Perfume Review: Bukhara by Gallivant

“Perfumed escapism” – that’s what Nick Steward, founder of indie brand Gallivant, aims to bring to the world with his collection of city-inspired scents, and let’s be real, if there ever was a time when we needed to be transported elsewhere by perfume, now is it. With so many people under lockdown or working from home, and unable to travel, all because of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Gallivant provides virtual tours of faraway places, all through the medium of olfaction. Gallivant makes this big old world a much smaller and more accessible place, all with just one spritz of their transportive perfumes.

With their latest launch, Gallivant whisks us away to Uzbekistan and the noble city of Bukhara. This “fairytale city on the Silk Road”, as Gallivant puts it, is home to beautiful, colourful architecture, talented artisans, welcoming people and a melting pot of spices, fabrics and fruits. Gallivant worked with perfumer Ralf Schweiger (Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle; Eau des Merveilles by Hermès, and so many more iconic scents) to distill the city of Bukhara into olfactory form. Together they chose the luxurious and elegant note of iris as Bukhara’s core material. To be honest, they had me at “orris”.

The Notes

Top: Caraway, Pear, Coriander and Bergamot
Heart: Orris, Ambrette, Osmanthus, Jasmine, Clove and Apricot
Base: Benzoin, Saffron, Amber, Wood and Musks

The Perfumer

Ralf Schweiger

How Does it Smell?

I’ve always experienced iris/orris as being grey in colour, in a shade that verges on both white and purple at the same time. It’s a cool, aloof and introverted material that has a rooty, vegetal character that is mineral and carrot-like (well, it is a rhizome after all…) – it’s such an unusual material. In Bukhara one gets full grey, rooty iris in all its earthy, introspective glory but the exciting and unexpected twist is a flash of fruitiness that brings an immediate spark of colour. This is not your typical iris, no Sir.

This fruity impression sits somewhere between the fleshy sweetness of peach and the sticky warmth of apricot, which leads me to think its the result of a prominent osmanthus note, which would make sense as Bukhara also has a strong leather/suede facet too (as opposed to an overtly powdery texture, as is often the case with iris). The fruit facet is subtly applied but it’s enough to turn the scent from straight-up, aloof orris to something much more lively and extroverted. The overall impression is a remarkably rich, vibrant and warm iris perfume that is full of joy, and colour.

In the dry down, Bukhara is soft and supple. It sheds the suede and earth facets, leaving a soft trail of mineral freshness. There is a smoothness to the base that I particularly enjoy, with musks and woods intertwined in an airy accord that is enveloping and comforting (and entirely abstract too – everything is harmonious), whilst also incredibly fresh. The whole thing is so damn pleasant it makes me long for the day when I can book myself a flight and go explore Bukhara for real. One day.

Bukhara is a beautiful perfume and an incredibly wearable take on orris that isn’t afraid to celebrate some of the material’s more enigmatic and rooty facets. The subtlety of fruits and spices bring flashes of colour to the grey – chinks of light that hint at the vibrant culture of Uzbekistan. There is an ease to this perfume that I love and I get the sense that this comfortable feeling is evocative of the welcoming vibe of the city from which the perfume takes inspiration. Wearing Bukhara, one simply feels at home, no matter where they are – somehow I think Bukhara the city is just like that too.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see where Gallivant take us to next…

Longevity & Projection

Longevity is good and you’ll be noticing Bukhara on your skin six to eight hours later (it trails off into that mineral freshness I mention by about hour six). It also left a lovely fruity-iris trail on my jacket, which was a joyful surprise when I went to wear it on the day after I wore Bukhara.

In terms of projection, Bukhara feels most enveloping on first spray, but I’d say it’s definitely more of an intimate wear. It’s not a skin scent, per se, and you, and others will smell it, but it’s not a sillage bomb. Which feels right – this is the sort of scent that needs to invite people in to reveal its intricacies.


Bukhara is available in 30ml Eau de Parfum. 2ml samples are also available.


Images are my own. I received a 2ml sample of Bukhara from Gallivant however, the bottle pictured is one I have purchased myself (because I loved it and I also think now is the time to support small independent brands that you love). I was not paid for this review and the brand had no say in the content.