Camel is a series of elegant contradictions. Technically, it’s an oriental, but in sidestepping all of the clichés of the genre, it retains a surprisingly brisk, fat-free mien. It features a plethora of rich, sticky notes like dates and dried fruit, but is as dry as a glass of champagne. Frankincense, musk, and oud lend a sinuous exoticism that speaks to the East; yet Camel has a distinctly retro flourish that places it firmly among the flanks of classic French perfumes such as My Sin and Arpege.
We sense several shifting layers of scent in Camel, all of them fascinating. First, a topnote of dried fruit dipped in green frankincense sets the pace: resinous, rich, but also dry, tart almost. Imagine the steamy sweetness of dried apricots and plums laid out in a souk, pricked by the waxy sourness of preserved lemons and pickled mangoes just beneath. The mouthwatering notes of the opening give way to an animalic floral heart – a none-too-clean jasmine and orange blossom whipped into a soapy, leathery froth by civet and musk. All this is spread over a gritty amber drydown that manages to smell like the friction between hot sand, cold soap, and silk sheets. Although Camel strikes us as more Madame Bovary than Scheherazade, it nonetheless manages to capture the contradictory nature of the camel, itself permanently poised between froideur and rage.