Timbuktu review

In the realm of perfumery, Timbuktu is a one-of-a-kind fragrance. Bertrand Duchaufour, the perfume’s creator, has shown that perfume does not have to be loud to be heard from afar. He proved that it doesn’t have to be thick, rich, or intoxicating to seduce millions of people around the world. And he illustrated that perfume may be light and airy, like the sound of a flute, while still dominating and conquering the niche market. In this manner, we might paraphrase the Zen thought that when a man is light, nothing can break him, but when he is heavy, fixed in principles and difficult frameworks, even the tiniest quake of the earth can bring him crashing to the ground.


On the L’Artisan website, they state about Timbuktu:

Timbuktu is a unique perfume that combines ancient mysticism with a completely modern take. It draws inspiration from Wusulan, an old ritual used by Mali women to perfume their hair and body. According to tradition, flower roots, balms, and spices bring love and sensuality. The smoky quality of papyrus, incense, and patchouli pays homage to the literal meaning of the word perfume: per fumum or through the smoke. Africa is evoked by the woody note of vetiver.

The concept

The perfume’s core concept or axis can be perceived from the opening notes, but the notes that complement it develop over time.  There is a delicious and invigorating fruit note at the start, which, unfortunately, lasts barely a few minutes. It’s a fragrant mango note, according to the official website, that serves as a wonderful prelude to the green tones that follow. They shift to distinctly fresh, green, somewhat harsh, and dry notes in the center, which can be tiresome at first, but what follows is true spiritual bliss. Incense is a sacred scent in many religions, especially Christianity, which cannot envision any of its rites taking place without large quantities of this fragrant resin.

That beautiful incense

The incense in Timbuktu is definitely one of the most beautiful incenses ever made in the world of perfume, next to Breath of God by Lush. Unlike the latter, this incense is transparent, not at all suffocating. It is in perfect relationship with the dry, woody note of papyrus and earthy patchouli, with which it forms an accord of divine beauty.

In his book Perfumes, the A to Z Guide, Luca Turin reveals that the main reason for such a mystical and characteristic note of wood in Timbuktu is a substance called Cypriol. Namely, for the needs of this perfume, Bertrand Duchaufour acquired this special fragrant note directly from India, which is obtained by extraction from Cyperus scariosus and has a smoky scent without hints of oil or tar, but only the smell of freshly burned and charred wood.

The best of the best

Timbuktu is one of my favorite L’Artisan perfumes, and I wear it all the time, especially when I have to go to the office. In that sense, it’s comparable to Le Labo’s Santal 33 perfume, in that it’s both refreshing and invigorating, as woody and peppery perfumes frequently are, but also soothing and zen. It even reminds me of another of my favorite perfumes, Terre d’Hermes, in the dry down. I believe that the period from spring through autumn, including summer, is perfect for it, as long as the temperatures do not exceed 30 degrees. It’s a bit more masculine for my nose, but I think it’d smell amazing on a unique and mysterious woman.

[Fragrance notes] top notes: mango, pink pepper, cardamom; middle notes: incense, papyrus, karo karounde; base notes: vetiver, myrrh, patchouli, benzoin.

[Fragrance group] woody.

The creator of the perfume is Bertrand Duchaufour.