Shaal Nur (Etro)

Shaal Nur starts out with an intense, dry, virile incense. Despite the fact that it's named for a queen, this promises to be a very masculine scent -- fit for a king -- until the rose shows up. Now, while I'm not certain it's proper to assign gender to the scent of a flower (and lord knows there are "masculine" florals, just as there are "feminine" fougères), this is one zaftig rose, hooboy-- it has bosoms and everything! Pink as a maidenly blush, it emerges from that incense smoke and comes toward you smiling, improbably but indubitably a girl.

I can't quibble with it. Love does that to a person.

Other flowers follow, but they seem to be distinguished from that fruity, dewy rose by their pairing with an almost medicinal bouquet of herbs. Picture huge bunches of mixed flora and silvery foliage tied with twine and suspended from the roofbeam to thoroughly dry, and you get the jist.

Throughout the middle progression of Shaal Nur, I detect a terpene-camphor accord arising from the junction of rosemary, patchouli, and thyme. It reminds me of L'Artisan's Aedes de Venustas EdT-- only drier and more aromatic, if that were possible. Out of this desert, our rose continues to bloom, turning drier and airier as time passes. Just as one starts to become more aware of its prickles, its pink deepens like a sunset. The incense that ruled the kickoff and the herbs that command the drydown serve to make the wearer more appreciative and grateful of the blossom suspended between. Finally -- and by finally, I mean a long way from the start -- a delicious sweet amber catches up and brings it all home.

The fact that this sample vial is almost empty while other Etro samples I bought at the same time are still mostly full attests to my addiction. And while I adored its cousin Aedes de Venustas, this one actually has me up at night, pondering the possibility of a full bottle.

Scent Elements: Lemon, mandarin, bergamot, grapefruit, petitgrain, rose, karo karoundé (Leptactina senegambica, African jasmine), coriander, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, patchouli, cedar, rosewood, vetiver, nutmeg, opopanax, incense, musk. Aedes de Venustas adds jonquil, narcissus, pomegranate, tea, myrrh, amber, and vanilla.