Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake chose not to gild the lily, or in this case the patchouli, in composing Borneo 1834. Instead of a heavy, sweet, gourmand fragrance, which the house certainly can do if so desired, this is more of an intellectual fragrance if I may put it that way. It takes the wearer on a journey back to the olfactory environment of the trade route where the aromas of wonderfully fresh patchouli leafs and cacao permeate the surrounding atmosphere.
I have wanted to try Borneo 1834 for quite some time, and now I finally have done. Why did I wait so long to purchase a bottle? Well, I was a little worried about the camphor note. I also was worried that Borneo might be redundant in my collection since I already own several fragrances with pronounced patchouli and/or chocolate notes, including Chanel Coromandel, Mugler Angel, Guerlain Gourmand Coquin, and the surprisingly effective Avon Extraordinary. I am happy to say now, however, that I need not have worried about either one of these possibilities. Borneo 1834's camphor note does not spoil the fragrance, and Borneo stands quite ably on its own as a rather addictive combination of fresh patchouli and raw cacao that is unlike any of my other fragrances.
Since so many reviewers mention Angel in their reviews of Borneo, I eel the first thing to say is that whilst Angel is quite sweet and a bit fruity, Borneo is neither sweet nor fruity in any way. Some reviewers also mention Coromandel in their reviews of Borneol, so the second thing to say is that whilst Coromandel is a rather elegant, shimmering Chanel-esque creation, Boreno is more naturalistic, more "fresh" in the sense that I smell the patchouli as the leafs must smell whence picked fresh from the plant in the actual spot where they grow. Likewise, the cacao note is fresh but dark, deep, and unsweetened---this is not baker's milk chocolate but a rich, deep, very dark, and slightly dusty, raw chocolate.
I was also a bit worried about the camphor note in Borneo. I feared it might be medicinal in the worst sense of the word and totally ruin the fragrance for me. I am happy to report that it is not medicinal at all. In fact, it exists only as a fresh tinge to the edges of the freshly picked patchouli leafs and smells utterly natural and complimentary, so if like myself you are worried about a nasty, medicinal smell of camphor, or worse--moth balls, please be assured the camphor note in Borneo is a subtle and natural component of the patchouli leafs themselves.
I am sorry to say I cannot detect any white flowers in Borneo as I am a very great lover of white flowers. I also cannot discern any specific spice notes, only the merest hint of spice that seems to be a component of, and emanate from, the patchouli itself, as does the camphor note. However, despite my inability to detect white flowers and/or spices, Borneo is a very appealing fragrance indeed. There is nothing fussy about this fragrance. It is down to earth and earthy. It is fresh and refreshing but not in that artificial way of many after bath products on the market today. I truly can close my eyes, inhale this fragrance, and imagine myself somewhere along the trade route in 1834 with patchouli leafs and cacao all around me. Their natural, unprocessed smells mingle with one another and permeate the air around me.
Despite my reluctance to succumb to marketing copy, Borneo delivers exactly what it promises. It is neither too modern nor too contrived nor too over-worked. It is satisfying. It is simple but not simplistic. Sheldrake has not gilded the patchouli here, and that is all for the best. Borneo is unlike any other patchouli-cacao centric fragrance I have come across thus far on my perfume journey. Sheldrake has created a tour de force illusion that transports the wearer to another time and place far from his own.
Borneo is not a gourmand fragrance in the sense that it smells edible, but it smells edible in the sense that whilst smelling it I can imagine that the beautiful, fresh patchouli and cacao notes MIGHT BE turned into something deliciously edible. In that sense then, the notes are like delicious raw ingredients that I could imagine becoming many different delicious things. If the raw silks that were delivered to European buyers wrapped in patchouli leafs smelt like this, then it is no wonder that the scent awakened a fervent desire for more of it! As a woman, I can easily wear Borneo, but I would love to smell this on the right man. Ooh, la-la!!
Whatever fears or worries you may have about Borneo, I believe you will find they are unfounded. 'Tis true Borneo is a patchouli and cacao centric fragrance, but I find it very naturalistic, not artificially sweet, not medicinal, and not gourmand other than as being composed of notes that smell of possible raw ingredients for something that might become gourmand, much in the way the very best vanilla beans smell of a raw ingredient that will help to make many delicious foods and drinks. If you generally do not like patchouli in any form, then Borneo will not likely capture your fancy, but if you like patchouli and dark, rich, dusty chocolate as notes, then you will very likely enjoy this fragrance as much as I do.
Projection and sillage are soft to moderate. Longevity is average, and it wears fairly close to skin after the first 2-3 hours. If I fast forward to late 1930s Peru, Borneo is the fragrance that I imagine Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones, Jr. is wearing as he searches for the lost Ark of the Covenant. Do not ask me why exactly; it just fits.
I cannot imagine any venue where Borneo would be inappropriate. Only patchouli haters would recoil from this fragrance. I think everyone else would find it interesting and possibly even captivating, as do I.
Borneo is unisex in my opinion, but for those perfume lovers who like a more complex, more "embellished" fragrance, shall we say, they may wish to try Coromandel and/or Angel for their patchouli-cacao fix because Borneo is a no-nonsense, fresh, unadorned, naturalistic patchouli-cacao fragrance---utterly unique and totally niche, and I cannot imagine you will sniff it everywhere you go. This is not an unthinking, crowd pleasing, mass marketed fragrance but a fragrance that transports the wear along more of an intellectual and olfactory journey to a time and place that is wonderful and very far removed from our own.
Re the new skyscraper bottles, I do not find them particularly aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and I think their height is somewhat precarious as they could easily be knocked over more readily than a shorter, stouter bottle, but the black colour is excellent for protecting the contents from light, and the bottle feels very natural and comfortable in my hand and is easy to use.