Nabucco is a niche house that actually honours the classification. Their output is very slow, with only three releases since 1997, which is quite unusual by today’s standards. By now a new “niche” brand will emerge with at least six releases, an amber, an iris, a leather, a tuberose, a patchouli, a rose and a La-Vie-est-Belle-type of inedible praline. These are accompanied by a corporate storytelling emphasising the quality of materials, the creativity of the perfumer (on rent from a major chemical company), and a blingy packaging. Nabucco on the other hand released two perfumes in oil format in 1997, accompanied by a dense, hermetic story and they do not disclose their perfumer. Their packaging is monumental and although the price tag is hefty, they are still cheaper than, let’s say the Section d’Or line of Serge Lutens. They do not follow trends and they did not make a huge fuss about their 2014 release of ΓΦΛ / LOV. They describe it as a utopian fragrance and as much as one would be inclined to laugh with this ambitious description, Nabucco is actually the strangest and most ambiguous fragrance I have ever smelled.
The perfume oil format imparts an oriental quality to the scent, with a very intense smokiness and the intimidating smell of anise and fenugreek. The dryness is astounding and provocative. It feels like smelling burnt coal dusted with spices. The feeling of scorching heat comes with the opening of this fragrance so intense that one cannot help visualising desert sands and blinding sun. If the smell of fenugreek feels too alien and restricting in a perfume composition, this is where you will leave the sampling process and it will be a pity. The development of ΓΦΛ on my skin is as slow as its development must have been in the lab. That seemingly long, linear, smoky, spicy, woody perfume that has only started to breathe, stays in this phase for a good hour. It tolerates and even enjoys the blinding heat. This is only the opening however. In what seems like a real-time, documentary-style narration, the heat of the composition persists for hours, with imperceptible transitions towards a cooler vibe, as if it follows the sun towards the horizon. The bitter smokiness of woods becomes more mellow and the most unexpected floral note peeks through. With a premeditated act of wisdom and after several hours into the wearing ΓΦΛ transforms itself from the cruel beast of the apocalypse into an angel of kindness. A hard to pin down blue, salty flower now dominates the composition and I always find it hard to believe how this delicate breath could have survived the initial charring of the opening notes and how it persuaded them to fall back and allow it to appear.
Talking about development in the context of this operatic fragrance seems futile. This is not one scent progressing from one phase to another but this is rather like one scent ending its life on your skin and another one being sprayed by an invisible hand. Only after this excruciatingly slow phase has been reached it is that one understands that Nabucco’s promise of a utopian fragrance has been met with utter success: the perfume that transforms itself from spicy leather to floral fougère with imperceptible shifts of its own weight. Being a perfume oil, it is the ideal scent to wear on a hot summer day as it will not project offensively but will continue to whisper close to your nose its magic. From the hot morning hours till the cool evening breeze, it will transform and accompany your footsteps.
Official notes: Pink pepper, Rose, Green mandarin, Star anise, Incense, Precious woods, Violet, Moss, Fenugreek, Leather, Amber
Notes from my nose: Fenugreek, Burnt wood, Leather, Lavender, Ambergris
Image from Fabio Rose