Baraonda Extrait de Parfum by Nasomatto Review
Do you folks remember that John Mulaney bit about drinking perfume because you thought it was whiskey?
Here’s a story I once heard about me. I guess I was 20 and I was at a party at someone’s house and I had blacked out drinking, and someone came out of one of the rooms at this party holding like an old antique bottle with some liquid in it, and they said, “Hey, is this whiskey or perfume?” And apparently I grabbed it, drank all of it, and said, “It’s perfume.” And it was.John Mulaney, New in Town
There’s something of the romantic poets in this. Tragic and dramatic but also merry and ribald and oh so incredibly drunk.
Yes, the poetic match for Baraonda is a certain poem by romantic poet Thomas Gray. For Paloma Picasso’s eponymous signature Paloma Picasso, it was T.S. Eliot’s “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.” For Keiko Mecheri’s festive and magical Umé, it was “The Lion and the Unicorn.” For Baraonda, it’s Gray’s “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.”
It’s a romantic poem of return by Gray as he revisits his college and thinks back to those early glory days, “where ignorance is bliss, / ‘Tis folly to be wise.” In my humble opinion, it’s a bit of an overlooked poetic masterpiece. It also birthed the title of one of my favorite plays by one of my favorite playwrights, the incredibly talented Christopher Durang (and the source of everyone’s favorite overused comedic audition monologue about tuna fish), Laughing Wild.
Here, feel this meter:
The stings of Falsehood those shall try,Thomas Gray, “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”
And hard Unkindness’ alter’d eye,
That mocks the tear it forc’d to flow;
And keen Remorse with blood defil’d,
And moody Madness laughing wild
Amid severest woe.
There’s a touch of that brooding romanticism to Baraonda, warmed up with an excellent glass of bourbon and perhaps a vanilla cupcake. Baraonda isn’t at all a sad perfume to me, but it has something to it that matches the drama of the romantic poets as well as their 60s reincarnation as the Beatniks, and of all the moody dark-academia-aesthetic-loving teens on Tumblr endlessly reblogging quotes from all of the above.
When I first met Baraonda a year and a half ago, this was the most divine fragrance I’d ever smelled. End of.
I love the smell of whiskey, and this is dead on. When I first got a whiff of this, I had to close my eyes and keep savoring it all evening. I immediately looked into a reasonably-priced bottle.
But then I tried it on skin and felt… a little dismayed? Somehow, it just didn’t feel right on me. I’m learning that there are smells I adore that I do not adore on me. Whiskey, I thought, must be one of them. Ink is another. As an artifact and sensory experience, though, I had to admit from the beginning that Nasomatto’s Baraonda is exquisite.
As a love note to whiskey, this is photorealistically bang-on. As a fragrance to wear? Putting aside the art house dimension and limited socially acceptable wear of any primarily spirits-scented fragrance, smelling exactly like a barrel of the stuff was something that scared me off of Baraonda for a while.
It just doesn’t suit my personality, I thought. I’m not loud and metropolitan enough for this. I don’t do stand up comedy in NYC and I hardly wear turtlenecks.
But oh, Baraonda was so gorgeous and comforting that I couldn’t resist going back and trying it again and again until I convinced myself that yes, in fact, I can actually wear this gorgeous thing.
I had said Baraonda might not suit my personality, but I craved it. It was the only thing to bring me that perfect comfort and warmth on these chilly autumn days.
That was last autumn. As it gets cooler outside again this year, I long for Baraonda. I wear a tiny little touch of it in risky spaces where I really shouldn’t smell like whiskey because it soothes me and warms me so greatly. 5 stars and back on my favorites list. To the uninitiated, it simply smells warm and sweet, like woods and cakes, but to those who are familiar, that honeyed-whiskey timbre is unmistakable. Divine.
Honestly, most people won’t realize it’s whiskey without you telling them. All the people I’ve had sniff it to test have not been fragrance people, but a couple of them were fine bourbon lovers. On me, one said that it smelled like nag champa, an Indian incense scent made of sandalwood and either champa or frangipani. Another just said that it was woody, nutty, and a little smoky, and agreed instantly when someone suggested sandalwood.
Without the context of whiskey, this is a perfect warm, sweet woody scent more than anything else. The drydown is softer, with a delicious hint of something like a bourbon cake, not too sweet or gourmand but with a tiny hint of a bread-like note to accompany the soft, sweet wood.
But okay. Since I also happen to be an insufferable whiskey snob, let’s pretend for a second that Baraonda is actually a convincing whiskey scent. What sort of liquor exactly does it smell like?
Honestly? The color of Baraonda is so honeyed and golden and warm that it has to be some kind of honey liqueur. Not mead. No, it’s a warm whiskey-like spirit and honey mixed together. Either a honey-and-bourbon mix like American Honey or the real deal, something syrupy and heady and rich like Bärenjäger. Mmmm.
Rose is listed in the notes of Baraonda, but this is one of the very few fragrance compositions where the note doesn’t hog the spotlight. I honestly can’t pick up any rose at all here. I imagine on some people it presents in that subtle, warm rose-and-sandalwood way, the way the rose in Serge Lutens’ Santal Majuscule quietly creeps into the background on my skin. But to me, this is just pure warm and sweet woody heaven.
The woody notes here mostly feel like sandalwood and oak barrels to me. This is the oak-vanillin smell of a glass of really fine whiskey, bottled and extrapolated to its fullest. The ambrette (also known as musk mallow) adds a heavenly softness to it, a buttery, fluffy sort of dimension to the drydown that makes it all so much more comforting.
There’s a hint of scotch-like peatyness here and there, but all in all there’s nothing at all in Baraonda that feels challenging or acrid or bitter to me. Sure, there’s the obvious whiskey thing going on that’s bound to be divisive, but, beyond that, this is as smooth and comforting as anything.
The ambrette and musk add some softness to the late oaky vanillin of the drydown, but it’s not a gust of loud synthetic musk out of nowhere. Rather, this is quiet, mellow, well-blended.
I also don’t get much of what I recognize as ambroxan here, though I am sometimes pretty bad at picking it up. It certainly isn’t as loud and obvious to me as the random late-drydown ambroxan surge in so many contemporary concoctions (the befuddling final act of Kayali’s Eden Juicy Apple | 01 comes to mind).
Sure, Baraonda is woody, ambery, velvety, creamy, but I don’t get any harsh cedar-like edges or other tell-tale signs of poorly-blended ambroxan. It blends in seamlessly here, extending the life of the fragrance without leaving too much of its own mark.
I don’t want to reveal that this fragrance isn’t actually as illicit and unbearable as some assume because it’s my perfect little secret and I don’t want everyone around me popularizing it, but here I am, sharing this with you, dear reader: this is much more wearable than you might assume at first.
I generally dislike incense scents, as I think of them generally as too often cheap balsam of Peru smoke with no substance or depth. This, however, just happens to be the wood of a particular kind of incense stick, not burning, but resting between periods of being lit. This is the warmest, most delicious wood. It performs like a dream, it feels enormously well-crafted, and it cloaks me from the cold like a perfect cashmere scarf.
I’ve never been one for signature scents, but by accident of me wearing this one so frequently all throughout last winter, a hint of Baraonda just be my signature in some people’s eyes. I had enjoyed so many days of it from just half of my tiny 1 milliliter sample vial, as a tiny touch goes far and lasts all day, and then just had to buy myself another decant of it when I was done with that first vial.
And I’m ecstatic, insufferable Nasomatto price tag be damned. (Though you have to remember you’re paying for Extrait de Parfum. This stuff is concentrated and a tiny dab of it will last for days.)
Hats off to nose Alessandro Gualtieri. This is quality.
I adore Baraonda. And now I’m gonna have to start doing standup in the city, wearing dark forest-green turtlenecks, and becoming entirely possessed by a moody madness laughing wild amid severest woe to match.
Where to Find Baraonda Extrait de Parfum by Nasomatto
You can find samples, decants, and full bottles of Baraonda Extrait at Scent Split.
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