Enchanted Forest is the first fragrance produced by the new perfume company The Vagabond Prince, which was started by the founders of the fragrance website Fragrantica (my favorite resource for notes lists). There’s some nice stuff there on the Vagabond Prince website regarding the artwork on the bottle and the lovely packaging – it doesn’t mean much to me, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m something of an art Philistine (to the despair of my art-history major sister). Here’s what the creators have to say about it:
The fragrance was suggested by Nature itself. It’s the smell of the forest, when you step in it in the night. The darkness of the night keeps your senses alert, enhancing every smell and every sound you experience, including your own heart pounding. The night awakes your instincts, you need some time to get used to their language and feel as if you’re a part of this night forest that’s opening to you its grand beauty. Then the dense darkness steps aside and you can smell a delightfully moist fresh air.
Enchanted Forest is inspired by the endless sea of Russian forests and fairytales, as well as the most sensual ancient Slavic celebration named Kupala, rooted in the times of darkness, when all on the Earth knew its soul and its name (often too powerful to be uttered in vain or at all). French perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, the famous creator of fragrances for L’Artisan Parfumeur, Comme des Garçons and Penhaligon’s, built Enchanted Forest around black currant, the smell and taste of which are so beloved in Russia and many other countries where it grows.
I gather that a number of people who have tested this fragrance have been rather disappointed in it. Led by the mystical title and their own experiences with fairy tales, not to mention the ad copy, they’ve imagined it being a foresty sort of scent.
“Enchanted Forest is the only perfume I know of that is built around blackcurrant as the sole raw material, to such an extent that one can say it is a CASSIS! My inspiration for this perfume was primarily the fruit of blackcurrant itself, from which I drew enormously the strength of the perfume. The blackcurrant is the MOST IMPORTANT fruity note of the range that exists in perfumery. Blackcurrant and the sulfur effects of blackcurrant are the basis for the reconstruction of almost all fruits that perfumers and flavorists know. It is HUGE!”
Okay, okay – leaving aside the ridiculousness of the all-caps emphasis, this is pretty much the deal. He’s right. Enchanted Forest is not about the forest, it’s about the cassis, top to bottom, front to back. Remember that, and you’re probably going to be okay, assuming that you like blackcurrant. Clearly a number of people don’t. It has acidic and sulfuric characteristics that often seem to evoke the scents of cat pee, sweat, and body odor.
I usually love blackcurrant, myself. A number of my favorites contain it. For example, Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune, though centered on grapefruit, is also chock-full of blackcurrant. Cassis plays a large part in the delightfully neon-Gothic rose chypre L’Arte di Gucci. Blackcurrant with raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry notes make up the deliciously juicy, natural berry notes of Hanae Mori. It lightens the sweet woody-vanilla rose of Clarins Par Amour. It adds to the strange, shape-shifting, green-into-floral-into-warm-oriental character of Guerlain Chamade.
I first became acquainted with blackcurrant as a fruit when my college choir traveled to Europe for two weeks. In Poland we were contantly offered bottles of sok, or juice. The juice we drank most often was a lightly-sweetened blackcurrant cordial that I immediately took to. (Ribena is similar, but much sweeter.) Unfortunately, you can’t get it here in the US. Wish I could – yum.
In any case, my experience with Enchanted Forest is that it’s not particularly foresty. It is, as I said, dominated by blackcurrant all the way through, almost to the very end. I love it.
The opening is pretty much cat pee/berry/citrus, in the classic manner of cassis bud notes, and I like that. It stays there for some time, with various green and herbal and pine notes passing through, but I never feel like I’m in the forest; there isn’t any underlying earthiness to evoke the forest floor. Instead, it’s maybe a garden full of blackcurrant bushes, backed up to a forest but not in it. I hardly notice aldehydes or the “alcoholic effects” notes at all, since I’m overwhelmed by this tart, aromatic, hyperrealistic berry. If I hoover my arm, I can pick up the fir and some sweet booziness (the davana, perhaps?), but the waft is still alllll blackcurrant. If you’re thinking that “fruity” is a cop-out, you’re thinking of frooty celebuscents. This is not one of those. It is anything but airheaded, and it’s right on the verge of “don’t mess with me.” When was the last time a fruity fragrance, without a leather or chypre base, did that? I can’t think of one.
Half an hour in, I begin really picking up more herbal, green notes – the patchouli shows up as well as the rosemary and coriander seed, but they’re still dominated by the blackcurrant. I really get a stem-and-twig thing going on here, and I think I’m finding the vetiver. About an hour after that, though, the fragrance seems very floral to me, with lots of rose – yeah, still under the blackcurrant, a ghost of L’Ombre dans L’Eau there – and some other floral notes, and I really love this part. It goes on singing in this floral/tart berry/woody stem-and-leaf register for several hours, and it really is beautiful.
Six to eight hours later, the drydown has shed most of the notes that were prominent earlier, and it settles into a very lovely, cozy sweet woody thing: plenty of benzoin, some musk, some woody notes… the vetiver returns, the cedar shows up, there’s a very tiny hint of moss. It’s gorgeous. It reminds me of the drydown of vintage Emeraude, perhaps drier and less vanillic, but it is just so comfortable and quietly attractive without being overtly plush like Emeraude. As I said earlier, I love it.
I’m not sure what other people think about smelling it on me – I know that some of my family members gave me suspicious looks during the first hour, and then remarked favorably on it. And it may not be for you. It does not, in my opinion, bear much relation to the usual Duchaufour oeuvre, which for me is a good thing since I often find his work strikingly dank, like old cold musty basements, and unwearable. If you’re looking for this to be “a Duchaufour,” like Dzongkha, you are going to be disappointed. Enchanted Forest really should have been called something like “Woodsman’s Cottage Garden,” but I doubt that would have sold any bottles, so there ya go: actual truth-in-advertising is sometimes not a good thing.
The notes list for Enchanted Forest is long, and I definitely don’t get all of these notes, but it’s interesting reading, at least. (This info is directly from Fragrantica.) Top: pink pepper, aldehydes, sweet orange (traces), cassis flower, blackcurrant leaf, hawthorn, effects of rum and wine, rosemary, davana. Heart: blackcurrant bud absolute, CO2 blackcurrant, Russian coriander seed, honeysuckle, rose, carnation, vetiver. Base: opoponax resinoid, Siam benzoin, amber, oakmoss, fir balsam absolute, Patchouli Purecoeur, castoreum, cedar, vanilla, musk.
Here are a few other reviews of Enchanted Forest: Ines at All I Am – A Redhead; Signature Ascent; A Kafkaesque Life; Doc Elly of Olympic Orchids at Perfume Project NW; The Scented Hound; Mark at Ca Fleure Bon; The Non-Blonde; and a really hilariously snarky review by Jen at This Blog Really Stinks. (As always, if you know of more reviews, please let me know.)