Perfume Review: Teo Cabanel Alahine, or A Joyous Christmas Memory

When I was at college, my university chorus group put on a Madrigal Dinner every year. It was a longstanding tradition that our director would prepare us to sing eight or nine madrigals, and the students would be in charge of everything else.

And I do mean everything else, from arranging to rent the ballroom to organizing costumes, meals, publicity and tickets, from creating an original play to obtaining the services of the medieval-music club for instrumental music and the fencing club for demonstrations, from learning medieval dances and extra pieces of music for serenading guests during the meal to preparing decorations, including fabric wall hangings, fresh evergreen garlands, and clove-orange pomanders, and placing the hangings and garlands in the 14-foot-high ballroom. There are 50 students and twelve weeks in which to get everything done – Ready, Set, GO!

We called it Mad Dinner, and those four evenings were some of the happiest of my life. (They were also some of the most stressful, especially the year I was Costume Co-chair. I think I still have a bald patch on the back of my skull from that experience.) I loved it – every Mad minute of it. Pure joy, from wandering minstrels to cloved oranges to funny hats to candlelight to beautiful music.

For me, Teo Cabanel’s Alahine is Mad Dinner.

Notes for Alahine (from mfr sample):
Top: Lavender, bergamot, ylang-ylang
Middle: Jasmine, Bulgarian rose, orange tree, pepper plant
Base: Iris, cistus, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla, sandalwood, musk

I probably wouldn’t have gone after Alahine on my own – I like amber, but if you’ve read my posts about Opium you know how I feel about resiny Orientals (hint: I’d rather slide down razor blades than spend any time cooped up in a room with them). I’d ordered a sample of Julia and one of Oha, a dark spicy rose chypre that I thought I’d adore, and a sample of Alahine arrived with it in that package from The Posh Peasant. Oha I found very beautiful but eclipsed by the stunning L’Arte di Gucci, with which I had already fallen in love; Julia, a soft floral with tangy fruits in the top, is also beautiful in a wistful, innocent way that feels a little naive for me to wear at this stage of my life. I wasn’t expecting to love Alahine, and in fact upon my first test of it, its opening notes skated close enough to “Citrus-aromatic-masculine” that I almost wrote it off then and there. But by the end of an hour, I found it heavenly. Upon second wearing, I knew I wanted a bottle.

If I am paying attention to the notes – to what I actually smell – Alahine opens with a zesty burst of bergamot, which is highly aromatic and therefore difficult for me. Fragrantica and the label on my manufacturer’s sample say there’s lavender too. It doesn’t smell like the lavender I know, but it is sharp and unpleasant. I am coming to expect this opening, and I know all I have to do is wait ten minutes before a lovely, creamy ylang-ylang will appear and soften the aromatics to a level I enjoy. Shortly after that, the curtain rises to reveal a floral heart so well-blended that I can’t tease out any note except rose, and then only because I’ve become familiar with the deep winey rose in Caron Parfum Sacre’ and Ormonde Jayne Ta’if. Spices swirl around these abstract flowers, spinning down into the ambery labdanum that is weighty and smooth as a heavy gold-colored satin shawl. The scent hovers over this rich amber for hours afterward, caressing it with vanilla and patchouli and benzoin, and wrapping it up with a resiny thread. I don’t actually smell any iris, but there is the effect of something cool there that I think must be due to the iris – it does seem like satin, after all, rather than velvet.

If I don’t pay close attention to what my nose tells me, but lift my head and go through my day only registering my impressions, I smell this: pine branches, curried fruit, flowers, mulled cider, cloved oranges, candle wax, vanilla liqueur, and the very faint mustiness from a costume that has been stored in the basement under Old Cabell Hall for several months. I sense candlelight, and laughter, and the faces of friends, voices raised in song, and the excellent feeling of hard work that has paid off handsomely.

When I wear Alahine, I smell joy.

For a few other reviews of Alahine, click on these links:

Image: Natural Christmas decorating! by LDHumes at flickr.

Madrigal Dinners produced by the University Singers of the University of Virginia are no more. When Dr. Donald “Coach” Loach retired in 1994, they went by the wayside – seen, I think, as being too much work. I raise a glass of mulled cider in honor of Coach, who was pictured recently in the alumni magazine, still looking his natty, mustachioed and spectacled self in a pink polo shirt.

(I hereby remind myself to someday post about the Kamikaze Tenors.)


5 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Teo Cabanel Alahine, or A Joyous Christmas Memory”

  1. I am so glad our Daisy casually mentioned that you have a blog – what a beautifully evocative post this was. I especially loved your general impressions at the end as I came away with a keen sense of the fragrance rather than just a listing of notes which may or may not end up smelling like I think they should. You definitely have made me want to order a sample of this. I love your writing and am very impressed that you're working on a novel – something which I would love to do some day. I for one eagerly await yours.

  2. Oh, thank you, Rapple! I appreciate your stopping by to comment.Since I'm getting a bottle for Christmas 🙂 I can send a sample your way – probably after Christmas, because I'm so behind… if I don't get on the stick, my kids will get boxes of cereal as presents. (Taz would probably be happy with a big bottle of ketchup, though.)

  3. Hi Mals, just stumbled upon this review of Alahine. What a fun and evocative post! Mad dinner, indeed!
    Are you still enjoying the Alahine or has it been put into hibernation until cooler weather prevails? I guess I really need to get off my duff and sample it, since so many people sing its praises. Anyway, thanks for a great read!

    1. So glad you enjoyed, Ann – I did put the Alahine away in the cabinet for cooler weather, but was rooting around in there the other day and had to pick up the Alahine and give it a little sniff. Ahhhh. It was so terrific, I gave my elbow a teeny spritz before bedtime!

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