Reviews of Timbuktu by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    Find out more about Timbuktu by L'Artisan Parfumeur in the Basenotes Fragrance Directory


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    ClaireV's avatar

    Ireland Ireland

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    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.

    13 August, 2014

    Way Off Scenter's avatar

    United States United States

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    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.

    05 July, 2014

    Shifty Bat's avatar

    United States United States

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    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.

    28 May, 2014

    Zgb's avatar

    Croatia Croatia

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    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.

    12 May, 2014

    Kain's avatar

    Iran Iran

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    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

    Jack Hunter's avatar

    United Kingdom United Kingdom

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    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.

    26 October, 2013

    RichNTacoma's avatar

    United States United States

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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.

    29 September, 2013

    tymanski's avatar



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    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.

    07 September, 2013

    Mimi Gardenia's avatar

    United States United States

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    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"

    14 August, 2013

    vishwapa's avatar



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    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!

    28 June, 2013

    noirdrakkar's avatar

    United States United States

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    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.

    29 May, 2013

    JackTwist's avatar

    United States United States

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    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

    Sniffers's avatar

    United States United States

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    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 applications...at times get
    a nice touch of flower more than the fruit...sampled this several times and loved it enough to get a full bottle...

    19 April, 2013

    calnadur's avatar

    Switzerland Switzerland

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    Wow...

    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.

    16 April, 2013

    mr. reasonable's avatar

    Hong Kong Hong Kong

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    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.

    14 March, 2013

    gimmegreen's avatar

    Netherlands Netherlands

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    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.

    17 October, 2012

    iivanita's avatar

    Croatia Croatia

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    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!

    26 September, 2012 (Last Edited: 07 October, 2012)

    's avatar



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    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.

    24 September, 2012 (Last Edited: 12 February, 2013)

    Miss_Madeleine's avatar

    United States United States

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    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.

    29 August, 2012 (Last Edited: 02 September, 2012)

    gmstrack's avatar

    United States United States

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    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.

    5/5!!!!

    06 August, 2012

    rbaker's avatar



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    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.

    02 July, 2012

    drseid's avatar

    United States United States

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    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.

    12 April, 2012

    KarmaLee's avatar

    United States United States

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    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.

    17 March, 2012 (Last Edited: 29 March, 2012)

    Izen's avatar



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    It's like an encounter with a loud personality at a party that wants everyone's attention. Initially irritating but over time you become aware that without it the party would be dull.

    Flamboyant but entertaining, no surprise it stirs up strong feelings. Like in the party metaphor, having it around for too long makes me feel tired as it dominates everything. Good for a few occasions but not to hung around with regularly.

    23 January, 2012

    iodine's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    Unimpressive. A bland concoction of Duchaufour typical spices and woods, where I can't find any originality or suggestion related to the inspiration behind it! On my skin it is very tame and quiet, definitely non-exotic!

    21st November, 2011

    silversurfer's avatar

    United States United States

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    I've only tried this in a store, but here's my take so far: Light, heady, dry clear incense smoke with a hint of woodiness and vetiver. Do I detect a touch of cardamom in the smoke? Seems quite natural, not synthetic, like most modern scents. I can see this being worn by either men or women, but it seems a little more on the maculine side to me. Nothing quite like it. Luca Turin [I know, I know, and I don't always agree with him either] in his Perfume guide rates this 5* out of 5. According to Turin, creator Bertrand Duchaufour used a rare Indian essential oil named "Cypriol" to create the light smokey effect. It does seem fairly linear to me, so theire doesn't seem to be a huge change from top to base over the approximate 10 hours I've thrice tested it. Sillage has died down from the initial projection, but it's still maintains a definite presence. All in all, a fantastic creation!

    17 October, 2011 (Last Edited: 21st July, 2012)

    Darvant's avatar

    Italy Italy

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    The first part of development is almost disturbing and is basically  tart and lemony vetiver, earthy greens, black pepper and hints of frankincense-olibanum under my nose. The development is dull and the smell doesn't take off because of its crudity and olfactory wilderness at once. A note of rape mango is listed and it's responsible, on the side of bitter citrus, berries and vetiver, of that sour, viney and fruity crudity whirling around. A touch of smoke in the meanwhile starts enveloping and shadowing the elements slightly understating the level of green-fruity bitterness. This is a first stage of improvement but is not enough. It has to pass more than a couple of hours before the smoothing and resinous elements flag just a bit the crudity wraping the incenses and the spices in a cloud of mild resins and myrrh. In this phase the fragrance is more appealing although holds on to be a very wild beast to tame. A touch of patchouli sets boldness and autority enhancing the general sense of darkness. Frankly i don't detect exotic flowers in the mix except for that spark of almost womanly and rosey sophistication characterizing the wake many hours later. Probably the rosey (or better vinegar kind) smell is enhanced by the union of citrus and vetiver as many other times is determined by the link of tea and citrus or floral notes (as happens for instance with the link of hybiscus and tea note in Costume National Scent Intense). Anyway an exotic flower is listes and plays its part for sure. In the same vein of L'air du Desert Marocain but drier and less sweet and coloured,  Timbuktu is surly fragrance that is not able to side step in a more modern and acceptable way its high level of tart, dissonant animalism and acerbity. The quality of the elements, the carnal sensuality exuded and the appalling level of darkness place anyway it among the worthy pieces of work, as usual for the Duchafour's fragrances even if Timbuktu's kind of interrupted development, while preserving the darkness, hinders  distinction and mystery, fields where Dzongkha, Jubilation XXV and Avignon didn't fail. The  sillage is in the average.

    14 October, 2011 (Last Edited: 19 November, 2011)

    Notreveh's avatar

    Brazil Brazil

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    Timbuktu Opens very dark with incense and spices, but nothing exaggerated, where over time, acquires a certain soapy character but nothing overdone. This particular fragrance seems to me a much less intense version of L'air du desert marocain, making this a much more versatile and unisex fragrance, but without the mysterious and powerful personality of Andy Tauer's creation.

    17 September, 2011

    Roper-Hall's avatar

    Canada Canada

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    This fragrance is a good deceiver. I recommend that you try it on your skin, rather than on paper. Aromatic, airy, complex, exotic: adjectives that describe well the parts, but not the whole. Constructed carefully from interesting accords; absolutely masculine, and yet, not exclusively male.

    01st September, 2011 (Last Edited: 02 September, 2011)

    Harvitz81's avatar



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    Opens up with a peppery accord that is accompanied by dried fruit. Very lovely opening. A little hint of vetiver in the background as well. Begins to morph into a very nice woody incense vibe with the trace vetiver ever present. Usually not big on frankincense, but the notes in this one work very well together and I don't find it a jumbled mess as other. Longevity is excellent as I can pick up the notes all day long. Overall a very well done fragrance that is unlike anything in my collection.

    24 August, 2011

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