Thursday, 16 August 2012

Parfum d'Empire Iskander

I recall a couple of months ago, maybe more, reading a post somewhere about which interesting citrus fragrances to try. For the life of me I can't remember whose blog it was (perhaps Blacknall Allen?), but Iskander was mentioned. Somewhere in the exchange of comments and description of Iskander, I felt that it could be a bit like De Nicolai's New York. 

When I was in London a couple of weeks ago, I asked for a sample of Iskander from the ever-generous and wonderful Les Senteurs and having tried it a couple of times since, I think  I can definitely state that Iskander and New York are very close to each other.

So what is so remarkable about that? Well, nothing in and of itself. However, those of you who have followed my blog for a while may be aware that New York and I do not get on at all. I feel bad saying this, because New York receives a lot of love and I am sure it is a very good fragrance, but when I've worn it, it has induced in me a visceral and very real sense of nausea and headache. It's not the first De Nicolai to do this to me either, so I think there must be an ingredient or ingredients in the perfumes that do not react well with me.

So, having said that, I can go further and say that Iskander smells remarkably like New York, yet induces no sense of nausea or headache for me. Why is that? Well, I don't really know, to be honest, but I do know that where the two perfumes differ is in their richness and intensity. New York is far more powerful and smells very rich, complex and heady. It is overwhelming on my skin, but conversely Iskander just smells smooth, suave and downright good!

Out of interest, I have compared the two perfumes' notes, courtesy of Luckyscent:

Iskander - citrus, mandarin, grapefruit, estragon (according to the ever-reliable internet, this is tarragon oil), coriander, orange blossom, oakmoss, amber and musk

New York - bergamot, lemon, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, pimento, oakmoss, vetiver and amber

There are plenty of notes the two don't have in common, but the ones that do stand out are citrus, oakmoss and amber, as well as herbs (tarragon vs thyme) and spice (coriander vs black pepper and pimento). I think the commonality ultimately comes from the oakmoss and amber, lending both a complexity that a straightforward citrus fragrance seldom has. Clearly the two are not dead ringers, but close enough for me to have made that association quite easily.

In the end, no matter what note analysis I do, I personally prefer Iskander to New York. If you have tried both, what is your view?

Finally, out of interest, have any of you ever had a severely negative reaction to a perfume, which perfume was it and why do you think this was the case? Perhaps even more interesting, have you ever overcome such an aversion?


  1. Michael - I love Iskander, the wonderful citrus and oakmoss make for a more modern fragrance full of zest. To me, New York is an old-school scent that is nice, but rather safe and not exciting. I don't know about headache inducing though, but I have been there before with other scents! Steve

  2. Steve, thanks for the comment. Glad you like Iskander too. You're right about New York being a bit old-school. I don't mind that particularly, but as I said, one sniff and I feel a headache coming on!

  3. Hi Michael - I think Iskander is quite delightful, especially as it dries down. Never having tried New York, I can't comment on the similarities, but I can say that cinnamon in any perfume just kills it for me. It's an 'instant headache' element. Clove can work in small doses if blended skillfully, but it's iffy,too.

    In answer to your second question, my aversions have developed as my nose has also developed. Years ago, in the beginning of my perfume obsession, I loved spicier perfumes, like Jungle l'Elephant by Kenzo, Parfume Sacre by Caron and even L'Artisan's Tea for Two. While I still appreciate them as beautiful, they bother me to wear now and either burn my nose or give me a headache.

    On the other hand, I have gained a great appreciation for vetiver, fig and cedar, which I didn't always like before. To date, I have not overcome my spice aversion, but I believe my nose will continue to anything could happen.

  4. And there is always the cumin note in New York. You just can't get around it, that is unless it has been reformulated away. Now I'll make a point of trying Iskandar.
    As to no go perfumes, yes some of the Amouages, notably Jubilation XXV, got me right in the frontal lobes. A pity.

  5. Josephine, nice to see you around my 'ol blog. Thanks for the comment. I can't think of a note that is an absolute deal breaker for me in and of itself, but I must say that clove is not my favourite note, in perfume or cooking for that matter. I used to love lavender, but it gets on my nerves a little.

  6. Blacknall, I have to say that Amouage works well for me and I do love Jubilation, but it goes to show that perfumes can react very differently for different people.



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