Zoologist Bee

Have you ever had a perfume note that was never center stage enough for you? A supporting note that warms, cools or brightens the star of the fragrance. You talk about how much you love the inclusion of that note, how wonderfully it is used! But the more you wear it the more you think: why can’t this note be the star? Always the bridesmaid, never the bride! In Zoologist Bee the main player is honey sodden beeswax, and all the floral attributes serve only to praise and fete the delightful waxiness.

I’ve found beeswax to be an elusive note in fragrance, I can remember only a few times being absolutely delighted by its presence. BPAL and Arcana perfume oils have scents with a beeswax note, but even while smearing on a generous amount of oil, I’ve always wanted it to be more intense. Penhalgion’s Sartorial has a waxy note designed to evoke the wax blocks used with thread by tailors, and I’ve huffed my arm trying to focus on those waxy, wonderful moments. I’ve found many honey perfumes are just sweetness without the wax, which doesn’t work for me. If you eat really excellent cold pressed honey, that wax note will be there.

When I was a child, my Dad would often bring home honeycomb, and I’d sit at the table spooning up great gobs of it, chewing away at the wax until only a tiny bit was left. Sometimes there was even a bee in the honeycomb! It was a far cry from squeezy bottles shaped like bears full of sugar syrup. Zoologist Bee is truly all about the bee and his creations. The floral notes capture that mouthwatering moment you try some fresh from the hive honey and marvel at how many flavours you can taste in it. Orange blossom, pollen, a resinous goodness, honey is a work of art. I’m honestly astonished to find all these beautiful tastes so vividly portrayed in this scent.

 

Zoologist Bee

 

Zoologist Bee (Cristiano Canali, 2019)

Top Notes: Orange, Ginger Syrup, Royal Jelly Accord

Middle Notes: Broom, Heliotrope, Mimosa, Orange Flower

Base Notes: Benzoin, Labdanum, Musks, Sandalwood, Tonka, Vanilla

Bee is quite linear. Potency gradually softening is the extent of the journey. And potent it is, no delicate wafting breeze here. This is a wonderful thing when beeswax is often only a bit player in a vanillic drydown. Is it too sweet? Is excellent honey too sweet? There’s your answer. It’s too sweet because it’s supposed to be. The only thing holding me back from acquiring a bottle is that I have yet to try Hiram Green‘s Slow Dive, another true beeswax and honey scent according to reviews. I’ve sniffed it once, and I suspect it is richer, while Bee is simpler. Both are very appealing, but I probably do not need two intensive honey and beeswax scents. I’m looking forward to our lockdown being over, someday, and being able to take myself off to the perfume shop and have a Slow Dive sniff.

And here’s an odd tidbit about Zoologist Bee. I have accidentally eaten some of this fragrance, and it tastes just like it smells! I honestly think you could make this into a liqueur or a gelato flavouring. This is not the first time I’ve accidentally eaten perfume, and usually it is a vile experience, so I was quite surprised.

 

Image: my own

Mancera Red Tobacco

TOBACCO. We’re not supposed to like it any more because it kills you. Perfume is one of the few places where you can say “tobacco,” and people swoon and discuss exactly what kind of tobacco it is. Pipe, cigar, a fresh rollie (that’s one for the Australian readers). I suspect that in one more generation these nuances will have to be explained as real life associations with tobacco become a thing of the past. That’s an interesting shift for perfumery. Many people are attracted to tobacco in perfume because of warm memories of a father or grandfather; the smell of their jacket, a well fed visit, a dog long passed at your feet.

The cost of cigarettes in Australia is nearly 40.00 for a pack of 30. The government raises the tax on all tobacco products 12.5% every year and the traditional “pack a day” smoker’s habit is a thing of the past. Teenagers no long stand around in clumps puffing away, their parents have long quit, and the scent of tobacco is something you will have to seek out, not have blown second hand all over you. This is, of course, a good thing. Though future perfumers may not be seeking to recreate their own memories, they will still be using tobacco in perfumery because tobacco is delicious.

I have always loved the smell. My dad had a pipe and cigar phase, and I was fascinated by both of them. Once, he let me puff his cigar. It was gross, but the blue smoke and the smell were fascinating. Pipe tobacco was even better . The enjoyment and study of tobacco in all its varying nuances and styles is a close cousin to perfume. While we may appreciate the smell of wine, it’s not designed to fill the air with its aroma the way tobacco and fragrance are. And so, in search of beauty without nicotine I’ve always put my hand up to try a fragrance with tobacco as a note. Most of the time I’ve found it elusive. Smothered by oud, reduced to being a sweet note for vetiver, serving only to brighten a leather and then fade. Shrill. An abstract painting titled Tobakkō. Nothing has ever smelled like burying your face into a fresh tobacco pouch until Mancera Red Tobacco. It has other things going on, but the tobacco note is rich and true, lasting from first spray to drydown.

 

Mancera Red Tobacco

 

Mancera Red Tobacco 2017

Top Notes: Saffron, Cinnamon, Incense, Nutmeg, White peach, Green apple, Nepalese oud

Middle Notes: Patchouli, Jasmine

Base Notes: Tobacco, Amber, Woody notes, Vetiver, Vanilla, White Musk

Red Tobacco is almost a gourmand: it’s so sweet, it makes me think “tobacco milkshake”. This may sound unappealing, but it’s an addictive scent, like tobacco itself. There is a brief fruity phase I’m not keen on, but that doesn’t last long. Saffron and patchouli are wonders here, macerated together like the filling of an exotic pastry. The cinnamon is an absolute joy paired with tobacco. I find myself fantasizing about cinnamon flavoured tobacco and tobacco flavoured spice mixes. And through it all the pungent, warm, appealing scent of a freshly opened pouch of tobacco dominates. Red Tobacco is not for the timid, it lasts all day, and I recommend you have just a wee spritz until your brain gets used to the potency. If you love it, you will love it deeply and be inhaling yourself for hours.

Oh, and yes, it goes very well with a nice whiskey!

 

Image: my own

Lush’s Gorilla Perfumes Tank Battle

How do we assign value to art? Is the value of a piece changed by the value of who offers an opinion on it?

Lush’s Gorilla Perfumes Tank Battle set out to tell a story of how a famous artist’s words imparted value to an outsider’s art. The art itself was the same before, during and after this event. What interested me in this story was that the perfume Tank Battle experienced the same transformation.

Tank Battle was inspired by the battle of Tachowa Covington to keep his home, a literal water tank. Mr. Covington had been living in an abandoned water tank above a Los Angeles highway for seven years, after arduously cleaning the rust inside and painting it. The exterior of the tank was an industrial piece of oversized scrap, left to crumble into the hillside. Dirty, overgrown and difficult to access, no one would have noticed it … until they went inside. Mr. Covington spent his seven years creating a lived-in art installation, packed with found objects plastered together into a bohemian masterpiece. Paintings, sketches and lyrics covered the walls. Every available space was something Mr. Covington had created. He might still be living there, but once he invited enough people and their cameras inside, the eyes of the local government fell upon him. The tank would have to go, living there violated all manner of bylaws, and Mr. Covington would have to leave. As Mr. Covington was not a man of means or influence, there seemed no way to halt the inevitable. Mr. Covington’s art was considered to have no real value and was irrelevant to those seeking the removal of the tank. And then everything changed. The famous and mysterious artist Banksy noticed the tank and decided to use the exterior as a canvas. “This looks like an elephant”, he wrote on the tank, simple words, boldly printed. Banksy’s fame and the monetary value of his works meant removing the tank needed to be discussed. There was a reprieve for a time, but eventually the tank was taken intact to be sold, valued for its exterior alone. The interior art was hauled away under duress by Mr. Covington, moved to a cave, a shed and eventually a tent to be damaged and lost by the weather.

* * *

Lush first launched their perfumes in 2003. They have their own lore and history and many devoted followers. There are perfume people who began their lifelong love of scent with Lush, moving from the soaps to the fragrances and then out into the world of perfume. But for many people Lush is a messy, adolescent looking shop and Lush’s perfumes are not on their radar. Lush, the soap people? If the perfumes smell like the shop, they must be terrible! Tank Battle was not on my radar until the eminent Luca Turin raved about it in Perfumes, The Guide, giving it 4 stars. And suddenly there it was, a remarkable scent. Mr. Turin opined over “the idea of pure brilliance” of combining geosomin and labdanum. And suddenly Tank Battle is being discussed not as a cheap indie scent you might enjoy but as an excellent fragrance.

This is a lot of waffle for a perfume review with not a single mention of what the perfume smells like. It really is quite unique. There’s a not too sweet bubblegum vapour that infuses it, incense, a bit of motor oil and fresh earth. It’s delicious and fantastical! If you were disappointed in Etat de Libre Orange‘s Encens et Bubblegum, this one might fill that need you didn’t know you had until you read the words “Encens et Bubblegum”. It’s a better blended, more vivid scent, and the drydown is very comforting. I would call it an incense gourmand, taking its place next to so many delicious vanillas that play with darker themes. If you’d like to read more about the fate of Tachowa Covington and his tank, this article will fill you in.

 

Lush Tank Battle

 

Tank Battle (2016)

Labdanum, Patchouli, Clove

These are the only notes given, I think a small sniff will show otherwise!

 

Image: my own (Photo taken in Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Australia, famous for its graffiti and found art. Here a googly eye discarded beer can cheer up the winter day.)

Liquides Imaginaires Desert Suave

For a long time, I had paid no attention to the brand Liquides Imaginaires. There are so many new houses and they don’t all catch my eye. But one day a friendly sales assistant pointed them out in response to my looking at “masculine” scents. I told her I was not impressed by the bottles: I found their pillar likeness oddly off-putting. She was quick to explain that the perfumer was an architect,  the shape of the bottles was representative of fundamental principles of … I’m not really sure what. I have tried to research this architect angle but came up empty-handed. Though I felt zero attraction to the brand, I went home with a handful of samples; and now I own two bottles of Liquides Imaginaires because, damn, they were all varying degrees of excellent. But let me continue with my carping…

The name Desert Suave is so terrible to me I wince at the thought of someone asking what I’m wearing. It reads like google translate had its way with an excellent name in another language. If this had been a bottle covered in graffiti and maybe an animal paste-up (that’s a graffiti term for all you cool cats), then the name would have been ironic. But no, the pillars of serious architectural posturing are not being ironic. Let me assure you though that Desert Suave does smell like the fantasy oasis of the ad copy, perhaps the one Camel cigarettes wanted you to imagine, and it IS very suave. I’m pretty sure Lawrence of Arabia’s corner shop smells exactly like this. Desert Suave is overwhelmingly dates and dried fruit soaked in syrups and orange blossom water. It’s not particularly sweet because this is a not a dessert, it’s the raw ingredients of a dessert and perhaps some truly excellent naan. Cardamom is wonderfully present, as well as wafts of saffron. Apparently, Desert Suave has a toasted sesame seed note that I almost imagine I can smell.

Liquides Imaginaires Desert Suave

This is a very rich scent. Rich is such a beautiful perfume word, don’t you think? It’s different then “dense” or “luxurious” or “multi-layered”. There is not a lot of progression in Desert Suave, but 12 hours later I’m left with a sweet balsam that is most pleasing. I enjoy how literal this scent is, though it is going for a souk vibe, it is highly focused and never becomes just another oriental. There’s no oud or patchouli, just luminous warm resins, dates and dried fruit. If they had upped the cumin, it would have been skank heaven, but I found the cumin almost undetectable. Perhaps they could release a cumin soaked flanker, Desert Siren, so I could again be traumatized by the name but love everything inside the bottle.

I’ve been very happy with this house, and I’m going to continue exploring it, bottle dorkiness be damned!

Liquides Imaginaires Desert Suave (Quentin Bisch and Nisrine Grillie, 2018)

Top Notes: Indian cardamom, Italian mandarin, clove, cumin, black pepper, saffron
Middle Notes: African orange blossom, rose, geranium, date
Base Notes: Spanish cistus, toasted sesame seed, atlas cedarwood, musk

Image: my own

Ofactive Studio Flashback in New York OR Narth’s Time Traveling Adventure

City scents! I think we’ve all felt the attraction. Could this scent transport me to my beloved Marrakesh? Will it be the ultimate armchair travel to exotic places? I have my olfactory associations, whether real or imagined, but I’ve often been disappointed.

I laughed out loud when I tried Santa Maria Novella‘s Alba di Seoul. Perhaps the outskirts of Seoul smelled like this in the Joseon era, all conifers and freshness but Seoul smells absolutely nothing like that today. Does Kyoto really smell like sakura? No, because most varieties of cherry blossom have no scent, and those that do are very faint. But we now have a sakura note in perfume which oft times is just left of peony with a dash of jam. You can bet any fragrance with Kyoto in the name will either be an incense or a light, pretty thing featuring “sakura”, that magical Japanese word.

The first time I saw Olfactive Studio’s Flashback in New York, I was excited. I grew up in New York, and having left it a long time ago, the word “flashback” captures the impact of my olfactory memories perfectly. They’ve faded over the years, but there are some odd smells that make me intensely nostalgic. Bus fumes is one. I associate the smell with the Port Authority bus terminal, a dark and greasy cave of a place choking in diesel. The smell of bus fumes still makes me wildly happy and full of anticipation of traveling. I rarely smell buses where I live now, so these memories have never been replaced with new ones.

Olfactive Studio pairs each scent with a photograph. The photo for Flashback in New York is of the Chrysler building in a blizzard, very atmospheric, but with one sniff the scent flashed me right back to New York City in the high days of summer, a much more pungent season. Flashback in New York smells like fruity garbage, exhaust and the skunky weed that filled the air before the young ones turned marijuana into an art form. The cumin phase is nicely sweaty and I can almost feel the sooty sheen on my face again. My city of Melbourne, Australia does not smell like any of these things. I have not been back to New York City in many years, perhaps it smells very differently today.  I found Flashback in New York wonderfully evocative, a whole bunch of crazy memories flooded me (oh excuse me, flashbacked me) and continue to do so every time I wear it. I went through a sample, and I knew if I didn’t have a bottle I would dearly miss it. It’s the clearest olfactory place memory connected to perfume I’ve ever experienced.

Olfactive Studio Flashback in New York

I’m sure some of you are wondering why you would wear perfume described as fruity garbage and weed. Let me assure you they are my very personal notes, my memories. For you Flashback in New York might smell like clary sage and leather, smoke and saffron and a dose of cumin. The clary sage is dry, herbaceous and tweaks Flashback in New York into something quite interesting. Unlike many of the Olfactive Studio fragrances, this scent has good lasting power. Just like New York, it will make an impression.

Tell me about your favourite city perfumes, which ones really speak of the city to you!

Olfactive Studio Flashback in New York (Jerome Epinette, 2018)

Top Notes: cumin, clary sage, white linen, saffron
Middle Notes: violet, Tuscan leather, jasmine
Base Notes: birch smoke, papyrus, vetiver, tonka bean

Photos of New York City taken by teenage Narth

A Magical Greenery Tour

Hello friends!

I have had a very exciting week: after my post, in which I talked about how green and I don’t always get along in perfume, Portia sent me 11 numbered samples of some of his favourite greens. I tested two a day and journaled my immediate feelings and impressions. When I began, I had no intention of trying to guess what they were, but the allure of numbered mystery vials was too much for my brain. Often an immediate association came to mind, whether fragrance or house. Some might find this useful, and though none of my speculations were correct, I think you could take them as “in the style of” recommendations.

And now, to the perfumes!

 

Green Samples

 

Green No. 1

A lovely melon note under fresh green spiciness. Ma Griffe? Something of that era. Very gentle, reminds me of humid spring day. And I love humidity.

Peau d’Ailleurs by Starck (2016, Annick Menardo). I had never heard of this house, but I’m looking forward to wearing my sample again, as apparently it features geosmin heavily. Perhaps that was the humidity?

Green No. 2

While it begins light and crisp, the drydown is potent and long-lasting. Quite stiff and proper though sweet. Too high pitched for me, but a crowd pleaser, I suspect. O de Lancome-esque.

Sampaquita by Ormonde Jayne (2004, Geza Schoen). Oh my! I have tried to like this so many times due to its name and being on sale rather often. I’ve always found Ormonde Jayne to be too proper for me, I like them, but I feel I cannot love them. And no, I don’t just like the wild ones, but my proper quota has been fulfilled by quite a few classics. I’d recommend Ormonde Jayne as a house to others, but it seems we are not to be.

Green No. 3

Sweet like a green apple. Fruity, galbanum on a pillow of musk. It reminds me of Fidji, or rather my image of Fidji, which I haven’t smelled in 15 years. Very charming and young, the youth of another era before the invention of fruitchoulis.

A Scent by Issey Miyake (2009, Daphne Bugey). I remember trying this when it came out as the bottle was so appealingly minimalist. I liked it, but having little interest in greens or fresh at that point (I was deep into gothic orientals) a quick spray was as far as we went. Now I’m thinking this is a fun one to keep an eye out for, if it is still around.

 

Greenery

 

Green No. 4

I feel this one is thoroughly modern and playing homage to vintage. There’s a definite touch of cumin in there under the mossy forest floor. I would like very much to wear this scent, it has many secret qualities that appeal to my imagination.

Eau de Gloire by Parfum d’Empire (2003, Marc-Antoine Corticchiato). And straight to the top of the want list this goes! I would like to carry Eau de Gloire in my purse, always at the ready to secretly bolster the day. This was one of two standout favourites during my magical greenery tour. I was so enthralled with it that I emailed Portia begging to know what it was, but he held out until I had sampled everything!

Green No. 5

Chanel No. 19?

Futur by Robert Piguet (1960, presumably reformulated since then; Aurelien Guichard). It was a little sweeter than No. 19, but if you’re a No 19 fan you might like to spend some time with this one to see if you also love it.

Green No. 6

A tart fuzzy green with a touch of heliotrope to begin with. I immediately thought “Zoologist”, though not one I’ve smelled. Strong black tea. Smoke. Absolutely charming and interesting, reminds me of a great reading experience. 6 is the stand-out for me, it’s just so drinkable and fine. It made me a little emotional, the play of tea and fruit and smoke.

Eau de Givenchy, vintage (1980, Daniel Moliere and Daniel Hoffman). This was my favourite of the whole collection. I absolutely loved it. Looking up reviews, there’s a lot of talk about “a perfect spring day” and no talk of tea and tartness. Perhaps trying things without reading about them first has a lot of merit. This one I tested for two days.

 

Greenery

 

Green No. 7

A vile and antiseptic concoction infiltrated by sweaty cumin. A sweetness develops. By the drydown, it’s quite rich and acceptable. Amouage?

#2 Spiritus/Land by Miller et Bertaux (2006). I had quite a visceral dislike for this, but by the drydown it had mellowed into a well thought out fragrance, but not something I enjoyed. I see it has teak in it, which may contribute to my antiseptic response. Amouage and I have a troubled relationship, but one factor that brought Amouage to mind with Spiritus/Land was the high quality of the ingredients.

Green No. 8

Oh my! I want to say Cristalle, or rather the fantasy of Cristalle that I had when I began my perfume journey. It’s luminous! It reminds me of a beautiful yellow wine. I’m wondering why I don’t have whatever this is in my collection!

Cœur de Vétiver Sacré by L’Artisan Parfumeur (2010, Karine Vinchon-Spehn). One of the few L’Artisans I have not tried and yet another reason to adore the early L’Artisans, full of quirky masterpieces. I will be tracking down this sadly discontinued wonder to join my L’Artisan beloveds. I am quite thrilled to have tried this beauty, since it has always been on my radar as a L’Artisan I had missed out on.

Green No. 9

Guerlain Vetiver?

Tzora by Anat Fritz (2012, Geza Schoen). Well, isn’t that interesting. I was very careful during our green tour to only test two a day and not confuse my nose. I wore nothing else. Being in lockdown helped, as there are no other scents in the air, and the mood and temperature plodded on at a steady sameness. I’ve tried Tzora before, and I own Guerlain Vetiver. I ended up testing both side by side. Other than Tzora being a little richer and missing that delicate nutmeg, they were so close I thought it was my imagination that they were even different scents.

Green No. 10

Minty. Camphor. Sugar. Heeley Esprit du Tiger? It’s lovely, I could bathe in it! It is sugared in the most delicate and lovely way.

Oriental Mint by Phaedon (2011, Pierre Guillaume). This features “resins”, which, I suspect, is where the tiger balm accord comes in. I think it’s better than the Esprit du Tiger, not as simple. A very fun scent! I could see this being a bottle I wore excessively for a summer.

Green No. 11

I have spent some hours thinking on what this reminds me of. Lovely lemon, very fresh and bright to begin with. It then magically develops into a delicious sherbet! It’s as if a gelato maker sniffed the orchard air and rushed to capture the wonderful citrus and springtime scent in a gelato. I think this is a Hermetica, it feels like Hermetica DNA.

Granville by Dior (2010, Francoise Demachy). Oh my, how fantastic this is. I hope you all are able to try Granville, especially if you love lemon. Vividly natural ingredients.

And so we end our magical greenery tour. Through the testing phase and the reveal, I’ve been inspired, besotted, perplexed and gobsmacked. It has been a very enjoyable journey during this time of no travel (one of perfume’s secret powers). Thank you, Portia, for your samples and your wonderful enthusiasm to share your loves.

 

Greenery

 

Images: samples (Narth), greenery (Undina)

Memo Tiger’s Nest

Even though there were at least a couple of guest writers on Undina’s Looking Glass, over the last couple of years I was a sole contributor, so for a while I will be reminding my readers to look at the By line (Undina).

* * *

“A rabbit finds the tiger scary, whether it still has the teeth or not.”
Let’s Eat 2, episode 14

My friends, do you like tigers? I am not sure if many would say, “No, I do not care for such beasts.” I very much like tigers, in the way a little child likes a particular animal. I have one tiger tattoo (and a pussy cat, who all think themselves tigers). Is having a tiger tattoo tacky? Probably, but I do not care. If something brings you joy, enjoy it! Maybe your perfume was a huge sum you wouldn’t want to admit to friends, or maybe you bought it in a drug store. If you love it, it is beautiful. The same is true of tigers. Fine art or tacky emblem, I respect the image. Even in their dotage a toothless a tiger is still a tiger.

Memo Tiger’s Nest is one of those beautiful perfume bottles where you very much want to love the perfume inside to justify buying it. Having found myself tearing up at the beauty of the one Memo I owned, Shams Oud, I was hopeful. I’d been gifted a few samples of other Memos which I enjoyed. Very soon these things added up to a “you will blind buy this and you will do it fearlessly” conviction. Opening the box and feeling the heavy, enameled bottle with its beautiful beast I felt nothing but love. I have been rewarded tenfold for my leap of faith by the juice itself.

Memo Tiger’s Nest

Oil of Absinthe, Aldehyde, Lime, Amber, Safran, Incense absolute, Osmanthus, Ylang ylang, Rose, Papyrus, Vanilla, Balsam of Tolu

I’ve never been on the incense quest that many in perfume land pursue. I have some nice frankincense choices, and some weirder BPAL’s, and I do not need much else. I’m guilty of always wanting things to be more intense, to the point of possibly smelling like someone should call the fire marshal. Tiger’s Nest offers a different interpretation to my joss stick inferno fantasies. There’s a wonderful medicinal note weaving throughout this scent. Crushed leaves, a sticky frankincense mixed with camphor. Medicinal, it’s a thrilling note for perfume! In the middle of Tiger’s Nest there’s a lovely leathery floral with a sweet, warm rose. At this stage of wearing Tiger’s Nest I am getting a strong health food store vibe. Mother was a hippy and I spent many, MANY hours standing around health food stores as a child inhaling essential oils, wheat germ, raw blocks of eye watering soap and incense. Some incense perfumes smell only of the ingredients, Tiger’s Nest smells of the burning sticks as well. Underneath it all a gentle vanilla, lasting long into the drydown. Memo Tiger’s Nest is a very interesting scent and one you may find you bring your own associations to.

So, I am quite happy. I am enjoying my beautiful tiger bottle and its contents very much!

Memo Tiger's Nest

Image: Paintings are Korean Minhwa style tigers by Polish artist Małgorzata Bonas

Orto Parisi Stercus

Even though there were at least a couple of guest writers on Undina’s Looking Glass, over the last couple of years I was a sole contributor, so for a while I will be reminding my readers to look at the By line (Undina).

* * *

The most sensual of aromas is the essence of a young raven
fed only boiled eggs for forty days, then killed and preserved
in myrtle and almond oil.
Tongue, by Kyung Ran Jo

Reading that quote my perfume loving friends are you not just dying to rub preserved raven all over your pulse points and inhale the magic? Let us take gourmands to the next level! Ridiculous and yet not ridiculous in the eyes (or copy) of some perfumers.

There is seemingly no end to permutations within current perfume trends. We’ll have rosy ouds and oudy roses and roses with stinky oud and clean oud with stinky roses. This one is rich! This one is sheer! This one has barely discernible notes and only if you squint! If a current perfume trend is something you dearly love then this can be quite enjoyable.You may have always wanted a rosy oud that was sparkling and a rosy oud that was liturgical. And then we have the creative perfumers who are here to help you discover things you never even knew you wanted.

So. Stercus means feces. I’m feeling for Undina who wasn’t fond of Lush’s name “Dirty” for their mint fragrance. I think if I send her a sample of this one I shall have to rename it. Undina for the love of fragrance do not look at the Orto Parisi website!

The perfume house Orto Parisi was created by the man behind Nasomotto, Alessandro Gualtieri. He introduces Orto Parisi with this bit of hyperbole: “The parts of the body that carry more smell are those where more soul is collected. The strong smells have become unpleasant to us, because the excess of soul is intolerable to the extent that our innate animalism is repressed and breaking from civilization.” But forget all that (I’m sure you have already!).

I once had a craft beer whose name I’ve forgotten that tasted intensely and immediately of too ripe bananas and smoked meats. It was so ridiculous and disgusting I announced to the pub that this brewery was surely trolling it’s patrons with this concoction. Having read the ad copy for Stercus before I obtained a bottle I was convinced that I was going to repeat this experience in perfume. I was wrong. I am IN LOVE with Orto Parisi Stercus. It is beautiful and rich and comforting and dramatic all at once. Orto Parisi won’t give out notes so these are all my own impressions from my love affair with Stercus. We have chocolate and camphor and rotten fruit and oud and a sugared croissant. There’s a sharp jasmine in the top notes that almost magically hovers over all the bakery oudy goodness warming this fragrance. It’s quite an original scent and the deft creativity impresses me. But what of the name? Let’s just say I understand the connection being drawn between the name and the fragrance. I am unable to summarily dismiss this idea even while thinking it is a pretentious attempt at getting attention. If this were an abstract painting entitled “Stercus” I would nod my head and think a good job had been done.

Given these times I was tempted to just cave to the copy and take a photo of Stercus on a row of precious, precious toilet paper. But I resist as Stercus is too beautiful to be pigeonholed by its silly ad copy. Too beautiful and too complex.

 

Joan Miro Painting

 

Photo is of my beloved Stercus and Joan Miró’s “Painting”.

Discoveries: A Perfume Story

Even though there were at least a couple of guest writers on Undina’s Looking Glass, over the last couple of years I was a sole contributor, so for a while I will be reminding my readers to look at the By line (Undina).

* * *

Discovery sets. Do you buy them? They seem like a great idea. A decent amount of each juice thematically selected by a perfume house, often nicely packaged. Sadly though I have sworn off discovery sets. Invariably in a set of five I will love two, talk myself into maybe liking one and outright dislike two more. Then I sit there looking at my discovery set thinking about how it costs half the price of a nice fat bottle of the one I like the most. Math is cruel. Last time I bought one it was out of some weird guilt after having sniffed every last thing in a shop and taken up the owner’s time and conversation. I had been unable to decide on any of the sale items so I sprung for a discovery set of the illustrious candle maker Cire Trudon’s perfumes. Trudon has been making candles since 1643 and perfumes since 2017. As discovery sets go, this one beat the odds.There are three I like, one I have no need of and then the subject of this post, Trudon Deux/ II (2017).

Notes: green leaves, pine, juniper, Ambroxan, Cashmeran

Deux perfectly captures one of my nature loves, the dark, viscerally bitter greenness of so many plants. There’s pine, but it’s not a sweet pine, no cozy winter associations here. If you’ve ever tasted pine sap because it was so pretty and recoiled at its bitterness, this is that pine. Now I LOVE bitter things. Bitter beer, bitter foods. Just thinking about cruciferous vegetables makes my mouth water. It’s watering right now with the visions of broccoli, my best friend vegetable, that popped into my head when I typed “cruciferous”.

Since I was a small child, I have loved bitter flavours. My dad used to give me non-alcoholic beer in order to get me used to the taste. Yes, I realize how this sounds! He was a true foodie, and he wanted to make sure my palate was ready for anything. We ate grapefruit many a morning and of course we did not put sugar on it, the bitterer the better! Fresh, bright, rindy, pithy grapefruit. I was naturally attracted to bitterness, and this was encouraged. People who put sugar on their grapefruit were weak!

 

Trudon Deaux II

 

Deux is sharp, linear, dark green and bitter, bitter, bitter. It smells exactly like a plant, impressively so. I’m not one to ask “but is it perfume?” however this phrase did jump into my head while wearing it. Though I love to eat bitterness, it seems I do not love to smell it, a confusing and sad revelation. I have always tried with green perfumes because they seem like I should love them, my personality is whispering “make that your scent… yes that green sappy one…”. But I can’t do it, the more realistic and dark green the fragrance, the more it bothers me. I can love a fragrance that is a water colour in a green wash, such as Diorella, but once we’re in niche or vintage territory where true greenery is the point I have to sadly bow out.

If you are on a holy grail for greenness I do encourage you to try Trudon Deux/ II. It doesn’t bother with smelling like a beautiful woman in a forest, or even the whole forest. It’s crushed dark leaves and pine, bright and bitter and good.

 

Image: my own

Fun in the Car with Youth Dew

Even though there were at least a couple of guest writers on Undina’s Looking Glass, over the last couple of years I was a sole contributor, so for a while I will be reminding my readers to look at the By line (Undina).

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“You’re a perfume snob”. So said my friend as we drove to lunch together. I was quite taken aback, “What, no! I’m not!” but my friend continued on seemingly enjoying herself. “Oh yes, you are, you are absolutely a perfume snob!”

This was hard to take, especially so as I was asphyxiating under a roiling cloud of Estee Lauder‘s Youth Dew, my friend’s favourite perfume. I had given her a bottle as a gift, even though I feared being in just this situation, trapped in a car full of Youth Dew, which I very much disliked. Neither youthful nor dewy to my nose, I thought it did not suit my friend at all but she loved it.

Trying to prove my lack of snobbery I informed her that I was wearing Britney Spears Curious in Control (a pleasant apple custard scent), so therefore I could not possibly be a snob. She laughed, “Oh, you’re 100% a snob!” Ugh, this was getting uncomfortable. I started worrying that offering up Britney as an example of my willingness to embrace  the cheapest celebuscent was actually proof of my snobbery, “Some of my best friends are celbuscents!” But then I got a grip and realized I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone. The word my friend was probably looking for was aficianado aka someone who knows too much and talks too much on a topic other people don’t deem worthy of a conversation. Sometimes (who am I kidding, most of the time) it’s better to just agree that Youth Dew is enchanting without harping on about oakmoss. It’s straight back to my childhood when I thought spouting facts about krill was a good response to a kid saying “penguins are nice”.

I love perfume and I love smells, some days it feels like I love every single smell in the world. I try to appear a little less of a weirdo, to pocket the leaf or cheese rind or odd flinty rock and not inhale them deeply in front of people. I think many of us who started out on this perfume journey because something smelled pretty have ended up here. Nose deep in a stout thinking about oud. Analyzing funk and and oils and laughing when connections are made. Once your brain and your nose start having deep and meaningfuls, there’s no going back.

So I must declare I am not a snob. I am just someone with too many facts and too many opinions on too many topics and one of them is perfume.

 

Gold Plated Bathroom

 

Photo is of my GOLD PLATED BATHROOM. Not really, but did you know that pure gold has no smell of its own?