Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Borneo 1834 by Serge Lutens

This was one of the first niche fragrances I ever bought, and although I don't wear it that often, it brings back a rush of good memories for me. First, its dark, musty, camphorous smell reminds me of the day I bought it - a cold, blustery day in Rome, walking in dark streets before they turned the street lamps, slightly drunk from the wine we had unwisely drunk at lunch. The scent of Borneo reminds me of that perfect day, one of those rare ones actually, when we are both happy and there are no undercurrents of tension between us. Smell this, I said, offering my collar - he sniffed, then thought a bit, then sniffed again, and said "Well, that's interesting." This, coming from a man whose sole comment on my perfume in over ten years was to exclaim to our son one day, "Hey, mama sure smells like flowers, doesn't she?" (It was Coco, by the way). So, this was progress. I bought it. How could I not?

I smelled it again today, after a too-long hiatus, and what struck me about it was how the dryness of this actually reminds me of the shut up rooms and papers in our old rambling house in Ireland where I grew up. Our decrepit old house, built originally as a forge the year the Irish Famine began in 1845, was impossible to heat. All the rooms were cold, musty and damp. My brothers and I all wore about five layers of jumpers to survive the winters, and we all looked like the Stay Puft marshmallow man. My mum, a teacher, kept all her school papers and homework in a study, where it was left to gently decay over the years. Borneo smells powerfully of this noble, gentle rot, like greenish-blackish spots of damp colonizing reefs of forgotten papers. It smells like wooden boxes opened up again after years lying in moldy attics. It is incredible. Evocative and emotional, for me. God knows, I was deeply ashamed of our house growing up, but now, this woman who lives in the arse end of the dusty, hot Balkans is nostalgic for the smell of home. Borneo is the one that takes me there.

I don't find it to be very wearable, though. It is quite pungent and singular in focus compared to Coromandel, which I prefer as a wearable composition. However, Coromandel does not perform the same memory trick for me as Borneo does, so it is likely that I will hang on to Borneo and bring it out every now and then to smell it and be transported back to happy times. I know that Borneo and Coromandel get compared a lot, so for the purposes of reviewing this, I sprayed one arm with Borneo, and the other with Coromandel. You might say I had a patchouli-off! Yes, I can see the two points of intersection (the patchouli and the chocolate), but to me they are utterly different in tone and effect. Where Coromandel is creamy, luxuriant as a cat, and comforting, Borneo is raw, dry, and confrontational. Coromandel is the better composition, in my opinion, because it arranges all the notes in a symphony, where Borneo is more of a haiku - sparse and to the point. But Borneo strikes me as the more genuine and sincere of the two, as well as clearer in focus. It also has that memory box effect on me that Coromandel does and can not. There is room in my heart and my wardrobe for both of these.

11th June, 2014
Genre: Woody Oriental

Chocolate. Patchouli. There’s not much more I want to say about Borneo 1834. It’s a simple, weird, and compelling accord – I’m just not sure that I like it. My preferences aside, this is a bold, original scent, and an outstanding take on patchouli. Just try it first!
09th June, 2014
Straight out of the gate you get a wonderful blend of Patchouli and rich dark cocoa mixed in with some warm spices.

There is a woody backdrop to this scent giving the scent a old world feeling. I get a image of oak barrels filled with cocoa and spices been brought onto ships from tropical lands.

To sum up a delightful old world earthy blend of patchouli and rich cocoa.
08th June, 2014
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Cardamom very noticeable. A hard landing. Smelling like a lot of people that have a structure that bends the nose.
      Middle notes of mint greeted us when we came to a resinous. Perfume does not appeal to the public. Certainly not everyone will like structure.
      When we come to the end of cocoa used very weak and uncertain. Patchouli is not very pronounced in the same way. The smell of cardamom and pepper are progressing in weight. Does not show much change.
23rd April, 2014
Named after the year and provenance of the first South-East Asian patchouli to be introduced in Paris, Bornéo 1834 is a beautifully deep and earthy exercise on a warm tropical theme. After a sharp and intriguingly camphorous very brief opening, a glorious full-bodied patchouli soon emerges along with a distinctively dusty, almost powdery, cacao note. A typical Lutens feature, the underlying base consists primarily of sweet resins and various warm spices. After the rapid transformations in its initial phase, Bornéo 1834's subsequent development is very linear indeed, the patchouli-resins combination yielding a luxuriously deep and earthy sweetness that is both fulfilling and comforting, not to mention very long-lasting. In many ways a simple composition with a very clear and elegantly executed tropical theme, Bornéo 1834 is one of those truly great patchouli fragrances that you have to experience. Very highly recommended!
26th March, 2014
A simple but a really good and high quality fragrance.
There are 6 notes in it but you will smell mostly patchouli, cocoa and warm honey sweetness and other notes are almost impossible to detect!
The opening is a strong, sharp and earthy patchouli note mixed with heavy honey sweetness and cocoa all together.
The sweetness is strong and it's honey like. it doesn't smell like vanilla.
It's very sexy and yummy type of sweetness and it's not potent or offensive at all.
The sweetness tune down the wild and earthy patchouli very much, but still you can easily detect patchouli.
The cocoa and honey sweetness notes creating a very sexy charming scent and beside those, strong and earthy patchouli note give it a really nice masculine kick.
It's linear and you will have this combo to the end.
Projection is great and longevity is 8-10 hours which is pretty good.
I like it.
Serge Lutens fragrances never disappointed me!
01st February, 2014
Borneo 1834 is possibly one of the three-four greatest Lutens of all times in my opinion, an incredible and unique balance of earthy rawness and distinguished sophisticacy. The patchouli-cocoa accord is initially bold and prominent, carrying a load of beautiful nuances, from smoky to dusty and from dry-sweet to rooty notes, rounded by the resinous and spicy sweetness of cardamom and galbanum and enlightened by a really subtle and silky floral breeze. Herbal hints and a range of beautiful echoes, from tobacco to coffee – all the nuances of "exotic rootiness". That's pretty much it: the "grandeur" of a few, masterfully blended notes. A straightforward and overall fairly simple patchouli, yet different from all the others: it's dry, velvety, sinister, sophisticated, exotic, exuding an impressive class I rarely found elsewhere. As many other Lutens (of his "golden era"), the name fits it perfectly: in a way, you think of a refined, yet audacious Victorian explorer, and the overall darkness may even remind of a decadent romanticism à la Baudelaire – but without melancholy or abandon for sure, as the earthy and raw notes surely make Borneo a "living", adventurous fragrance. Rich, mature, oriental, mysterious refinement at its best. If I am not wrong this is discontinued or however hard to find in its early formulations, but I see sometimes that bottles appear here and there – I got my 50 ml bottle (black label, old logo) for less than a normal current Lutens – so keep looking for it, as it's definitely worth it.

26th December, 2013 (last edited: 10th August, 2014)
An uncompromising renowned patchouli with a mossy (oakmoss/ galbanum) substance, an unquestionable typical earthiness (supported by camphoraceous patterns) and a spicy/delicious cocoa soul (playing as subtle sweet undertone for a boise lingering main temperament). Still one of the best around despite (or may be due to) its simplistic approach. The sweetness is well modulated with an influencing but fairly balanced chocolatey presence. The evolution is not complicated, passing gradually from a spicy and rooty/camphoraceous beginning to a sweet and mossy dry down. Yes it owns tads of many patchouly around from Coromandel (yes sweeter) to Patchouli Leaves passing through Angel and Reminiscence classic Patchouli but i detect in particular similarities with the Patchouli Noir by il Profvmo which is equally camphoraceous but is floral and replaces the cocoa with a plain note of vanilla. Not original for sure but well crafted and slightly decadent. Can't be missed by a patchouli lover collector. Powerful.
21st December, 2013 (last edited: 06th May, 2014)
Polo's twin

This is not a decent review. And I can't give this Lutens a fair chance because it simply reminds me too much of the original Polo--which was the everyday scent of a past SO. Perhaps I am the only person who makes this unfortunate connection.(Between it and Polo, not between it and my ex!) And perhaps you love Polo! I, too, used to think it an excellent fragrance until I smelled it all day, everyday in the company of a not-so-nice human being. So...

Truthfully, I am not a huge fan of patchouli. I love it in Bruno Acampora's musc and as an accord with other notes, but here it is definitely the star, so to speak. If however, you love patchouli and bitter chocolate and Polo in the green bottle, this could the fragrance for you!

Pros: hmmm
Cons: too reminiscent of my love life"

03rd October, 2013
sexy patchouli in a jungle kick!
12th November, 2012
Thats a nice Lutens. Reminds me of Chanel Coromandel, but not as sweet and creamy. Borneo is more earthy and drier than Coromandel, also the lasting power and sillage are not as heavy as Coromandel's.
Borneo also reminds me of Montale's Patchouli Leaves, which in my opinion is even drier and more earthy patchouli. Borneo is quite linear: dry and fades dry. Thumbs up!
25th October, 2012 (last edited: 27th February, 2013)
This is great. It's like the last part of Angel that clings to clothes for weeks, only without having to suffer through the billowing clouds of fruity cotton candy to get there. The chocolate-patchouli accord happens right up front.

Borneo 1834 is better than plain patchouli because the cocoa animates the crude plant matter, making the patchouli wink and smile instead of lurking out on the back porch, rubbing the dirt off her knees until you finally invite her in.

This is patchouli done right. Ironically, I avoided trying this fragrance for years because I was put off by the reviews, which referred to it as dusty, smoky, and rubbery. I don't perceive those aspects. It is a patchouli fragrance with strong chocolate qualities, none of them edible. Cocoa sweetens patchouli better than vanilla, whose sweetness clashes with the mustiness of patchouli.

I don't smell any galbanum. Nor is the cardamom recognizable. The labdanum is mild of character, sweetening without changing the aroma. Yet, something gives Borneo a cool, green, character. Had it been only chocolate and patchouli, it would have been too flat. Still, it is a simple fragrance, done masterfully. Coromandel, another favorite of mine, is more sweet and ornate. Both are my go-to patchouli fragrances and I own both.

09th September, 2012 (last edited: 03rd January, 2013)
Dry cold earth. Dense, villainous, unbothered. Cacao like a drug, not like a chocolatey treat, dominates at first but ultimately loses out to the elements; something primal and austere. Galbanum (just as the dark arts described it) and cardamom hum and seethe respectively around a heart that shakes off hippie in favor of chic freak.

Initially I was less than impressed with this acquisition in spite of being a classic patch-head. It took spilling nearly 25 ml of this for me to give it proper attention. Dirty, real patchouli, the last black key on the left side of the piano, pitched-down vocals. Coarse, not minerallac in any clean sense but a bit like moss on cooled volcanic rock.

Attics, basements, black mold. The story behind this: the silk road, patchouli used to keep the insects off the fabric, the ladies loved the smell of their soft new silks. Probably only because it was exotic, maybe only because it contrasted so perfectly with the weft of silk itself.

Rough-hewn peace and the grand, unsentimental love of mother nature.
31st August, 2012
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United States
Oh, how I *love* this scent.
It reminds me of mixing Santal 33 from Le Labo, Amber Absolute along with Pure Malt, and maybe a little LIDGE on the side (minus the grandpa \ dentists office sharp vetiver note that LIDGE has).
So in short; it's a more masculine version of pure malt with incense and sandalwood.
Awesome sandalwood and cedar notes in the base.
Cocoa and Patchouli on the top and mid, very comforting -- they kind of gell with each other in a very symbiotic way.
The cocoa here is very reminiscent of LIDGE.
It's a very comforting scent that's for sure.
I would also advise Mr. Lutens to rename this scent to "pimp juice" -- because seriously, that's what it is.
One small prob; it doesn't last on me as well as other SL scents do...not sure why this is, maybe I got an old bottle or something.
15th May, 2012 (last edited: 26th May, 2012)
Thick, monolithic, bitter cocoa and patchouli dries down to unpleasant bitter residue that taints skin for hours. Chanel's Coromandel also by Sheldrake is along similar ideas but, to me, takes a more interesting journey through cocoa to dark leaves and rich jungle humus and exits politely.
06th March, 2012
Patchouli + Mocha. Not a huge patchouli fan but it works here.
28th February, 2012 (last edited: 22nd May, 2014)
Patchouli is one of my favorite notes, so this fragrance is one of my favorite Serge Lutens!
Starts a very organic patchouli (earthy, sweet, dark ) and later the cocoa makes patchouli more nicer. I love it!
09th February, 2012
The idea of a cocoa/patchouli accord appeals to me and thinking how Lutens are generally sweet, I wrongly presumed that Borneo 1834 would be so. It is not. I should have read the reviews first to adjust my expectations. The scent comes across as bitter and dry with camphorous undertones. The cocoa is there, as is the patchouli. Regrettably, I do not like Borneo 1834.
15th January, 2012
I spent some days trying to define clearly this scent 'cause it is somewhat complicated. From the outset I can say that I enjoyed the hell out and Serge Lutens and Sheldrake are geniuses. This frag has its main focus on patchouli and is subsidized by the roasted cocoa.

Early on, it opens with a smell of camphor dissolved in a cocoa and patchouli basis, a little bit different, like some kind of root, like a bitter licorice. After a few minutes, camphor decreases and open space to patchouli, that "tones up" and becomes more leafy, yet bitter, but this patchouli is a totally different from how it was used by White Patchouli - TF. In Borneo it is opaque, dense, smoky, as ike the cocoa note, but it seems to be formed by dry leaves, not fresh ones.

Indeed, the more time passes, the more opaque is the scent, it gives the impression that you're in the middle of a dark rainforest, but close to a cocoa farm (who has been to Ilheus, here in Brazil, should know what I'm talking ). The scent reminds a lot this environment. This is because the dry down enter the galbanum and laudanum notes, leaving the frag resined and incensed.

But though opaque, cocoa becomes more pronounced, like a 70% chocolate but with a layer of dust on top of it, or as if it was a little moldy. You can not exactly feel like eating, but getting lost in the midst of the bushes and rushes out to smell the cocoa beans that are drying up. It has a very good sillage and fix.
15th October, 2011
Straight forward patchouli-cacao. Rich yet not too sweet, masterfully crafted but not incredibly original. After the camphoraceous/spicy opening it settles haflway between A*Men and Parfumerie Generale's Cozè. A beatuiful composition that you'll surely dig if you're into bold head-shop patchouli. Me? A bit too overpowering for my likes. I stick with the PG.
23rd September, 2011 (last edited: 13th February, 2012)
Five minutes ago this would have been a definite thumbs down. So, I logged in to write my review. NOW, after waiting, it's starting to morph into something better. I gave it a "neutral" only because the beginning is sooo bad ( on me ) ...It starts out smelling like the bottom of Grandma's bag, then it morphs into something that smells like GRANDPA'S bag. Finally, after about 10 minutes it smells ok. Less like camphor and sweaty man berries, but more like incense and sour crotch. I'm guessing that my chemistry is playing a huge part in this. Oh well, better to have loved and lost....SL is still one of my fave houses and i will find the right one.
03rd August, 2011
I wrote a review that I think got lost to the aether. No matter. The general idea is this...

1. Deep, dark cacao bar in the upper 80 percent range (that's a super dark chocolate bar to you non-chocolate lovers).

2. Subtle patchouli

3. Multiple ladies gave me unsolicited compliments on test day.

4. Very unisex

And I fifth point that I forgot to add is that I will be putting it on my to-buy list.
29th May, 2011
As others have said, patchouli, cocoa, and camphor stand out. The patchouli in Borneo is one of my favorite renditions of this note that I've yet encountered. It's dry, earthy, even a little dusty. There's no amber or vanilla to soften it or smooth it. The cocoa, likewise, is all grown up - no sweetness here. The camphor-like note seems to provide a little lift, keeping this from being too dark and heavy. I have come to think of this as a grown up and warmer weather alternative to, of all things, Angel for Men. The tarry heaviness and sweetness of A*men is just too much for warmer days, and, frankly, becoming more challenging to wear with every passing year. Borneo provides similar notes presented in a very different - and IMO more mature - way.
26th May, 2011
I say "DIRT" - and I love it.

Like L'Artisan's Poivre Piquant, a fun and creative take on perfumery - The Driest dark chocolate and rich earth (that others will smell as a camphorous Patchouli... but for me, it's pure rain forest soil, damp but sandy and aromatic - the smell of which hovers around every relic of indiginous amazonian heritage in my apartment.) Therein lies the magic: NO FRAGRANCE is swifter in lifting me to another place, albeit highly personal, as this Serge Lutens. His Marrakesh is my Rio Juruá, and the stars above this imagined woven hammock are all the more numerous.
22nd April, 2011
A distant and respectful admirer, though not a fan of Lutens- Sheldrake work as I am, I immediately fell in love with this dark, somber, powdery patchouli.
I love the astringent camphor initial blast (I only wish it lasted much more!), the strong animalic pong that lasts just for a while in the surroundings after having sprayed the fragrance – curiosly, not so much on skin!- the earthy and dry patchouli heart that gently yields bittersweet notes of coffee and liquorice and the vanishing, delocalized yet recurring bitter cocoa powder scent that seems to be falling on it from everywhere. In the quite long drydown, an almost fizzy, medicinal roundness keeps the fragrance very close on skin.
Borneo reminds me of a typical chocolate from a town called Modica, in Sicily, which, due to the peculiar preparation, comes in hard, brittle, granulous, opaque dark brown bars and has a powdery and dry taste, as it lacks of every sort of fats.
13th April, 2011
An earthy patchouli complemented with a bitter cocoa of biscuity dryness, and a minty-camphor aura that saves the blend from turning staid. Borneo 1834 is all about the materials, which don't interact to tell a story, but are sufficiently handsome as to be dramatic. It has an absorptive, matte, duskiness about it that draws you into its shadow. It's a refined, subdued triumph and the only patchouli I will now wear.
04th February, 2011
A dark, calm mystery. Bornéo 1834 possesses a brilliant evocative name that should flood your mind with poetic associations. It basically is chocolate (civilized without tons of sugar, so we say cacao), camphor and patchouli and reminds me of being a child, wandering through museums dedicated to the orient.

Perhaps slightly demanding as a skin fragrance, you do smell like a stowaway who has been hiding for months in the cargo of a ship returning from the Indies. Maybe Bornéo 1834 would work even better as an ambient scent. Even so, a truly great and artful scent.
20th January, 2011
It took me quite some time to finally purchase a full bottle of Borneo 1834. This perfume is such a love it or hate it. The 1st time I gave it a try, I thought it exactly what I'd stay away. It's so dusty and earthy, it reminds me of the smell of the soil after a rain, I guess that's the way the patchouly be. I do get the cocoa note, dusty and bitter cocoa powder particularly. The cocoa note doesn't stay all along though, it's like a dash of cocoa powder and then it gone. I don't know what camphor is, at least it doesn't pronounce on my skin, or maybe it's so pale that I barely notice it. When the earthy blast o the topnotes is over, the fragrance turns into something that is... so sweet. Is it just me or anybody finds it smell like patchouly leaves drenched in honey? To my nose (and on my skin) honey is definitely there. The scent is still earty but now it's quite smokey and warm. i'd like to wear it on rainy days, it perfectly suits that kind of wet and chilly weather when you need some raw-material-like scent to shock your nose and then makes you feel so calm and warm inside ^^. @those who's curious about this perfume, still be weary since it's not an easy-to-please. It's intoxicsting but not easy. Right at the moment, I'm wearing it (in bed, and my mom can describe it with no other word: EXTREME. She can't decide wether it smells good or not, but jus extreme ;)
07th September, 2010
Dark cocoa -- check. Camphor -- check. Dry patchouli -- check. I enjoy the opening and heart of Borneo 1834 even though, unlike most Lutens scents, I don't get any sweetness or syrupy spices. Just dry chocolate, patchouli, and that very interesting camphor that makes the back of your throat cold when you sniff.

So, my problem with Borneo 1834 is not the opening but the dry-down. The combination of the dry patchouli plus the labdanum doesn't create the dry, textured incense I typically love. All I get is dust. Dry silk dresses in a trunk that haven't been moth-eaten (thanks, camphor) but have become really, REALLY dusty over the years. Where the camphor makes the back of my throat cold, the patchouli + labdanum just unpleasantly tickles the back of my throat and makes me want to sneeze.

I also agree with the other reviewer who noticed that the sillage on this one smells different from its up-close scent. I get the dust up close. I get just great, dry patchouli from the sillage.

Because I can't slavishly sniff my wrist and get all up-close and personal the way I love to do with other Lutens scents, this one gets a neutral. Personally, I prefer ELdO's Nombril Immense. No dust.
07th July, 2010
Cultivating a utter disgust for A*Men, I do like this one. This is the men's version :) So very dry and unsweet - wonderful and this coming from Serge Lutens. The initial flash is there, but I do not perceive it as off-putting or dramatic as others obviously. Funnily, I associate it wearing this outdoors in front of the open fire and smoking a cigarillo or cigar. I do think this is a good combo!
22nd June, 2010