Nathalie Lorson created Carbone de Balmain in 2010, and it got some nice attention for bottle design at the Fifi’s, and some attention for the juice itself at the Duftstars. Kevin reviewed it recently at Now Smell This, and it was his description of it that captured my imagination. See, Poivre 23 is one of my Holy Grail scents, and it too was created by Lorson. The two perfumes share similar notes… and I did that thing that I emphatically tell everyone else not to do: blind buy. I bought it unsniffed: a 100mL, gigantic, lifetime-supply-size bottle of the stuff, with nothing but a well-written review to go on.
How’d that work out for ‘ya, you’d like to know?
Well, it’s not Poirve 23. But I didn’t expect it to be. There isn’t a hundreds-of-dollars price difference just because Le Labo has neat bottles that they write your name on. The Balmain release is an “exclusive*” release, and the formula probably cost a fraction of that used to make the super-ultra-exclusive-niche P23. Also, Carbone is an EDT, while the other is in parfum concentration. Differences I was well aware of before clicking “buy it now.”
There’s vanilla, fig-leaf, pepper, vetiver—in that order. A waxy element reminds me of Bulgari Black—mostly in that it’s an “oddball vanilla.” There’s a scratchy vibe that runs through Carbone that texturally reminds me of Poivre 23, although in P23 it’s fine-grit sandpaper, while in Carbone it’s a fine-toothed hacksaw (not at all a bad thing). It’s spicy, although weightless compared to the damask density of P23, and quite dry.
I marinated in Carbone over the weekend, and found that one spritz is good, but three or four is much better. The sillage is low (1-2 feet), and the lasting power is good for an EDT.
CdB is destined to be our “Travel-to-Texas” scent, and I think it will suit it’s purpose well: interesting, yet easy to wear. Mr. Howe has given it the seal of approval.
I bought my bottle from an online discounter for a little under $50.
*sold at fewer doors than a “prestige” (mass market) release.