I’ve been obsessed with sourcing Tonkin Musk ever since I found out musk was the most beloved fragrance to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and that Tonkin is the most legendary of all musks.
Musk features so prominently in Islam and the spirituality of Muslims, you’re compelled to find out more about it. And Tonkin Musk is consistently referred to as the most sought-after musk in even ancients texts.
The Prophet himself used to smell like musk. Paradise is described as smelling of musk. The grounds of the Garden of Eden are made of musk. Oud, kinam, rose, and all other smells of this realm cannot be more beloved to a Muslim than musk.
Musk is a scent apart from all other scents. And Tonkin is the red sulfur of that scent.
So, the fact that it’s turned into a synthetic commodity that’s tantamount to the smell of baby powder, or worse… the dank poudres and moldy flower smells from the turn of the century when humanity dove headfirst into synthetics, is nothing short of a travesty.
When I received some musk from the royal palace in Oman to craft Tibetan Musk, there was one bag on the side that had something different about it. Many of the pods had disintegrated inside the bag and had clearly been aged for who knows how many decades, or even centuries. Some were so old the hairs had completely fallen off.
But these pods were like black tar, as if they had become fermented, as they exuded this resinous blast of musk unlike I’ve ever seen or smelled in my long years working with this aromatic.
Compared to Tibetan musk, Siberian musk, and Kashmiri musk, this was something totally different. Not only were these pods from another era altogether… this was a completely different type of Musk.
leatWith trepidation, I embraced the reality that what I was holding in my hands could be nothing other than what I’d been dreaming of for years: What Loius XIV used to call ‘Musc Tonquin’.
Once you have such a precious aromatic in your hands, it’s decision time. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put the rarest musk on Earth to use.
So, it took an enormous amount of courage to dedicate an entire batch of Oriscent Vietnamese oud as the carrier to Louis XIV’s fragrant elixir in the first experiment of its kind in history: Not a musk attar, not musk-infused sandalwood, musk-infused OUD. And not just any oud…
Hailing from Vietnam, I could think of no base more befitting for a Tonkin (i.e. Vietnamese) musk infusion than the most delicate and supremely opulent Vietnamese oud oil: Ha Tinh LTD, which neat by itself would sell for no less than $1,500 a bottle.
The process took months to pull off, with multiple interventions throughout the day to ensure the maceration was happening properly.
Using a small tester vial, I did a little experiment of infusing one-third of the Notes From Underground recipe I was then working on with the Ha Tinh Tonkin infusion.
This vial I made for myself, which was 1/3 Tonkin-infused Ha Tinh LTD and 2/3 NOTES was meant to be a private edition of Notes From Underground. I never thought of launching it as a release.
It took my good friend Colin hollering in expletives as we went down the street in Borough Market smelling it, showing it to the bread vendors and coffee sellers and everyone we came across, saying something to the sound of “Cheeses Shmeeses” which made me reconsider!
Notes From Underground is a concept I’ve been mulling in my head since the beginning of the pandemic. It was meant to be in line with Homeros as my second major tome in what I envisioned as a grand lockdown oeuvre. The first being the dirge of the castaway longing for home, and the second… Dostoyevsky’s infamous underground man, expressing his feelings about the state of humanity at the present juncture.
But as things usually turn out at the EO atelier, we took the NOTES concept and ran wild with it, tripling the original amount of Ha Tinh oud in the recipe—and tripling it with the first musk/oud infusion of its kind ever… Tonkin-oozing Ha Tinh LTD—which smells like a medicinal Purple Kinam on steroids.
And when it came down to the carrier, we might as well rock the boat full tilt and instead of plain perfumer’s alcohol use pure Tonkin tincture on top of it all to really drive the “Cheeses Shmeeses” effect home.
Notes from Underground is a renegade perfume. It’s not meant for cheap & easy consumption. It’s for the nit-picking oud junkies who love to explore a fragrance.
NFU lets you do just that: It’s a meticulous dissection of artisanal Oriscent oud and only appeals to a certain type of oud wearer: folks who love to feast their noses on Nha Trang LTD, Royal Kinam, Kyara Ketone, or White Kinam. Oudheads who appreciate what these oils are will understand what an oil spray like this is.
Inspired by imposed isolation, Notes From Underground got composed to satisfy the perfumer’s own crave. As satisfying as the first ever Vietnamese musk & oud infusion is, I spared no expense in adding the choicest ingredients to accessorize the Tonkin theme, despite key ones costing at least double what they did only a few months ago.
Circling the Tonkin heart, tobacco drenched in bourbon vanilla gives the aroma a gourmand profile as the combo of Ha Tinh LTD and pink pepper laced with the medicinal sweetness of rosemary tickles your nose with, not citrus, but this jasmine smooth narcissus which gratifies your olfactory lust with the way those notes swirl into a whirlpool concocted of a unique tobacco tuberose beeswax core.
That’s what awaits you in your bottle. Oriscent-caliber oud jacked up with precious tuberose, blue lotus, and all the rest, while the intensity of Tonkin musk makes them all more alive.
If you just want a nice spray perfume, I recommend you skip this one.
But if you're the kind of frag lover who sits with your wrist to your nose for hours on end, engulfed in the finest smells on Earth; if you ride a fragrance like a wave, smelling every transition until ten hours later you wallow in the abyss of its oudy base—and the only thing you think of is taking a new spritz; if you want a perfume that's basically pure Vietnamese oud decked out with raunchy tobacco-creamy-lotus accessory notes ……… then this is for you.
I’ve been wearing this for quite some time now. Enjoying this beautiful scent but did not get time to think about and put words to what I felt. However, today’s the day and here are some of my initial thoughts:
Started off boozy and sweet, with an herbal backdrop and a smutty musk. From the onset, I got wafts of toffee-like sweetness with hints of dark green herbs. Dark green herbs like Marjoram, Sage, and Rosemary. It’s like a dark green forest painted on a much darker background. It has some similarities with Thai Tabac for sure. But that story ends within the first 12 mins. If I had to ascertain a color and texture to this phase of scent, it would be juniper green with a smooth finish. Reminds me of ayurvedic cough syrups. I get some ultra-refined wafts like that of brown ambergris. Perhaps, it’s the musk.
Blooms beautifully on skin. Yes, it is powdery and sweet. However, I do not think this is an entirely gourmand composition. I sense a fenugreek-like bitterness all throughout the transitions. This bitterness along with flowers provide a beautiful counterbalance. Vanilla is big in there. I do not get much of tobacco in the beginning, I think this is where vanilla overshadows a bit. But, as the perfume starts to mature on skin, I get a roundness in the heart which I think is magical. I think this is the tobacco along with tuberose. This phase is plush with flowers and has a slight dusty aspect to it.
The dry down is where this smashes everything out of the ballpark. This is the perfume where I got a wholesome high-octane oud experience. Oudy, woody, bitter indulgence. Pure Japanese incense. This is phenomenal. It’s hard for me to put words to it. One needs to experience it, to fully understand what’s going on.
I would say this one has two dry-downs. The first one is when the ‘wet’ and ‘bright’ parts take off and we are left with dry-ish tobacco vanille. The second dry-down is when the skin starts emanating this Viet aura. This makes me wanna try Ha Tinh LTD neat.
Not going to lie, it took me a long time to understand this fragrance. Let alone the blending, the ingredients in this one, are rarest of the rare. Not just oud, Vietnamese oud. Not just Vietnamese oud, Oriscent oud. Not just musk, royal quality musk. Not just royal musk, this is royal Tonkin musk. All of us know how rare a good quality Viet oud distillation is, I don't even want to talk about this Musk. Oud and musk along with a plethora of other priceless aromatics that must have gone in the bottle have written a beautiful story. Take your time and read it. The complexity of this composition is transmundane. For me, there still are some pages to read, some peculiarities to explore. As far as enjoyment is, I have been enjoying this offbeat number a lot. This is the one you put on and ruminate.
100% panty dropper!! – Himanshu, USA
I really don’t know what to say... I’m usually pretty pinpoint with notes and dissecting scents but this is taking my nose for a ride.
The depth of this composition is unparalleled; in terms of perfumery, I haven’t experienced a scent that is close to this in complexity or in uniqueness.
Well done Ensar, the bar has been raised a bit higher once again.
I’ll write up more when I’ve had time to properly study this scent but right now I’m just overwhelmed and in a world of bliss. This isn’t an occasional scent to wear. It’s one for entering deep meditations or for moments of deep contemplation.
This is the scent of a mystic. – Christopher, New Zealand
Yesterday I had a surprise visit from DHL as they don’t normally deliver on weekends here. With each new composition I experience from EO, I feel like I’m back in grad school taking harder, more complex and advanced coursework. I’m appreciative of all I have learned from each prerequisite, but Ensar’s curriculum is on another level. Cheers to sophisticated compositions like NFU by Ensar Oud.
It’s completely different than I imagined it would be. I was pleasantly surprised, though. I get this sweet honey and maple syrup smell with tobacco from my grandfather’s pipe. Then I get wafts of uplifting mint or menthol that disappear and reappear. When I smell it actively, it’s cool, when I catch it passively, it’s warm. – Abu Naeem, USA
Who knew that something with the sinisterly entitled (and literary) “Notes from Underground” could be so plush and heavenly? I probably shouldn’t have sprayed this at work, but social distancing and a quiet classroom for the day allowed me to succumb to the urge when Mr. DHL paid a visit. I know, I know... let it rest... don’t judge the first spray... blah blah blah. Nope. It’s Friday.
One spritz to the forearm has left me enveloped in a cloud of honeyed, wooded, GOURMAND goodness for 3 straight hours. And it isn’t stopping. While the initial blast leaned pleasantly sour-rose (maybe my impression of the musk?), a creamy sweetness soon emerged. Anyone who has walked in has commented on how amazing that candle (burning on my desk) smells. Except... I’m too embarrassed to tell them to quit crediting the candle; it’s me that smells amazing!
There are unexpected similarities with Dominique Dubrana/La Via del Profumo’s delicious Sharif here (almonds, dried fruit, baking spice) but without a marzipan sweetness. When the oud and musk enter from the wings, they provide incredible depth and complexity. I’ll await the darkness to arrive before any further comment.
[5-Hour-Later Edit]: So, it never went dark. But it also hasn’t lost it’s tenacity. One single spray (and after a workout and a quick rinse) is still whirling as before. I’m increasingly impressed at how Ensar’s natural perfumes continue to shut down the short-lived reputations of natural perfumes. I’m also starting to think that the oud itself is assisting in these edible gourmand qualities, in turn projected by this luminous musk. Of the single-origins I’ve sampled, the creamy/fruity/woody facets in Notes from Underground most conjure the vibe of Kinam Rouge—with its cherry tobacco and fruit notes. But, then again, there’s much more going on here than the oud.
I’m relatively confident that this will become my favorite (among what I’ve managed to smell) of Ensar’s Pure Parfum creations. I expected a scent of solation, but this one instead cocoons you in a scrum of warm embraces. I can’t quit smelling my damn arm... and I don’t even need to raise it—projection and sillage are impressive.
Leaf tobacco—sticky, resinous, vanilla’ed and woody—absolutely. The smoked or cigar-type variety? No. As for iris, there’s definitely a creamy veneer as well as subtle florals, but they come across more as jasmine, especially on skin. I did try to add a mini-spray to paper... that I’ll regret at this price/ml ratio, but it’s worth the comparison. THERE (on paper), I feel the iris. What I described as sour-rose (especially in the top notes) is, now that you mention it, more of a rooty iris profile. But it’s hard to single out—a delicate cool that likely will not easily compete with what I imagine is the very present and unique (Tonquin?) musk. – Lawrence, Singapore
Yesterday the Mrs sprayed some NFU on her hand and said this is the best thing I’ve ever smelt in your entire collection. I can’t think of any higher praise or reason to make this a present to last a lifetime. – Ryan, Canada
Got NFU today and it is indeed a real gem to behold.
Such a sophisticated and charismatic blend. What hits me at first is the musk along with the cocoa and the tobacco. Getting very subtle nuances of tuberose and clove. I don’t really smell iris from the start, however, as it doesn’t remind me of Iris noir’s stunning rhizome opening. – Charles, Canada
Guys, Ensar sprayed me with this today and all that I could say was “My God” what the bloody hell was that!!!!!! (Irish people).
It nearly made head burst. Don’t ask for the notes, but all I can say is, it should be called sex, drugs and rock ’n roll from the underground.
I had Oud Royale on the other wrist and it was a game changer, but the Notes From Underground was clear insanity. A new level that I’ve never experienced before. I’ve abused him before but this time I abused him alot. It was so mind-bending, it made me ignore the Oud Royale… so get ready for some serious madness.
Vietnamese Oud, Tobacco, Iris, Purple Kinam is all swimming in there and as I’ve said, it’s the most beautiful I’ve smelt of all the PPs by a distance (if that’s possible) having put on Tibetan Musk this morning. Damn, it’s soooo good.
I’m not just saying this, whatever you think it’s going to be DOUBLE IT and maybe some more. No joke, this could well be the No 1 for 2020/21. I’m already begging for a 50ml. – Colin, UK