I’ve written about two of my favorite Parfumerie Générale fragrances, L’Ombre Fauve and Coze, already on these pages. Those two were instant loves for me, and easy full bottle decisions. Aomassaï, on the other hand, took a bit of figuring out on my part. As someone raised on the sugary fruit jam of Burberry Woman (don’t judge me!), I needed to find my way in to a completely different sort of gourmand fragrance, one that was the very definition of niche in its approach and execution.
I smelled it several times when I was just beginning my fragrance hobby and I didn’t like it.
It took for me to start experimenting with both cooking in the kitchen – wasting whole pans of sugar in an effort to produce a good caramel – and burning frankincense on a small burner at home for me to understand, and then appreciate, and then finally love the smell of things approaching smoking point when subjected to high heat.
Aomassaï finds that common thread between hazelnuts, orange peel, caramel, and vanilla sugar – the smoky, dark bitterness they all share when approaching smoking point – and emphasizes it with equally dark elements such as wenge wood, resins, and black, soft licorice.
It could have been a treacly mess, a sop to the modern taste for simple syrup in the gourmand category, but Aomassaï is never too sweet. Instead, the foodie elements are subjected to intense heat and distorted beyond what is commonly accepted as “nice” smelling. It is both sweet and bitter in equal measure. Furthermore, the smoking resins, grassy vetiver, hay, and dark wenge woods tether the sweet notes and guard against them from becoming cloying.
Barely anybody mentions the vanilla in Aomassaï. It took me until I had used maybe a full quarter of my bottle to realize that it has the most beautiful vanilla in the dry-down. Once I had mentally subtracted all of the burned caramel and incense and nutty notes, I finally noticed it, and the sense of revelation was like finally spotting the image in a Magic Eye painting. Now it’s almost my favorite part of Aomassaï, that deep, dark vanilla. It is both smoking hot and paper dry.
Whenever anyone is asking for recommendations for fragrances that smell like coffee, Aomassaï is always the first one that jumps to mind. But I recommended it once (I think on a Facebook group) and the general reaction was confusion: surely, they all said politely, there is no coffee in Aomassaï. Well, perhaps not. But I still smell coffee.
Specifically, to me, it smells like someone peeling an orange in a coffee shop fragrant with the aroma of burned coffee grounds and old newspapers strewn everywhere on dark, rickety wooden tables. In my mind’s eye, this coffee place is intimately dark and cozy. It’s not the kind of place you’d wander into casually. You’d have to mean it. But once you’re there, you’re one of the regulars.
Although they are very different scents and perhaps nobody except me sees the connection, but I think that Aomassaï has much in common with both Serge Lutens’ Un Bois Vanille and Dior Privee Eau Noire. They all share strong licorice/anise notes, have dark wood notes that could be loosely interpreted as burned coffee grounds, a smoky atmosphere, and a dry, papery vanilla in the far dry-down. And as it so happens, all three of these fragrances exemplify exactly the type of gourmand approach I appreciate – inedible but still incredibly appetizing.