Coal is the aroma of dodgy londoner/new yorker new age art-design studios, the aroma of paper, pencils, electricity in the air, rain on asphalt, "carbone", floor polishers, petrol and adhesives. Seriously an emblematic synthetic olfactory experiment. Richard Ibanez (korloff Noir) is a pepper-papyrus-frankincense master combiner. Coal seems soon to be apparently the less "Maack-esque" among the Maack's creations since, despite a whiff of landmark "molecular-dusty and immaterial-hyperbaric abstractism", unfolds immediately a stout and consistent scent, a presencful materialistic connection of "kind of mastic", black pepper, leather, violet leaves, a touch of woody rootiness and probably "pencil shavings" papyrus-cedarwood connection, overall providing an opening vibe which waves in the middle between CdG Black, Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia, Canali Men, Maack Silk and Montana Graphite. I get a touch of peppery frankincense, a huge sense of humid greyness and solitude and a vague connection with reciprocally diverse "grey" scents a la Six Scents Ende Anfang (actually a quite different kind of scent) or Balmain Carbone. There is also a sort of "new yorker art-design/loft studio" kind of atmosphere really lab/work-shop like, rubbery, "paper conjuring", with lot of nuances of leathery chairs, coal, pencils and enamel varnish. Papyrus, Iso E Super woods and pepper provide a really calm surreal atmosphere, something like a serene grey morning of work in a London's warehouse studios room. A realistic simil paste-glue material infuses a sort of intense stationery's vibe ideally fournished with lots of leather tools while the intensity is afforded by a deep balmy-leatherish synthetic woodiness and a lingering feel of overlabored coal. Dry down is finally a veritable "glue" aroma, a futuristic smell of bare loft and aseptic minimalistic show rooms. Lovely.
15th September, 2015 (last edited: 27th September, 2015)
Perfectly consistent within Andrea Maack range, Coal is an entirely-artificial, minimalistic exploration of an imaginary thick “grey” concrete-like matter, pretty much as its name suggest. It evokes in fact something smooth and threatening at once, dark and “organic” with a sheer, balmy lab-like vibe, smelling basically as a really tight and aseptic blend of musk, synthetic woods (Iso E Super), nose-tingling pepper, with a hint of something slightly sweet, Gucci Rush-like, which I guess is due to some, again, artificial note of cashmere wood or sandalwood. Basically a sneaky yet apparently successful rebranding of any Azzaro Visit and similar cheap plastic woody-pepper stuff (something also other “post-modern” niche brands seem good at doing, like MiN New York). I find it exceedingly boring and itchingly pretentious, as I see zero true innovation or creative research, but I admit they seem skilled in turning cheapness into avantgarde - if you’re a fan of that, then help yourself.
I tried this a while ago and wasn’t thrilled by it. Here I am trying it again and the thrill is moderately increased, but there are things about this scent that still hold me back from really getting into it. It takes the kind of mineral, flinty effect that appears in L’Occitane’s Cade or MiN’s Moon Dust and throws in a sweet component as well as an old-school cologne accord. And it’s those two components that ruin it for me, personally.
The sweetness comes from a patchouli and vanilla / ambrox — that hackneyed pairing that does the job, but triggers eye-rolls. I’m not entirely sure what’s behind the “old school” tone I pick up, but I suspect it’s bergamot and vetiver — another cliche. The coal part of the scent is obviously cade and iso e (the same as the L'Occitane), but it’s not quite powerful enough to stand out amidst the bloatware that this fragrance comes bogged down with. Furthermore, there’s a bit of a concept clash at work: Coal the Perfume smells complex, evocative, primped, and ambitious. Coal the Rock, smells rough, raw, and earthy. And therein lies the conflict for me — it’s too dressed up.
I don’t hate this fragrance; in fact, I think it’s one of the best things from the line. But it’s not what I wish it could be, and I don’t think it’s as effective as other mineralic, “from the ground” type perfumes already available. It’s worth a sniff if you come across it, but the scent doesn’t quite deliver on the name’s promise of something a bit more jagged.
Coal, Or A Lump of Coal?...
Coal opens with a gin-like juniper berry and very subtle pink pepper tandem, as a sweet near sugary accord permeates the composition early. As it reaches the early heart the juniper berry disappears, leaving the pink pepper and slightly diminished sweetness to meld with a strong slightly synthetic papyrus and dark coal-like woody accord with hints of rough leather rising from the base. As the fragrance transitions to the late dry-down the woods and leather never quite recede as they now support newly uncovered patchouli that steals the starring role with the earlier underlying sweetness now all but extinct. Projection is below average and longevity is average at 7-9 hours on skin.
Coal has an amazing list of published notes that I expected to love based on my similar preferences. What I did *not* expect was the rather significant sweetness that hits you right from the open, lasting well into the heart phase of the fragrance's development. What I also did not expect (or desire) were the tell-tale traces of synthetics used to approximate the papyrus and coal woody heart accord... My guess is it is my nemesis norlimbanol as the culprit. That said, the synthetics in Coal are much more skillfully integrated than the norm with the overall effect improving as time passes. The bottom line is the $135 per 50ml bottle Coal has its moments and is certainly a cut above the norm, but it never quite reaches its potential, held back by synthetics and overt sweetness, earning a "good" rating of 3 out of 5 stars.
Pros: Different than most releases nowadays...
Cons: Sweetness, and it's overt synthetic dark woody nature...
08th September, 2013 (last edited: 13th December, 2013)