Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
The striking feature of L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu, a dry composition of woods, vetiver and incense, is its incredible radiance. The fragrance has a marvelous soaring quality, from the top notes of pepper and citrus to the earthy drydown of patchouli and musk. It is as if the dark, dense notes are interspersed with fresh, effervescent layers, resulting in a fragrance that combines the rich warmth of cognac with the shimmery brightness of champagne.
Timbuktu was created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour in 2004 as part of L’Artisan’s voyage collection, and was inspired by his travels in Mali, Africa. The fragrance is built as a classical composition of dry woods, with vetiver, sandalwood and patchouli forming a beautiful triptych. This vivid combination sets the prelude for Timbuktu, with pepper and grapefruit lending it an appealing freshness. Yet surprisingly, the freshness expands further as the composition dries down. It is not the conventional note of citrus or generic lavender, but rather the brightness of wood sap and sweet pine resin. As Timbuktu changes on the skin from spicy incense to smoky woods, its freshness takes on a beguiling and sensual character. In the late drydown, Timbuktu is remarkably similar to the sweet and salty intimacy of warm skin.
Of all L’Artisan fragrances, Timbuktu is by far the most innovative and memorable. It achieves not only a sustained radiance and great diffusion, but also evolves beautifully. Every time I wear it, I find something else to admire about this simple, yet remarkably polished fragrance—a rich note of incense, the chilly burst of green herbal notes, the seductive caress of vanilla. A similar contrast was later explored by Terre d’Hermès, a runaway commercial success for Jean-Claude Ellena. Timbuktu has a darker, moodier beauty about it, however, which never fails to move me. It is my fragrance of choice for days whenever I want something androgynous, yet with a brooding, dramatic character.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu (fragrance family: dry woods) includes notes of pink pepper, green mango, coffee bush flower, karo karounde, cumin, myrrh, patchouli, vetiver, musk, incense, and vanilla. It is worth exploring if you enjoy Tom Ford Tuscan Leather, Comme des Garçons Tea (Series 1 Leaves), Jo Malone 154 and vetiver rich fragrances. The L’Artisan line is available from Aedes, Beautycafe, Beautyhabit, and Luckyscent, as well as Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, and Neiman Marcus.
Sample: my own acquisition.