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Harmattan – woody and resinous and Goldilocks approved – July 22, 2017

Wikimedia Commons - Harmattan wind colours the sky yellow

Seb Esteban, March 6, 2005


I’ve come to have a love/hate relationship with oud. There was a time a while ago when oud was the ‘it’ note, and suddenly ‘it’ seemed to be in just about every fragrance produced. Dark, rich and resinous, when oud is done right it’s almost animalistic in its sensuality and I love it. But, it can also be sharp and medicinal in a way that doesn’t appeal to me. Balance and a deft hand are key when it comes to working with oud. My sister calls this the ‘Goldilocks Effect’ – some fragrances are too ‘oudy’ some aren’t ‘oudy’ enough and some are just right.  This was the mindset I had when I tried Harmattan, part of the Core Collection, from ROADS Fragrance collection, for the first time, and let me tell you it’s just right.

The ROADS Fragrance collection is part of the Roads Luxury Group, the Dublin-based international lifestyle brand launched in 2013 by Danielle Ryan, the granddaughter of Tony Ryan, the founder of Ryanair. In 2014 ROADS introduced ten fragrances, with Harmattan among them.

As a teenager, Ms. Ryan lived in Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Dublin and London. Her experiences in each place inspire the briefs for the ROADS niche fragrances. According to the ROADS website:

‘ROADS Fragrances are created in partnership with some of the most highly regarded perfumers in the industry. The process takes nearly a year of work to fine-tune the exact scent from each brief. During that period, every element is refined to produce the highest of standards, resulting in a complex and multi-layered scent.

It is the briefs, however, that have been the most innovative element to how fragrance creation is approached. Each of our fragrances is based on a specific theme. The theme could be a person, an emotion, a natural phenomenon, a geographical place, a state of mind or a period in recent history.’

Which brings me to Harmattan.

Harmattan is a dry, dusty northeasterly trade wind that blows during the dry season from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. As it moves across the Sahara, it picks up fine dust and sand making the air heavy, blocking the sun and limiting visibility, like a heavy fog does. It is this warm, hazy, atmosphere that inspired Harmattan EdP.

Harmattan opens with a soft, nose-tingling note of bergamot that introduces a note fresh, fragrant lavender. The lavender doesn’t linger long before earthy, woody vetiver appears. Then, there is the oud, rich, musty and heady – it is perfect here and I cannot get enough of it. The oud does linger, with saffron giving it a sweet, hay-like aspect and black pepper giving it a spicy warmth just as tuberose, rose and ylang ylang creep forward all heady and aromatic. The flowers balance the woodiness and give Harmattan an intriguing complexity. At the base, Tonka bean echoes the saffron with its bittersweet almond facet as it settles onto a base of woody, rich of sandalwood along with frankincense, patchouli and myrrh.

It dries down to a dry, warm, woody/resinous skin scent that gives the impression of scents carried over your skin by a dry wind. It’s an exceptional unisex fragrance that satisfied my inner goldilocks and filled a scent-longing in me that I didn’t know I had until I wore it.

Harmattan is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.