Pandora fragrance notes

  • Head

    • aldehydes, bergamot, cassis bud, davana, green peppercorn, ozone, pink peppercorn, ruby fruits (botanical accord), spice notes, violet leaf absolute
  • Heart

    • cabreuva wood, centifolia rose absolute, green tea absolute, juhi jasmine absolute, linden blossom absolute, orris root, yerba mat? absolute
  • Base

    • ambergris tincture, australian sandalwood, cyperus, fossilized amber resin, green oakmoss, mousse de saxe no.1 (botanical accord), muhuhu, patchouli co2, tonka bean absolute, vanilla absolute, vetiver co2

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Latest Reviews of Pandora

Pandora made quite a splash when it came out in 2011. Part of the reason why it did was thanks to a series of giveaways and competitions where people could win samples, which kept the scent in discussion, but for the most part, people raved about it because they loved it.

Smelling it now, I’m a little confused. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also muted, a little over-worked, and waxy in that soft focus vintage style of DSH that doesn’t let you draw an easy conclusion one way or another. Scents like this are like trying to make out a detail of a photo that’s been smeared with greasy fingerprints.

It’s good to be kept guessing, but Pandora is particularly obtuse. For one, I don’t perceive this to be chypre-like at all, because despite the presence of oakmoss; there is none of that marine ink bitterness that makes me suck in my stomach a little tighter. Neither is there the limey finger snap of bergamot. There is plenty of labdanum, though, specifically one with a mint ice-cream strain, and a texture like honey or earwax.

Interestingly, I smell flowers and berries sluiced with antiseptic fluids, a green (minty) chlorinated smell that adds a wonderful swimming pool feel. Come to think of it, the amber accord here smells quite Indian, all stiff-necked with saffron and globules of resin, not to mention the minty bakul flowers pickled in asafetida. I love the iodine-like shock of saffron in Indian attar perfumery, and Pandora fairly bristles with it. But Pandora ultimately differs from the rather austere, leathery-spicy Indian attar character by being waxy, blurred, and super sweet. In fact, it is sweet to be point of being sugary, a toffee-ish labdanum emerging strongly to underline the point.

The abstract blur of resin, flower, and spice makes it difficult for any one note or accord to jump out and identify itself. The base is the best part of the experience, for me, because it contains a botanical reconstruction of the famous Mousse de Saxe accord, the rights to which were formerly owned by Caron (and are now owned by Pierre Guillaume). Like many of these pre-fabricated bases (Laire 24 et al), the Mousse de Saxe is a complex perfume in its own right, and is what made the Caron extraits so famously textured in the drydown. Although the precise recipe for Mousse de Saxe is not known, there have been some informed guesses as to what it contains, which round up to anise (or fennel seed), vanillin, geranium, and isobutyl quinoline (smoky, tough leather notes). It lends a soft, mossy licorice tonality to a base, and a melting sugar darkness that some have described as marron glacé-like.

Because of this Mousse de Saxe reconstruction, Pandora does feature the same dark, melting sweetness and damp greenness of, say, vintage Nuit de Noel. But – and this is a big but – Pandora lacks the detail and color-saturation of a Caronade. It is very faint, in fact, the richness of its colors seeming to bleed out into paleness before you can properly grasp their outline, attenuating at a rapid rate until all you’re left with is a papery sweetness. Pandora is satisfying to a point, but it leaves me hungry for a proper Caron, even the current Tabac Blond, which everyone except me seems to think is awful.
22nd March 2023
I am no other, I am Pandora
Open me up and discover the end
I wouldn't bother, don't fight the mother
She who has birthed you, and end you she can
11th July 2022