Wow. I just spent a week in NYC. Went to the JAR alcove at Bergdorff Goodman not once, not twice, but three times! The first I sampled Shadow and vintage Golconda. Both lovely (the vintage with a large dose of carnation absolute). But I was drawn to Shadow. My wife had "Bolt of Lightning" and Diamond Water. Both were stunning, but "Bolt" was unreal.
I returned the next day to try them both on personally. I spent the day with these beauties, and the night as well. "Bolt" was amazing. Unbelievable. But there was just something about Shadow. I had to have it. My third, and final trip to BG was to purchase Shadow.
Apparently, Shadow was discontinued for a few years because a specific ingredient could not be sourced. Instead of altering the composition, and perhaps losing some of its integrity, production was stopped altogether. Lucky for me Shadow has been reborn! And even better, true to its original form.
Now, the perfume. Clearly this is well made with high quality ingredients. There is no formal note pyramid. The wonderful sales associates are not allowed to disclose notes or ingredients. It starts off spicey, with clove, cinnamon and carnation. There is moss. There is some vetiver. The drydown is beautiful natural sandalwood. Projection is mild/moderate. Longevity is good, the soft sandalwood and vetiver lasts a while.
There is nothing like it. It smells as if it was made many years ago, I think largely due to the natural oils and absolutes that obviously compose Shadow. Awesome stuff!
There is a ton of real sandalwood here. The good stuff! Initially I thought Shadow meant something dark. I now favor Shadow meaning more that it is always with you. Never loud or overwhelming. Just an ever present sandalwood shadow.
I definitely get the pickle spices impression, but I think lizzie_j is imagining the vinegar. A pleasant, balanced concoction of clove leaf, carnation, Australian sandalwood, and a touch of amber, dill, and perhaps bay leaf. Not sure why they want so much money for it though.
I tried not to over-saturate with blogpinions before we ventured to the JAR boutique, but it's hard not to take note of the myriad dismissals of Shadow: that it smells like relish, marinated tomatoes, hamburgers, pickles, etc. Well, it does not. Or, perhaps I should say, if your relish really smells like this then where can I get some?
Just to be fair, I actually sniffed a jar of relish. Its development is linear with top notes of vinegar and dill followed by fructose, clove, and citric acid in the drydown. It was actually less exciting than I expected.
Then from jar to JAR.
First, let me say I have not given a lot of thought to the texture of a scent before. Many designer fragrances (I realize now) come out of the bottle extremely hissy and coarse. They are the olfactory equivalent of an old fashioned TV picture barely watchable through bad reception. I buy a lot of niche fragrance, and their textures tend toward the finer end of the spectrum. But this thing. Ach mein gott. It is stitched together so finely that it may as well have been wept from those angels on the head of a pin. It is well beyond my noob nose to account for how this texture is so beautiful--as if the fragrance "pixels" disappeared and I was seeing for real for the first time--but wow, there it is. A whole new level.
Now the notes. I understand where the pickle comes from, but that is such a lazy way to describe what's really going on. There is a beautiful juxtaposition between vetiver and (what to my nose smells like) mustard seed. It is a sweet-savory tug-of-war against a backdrop of clove, a wood that I cannot identify, and an indolic whore of a carnation. It is fairly linear. It does not have amazing longetivity. But what these players act out on the stage of my arm is so refined, so perfectly crafted, and so stunningly unlike anything else I have smelled that I hardly know how to put it into words.
I also sniffed a jar of mostarda, which is my personal favorite condiment. And I would say the mostarda is a little closer than the relish. But it plays out the same way: sniffing the condiment only reinforces that, not only is the JAR not from the fridge; I'm not even sure it's of this world.
This is some badass juice.
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I have to agree with at least PART of Jemimagold's review of Shadow. The opening is a big blast of hamburger relish! I'm told that they use only the spendiest, most high quality ingredients in their juice, so I guess this is pickle relish made from homemade imported polish dills, with artisan spices, triple filtered heirloom vinegar, etc...!! After a while I get a distinct layer of clove that persists for quite a while, and tempers the relish. There's lots more, but it's hard to discern, especially to my newbie nose. Despite the weirdness of the composition, there's something compelling about it. I keep going back to my wrist for another sniff, as if the fragrance itself holds a secret memory that I'm having trouble unlocking. Anyway, one of the most fun tests I've done in a while, and I will definitely be trying it at least a few more times, if only to unlock that blasted "secret" (which, of course, may be nothing more than additional burger condiments!).
Shadow is definitely the oddest scent in the JAR line. The recurring notes to my unsophisticated nose are dill pickle juice, mustiness and hay with a leavening of lavender and maybe eucalyptus towards the end. Yes, that all seems weird but it is not a “scrubber”. I had far worse experiences with Guerlain’s “Philtre d’Amour” and Miller Harris’ “L’Air de Rien” where after 5 minutes I was running for the scrub brush at my kitchen sink. But back to Shadow. Throughout its life on my skin, it kept that same weird high pitched sour/cool whine which was not awful, it was just deliberately strange. I would love to know how many bottles JAR sells of this in a year. I cannot imagine who it would appeal to.
After sampling this, I just had to visit the JAR store in Paris (not affiliated). The following is a brief account of my visit:
No appointments to smell the JAR perfumes at the JAR store on rue Castiglione are necessary, unlike the rules to view JAR’s jewelry line which is sold at a different location. Anyways, you arrive at the JAR store, ring a bell to request entrance and then are ushered by an immaculately dressed man into a silent room which has one small round table and two chairs. The room is sparsely decorated in the French ancien regime style and is painted a dark aubergine. The ceiling has an elaborate crystal chandelier and, as a touch of whimsy, a mural of a thunderous dark sky with a giant lightning bolt. Bottles of each JAR perfume sit nearby on an elevated lighted stand which seems like an untouchable shrine. I did not dare go near them. Once you are seated, you notice that on the table are a number of glass containers which look like covered petri dishes and each contain a piece of crumpled fabric doused in scent. The JAR representative’s role is to silently open each glass container one at a time and hold it up to you for a sniff of the saturated fabric. He is extremely courteous even though he will ONLY tell you the name of each perfume and nothing else. JAR’s policy is that they do not reveal any notes or comments about their fragrances. It is all meant to be a big secret, I suppose. So there you are, sniffing the contents of each glass container and you want to have a conversation about what you smell with your companion but somehow you get the feeling that it would be uncouth to say anything in the presence of the JAR representative about the perfumes.
On the whole, the JAR fragrances are extremely idiosyncratic and very expensive (for a 30 ml bottle, they range from 220 - 530 euros), and would not appeal to the mainstream consumer. For example, I cannot imagine what the average person would think of the distinct dill pickle notes in “Shadow”. However, I get the impression that the weirdness and cult-like secrecy is by design. It is almost as if the JAR perfume line is a side hobby for Joel Arthur Rosenthal and he really doesn’t care if his perfumes sell or not. There is certainly no pressure to buy anything but given the silence and somewhat forbidding atmosphere, you do not feel like lingering either. We thanked the JAR gentleman who graciously shook our hands and then left the strange little world of JAR perfumes.