This smells like a natural, herbal lavender, with that slightly musty anisic edge that stops it smelling too artificial. Then it turns into a generic slightly sour soapy musk. This is a recent sample so I suspect it has been reformulated since the review in the guide.
To my nose, this is practically identical to Trumper's Sandalwood, for all intents and purposes. That is, it settles on the same, sole note: pure, unadulterated, reeking musk. Granted, the opening is quite different. As others have said, the opening is a very impressive, earthy, dirty lavender–not at all the sweet, clean, pretty or light lavenders one gets from less distinguished fragrances. However, this opening is so fleeting that it's barely worth noting. The musk fixative is so dominant and persistent that any other qualities go out the window.
Longevity and sillage are tremendous. I could smell this on myself all day long after what I thought was a sparing application. It is certainly a quality product, and a definite bargain.
Perhaps my take on this fragrance will change with time, but presently I must resolve that it is not for me. I was looking for a cleaner, more herbal lavender, or a lighter, fresher one, at least, and found Harris's and Yardley's offerings to be more suitable.
As with other reviewers on this site, I was led to Caldey Island by Luca Turin's five star review and such statements of his as "perfect lavender" and "the best lavender soliflore on earth."
I find it no better, no worse, than a dozen other pure lavenders I have sampled over the decades. It is soft and powdery as is my favorite lavender, Caron's Pour Un Homme, but lacks the persistence of that scent classic.
What is confusing is how other reviewers got their bottles as the Caldey Island site states it does not ship outside the UK. I sampled a one millileter vial from Surrender to Chance.
I give it a neutral as it is not great in my opinion, just competent, and lacks longevity.
Over time I've come to realise that the name is a bit misleading. There are other things that gently stretch the lavender in different directions.
So instead of my original metaphore of Hugo Collumbien the skilled pruner who knows how to bring out the elegant shape of a bush, he's more like the talented gardener who knows how to highlight a plant by surrounding it with sympathetic neighbours.
I was a lavender lover looking for a perfect lavender fragrance to replace the one I loved for years. That was Crabtree and Evelyn's Lavender. But it went through a name and/or label change which caused me to buy their Lavender edt, which, confusingly to me, not only has a different label, but a different, and weaker formulation, which faded disappointingly. I since refound the original Crabtree & Evelyns, but for a while I was looking for a new lavender fragrance. That's when I tried Caldey Island.
This is a really good, authentic lavender. It is lovely, fresh, uplifting, aromatic and airy, like the flower. It is also, alas, fairly short-lived, another aspect that seems to go with the territory of authentic lavender. In Caldey Island this is dealt with by adding a soft lavender-herbal musky dry down, which blends quite well with lavender topnote to sort of 'extend' the lavender ambiance, all a lavender-lover like me wants or requires. The musk reacted well on my skin.
Though I really like it, my old standby Crabtree & Evelyn is much longer lasting, though not quite as soft as this one. It is a little sturdier, thanks to some fortification with other notes. But the result is so quintessentially lavender I don't really care what other notes are added. It's nice to know there's an excellent back-up, but it didn't displace my first love, king of all lavender fragrances to my nose.