Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Timbuktu by L'Artisan Parfumeur

It is not wrong to classify Tumbuktu as a fruity (mango?), incensy vetiver but this would not do it justice. Timbuktu at the same time allows the individual notes as well as the magical sum of its parts to shine through.

I agree with Classicfan that there is a matte quality about it which reminds of nostalgic old charming places... But it's not dated and more of a warm cosy scent memory.

Timbuktu shares some facets with Olfactive Studio's Chambre Noir and Dzongkha, but I clearly love Timbuktu more than these 2.
06th July, 2015
This has definitely changed over the years. I think I actually prefer its current formulation though.

Vetiver is now the star of the Timbuktu show. The vinegary quality that was once prominent to my nose has diminished, as has the incense.

Still beautiful, but still not for me.
07th April, 2015
@the_good_life - Maybe you have the newer version? I found the vetiver to be too strong in the new one. The old formula is the bottle with the clove leaf or whatever symbol that is and it smells sublime! Unfortunately my bottle broke because I was so in love with it and all there is now is the newer versions and I can't find the older one anywhere! :'(
02nd March, 2015
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I may just be a paranoid old fart, but I would swear an oath in any court this was a different scent years ago, when I had a sample and loved it. What I just bought myself for X-mas (the new box) reeks of cheap soap laced with white pepper and is clearly chock-full of the laundry detergent aromachems I have everlong detested and always will. I couldn't possibly have liked THIS at any point of my fragrant career.
24th December, 2014
Before I actually tried this, I didn't know what to expect. Read a lot of reviews and was in limbo about getting it. Finally got a bottle and liked it. What took me so long? Starts of green and a little earthy. You definitely get the vetiver in this. That last about 20 minutes then it turns slightly floral. At one point this reminded me of Encre Noire Sport (which I happen to like). The drydown has a slight soapy vibe (may be the berry note). As others have mentioned, it does have a sour moment, but this is a very good fragrance nonetheless. 7.5/10
20th December, 2014
The mango and berries appear upfront and refreshing. Pretty quickly a really nice floral appears mixed with a nice light wood. There's good sillage and longevity like most L'Artisan fragrances. The wood and flower are what makes this exotic and the incense finishes it off well by being a little sweet. This is so intelligently made it's fun. The price isn't bad for something so interesting. If you like Silver Mountain Water you should give this one a try. Also if you like the matte quality of PdN New York I recommend this for the papyrus.
23rd November, 2014 (last edited: 22nd November, 2014)
This is the fragrance I use when I want to reset my nose or clear my head. There is something about it that induces calmness and stillness. It is a seemingly simple composition - dry woods, incense, vetiver, and a fruit note - but it has an ability to haunt me like no other. I really like the way that Duchaufour kept all the elements in balance so that the smokiness of the incense is moistened by the mango and the dryness of the woods balanced by the damp green rootiness of the vetiver. So, your nose perceives it as simultaneously dry and juicy, smokey-bitter and sweet, dusty and earthy. It's a marvel, really, and one that draws my nose to my skin in fascination time and time again.

Timbuktu has a cold, shadowy, dark sort of presence that sets it in direct opposition to another vetiver-based incense composition, Shaal Nur, which is sunny and extroverted. It is, like the name suggests, as mysterious and as exotic as the African continent. One of my brothers used to live in Chad (don't ask - he now lives in Syria - Syria for crying out loud!) and before the birth of my first child, he trekked out to a nearby village and after shopping around, bought a beautiful tablecloth that had been hand-embroidered by a cooperative of women from that village. When his thoughtful present got to me in Montenegro, all the way from Chad, I unfolded it and out of the corners of the folds fell this red dust. This dust smelled kind of like Timbuktu, and so wearing it is always a spiritual type of experience for me.
13th August, 2014
Genre: Leather

What do you do when you detest one of the most revered and critically acclaimed fragrances in recent memory? If you’re me, you keep trying it, in the hope of someday figuring out what all the love is about. In this spirit I’ve once again sampled Timbuktu, a scent where I’ve conspicuously parted company with most who write about fragrance. The result? I still dislike it vehemently, but I’ve at least come to understand more fully why.

Original review:
I’ve been trying Timbuktu on and off for years, and while I’ve come to understand what Bertrand Duchaufour is trying to get at here, I still don’t like it. There’s a piercing note at Timbuktu’s center that drills its way in right between my eyes and rasps away at my sinuses. For a variation on this theme that’s not merely pain-free, but outright pleasant, I’ll take Duchaufour’s later Dzongkha.
05th July, 2014
I honestly thought I had reviewed Timbuktu years ago - this is just one of the many reasons I revisit all of my samples.

Timbuktu is a beautifully airy and incredibly dry fragrance that leaves not so much sillage but a brief olfactory afterimage of the moving wearer. It is bone-dry, among the most arid scents I've sampled, but the composition leaves a good deal of space, allowing the different facets more room to move about. As for the smell itself, it is the ghost of fruit haunting scorched sand and wood, as though mango fruit juice had been left to dry out for days in the sun after seeping into a length of some charred wood like a cross between red cedar and guaiac. It is the scent equivalent of blending postcards of a Hawaiian beach, an Arizonan desert, and a Nepalese temple: a sort of tropical Gucci Pour Homme. A pleasure to wear.
28th May, 2014
Just like Diptyque Oyedo and Guerlain PH Boisee, I just don't like that gloomy mood it sets me on. A sad fragrance for a funeral or sad reminiscence of the past times gladly remembered, but long lost. Timbuktu is a refined fragrance and does have it's merits, I'll grant it that much of credit. In first instance I thought I might actually like it, but as dry-down came it just went downhills for me. Not because it smells bad but because it influences me negatively in emotional way. Although I find it conceptually intriguing, something like entering an old attic, drenched by the sun and cooled by cold nights, my mindset doesn't allow me to actually like and enjoy this type of fragrance.
12th May, 2014
A really solid vetiver based fragrance that isn't something new or very different at all, but it's a good one.
The opening is a little alchoholic! it's because of using a boozy note or just because of bad quality .... I don't know!!!
I can smell a dirty/earthy vetiver note mixed with some incense that give the scent a little smoky aroma and just a hint of sweetness and fruity notes in the background.
The whole idea of the scent remind me of "Terre D'Hermes" but something is crystal clear here. this one released two years earlier so this is the father!
As time goes by I can smell a little more sweetness and more fruity note beside that earthy vetiver and incense combo.
The scent is not that strong and potent. this can be someones signature scent and he can use it all year round. I said he because it's more masculine than feminine!
Projection isn't that great. mostly close to the skin and longevity is around 6-8 hours on my skin.
As I said a solid and classic vetiver based fragrance that personally I prefer "Terre D'Hermes EDT version" over this.
01st February, 2014
The opening of Timbuktu is mostly centered on a sharp, almost austere vetiver-incense-cedar accord, dusty and dry, basically halfway the smell of slightly aged paper (something like In The Library by CB I Hate Perfumes) and the smell of “pure” wood – and by pure I mean the pale (and quite boring) smell of a woodchips warehouse. No trees and forests, just the smell of Ikea furniture out of the box. That, with a subtle salty-earthy vetiver note, something velvety and sweet (resins, I guess) and a light fruity-floral breeze with a gentle red pepper note. After a while the incense note gains a prominent position, a rarefied and thin balsamic-synthetic incense like in many CdG fragrances (Kyoto above all: quite the same synthetic woody-balsamic feel). That’s it. Really linear and quite plain, you may think it “hides” some complexity or something interesting is ‘round the corner, but... well, it doesn’t, it’s really just that. A synthetic incense-woody scent like dozens of others - not as “avantgarde” as the CdG’s, not as classy as stuff like Gucci pour Homme... Shortly: meh.

16th January, 2014 (last edited: 06th December, 2014)
A Very Nice Bright Soft Spicy Fragrance

On the opening I get a bright uplifting incense note mixed in with a soft spicy pink pepper. Within this mix is a very subtle vetiver note just underpinning the soft almost cream like spice. This scent is complex in a very subtle and intricate way. The notes are weaved together so tightly that you only notice them when you go looking for them.

To sum up a very nice bright soft spicy fragrance that offers more than whats on the surface.

26th October, 2013
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Fascinating, different, but just not great for me

This is extremely unique, as others have said. It starts off with a blast of Frankincense and not a great deal of anything else. Quickly, pepper and almost a curry like aroma come into the picture, which moves it quickly from very nice to this is interesting, but. At about the half hour point floral and an earthy vetiver become more pronounced. After a while, it becomes more balanced and the elements shift back and forth. It is really an interesting fragrance, and I would put it in the like don't love category, as there are moments that I just don't enjoy it, but others that I do.


A few hours into this, I get nothing but vetiver. If you want a rollercoster ending in a soapy, yet slightly vegital vetiver, this one is for you.

29th September, 2013
mainstay for a decade

i've been wearing this for years, and have found it difficult to arrive at a qualitative assessment. mr. reasonable has absolutely nailed it. i particularly like the transparency qualifier. duchaufour is a genius at that, check out havana vanille, paestum rose and chypre palatin - heavy notes that somehow don't 'compress' and distort the mids in the scent pyramid.... i started wearing this 10 years ago and though my collection has expanded exponentially since, this one stays firmly in the rotation. why?

it never dominates the wearer yet always maintains a certain weight, almost as certain elements maintain an atomic weight; it is consistent, solid yet aloof. earthy, woody,sweet, dry (white vermouth - perfect!), incense-like but not incense (!) - universal. it is season-less, genderless, timeless in fact. in other words this number encapsulates the duchaufour ethic perfectly. that in itself makes timbuktu mandatory to try, if not to own.

07th September, 2013
Great unisex incense- vetiver

An oldie but a goodie. I have sampled Timbuktu before and I have always liked it. I like that it is not overtly masculine or feminine .

I have never smelt the green mango but I do smell the pink pepper. Kara Karounde is also in Beyond Paradise though I would not be able to pick it out on its own .

Timbuktu on me is a warm incense with spice and ends off as a slightly dirty vetiver. It's got a great tenacity really for an eau de toilette. This is good stuff.

Though I do not find it similar I think fans of Kyoto by Commes de Garcons may like this one.

Actually over and above these scents, I would still choose the dark and broody incense and spice in Serge Noire by Uncle Sergie.

Pros: Unusual Unisex
Cons: None"

14th August, 2013
Good but not great

I like Timbuktu but don't love it. It is a very unique fragrance and anyone who really loves fragrances should try this one out. It has moderate longevity, as in it falls off a cliff by late afternoon with a morning spritz. I get a lot of citrus, incense, and faint Vetiver. I certainly won't buy Timbuktu. It is not a fragrance that is either luxurious or comfortable. It is edgy and does not quite settle down even in its dry down. What makes Timbuktu a good fragrance, albeit not a great one, is its uniqueness. What keeps it from being great is the lack of evolution over time.

Addendum: Spritzing Timbuktu over clothes and not skin is a revelation. It lasts the whole day! A whiff of it reminded me of walking into a cane basket weaving shop, incense burning in a corner, with the smell of cane and incense mingling with that of sweat. There are no other words I can conjure up to describe the scent. Boy, is it unique!

28th June, 2013
Timbuktu by L'Artisan

A dichotomy of clean and dirty. The soapy bleachy detergent-like citrus front a woody musky base. Half sterile, and half feral.

Excellent development, scenic, bold and daring, but still very wearable for a cedar-vetiver fragrance.

When all is said and done, it's a decent fragrance and very interesting to sample, but when it comes down to buying a bottle

and wearing it regularly, I just don't think this one stands out in a meaningful way from the crowd.

29th May, 2013
Dry, woody, smoky vetiver - very green and peppery - I'm reminded of the pepper and vetiver base note of PERLES DE LALIQUE minus the rose.

This is a perfectly decent woody vetiver, but I do not understand all the praise it has accumulated, especially being termed a masterpiece by Luca Turin.

Vetiver, frankincense, sandalwood, myrrh and cypriol.

After a while my skin smells like an old barn full of antique wooden furniture in the heat of a summer's day. Not bad, but nothing I would pay for.
10th May, 2013
bright,sweet,smoky,crisp,fresh/dry,...woody/incense with a touch of tropical fruit...beautifull and enchanting...a joy to smell...spiritual and mystic...
something I would wear when meditating or practicing Tai Chi...a fragrance
for shamans and mystics...very relaxing and very natural smelling...nice projection,
can smell it filling the space around me...a little tangy/sour effect, but very pleasant...the mango makes for a nice fruity accent to the incense and resins...
very natural smelling to me...changes to me on different times get
a nice touch of flower more than the fruit...sampled this several times and loved it enough to get a full bottle...
19th April, 2013

No need to add to the tens of positive reviews already posted here..

This is simply one of the best, if not the best woodsy scent I've ever come across..

Truly fascinating.
16th April, 2013
I’ll be honest and say that Luca Turin’s review of this intrigued me enough to just go ahead and buy it – this was a few years ago when I got the ‘niche bug’, although it could probably be called the ‘what’s arriving from Luckyscent this week that I forgot I ordered’ bug.

I was already a fan of Kyoto, having bought that the day it was released, so I wasn’t going in entirely blind – it was clear from The Guide that Duchaufor (along with Buxton) were pioneers of a sort and I wanted to find out more.

The thing from the Turin review that really intrigued me was his comment that Timbuktu had a similar ‘effect’ as the grand-daddy of men’s fragrances, Fougere Royale. I have puzzled over this and think I get it now.

My feelings about Timbuktu are the same today as that first week or so I wore it. It has a put-together crispness about it that while not ‘bracing’ like classic splash-ons of old, is incredibly satisfying. It has the same slightly moistened ‘snap’ to it that a glass of vermouth on a cool but sunny afternoon might offer.

Opinions may vary about the woodiness, the booziness, even the smokiness of this one. It’s dry, in the sense of ‘sec’ as applied to vermouth or some wines, but it’s by no means arid – I personally flash on a boozy, aged dark woods texture that has maybe recently been rubbed with a fine alcohol / oil solution.

I can’t help make a connection with Dzongkha, where it seems the DNA of this one has been used as solid wooden beams framing some cold stone or brick walls (courtesy of the iris) which really does evoke the interior of a Buddhist monastery I visited in Nepal (not Bhutan, but close enough) late one Autumn.

The other thing Turin spoke eloquently about was the radiance of Timbuktu – I like the hi-fi analogy. It has a presence that is really satisfying to me – it seems no matter how much you want to apply it maintains a level that allows conversation . . . the mark of a good audio system, BTW. In the recording studio we would call this transparency, as in a transparent mix. I think this is where the Fougere Royale comparison is apt – it’s compellingly, consistently satisfying but never shouts. I should qualify that by saying that altho it is IMO a 'singular' scent it is by no means a 'one-liner'. There seems to be a bit of a trend to arm some modern niches with nuclear strength bases of vanilla, lavender and other synthetics to appeal to the 'longevity rules' set but Timbuktu retains a shifting airiness throughout that never leads to boredom - it's not loud and it doesn't speak in a monotone.

Where it’s different from a fougere, of course, is that Timbuktu has a singular intensity about it as opposed to a three-tiered structure, (unless I’m missing a sleight of hand in the composition – which is quite possible). I think this is where it makes an interesting (and softly spoken) ‘presence’ that can easily entertain company – it has an incredible ‘openness’ to it. Dzongkha seems to me to be sort of Timbuktu + iris and I don’t doubt Mr. Duchaufor has toyed with other notes alongside, or inside, this idea – I’m really not up on his various works for other clients but my guess is that the idea has been developed elsewhere. I imagine there is at least some crossover in appeal for the whole Hinoki, Sequoia, Wonderwood clan and doubtless others, but Timbuktu has a purity that seems to allow it to stand apart from the other 'woods' out there.

I would recommend this to anyone who is comfortable with a timeless transparent moistened dry woods idea who wants a singular ‘signature’ that is crisp and unadorned – there are no trendy ‘details’ here that will mark you as a fashion victim, and that’s a good thing IMO. Please be sure to dress accordingly.
14th March, 2013
What a heavy trail Timbuktu has left, particularly in the niche world, where numerous perfumes have taken up aspects of its central shimmering, dry woods accord. Many an Amouage could step out of its bejewelled vestments and stand naked before the mirror as a relative of Timbuktu. But whereas an Amouage creation is often about richness and mellifluous density, Timbuktu is all transparence and sinew. Many austere woodies strain for its magic but collapse like a jenga heap when they overdose the overtly chemical.
Timbuktu’s initial impression is a bracing swirl of incense, myrrh and sweet vetiver, with a good pinch of cardamom, some sandal, and a slight milkiness around the edges. It’s warm, comforting but there’s no flab to it. The progression is toward increasing dryness, sunlight falling on a fragrant wood floor as a curl of incense smoke rises from a corner, and while the overall feeling is of an assured natural simplicity, the aromatic components seem to be in constant motion if smelled up close. Stellar so far.
The deep drydown (after about a half day’s wear) takes on a soft, sweeter and creamier aspect, still great to wear but considerably different to the main act.
17th October, 2012
my first vetiver scent,i prefer sycomore to this one becasue its more elegant and a touch more modern and clean,
but this one vetiver is more earthy, balsamic, and sweet, and less smoky then sycomore.

its very calming and pleasant to wear every time of the year and on every occasion, simple but unique, i think its the most original vetiver scent there is, with nice projection, and lasting power,

It constantly reminds me on chammomile tea . Superb!
26th September, 2012 (last edited: 07th October, 2012)
I was initially unappreciative, disappointed even, by Timbuktu; I expected a huge, exotic, woody blast...but boy was I wrong.

Timbuktu is significant in its understatement, in its shimmering radiance. Its marriage of sandalwood, incense, cardamom, and vetiver may initially seem spartan, but proves exceptional, reminding us that the ethereal is not always the ephemeral.

24th September, 2012 (last edited: 12th February, 2013)
I so admire other reviewers' ability to decipher all the notes and nuances of this very fun perfume. I had been experimenting with vetiver when I happened upon L'Artisan's Vetiver. I was so excited by this: All the fun notes, the sparkle, the genius of good perfumery. I had sampled Timbuktu but decided to stick to Vetiver for the time being. Eventually I did purchase it. In Paris. The woman sold me the larger bottle instead of the smaller one I asked for (not a mistake, I'm sure) and tried to make amends by showering me with samples of . . . Timbuktu.

Picture this: A lovely hotel room on the corner of the top floor with a small balcony for a very affordable rate (and no I'm not telling you where). You've purchased the last English copy of a book you love and cannot get in the US, sitting in a cafe on a cool but sunny day, and life is sublime. This is the perfume which brings me the most compliments. And I smile to remember my first experience with it.

I am fascinated by the notes because, for me, not one of them asserts itself too prominently. They are balanced and evoke color and cheeriness and sophistication all at the same time. I would liken it to a Chagall. This perfume does not take itself too seriously but it has substance and quality to not be dismissed either.

As for being showered with samples: They're all gone and I am on my third bottle of Timbuktu.
29th August, 2012 (last edited: 02nd September, 2012)
Timbuktu by L Artisan Parfumeur is not what I expected. After reading several reviews and note listings, I ordered a sample hoping for a dry, spicy chypre with incense. The opening is quiet with a hint of spiciness and fruit. Then—bang—strait to stale soap. Did I receive the correct sample? Yes, I’m identifying green vetiver and a strange floral note, but the “warm spicy” part is definitely not detectable. (The opening is far away from the dry down.) Perhaps someone can help me understand this fragrance…

16 hours later, a trace of Timbuktu lingered in my hair. The scent lost the soapy aspect exposing deep smoky woods. I also found that if I apply a very small amount to the skin the smoky-campfire aspect shows through almost immediately. This brings to mind a midnight camp fire in the middle of a hot exotic forest. I have memories of sitting around a fire with friends; drinking, and smelling the trees, flowers and other greenery as the smoke coats my hair and clothes. Timbuktu is this, only strange. Getting better…

One week later: I love this fragrance! I can’t stop smelling it and losing myself inside the presented contradiction. Clean yet musky-smoky; dry and hot, yet never powdery; green, but not “fresh”. Also, I challenge anyone to call this fragrance boring given that some of the notes are exotic, especially the floral note and the smoke.

06th August, 2012
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom
The fruit, berry with the mild peppery note give this a warm and dry start with an exotic component. Importantly, this is not a sweet scent. The dry down is discreetly flowery with a bit of frankincense to which later vetiver is added. All these notes merge very convincingly. This is a rarity: an oriental that is neither sweet nor heavy and not too spicy. It is masterfully blended and never denies its exotic-oriental character. A fragrance that combines great originality with elegance and restraint. On me it lasts nearly three hours, with the projection and the silage deteriorating after the first two.
02nd July, 2012
drseid Show all reviews
United States
Timbuktu opens with a bang. I get tons of frankincense and spice mixed with something dirty underpinning the notes which must be cardamom. The cardamom remains as does the incense, but the scent turns very soapy with some floral accents creating an interesting juxtaposition of dirty and clean. Vetiver joins the party late, adding some mildly smokey and earthy aspects to the scent in its later stages of development. Timbuktu is very unisex, and has great projection and longevity.

I am somewhat torn on Timbuktu... It really is a good scent and one of the best from the house of L'Artisan, but it really is not for me. Not a bad effort at all from one of the best noses on the face of the planet, Bertrand Duchaufour, just not good enough for me to recommend it without reservation. Still, Timbuktu is definitely sniff worthy and even FBW to those that enjoy similar scents. I'll give it a mild thumbs up and a rating of 3 stars out of 5.
12th April, 2012
I go thumbs up based on my large sample of Timbuktu. I love the opening so much. Dark, mysterious spice and incense. Then, wham, it goes soap. Quick dry down to a creamy, soapy, warm amorphous blend.

That might sound boring, but really, I wear Timbuktu and know I look quite odd walking around with my wrist pressed against my nose.

I cannot stop smelling it.

It might fade to soap, and quickly on my skin, but it is an exotic soap, smelling like you bought a gorgeous handcrafted bar from a street vendor whose grandmother made it using all natural ingredients found nowhere else in the world but her secret mountain garden. She might have also slipped in just a bit of holy incense from an old temple.

The sillage and projection are moderate for me, but lovely while they last.
17th March, 2012 (last edited: 29th March, 2012)