Admission: I was a clandestine gasoline sniffer. As a child, whenever I filled the gas tank of the lawn mower or outboard motor, I’d save, and sniff, the cotton rags I’d use to mop up the gas can; those gasoline-drenched rags smelled heavenly to me. Enter: Histoires de Parfums Pétroleum (by perfumer Gerald Ghislain). In the Pétroleum PR materials, reference is made to “Black Gold”…and I’m not sure if that’s describing oud or petroleum (both would qualify for that title, I guess, and both aromas are present in Pétroleum).
Pétroleum includes fragrance notes of oud, bergamot, orange, aldehydes, rose, amber, civet absolute, leather, patchouli and white musk; the fragrance opens with strong aldehydes tinged with orange and smooth, almost powdery, leather. As this rather “lush” opening subsides, I detect the “petrol” aspect of the fragrance.
As I said in my Top 10 Spring Fragrances post, Pétroleum reminds me of lawnmower fumes wafting over a summer garden. These fumes are far from harsh; they are “balmy”…as if you’d dabbed some gasoline “cologne” onto your skin and let it dry in the sun (not recommended!) as you sat next to a rose bed in full bloom. After this petroleum phase (a masterful oud ‘arrangement’), Pétroleum provides warm, subdued aromas of patchouli and gentle amber-leather-oud with a hint of muskiness (civet more prominent than white musk at first, but just by a ‘spark’). Rose is certainly present in Pétroleum but not in the hackneyed rose-oud formulation we’ve all grown tired of in the last five years; Pétroleum’s rose is dense, but well blended into the other notes.
I do have one complaint: why include cheap-smelling white musk in Pétroleum? White musk, often smelling cloyingly sweet (like cotton candy), laundry-esque, and “dumb” has ruined some recent fragrances for me. In Pétroleum it’s not so obnoxious as in other fragrances I’ve tried (Le Labo Santal 33 for one) but I wish it had been left out completely. Pétroleum’s white mush (I mean “musk!”) arrives after four hours on my skin and I destroy it by simply reapplying Pétroleum at the point I begin to smell white musk. Thankfully, the white musk in Pétroleum stays very close to the skin.
As I let others try this scent, I noticed men found it “funny,” “cool” and “awesome,” while women were not thrilled. I certainly think Pétroleum is unisex but it veers towards masculine perfume territory.
Pétroleum has very good lasting power and sillage, and for those of us who love the smell of gasoline, sniffing Pétroleum is safer, and healthier, than lingering at the gas pump.
Histoires de Parfums Pétroleum is $175 for 60 ml Absolu de Parfum; for buying information see the listing for Histoires de Parfums under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image [altered] via Wikimedia Commons.