Monday, March 30, 2009

Keiko Mecheri Oliban

Keiko Mecheri Oliban is named for its most prominent scent note, olibanum. Olibanum is the proper name for frankincense which is a fragrant gum resin from Boswellia trees mostly commonly identified as the scent of incense.

Very often I review fragrances that are considered the Greats, such as Guerlain, Chanel, Serge Lutens, Comme des Garcons etc. But just as often I find myself writing about perfumes that are equally as great, but not as often discussed or perhaps disparaged on the perfume forums – the underdogs if you will. Perfumes like Ivoire, Safari, Un Jardin Apres La Mousson, Alien, Lalique Le Parfum (which Turin calls ‘rock bottom’ for Ropion), Angel, Angel Innocent, Youth Dew, Trouble, LouLou and Amarige are all perfumes I love and have written about. The reason I write about these underdogs is threefold, (1) to balance a fragrances’ reputation, particularly if I read mostly negative reviews about a scent that I happen to think is wonderful (*clears throat* Amarige and Angel are definitely on my mind for this point); (2) to point out that there are so many fragrances available at drugstores and department stores that are fabulous – one does not need to shop at Luckyscent to find good perfume or spend over $200 per bottle; and (3) to shed light on an excellent perfume that seems hardly discussed/undiscovered.

I believe Oliban falls into category #3. It’s a fabulously well crafted incense fragrance with gorgeous whiffs of blond tobacco, woods, rose and honey. The initial burst of incense and cedar are refreshingly spiritual (don’t most incense frags seem rather churchy to you?). Oliban, especially at the start, seems soothing, calming, centering and cleansing. When I feel harried, rattled or just tired, Oliban serves as a meditative pick me up. Most frankincense type frags seem decidedly unisex to me (well, all frags, in essence, are unisex but you understand I’m referencing cultural norms here) but Oliban introduces a soft rose note that causes it to lean towards the feminine, just slightly. The middle phase of Oliban is a delicate incense, tobacco and rose aroma – very subtle, a little mysterious, and with just a teaspoon of sweet honey. Oliban is not strictly an incense fragrance like anything from the Comme des Garcons Incense Series – I love Avignon and Zagorsk – but, for me, these are not for wearing to the office – these are ultra dry, seriously hardcore, virtually unadorned by anything but incense and woods fragrances. Oliban, on the other hand, is a perfume that I can wear to the office. Once dried down, some vanilla appears in the base, so for the longest duration Oliban smells like a softly spiced rose draped over a bed of woods and frankincense. Others have mentioned leather – I just don’t smell the leather myself.

I think Oliban would be a nice surprise for those who like incense, but not austere Catholic mass incense. Oliban is similar in style to YSL Nu edp (not edt), sans the pepper.

Longevity: Soft but excellent 5+ hours
Sillage: Soft but present
Rating: 4.5

Listed notes: atlas cedar wood, olibanum, blonde tobacco, damascene rose and honey


Joe said...

This sounds really terrific, and I agree with you that there are a LOT of overlooked or underdog scents out there that are in need of rehabilitation or someone fighting on their behalf. I do feel that NST will do that sometimes -- put out a review of a fragrance that's been around forever and isn't necessarily a "classic" beloved by everyone.

As good as Oliban sounds, I think I'm through with incense for awhile. It's bad enough that our "winter weather" here on the central California coast is way too short lived (I know I'm not going to get sympathy for that comment; I'm originally from NJ). In addition, I've been OD-ing on an incense love affair for the last year and half and I think I need a break.

I careened from Timbuktu to Jubilation XXV, had a torrid affair with Zagorsk (which I actually do wear to the office), and finally added L'Air du Desert, Ouarzazate, and Avignon to the collection... but by the time Avignon arrived in the mailbox, I was suffering from smoke inhalation and have barely worn it. And now it's spring. So I'm at least going to be taking a break for a couple of months. But I'll keep Oliban on the mental wish-list, because really, it sounds very much up my alley. Thanks for the tip and the very vivid review.

Abigail said...

Hi Joe,

I'm always routing for the underdogs. Plus, you get to wear the most unique fragrances this way - since it's not the mainstream popular stuff nor is it the perfumista popular stuff (two entirely different categories most of the time).

You are correct - you get no sympathy from me being in CA whilst I'm in NJ. ;-)

Timbuktu and Zagorsk are two of my faves as well. Timbuktu being one of the few L'Artisans that actually lingers longer than 1 hour.

Even in Jersey, I'm starting to pull out my warmer weather 'fumes but I do this kicking and screaming as I prefer the heavies...

Joe said...

I prefer the heavies too, I must admit -- interspersed with a good shot of 'zingy' warm weather scents.

90% of the year it's 60-70 degrees out here, which you think might be perfect, but it really just creates a lot of confusion when trying to decide what kind of scent to wear. Not-quite-hot and not-quite-cold. OK, I'll stop whining now.

EileenS said...

This sounds right up my alley -- thanks for bringing it to my attention! I've been wondering what to wear as the weather warms; I'm in such an incense phase now that I was getting ready to panic. ;-) This may bridge the gap until the real summer weather sets in.

Abigail said...

Hey Eileen,

Oliban and YSL Nu are both great for bridging the winter to summer quandry - I love them equally.

If you don't already have Nu - make sure it's the edp not the edt (the edt is a generic thing).

Carol said...

I'm so late, but I'm just trying this now. I'm super impressed - what a pretty thing!