Bourbon French Parfums Jasmine // The African Voodoo Connection {Perfume Short (Review)} {The Scents of Africa Series}


If you like your jasmine leathery, with hints of spices, herbs and incense - and tremendous charm to top it off - this is one to add to your perfume wardrobe.

I've been beguiled since yesterday by a whiff of incense escaping from an unknown source until I was able to track it down to a small collection of the Southern Favorites by New-Orleans-based old-timey French perfume house, Bourbon French Parfums. It trails off its perfume simply entitled "Jasmine".

This old Louisiana perfumery was first established in 1843 as the Doussan French Perfumery, founded by August Doussan.

A young European chemist joined him later named J.H. Tindel. Together, they developed recipes like their Eau de Cologne - still a bestseller today - but also sourced 19th century Europe and the "Orient" for interesting perfume formulae...

Today, French Bourbon Parfums boasts of having changed very little over the centuries. When you smell Jasmine, you can start to just understand how much.

Jasmine is described by the house thus "This exquisite fragrance is an international favorite" and I hope to add to its reputation because it is absolutely worth it. The first mention of this scent on the blog, I recall now, was actually made in 2007 as a comparative note in a review of Jasmin by Molinard.

The discreet yet persistent trail of incense emanating from Jasmine smells uncannily like the blends of African incense one smells in Paris on people of African descent.

I have spoken of it before as the departure point for "The Scents of Africa Series". Bourbon French Parfums, it must be underlined, does not hesitate to underline its Voodoo connection - or hoodoo as they say also in the Big Easy - as a natural source of inspiration for their perfumery. For instance, they sell a perfume called Voodoo Love described as "A re-creation of the special potions of New Orleans' most famous voodoo queen, Marie Laveau."

marie-laveau-zombi.jpgMarie Laveau Zombi by Schonee, 2007. Digital painting.

It is tempting in the case of Jasmine to develop the hypothesis that you are seeing an African connection playing out beyond time and space, smelled in an incense accord which would have persisted in the memories and traditions of both ancient African slaves and modern African emigrés.

As sociologists know, diasporas are exceptionally conservative entities; their ethos would therefore mesh particularly well with the art of perfumery, which can be extremely averse to change as well. Both are affective phenomena involving enhanced emotional attachment. This hidden incense accord would be the scattered, yet immediately recognizable perfume of an African diaspora used to custom-blending their incense and vetiver at home, wherever that might be.

Jasmine is said to be resting on the scent of Night Blooming Jasmine. It is lightly fruity, indolic and overall dusky and exotic. There is a musky-incensey facet to the scent which feels like your skin smells like that of African passerbys in the métro, thanks to a characteristic olfactive association. The incense mingles here with vetiver or "kus kus" as they like to call it at French Bourbon.

Another reason for paying attention to this Bourbon French composition is that it reminds you strongly at one point of another jasmine perfume of note, Sarrasins by Serge Lutens which itself takes some inspiration from a chapter of the history of the African continent.

This is one of the most both rapturous fragrances and subtle blends (the latter as opposed to a constructed pyramidal perfume) I have smelled. Pardon my French, but I feel like exclaiming, and I do, "ça, c'est du parfum !" (Now, that's the real deal!)

On another cultural note, the connection of jasmine to voodoo in New Orleans is strong. Author Kenaz Filan writes in the book The New Orleans Voodoo Handbook (2011),

"When you are playing poker with an old-time New Orleans cardsharp, you might note the smell of jasmine lingering about him - and about your money after he wins it from you! Among those who know their Hoodoo, jasmine is a scent that can help you to become lucky in both cards and love."

Jasmine blended in New Orleans might just have that extra little bit of magic and know-how that's needed for a scent to mesmerize subtly and durably.

The concentration I own is probably light because the scent while persistent is not very strong. I advise therefore to go for the Parfum concentration. The scent exists also as an eau de toilette and cologne. You can purchase the whole "fragrance wardrobe" for $140; it includes the parfum, edt, spray cologne, travel size cologne, body powder, body lotion, foaming bath gel and body shampoo.

You can also read Bint El Sudan, The Other, African, Chanel No.5: Interview with Nick Evans of IFF

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Voodoo Love by Bourbon French drives men wild! My husband loves it. Whenever I wear it, I have men follow me in stores sniffing. I have had men and women ask me what I am wearing. It is intoxicating.

    • We love "intoxicating" scents! Judging by Jasmine and imagining Voodoo Love must up the ante, and thanks to your testimonial, it moves at the top of our must-try, must-review list!

      Chant Wagner

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