Eau de Nyonya by Auphorie (2016)

Thumbs Down

Let me begin by saying that this is not a very appealing smell to me. However, I can appreciate the artistry here in Auphorie Eau de Nyonya (2016), even if it is something I’d never wear. In the words of the house itself “A unique original scent composition featuring exotic notes related to the Baba-Nyonya (Peranakan Chinese) heritage and culture in Malaysia. One of the most well-known things that relates to the Baba-Nyonya culture must be the “Nyonya Kuih”, which means Nyonya dessert snack. We have distilled the essence of “Nyonya Kuih” into Eau De Nyonya.” That should pretty much set you up for what to expect with this parfum: a gourmand made to resemble a Malaysian dish local to perfumers Eugene and Emyrs Au. I’m not the biggest fan of straight-up gourmands to start, but I would be a fool to deny their appeal, and typically sway more towards fruits, spices and cocoa as a winter-time indulgence, so some of the things going on in Eau de Nyonya do ring true, just not enough to keep me in for the long haul. Auphorie as a house tries to bring an authentic piece of their Malaysian origins into their work, which is something that I also appreciate in a perfume world that seems a bit too Euro-centric to allow things such as this to exist, but never having tried Nyonya Kuih myself, I can’t emotionally connect to this enough to overlook some of the deal-breaking quirks.

The opening of coconut milk, fermented rice, screwpine (a plant native to that part of the world), and something sweet described by the house as essence of the Tapai Gulut (a dessert dish made with the aforementioned rice) is a love-or-hate thing right off the top, and I’m not a fan. Eventually things do settle down into an oriental heart of jasmine sambac, sandalwood, cinnamon, benzoin, with touches of violet and cocoa to dry it out, but the shocking fermented top notes just remind me of malt beverage and yeast factories near where I once used to live, and that’s an association I cannot shake. From there, we have orris, vetiver, natural tonkin musk, ambergris, and an inventive “suede” note to further plant the skin feel in standard oriental territory, but the exotic fermented dessert notes still haunt the composition, because that is the intended purpose of the scent after all, and I can’t enjoy it. Wear time is well over 12 hours and projection is moderate with voluminous sillage, so there is no real “calm” for the wearer even if others passing by may not catch huge whiffs. Something like this is wearable art so I won’t suggest context for usage outside maybe someone else who loves food notes to the same degree as you, but avoid hot weather with Eau de Nyonya unless you want to torture yourself with all kinds of insects flocking to your delicious dessert-like skin. I can see being carried away by an attack squadron of mosquitoes while Flight of the Valkyries plays overhead. No thanks.

All told, I expect artisanal houses like Auphorie to create really challenging works like Eau de Nyonya, and much like houses such as Bortnikoff or Areej le Doré, their scents are available for a limited time only then permanently retired due to their handmade nature, creating a lucrative fan frenzy. Auphorie does keep it’s best-seller Miyako (2016) around permanently, but the materials for that one are probably less-exotic than the rest, and the formula notarized for re-creation. Eau de Nyonya is one of the many vaulted perfumes that had it’s fifteen minutes of fame on the house website, then went immediately into the afterlife, so if it sounds like a tasty proposition, be prepared to pay heavy coin from a collector that knows what they have. For me, this makes no difference whatsoever because after this review I expect to (hopefully) never smell this perfume again. Once more, I must reiterate that this is very creative, artistic, and no doubt an accurate olfactive recreation of the dish at hand, but not only do I find displeasure in smelling like dessert, but also of anything fermented. I prefer my fermented items on the inside please. I enjoy a tasty malt beer or sourdough bread as much as the next guy, but smelling like them is another matter entirely. This one is simply nyonya business so far as I am concerned. Thumbs down.

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