The Turkish niche brand hailing from the glorious, imperial city of Istanbul, formerly Roman-Byzantine Constantinople, overlooking the Bosporus straight, has firmly secured its path into our hearts in the last few years.

The seat of Nishane itself, is referring to “the one and only City”, such was its beauty, its name in Byzantine Greek εις την Πόλην and then transliterated phonetically “stimboli”, hence Istanbul. From this picturesque spot on the map comes one of the top 3 niche brands in the world nowadays, as showcased by the top tier raw materials and its attention to detail and precision.

We wouldn’t be focusing on the exoticism of the brand, if it weren’t for the transliterating of this lush background into olfactory cadenzas which caress the senses. They’re soft, murmuring, sneaking up on you, gaining force with the contact of the skin’s warmth and they steal compliments from everyone who smells them in the wake of your presence.

The formula is commercially only available in the prestigious Extrait de Parfum concentration in 50ml bottles, which means that the utmost density of fragrant materials is gathered to lavish the skin with droplets of pure quality. It’s not usual to offer only Extrait de Parfum concentration, even in niche brands, but Nishane believes that the superiority of their materials is best put to the fore with this method. Indeed the ingredients is what sets Nishane apart, even in the hyper luxury market. Comprising arresting natural distillates and absolutes, with only the most sophisticated and elegant man-made essences to give resonance and body.

Nishane fragrances have their way to pose a question: “what is that beautiful perfume?” What is it, indeed? Or, the question being, which among them is it? There are actually quite a few to choose from.

Among the first creations by Nishane in 2013, Monegu is a patchouli marvel, the green leaves of this famous extract of the Indian peninsula sweet and dark, like a rum-laced chocolate carré you can’t resist. Sultan Vetiver enhances the cooling note of this South-east Asian grass with the peculiar note of aniseed, giving it an edible and spicy quality, which pairs exceptionally well with the leathery base note that evokes the tannery industry that is thriving in Turkey. Ambra Calabria lifts the usually dense and heavy amber mix using the bracing green resin of galbanum and the elegant citrusy essential oil of Italian bergamots from Calabria; hence the name.

Hacivat , Karagoz and Zenne, gathered under the Shadow Play collection, are more directly inspired by the history of Turkish culture itself, coming out in 2017. The popular street fair “shadow theatre” is a Byzantine performance art, originally borrowed from the Chinese. Both Hacivat and Karagoz, as well as Zenne, are names of popular heroes of this performance canon, in which woodcut figures are manipulated by the puppeteer behind a backlit giant white sheet, so that the audience can see their shadowed silhouettes and listen to the puppeteer impersonate the roles. It does make for fun outings with small children, especially outdoors in the summer months, when the light dies out and only the lamp lights up the sketchy theatre.

Karagoz actually means “he with black eyes”, a stalwart figure of great cunning, but if you’re not a proud possessor of such dark pools of liquid warmth, fear not. The Karagoz fragrance in the -you guessed it!- black bottle is a welcoming medley of everything that is inviting; succulent grapes, juicy pineapple, fresh vetiver with a side dish of sumptuous and at the same time solemn oudh note. Hacivat on the other hand is a lighter, more elegant than dark hero, hence the white bottle, and Nishane gave it a decidedly chypre quality, with lots of inky oakmoss to evoke this dandy sophistication, and again their beloved pineapple touch which lifts everything into a smile. Zenne is the heroine, sweet and sour, in a flaming red bottle, with blackcurrant buds lending a peculiar sour top note, beside the tart grapefruit and the crunchy vegetal rhubarb. This soon mellows in delicious vanilla and precious ambergris, like the salty skin scent of a sinner. Phew, that’s hot…

Another important milestone for Nishane is the creation of Colognisé, which pays homage to a delightful tradition found in Turkey. That involves the Lemon Cologne they use to welcome guests to their homes, to disinfect their hands, and to impart a scent of freshness and propriety to every counter-top and errant surface in a house or shop. A deliriously fresh and rejuvenating scent, Colognisé takes a cluster of citrusy notes (not only lemon, but bergamot, grapefruit, and neroli too), a generous dash of jasmine and green-floral lily of the valley, plus an undercurrent of vetiver and musk for tenacity. It’s bright, fun, Prosac for the mind and you will find yourself going through it by the gallon come summer, just like the Turks do.

Last, but not least, inspired by the 13th century Persian poet Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, who also spotted his verses with Turkish, Greek and Arabic, both fragrances Fan your Flames and Hundred Silent Ways stand as the highlight of Nishane, offering scents very approachable in concept, yet exquisite in craftsmanship; like an opera aria you hear by the best baritone and tenor duet in existence.

Fan your Flames follows the inspiring verse “set your life on fire and seek those who fan your flames”, so you know that it answers to those who seek to follow their own heart and their own heart only. A shisa pipe tobacco fantasy, laced with the lactonic, milky, and sweet notes of coconut and rum, the fragrance becomes boozy and unctuous, transporting you to the laced windows of the cafeterias around Istanbul where people sit and enjoy Türk kahvesi, i.e. Turkish coffee. It reminds us of some of the older Serge Lutens opus, such as Fumerie Turque (aka Turkish Smoking Salon) and indeed it must have been the point of departure for the autochthonous makers who must have felt rightly possessive of the idea!

On the other hand, Hundred Silent Ways is sweeter and more feminine, interlacing the ambergris-salty-skin-like undertone of Baccarat Rouge 540 (Maison Francis Kurkdjian) with the nectarous quality of white flowers and the creaminess of vanilla. Cuddly, honeyed, oozing with gardenia and tuberose, gaining almost the bubbly fun of bubblegum when it heats up, it’s a compliment-getter par excellence.

It would be impossible to do justice to such a diverse brand, with so many great fragrances. Indeed we found ourselves surprised to really like, and love, each and every one of them, which is quite a feat when you’re running a fragrance business. But don’t let our word be the last one; be your own judge and let us know your thoughts. We’d love to see how Nishane wins you over as well. Yep, we’re that certain of it! 

© 2020 Helg - LKNU Parfumerie