Byredo’s Mojave Ghost:
What is the smell of the desert? Does it smell of spiced amber, like in Andy Tauer’s L’Air du Desert Marocain? Or is it balsamic and smoked with incense, like Tom Ford’s Sahara Noir? Must there be rose and leather and oud? What is the smell of the desert?
For the perfume connoisseur, the desert is an underrepresented climate. The fragrance market is swamped with various Jardins Sur Le Whatever and citruses named after a plethora of Italian cities. The coastline and the ocean also feature prominently in perfumeries, giving consumers options between oceanics, aquatics, and semi-aquatics. Forests too can be found everywhere, as can orchards and groves. But why – why, pray tell – is the desert so underrepresented in modern perfumery?
It is certainly not the lack of vegetation. Life abounds in the desert, as in any other climate. But this is hardy life, rough life. Life that is baked alive daily, that stands defiantly against the sun, grasping at the mere drops of water that are essential to the survival of every species, plant or animal. What is the smell of the desert? Byredo offers one answer to that question, and it is certainly a novel one.
Enter Mojave Ghost from Byredo Parfums, an impressive attempt at capturing the soul of the desert. Instead of emphasizing the haunting beauty of human life of the rolling sands, as in L’Air du Desert Marocain and Sahara Noir, Mojave Ghost captures the pristine smell of desert air, crisp and clean, tinged with the slightest hint of vegetation and florals. Byredo claims that they included the smell of the ghost flower (mohavea confertiflora). I have not smelled this flower, but it is certainly clear that their take on the desert is uniquely floral, smelling somewhat similar to magnolia. There is no incense here, no leather. Also absent is the ambered warmth of the desert sun and the traditional pairing of oud or incense. Its texture is not thick, but it isn’t chemically fresh either. Ghostly is an adequate term to describe it, as the fragrance feels there, but largely isn’t. Only a suggestion of florals is detectable in its passing sillage. It is soft, transparent, slightly sweet, and thoroughly mysterious.
In such an atmospheric perfume, it is prudent to forget about labels. Mojave Ghost is as masculine and feminine as the desert itself. As oceanic fragrances tend to transport the wearer to the seaside, Mojave Ghost will transport the wearer to the Mojave Desert at dusk, the desert empty, the air fresh and full of whispers, hinting ever so slightly at the presence of life that shouldn’t be, but stubbornly is.
Would I buy it?: Yes, for perfumes that are so evocative exist to be admired and enjoyed. The reader should approach Mojave Ghost with a critical eye, and consider this: When I first tried the perfume, I did not understand what it was trying to do. I sampled it alongside much richer and more powerful fragrances, and Mojave Ghost was quickly rendered invisible alongside much thicker offerings from houses such as Roja Parfums and Clive Christian. For the purposes of this review, I returned to this fragrance with a full wearing, and immediately understood its artistic merit. It took me back to the great expanses of the Mojave Desert and wondrous nights spent staring at the stars.
“Aha!”, I thought to myself, the aroma of Mojave Ghost in the air. This is the smell of the desert.