First things first, Abelmoschus moschatus also known as ambrette seeds, Musk mallow, or Musk seeds is an aromatic and medicinal plant native to India. The ambrette seeds have a sweet, flowery, heavy fragrance similar to that of musk, and derives its name due to the musk-like fragrance of its flower. The seed is processed by either steam distillation, carbon dioxide or solvent extraction, producing an extract that is distinctive and musky with waxy undertones, almost like human skin, sweet, nutty, slightly floral and salty all at once.
The first time I met ambrette was when I came across B. by Balenciaga. That mysterious woody musky odor captivated me instantly, it was something I had never smelled before. The strength of ambrette seed cannot be understated, its flavor can be detected in a blend at just one part per ten million and its aroma can be detected throughout the entire drydown of a perfume!
Even so, what is White Soho all about? The ZARA official website mentions three main notes, i.e. musk mallow, iris, and blond woods. White SoHo opens with a musky-powdery duet that I adore, the accord from iris and ambrette is so noble and brave at the same time, they are like the Beauty and the Beast, excellent for one another, giving the overall tone of an earthy iris scent. There is a tad of ink and ash in there, a sort of cold and dark aspect. Sniffing the primary dusty note of the orris one might be induced to liken this cologne to Dior Homme Intense or Valentino Uomo Intense, but White SoHo is not akin to any of the two. Here the iris does not smell as buttery as lipstick or makeup stuff, a signature of the aforementioned designer colognes, yet it is woodier and muskier thanks to the ambrette seeds that have a sweet, flowery, heavy fragrance similar to that of musk, ain't no animal musk, sometimes a bit boozy with nuances of fine cognac. I surmise, but I am not sure, that musk mallow seed oil here is mostly replaced by various synthetic musks due to its high cost, i.e. ambrettolide.
Then it has a woody character with musky tones, it's much softer. The drydown introduces the other core components in the development of this creation: a lovely delicate powdery iris, unique and fairly rich in texture, very clean, with a touch of sweetness, but still musky and woody. It also has a soft buttery leather quality, a mild smokiness, and creaminess from the cashmeran, sandal, guaiac wood, or "white woods" as mentioned in the pyramid note. Hence, the dry down is an incredibly complex mix of "furry" textures that are woody, dry, spicy, clean, slightly vegetal and mildly animalic, sometimes smoky, sometimes leathery, sometimes buttery, kind of sexy and very dark and then leading to much cleaner soapy musk, and back again.
I get moderate sillage, which is spot-on for rocking the cologne at work, and moderate longevity on my skin, maybe a new application might help if you like to smell good up to the evening. Whilst this rather simple autumnal scent is not hiding a considerable use of synthetic notes, they are done not too badly, and they are very smoothly blended. White SoHo is overall a dry, masculine scent that is a little too underwhelming in cold weather, but in early autumn it shines. I like my cold weather scents a bit sweeter, amber, leathery, and smoky.
Side note: if you are familiar with ZARA fragrances, you will find a similitude between the masculine White SoHo and the feminine A Perfume in Rose, the woody muskiness is identical.