The first time I tried Byredo's Bal d'Afrique a few years ago I thought "meh … just another EDC parading around as an EDP". Then a fascination with Neroli began and I had the opportunity of smelling it on a friend … and found it lovely!
Truthfully, this is a very expensive fragrance for what it is … in fact, the entire line is overpriced imho, but I suppose it all comes down to what one is willing to pay for. I was lucky enough to secure a 'once sprayed' bottle from a friend who was spring cleaning her collection at a very decent price. Replacing it once it is gone will be a bit of an issue :).
I was completely amazed to find that this fragrance contains buchu, which as a South African I know very well in the form of the vile concoction 'Boegoe Brandy', a sort of snake-oil-cure-all remedy used in this country for centuries. I suppose it tastes a bit like Jaegermeister … but a lot rougher. The plant smells vaguely minty and camphorous with a fresh, berry-like note. It's not indigenous to where I live in the North East occurring primarily in the West of the country, but I have had occasion to smell it in it's natural state … once I made the connection it became quite obvious that Bal d'Afrique contains a good dose! It's quite unique smelling, but this fragrance also contains a sweetened Vetiver, which I love!
Neroli essential oil is VERY strong, but it is well controlled here in concert with the other top notes. I do get quite a lot of Violet from this frag bringing a soft sweetness along with it. I'm of the mind that this is what might be taming the Vetiver and keeping it from being overly root-like.
My biggest issue with Byredo is the cost proportional to concentration. This is marketed as an EDP, but it must be at the very bottom end of the oil-to alcohol ratio, because even if the sillage here is satisfactory, longevity is an issue and overspraying to correct that proves costly. I've had quite a bit of success spraying my clothes, however, so that's one way of increasing the lifespan of Bal d'Afrique.
I recommend this fragrance to anyone who enjoys a different take on the classic EDC. Bal d'Afrique is interesting and unique … quite a joy to wear!
A note about cost:
100mls of Bal d'Afrique costs $220 from the website. I love the simplicity of the bottle, but I guess a substantial part of the price resides in the exquisite, but imho, unnecessary packaging. An outer sleeve plus an inner box with a cut out space for the bottle AND a card with the marketing blurb are irrelevant. I'd buy loads of this if it came less expensively packaged. I feel the same way about byKillian. Strangely enough, fancy packaging always makes me wonder what the product is lacking … food for thought!