Perfume Directory

Timbuktu (2004)
by L'Artisan Parfumeur

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Timbuktu information

Year of Launch2004
GenderShared / Unisex
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 772 votes)

People and companies

HouseL'Artisan Parfumeur
PerfumerBertrand Duchaufour
Parent CompanyPuig Beauty & Fashion Group
Parent Company at launchFox Paine & Company > Cradle Holdings

About Timbuktu

Timbuktu is a shared / unisex perfume by L'Artisan Parfumeur. The scent was launched in 2004 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour

Timbuktu fragrance notes

Reviews of Timbuktu

L'Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu (2004) would eventually become known by some as the origin of the species for fragrances like Terre d'Hermès (2006), Encre Noire by Lalique (2006), JB by Jack Black (2010), Patchouli by Murdock (2010), and others heavily based on the Iso E Super woody aromachemical. Created by journeyman niche perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, the idea behind Timbuktu was to capture the spirit of the African fragrance ritual called "Wusulan" practiced by Mali women. In particular, a flower called karo karounde is used, which is similar to jasmine but with an almond-like facet, combining with the rest of a bright and dry aromatic accord that replicates the incense and papyrus smoke also found during the ritual. Timbuktu was originally part of the Travel Collection, meant to evoke exotic locales in design, and released before Puig purchased the house then cheapened the packaging of the bottles to the plastic-capped black and white designs they currently use. All told this is the ur-example of the unofficial genre typically attributed to Hermès, doing something that nobody else at the time had thought of doing, then undoubtedly copied or at least inspiring the perfumers behind everything I've mentioned. Timbuktu will never get the credit it deserves thanks to the low-exposure of L'Artisan Parfumeur as a house (zero advertising since inception in 1976), but this is the brand that invented "niche" as we know it, and they stick to their guns regardless of who owns them.

Lovers of the dry, woody, transparent style this scent helped launch will probably also love this fragrance too, but people not convinced by Jean-Claude Ellena or Nathalie Lorson's efforts with Hermès and Lalique respectively may find more to chew on here with Timbuktu, since this is a far more complex fragrance than them. In true niche fashion, Timbuktu is an unholy mess design-wise, with contrasting notes like dried mango and pink pepper in the top alongside cardamom, mixed with notes that accentuate the otherwise-standard grapefruit and orange also here. The heart has a "frankincense lite" feeling, the aforementioned "jasmine almondine" karo-karounde flower (with some assisting geraniol for brightness) and a smoky papyrus note, all which help to lift and add texture to the core. The listed frankincense is not particularly lucid so I question any actual olibanum being here, but sour-smooth benzoin is definitely detected alongside the unusual floral notes. The base is where things feel most like what would later come, with Iso E Super and vetiver doing a well-known dance for fans of either Terre d'Hermès or Encre Noire, but with patchouli terpenes that veer closer to the aforementioned Murdock Cologne. Wear time is over 8 hours and projection is not monstrous, although this feels a bit more "solid" than most things in the vein (also read: more sillage). Best use for me is casual spring through fall, as it wears quite light and fresh despite the heady notes listed. I wouldn't bring Timbuktu into an office, because it's not loud, but has some elements that may furrow a brow (like the mango).

L'Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu is a pioneering citrus woody incense "chypre"-like fragrance, using a structure and accord later popularized by Hermès and a handful of others, but with a cult following that will sing its praises over those others in a heartbeat. It's easy to see why, as this is way more sophisticated and a bit more artistic (also read: challenging) in the way it fuses a dried mango and pepper opening, then stuffs "incense" and unusual floral notes in a concoction that is otherwise now seen as a garden-variety citrus, woods, vetiver, and a light patchouli fragrance most likely to be worn by men. I also don't find this particularly "earthy" since the vetiver is more restrained. Timbuktu feels pretty masculine in the dry down, but I won't put it past anyone for liking the brisk complexity of the scent, so draw your own conclusions over who should wear this gender-wise. If you're already a fervent fan of Terre d'Hermès and don't like a lot of overlap in your collection, then you might run into the same problem if you smelled JB by Jack Black or Patchouli by Murdock, in that Timbuktu is very much its own scent but feels redundant since it serve the same situations thanks to a familiar drydown, much like trying to choose between powdery barbershop fougères after a shave. There's also the little detail about the niche price tag for Timbuktu, making it the worst choice value-wise among it's younger siblings. In any case, this is well done, and first to bat for a popular style even if doomed somewhat to obscurity in the shadow of more-hyped niche brands. Thumbs up.
17th August, 2020
A legend for a good reason. Bertrand Duchaufour practically invented this style and his work for L’artisan is some of his finest. Timbuktu(as well as the sister frangrance, Dzongkha) is incredibly evocative: it achieves its aim of conjuring a “temple”(perhaps the famous Djinguereber Mosque) without resorting to one-dimensional incense. The mango note, here, is the real surprise and it gives the perfume an opening that hints at its many contradictions: wet and dry, rich yet austere and, most poignantly, meditative while sensuality indulgent. And it smells great!
23rd May, 2020
Nice intro, followed by a drydown found in Terre De Hermes Parfum - Vetiver & ISO E Super. This came first, but found my nose second.

TDH Parfum has a better intro, by far, and a better transition into the base. And a better base.

For my money, I'll take the TDH Parfum. But props to LP for Timbuktu's quality, and for getting there first.
23rd March, 2020
Timbuktu is a disorganized fragrance.

By that, I mean that I have no idea what kind of fragrance this is trying to be. The initial smell is a very bright, citrusy mango/berry combo, and a fairly prominent frankincense and myrrh. Those notes clash pretty jarringly, and I think that the removal or at least toning down of the incense would improve this a lot. Fortunately, the incense notes fade relatively quickly, and what's left is a papyrus/vetiver fragrance that I would best describe as "meh." The vetiver in this is a clean one and when coupled with the leftover mango/berry notes, it gives a bit of brightness to the papyrus/wood notes, but the real issue is with that papyrus note. It smells more like treated paper rather than papyrus. The kind of paper that you load into a printer or copier. It starts off smelling niche, and by the time this dries down, it resembles inexpensive designer fare, something along the lines of Encre Noir Sport (2013).

I'll give Duchaufour credit where it's due in the sense that he certainly wasn't following a paint-by-numbers formula, but ultimately the end result is a confusing jumble that ends up being a paper tiger. It's not bad enough to give this a thumbs down, but it certainly teeters close to that edge. Though I'll give this a neutral, I would pass on this one.
22nd November, 2019
I've heard a lot of things about Timbuktu but I've never really tried anything like it, so I wasn't sure what I was in for. I can see the merit, and I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy it, but I don't know if this one is for me. The incense gives it a dry smokey quality. I particularly enjoyed that same quality in Margiela's By the Fireplace. However in that scent the smoke was balanced with smooth marshmallow sweetness. Here the smoke is mostly the standout, and the other notes give additional herbal, sour, or earthy vibes, none of which are particularly pleasant to my nose. I was hoping the mango might come in a bit stronger to soften things, but no such luck. Not bad, just not for me.
05th October, 2019
A super clean vetiver crisp fresh incense. Light and bright. A little bit woody. A little bit sour. Very unique / unusual but definitely pleasant. Difficult to imagine the right situation for it - for me, it's too fresh and not rich enough for evenings out, but it's a bit too exotic for the office - it mellows though, so I might try it a few times to see how much of a distraction it is!

Update: this stuff has really grown on me - I wear it to the office a lot. Definitely in my top 3 Vetivers along side TdHP and Vetiver Fatale (the latter is very clean and fresh and almost too metallic in colder weather which is where Timbuktu really comes into its own - clean and fresh but also with a slight spiciness and warmth). Uprating from 4 to 5.
18th September, 2019 (last edited: 05th October, 2019)

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