Saffron is a magical spice. The magic starts from the color of the golden red threads, the warmest, richest hue of red in nature. It continues to enchant me with the way it is produced, wasting millions of delicate purple flowers to produce a kilo of spice that sells at prices comparable to gold, a fitting analogy for an ingredient that gives food a golden hue. And the enchantment is completed with the taste and smell of the fragile red stems. Nothing compares to this. Part medicinal, part earthy, part tobacco, there is simply nothing one can use to substitute real saffron in a recipe. You either have to go out of your way to find some good saffron or you can simply forget about tasting the experience.
Saffron in perfume is a more ambiguous ingredient. Natural saffron cannot be used in perfume simply because it would be too expensive. If one needs millions of flowers for a kilo of saffron that is literally worth it’s weight in cold, you can imagine what would distilling this to extract safranal would mean in terms of cost. Simply out of the question! But safranal can be synthesized and used in perfumery. This unattainable nature of the natural extract has always been a very good excuse to explain why saffron has never smelled in perfumes the same way it smells in my spice wrack. I had come to terms with this and accepted saffron either smothered in rose or trapped in woods, smelling like a rose variation or like shoe polish. I had given up looking for the smell of real saffron in a perfume. Then came my sample kit of Technique Indiscrete and my abandonment was overturned. For the first time I could smell saffron on my skin. Slightly bitter, medicinal in an aloof sort of way. I do not know if it is my laboratory background but I love medicinal notes, camphor, oud, mint, iodine, opoponax, even some treatments of clove, all add a mysterious tension in fragrances. Safran Nobile captures for the first time this aspect of saffron so directly and unabashedly. But what is more interesting is that it doesn’t do so in a self-gratifying way. Libertin Louison did not create a simple “soliflore” with this elusive note but managed to blend it beautifully to add warmth and friendly sweetness to the cool saffron.
Safran Nobile opens with a crisp, cool smell of medicinal void. Imagine taking a deep breath inside an old, empty medicine cabinet: touch of iodine, touch of clove but above all an empty, cool vibe. No mint, no camphor, only the warmest contents of the old cabinet. A suspicion of anise adds this special aloofness but if you do not like this note you are not going to notice it. What makes Safran Nobile very special though is the way it progresses. Imagine an empty box of old-fashioned sugar-coated almonds, stick your nose in it and this is what you get after about half an hour with Safran Nobile on your skin. Saffron, the star of this composition, remains present as an aura of tobacco leaves. A nostalgic drydown of benzoin, vanilla and patchouli that brings to mind a tamer version of Cuir Ottoman. A nostalgic drydown that clashes beautifully with the bitter opening.
Safran Nobile was a very pleasant surprise from a small niche house. It manages to offer a unique take on saffron, showcasing its difficult medicinal aspect but in the end it presents a very wearable, fresh, elegant and nostalgic fragrance.
As a side-note, reading about saffron is very interesting. Crocus sativus, the flower that gives us its crimson stigmas, is a distant cousin of iris. Crocus sativus is a man-made hybrid that does not exist naturally but probably derived from natural Crocus species originating from Southwest Asia but probably grown for the first time in Greece. Crocus sativus is triploid (the biologist in me speaks again) which means that instead of having pairs of chromosomes, one from mom and one from dad, it has triplets of chromosomes. This means that it cannot reproduce without the help of the grower. Banana is another plant with the same peculiarity. Safranal is a powerful antioxidant, kills cancer cells and has antidepressant properties. Saffron has been cultivated and collected for over four thousand years and nothing has changed in the way it is collected and prepared during this time.
Notes from Fragrantica: lemon,orange,cardamom, anise, saffron, jasmine,patchouli, benzoin,vanilla
Notes from my nose: medicine cabinet, box of candy, benzoin, vanilla, patchouli
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Lovely write up – I think I would really enjoy this. I always think we have quite similar taste – I’ve been exploring medicinal fragrances a lot recently – I bought Tea by Comme Des Garcons the other day which is the most antiseptic fragrance opening I’ve tried. You’re right about clove, used in the right way it can be fantastic (Stephen Jones).
Saffron is a great note, but I always find it’s put to really dull use – apart from it’s synthetic overload and unusual pairing with lilac in CDG2011, it’s always with either rose, leather, or iris. Naiviris being a successful example of it with iris though. This soliflore sounds interesting – a lot more so than Safran Troublant.
I need to explore this line 🙂
Yes, saffron does come off as boring in fragrances, doesn’t it? But this one is really good.. I need to try CdG2011!
Yep, it always sounds so exotic to read like “OooOOoohh saffron” and then it just blends in becoming a really boring inclusion” – but yes, I’ll hunt this one out.
And yes, try it!!!!
Where do I get samples? Do they have a site? I know I could look it up but maybe others are wondering and lazy. I would LOVE to try this.
Oh God you ask the question I dread to answer… I am planning a Quick Sniff post about the rest of the fragrances from Technique Indiscrete and I was thinking whether I should give a link because then I wouldn’t feel OK sending you off to shop there without sharing my experience as a customer. So be it, I will say here my opinion and leave the good things for my post.
I ordered the sample pack about a year ago from their official site. They also sell scented tea blends, scented candles and home fragrance. The site is beautiful and simple and the sample pack price is very reasonable. So I order and nothing happens. Ten days later I send an email asking them to verify that they have sent the goods. Nothing! I sent another email to another address available in the site. Nothing again. So I started bombarding them and at some point they sent me a message saying that they had already posted the samples and the samples indeed arrived. Early September this year I decided to order Safran Nobile. So I pay and still nothing happens. About 10 days later I start the emailing barrage. Still nothing happens so I start sending messages on twitter and facebook. And then Sarah from customer service replies saying that they have been very busy and that she is “alone in the shop”. Her reply came 3 days after my question and 11 days after I had paid. She gave me the tracking number and, it is not their fault, but the bpost.be tracking link did not work. After this the bottle came at my door in a few days. I sent back a message to let them know it arrived and telling them that any customer deserves a reply informing them that their order has been shipped. To this I got no reply
There it is, I got it off my chest, but it is really a pity that a small business that is supposed to cater niche audiences does not realise that customer service is the most important part of the project. Especially when their products are so good. Smell cannot be transmitted via email, good manners can.
That drives me MAD!! Thanks,
It shouldn’t keep you from trying them though. The sample pack contains 6-7 generous samples and sells at 25 euro if I am not wrong. What drives me mad is perfume houses that do not have an option for buying samples.
I went and saw their site but I will put them on the backburner till you talk about the rrest of them
Sounds beautiful. I agree this sounds more my speed than Safran Troublant. Thanks for the lovely review!
This is much better than Safran Troublant
A very educational review! I learned a lot about saffron I didn’t know … and via what you said about it, learned more about you, too. I knew you liked perfumes that lean towards weird, but didn’t realize you love the medicinal notes so much.
I love everything with an attitude and when medicinal notes are done beautifully they are really amazing. Safran Nobile in particular manages to transcend the weirdness and becomes a truly classic and wearable scent.
I know how saffron looks. I know that it’s an expensive spice. But this is the extent of my knowledge. I don’t know its smell or taste (it should have one, right?). So it was interesting to read your post. I learned something new.
Your experience with their customer service is really off-putting. I think it’s unacceptable for any size of a business. If they are busy with a number of orders they have they need to get help. And if they don’t have that many orders to justify hiring extra hands, paid orders should always get a priority.
If you like cooking you should try making risotto Milanese. Simple as simple can be: rice, onion, white wine, chicken broth, Parmesan and saffron. When you eat it you will not believe that those five every day ingredients can rise to such heights of culinary perfection just with the addition of saffron.
It really saddens me to see talented people set out to make their own business but forget that business is not about making good scents, it is about common sense and courtesy.
I’ll try your recipe: it sounds appealing. Thank you.
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