|Photo by Kristian Schuller|
In conversations with other fragonerds, Soleil de Jeddah from Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 is a rather polarizing perfume. The love or hate reactions seem to depend on what jumps first (or most) onto one's skin when you spray it, as well as a person's tolerance for juicy fruity notes. My reaction to Soleil de Jeddah would have been completely different fifteen or even ten years ago, during my anti-peach days, and that would have been a shame, since this is a terrific fragrance that's both interesting and delightful.
The official note list (lemon, Roman chamomile, osmanthus, iris root, amber, earthy notes, iris butter, Russian leather, vanilla) is quite incomplete, as noted by the brilliant Kafkaesque, who got Stéphane Humbert Lucas himself to reveal a secret or two, including what's actually in there, more or less:
"Osmanthus, Roman chamomile, Acacia mimosa (Fleur de Cassie), genet (Broom), lemon, mandarin, Sicilian bergamot, iris butter, iris concrete, jasmine, carnation, Indian patchouli, Russian leather (Isobutyl quinoleine and birch wood), oakmoss, civet, musk, styrax, labdanum amber, benzoin, and Madagascar vanilla."That's more like it.
I doubt that I'll ever set foot in Jeddah, and that's fine. The Saudi climate, literally and figuratively doesn't particularly agree with me, and as someone who finds the dog days of summer on the Eastern Seaboard completely unsuitable for living beings, I hope never to confront the kind of sunshine that roasts Jeddah for most of the year. I still love summer (or the idea of it) though, and in Soleil de Jeddah Stéphane Humbert Lucas has distilled the very best of the fantasy. It works now in early June, and it had cheered me up immensely during those long months of deep discontent of our last winter. And unlike other perfumes who claimed to do so (not even going there), this is, indeed, cheer and light in a bottled form.
It starts with sweet peach tea. Obviously this is mostly an effect created by osmanthus (think of Parfum d'Empire's Osmanthus Interdite), but it sends me straight to a summer afternoon during a vacation in Cape May (that's what us Jersey people call "The South"), a Victorian porch a couple of blocks from the beach, assortment of blooming things around (memories and fantasies are mercifully allergy-free), and a carefree feeling of an endless summer ahead of me. There's both a fleshy juicy feel here as well as something leafy and herbal, but it's not what I'd call "fresh". There's too much substance and opacity to the velvety peach skin to go in that direction and that's an excellent revelation in my book.
But the fruity pulp doesn't end there. I thought I was hearing olfactory voices for months (Helena from Orphan Black: "Where are these mangoes?". I felt just as insane) until I went back the above Kafkaesque review. There it was: I'm not the only one who smells mango, nor am I alone with getting that cheerful Bombay Bling vibe. My mangoes are actually bright orange/yellow, but I'm sure Kafkaesque and Helena will forgive me.
The dry-down is where things get even weirder. I never catch the exact moment where the sun of Soleil de Jeddah starts setting and the scene gets darker. It just happens. Also, I don't think I've ever gotten both the iris and leather in the same wearing. It's always one or the other settling just above skin level (much more demure sillage than the block party of the opening), feeling soft and sensual as a balmy and promising early summer night. I love the caress of these notes on skin, the warmth of human touch they create, and the "proper" perfumness they radiate. Soleil de Jeddah gives an almost vintage attitude in this stage, or at least a similar satisfying offering. It might be one of the lightest in 777 line, but there are enough delicious reasons there to be taken seriously.
Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Soleil de Jeddah ($340, 50ml eau de parfum) is available from Osswald NYC and Luckyscent.