Until recently I was familiar with Parfums Berdoues only from a couple of samples graciously sent to me by hajusuuri and Lucas’s (The Chemist in the Bottle) review. I haven’t seen this brand in any of the stores around or come across it during my recent European trip.
I didn’t know about their history, and, to tell you the truth, I don’t believe all that “since 1902 family owned” PR BS. I mean, I have no doubts that the brand was something owned by the family since whatever year it says but I doubt it was any perfume-related successful business before the current parent company decided they needed a “legitimate” niche brand under their wing. Not that it means anything to me one way or the other. It’s just a little curious how many brands with a century history started appearing in the recent years once the perfume industry started booming.
Anyway, this brand could have stayed just a record in my database if it weren’t for chocolatemarzipan, who mentioned how much she loved perfumes from Berdoues… just several dozen of times on NST, my blog and other places. So when I saw that Sephora online had that extremely appealing Discovery Set, I gave in.
(see my new Sea Star Ratings explanation here)
Assam of India
The first time I tried it I immediately thought of one of my favorites – Jo Malone Assam & Grapefruit, which isn’t too surprising looking at the list of notes (here and going forward I dropped geographical descriptors): lemon, tea and sandalwood (Assam of India) vs. grapefruit, rhubarb, violet, Assam, cardamom, rose, almond, musk and patchouli (Assam & Grapefruit).
I tested them in parallel several times, and can confirm that they do smell similar, especially in the opening. Many years ago when I got Assam & Grapefruit as a gift, I wasn’t super-thrilled with it. Since then I changed my mind, and enjoy wearing it from time to time. So while I have it, I won’t need Assam of India. But since Jo Malone’s perfume was a limited edition, once my bottle is finished (or spoils), I won’t grieve much since Berdoues offers a perfect replacement – and Assam of India is priced much more reasonably.
I didn’t care for this perfume at all: it smells either nice but too simple or overly sweet and even unpleasant. Somei Yoshino might work better for you, so do not take my word – try it if you get a chance.
Official notes: shiso, patchouli and jasmine
As it happens often, smelling perfume with a prominent note one immediately thinks of another perfume known for the same note. So while trying Arz El-Rab, I started drawing parallels between it and Diptyque Tam Dao. But since I own the latter, the next time I tested Arz El-Rab, I ran a wrist-by-wrist testing. And how it usually happens, being tested together, perfumes reveal both similarities and individuality. Arz El-Rab has an extra citrus in the opening (though it’s not mentioned in the short list of notes), has less oily cedar in the development and is sweeter in the drydown. I cannot smell iris, so those notes are clearly just for the general idea about perfume. It’s not bad at all – if you like cedar wood-centered perfumes.
Official notes: cedar, iris and ginger.
Oud Al Sahraa
Since I rarely like agarwood perfumes, I tried Oud Al Sahraa mostly because I wanted to go through the complete set. I was pleasantly surprised: I liked it. It means that, most likely, Oud Al Sahraa’s agarwood isn’t real, which is a plus in my book. I do not smell anything citrus-y in this perfume though an Italian mandarin is declared as one of three revealed notes, and I think that I can smell what they call myrrh. I could wear Oud Al Sahraa myself and wouldn’t mind smelling it on my vSO, but I’m not sure it interests me enough to actually pursue it.
Scorza di Sicilia
It smells not bad, though completely not what I expected looking at the box: it is very flowery when I thought it would be all citrus-y. It is sweeter than I wanted it to be and reminds me a little of air freshener. I retested Scorza di Sicilia three times, and I’m positive that I wouldn’t want to wear it beyond this testing.
Official notes: citron, cedar and vetiver.
Selva Do Brazil
First of all, I like the bottle (on the picture) and the box, in which my sample came: I think I have a shirt with a similar print. Selva Do Brazil starts green, even grassy with a hint of citrus. It settles down to a pleasant slightly woody skin scent. It is not “interesting,” “challenging” or any other epithet to similar effect one might use describing perfume. But if it works for you in its simplicity, you’ll unexplainably like it. Or it will seem too boring – so no blind buys, please.
You have to read this short but sweet review of Selva Do Brazil at Perfume Shrine!
Official notes: petit grain, gaiac wood and tonka bean.
I can’t help it: Vanira Moorea reminds me of a tooth paste from my childhood so I cannot think of it as of a perfume. Our tooth pastes weren’t that great, I’m sure Vanira Moorea has much nicer ingredients but… In drydown it becomes just a vanilla perfume – not too great but not too bad either.
Official notes: orange, petit grain and vanilla.
Since a lot of leather perfumes are not my cup of tea, I didn’t expect much from this one but, I think, the sheer style of the Collection Grands Crus helped: despite its name, Russkaya Kozha (Russian Leather) doesn’t have that concentrated birch tar scent that is used to represent leather in many perfumes but it still evokes leather. Later in development it becomes sweeter (but not too much). It stays on my skin for hours – sheer, slightly smoky and with a hint of sweetness. Russkaya Kozha is one of those perfumes that are “office-safe” in a good way: it doesn’t project much to be offensive for others while it is not completely boring for the wearer.
I liked Russkaya Kozha very much, and I expect it to join my collection soon.
Official notes: juniper, cardamom and benzoin.
In general, I liked this collection and think it’s a good addition to the perfume world. I can’t say one way or the other based on what I smell, but I do not believe that they are using natural ingredients – because of the price of perfumes and them insisting on listing just three notes while naming those with the location markers (e.g., oud wood from Malaysia). Does it matter to me? Not at that price. I think that this collection is a nice alternative to overpriced Jo Malone and Atelier Cologne perfumes – even though I like both brands. What Berdoues should do, in my opinion, is to produce smaller bottles (15-30 ml) keeping the same bottle and box design: I would gladly pay $35-$40 for a 30 ml bottle of at least two more perfumes in this collection while it’s hard for me to justify adding another 200 ml of perfumes to my wardrobe.
Images: my own
Chocolate Marzipan and myself feel proud that we put Berdoues under your radar :)
I didn’t care for Somei Yoshino either and I didn’t smell much iris in Arz-el Rab.
I quite liked Assam of India and Scorza di Sicilia but I don’t need another citrus, my supply of classic Atelier Cologne mini bottles will last for decades.
Unlike you, I was a fan of Vanira Moorea ;)
One that you didn’t have a chance to test because it wasn’t featured in the set is their new Maasai Mara. This one is with labdanum and I totally liked it. Just last week I swapped with someone at Parfumo.net, so a 10 ml decant should arrive here within a week :)
Now, when I know about the brand, I’ll be on a lookout for their new release. Since they should be available at Sephora, it should be easier for me to try them. So I look forward to testing Maasai Mara – even though we didn’t agree on Vanira ;)
Undina thank you for this review! And I love the pink stars which I just noticed :)
Assam of India was a blind buy for me and my first Berdoues full bottle…I bought it last April with a birthday gift certificate only because of the elephants on the bottle…and then I wore it for seven weeks straight in the summer so I guess I really liked it!
I bought three other full bottles for gifts for family members based on their tastes in perfume…Arz el Rab, Vanira Moorea and Oud al Sahraa…because they are in my house and easily accessible I get to wear them all :) ….Arz is all about the cedarwood on my skin and Oud is very jammy and sweet…..I like the Vanira as well and only bought it because my daughter is a vanilla fiend…I think hajusuuri says it is a dupe for Precious Nectar and a much more affordable price.
I agree that these are nice substitutes for Jo Malone and Atelier and this is probably why I like them as you know I am a big fan of both of those houses as well. Plus, the bottles are so pretty to me…I would love to have the entire collection on display in my house (one of these days!) and the price is amazing! ( I bought all of mine discounted online ranging from 59-70 dollars, which, for 100ml of niche , is practically free!) I would also love to see these in 30ml or even 15 as long as they keep the bottles looking the same.
and now I need to get my nose on Russkya because of what you wrote and Maasai because of what lucas wrote…those are the only two I have not sniffed yet…thanks for creating a lemming:)
Let me know if you want a sample of RK: I “owe” you for this brand :)
In general, Sephora is good at pressuring brands that they carry into doing smaller sizes, so we can hope. I should go to my local Sephora to see if they have this brand: I’m curious to see those elephants.
Had not heard of this company before reading your post, Undina. Always good to be informed by your forthright reviews. And had a good chuckle about the since 1902 part. It seems too many niche fragrance companies are inventing a story and heritage.
And some of those companies even get offended by us questioning those [hi]stories ;)
I had not heard of this company either, but was charmed by the lovely retro prints on the sample boxes. That style of packaging was also used to great effect lately by Le Jardin Retrouve, and really appeals to me in the same way as those paperbacks do that have been republished with vintage dust jackets.
Of the range, only the last two caught my attention. Luckily I have no bad toothpaste memories(!), plus Vanira Moorea sounds like a really bad corruption of my name. Well, no worse than Verruca Mushroom, which I have had.
And then the leather one has benzoin…hmm. I might not like it, but am also a fan of cardamom, and anti-birch tar, plus your endorsement counts for a lot. So yes, curious about that one too.
No-no, my “toothpaste memories” aren’t bad but I draw a line under the desire to smell like Nivea hand cream – toothpaste is a little further the toiletries line than I’m willing to go. But you can test for yourself – the remaining of the sample (less the adorable box – sorry ;) ) has your name on it ;)
that sampler looks mighty tempting and easy enough to obtain at Sephora…looks like Rusty likes it too :)….the artwork on the boxes is beautiful.
I’m a sucker for small sizes and nice packages :) And I’m extremely busy these days – otherwise I would have tried to smell these first at Sephora. But the set looks very attractive. It’d be perfect stocking stuffer.
What I love most about this collection is that it’s affordable. But, for the most part the perfumes are just OK, nothing thrilling or all that interesting. I’m with you though, I too loved Russkaya Kozha….and I too love pics of Rusty. :)
Most of perfumes in my collection are rather on the “thrilling” side – as the result, I struggle every day trying to figure out the less “offensive” one for the office-wear :)
Yes, those “go-to” perfumes for everyday are necessary.
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Ive seen some of the discussion of these on NST and Lucas’ site, but have yet to try any. I have such a backlog once I am finally somewhere with a choice my poor nose quickly tires out. But since I am a JM fan it sounds like this line would be a good choice next time, so thanks for the great overview! And the pics of Rusty, always a highlight😀
It actually helps to go to a store with an “agenda” and try anything else only after finishing the “compulsory program” :) Otherwise we usually start with re-smelling things that we’ve already tried and liked – so by the time we get to anything new, we can barely smell it.
Rusty was well rewarded for his participation.
The debate on comments on APJ and Bonkers reminded me that I meant to comment here on Berdoues, then got distracted and forgot!
So, my silly little comment is that I once bought Berdoue’s Violettes de Toulouse because someone on a blog said it was like Balenciaga’s Le Dix (I was searching for a replacement of my much loved old friend). Well, of course, it isn’t at all like Le Dix to my nose. But I was given a generous sampler set with my purchase and I have never sniffed any of the perfumes in it. So I will be searching in the far reaches of my wardrobe for that now. If my memory (shaky at the best of times) serves me right, I thought that Violettes was far too sweet and gourmand – but perhaps I will find that too in my hunt and give it another try.
I’m glad you found time to come over!
While on a couple of occasions I spontaneously came across perfumes that had close resemblance to some other perfumes (I even have a series for those on the blog – Déjà vu), but I don’t remember ever agreeing with somebody else’s idea of any “dupes” – so I’m not surprised that your search for the lost perfume wasn’t successful.
If you want to try the perfumes you have, you should either hurry and choose a sunny warm day for your testing – or wait until the next spring: I don’t think these are suitable for the cold season – maybe the vanilla one and Russkaya Kozha. It doesn’t mean that those cannot be worn in cold – many people enjoy their uplifting summer perfumes in winter to remind them of summer but I think that the first impression from the new perfume might be spoiled by the “wrong” season.
You are so right! Some of my favourite perfumes really annoy me if I wear them in the wrong season. Which makes me realise that perhaps fragrances should be given a “second chance” (but not all!).
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I agree with Undina. These are really nice in warmer weather. Although I like the Arz in spring and have worn both the Oud and Assam in the winter (the cold amps up the sandalwood in the Assam on my skin).
I actually enjoyed several from the line in summer. I am not a fan of big super oud notes, but I enjoyed the lighter oud in Oud al Sahraa. I agree smaller bottles would be good, and also agree that Jo Malone is pricing themselves out of my comfort zone, for the shortness of longevity on my skin.
I will probably finish my Oud al Sahraa sample but unless they come up with a cute small bottle, that will be it.
Jo Malone… I’ll keep trying their new perfumes but I expect less and less from the brand.