Au Coeur du Desert by Tauer Perfumes is the extrait version of L’Air du Desert Marocain. But certain nuances have been dialed up and some down, so that while it is recognizable as a twin to the original, it is definitely a fraternal rather than identical twin. Those who love L’Air will love Au Coeur too; but maybe those who found L’Air too demanding to wear may find a version that suits them better in Au Coeur.
The petitgrain in the topnotes has been turned up a pitch and extended far into the heart. This drenches the scent in a bracing, citrusy sourness that momentarily reads as very masculine, petitgrain being a popular feature of fresh, lemony aftershaves. The citrus is so bright and piercing that it throws the other notes into deep shade, making the cedarwood and patchouli seem darker. If L’Air du Desert Marocain was the red-gold of the desert sands and the harsh glare of the sun, then Au Coeur is a melting chocolate brown, the color of the long shadows of a log cabin lit only by the fire.
The spice notes are searingly dry – cumin and coriander seeds dry roasting in a cast iron pan over an open fire. The coriander in particular seems to have a very dirty edge, and teamed with that bright sour petitgrain, there is a brief impression of a lemon rolled in dirt. This sudden maleness, a slight undertone of male funk, was always present in L’Air du Desert Marocain, though. The spicy funk survives in Au Coeur intact.
The tinder-dry, papery Atlas cedar has been strengthened, and there is also more patchouli, but it the dry, clean type of patchouli (possibly even patchouli coeur, an extraction of patchouli that takes the clean, dry part and discards the damp, chocolatey facets). I am also convinced that there is an iris-leather accord hiding in the heart, because there is something of Lonesome Rider’s bright, dusty leather here.
All this creates that familiar feeling of being surrounded by smoking, papery cedar trees. Except whereas L’Air du Desert Marocain puts you outside in the desert with the smell of cedar trees on the hot air, Au Coeur conjures up an inside space: a log cabin with a crackling fire, every piece of furniture made with dry, aromatic cedarwood. The greater focus on the woods (cedar and patchouli) means that I would call Au Coeur de Desert a dry, aromatic, spicy woods fragrance rather than the dry, aromatic, spicy amber-incense fragrance that is L’Air du Desert Marocain. To my nose, the ambroxan has been turned down a bit in the extrait, so instead of the dry, sweet n’ salty crackle of ambergris, the smoky cedarwood and spices simply fade out, getting softer and slightly sweeter with time.
The increased dosage of certain materials – the patchouli, the cedar, possibly iris – has the effect of rendering the texture of Au Coeur denser and slightly moister than its big brother. By no means would I call Au Coeur creamy, but it is certainly less parched.
Of course, this has an effect on the overall feel of the fragrance. Where L’Air du Desert Marocain is airy and scaled to cathedral proportions, Au Coeur has less air between its molecules and is confined to a smaller, cozier head space. It wears more closely to the body and although its longevity is truly stupendous, it speaks with an indoor voice. The same dry heat connects them both, but their expression of that heat is different.
It must have been a helluva thing, creating a flanker to an acknowledged masterpiece of perfumery. It would have to land exactly on that sliver-thin wedge of the wheel between the magic that made the original so great and something new to chew on. I think Au Coeur du Desert more than succeeds. I don’t think it will convert the haters, but it will surely give those of us on the fence a little push. Warmer, plusher, and more intimate in tone, if anything, Au Coeur will bring more women into the fold.