The top notes are Cardamom, Incense, Nutmeg, and Saffron, and I do get a hint of these as soon as I spray the perfume onto my skin, but the Oud in the base is so strong that it almost overtakes them completely. None of the top notes particularly stand out alone – I can barely pick out the Incense, I can just about smell the Cardamom, and there’s a slight spiciness that comes from the Nutmeg and Saffron.
Within a few minutes, the Rose from the heart notes starts to come through. The heart notes are Ambergris, Ambrette, Cypriol Oil, Jasmine, and Rose, but it’s the Rose that really stands out. I’m not usually very fond of Rose in perfume, in fact I had tried Stéphanie de Bruijn’s Oud Oud Oud!!! which is quite similar to Varanasi – heavy on Oud, but also really heavy on Rose which never seems to fade. Luckily for me, the Rose heart of Varanasi is not as strong as in Oud Oud Oud!!!. The Jasmine in Varanasi is a bit more difficult to detect, because the Rose is just so prominent. By the time the heart notes are taking over, that initial blast of Oud has also faded away somewhat, and the fragrance has mellowed out a little bit, though it’s still definitely a more animalic than floral fragrance.
The heart notes fade away rather quickly also, just like the top notes did, with the drydown setting in quicker than expected. About an hour later, the Rose has mellowed out, and the fragrance is a beautiful warm Oud with a hint of florals. It feels like a perfect winter fragrance.