Dries Van Noten is the first in a series of "portraits" by Frédéric Malle of people he admires. In this case, the eponymous Belgian fashion designer. This was actually made as a huge "thank you" note to the designer, who supported Frédéric Malle by selling his fragrances in his store in Antwerp from the very beginning. He also uses an unconventional yet very warm and human touch in terms of fashion style (he famously said he would never make a piece of clothing which could never be sold in a store, so no "haute couture" or "exclusive" collections like most other big fashion labels), and that was also something that Malle admired.
In this creation, Malle's "perfume portrait" of the designer, he took inspiration from the designer's hometown, Antwerp, and the (Flemish) culture of northern Belgium. Essentially, Frédéric Malle here created a sandalwood composition, because sandalwood is warm and inviting when used in perfumes (it's often considered a "second skin" type of scent), and that sandalwood is boosted with vanilla, lots of it, and musk, saffron, jasmine, bergamot and cashmeran, a synthetic molecule which smells like slightly woody, musky human skin (this was used quite a lot in Frédéric Malle's other release Dans Tes Bras, a fragrance which literally translates as "in your arms").
So what do I get from it? Well, to me it comes across as a borderline gourmandish, (very) creamy sandalwood, vanilla, saffron, jasmine, bergamot musk combination. In fact, it has a touch of Shalimar (the jasmine, vanilla & bergamot combination). But to me it's more creamy than Shalimar (it's actually closer to Samsara in my opinion), it's a lot like a pastry. Which makes sense, because Malle also drew inspiration from the sights and smells of Belgium, including it's food. Food such as waffles, crêpes, and biscuits. I find this a very warm and inviting fragrance, the sandalwood here is extremely authentic (Malle lists it as Mysore Sandalwood but it's actually Indian Sandalwood (name: santalum album) grown in Australia). This is not a synthetic sandalwood substitute, this is the real stuff, but obviously enhanced with other synthetic ingredients such as Sacrasol which Malle describes as "an ingredient halfway between sandalwood and vanilla", and ethyl-maltol which is an ingredient used in many gourmand fragrances (ie the "candy" note in Thierry Mugler's Angel).
I think if you like you're scents warm, rich and comforting, you'll like this one. If you like a gourmand twist to fragrances, you'll like this also. It's strong, as in it lasts a long time (8-10 hours on skin, and even lasts weeks on clothes), but it sits very close to the skin after the first 2 hours. But that's a good thing, as the natural sandalwood, musk and vanilla compliments the skin beautifully and really makes it come alive. In my opinion this is a perfect one for cuddling with someone on the sofa by the fire. Perfect in cooler weather, with a wool or cashmere sweater. It's very "comfy" in warm and sexy way.
Some people have labelled this a "safe" fragrance from
Frédéric Malle (who is known for making "unconventional" fragances), but I think this is worth the price alone mainly because of the (very) authentic sandalwood oil concentration, and the way it is used in this perfume (and Malle always uses high concentrations of natural raw ingredients in his perfumes - for example the Vetiver in Vétiver Extraordinaire, or the Tuberose in Carnal Flower). It should be on your list if you live in a place with cool weather as I think this works great on those warm, indoor settings by the fire, with a loved one by your side. I don't see this as a disappointment, I see this as another great creation from Frédéric Malle, this is a gourmand hymn to sandalwood... and I love it!