’re not going to like it. So it is with me and Ocre Doré. I don’t like it personally, and it has a lot of well-regarded company (in terms of oriental scents considered to be well-made and wonderful) that I also don’t love. It’s Just Not My Thing.
It was intended as a feminine scent, but I think a man could wear it just as well. It is not sweet; rather it’s woody and (as I whined), dry, so dudes, go ahead.
Rose Opéra (now that’s a pretty paint color, I say!) is also intended as a feminine fragrance, but unlike Ocre Doré really does seem feminine to me. Perfumer Jordi Fernandez was inspired by a field of saffron, and the scent is meant to call to mind the luxury and romanticism of Marc Antony and Cleopatra perfuming themselves with saffron. This is my second favorite of the collection, and it really is truly lovely. The notes pyramid lists Calabrian bergamot, wild strawberry, jasmine, artemisia, Turkish rose, marigold, Spanish saffron, nutmeg, pink pepper, cardamom, macis [nutmeg flower], Javanese vetiver, cyprerus scariosus [cypriol or Nagarmotha], Peruvian lentisque, patchouli, Virginia cedar, and incense.
I get just a tiny whiff of intense strawberry, and then it’s gone. Actually, in the first hour or so, Rose Opera reminds me a great deal of By Kilian’s (not-oudy) Rose Oud, which also has woody notes and saffron. I really like Rose Oud; the rose in it is so silky and beautiful, and the vanilla light and creamy, and that Band-aid note just makes me happy. (I think I fell down a lot as a child. Band-aids meant help, and love.) The rose in Rose Opera – by the way, if you check Fragrantica, somehow the Turkish rose has been left out of the notes list, at the time of writing – is similarly beautiful, silky and rich and smooth. The saffron balances it and keeps it from being either sour or too sweet. The spices are very light here, and the drydown is woody and cool, less gourmandy than BK Rose Oud or L’Artisan’s Safran Troublant, but along the same lines. It also reminds me to some degree of Montale White Aoud, without the raspy balsamic base that makes White Aoud difficult for me.
It does not last as long as some of the others, but Rose Opera does stick around for 4-5 hours, approximately the same length as Rose Oud and considerably longer than Safran Troublant.
It’s a lovely fragrance, very femme, and like I say doesn’t reinvent the wheel – it’s just pretty. Whether you’ll like it will depend on whether you like woody/gourmand rose scents and what your position is on the “just pretty” fragrances. Like I say, it’s not groundbreaking, but it is well-done and very nice.
The Scent on Canvas fragrances are all nicely formulated, with a fair percentage of naturals (no more or less, overall, than most niche fragrances). I haven’t found one that I am going to run out and purchase on the spur of the moment, but if Brun Sicilien or Rose Opera were given to me, I’d certainly wear them with happiness.