An exotic scented journey awaits . . . . Travel to Indonesia. Samarinda begins with top notes of sweet orange, cardamom and pink peppercorn. A heart of carnation, heliotrope, rose, orange blossom and Sumatran coffee give way to a sweet scotch leather layover fortified by rum ether, jasmine rice, vanilla oakwood and roasted seashell.
Samarinda is the latest from Providence Perfume Co, and it's a spicy oriental unisex fragrance named for the city in Borneo. When I reviewed Providence Perfume's last fragrance, Branch & Vine, I noted that they were one of my favorite indie natural brands but that I didn't like everything they made. Samarinda now joins Branch & Vine in the 'yes' column, and yes, it lives up to its "exotic journey" billing.
The opening is juicy and bright, but already rich and peppery-spicy, and it warms quickly — you can tell you're in oriental territory within seconds. It settles into a floriental in which no particular notes stand out: I catch flashes of clove, presumably from the carnation, and once or twice I thought I smelled bitter coffee bean (it is easier to make out on paper than on skin). The base is woody, dry, and middling-dark (it smells exactly like the color used in the digital ad shown above left). The boozy notes are very lightly done, as is the jasmine rice, which you'll recognize as a gentler cousin of the milky 'rice steam' in Kenzo Amour. The roasted seashell adds a vague hint of smoke, but no more than that.
Samarinda is the perfect weight for early spring: not too heavy, not too light. I'm not sure how it will fare in deep summer (it might be too much) but it's been lovely to wear during the still-cold weather we're having here lately (the wind is absolutely howling outside my window as I type). To my nose, it is indeed entirely unisex, and the lasting power is excellent, especially for a natural fragrance.
Verdict: Samarinda is unusual and the perfect indie perfume: it doesn't smell like anything else, niche or mainstream. I really like it, and the travel spray, which is nearly free — in the relative, perfumista sense, it is free, since $100 is the new free, right? — is tempting. Branch & Vine is on my buy list and Samarinda will join it there, who knows, maybe some day I'll buy one or the other or both. Highly recommended.
The poll: name a fragrance (it doesn't have to be an oriental) that takes you on an exotic journey.
Providence Perfume Co Samarinda is available in 7.5 ($35), 15 ($68) and 30 ($125) ml Eau de Parfum; 5% of all sales will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund to facilitate their protection efforts in Borneo and Sumatra. For buying information, see the listing for Providence Perfume Co under Perfume Houses.