Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teo Cabanel Alahine: fragrance review

Alahine (2007) by Parfums Téo Cabanel literally smoulders in the guise of an ode to ylang ylang and amber, composed like a palimpsest of orientalia: the lushness of the flowers, cut with a smidgen of citric tang (usually the uber-classic bergamot), then fanned on resinous notes that deepen to a tawny iridescence has brought us spectacular fragrances from Shalimar to Bal à Versailles, all the way through Boucheron Femme. Alahine was apparently inspired by Arabian palaces (located in Spain I'd wager) and its solar energy is weaved in an virtual arabesque of luminous, warm notes.

Technically the concept isn't new: The same treatment of the ylang-ylang salicylate-rich blossom is given in Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang-Ylang: a medicinal amber that sweetens via the florals and leaves a somewhat powdery finish on drydown. Another tawny amber is played in a same style (but more violet-tinged and darker) in Attrape Coeur by Guerlain, also known as Guet Apens. Interestingly the Lauder came out one year after the Cabanel. Still, neither can claim laurels of originality. The main difference nevertheless between the two is how the Lauder projects almost linear, with a persistent two-tone melody to it (enjoyable for anyone who wants what they want, mind you!), and a boozier-saltier amber progression; while the Cabanel is falling from top to heart to base like on a billowy mattress. Even though they're both lush and sexy feminine, thanks to their floriental ambience, a judicious man could benefit from a spritz of Alahine strategically placed. Come to think of it, Sensuous (again by Lauder) is another one men after an ambery fragrance should try. Compared with Amber Ylang Ylang, the Cabanel is more upscale and smells more expensive. It's what people usually refer to as a "sweater scent", denoting a comforting, nuzzling composition that performs especially well in cooler weather and northern climes which seem like its natural habitat. Yet, I bet the tropicalia of its flowery heart would be equally perfect during cool summer evenings when it would blossom sexily if used with restraint on warmed-up belly skin. The fragrance is beautifully poised between East and West, between the dainty quality of Dresden china and the arabesque exoticism of Mecca artefacts, to warrant a place in many perfume lovers' collection.

Alahine opens on a cascade of sizzling and rather medicinal bergamot-ylang-ylang chord, which isn't miles removed from the mandarin-frangipani start undescored by benzoin-rich and patchouli-spiked amber of Chanel's classic Coco from 1984. Indeed they show a comparable bravado into appearing haughty at first, while being utter purr-kittens later on. Coco is spicier and has a powdered-chocolate note which also appeared more than a decade later in Coromandel. Angela of NST proclaims "the result is a ylang ylang crème brûlée lightened with rose and dusted with powder". The resinous quality of Alahine is persistent though, the amber never becoming completely powdery despite the orris touch, nor totally milky-comforting (which one would think would be the result of the sandalwood plus vanilla). A small musty facet which reveals itself through rose plus patchouli is totally brilliant amidst the oriental formula. This is probably its coup de grace, as it engulfs you into an embrace that can still be a little dangerous and fanged, despite the languid exotica.

Kudos to Thédore Cabanel's heir Caroline Ilacqua (the goddaughter of his own daughter) who has indisputably excelled where other upstarts in niche have blundered, when "re-starting" her firm in 2005 (The press kit by Cabanel mentions their first eaux pour le mouchoir were composed in Algeria in the 1890s and they relocated in Paris in 1903): Classical structure, top notch ingredients (not all-natural, though as claimed online, but still with a quite high ratio without doubt), an approachable but not yawn-inducing formula, seamless but perceptible progression & opening-up like a fine cognac. Their other fragrances, also composed by Jean François Latty (creator of Givenchy III, Yves Saint Laurent pour Homme, Tsar, Eau Dynamissante and Drakkar among others), are also very good: Teo Cabanel's Oha is a rose-moss chypre that has nothing to be jealous of from other classics in the genre, while their Julia is a graceful floral fit for princesses. Latty's motto has been "quality doesn't mix with compromise". It's reassuring to know classical perfumery is still revered enough to prolong itself into the 21st century.

Notes for Teo Cabanel Alahine:
Top notes: bergamot and ylang ylang
Heart notes: Bulgarian rose, Moroccan rose, orange blossom, jasmine, and pepper plant
Base notes: iris concrete, cistus, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla, and musk.

Alahine by Teo Cabanel is available in Eau de Parfum through Luckyscent and other etailers (at advantageous prices), also somewhat discounted on Reirien.com. It's also available in Concrète de Parfum (solid perfume) and Parfum Extrait in 15 ml/0.5oz. More info on
the official site of Cabanel.

For our French-speaking readers, an interesting interview with the president, Caroline Ilacqua on Youtube linked here.

All photos copyrighted by Elena Vosnaki. Click to enlarge.


  1. Ah, my dear !
    This is a longtime favorite- so opulent and lovely.
    What a great write-up !

  2. Fiordiligi17:21

    Absolutely beautiful review for a beautiful fragrance! I agree with my beloved Chaya.

    Thank you, dearest E.

  3. Tamara*J18:13

    Wonderful review of a perfume darling! Alahine is the first amber love in my smelly heart!
    She reigns supreme.

  4. Dearest Ida! Thank you!! :-)
    This is such a beautiful creation, I had no doubt it would be among your favourites, great-taste-lady!!

    I have been such a bad correspondent lately, so burdened with work, but you're always in my thoughts. HOpe you're very well!

  5. Dearest D,

    awwww...you're sweet! It's a very classical, proper perfume, isn't it? It's great to see modern perfumers take such a notion and up it a notch from the standard.

  6. Tamara,

    thank you! I am not a dedicated amber person myself, but a couple of them are just too beautiful for words. And when an oriental performs right, oh la la!! ;-)

  7. Rappleyea20:18

    Beautiful review as usual, E. Something in this didn't quite work for me the one time I tried it and I put it away (I might have been in a testy mood). I definitely need to re-try now that it's getting cooler. I know this one has a devoted following.

  8. Anonymous15:19

    Lovely review. Count me among the Alahine devotees! I sampled several TC fragrances at the same time, and was expecting to fall hard for Oha. I really disliked that medicinal opening upon first trying Alahine and was ready to write it off, but it kept calling to me. By the end of the second wearing, I knew I had to have it. It reminds me of the "medieval feast" concerts my college choirs would put on, and is in my opinion both joyous and grounded, golden as bells.

    Applied lightly, it is also wonderful on my husband (although he thinks it's a bit too femme for his taste).

  9. I must be your man!!!!.....I wear both Alahine AND Sensous - not on a daily basis, mind you, but they both happily live in my collection.

    I find both fragrances, but especially Alahine, to be what I call "Mood Fragrances" - meaning I have to be in a certain "mood" to wear them.....they are definitely NOT one of my "oh-shit-I'm-running-late-and I-don't-know-what-fragrance-to-wear-so-I'll-just-throw-on-this" fragrances. But I do love Alahine so very much when I am in the mood for it....nothing else in my collection smells even remotely like it - and I love that about it.

    Great writing and review - thank you.

    A few side notes (since I haven't posted a comment in a while), I met Dawn Spencer Hurwitz this summer and you're absolutely right - she is very sweet and wonderful....I hope to be working on a project with her sometime in the future. And I met Frederic Malle on his latest foray through the United States of Barney's and mentioned how much I was looking forward to sampling "Portrait of a Lady" (which I read about first on your site) and he seemed flabbergasted that I even knew the scent existed and mumbled something about "that crazy internet". It made me laugh.

  10. D,

    I should think that cooler weather is more simpatico. It just fits the mould of "cozy, warm, sweater perfume" best. Nevermind my comment on warm weather wearing ;p

  11. M,

    such a wonderful description, I'm salivating!
    And lucky you, this must smell GREAT on a man!

  12. Marko,

    I am a little scared to admit this must be so! SO will be furious. (LOL)

    Good point on the mood, it requires a bit of a setting, doesn't it. I guess that's shorthand for not being generic or "wallpaper" enough. Which is a good aspect in my books.

    Glad you met sweetie-pie Dawn and thanks so much for bringing this enchanting F.Malle story here on the site!! I feel all smug now. :-)

  13. Oh, Ylang-ylang always takes me to a time where I would grow it among other exotic plants and flowers. I love its perfume, I have to try Alahine.

  14. VL,

    you really should try it. It's very lush, very satisfying.


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