You can’t always judge a fragrance merely from spraying it on a test strip. I wasn’t moved by Isfarkand on paper, but when I sprayed it on my arm, it came alive. The pepper and the citrus notes blended amiably, and while the former faded after a few minutes, the latter developed into a cool lime but without the sourness. It was really quite remarkable.
But as Tania Sanchez notes in Perfumes: The A to Z Guide, those top notes don’t last nearly long enough. Now, an hour or so in, the lime is gone and it’s clear that there was something else working in the background, something even cooler. It could be the cedar and iris that are listed as heart notes, but I suspect there’s more. Am I detecting those notes working with the vetiver and moss basenotes? I’ll have to reference those notes individually to see what comes through.
I’m reminded of a wonderful scent I get from horseradish infused vodka when I smell Isfarkand after the top notes. It’s not the burning sinuses sensation you get from drinking the horseradish, but the smell of it in the glass.
I love the top notes, but so far I only like the middle. This is still a “cool” scent, and on a cold day in New York, it seems slightly out of place. It’s like a distant, wealthy and cultured cousin to some of the popular mass-market sporty/blue/water men’s fragrances. There’s also a faint floral edge to it that may be the iris.
When I smell it again at the five-hour mark, I’m hit by how fresh it is. Not quite earthy, but organic nonetheless. Again, that fresh lightness seems wrong for the season, like drinking an icy margarita in the dead of winter. I’d like to try it on in the heat of mid-summer. The notes listed in the materials Ormonde Jayne sent me are:
top: lime oil, mandarin, pink pepper, and bergamot.
heart: cedar and iris.
base: vetiver and moss.
I prefer Ormonde Jayne’s Ormonde Man (which I’ll review soon) to Isfarkand—it too has pink pepper and bergamot in the top notes and vetiver in the base, but it’s much warmer and more suitable to the season. The company sent me sample vials of them, along with a large container of Isfarkand shampoo/body wash (£28, or $45), which is quite refreshing and light, but again, much better for warm weather.
Compare Isfarkand to Escentric 01 by Escentric Molecules. It’s as if perfumer Geza Schoen (who was involved with Ormonde Jayne in some capacity, from what I’ve read) took Isfarkand and his first Escentric Molecules fragrance, Molecule 01 (which was nothing but the chemical Iso E Super), and mashed them together. Escentric 01 is 65% Iso E Super, which has a pleasant woody aroma, and at least two of the components of Isfarkand: pink pepper and green lime. If you love Isfarkand, you’ll like Molecule 01, but as some people have noted, Isfarkand is more dynamic.
On the Ormonde Jayne website, Isfarkand is £70 for 50ml (1.7oz), which is about $110 as I write this. Another, less expensive option is the travel kit: four 10ml vials for £56 ($90). Unfortunately, the company doesn’t have stores or sellers in the U.S. currently, but they do ship to the U.S. from their U.K. online store.