I'll 'fess up. Tobacco scents are not the easiest to review. For many of us, when it comes to tobacco-inspired fragrances, we tend to look for familiar associations we have with tobacco from our past - be it the cherry pipe tobacco grandpa used to smoke or the cheap bidi favored by certain groups of people. My own earliest recollection of unsmoked tobacco is the lingering scent on the aluminium wrapper you find inside a cigarette box.
Xerjoff's Oroville is none of the above. For that reason alone, some reviewers may be inclined to think of it as a tobacco lite, with little tobacco. They are not necessarily wrong though some of those opinions might have been shaped by side-by-side comparisons to fragrances with more prominent tobacco accords such as Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille or By Kilian's Back to Black.
Surprisingly, the first note off the top of Oroville was galbanum with its unmistakable earthy yet balsamic profile. But Lanvin for Men this is not, the galbanum giving way to a blossoming spicy floral blend tinged with the peculiar mustiness of clary sage. Unlike in a number of other Xerjoffs, the neroli and orange flowers are very much subdued here, existing mainly to add some piquancy to the sweetish spiciness of the carnation-tobacco blend as it slowly unravels.
At this point of the fragrance development some might venture to suggest "clove cigarettes...??". Well, not quite, at least not to my nose. The aura of tobacco is nowhere near as densely crude nor as sweetly spiced as that of clove cigarettes. Neither does it have the dry unsmoked cigarette quality I find in Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille or By Kilian's Back to Black. The closest I could think of was the tobacco absolute used in Sonoma Scent Studio's Tabac Aurea but where Tabac Aurea's rendition is a little creamy and powdery sweet, Oroville's version leans towards lightly musky woods and dry spices. Distinctively masculine and hardly sweet at all.
Oroville wears close to the skin, perhaps a little too closely for most wearers, with elevated body temperature improving its projection ever so slightly. But I have to admit it is an intriguing, smolderingly sexy scent up close, poised perfectly to start a lusty spark from that little cuddle with a lover. It continues along this line until the 4th hour when the tobacco and spice start to wear off, dwindling down a couple of notches to a warm ambery drydown with subtle hints of galbanum. Not much vanilla though. Overall longevity is good, easily 8 hours on my skin and tenaciously survives even a light shower.
Much has been said of the quality ingredients in Xerjoffs. I'm happy to note that this is not just marketing blurbs. In fact, until Oroville, I have never smelled a tobacco note quite as beautiful. How does it compare to Tobacco Vanille and Back to Black? Let's just say that if the Tom Ford is a loud yet linear powerhouse, and the By Kilian a somewhat bombastic masterpiece, then Xerjoff's Oroville is more of an understated yet suavely classy fragrance for the gentleman who appreciates quality craftmanship. Anyone who expects an edgy, avant garde composition or a mind-blowing showstopper from their USD345 bottle of Xerjoff is clearly missing the point. But if you are the sort who favors a Breguet over a Casio when both tell the time almost equally well, you'll probably understand why there is always a place in the market for the likes of Xerjoff.
Is Oroville full bottle worthy? I honestly do not know. It's probably best to let your bank account be the judge.
chamomile, clary sage, carnation, orange flower, neroli, tobacco, musk, sandalwood, galbanum, vanilla, amber.
Photo: author's own