Notes: bergamot, lemon, neroli, african marigold, bucchu, violet, jasmin petals, cyclamen, black amber, musk, vetiver, and moroccan cedarwood
I added Byredo’s Bal d’Afrique to my to try list immediately after reading this fantastic interview with the house founder and perfumer, Ben Gorham, on Into the Gloss. The way he discussed translating a memory into a scent had me hooked straight away. I noticed many people recommending Bal d’Afrique, so I made it my first Byredo sample.
And I don’t regret it! This opens with some sharp lemon and neroli. The citrus is bright, but not astringent. I don’t see it listed in the notes, but I sense some spice along the lines of cardamom. The floral bouquet is tangible: I can practically touch the jasmine petals. Yet the bouquet is understated; it’s there to support the bright citrus top-notes, but never taking over the composition.
The odd thing about Bal d’Afrique is its edible quality. It makes me think of lemon squares topped with powdered sugar, or even rice pudding with lemon peel. The woody cedar base adds a salty, nutty flavor. It’s funny, I’m listing all this food and, yet, this is not a gourmand fragrance. It’s not overly sweet, it’s not too citrusy, nor is it obviously salty. Bal d’Afrique is a beautiful blend, perfectly and effortlessly balanced. The fact that there happens to be an edible quality around the edges here just adds interest.
The only drawback is that, on my skin anyway, it’s a bit lightweight. I have to spray liberally to get it to stick, and consequently I blew through my sample pretty quickly. I would have liked to spend more time with this. I’m not quite ready to shell out for a full bottle, but I’m picking up a second sample. For me, I think Bal d’Afrique was a good introduction to Byredo’s line, as there’s some intrigue here but it’s still extremely wearable. I’m looking forward to trying more from this line.
Byredo; Bal d’Afrique $220 for 100 ml // $145 for 50 ml. Available from Barney’s and Byredo.com. I ordered my sample from The Perfumed Court.