Wandering through an Enchanted Forest... and a lot of marketing.


Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince

I probably shouldn't even be writing this review yet, but I'm going to. I'm ornery like that.

You see, I haven't quite made up my mind about this Enchanted Forest. I seem to be one of the few who hasn't. It's getting crazy raves throughout Perfumeland. Leave it to me to be the one who doesn't fall in line.

In case you haven't heard about this perfume, here's the super-duper quick rundown. Enchanted Forest is the first scent in a line called The Vagabond Prince, created by Fragrantica founders Zoran Knezevic and Elena Knezhevich. The perfume itself was masterfully blended by Perfumeland's perfuming sweetheart Bertrand Duchaufour, who has been quoted a bazillion times about this scent. In fact, there's such a flurry of quotations dropping from the sky down into reviews and discussions about Enchanted Forest, I sometimes wonder how many people have actually smelled the stuff!

About Enchanted Forest, the phenomenon
There is so much copy associated with this product, one gets weary sorting through it. Here's the website, in case you haven't seen it: http://www.vagabondprince.com/.

A summary, with much missing: Zoran and Elena, if I might be so familiar as to use their first names, wished to start a perfume house. They wanted the best of everything. They decided to work with Bertrand Duchaufour. They asked him to create, as their first perfume, a scent reminiscent of their home, Russia. They like blackcurrant and fir. Duchaufour likes blackcurrant and fir. Voila! Or something like that.

Add in references to a pagan festival ("Kupala—a Slavic tradition that continues, more festive than other things at present, as a kind of homage to nature and the mysteries of the forest."), a little bit of magic ("After the exciting hide and seek game, the fairy will comfortably cuddle in your mind and on your skin."), a stretch of the imagination ("It's the smell of the forest, when you step in it in the night."), a bit of exclusivity to tempt those who like that kind of thing ("It is the only perfume I know of that is built around blackcurrant as the sole raw material"), a splash of factual sounding info ("The blackcurrant is the MOST IMPORTANT fruity note of the range that exists in perfumery." - emphasis not mine), a little fear ("I wanted to work the dark, mysterious, almost scary effects of the forest, all that evokes mysterie [sic] and, to man, seems almost supernatural in the forest: animals whose existence have been forgotten...") and you have not only a whole lot of marketing but also a lot of big expectations.

And that's just about the perfume. We haven't even started learning about the bottle and packaging, designed by Elena Knezhevich herself! Let's see, it's round, glossy, and black and meant to "resemble the blackcurrant berry" that is so prominently featured in the perfume. The bottle has a distinct retro-Russian feel thanks to the "golden pattern of Hohloma grass wrapped around the bottle. It was designed exclusively for this fragrance by the artist, first painted by hand and then printed on the bottle in shiny gold." Further reading educates us that Hohloma is an ornate Russian painting tradition and that the style employed on the bottle is specifically "the festive 'Kudrina' which Hohloma artists used only for gifts on special occasions". (read more about the beautiful bottle here)  Luckily, there's also a lot of symbolism to further enhance the marketing: within the decorations on the bottle you will find "two symbols—a sleeping dove (silence) and the moon (fairytales, the mystery of the night)—are included in its tendrils. A remarkable thing about Hohloma is that it is not painted—it grows under the brush from a magical seed which is hidden somewhere in its pattern."

For a lovely video review of the bottle and packaging, please visit my friend Dan, aka MyMickers on YouTube:

 About Enchanted Forest, the perfume

But back to the juice... According to Duchaufour, Enchanted Forest is a modern soliflore. In the copy I have seen, he goes on to explain that there are two focuses: blackcurrant and fir. Well, color me puzzled, as I thought "soliflore" meant "one flower". Oh well. So many things about perfumery mystify me.

Top notes: pink pepper, aldehydes, sweet orange (traces), flower cassis, blackcurrant leaf, hawthorn, effects of rum and wine, rosemary, davana.

Heart notes: blackcurrant buds absolute (by LMR from Grasse), CO2 blackcurrant (by Floral Concept from Grasse), Russian coriander seed, honeysuckle, rose, carnation, vetiver
Base notes: opoponax resinoid, Siam benzoin, amber, oakmoss, fir balsam absolute, Patchouli Purecoeur®, castoreum absolute, cedar notes, vanilla, musk

An enchanted forest. 
But not this one.

My review...

Take a look at the picture above. That's what I picture when I hear "Enchanted Forest". Dappled light deliciously contrasted with a little spooky shadowing; a magical pathway one dare not leave; some pretty, flickering, mystical light; maybe a fae creature or two; perhaps some oversized, technicolor mushrooms à la Alice in Wonderland.

If you asked me to downsize my expectations, I think I'd probably back into something green and loamy, a bit gritty, full of mulch and dirt and dark green leaves.

When I apply The Vagabond Prince's Enchanted Forest, that's not what I get. Were I to be blindfolded and presented this scent, it would seem a lot like this:
Sitting on the chair, I wait for my first sniff. Suddenly, I am pelted in the face with juicy berries of some kind, and maybe some pears. And there's something a bit... off. Maybe rank. I can't think with all this fruit landing on my person. 
The onslaught continues for several hours before I am allowed to remove my blindfold and realize I'm sitting in front of a sweaty guy in a tank top who has finally stopped throwing fruit at me and is now presenting me with one-third of a serving of a delicious berry cobbler with a teaspoon of vanilla icecream on top. 

Yeah. It's a lot like that.

Forest Fairy.
Not present in this perfume.
Duchaufour has successfully created a very berry-heavy scent. In fact, most of the development of Enchanted Forest is blackcurrant. Or, rather:


A whole-freakin'-lot of blackcurrant. At least, I assume it's blackcurrant. To be honest, I do not know what that berry smells like. To my nose, this is a berry-pear-B.O. blend. That's right, I said "B.O.", as in body odor. Some say blackcurrant has a cat urine scent, but I'm here to tell you that at least in this scent it's B.O. and not cat pee. I spent 10 years working in the veterinary industry and have lived with cats most of my life. I have scooped a ton of pee-soaked litter and this is not what it smells like. Dial down the ammonia expectations and twist the sulfuric, sweaty knob towards Max and you've got the weird facet of blackcurrant that many people pick up.

Before you assume that I am insulting Enchanted Forest with this B.O. descriptor, please relax! It's similar to the body odor description that often arises in grapefruit-heavy perfumes. It doesn't mean the scent is unwearable! No, indeed. Perfumistas are made of hearty stock and it takes more than a little sweat to scare us away!

I have searched this scent high and low for the fabled fir note, and I think I have finally pinpointed it. Honestly, it's more like a two-sided coin than a single note that can be teased out of the perfume. One side of the coin is the face of blackcurrant, the other side is a green fir. If you're looking for a distinct pine tree smell you're not going to find it. This fir absolute blends beautifully with what I must assume are the natural green and woody aspects of blackcurrant (a fact Duchaufour alludes to somewhere in the pages of text written about the perfume). Yes, it's there, this mystical fir, but it's not slapping you across the face like the blackcurrant. It's much more subtle than that, at least on my skin.  (A special thank you to Mandy Aftel for at one point sending me a sample of fir absolute which I pulled out to assist me in finding the note in this perfume!)

The drydown of Enchanted Forest is an anemic vanilla-tinged berry musk that, while pretty, does little to support the incredibly intense top- and heart-notes. It's beautiful, don't get me wrong, but there just isn't enough oomph  after all the pomp and circumstance of pounds of tossed fruit and a whiff of B.O.

My review and opinions were formed after dabbing from a sample vial. Is it wrong that I hold out hope that this scent presents differently when sprayed and that I get all of the promised magic? ;)

Final words...

If it sounds like I don't like Enchanted Forest, then I apologize. I actually quite like it, lopsided as it may be. It's just that... well, after reading tons of reviews chockful of ecstatic raves and blissful hyperbole, I guess I just expected that dream forest. I didn't expect a berry fest with a dollop of vanilla musk. It's quite a pretty perfume in a gorgeous bottle, this Enchanted Forest, and I may even partake in a split or even fork out for the bottle. But when paired with pages and pages of overblown text and an constantly building sense of anticipation, I simply found it lacking. It's a good perfume. It's probably not great. I think if I had been expecting a beautiful berry perfume, I'd like it quite a bit more... I think possibly this scent has been oversold, over-promised and, sadly, slightly under-delivered.

As always, feel free to disagree with me in the comments!

You can purchase Enchanted Forest for $180 via...


  1. I like your review Jen! You always make me smile and you don't sugar coat anything!

    1. Thanks, Anon! I am not in the habit of sugar-coating, that's for sure. ;)

  2. Jen, this review made me laugh out loud (really!) I like Enchanted Forest (and I do get the fir) but, oh, there is a lot of hype, isn't there?


    1. I must be anosmic to the fir. That kind of stinks. :(

  3. Somehow, I missed out on all the marketing stuff. I mean, I'm a member of Fragrantica (though I don't spend much time on the boards now, since they seem jam-packed with people asking, "What's the sexiest perfume for a girl to wear?" and the like), and I saw the buzz there, signed up for the draw, and was all happy to get a package in the mail. The only marketing stuff I really saw was the interview with BD (whom I always, always take with a grain of salt; the guy's head must be swelled out two feet wide lately) and the sample packaging. So either I missed a bunch of stuff, or I ignored it once I read the word "blackcurrant," and was all about the ripping open of packages and putting juice on skin.

    Because I love it. I love blackcurrant - ever since my college choir visited Poland in 1990, and I spent a lot of time drinking sok (look it up, it's like Ribena but not as sweet), I've been enamored with it. Oh, sok... or suk, if you'd rather spell it that way... yum. And I notice, a large number of fragrances with fruit in them that I enjoy tend to be blackcurranty: Hanae Mori, TF Black Orchid Voile de Fleur, Clarins Par Amour, Diptyque L'Ombre dans l'Eau, JM Peony & Moss, AG Quel Amour. Chamade has it. Moschino Funny! has it. So does the first Ines de la Fressange (it's not listed, but it is there). Guerlain AA Pamplelune has a TON of it. It's probably one of those things that you like... or you don't. To be honest, I don't get a lot of distinctly fir/pine/terpenic notes in it - I get cassis. Which is fine. You're right, it's pretty much all blackcurrant, all the time. What I really love is the heart, which is gorgeously floral with an overlay of blackcurrant, and eventually a really nice benzoin-cedar drydown.

    1. I suppose the "marketing" is mostly in the packaging and the website. As verbose as I am, and that's not usually how marketing is done! ;) Even the little sample vial cardboard thingamabob is packed with info. It's information overload!

      I agree, Duchaufour's probably got quite an ego at this point and likely costs tons. I don't fault The Vagabond Prince for their marketing, it's just a lot to take in. It really cranks up the expectations, as do all of the rave reviews.

      If Guerlain AA Pamplelune has a ton of black currant, then that explains the "BO" or "cat pee" references most people seem to bring up with that scent. Interrrrrresting! ;)

      I do think that Enchanted Forest is very lovely. The berries are gorgeous. I just wish the base had more oomph and that I could find the fir more easily.


  4. Part II of comment (and I had to sign in with my Blogger account, which I haven't really used since 2010, when I moved to Wordpress... and then moved to a different host a year ago... ennnnnyway):

    I get what you're saying, I do. Talking something up tends to annoy me, and I will often be *more* snarky about a scent I didn't love as much as I thought I would as I'd be about something I liked even less, but didn't expect to like. That's me. But it does occur to me that Vagabond Prince is a new venture, a start-up, and presumably some out-on-a-limb cash investment has been made in this company, and that might be the reason the marketing has been so persistent. For one thing, they've gotta pay Bertrand, and THAT ain't coming cheap. For another, they've gotta pay to have the thing compounded and and macerated and bottled, and they've gotta pay their bottle artist, etc. etc. etc. Also, they're not starting small like my favorite indies (Tauer, SSS, DSH, etc.) and gradually building an international perfume company. Nope, they're coming out of the gate with a lot of territory to make up. Now perhaps that wasn't very smart, but I have to say that the publicity stuff doesn't surprise me at all, and also that it's probably the only way to get enough attention in order to sell enough bottles in order to recoup the investment so they're not out their entire life savings.

    Uncle Serge never has to resort to this kind of publicity stunt stuff, does he? Kidding. Jeux de Peau seemed to be hyped just as mercilessly. So was Une Voix Noire, and I was disappointed in both of those. I've got a split portion coming of Enchanted Forest (so. over. the name.), and I plan on wearing the heck out of it when it shows up. Meanwhile, my decant of UVN is lying at the bottom of the sample/small decant pile, pleading with me to try it again.

    As my economist husband says, "Utility [happiness] is when what you have exceeds your expectations." That may be why I wind up screaming at the whiny picky people on House Hunters, "Whaddya WANT, your breakfast delivered to you by fairies? Rosie the maid? Acres of heart pine flooring for 5 cents a foot? A bedroom AND a dressing room for each of your spoiled rotten kids? GAH YOU PEOPLE MAKE ME SICK," when they just want a house that meets their expectations. My sister, who lives at Ft Hood, would just like a two-bedroom apartment with a shower that works and enough storage for her soldier husband's gear. MY housing expectations would be for *two* showers that work, at least four bedrooms and a kitchen big enough to cook in.

    Um. Okay. Not implying that your expectations were unreasonable. Was implying that *my* expectations really did not involve "forest" at all (too distracted by the possibility of sok!) and I was happy. Perhaps you're right and the hard sell creates abnormally high expectations which couldn't possibly be fulfilled by less than the contents of the Guerlain mother ship in Paris. I dunno. I am done philosophizing for the night! And must say that I laughed a lot, reading this review, even though I didn't feel the same way about EF. Mwah, dahlink.

    1. We're similar, you and I. When everyone is hyping up a scent, I actually find myself less interested in reviewing it. Not because I don't want my voice to get lost in the crowd - I'm not that vain. But because I find it hard a) to separate the scent from the hype and b) to believe anyone else has done so, too. So I let the fervor die down and by the time it has, I've usually forgotten all about the scent. lol

      I wrote about Enchanted Forest, though, because there was just SO much info on the website, in the reviews, on the sample packaging. It was just SO SO MUCH. It was the scent that broke the proverbial camel's back, I suppose.

      Still, it's worth re-mentioning: I quite like the juice once I strip away the forest and look for the trees. :D

  5. I like your review!

    I dearly wanted to love this but all I got was cat pee. I have a cat and she has peed on a variety of my belongings so I have some experience here. I think fruit b.o. would've been a big improvement!

  6. I wish I had something to give away as a prize, as this is my favorite comment of the year!

  7. wow OUCH! I hope you never sound like this about my work, life or projects! that would hurt.

    I ordered a sample and think the perfume is really great! I guess I missed the marketing and just sniffed the perfume and took a look at the bottle packaging online. I like the Fragrantica People, they are very kind and supportive and respectful to Indies, Niche and Artisan folks and i feel deserve the same respect in return? It looks to me that they worked really hard and made a beautiful product. I think it's really yummy and classy. I shoved it under james's nose (him knowing nothing bless him!) and his only word was "pine!" and then "thats really nice!"

    1. Monica, I have nothing against "the Fragrantica People", as you refer to to them. In fact, I respect what they have done with both their site and their idea to start a house. However, I do not owe it to them, or anyone, to pretend I smell things I do not.

      One of the points of this article is this: I do not smell a lot of fir. Or hardly any. Is that because it's not there? Clearly not, as many commenters here and elsewhere surely do. I do not. Perhaps I am anosmic, which is not the fault of the scent or of the creators, but it is a fact. Should I lie and say I smell it?

      I said I like the scent, though I do wish the base had more oomph. Again, maybe I am anosmic to something there!

      I have every respect int the world for indie perfumers. And you know that! I'm offended you'd suggest otherwise. Not that I'm mad - I love you regardless of your opinions, as I'm sure you love me regardless of mine.


    2. I just re-checked and clearly I am missing something in the base as there is my olfactory mystery dance partner: fir. Apparently, I simply do not smell it.

  8. I guess I am not welcome here being one the creators of Enchanted Forest ;o)
    I do not mind if it smells like cat pee or man's sweat to somebody, why not? Background and experience are so different, it doesn't hurt me, don't worry dear Monica. You are such a kind lady ;o)

    Bertrand Duchafour is my favorite perfumer, I didn't event hope that he would agree to work with me. I didn't want the best perfumer, I wanted the one who feel this my idea as his own. I explored, before I asked him. I see his affection to this ingredient in other perfumes, I talked with people who worked with him, I appreciate his kindness and passion. If he likes the idea, he wouldn't stop until he makes it perfectly, and you see happiness and great satisfaction in his eyes and smile. I am so grateful to him.

    Idea was mine, I hope I made a good brief and I worked with him caring about every single note, it wasn't like "Voila! Or something like that." I am not a perfumer, I give him full credit for that and I am so proud to work with him, that is why I didn't put my name in the brand, in the perfume or in the story. It his creation, I do not like the idea of using the perfumer as a tool, but I can impressed him with a story, with a challenge, this was my part. And of course I worked in a team with him.

    About marketing... we decided to share samples as many as we could. We did it, and that was all. You received a sample too, I am glad you did. This was all our marketing, the rest was people talking, sharing, reviewing. We didn't not ask anybody to like and push it, we just want to introduce it to as many readers as we could.

    Your sarcastic comments about my feelings about it, Bertrand's very honest description, my hohloma design... I don't get it sorry. It was my explanation, my mythology. Ok it's not your style, I do not mind at all. We are all different. You said you have not smell the real blackcurrant, and I think this is the point ;o) It's important to know the smell to get it. I do refer to the real smell, it's one of the dearest smells for my country. It has all those nuances: animalic, body odor, but it also has so much more to me.

    My little kid says: "I like it, but I kind of hate it" ;o)

    1. Elena,

      Of course you are welcome. I'm sorry you came here with hurt feelings. I am sorry I was sarcastic, but it is my way. I know I shouldn't be so, as it is sometimes misunderstood. I will try to curb it in the future, which does nothing to soothe your hurt feelings, I realize.

      Let me try to be more clear.

      The "voila" comment simply was a joke at the expense of all creations - is is NEVER that simple. Creating any art -and yes, your scent and the gorgeous bottle and story are all art- is never "voila", rather an extended process of blood, sweat, and tears. There is no way to quickly share a creation story, so I can only quickly summarize. I apologize my way of summarizing was insulting to you. Bertrand Duchaufour is an amazing perfumer and that you were able to work with him is a special experience. How amazing it must have been!

      In regards to my jokes abut marketing, I by no means blame you for sending samples everywhere. I would have done the same and quite frankly it is incredibly smart - and generous. And expensive. But it will only pay off in sales and word-of-mouth exposure. I know many people who love this scent and have bought a bottle already, due to those samples and how lovely they found your perfume.

    2. Here's part 2, as I typed so much I wasn't allowed to post it all in comments.


      My thoughts were that there is such a lot of background and story and information with this story. And due to that, the reviews tend to get verbose as well - mine did! This information overload is what I perhaps erroneously referred to as "marketing". This mountain of information is because you have so thoughtfully created every aspect of this scent, down to the bottle, all of which you were naturally eager to share! I perhaps did not respect that enough. I was trying to get across that there is a lot of reading material about this scent, which is overwhelming but also pretty neat.

      I actually did think it was funny that Bertrand referred to this as a soliflore with two focuses. It's just a silly word thing that I found amusing. Soliflores are about one note, enhanced by other supporting notes; this is about two: blackcuurant and fir. Otherwise, I do not think I said anything else about his comments?

      Sarcasm aside, I actually called this scent beautiful and said I hoped that when I get to try it from a spray vial that I am able to pick up more fir. I must be anosmic to it, as I was explaining to Monica in the comment above. I WANTED to smell it. I really, really want to smell it! I want to smell that forest you described and that so many other get so easily. I never said I do not smell "the real blackcurrant". How would I know if this is not real?! I imagine it is, as when I research the scent I find that more than a few people equate "cat pee" or "body odor" with the actual blackcurrant plant! Besides, I doubt you or your husband or Bertrand would settle for "less than authentic" as that is the point of this perfume's story! I actually very much enjoy the blackcurrant, despite the "body odor" facet, which doesn't bother me at all - I get that from some grapefruit scents and it hasn't stopped me from wearing them (I much prefer the pseudo body smell to the stench of cat urine, which I personally would find off-putting). Heck, I wear Enchanted Forest despite the fact that I still can't smell the fir so well. The berries are lovely. I would love to experience them in person.

      As for the bottle: it is quite beautiful. And the story and history are lovely. It is simply one more addition to the information pile regarding this scent, and clearly my jokes about how much information there is fell flat. I can only again apologize. Part of the reason I included Dan's video directly on my post is because he does such a lovely job describing the presentation of the bottle and packaging and I hope that readers here would be able to get a better understanding of it through his experience, as I do not have a bottle in front of me to share. For the record, I have added this lovely hohloma style to my wishlist of items to search for while antiquing and shopping; I think it is stunning.

      I think you have done a beautiful job and clearly incorporated a lot of hard work into this labor of love. There is simply no way to convey all of the information in a review without rewriting it, which I think would be silly to do. I regret that my "voice" was flippant in a way that did not allow you to find the heartfelt praise within this article and only focus on the negative comments. As you said, you did not give the samples so that people would write positive things only, though there a lot of positives to be mentioned. I simply tried to share my experience, part of which was enjoying the lovely blackcurrant, and part of which was feeling overwhelmed by the information and being disappointed at the lack of MY ability to find the fir. That said, I do wear this perfume, still plan on acquiring a bottle, and do hope that I somehow manage to train my nose to pick up the fir in the blend. And I look forward to trying whatever The Vagabond Prince comes up with next - if I'm allowed to try it.


  9. I would like to show you one picture: Bridge on the Zepa. Nobel prize winning writer Ivo Andric wrote essay with the same title about that bridge. Zepa is small Bosnian town among canyons and very hard to access. Nameless Ottoman empire bridge builder got assignment to construct that bridge. He has spent few years building the bridge. It was challenging task he spent a lot of time over the drawings and crafting everything to align and become one with surrounding and stand there for centuries. Now it's very old bridge and it is not doubt how artistic it is and how big architectural leap it was 3-4 centuries ago. At the end of the essay Ivo Andrich describes the moment when scaffolding was disassembled and white stone bridge showed up like a jump from one to another side of the river. After the celebration the artist went down the road and legend say after all that time he spent building it... when he was leaving Zepa forever he did not turn back to see the bridge. Not even once. That's how the essay ends. I was confused a little bit and also blamed it on unreliable oral history that discord things with time and tough that most probably it is something people added to make legend more interesting. Form the other side Andrich decided to end the essay with that line...

    Today after reading this review I understand why artists avoid to turn back and look on their work... once when it is done. Never look back and let the time shows was it good and useful or not.

    1. Zoran,

      That is a lovely story. As a painter, I understand that the creation process is quite a sensitive one, rather like a birth. And it may be best to train oneself to be done with it - to let the birds fly out of the nest and not look back. Not everyone will agree with what you have created.

      That said, I hope you read my explanation to your wife, and if you are still hurt or offended, I am sorry. I do enjoy the scent, however I will not pretend to smell what I do not. I wish I picked up more "fir", I wish I experienced that forest. I simply do not. For what I AM able to smell, I do enjoy it. It is just not what you set out to create TO MY NOSE. Loads of people DO pick up what you created: an Enchanted Forest. I mostly get beautiful (but kind of sweaty) berries. And I like what I get.


  10. Dear Jen,
    Thank you for your replay ;-) I am not offended, managing Fragrantica I got used to different opinions, but introducing my own baby is little different.

    1. And naturally so. Again, I apologize for my flippant tone and wish you all the best.


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