Before smelling Etro Rajasthan, I asked my friend Rekha, who grew up in Delhi (and who has visited Rajasthan many times), to describe the aromas of that Indian state. Here are some of her scent memories of Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur:
“Sandalwood incense burning in front of a musician playing the flute, early in the morning; kewra, flavoring a sweet yogurt lassi; Jaipur market, full of spices, car and scooter emissions, cows and stray dogs, a mass of humanity, street vendors selling samosas, chaat, potato cutlets, barbecued meats, garbanzo beans, ice cream, kulfi…messy stuff…all in afternoon heat; jasmine made into garlands for the hair; smoky evening fires burning as dinners are cooked; water being sprinkled on lawns to cool them for evening, activating the scent of earth.”
A heady mix!
I was excited when Etro announced its new India-inspired fragrance (and being really excited about a new perfume release is rare for me these days). Having never been to Rajasthan, my imagination ran wild with the fragrant possibilities. First there were the scents of foods and spices — almonds, condensed milk, jaggery, clove, cardamom, fenugreek, turmeric, dried mango powder, coriander, cumin. After the kitchen cabinet, there was the landscape to consider; though Rajasthan is a dry place, certain aromatic plants grow there: Acacia nilotica, Ficus religiosa (Peepal), wild roses and Commiphora (myrrh). How could Etro’s Rajasthan perfume be anything but a lively, pungent, exotic elixir? If the perfume’s name wasn’t evocative enough, the bright, vibrantly colored Rajasthan perfume bottle pointed to good times ahead.
My first intimation Rajasthan might be more “business as usual” than “trip in a bottle” was its listed fragrance notes: pink pepper, lemon flower, polygonum leaves, cassie, mimosa, rose, amber, white musk and ciste; those notes could just as easily represent the south of France, California…or the Bland Lands of Sephora. I resisted buying Rajasthan “scent, unsniffed,” and waited for Rajasthan samples to arrive at my house.
Rajasthan goes on smelling rather indistinct: a mélange of soft, powdery aromas (with a hint of “freshness”). I detect a pallid floral accord, maybe a dash of pepper, and some opaque citrus. There is also a Rose in Distress, the note being choked by a sweet, crumbly musk and a talcy, “white” violet-like scent. I do smell mimosa/cassie; they are “hazy” and dry. I know Rajasthan, the place, is mostly desert, but all this scented “dust” in Rajasthan doesn’t thrill me. Where’s the dissonance, some “racket,” techni-colors, floral syrup, dirt? As Rajasthan dries on skin, a vanillic note appears and, mercifully, for a short while, is joined by a hint of “tartness” (smelling like a “rhubarb pastille”). Finally, Rajasthan becomes white musk, pure and simple.
Rajasthan is advertised as “unisex”, but I bet it’s too feminine for most men (myself included). Due to all the powder, talc, and dusty/hazy elements, Rajasthan has the character of a cosmetic perfume, something a manufacturer of face powders would use to scent their product. (I had surgery about 18 months ago, and the hand sanitizer my nurses used throughout the day smelled like Rajasthan’s vanillic musk…a bad association.) Resist the urge to buy Rajasthan unsniffed, even if you want the bottle (as I do)! And speaking of the bottle — talk about false advertising! To represent this perfume, Etro should have used a subdued palette of pale pinks, ivory and butter-colored yellow, not the “hot” colors they decided upon.
Rajasthan reminds me of many women’s perfumes of the silky, powdery floral-fruit ilk; it also has a faint resemblance to Boucheron Jaïpur Bracelet (but with the dimmer switch on). Etro captured India best, long, long ago with its Patchouly, Sandalo and Vetiver perfumes which were vigorous, bold and beautiful.* Even the memory of those perfumes makes me want to hop on a plane and head to Jaipur...SOON.
Etro Rajasthan Eau de Parfum (100 ml) seems to be available everywhere but in the U.S.: Europe/€122; UK/£112; India/Rs. 8500; and Canada/$160.
*I can’t vouch for the current formulations of these fragrances; I tried Etro Vetiver about four years ago when it was released in new packaging, but I’ve not smelled Sandalo or Patchouly in ages (I kept buying the old versions of these on eBay till they, gulp, sniff, disappeared).
Note: Top image [altered] via Wikimedia Commons.