Bengale Rouge is yet another entry in an extremely crowded genre – sweet amber perfumes. As a reviewer, it is difficult to summon excitement for something so apparently by the book. The notes for Bengale Rouge might as well be a ‘greatest hits’ list of amber notes. Combined with an expensive niche-perfume price tag, such a note pyramid is enough to raise a few eyebrows.
However, this Papillon Artisan Perfumes we’re talking about. In a world of houses that churn out a ghastly amount of mediocre perfumes a year, Papillon takes it slow. They’re released a mere six perfumes in their ten years of existence. Out of those six, a whopping four are Fragrance Foundation Awards Finalists. Perfumer and founder Liz Moores has clearly established Papillon as a house that crafts its perfumes patiently – and crafts them well. So the question that comes to mind with a fragrance like Bengale Rouge isn’t ‘is it good.’ The question is, in a crowded genre, does Bengale Rouge bring anything new to the table? And if it does, is it worth the price tag that comes along?
Bengale Rouge Notes:
Sandalwood, Turkish Rose, Honey, Vanilla, Sweet Myrrh
Bengale Rouge surprises right out of the opening, which is dominated by rose. The rose note is surprisingly green and fresh, the last thing you’d expect from a perfume where every other note is sweet, woodsy or smoky. This effect is especially prominent when testing the perfume on paper, where Bengale Rouge tends toward a cool, nuanced rose-amber as it transitions into the dry down.
However, wearing Bengale Rouge on skin provides an entirely different effect that’s very much intended by the perfumer. As Moores tells us on the Papillon website,
The muse for this perfume is my Bengal cat, Mimi. I have always been captivated by the beauty of her fur and her natural perfume. I didn’t want to create a literal fragrance, rather a re-imagining of the notes that lay upon her leopard coat. It was important that this perfume brought the comfort and warmth that so many of us receive from our pets, as well as do justice to Mimi’s natural elegance and grace. I moved away from dramatic, feral notes and focused upon a domesticated coziness that would embrace the wearer with the same snugness and pleasure that I feel when I am with her.Liz Moores, “Our Perfumer’s Inspiration”
Everyone’s skin chemistry is different. However, when I wear Bengale Rouge, I absolutely get the snuggly-cat accord that Moores is aiming for. The magic in Bengale Rouge, aside from its excellent blending and top-notch performance, lies in a sneaky animalic accord within its honey-vanilla-myrrh heart. It’s expected for all these notes to offer warmth, and it’s not exactly ground-breaking to pair them with animalic notes either.
The trick in Bengale Rouge is how slyly the fur accord is integrated into the rest of the composition, and the overall effect balances on the razor’s edge of scrumptious and cuddly. This comes at the cost of the green accord that lasts for quite a while on paper. What you end up with is a chameleon of an amber fragrance that’s delightful in each context.
For further perspective, I ordered Bengale Rouge amidst a number of top-notch amber scents – those that came from prestige brands, had intriguing notes lists, and received high ratings on Fragrantica and Basenotes. As I tested them, they all ran together, and I quickly tired of the fragrances I’d been so excited to test. Out of the fog, Bengale Rouge alone shone through. It’s the sort of fragrance that makes you reconsider what can be done in a genre. But perhaps the even bigger achievement is how something so technically impressive can find its way, so quickly, into a wearer’s heart.
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The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated.