Perfume Review: Riven Oak by Tom Daxon

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There’s a simplicity and cleanliness to the Tom Daxon brand that really appeals to me. It feels unfussy and uncomplicated in presentation, with clean, structural lines favoured over anything remotely eye-catching or gimmicky. It’s a brand where the fragrances are allowed to speak for themselves and whilst the presentation may be simple (and elegantly so) the composition of each of the fragrances is anything but. Tom Daxon presents a collection with remarkable range, offering beautiful twists on familiar themes, creating fragrances that really don’t smell like anything else. If you haven’t sniffed anything from Tom Daxon then you absolutely must rectify that fact immediately.

The latest addition to the Tom Daxon collection is Riven Oak, and if you’re in to woods in a big way, then your interest should most definitely be piqued right now. Tom Daxon describes this oak-centric fragrance as “layers of smooth woods” and without giving away too much in advance of this review (because I’d quite like you to read on!), I’d say that’s a pretty spot on description. Riven Oak is no ordinary wood fragrance (see more on wood fragrances here) – it’s a multifaceted essay on the complexity of wood, with an entirely unique signature. Interest still piqued? Good, because it should be.

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The Notes

Top: Bergamot, Pimento Berries and Rum
Heart: Oakwood, ISO E Super and Amber
Base: Vetiver, Silken Musks and Cedarwood

How Does it Smell?

The first thing you’ll notice about Riven Oak is the fact that it’s as much about vetiver as it is wood. The second thing you’ll notice is that it packs quite the punch right off the bat. Riven Oak opens with a fruity, boozy and spicy opening – an initial impression that can only be described as cacophonous. There’s a lot going on and it’s all good; the juicy sourness of pimento berries, the warm tones of a cinnamon-spiced rum and a lightning flash of golden vetiver. In fact, the whole thing is golden and rich right from the outset, presenting itself as a completely unique take on wood with a somewhat dirty funkiness that is intriguingly sour.

Oak, rather unsurprisingly, sits a the very heart of Riven Oak. The wood has this beautiful, roasted quality to it that smells like no other wood fragrance I’ve smelled before. Sniffing it, I get the impression of oakwood that has dried and baked in the sun. Golden light has been burned in to the wood as it roasts under the afternoon sun, surrounded by a field of arid vetiver strands. The oakwood is hot and dry, but a savoury amber accord lends a plushness that tempers any harshness, whilst Iso E Super works its magic to smooth everything over, as it always does. Together this creates a bold and distinctive heart of wood that radiates with solar strength.

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Riven Oak mellows beautifully in the base. Like a fine whisky it unfurls and softens with age, shedding away the tough skin of bark and opening up to a base of musks, cedar and vetiver. Everything feels more muted in the base, with the sour, toasted tones of oak coated in a shroud of powdered cedar wood. Musk adds lift and space, as musk often does, whilst the vetiver that was so pungent and radiant in the opening settles to thin strips of salty earth. I’ll admit that I love it more in the base than the opening (which is quite something) but that’s the beauty of this scent – it takes one on a journey of full development, from the first axe-strike into the flesh of the wood until the beauty of the heartwood is revealed.

To rive an oak tree is to split it open. It’s a visceral, damaging act that reveals an unexplored facet of wood. This Riven Oak reveals a rich core with luminous veins of vetiver. It’s a fascinating take on wood that eschews softness for challenge, presenting a gloriously rich, earthy, and sometimes dirty impression of wood. It’s honestly incredibly unique and it’s a must for any wood-lover. I imagine it to be the perfect thing for a well-dressed guy or gal who seeks something with a smart aesthetic, but also layer upon layer of complexity and depth. It won’t be for everyone but as we all know, the best scents never are. Do sniff it if you can.


Riven Oak is available in 50ml (£105) and 100ml (£155) Eau de Parfum


Sample, notes and quotes via Tom Daxon. Images are my own.