Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a stunningly talented perfumer, especially when he is given sufficient freedom to play, and Arquiste has given him a lot of slack, resulting in such accomplished creations as Èl and Anima Dulcis. Arquiste Nanban is yet another success, a dense, complex shapeshifter built primarily around creamy woods and incense.
Nanban opens strong. Those familiar with the "Spanish leather" accord in Carner Barcelona Sandor 70's (also by Flores-Roux) will certainly recognize it here, infused with florals and ornamented with peppery spice. There's a bit of a "classic perfume" current running through this opening phase (as there is running through much of Flores-Roux's work for Arquiste) and then the myrrh comes to wrap it all in a gentle cloud, and it develops into the fragrance that it will be for the bulk of its lifespan.
At the heart of Nanban is a milky sandalwood effect, and refracted through it is tea and coffee and resins, all of which will appear one moment and be gone the next, as if phasing in and out of existence throughout Nanban's lifespan. As the incense becomes more significant it develops the feeling of an old church or library: books, wood, and incense.
The late drydown lays bare some of the woodyambers used to create the sandalwood and resin effects. It's not punchy enough to be unpleasant, but it's a touch disappointing in its lack of depth (especially given the more interesting phases that precede it).
Nanban has an uplifting peppery citric opening that's weighted with resins and a lovely gentle animalic touch. It starts out quite vibrant despite the richer and heavier notes and it's quite enjoyable at first.
Unfortunately, the dry down's heavier notes of smoke, tar, leather and tea, as well as a more velvety gourmand feel, flattens the scent out instead of deepening and shading it. There's still spice and texture but it's like a pastry chef accidentally squashing a dark and sumptuous layer cake with the heel of their hand. Honestly, the best word I can use to describe the scent at this point is smushed. It smells smushed.
As the scent wears on, the scent gains more definition again but it's only because the smoke becomes more dry and enters burning tires territory. I suppose that's par for the course with the smoky fragrance genre but it smells too heavy handed.
It's not awful, but it's not great. Finally, this back story about some sailing ship with a hull full of spices in the seafaring days of yore, it's been done. Throwing the word Japanese in there is a bit rich when there aren't any Japanese ingredients or anything linking the scent to Japanese culture.
One of my most favorite fragrances (but if I admit to that then I must also admit to all that this scent implies regarding the wearer lol). This is a relatively heavy, sweet but very spicy, smoky, bold and *DARKLY* complex fragrance for sure - especially among fragrances marketed as intended to be for men (objectively, though, Id have to agree that this is actually a unisex). Sillage and longevity are at LEAST moderate. A VERY well done, professionally blended product - more like a work of olefactory art (and I am VERY stingy with that particular label). Nicely done for the type of mens fragrance that it is. 4 out of 5 stars - would be 5 if the brighter notes were just slightly more pronounced (as it is they become drowned out with the dry-down).
Nanban is a very dark tea, tar and smoke scent that is much more livable due to the complex interweaving of various spices, leather, incenses and woods. Instead of falling into a black hole Nanban retains interesting character crafted from very many bold and positive elements. Nanban smells darker in warm weather and the biting spice comes out of the darkness in colder weather. Rated: 3 of 5 stars.
My first reactions on seeing the note pyramid, here and elsewhere, are: i. in what world is tea and coffee together ever a good idea?; and ii. why on earth does "the other" web site list jasmine as a base note, and how is that going to work?
Nanban opens up on my skin with a delicate helping of pepper and tea, quickly accompanied by the silky softness of the osmanthus florals. At this stage, it's rather nice. It quickly moves on, though, to a musty effect that is hard to countenance as personal scent. The final stages and long drydown redeem this rather, with a sweeter set of accords that no doubt benefit from the balsams and sandalwood, but which never lose a strong smokiness. I detect no coffee at any stage. (Interestingly, you will find a similarly sceptical review on the kafkaesqueblog web site, but one which professes to detect coffee but no tea.) Thankfully, given the lack of obvious fit to the genre, there's no jasmine either.
Here's the thing: if I wanted to smell this strongly of smoke (I don't), I would probably buy a 5ml vial of the "Deadwood" perfume oil from Alkemia on Etsy, which currently comes in at about £10. I would have to fork out £135 for 100ml of Nanban. I know it's perhaps hard to compare two such different products... but I just don't hanker after Nanban. It's fairly interesting, and would reward careful experimentation, but I can't say anything particularly positive about any aspect of the scent itself. Given the price, the musty heart notes, and the fact that I'd rather take home a craft perfume oil of my acquaintance, it's got to be a neutral rating. Just not exciting or provocative enough to my nose.
A black tea note in the opening blast sets the scene, with a spicy element in it that is soon softened by a fairly dark saffron. Early in the drydown a very good coffee impression a arises, a darkly roasted and rich coffee that gradually replaces the tea.
Later in the meddle notes an incense develops with some waxy styrax component present that fits in quite nicely, and at stages takes on a balsamic characteristic that is not very medicinal in nature on my skin.
The base has a somewhat dull sandalwood note mixed with a leather impression. Initially the leather is a bit weak, but with times it grows into a dark old country boot-like impression with hints of tannin and smokiness detectable at times.
As far as the performance is concerned, I get moderate sillage, excellent projection and nine hours of longevity.
This is a very pleasant, rich and deep winter scent, with tea, coffee and leathery notes providing a nice accompaniment to the open fire place in the lounge room. The quality of the ingredients is high, and they are well-blended. A traditional concept but executed with original touches. 3.5/5.