Aesop Marrakech : Fragrance Review



Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

A dark spicy oriental paired with a name evoking exotic and distant locales is an alluring combination. Marrakech speaks of the camel trails in the dessert, the noise of spice markets and the opulent scent of nightblooming jasmine hanging in the warm evening air. The romanticism of these images is distilled into the fragrances that comprise Serge Lutens range, however Aesop Marrakech is a raw take, a blast of hot dessert wind, rather than a delicate breeze carrying the scented secrets of the Middle Eastern palaces.

Marrakech, created by Australian company Aesop, is a fragrance composed solely of the non-synthetic ingredients. Spice and wood oils are combined into a linear fragrance that rather than developing from one stage into the next merely fades, its initial burning sensation becoming muted over time. It is a scent that might actually fill a place someplace in Morocco, rather than a dream-like vision of it. Thus, Marrakech is the heavy and pungent smell of the lane where medicinal wares are traded along with attars.

The camphorous sharpness of clove rises in unison with the resinous facets of cardamom, underpinned by the pungency of patchouli. The effect has a sharp and raw sensation akin to catching a whiff of Tiger balm.

The fragrance mellows significantly after the initial spicy sharpness, however it retains a heavy and dark aspect. The density of sandalwood endows the composition with the opaque and sonorous quality. Nevertheless, that aspect would not have been problematic, given the fact that patchouli with its uplifting and effervescent earthiness counterbalances the effect to a degree. However, the lack of softness is makes Marrakech a difficult composition to wear. The resinous dryness that fades slowly has a one-dimensional flat quality, with the fragrance reminding me either of the attar blend guests are anointed with during the Hindu weddings or the baptismal oil of the Orthodox church. Either scent is evocative and interesting; however smelling of it on daily basis is a whole another matter.

The booklet that accompanies Marrakech provides information on the creation of the fragrance as well as a thorough instruction on how to enjoy and apply it, which I would take to be tongue in cheek, since in that light it is rather entertaining. For one thing, one is recommended to apply Marrakech “eleven minutes before expected encounters,” which certainly is out of a question given my level of time management. Then, one is told to “reapply at every opportunity,” which is a doubtful advice, given the strength and the tenacity of the fragrance. Expected encounters might not materialize at this rate. Moreover, the booklet encourages having assistance during the application, with the Eau de Toilette “caressed over the skin concentrating on the nape of the neck, temples and arms.” Now, that was clearly an oversight on my part.

Notes include Patchouli oil, Neroli oil, Cardamom oil, Rose otto, Bergamot oil, Jasmine absolute, Clove oil, Sandalwood oil.

Photo of spices from Plant-biology.



  • Viktor Nilsson: Your mentioning of Tiger Balm made me curious, though. I love the smell of Tiger Balm! December 20, 2005 at 6:29am Reply

  • Judith (lilybp): Oh, dear! And Luca Turin liked it so much! Never mind–I NEED lemmings killed. Welcome back; I missed you every morning:) December 20, 2005 at 6:56am Reply

  • Sisonne: V, welcome back! I was so curious about Marrakech, but now your review makes me wonder how much I´ll like it…Tiger Balm surely isn´t among my favourite smells 😉
    It´s really hard to find Marrakech somewhere – as you´ve mentioned it´s only available at some salespoints worldwide & a location in Germany isn´t among them.
    So I have to wait patiently until I get the chance to test it! December 20, 2005 at 7:11am Reply

  • annE: Welcome back, V! Sorry to be late to the party. My mornings weren’t the same without you. 🙂
    Thanks for killing another lemming; I still want to sample this, but luckily, the passionate intensity to do so has abated.
    That booklet sounds like a collector’s item in the making! December 20, 2005 at 8:34am Reply

  • Victoria’s Own: Great Review! Welcome back, not that you want to be. I can totally relate to that!

    Ok, the eleven minute rule is pretty amusing, especially for life in California.
    Victoria O December 20, 2005 at 3:39am Reply

  • Robin: Dear V, thank you so much for this review. Between your comments & Bela’s review the other day on MUA, my lemming has breathed its last. Love the eleven minutes!! Set your timers… December 20, 2005 at 9:47am Reply

  • Laura: Camel trails? Medicinal? One dimensional and flat? Lack of softness? Why do I think this won’t be among my future (or yours, for that matter) purchases? This is so funny. And, V, you must stop those oversights immediately! December 20, 2005 at 5:23am Reply

  • linda: Great review! I am still laughing over the 11 min rule. It’s nice when marketing copy writers have a sense of humor. 🙂 December 20, 2005 at 10:52am Reply

  • paru: I can appreciate the comparison to the attar blend used to anoint guests at Hindu weddings. Fragrant indeed but not something I’d want to routinely experience. I don’t think my nose could handle it! December 20, 2005 at 10:54am Reply

  • mreenymo: This is one of the few times that I can honestly say, V, that I am glad this fragrance is not easily obtainable! :):)Your description is beautiful as always, but those notes do not capture my fancy.

    Hugs! December 20, 2005 at 11:58am Reply

  • Prince Barry: A friend was in Liberty and she put some on a tester strip. She ended up throwing the strip away because the scent from it was just too strong and pungent. December 20, 2005 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Evan: “Thus, Marrakech is the heavy and pungent smell of the lane where medicinal wares are traded along with attars.

    The camphorous sharpness of clove rises in unison with the resinous facets of cardamom, underpinned by the pungency of patchouli. The effect has a sharp and raw sensation akin to catching a whiff of Tiger balm.”

    In my experience, this is the odor profile of EVERY “all-natural” perfume.

    I won’t say anything more, as I wish to avoid another battle the likes of the recent one at Luca Turin’s site. At least the booklet makes it sound as if the makers of this blend have a sense of humor. Anything in there about the “inevitable yellow rose”? 😉 December 20, 2005 at 8:17am Reply

  • Tania: Excellent review, and very funny! A good instruction booklet is worth a lot. The specificity of ‘eleven minutes’ is particularly winning. Heaven knows when you’re heading for an encounter, you’ve got to keep one eye on the clock and the other on your atomizer.

    I know L loved this, but I didn’t think it sounded like something I needed to seek out at all costs, and now you’ve confirmed that this is the case.

    It does sound like it could be a terrific ‘costume’ scent, though, if not for everyday wear. Or am I the only one who does that? (I matched Ambre Sultan to my pirate costume a couple of years ago, and it was a smash hit.) Hmm, I wonder what sort of costume Marrakech would go with… December 20, 2005 at 8:21am Reply

  • Tania: Evan: It doesn’t sound like there’s a ‘hegemonic vanilla’ to fear.

    (Explanation: We are joking about the booklet put out by Italian fragrance outfit Il Profumo, sold at Takashimaya, whose scents are just OK niche things, but whose marketing copy contains a most ambitious breed of Engrish, utterly lacking in what today’s A-Word-A-Day mailing calls Sprachgefuhl. The booklet writers seemed determined not to let their ignorance of idiomatic English prevent them from going for the exciting turn of phrase, and that, my friends, makes all the difference.) December 20, 2005 at 8:58am Reply

  • Bela: That’s exactly how I felt about it, V! Did you get a ‘booklet’? I only got a brown ‘postcard’ with that hilarious blurb printed in the minutest of fonts, which my old eyes found very difficult to decipher. Perhaps Marrakech is only for people who weren’t yet adults in the ’70s and therefore don’t mind smelling like hippies, man!

    I especially love the advice to splash it in the palms of one’s clean hands, considering the exorbitant price of the stuff. And the cellaring for deserving offspring. LOL!

    Robin, you must have such a busy life: it was only ‘yesterday’. 🙂 December 20, 2005 at 10:02am Reply

  • Bela: PS. Tania, the blurb on the Marrakech postcard (I will keep it and flog it on eBay in a few years’ time since it already is a collector’s item apparently) is in perfect, idiomatic English – although written by Australians (j/k); however it spells Mediterranean with two Ts and one R. Aaargh! December 20, 2005 at 10:16am Reply

  • Tania: Bela: If you had seen this booklet for Il Profumo, you would have died laughing. 🙂 But yes, it sounds like the Aesop people are just having a good time. December 20, 2005 at 10:19am Reply

  • marina: Well, the lemming is pretty much dead. Thank you, V, one less thing to lem(m?). 🙂 I would much rather a romaticized version of Marrakech than soemthing that smells like the actual thing/place 🙂 December 20, 2005 at 10:38am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: V, thank you. I especially do not want to be snowed in, so actually I was musing on the trip to CA. 🙂 Yes, the eleven minute rule really made me smile. That kind of organization simply does not work for me. December 20, 2005 at 11:23am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, you are right, I probably will not add it to my collection, and I doubt you would too. It actually softened and became more pleasant, however the initial spiced muscle rub effect was just too much. December 20, 2005 at 11:30am Reply

  • Tara: This was hilarious, thank you for the much-needed laugh today! And thank you for killing another one of my lemmings. Will probably still sniff it at Colette next month, but don’t anticipate a purchase. 🙂 December 20, 2005 at 4:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Viktor, I actually like the smell of Tiger Balm, although wearing it as perfume is not something I would do. However, Marrakech does not really smell of Tiger Balm, it is really much softer and sweeter than that. The resinous, camphorous effect I got with it initially is what prompted the comparison. December 20, 2005 at 11:36am Reply

  • Bela: I wish I’d seen the booklet for Il Profumo. Shame! I could do with another good laugh today.

    I don’t think one is supposed to take anything Aesop are saying in their blurb seriously – the Australians are such jokers. As I said in my post on MUA yesterday they’re probably trying to anaesthetize the customer with laughter so she doesn’t quite realize how much money she’s forking out for the stuff. December 20, 2005 at 12:14pm Reply

  • Tania: Bela, if you need a laugh, try I just stopped by for the first time in a while, and I was busting up. 😉 December 20, 2005 at 12:18pm Reply

  • Katie: Bela, when you tire of, I love this site which tackles people who don’t speak Chinese and/or Japanese getting the language wrong and then TATOOING it on themselves. Heh. There are some truly hilarious phrases folks have stuck onto their skin: December 20, 2005 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Bela: T and K, how cruel! How *can* you laugh at those poor, unfortunate people whose command of foreign languages is so tenuous! ROTLF! *off to have a look – and a laugh* December 20, 2005 at 2:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, wonderful to see you too! I like spicy fragrances (like Opium, Idole, Tea for Two, Cinnabar), but I like more complexity in my spices. December 20, 2005 at 4:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: C, it is too heavy and linear. The sharpness makes me think of oils sold at health food stores, and the initial reaction I had to Marrakech was a shock. It softened, but I still did not grow to appreciate it. December 20, 2005 at 4:16pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Evan, you can read the rest of the pamphlet on the website. It is well-written (unlike Il Profumo), but it sounds like something tongue in cheek. I appreciate it for that. December 20, 2005 at 4:18pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, Ambre Sultan and the pirate costume sound like a great combination! Marrakech would suit a Bedouin costume, I suppose, or an Egyptian mummy, particularly since LT compared it to embalming fluid and I would have to agree.

    As for the eleven minutes, I guess your date better be punctual. 🙂 I do like this humourous element though, and that alone makes the booklet/card worth seeking out. December 20, 2005 at 4:22pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Ann, it is worth sampling, and perhaps you might like it better than I did.

    Thank you. It is nice to be back home, of course, however I already miss Paris. December 20, 2005 at 4:23pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tania, hegemonic vanilla mention is just about the only way I have found so far of combining polisci and perfume! December 20, 2005 at 4:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, yes, one is better be well-prepared. 🙂 I think that here patchouli is rather strong, and this fact alone might make Marrakech unpalatable for you, however I may be wrong. December 20, 2005 at 4:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Bela, the postcard was very difficult to read. Moreover, Aesop website has the entire blurb included. Yes, I also liked the advice on cellaring the fragrance for the lucky offsprings. I guess that I am not that far-sighted. December 20, 2005 at 4:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Bela, I noticed the spelling of Mediterranean and I immediately thought of you! December 20, 2005 at 4:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, I wish more brochures were entertaining. I also wish I snatched that Il Profumo catalogue from Tak, however the lady did not allow me. I think that she was not pleased at how much fun we were having at the expensive of “inevitable rose” and “hegemonic vanilla.” December 20, 2005 at 4:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, I am with you. Even though I can bear reality, in my fragrance, I prefer to have romantic visions. December 20, 2005 at 4:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, thank you. I agree with you. My own sense of humour ranges from dry to sophomoric, so things like this appeal to me. December 20, 2005 at 4:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: P, I loved the smell during the ceremony, as it added a special touch, but wearing it on daily basis might be too much. Attars are beautiful, but hardly easy to carry off. December 20, 2005 at 4:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I was attracted to the notes, but the end result was not what I would have liked. Nevertheless, I guess that it will make its way to the States sooner or later. December 20, 2005 at 4:38pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Barry, I wanted to try it in the privacy of my home first, however the SA at Colette applied it on my hand, and for the whole day the scent was with me. So, it is definitely tenacious. December 20, 2005 at 4:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Bela, yes, it is rather expensive. I did not even realize that the small bottle I saw at Colette was the actual fragrance bottle one can buy rather than a tester. It is only 10ml, however it is the parfum concentration. December 20, 2005 at 4:42pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, ok, I am in tears after looking at this site. This is just hilarious:

    See, my sophomoric sense of humour comes out right now. December 20, 2005 at 4:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, oh, that is interesting, especially since I was talking to a friend recently who complained that he is tired of seeing tatoo parlours providing wrong Chinese characters and translations. Luckily, I never wanted to get a tatoo. December 20, 2005 at 4:53pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Bela, is still my favourite. I just cannot stop laughing. December 20, 2005 at 4:53pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Tara, I would be curious what you think. However, at the very least, I am glad that my review made you laugh. 🙂 December 20, 2005 at 4:54pm Reply

  • Bela: Drat, V, I spent ages typing out the blurb yesterday: never thought it was there, on their website. What a b***** waste of time! LOL!

    I’ve just laughed my head off reading stuff on Wonderful! December 20, 2005 at 9:12pm Reply

  • MC: Hi Victoria,

    Glad you had fun in Paris. I tried Marrakesh recently too, and I wasn’t impressed. Smells like an aromatherapist’s kit bag. December 21, 2005 at 2:52am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, no! Well, I did not realize that it was on the site at first either, however when I was searching for the retail venues, I went to there and discovered that marketing copy. is absolutely hilarious. How does Tania find these gems? December 20, 2005 at 10:51pm Reply

  • Anya: V, I once made a joke to an Australian distiller who was thinking of getting into perfumery using Aussie oils that they would make great decongestants. Anything with clove or camphor isn’t for me, the clove reminds me of using clove oil on a toothache, and the camphor, well, yes, Tiger Balm. Still, Luca loved this perfume, so who knows who to trust with perfume recs anymore? 😉

    Engrish– haven’t been there in years! I submitted some stuff to him many years ago. Now I see he has an Engrish book, and all I have to say is “where are my royalties”?! LOL! December 21, 2005 at 9:45am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mike, thank you! It was a very nice trip. Yes, your description is not too far off. I was not tempted by it. December 21, 2005 at 10:18am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Anya, the camphorous element is not the most assertive, although it is there. Clove is a difficult note for me, because I find it overwhelming in large amounts. As for who to trust, I do not know. Probably the best policy is to sample yourself.

    Oh, engrish even has a book? That was unexpected. December 21, 2005 at 10:20am Reply

  • peterpills: Anya:
    I once made a joke to an Australian distiller who was thinking of getting into perfumery using Aussie oils that they would make great decongestants.

    As an Aussie I must introduce you to a floral fragrance, as exciting as jasmine (without the Bois of course). It is brown boronia, (Boronia megastigma) a plant we buy in a $3 pot and keep near the front door, for its heady but not cloying fragrance. I think the commercial oils would be accurate. October 2, 2006 at 1:56am Reply

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