Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Histoires de Parfums Petroleum (Edition Rare): fragrance review

All the colors of a bruise: black and blue, teal green edging out in purple, fading to rosy, ending in ochre yellow like ancient parchment.

The electrical buzz of arc-welding, fiery orange sparks filling out the skies, the rusty mine of the shipwreck. The air filled with a mineral, scorched feel. The plank-plank of cork wedges hitting the iron ore at the loading decks.

A leather cloth, all smeared with wax. The musty smell of the hold of an old ship. He had his hair loose and oily with sweat and ambery brilliantine. My hand aching from trying to hold tight onto the lower mast. I said "I'm hurt". He should have said, "honey, let me heal it", like Bruce. Only he never said it; not in so many words.

John Klingel

Petroleum by Histoires de Parfums is Gerald Ghislain's story on oudh, the prophylactic defensive rot on Aquillaria trees and its resinous, nutty, woody, complex scent. Infused with fizzy orange, musty patchouli and a prolonged furry, white musk aftertaste, lasting hours, purring after the roar, Petroleum is the gift of the earth in an unassuming bottle. This oudh étude surpasses many others, in a masterful cadenza of chromatic tonalities: from black and blue, teal green edging out in purple, fading to rosy, ending in ochre yellow like ancient parchment. The chromatics in a drop of "liquid gold", in an old bruise that still aches when pressed.


  1. Wow, this sounds really interesting but I admit I can't even begin to imagine what this smells like. Thanks for the intriguing review!

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  3. Anonymous16:37

    Thumbs up for the Springsteen reference - had to cudgel my brain cells into giving up the song title! - and for such a colourful review.

    cheerio, Anna in Edinburgh;-)

  4. Love your review...brief but very descriptive...love Bruce too,admire this perfume house and will be looking forward to trying this scent.

  5. Sandy Vasalos04:53

    Intriguing review. Bruce and perfume...my two loves.

  6. Great review as usual, and the rusty boat is spot on! I found Petroleum unwearable, yet compelling, so compelling I eventually had to buy it (though I've still never worn it). To me, it's like entering a dark, damp cave full of cold minerals. Over time, as you say, a musky animal appears, perhaps still covered in oil.

    As you say, this is not an oudh, but a conceptual reconstruction of oud, the various components (woody, musky, mineralic) substituted by piercing, disturbing siblings, and layered with even more disturbing marine materials. (Incidentally, the Dubai Scent of Departure feels like a watered down, smoothed, less interesting Petroleum).

    Petroleum is the most striking of the Latinized (-m) trio. Rosam is a rose spiked by a metallic-mineralic note, striking but quite wearable. As for Ambrarem , I must have some hypersensitivity because I find it physically repelling, the combination of pepper, marine, and metal is what I imagine a pepper spray can in the face must feel like.

  7. Anonymous07:16

    I am going to have to buy this just from your review. Some perfumes make me see things, some are just pretty smells. If this is one of the former, I need it.

    Besides, petroleum makes the economy prosper here - I should forward this to the state legislature for a sig fragrance :)


  8. Glad to see a review of Petroleum. :) I was a bit shocked (in a good way) when I smelled the Edition Rare perfumes, especially this one.
    Like Cacio said, they are really compelling and this ties in nicely with that post about niche being niched out - these 3 are what I think niche should be like.

  9. Sun Mi,

    it's an idea of oudh rendered through the most unusual accords: there's an iodine note reminiscent of rust and sea, there's a mineral "spark", the orange aldehyde and the fluffy drydown. It's really very interesting!
    Thanks for "falling" for the concept :-)

  10. Anna,

    you're most welcome. Glad you caught the reference, then again how could you not, smart gal. ;-)

  11. Phyllis,

    thank you for all your kind words.
    Histoires de Parfums is indeed a very interesting house and this one is among their most interesting stuff. I absolutely loved it, though I realize it's a challenge for many people (perfume lovers are a more "nuanced" breed so we're naturally drawn to more complex things, right?)
    Do try a sample, very worthwhile!

  12. Sandy,

    it's a very intriguing scent so it followed. :-)
    Thanks for stopping by!

  13. M,

    as usual your commentary is highly interesting in and of itself and your description very accurate. Thank you for this.

    I agree that the Latinized trio has interesting stuff and that Petroleum is the most compelling of the 3. I need to acquaint myself more with the other two before writing a review (or just parsing my notes) because I was exactly so entrapped by Petroleum! But I have worn it and didn't receive any weird looks. It does meld with skin as time passes; the initial jolt is quite something, I'll give you that! :-D

  14. P,

    thank you darling :-)

    But do try out a sample. The company does a very competitive sample package online. It's a risk buying unsniffed!

    Nevertheless, yes, it's a perfume that makes you see things and think. I find that priceless.

  15. Ines,

    thank you for your comment, which beautifully highlighting the things we have been discussing for awhile. Yes, this is how niche should be these days: challenging, competent, very interesting, drawing you in and making you think and still smelling good in the end!
    Glad you're another fan of this!

  16. Weird but ....interesting.

    1. It is! It's an acquired taste but in the oud realm it's one of the really better ones. Aesthetically and innovation speaking.

  17. I'm kinda of craving this now. There is something reminiscent of petrol in Mitsouko and Tubereuse Criminelle that I adore- this anything similar?

    1. I think the "petrol" note is more akin to the opening of Jicky to be honest. It's bracing at the start (in a different way than TC which is mentholated, this is not mentholated at all) but settles down soon and very well too!
      Try it out.

  18. Miss Heliotrope08:37

    If nothing else, it's a colour that is starting to show up in my wardrobe.

    Obviously I need this.

    1. I adore petrol as a color (in wardrobe or otherwise)! Always had. Enjoy your new clothes/accessories :-)
      And try out the perfume too, they have a great sampling programme on their site.


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