Imagine, that somewhere, far away from here, in the middle of no-where in deep desolation there is a secret monastery. Perfectly hidden from curious eyes of normal people, a small group of monks wake up as soon as the Sun rises and begin their prayer. After a very special breakfast which comes after a few hours of praising the Lord in heaven, they gather around, each holding a piece of dark wood in their hand. One after another they put a piece of wood on fire… The rituals begin…
This is the kind of image I envision while smelling Palo Santo, the newest creation from Carner Barcelona. Having a high fondness for this Spanish brand and having in mind that I enjoyed all previous creations signed with their name I was really looking forward to discovering their 6th perfume. During Pitti Fragranze I had a perfect chance to do that with assistance of Joaquim Carner. As I was smelling it, Joaquim kept explaining the concept and background of this scent.
On my skin Palo Santo has a slightly sharp inauguration which disappears after 30 seconds leading to a slightly liquorish aroma of rum. Slightly reminiscent of how El Born begins on my skin, the new creation quickly changes its trajectory becoming a totally different fragrance. The liquory accord of rum lacks the prominent sweetness of molasses as well as it doesn’t bring characteristic booze to the scent. It’s alcoholic but at few hours mark it feels as someone has thrown a handful of random spices into this blend. Dry, piquant davana is the one that is especially dominating here. Luckily it’s not especially overpowering, you can still easily smell the rum.
interesting thing happens after 15 minutes. That’s when Palo Santo shifts completely revealing a delightful milky accord. It’s so full-bodied, kind of carnal in its character due to co-existence of other notes. This is a really warm but not boiling pot of milk. This note has a decent level of sweetness and richness. Apart from the obvious lactonic, almost creamy vibe coming from milk I smell other aromas as well. For example I smell warm and inviting aroma of liquid gold – honey, as well as a pleasant spiciness that would suggest the presence of star anise. Neither honey nor anise are officially here so they might as well not be a part of this perfume. I’m just telling what I smell.
After some time has passed this milky aroma gains a rich and tasty vanilla flavor. Addition of vanilla at this specific point of Palo Santo development kind of transforms the milky drink into a delightful cup of pudding. As I smell it I can feel how hunger for a little sweet treat is growing in me. A little further into fragrance development and the entire composition receives an aromatic edge as soon as tonka bean joins the composition. To me it’s the most multi-faceted note in new Carner Barcelona perfume. First of all it’s incredibly sensual in its creamy and sweet aroma. On the other hand it’s a carrier of muted spiciness that gently shimmers in the background. Finally there is something crunchy, roasted and nutty about this material. I’m a fan of good tonka. This one is enchanting.
After around 2 hours all these delightfully sweet and creamy notes become weaker and Palo Santo develops some incredibly good solidity and more structure. Woody phase of this composition comes gradually after tonka and other notes so it’s obvious that it’s still the same perfume. At the same time it smells some different comparing to initial 2 hours that it could easily serve as a separate perfume. Woody aroma of guaiac wood is solid and substantive here. You can almost feel the weight of this chord and its rugged surface.
As woody notes become stronger I can sense how the mysterious darkness starts to engulf this fragrance. At a certain point, closer to the end of 4th hour the note begin to warm up and becomes more and more smoky. One moment and wood starts to burn with flame. It’s small at the beginning but it grows bigger as it continues to devour the piece of wood, centimeter by centimeter. You can still smell a bit of sweetness in the background and if you combine it with almost incensy aroma of wood and ash it even might smell a bit like liquorice. After some time this smoky aspect of guaiac wood subsides and other woods: cedar, sandalwood plus vetiver are much brighter. They still smell very dry but are not dark and their surface is more smooth. Mystery is an attribute of Palo Santo.
Flames on wood are dancing vigorously, slowly devouring what once used to be a branch. Fragrant smoke rises in the air bringing the aura of mysticism while wooden ashes cover the floor. The ritual will last until the final candle in the chamber have burned out. Palo Santo, sacred wood (spanish) – ideal proposition for autumn that has already begun. This creation developed for Carner by Shyamala Maisondieu is the integral part of the brand, matching style and aesthetics of earlier five perfumes. Peaceful and cozy on one side, mysterious and wide-awake on the other side. On me it lasted for a whole day and stayed closer than farther from the skin. It seemed more than right to me.