Palais Jamais is unique and original, as I am finding a number of Etros to be.
This is a light green herbal/citrus blend that descends from an anise opening to a smoky, woody, leather heart. There is just enough birch, oak moss and vetiver to give it weight, without drawing attention to any of those indvidual notes, suspended in perfect balance.
It's quietly and assuredly masculine. My image is that of a young man in turtleneck and leather jacket, who has just come in from the yard, arms full of wood, and is sitting at an open fireplace, stirring up the ash and assembling the wood to bring the new, slightly damp, wood to life. His citrus and lavender cologne mixes with the natural odors, emanating from his task.
This is a masterpiece in my opinion. About as different from the mainstream masculines as can be, while still assuredly being one of its best products.
I’m Irish and I have a secret: I don’t like the color green. Maybe it’s because it’s the color of the uniform that I had to wear day in, day out for eight years under the unforgiving glare of the nuns at the convent school I attended. Or maybe it’s because it’s the color of the grass in Ireland, which only got that way because it never stops bloody raining. Personally, I blame my mother (don’t we all?) for making me ingest boiled-to-death kale at least twice a week until I was old enough to say, “No thanks, I’ll be having some of those French fries instead.”
In perfume terms, a “green” perfume is either one of two things to me – an idealized representation of a bucolic meadow in springtime (Le Temps d’Une Fete, Chamade), or a bitchy, cold green chypre or green floral designed to put the fear of God into you (Cristalle, No. 19, Gucci No. 3). The first is pretty and elegant, but a little too pastoral for this urban chick. The second, well, I find green chypres to be excessively formal and more than a little unfriendly.
But last year, in an effort to be more rounded or ‘Catholic’ in my tastes, I went on a bit of a green perfume spree to try to find one that clicked with me. Patrica de Nicolai’s wonderful Vie de Chateau Intense came very close, but Palais Jamais was the one that won out in the end. In a way, I could say that Palais Jamais chose me, and not the other way around. It has such a definite character of its own that you suspect that it might have native intelligence and chooses to cooperate with your skin (or not).
Palais Jamais is urban. It is a moody creature of tea, smoke, rubber, tobacco, moss, leather, vetiver, and birch. Green it may be, but it is the green of collected urban habits – smoking cigarettes, wearing a black leather jacket, and smelling the scorched rubber smell of the motorbike you boyfriend just left on. It is kind of kinky, actually. On the one hand, it is silky smooth in texture, so I get an image of a silk paisley tie and a conservative silk suit. But the smoke, leather, and all-round badass attitude kind of brings to mind a man in a rubber sex mask in an East Berlin gay bar. So, Palais Jamais = both urban and urbane.
Palais Jamais chose me. And sometimes it still chooses me. But it acts kind of like those mood rings we used to wear back in the day – you know, the ones that turn red for angry, and blue for sad, and so on. Some days, this smells downright glorious on me. On other days, it surrounds me with a poisonous cloud of bad attitude. With Palais Jamais, you just have to judge the moment.
Broodingly austere, Palais Jamais is the fascinating outcome of citrus, jasmine, and green tea with a solid mossy-herbal base. This is a very bitter fragrance, and I have seen it aptly described as “intellectual”. Certainly, this is not a warm ingratiating scent, it has a very different character: chilly, restrained, and perhaps not immediately accessible at first encounter. But do not dismiss it: in due course, Palais Jamais turns out to be very rewarding, almost soothing, delivering a fresh and uplifting green bitterness as addictive as it is completely unique. Quite formal and without much development, Palais Jamais exudes confidence and calm dignity. Very interesting, easily wearable. and one of the best Etros.
My review is based on a vintage EDT bottle of this. Incredible, unique opening of oak moss (great, earthy, stale), vetiver, herbaceous notes, tobacco, a light leather note, dense and humid floral notes (the typical "masculine" ones, like lavender and carnation), a genius tea note providing a beautiful thin fruity aroma, then a nuance of licorice, which I also smell in Etro Vetiver. A real triumph of natural mysticism, hard to describe but easy to love, powerful and deep, "rural" somehow but incredibly charming and refined it its woody silkiness. There is also a slightly salty-animalic base note which adds ambiguous and dark sensuality to an already decadent and elegant carnal scent – a concoction which effortlessly manages to appear Oriental, exotic, savage and mysterious but at the same time, amazingly sophisticated, gentle, "European" in its austere, aristocratic meaning. The notes themselves may appear common, but this scent is truly unique, enigmatic, elusive, dense – to sum up and give you a "rough figure", however, a mossy-woody-tobacco Oriental blend with resins, flowers (as I said, the typical fougère ones), and an aromatic fog comprising nuances of leather and licorice. A bit linear and quite long-lasting, so be sure to try it before wearing it – otherwise you may get bored after a while. To me, an incredible gem totally worth at least a try (one of those scents which truly smell "niche" to me... you need gallons of today's niche stuff to reach such a creative zenith!).
If you like Yatagan or Parfum d'Habit, try Palais Jamais. It's of the same testosterone-drenched wood and leather clan, though it does manage to walk its own path.
While Yatagan and Parfum d'Habit lean heavily on conifer notes, Palais Jamais surrounds its leather with a veil of smoke. The other two are very much rugged, outdoor scents, not too far removed from the forest. Palais Jamais is more urbane: a shot of whiskey and a Cuban cigar enjoyed in a leather chair. Except for its brief, citrus sweetened opening salvo, this is a dry, and I mean bone-dry scent. Even the green notes at the heart are crisp and desiccated.
Interestingly for something so aggressively masculine, my wife smelled it on me and pronounced emphatically that it was NOT sexy. Too much of the stuffy men's club, as opposed to the caveman vibe? Beats me. If you are looking for a mucho macho leather scent with a strong dose of smoke, I suggest a test of Ayala Moriel's brilliant Rebellius. Now that's sexy!