Byredo are an unusual, and incredibly cool, brand. We first came across them a couple of years ago when strolling the streets of Talin, Estonia, we came stumbling across an excellent and friendly perfume house right in the centre of the city. Three things on this:
- Upon reflection this perfume house may be Fragrance Gallery but it’s a while ago now and a quick check on their website doesn’t show them as listing the two brands they introduced me to: Byredo and DS and Durga, so I might be wrong. If you are in that part of the world though it’s worth checking them out just in case.
- Talin is beautiful, you should definitely visit if you have the chance.
- Yes, this does seem a bit like a humble brag, I agree. Apologies.
Back to the review…
Byredo were founded in 2006 by Ben Gotham who, from the looks of the ‘about us’ page, is just the darn tooting coolest person ever: those tattoos, that icy stare, the highlighting of the fact that he is originally from Sweden.
Gorham enlisted the noses of Olivia Giacobetti and Jerome Epinette to concoct the Byredo range of distilled coolness so that you too can be a fraction as trendy as he is. I wonder about these ghost-noses sometimes, how does the process work? Is the process collaborative? Does the main guy just put his name to their fragrance? Do they actually do the hard graft? Do they get the credit they deserve?
That said though, as a brand Byredo have some really interesting things to say. Their fragrances are unusual, off the beaten track, sometimes challenging to wear but fascinating nevertheless. They also have a large product line, with something like 29 different scents shown on their website.
Bal D’Afrique is listed as one of Byredo’s bestsellers, and it’s no surprise given that it is probably the most commercially viable and easy to understand perfume in their range. Other interesting scents from their line are Rose of No Man’s Land, Gypsy Water and the marvellously named Mister Marvelous (with one l).
The top of this perfume is energetic. It’s a burst of dry, pressed flowers and a beefy lemon, which has a dense, thick smell like it’s lemon oil rather than just a lemon extract. The flowers you get are very clearly marigold, which is good considering they’re listed in the scent notes. Marigold is an interesting flower in a perfume. It is floral but there is a real edge to it, a bitter greenness that cuts that sweetness. I also think marigold has a slightly acrid, ammonia-like tang to it at times. It’s the flower equivalent of sniffing a grapefruit, sweet and citrusy but tangy and bitter at the same time.
The top notes of this perfume are reminiscent of the scent of the very yellow centre of marguerite daisies, which is a bit of a specific reference to make, but which if you smelt them as a child like I did, you will totally be able to understand the fragrance I’m on about.
The middle of this perfume is marigolds in a dry, dusty field. There’s a definite warmth to the scent and a dryness which goes nicely with the marigold’s lushness and hints of green. Bergamot starts to come through here as well, but again, that tempers the florals and stops them becoming overpowering.
I don’t get any of the ingredients listed on the scent notes (cyclamen, jasmine, violet), at least not distinctly enough to pick them out. There is a pleasant floral wash though under the marigold and bergamot though which is probably their contribution.
It’s hard not to smell this scent and imagine summer, sunshine, holidays and new places to visit. It smells like the colours yellow and orange.
There’s a delicious weight to the base of this perfume. The florals are anchored in place with a sticky, prickly amber that adds a great degree of warmth and longevity to the finish. There’s also musk and a lovely earthy lemony vetiver as well. The scent notes also list cedar wood which I do get hints of but which, for me at least, is eclipsed by the vetiver. I imagine different skins would bring out this to a greater or lesser degree though.
The other stuff
Bal D’Afrique is a cheerful, summery, sunny fragrance. It has a warm glow to it and wearing it is a bit like sunbathing, although hopefully with less skin cancer risks. We would recommend wearing it in Summer, or Spring when you need reminding of what’s on the way.
Bal D’Afrique isn’t slanted particularly at a male or female audience and it is one of those great scents that we can imagine truly suiting people of any gender. Some skin chemistries will emphasise the woody and bitter notes, whilst others will accentuate the citrus and florals. Our best recommendation is to give it a try before you buy. The rather excellent Scent Samples UK do samples in a range of sizes of this fragrance.
Longevity on this scent is also good – very much discernible still by teatime (in the North that’s what we call dinnertime).
Byredo are cool and their packaging is no different, exhibiting a gorgeous minimalism which is surely Scandinavian inspired. The short, round bottles in particular have a gorgeous weight and heft to them and are very tactile, but in that reassuring way that they are heavy enough to brain someone with if you happen to find yourself in an episode of Poirot.
The coolness of the brand comes with a price tag and Byredo isn’t cheap, 50ml of Bal D’Afrique retails for £95. They are definitely a brand to check out though if you are looking for a signature scent and haven’t been able to find it yet. The range alone should give you options.