Monday, January 19, 2015

Naomi Goodsir - Or du Sérail (perfume review)

When you're new to perfume and you don't know what you like and dislike, its easy to fall into the trap of wanting everything you read about. Especially when it seems like everyone and their mom adores it. It's so so easy to do.

Such was the case with Or du Sérail. I was taken by its evocative reviews and intriguing notes and descriptors - golden tobacco, velvet-like, charmingly sensuous... (to be fair, I'm obsessed with the idea that I'd love a tobacco perfume, though I'm not sure if that is really true). It really sounded exotic and amazing.

Alas, you live and you learn. Hopefully. (I have learned, for instance, that I really can't do sweet gourmands.)

Or du Sérail is, in one word, overwhelming. It's a rich, syrupy concoction that's heavy and sickeningly sweet. It's as dense as Christmas fruitcake, with the sting of the rum that it's soaked in. 

In my opinion Or du Sérail defines the term 'cloying.' The first hour or two also possess a knife-life sharpness that clings to my nostrils and burns them. I can feel Or du Sérail in my throat and it even makes my eyes water. Unfortunately it is also very headache inducing. In all honesty, I can barely even sniff my wrist during the first hour.

But even without sniffing my wrist, I feel suffocated by the opening of this scent. I'm drowning in a red river of assorted molten lollipops - cherry, apple, cranberry, strawberry. It's thick, hot and sticky. I finally reach the river's edge only to fall captive to an almost coconutty vanilla quicksand, sinking ever deeper...

Imagine this is red molten lollipops instead of chocolate!

A little over an hour into the wear the strength of Or du Sérail dies down and I'm able to sniff my wrist with relative safety and comfort. It's still terribly sweet, but there's so much going on that the only thing I can really pick out is the amber.

The sugar tones down and the next couple hours of the drydown are tolerable, though *still* a bit too sweet for me. At this point, around 3-4 hours, Or du Sérail is far less fruity but far more decadent. The fragrance is centered around a heavy tobacco note over honeyed vanilla, chocolate and amber. 

At 6-ish hours into the wear, the sweetness of Or du Sérail becomes softer still. The vanilla phases out and the character of the fragrance is dominated by the wood notes, which lay gently under scattered tobacco leaves. At this point Or du Sérail is almost a skin scent. It is dry, lightly sweet, only mildly perceptible, and I finally find it quite pleasant.

For me, obviously, Or du Sérail is too much. (Dabbed on, at that.) While I do enjoy the very end of the drydown, the tongue-curling sweetness of the opening and the rich decadence of the middle make Or du Sérail a bit of an olfactory challenge. But I am somewhat scent sensitive, so this clearly wasn't a good pick for me. Nonetheless, you may want to give Or du Sérail a try if you like bold, fruity, boozy gourmands or tobacco scents.


Clint's 3: Fruity, Bitter, Sharp

Sums it up nicely.


My rating of Or du Serail: 1.5 

1  - - X -  -  2  -  -  -  -  3  -  -  -  -  4  -  -  -  -  5
      Nausea/Gagging         Meh        Decent       Great         Olfactory Elation    


Or du Serail as described by the Peony Melbourne website:

Family: Dry Woods/Rich

Top Notes: Cistus, Apple and red fruits, Mango, Rum, Sweet Orange, Davana, Sage
Middle Notes: Beeswax, Coco, Geranium, Ylang-ylang, Turkish Tobacco, Amber
Base Notes: Labdanum, Oak Tree, Cedarwood, Musk, Vanilla, Maté

Perfumer: Bertrand Duchaufour

For some other (more positive) takes on Or du Sérail, check out the following great reviews: KafkaesqueAustralianPerfumeJunkiesNSTCaFleureBon 


What do you think of Or du Sérail? Do you have a favorite Duchaufour fragrance?

*sample purchased by me


  1. I'm trying to think of the perfume that was sooo sweet I could barely deal with it - oh yes, it was a quick sniff of Byredo Pulp. But it didn't have honey or chocolate in it, so I could cope and I actually kind of liked it. But this one sounds definitely in the 'not for me' camp.

    1. Hi Carol! You know, I clearly wasn't a fan but it still might be worth a try - today on the NST forum someone said that they get spicy/ambery tobacco goodness with barely any sweetness (but that their mom was like me, sweetness overload). So it sounds like it could be very chemistry dependent. And I've been trying a lot of gourmands/pseudo gourmands lately and they all seem to smell exactly the same on me, so I'm starting to think that my skin is really amplifying one or 2 notes (honey? honey + amber? something else??) that are taking over the perfumes. Soooo, it could be awesome on you!

    2. It never ceases to interest and amaze me how our skin and our nose relates to perfumes we wear! And weather, too.


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