Here come the dumb,
The lonely and the rum,
The wild and the quiet,
Thud goes the drum.
Crackle goes the bonfire
Glowing in the white snow,
Swish go the tails,
Swinging through the light snow.
Thus goes the drumming
In the black, black night.
Tove Jansson, Moominland Midwinter (Chapter 4, About the lonely and the rum)
The last time I referenced Moominland Midwinter in connection with a winter solstice perfume it was 2009 and I was wearing Fendi Theorema, a warm and joyful discontinued gem that's full of sunshine and holiday spirit. Tonight I was aiming for a certain dark edginess and reached for my bottle of Black Afgano by Nasomatto, a 2009 release that seems to be quite polarizing among fragonerd online communities. Wearing Black Afgano I am yet again confused and slightly amused. Not so much by the perfume itself or its composition but by the reaction and hype around it.
The edginess of Black Afgano was prompted by drug references, similarly to Nasomatto's China white. From the name perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri gave his black juice to the marketing spin (and all the tongue-in-cheek intentionally bad puns in Luckyscent's copy). It can probably also be attributed to the fact that it's a smoky perfume, which is not everyone's favorite thing. Black Afgano is also heavy on the wood notes, from reasonably realistic to a very obvious non-oud thing. I guess it's a love-or-hate thing and I happen to enjoy it quite a bit for reasons I'll explain below. Still, I have to admit that this perfume is as edgy or offbeat as all those tails going swish in front of the winter solstice bonfire in Moominvalley's black, black night.
On my skin Black Afgano is surprisingly cozy. It took me a while to see the resemblance to Boccanera, another Alessandro Gualtieri fragrance from his Orto Parisi line. Now I get it. While Boccanera is toying with the gourmand by pairing dry cocoa and creamy sandalwood the Nasomatto perfume refused to go there. The heavy (and somewhat heavy-handed) layer upon layer of various woods create a warm nest. You just want to crawl inside with your favorite mug full of hot chocolate and inhale the wafting smoke.
The wood pile is a bit abstract. I get hints of sandalwood similar to the one in Boccanera (fake and cedar-like, and that's half the point, I'm guessing), a mock oud with whiffs of dry incense and tobacco (the legal kind, as far as I can tell, though I'm not an authority on the subject). The longer Black Afgano remains on skin (and believe me: it remains and doesn't go anywhere, sometimes for days) the balsamic aspect mellows into a sweeter and flatter concoction that I find quite comforting and comfortable. There is a hint of chocolaty patchouli and a splatter of coffee beans, but I never feel like I'm wearing a full-on gourmand perfume. It's sweet yet not sticky, smoky but not completely burnt, and honestly, more dark espresso brown than pitch black. I don't mind because this is fun and easy to wear, fuzzy like my old shawl, and at this point also as familiar as the outline of a creature from a favorite childhood book.
Nasomatto- Black Afgano ($185, 30ml extrait de parfum) is available from Luckyscent, Barneys, and Neiman Marcus.
Image; detail from one of Tove Jansson's illustrations for Moominland Midwinter, 1957.