I have a strong feeling that someone at Chantecaiile, most likely the creative director who wrote the brief for Kalimantan, is a big Serge Lutens fan, Particularly of Lutens Borneo 1834. As a matter of fact, Kalimantan is the Indonesian part of Borneo, or in Indonesian, the term refers to the entire island of Borneo. Oh, and both perfumes are an interesting take on patchouli.
That said, Chantecaille's interpretation of that gorgeous and fascinating part of the world is not a copy or an imitation of Christopher Sheldrake's composition. Kalimantan is bright where Borneo is dusty, resinous where Borneo is gourmand, and almost airy where Borneo takes a roll in dark clumpy earth. I love Borneo with all my heart, but even I have to agree that Kalimantan is easier to wear and makes a softer introduction to really good patchouli perfumes.
Kalimantan opens bright and herbal. It's the first few steps you take when approaching the jungle, where the vegetation and trees are still spread wide enough to let you pass. The sun can penetrate through the leaves in a citrusy ray. The familiar herbal bouquet is more garden than rainforest, and each step forward is full of life and joy. This mood is retained even as the forest floor becomes thicker and the sky above barely seen through whiffs of resinous incense. Kalimantan becomes denser, though oddly enough I don't think of it as "dark" (I've been watching too much Once Upon a Time. all that talk of "darkness"). The fragrance maintains an easy to digest balance of all the good stuff: benzoin, amber, balsamic styrax, and various woods. It never becomes particularly sweet, nor is it derivative.
And what about patchouli?
It's there from a very early stage, actually. I smell it right away as I spray Kalimantan. A few years ago when I first tested it from a sample I thought this was an ordinary patchouli perfume, and expected it to be chocolaty. I might have been a little disappointed, actually. But in subsequent wearing I discovered that I didn't miss the chocolate at all (that's why we have stuff like Borneo or the dearly departed NeoNatura Cocoon, to name a couple). Kalimantan is more interesting because the patchouli is an equal player to incense and wood, part earthy, part herbal, and is not overwhelming at any point. The careful blending makes it more elegant than cozy, despite the obvious warmth Kalimantan exudes. It's the perfect winter-in-the-city perfume, pulled together and almost formal when you need it to be, but also a wonderful background to those mid-January fantasies of warm islands and tropical landscapes.
Longevity is an all day affair, sillage is moderate as long as I don't go nuts spraying (I bought a bottle a couple of years ago). Whether you're a friend or foe of Borneo, Kalimantan is worth exploring, as long as you love patchouli.
Chantecaille Kalimantan ($175 2.5oz eau de parfum) is available from Barneys and select department stores (wherever there's a Chantecaille cosmetics counter). Most stores also offer a 0.26 oz roll-on for $68, but I admit that I prefer to spray this one.
Image: Dayak warrior from Kalimantan in front of a Dayak art print, via borneosoulofnativeculture.com