Welcome to our first of five episodes of Guest Spotlight! This miniseries welcomes a group of exciting perfume reviewers + enthusiasts who are also on Instagram. This short series will run the length of the week of April 26-30, 2021 and each day we will feature two perspectives on two different fragrances from the same house – perfumers from five different countries! Today it is our pleasure to welcome Brian, aka Nose.Knows.No.Notes and we are honing in on the house of Levent (the Netherlands) today. He will wax poetically about Les Imperiale (which we had covered previously here) and then Notetaking has covered Fleurs Roxelana (we have now reviewed every available fragrance from the house!). Here we go:
Levent does things differently. That shouldn’t be any surprise after taking one good look at the bottle. Not only is the presentation unlike anything I’ve come across before, it’s also a 60ml attar (pure oil, without the addition of alcohol), which is a rather unusual size. In that also lies both the strength and the weakness of the brand in my opinion, but more on that later.
I (blindly) chose Les Imperiale from the Levent line, because I was intrigued to smell an iris-forward scent in attar form. Iris has been one of my favorite fragrance notes, but I couldn’t really picture it as a pure oil concentration, so Les Imperiale quite surprised me.
The opening minutes were close to my expectations, with a darker, dense and rich scent that matches the dark color of the juice. Levent uses a base of pure oud oil. I believe they used oud that was aged for at least 10 years, although those claims have since been removed from their website. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any mention of which oud was used for Les Imperiale. It’s leans to the sweet side like a Cambodian oud to me and I do wonder how much of the precious liquid is used, considering the price of a 60ml bottle. That being said, I get a nice push of a sweet, thick, but also bitter woodiness initially. To my nose, there’s a botanical, rooty quality to the woodiness, which can also be seen as balsamic. Once the initial blast subdues, patchouli seems to make up a good chunk of the base layer.
I’m far from an expert on ouds or attars, but in my limited experience, this opening sits in the middle as far as how heavy it is. It’s not as light as many of the more affordable attars I’ve tried and it’s definitely not similar to most niche ‘oud’ spray perfumes. It’s also not as heavy as some of the Areej Le Dore or Anthony Marmin fragrances. That seems to be reflected in the thickness of the liquid; I found Les Imperiale to have a low viscosity and using the splash bottle was a bit tricky. Aside from the woodiness and patchouli, I can’t make out individual notes at this stage, but I usually can’t with attars, so blame my nose.
In the mid section is where this fragrance transforms heavily. It’s one of the biggest transititions that I’ve experienced, going from the darker opening to the promised iris core. Even though it’s marketed as an iris fragrance, I didn’t expect the levity and clarity of the iris from it, especially after that opening. The fragrance opens up completely to a more transparent, bright floral scent. The darker elements are still noticeable beneath the iris, providing contrast and keeping it well-rounded and versatile. This is an iris that you could wear in warmer weather easily and I don’t think the base prevents it from being lighthearted. As far as iris goes, this again feels like a middle ground. The brightest iris in my collection is Gallivant Bukhara and the Levent is darker than that. Veronique Gabai’s Lumiere D’Iris feels like it’s on the same wavelength as far as the iris note goes. I have a hard time detecting nuances aside from the main woody, patchouli and iris scents, but I’m kind of glad, because I think the composition really let’s the iris shine.
So where does that leave Les Imperiale? I think it delivers on it’s promise and I had a really unique and pleasant experience with it. To me, it feels like an oud attar opening, with a ‘regular’ fragrance drydown, more familiar to the Western nose. Which is in a way what Levent set out to do in combining their Turkish heritage with contemporary ambitions: ‘(…) products are modern, bold and classic with a twist.’
As far as rating Les Imperiale; that’s where I need to refer back to the 60ml bottle size. At €350, it’s an expensive purchase that I would have a hard time shelling out the money for…or so it seems. I think most people’s first impression to the retail price would be that this is a high-end marketed release. In fact, the per ml price is common or even relatively cheap compared to many other attars on the market, which are often presented as 3, 6 or 12ml. And Levent didn’t cheap out on the presentation, with a unique and recognizable style, mainly the thick brass and marble plate. For the per ml price, this offers excellent value for money, probably in part due to it’s large size, but it’s a huge one time expenditure, so it’s a blessing and a curse.
I would highly recommend trying it. The real question that I personally feel the brand’s success hinges on is: Do I need 60ml of an attar like this? I honestly feel that providing smaller, more affordable options would mean that we’re going to see much more of Levent in the fragrance community. I hope that will be the case and either way I look forward to trying more of their offerings.
This is a fully immersive showering of rich floral energy. The delicately sweet white floral essence that comes through loud and clear is welcome, alongside a slightly bittergreen accord that helps this to balance from being overly heady. I’m actually surprised to enjoy this as it’s exactly the type of perfume I would ordinarily shy away from, but not so in this case. There’s a rich and thick balsamic quality served up with this giant bouquet that will offer a sillage on nearly anyone who dons it.
I guess the reason this attracts me is that its not just a sweet floral fest, no, it’s as if the petals are inside a globular lavalamp that keeps changing in shape, a big buxom glaze that oozes regality. And so it shall as I assume this is a nod to Hurrem Sultan (aka Roxelana), a 16th century Ukranian consort who was married to Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent – in case you don’t know your history of the Ottoman Empire – check this out! And aside from the Cliff’s Notes history lesson, this fragrance feels as though Mr. Levent Gunduz manages to steep his attar with the freshest flowers plucked in the height of Spring and Summer – it’s a wash of tuberose, and probably some Lily of the Valley or maybe Magnolia and hints of Jasmine. I can almost hear the buzz of bees as I lower my nose to my wrist.
If ever there were a nuanced yet assertive blend of timeless white florals, it’s found a way into Fleurs Roxelana. I almost start to experience the swell of coconut, but its likely a mirage. It’s a rare perfume, indeed, one that has a deep breadth. My guess is this may not be for everyone, maybe not for the most sensitive shrinking violets out there — but I assure you, if you are one with patience, one who makes allowances to allow a fragrance to roll through your passages for a few minutes, take a breath, a lil break, come back to it and take in in again, you may just find that keeping that cycle on repeat will be a sought after practice. (86%)