Skip to main content

La Fumée Arabie – spicy and woody and smoky

One of my favorite smoky scents is La Fumée by British indie perfume house Miller Harris. I’ve worn it on and off since I first discovered it in 2011 and, dare I say, it is as close to a signature scent for me as I dare to go.

When I wear a scent I like, I like it stay the same. The thought of a beloved fragrance being reformulated gives me the collywobbles. And don’t even get me started on flankers! I don’t get ‘em. It’s the old if-you-love-mashed-potatoes-you’re-going-to-love- mashed-potatoes-with-other-stuff-added-to them-even-more idea. This reasoning didn’t work when my mother tried it on me when I was four years old and it doesn’t work on me now. What if I don’t like the other stuff? What if the potatoes are ruined? Why can’t I just have what I want not what she wants me to have? But, if with gentle coaxing, my mom wore me down and got me to just try it, more often than not I LOVED it. As with the potatoes, I can name, and have written about, quite a few fragrances where I like the reformulations more than the original. As for flankers, some of them can be quite fabulous too, like La Fumée Arabie.

A while back I was sent a package of decants from a scent-friend along with a note saying: ‘I thought you might like to try these. They’re all pretty good, but one is a real stand-out for me. Let me know what you think’. This scent-friend has a great nose and she knows what I like, so I wasted no time checking out what she sent me - decants of Le Fumee flankers: La Fumée Alexandrie, La Fumée Arabie, La Fumée Intense, La Fumée Maroc and La Fumée Ottoman. Is it possible to be elated and disappointed at the same time? If so, I was. La Fumée (mashed potatoes – yaaaay!) other stuff – wah, wah).

There’s an old mother-in-law joke that goes like this: Two cannibals are quietly stirring a big pot of stew over a blazing fire, when one cannibal lets out a big sigh and says: ‘I really hate my mother-in-law’ to which the other cannibal replies, ‘So, just eat the potatoes’.

Taking this sound advice, I decided to focus on the La Fumée aspect of each of the decants. I spritzed, I sprayed, I dabbed and I sniffed and you know what? I found a new fragrance love: La Fumée Arabie. And, I think, maybe, perhaps just possibly, I like it more than La Fumée.

La Fumée Arabie opens with labdanum, fresh at the start then morphing into a warm leathery, richness. It’s flanked by spices: sweet-tinged cardamom, woody coriander and earthy cumin. It’s pungent, aromatic and woody. That labdanum moves to the heart and links with a note of incense. Together they give this EdP a deep, dark richness that really defines the fragrance for me Cedarwood, spicy and resinous, boosts the woodiness of La Fumée Arabie and then there’s the birch tar – it’s burnt rubber aspect is held in check so that it’s smoky more than it is tarry. At the base, oud keeps it resinous and thick. I was pretty happy getting lost in La Fumée Arabie at this stage and then, it got better – yes, better! - with a note of rose – floral, fruity and feminine it adds a note of rich beauty that complements the resinous/smoky/spicy/woodiness of the fragrance. A touch of sweetness from vanilla seals the deal.

La Fumée Arabie is so well-blended, there’s no harshness or sharpness. The woodiness here is dry and rich with a strand of labdanum that goes right to the drydown.

So, I wrote my scent-friend and thanked her for the decants, told her I tried them all and reported that La Fumée Arabie was a winner for me. Turns out it was her least favourite.

I smell a rabbit hole….

La Fumée Arabie is listed in or Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Iamge -