Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Chantecaille- Kalimantan

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


  1. Wait.... This has been out since 2010 and I haven't tried it (or, truthfully, even heard of it)? Where have I been!

    I need to try this, pronto! I love Borneo, resins, amber and spice.

    1. Liz, I suspect you're going to love it. A visit to a Chantecaille counter is in order (and pick a lipstick while you're there ;) ).

  2. Ooooh, I am wanting this so badly now! I really loved the idea of Borneo and some of the journey, but SL just never seems to sit right on my skin. :( Maybe I'll give this one a try; it sounds amazing!

    1. You know that I'm slave to Serge, but I do get why his stuff doesn't work for some. This just might be the one for you because of its added lightness.

  3. Yes... this is good. I tried it in the summer, and i just didn't get it... and then I tried it recently, and it's good. Very Serge-like. There was something that made me melancholy, so I think it reminded me of something vintage- if that makes sense. I just thought of it- It reminds me of Serge Lutens Cedre, not in tone, but the wood vibe. I'm not a patch lover, so for me I didn't get from it.

    1. I'll have to wear Cedre in the next couple of days and see if the woods feel similar to me. It's interesting, because I find Cedre rather joyful, but I get how patch can feel melancholy when it's very dark.


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