Novaya Zarya Siberian Barber no1 (1999) {Perfume Review & Musings}


Siberian Barber no1 is an eau de cologne for men from the Russian perfume manufacturer Novaya Zarya (New Dawn), a venerable Russian institution which was created during the tsarist period, in 1864. The history of this entrepreneurial venture in capitalist tsarist Russia, set up initially by a French émigré coming from the city of Philadelphia, USA, Henri Brocard, is one of initial tremendous business success at the European scale, then adaptation to new circumstances, i.e., the Communist regime and finally, of longevity at the threshhold of the 21st century. The business venture was initially founded as Brocard&Co; it first changed its name during the early Bolshevik period, changing it to "Soap and Perfumery Factory no 5" and then adopted its current name, Novaya Zarya from 1922...

Siberian Barber no1 was issued as a limited-edition at the time around the premiere of the movie by Nikita Mikhalkov, Sibirskij Tsirjul'nik, The Siberian Barber (1999).

It is a movie of epic proportion, in the style of Dr. Zhivago, set in 1885 Russia, starring Julia Ormond and Andreï Menshikov, and one might add Mother Russia. What I retain from this movie is the sense of a doomed love story rendered more tragic by the physical and political distance put between the two main protagonists, just like in Dr.Zhivago.

The expression "Siberian Barber" refers not to a person but to the nickname given to a forest harvesting machine meant to be used in Siberia invented by the father of the young American woman played by Ormond. A series of human miscalculations including those of her father will lead to tragedy, deportation to Siberia and the cruel separation of the lovers. Their lives will be irremediably marked after that in the likeness of modern Russian history itself.

So how does Siberian Barber no1 smell like? I was attracted at first by the description of the notes which are reported to be rose, strawberry, cider, vanilla, and chocolate. The bottle made of red glass and mimicking a small bottle of wine was engaging too.

My first spontaneous impression of it is that it is a cheaper rendition of Angel by Thierry Mugler - another one of those lesser Angel avatars that seem to proliferate in the post-1992 perfume world. Although patchouli is not mentioned in the notes it initially smelled to me like a vanillic cloud of chocolate and patchouli was released into the atmosphere - not a good thing.

Upon paying more attention I can tell that the perfume starts off with boozy notes which might be the cider, alcoholic cider that is. Then it moves on to smelling licoricey and "brittle"; yes, I do not know how to put it otherwise although now I think it might be the impression that a resinous note makes on me. If I concentrate furtehr, I detect the rose and the strawberry notes but the overall impression is one of sweet, heavy perfume without many nuances. As the scent develops a refreshing and much more austere earthy aroma appears. It smells like damp earth and reminds me of Demeter Dirt. This is the only part where I am led to imagine a Siberian forest and see an olfactory reference to the movie. Then it starts smelling sweet again, AGAIN.

I am able to report that the very last stages of the drydown make me think of Habanita because the next day it was still there on my hand smelling delicious to the point that I wondered what that aroma was. It was Siberian Barber no1 releasing its last molecules in the air. There is a very characteristic aroma in Habanita - vetiver and vanilla - that is also to be found, somewhere, in the perfume.

A word of caution. Although it is called an eau de cologne the concentration is more that of an eau de parfum.

In conclusion I can say that I really like the damp earth stage in the development but that it is not worth for me to wear the perfume for that one moment. I suspect the scent might appear more attractive in the winter and perhaps smell better on a man (yes, that idea crossed my mind), but for the moment being it will remain as a historical and cultural curio for me.

Siberian Barber no1 retails for $24.95. A Siberian Barber no 3 is also available for purchase and both are to be found at The Russian Shop. You can also buy other Russian women's perfumes, amongst them the famous Red Moscow.
Source: Empress's Bouquet or Red Moscow by Veniamin Kozharinov.

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5 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. H,
    Thank you so much for the review! This is the Barber scent I was interested in the most, based on the notes. I am still ineterested now that I have read your review. I wish it weren't Angel-like, but the damp earth part sounds fab. And I must admit I actually like the bottle :-) I think I'll I have to buy this one, "just to have it".

  2. Let me know if you'd wish to sample it first, I could send you that. I think that if we did an exchange I'd like to try Carnation:)

    It certainly is a curiosity. The other one I got a faint whiff of and it smelled very fresh. I think I'd probably prefer the other one, especially in this season.

  3. A historical curio, to be sure, but still quite interesting. I've never heard of that movie before! How interesting that it inspired an LE perfume so long ago that has persisted. Neat history, thanks!

  4. I'll send you a sample of that perfume:)

  5. Thanks for the review. Always wondered what this smelled like. I just wanted to add that this perfume is available at for 14.99, as well as a huge collection of other Russian scents along with Golden Moscow, the update to Red Moscow. They shipped really fast too.


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