Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fresh's Cannabis Santal

Well, not really. The "cannabis" smells more like hemp, if anything - a sweet, earthy, hay-like accord, lovely but hardly the sickly, skunk-like reek of marijuana, smoked or otherwise. And the santal - sandalwood - mostly sings backup harmony rather than taking center stage as its top billing would suggest. (Frankly, patchouli and coumarin are the real stars of this show.) But regardless of its slight identity crisis, Cannabis Santal works beautifully, offering a warm, pillowy blend of sweet comfort with just the right amount of dirt.

The opening is a delightful kitchen-door waft of plums, peaches, and strawberries, caramelized and autumnally spiced. The sweetness threatens to cloy, but it's kept in check by the aforementioned hay - sorry, cannabis, man - and a patchouli that pulls off the hat trick of being both earthy and restrained. This patchouli isn't of the musty, trunk-in-the-attic variety (see Clinique's Aromatics Elixir and the original Prada), nor is it that squeaky-clean "modern" patchouli, borne of test tubes and omnipresent in perfumes aimed at young tartlets who want something only mildly suggestive beneath their bubbling flowers and fruit. This is a smooth, decadent patchouli, redolent of the forest floor yet elegant enough for cocktail hour. The combination of patchouli, fruit, a dash of cocoa, a veil of tangy vetiver, and a taffy-like coumarin backbone - and, oh yeah, a bit of sandalwood - gives Cannabis Santal more than a passing resemblance to none other than Thierry Mugler's Angel. The olfactory tug of war between dry and diabetic is less baroque and vivid here, and there's no cotton candy machine in sight, but the comparison is hard to dismiss. Where Cannabis Santal differs crucially, though, is in its intent: Angel blares and demands attention, Cannabis Santal is content to draw you in. (Both scream to be eaten.)

Cannabis Santal is an eau de parfum, and has terrific lasting power but polite sillage after the first 20 minutes or so. (It also clings to clothes for days, so you'd better be a patchouli fan.) Upon its release, it was marketed to men, somewhat bafflingly given its sweet nature and lack of traditionally "macho" notes of citrus, aromatics, and wood. Plenty of women adopted it regardless, at least judging by reviews on MakeupAlley, and it seems to have found a cult fan base of women and men alike. Its appeal is skewed more niche than mainstream, and it comes off as a bit of an oddball at times, which suits me - and Cannabis Santal - just fine. (Groovy.)

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