Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Review & Comparison: Byredo Bal d'Afrique - Pal Zileri Viaggio d'Africa

Initially, I thought I'd simply do a review on Byredo's Bal d'Afrique, but when I was researching while trying to decide whether I wanted to take my chances on a blind buy, I saw that Pal Zileri's Viaggio d'Africa was proclaimed as nearly identical to Bal d'Afrique. So, I thought it'd be a good opportunity to do a double review in the form of comparison.

BDA Notes:

Top: bergamot, lemon, neroli, african marigold, bucchu
Middle: violet, jasmine, cyclamen
Base: black amber, musk, vetiver, moroccan cedarwood

VDA Notes:

Top: citruses (unspecified)
Middle: jasmine, iris
Base: tonka, guaiac wood, vetiver, cedarwood
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Freshly sprayed, BDA presents itself as very juicy. I've often seen others refer to this as a pineapple accord, but as you can see in the note list, pineapple isn't in this composition. Often, we describe an olfactive experience with scent descriptors that we're already accustomed to, and pineapple is something that nearly everyone has smelled. However, what is likely giving the pineapple-esque smell is the marigold. This, with the combination of lots of citrus, and a bit of bucchu (black currant scent) makes for a very fruity-feeling opening, which may leave you a bit confused (I was). That isn't to say that the opening isn't pleasant, it's only curious when you go into the experience knowing that this is a vetiver-based fragrance.

As for the freshly sprayed VDA, contrary to BDA, juiciness isn't it's forte. I catch a hint of what the opening of BDA presents, enough that I can understand the comparison, but they are very different. VDA is quite woody, with a possible squeeze of citrus. Although guaiac wood is listed as a base note, I find that it's most prominent in the opening. The tonka base may also be lending a small portion of it's sweet scent to the top notes.

While BDA's top notes skip off into the sunset, it's juiciness lingers in the breeze, just enough to keep it bright and sweet without veering into Bath & Body Works body spray territory. At this stage, BDA really won me over, it gains a warmth and clean sophistication that keeps my nose stuck to my wrist; likely from the amber and musk. As with many fragrances that aren't clearly floral dominant, I don't pick on any single floral note, but I fully believe florals do play a role here (if only minor). I don't pick up any discernible vetiver yet.

VDA is often described as having a coffee vibe, which I can appreciate, but don't fully agree with. The tonka/guaiac wood combination are the likely suspects in the coffee-ness that many smell. At this point, like BDA, VDA has smells that are lingering from the top. Guaiac wood is still very much apparent, but there is more tonka, and a hint of flowers. Vetiver is also trying to sneak in now.

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Now, as BDA settles in, I can detect a bit more of the florals, and a smattering of vetiver. It's still very warm and clean, but vetiver is sort of an afterthought. BDA won't be the fragrance you reach for if you're craving a heavy dose of vetiver. However, it's wonderful. Really, really wonderful. VDA offers a more vetiver-enriched dry down. It relaxes into a warm, woody, slightly powdery scent.

In experiencing the scent journey of each of these fragrances, I would say that they are certainly not twins, or even siblings. Maybe second cousins would be appropriate. One will not replace the other. Both are very wearable and very nice, VDA leans to a more masculine edge, and the projection is greater than BDA, but only slightly. BDA is slightly more feminine and light, not likely to project as much. VDA also slightly excels in longevity. Furthermore, I think VDA would be most appropriate in autumn, and BDA is more seasonally versatile.

Byredo Bal d'Afrique retails from $110-220, the nose behind this fragrance is Jerome Epinette

Longevity: 2/5 (lower side)
Projection: 2/5

Pal Zileri Viaggio d'Africa retails from $40-60

Longevity: 2/5 (higher side)
Projection: 2/5

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