I’ve been thinking about Bal d’Afrique for a long time now. Sometimes it is one of the most interesting fragrances I’ve ever tried. Other times I am bored before I hit the dry down. After many, many samplings, I’ve begun to develop a more consistent view of this fragrance, which I will offer to you today:
Many Byredo fragrances are not my style, as their creative elements seem to embrace an aesthetic that is nowhere near mine, as I prefer more classical, austere fragrances. Byredo is certainly more avant-garde than my preferences would demand, and Bal d’Afrique is more different.
It seems to me that Bal d’Afrique is done in the watercolor style, much like fragrances by Jean Claude Ellena. Instead of clear, crisp notes being clearly differentiated, the individual elements of Bal d’Afrique are blended loosely and in wide strokes. From the top to the bottom, you will get three elements: citruses/fruits, florals, and vetiver.
The fruity/citrus accord is made up of a combination of blackcurrant, lemon, and bergamot, which together create the illusion of sweetness and ripe fruits. Compared to the fragrance Pulp in the same fragrance line, Bal d’Afrique’s fruits are less prevalent and less overripe/juicy. In Bal d’Afrique, the floral elements of marigold and neroli—textured by jasmine, cyclamen, and violet—are far more prevalent than the fruits, but are nevertheless supported by a sweet fruitiness. From the top to the mid of Bal d’Afrique, the main elements are citrus, fruity, and floral. And then, once you’ve dismissed this fragrance as a mere citrus floral, a raw yet clean vetiver (sprinkled lightly with brown sugar like Hermes Vetiver Tonka) emerges.
Bal d’Afrique is a happy fragrance, and would work well on almost anyone, in almost any situation. In my experience, the floral/fruity elements tend to emerge more on a woman’s skin, while men often accentuate the vetiver. It’s not too weird to wear to work, nor is it too ubiquitous for play. All in all, Bal d’Afrique one of the most solid and unique offerings from a line that doesn’t quite speak to me.
As an aside for those who care about longevity/sillage/projection, performance is moderate all around. Nothing to write home about, but nothing disappointing either. This further adds to the versatility, as it can be worn in many weather conditions without being either too weak or too overpowering.
Would I buy it?: Probably not. Bal d’Afrique is a lovely fragrance, but it simply isn’t my style. To me, Vetiver Tonka offers a similar vibe, but done in a slightly more classical way. If you are more traditional in your fragrance tastes, I’d encourage you to explore Vetiver Tonka instead. But if you are the artsy type, perhaps someone who prefers modern art over many traditional styles, definitely check out Bal d’Afrique. It just might knock your socks off.