Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: PROFUMUM Alba & Olibanum

ALBA was a significant step for this confirmed hater of baby powder. The smell of baby powder literally provokes an anger response in me. Blood rushes to my face and I set my teeth. I hate intense sweetness and intense sweetness and powderiness together even more and still even more when under the threat of milk-fed sour vomitous diaperous horrible inescapable all-encompassing suffocation. Probably a motherload of speculative babble in that. Anyway, I hate it. But I like Alba.

It isn't exactly baby powder -- but it does have a good dusting of something like it. But its saving grace for me is the family resemblance to Chanel No. 5 -- though, confusingly, I also take No. 5 to be at least in part an abstraction of freshly-bathed-and-powdered (the grownup version). I find Alba most similar to the 'Sensual Collection,' sharing aldehydes, a rose-jasmine core similar to the Bath Milk (but with more orange blossom), and a soft vanillic sandalwood base similar to the Body Cream and Sensual Elixir, but sweeter, more ambery, and nuttier than any of those.

But the mention of only woods, apart from amber, in the official perfume note listing for Alba is odd and misleading to me. Why no mention of (what I register as) the heliotrope, the orange blossom, the rose-jasmine? Or at least some florals, without which I think it would smell very different... they are present enough and lilting enough, despite the underlying Matin Câlin-ness, and the overall composition pale enough, to not set me off in a rage.

The name is quite pretty, too, and I choose to understand it as a white dawn, misted over soft and gauzy.

OLIBANUM, on the opposite side of the scale (though for Profumum the scope is not that wide), is my other favorite. And I like it more than Alba. Darker, but still lightish and uncluttered in keeping with what seems to be its general house rule. Rather a cool floral incense on cold sniff, but on the skin, it really warms up from the sandalwood and myrrh -- I think my skin tends to intensify sweets (unfortunately). There is no mention of orris/iris but I smell something like it, too, rooty and slightly earthy, which (fortunately) dries the composition and prevents it from going too sweet, and also something slightly peppery -- that part reminds me a little of Santa Maria Novella Città di Kyoto.

Olibanum is also like it in its being a treatment of incense that is sheer and very wearable, lightened by the addition of florals -- in particular, orange blossom. But the effect on the incense is not as sharp and clear as Passage d'Enfer; nor as green and twiggy as Comme des Garçons Kyoto. Most like SMN CdK, softened with a drop of the warm sandalwood base present in Alba. As mentioned, the distance between Alba and Olibanum is not totally uncrossable...

Even part from the similar base (also featured in Antico Caruso and Soavissima), they share a certain 'safe' stylishness, nothing too pointed or challenging, nothing too glorious or effusive, neither too nor under sexed, neither cold nor hot, nor overwhelming. Sort of an exercise in eminent moderation -- which also could be read as bland. Which is perhaps why Alba does not offend the delicate little sensibilities of my profound, essential, forevermore Baby Powder Hatred.

I suppose Profumums are a little bland. I like bland. Better than angry, anyway.

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