From the creations I have tried so far, it seems the brothers Au are particularly adept at giving wearers of their perfumes deeply indulgent sweet notes in a manner that feels so natural and relaxed that one can have one’s cake and eat it, too. There’s none of the syrupy dreck that has plagued so many perfumes in recent years, and yet the notes deployed are unmistakeably, tooth-rottingly sweet. I for one am grateful for this particular service of theirs to perfumery.
They also have a way of presenting notes in a way that one has unlikely to have encountered before. If the osmanthus in Miyako was capable of taking one’s breath away and blowing one’s pants off, look what they do here with the tried and trusted rose and jasmine combo. Whereas the osmanthus in Miyako startled by virtue of one not having encountered such a pure, golden, true (and, yes, super-amplified) rendition of the note, Shambhala’s rose-jasmine pairing is presented in a crazily novel form, where the nose is uncertain what it is smelling and yet, despite not being like any rose (natural, otto or absolute) I’ve ever smelled, there is the rose centre-stage with the jasmine in a supportive role.
Shambhala takes a few minutes to settle; the opening smells off-puttingly synthetic, like a Far Eastern preparation for glossy hair, where vaguely fruity and herbal suggestions clash in a sweet carrier. But soon enough the siren-like main accord of this perfume begins its song, it’s a clear, high sweetness, almost glassy were it not simultaneously so deep – a scent that seems to reach down far into one’s capacity for olfactory recognition. This is the rose like no other, warmed by a glow of jasmine liqueur and utterly at home on my skin.
Shambhala seems pretty quiet at first, but resist the temptation to spray a bit more – it starts to unfold and assert its voice after about the first fifteen minutes (unlike Miyako that emerges from the bottle ready to bitch slap anyone within sniffing distance into submission), revealing its treasures bit by bit.
After the nectar-like chord struck by the unveiling of the rose in the heart phase, slowly other accents emerge during the evolution, enriching Shambhala bit by bit. I am most struck by a very gentle, earthy quality about the perfume – quite unlike the animalic notes listed (indeed these don’t come into play in my perception at all). It’s a feel of dry mountain soil, old paper, nothing too obvious, just enough to root the composition. A rich, boozy, over-ripe fruitiness shadows the soprano rose, giving the necessary shade to its brightness. I can understand the Himalayan fantasy being aimed for in the creators’ description. The touch of incense here is like Tibetan joss sticks with their dry, peppery and woody character, similarly the tea adds a bitter, slightly tannic note, and the amber construct is given edge by the suggestion of macerated herbs.
These are textural notes that one puzzles out only by paying close attention for there is nothing obvious about the way Shambhala is put together. And it seems a somewhat pointless exercise, except for the purpose of writing a review, when it would be far better to just let Shambhala play.
Something this novel and accomplished needs to receive much more attention than it has had so far.