As with other expressions of artistry and craft, perfume has its share of masterpieces. With paintings and similar artifacts, owning a treasure would cost a fortune. Fortunately, in the case of perfume, a masterpiece comes relatively cheap, and for the best of the best one need look no further than the Roja Parfums line. Priced at around $500 for 50 ml of perfume, Roja Dove’s work might seem extravagant, perhaps even a little ridiculous. But as with comparable artistic endeavors, one cannot put a price on perfection.
My encounter with the Roja Parfums range was a mixed experience. Perhaps because of their enormous price tags, I wanted to convince myself that his perfumes weren’t worth the money and that a cheaper alternative would be a sufficient substitute. I came away from the first sprays of my skin test a bit smug, happy that none impressed me enough to warrant the $500 price tag. Minutes later, before walking out of the store, I reached the mid and early dry down and found that I was completely wrong in my initial evaluation. Each of the perfumes were unrivaled in their complexity, quality, and sense of craftsmanship. Despite my initial reservations, I would soon be happily paying the asking price for more than one Roja Parfums fragrance.
Roja Dove’s Fetish Pour Homme Parfum is easily the best leather fragrance I have ever tried. My experience with Fetish is very different than that of blogger Kafkaesque, who describes a singularly dirty scent that is reminiscent of unclean body parts. For me and on my skin, Fetish is certainly an animalic leather, but it is not at all dirty or off-putting. Instead it comes across as a smidge soapy and old-fashioned, which makes sense since it is constructed in the model of Bel Ami, a suave and classic leather that is said to be one of Roja Dove’s favorite fragrances.
Comparing Fetish with another fragrance might help to illustrate its character. Some time ago, Roja Dove released a similar fragrance under the Puredistance line (Puredistance M), which is also a wonderful spicy leather fragrance. While Puredistance M is fantastic, the perfumer seems to have kept the best formula for his own line. On Fragrantica, deadidol compares the two, describing M as “clinical” and “futuristic”, “as though it were assembled by surgeons on the perspex surfaces of some floating laboratory lit by clinical fluorescence”. In contrast, Fetish “offers more of a history”. I concur with deadidol’s analysis, but while he prefers M for the above reasons, I favor Fetish because of its nod to the classics.
Like Bel Ami and Puredistance M, Fetish opens with a blast of leather drenched in citrus oils. Instead of the bergamot and lemon in M, Fetish opts for a quintessentially English lime. They have a similarity at the opening that is not difficult to detect – both are clearly signed by the same masterful nose, and both highlight leather as the principal note. But where M moves towards a floral mid of delicate rose and powerful spice, and later into an ambered base, Fetish begins to swirl with spicy cinnamon and clean cardamom, and dries down to a mossy chypre base smothered in unctuous labdanum and subtly tarry woods. The nature of the animalics also differ. M achieves its animalic elements through the use of clove and perhaps a bit of cumin, while Fetish possesses a powerful castoreum note that lasts throughout the life of the fragrance. Another reason why I prefer Fetish is that it is easy to tell that Roja has mastered the disciplined use of castoreum (he also uses it brilliantly in Danger Pour Homme). Castoreum can be overpowering and off-putting if improperly dosed, yet when used properly it adds an intriguing animalic growl to leather fragrances.
As with some perfumes, it takes a certain kind of personality to comfortably wear Fetish. While it is not ‘dirty’, it oozes masculine sexuality and refinement. If the reader is wondering whether or not the scent fits the name, be assured that it most certainly does. This perfume has a sense of character: Fetish is the millionaire’s wink and satin sheets; it is the lit cigar in a personal library; it is luxury and decadence bottled. There is nothing moderate about this fragrance, nothing tempered or patient, and somehow it manages to avoid coming across as sleazy. For me it is one of the most interesting perfumes in the world, and from it I can only conclude that the nose behind it – Roja Dove – is an unreserved genius.
Performance with Fetish Pour Homme is faultless and also quite unique. Instead of pushing outwards with extreme projection, Fetish stays reasonably close to the body. Projection is moderate and sillage intimate, but the scent cloud is also unbelievably thick – step within range and it will hit bystanders in the face. For those who are standing nearby, it is impossible for the intoxicating cloud of Fetish to remain unnoticed. Similarly, longevity is unreal. Normally, Fetish lasts over 24 hours on my skin. If I did not have the habit of taking two showers per day, it would certainly be detectible nearly 48 hours after application.
In many regards, from performance to craftsmanship, Fetish Pour Homme Parfum is priced fairly. Of course, the line itself is obviously not meant to be particularly affordable, and instead displays the most extravagant forms of grandiose luxury in everything from the presentation to the scents themselves. Roja Dove spared no expense, and that is made abundantly clear upon the first wear of any of his perfumes. As with paintings that fetch exorbitant piles of money at auction, fragrances at this level of craftsmanship are about artistry, elegance, and emotional expression.
Yes Roja Dove’s work is expensive, but life is short.