This one is for oakmoss lovers.
There's no way to mistake Bergamoss for anything other but a well-chiseled chypre. You can almost taste the green velvety magic of yore. Yet, this new perfume in solid form by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier does not smell "vintage" at all. Despite the structure, in spite of the very real ingredients (oakmoss, coumarin, and antique civet, among other things!), Bergamoss smells modern. Related to classic perfumes? Definitely. But it's a different interpretation, even more abstract.
Chypres have an inherent duality. They soar upwards, piercing the air like a bird of pray. But they also pull you into the depth of an enchanted forest where thick moss and damp earth make a dreamy carpet. Of course, this can be reined in and civilized to the nth degree with the help of leather whips, Dior handbags, or layers upon layers of peach chiffon. Bergamoss possesses all of these qualities. The opening is bracing and tart as the bergamot and its family of citrus rinds come alive on skin. At first one thinks this is going to be a crisp and curt perfume, maybe followed by galbanum. But, no. The bitterness is cut short by rounder and warmer notes, and Bergamoss becomes less green and fresh, more yellowish. The texture is soft and inviting, petals over velvet, though it's extremely hard for me to pinpoint the specifics without Mandy Aftel's own description of rose, peach, and tobacco. The warmth is obvious, though, as is the spiciness that goes along with it, and eases the fragrance towards the dry-down.
The solid form of Bergamoss feels perfect for the tactile sensation it creates. While the sillage of a solid perfume is more subdued, especially in the opening, as the waxy material warms up on skin you're engulfed in the beauty of its depth and complexity (it's incredibly long-lasting, though, even in tiny amounts). There's a shadow of sweetness that complements the musky animalic aroma that lurks just under the surface. The oakmoss is at its thickest, making me want to roll in it and never ever stop.
Notes: bergamot, sweet orange, peach, rose, tobacco, nutmeg, oakmoss, flouve absolute (a sweet French grass, according to Mandy Aftel), coumarin, antique civet.
Bergamoss by Aftelier is an all-natural solid perfume. It's in no way vegan, as the base material combines beeswax with jojoba oil, and the perfume itself uses antique but real civet. $240 on aftelier.com for 1/4 oz of perfume in a sterling silver compact. Samples are available for $6. The sample for this review was sent by the perfumer.
Art: Odilon Redon - Trees on a Yellow Background (one of the panels painted for the dining room of the Château de Domecy-sur-le-Vault). 1901