I’ve got a keen sense of smell. I think it’s to make up for my godawful eyesight (no, really, I won’t know if it’s you waving at me from across the street or the karate kid practising his wax-on wax-off).
Having the nose of a bloodhound has its pluses – I can usually break down what is in a dish, ingredient by ingredient. But it also has its drawbacks – think crammed, inner-city tram during peak hour . . . . . farts, dim sims, hair product, stale coffee and unwashed bodies (yes, I can tell if you’re on your period).
[Ahem, thanks for reading on]
Writing a fragrance review then might seem a natural thing for me to do. But this is far from the truth. Sure, I can describe perfumes as floral or woody or spicy or powdery. But I am still learning the vocabulary and various notes. For now, I simply either like a fragrance or I don’t.
Despite an extensive perfume collection, because I am easily bored, I am constantly looking for new scents . . . they evoke memories and fantasies and take me to weird and wonderful places.
I was at Mecca Cosmetica in Myer a couple of months ago, at the till waiting for someone to take my monies and hand over a bottle of Aqua Universalis (Maison Francis Kurkdjian) when I was introduced to Bal d’Afrique by Swedish house Byredo . . . .
|FORMULATION||eau de parfum|
|LONGEVITY||~3-4 hours (sillage)|
|PACKAGING||clear cylindrical glass bottle with domed magnetic black cap|
|RANGE||22 scents (including 3 from a collab with Oliver Peoples) and counting . . . .
Bal d’Afrique is also available as:
It would be best to preface with Byredo’s description of its creation:
A warm and romantic vetiver inspired by Paris in the late 20’s and its infatuation with African culture, art, music and dance. A mix of Parisian avantgardism and African culture shaped a unique and vibrant expression. The intense life, the excess and euphoria is illustrated by Bal d’Afrique’s neroli, African marigold and Moroccan cedarwood.
top: bergamot, lemon, neroli, African marigold, bucchu
heart: violet, jasmin petals, cyclamen
base: black amber, musk, vetiver, Moroccan cedarwood
When I read this description, I was left a little surprised. What Bal d’Afrique reads like and what it actually smells like seem two different animals. The base notes, especially the vetiver, are definitely there, but I detect no jasmine and the citrus notes are not as sharp as I am perhaps expecting.
I wasn’t around during the 20s and bucchu was hitherto unknown to me so I will not comment on whether Bal d’Afrique captures the two elements. What I will say is that something about this fragrance does take me back to Kenya. You could argue some priming was in the mix but Bal d’Afrique is undeniably an African party to me.
It struck me with instant joy the moment I spritzed some on – like a delicious fruit punch on a warm night, bare feet being licked by damp, lush grass, the sound of cicadas whipped into a frenzy, dull thumping from a lively party being interrupted by the distant laughter of a hyena . . . triggering the screech of a dozen Colobus monkeys, the cool wafts of exhaled sheesha – the flavour, watermelon, of course. The air, fuzzy and thick with anticipation, mystery and a splash of equal parts danger and oudh. This scent evokes a strong image in my mind – a mixture of memory and imagination, reality and otherworldliness which readily flow into one another.
Bal d’Afrique is a unique fragrance which is the main reason for its appeal. There is simply not much out there like it. Rob, the consultant at Mecca, described it as a modern oriental. True, it has a slight headiness (oxymoron?) and darkness to to it. But it is also clean and youthful. It is rich without being heavy. Sexy but playful. The floral notes are wonderfully balanced by a tropical fruitiness. It is captivating, sophisticated and frisky. Clearly, I love it. Or do I?
Sadly, this perfume has been a disappointment. As seductive and sparkling as it is, Bal d’Afrique is more show horse than work horse. It simply does not last, which is probably why I have never had any compliments on it. The drydown is a soft, musky powder but I have to press my nose to my wrist to catch it. In about 4 hours. Which is not what you want in a high-end eau de parfum. Strangely, the single spritz from the tester bottle lingered on my skin for 2 days, even after showering. No prizes for guessing then, this disappoints me immensely.
I am a conservative user of perfume – I don’t like to announce my arrival before I actually enter the room – but because of the woeful sillage, I am forced to reapply and have made my way through a third of the bottle in two months. Bang for buck, Bal d’Afrique delivers poorly.
The roll-on oil version I hear performs much better but is dearer, ml for ml. As much as I adore this wonderful, unique trip to a romanticised version of home, I will not be repurchasing it in its present form.
What perfumes do you enjoy wearing?
Have you tried Bal d’Afrique? What was your experience?