A Gothic Grimoire

Franz_von_Stuck_004

-  The Genie’s Guide to the Supernaturally Sublime

Something about October, the dance of glowing leaves in the wind, the shift in mood from the exuberance of spring and the dolce far niente of summer to a tinge of delicious melancholy, the very perfume of the air itself, with its first hints of looming winter and quietude, the mushroom scent of a forest floor after the rain, the sharp tang of fallen apples and the sudden epiphany of wood smoke in the air – all of these combined add up to what is without question one of my favorite times of the year.

If I were to put an epithet that somehow sums up all of October, it would surely be ‘Gothic’.

These days, Gothic conjures up associations of horror, darkness and menace, if not an entire subculture I once upon a storied time did my own small part to define the first time it surfaced in the zeitgeist of the mid-Eighties. While I may have outgrown my predilection for acres of black eyeliner and ditto lipstick, certain elements of that era have stuck with me ever since – a taste for melodramatic literature written at an operatic pitch of intensity, music, and a certain nineteenth-century feel and line in clothing. Although I still own an outsize amount of very black clothes, one indispensible item more than any other brings out that inspired state of being that consists of equal parts preternatural frisson, high drama, twinges of mortality, and the delectable, unbearable, existential darkness of being.

Perfume.

But what in all that chthonic murk constitutes a Gothic… perfume?

It goes without saying that all the happy-go-lucky flirty florals and fruity wonders we adore so much in high summer no longer cut it.

For a perfume to be deemed Gothic requires a few non-negotiable elements. First of all – that all-important question, my own pop-culture criterion:

Would Morticia Addams wear it?

If it is too light, too young, too obvious, too fleeting, the answer is likely a resounding ‘no’. Anything that doesn’t reduce our own resident Gomez Addams (should we have one) to a helpless pile of smoking ectoplasm need not apply. Speaking of ectoplasm…

All Gothic perfumes must by necessity contain an element of the numinous or the supernatural about them. It could be a question of composition, of overall texture, of unusual fragrant elements in mutual tension, but if it doesn’t give you a superstitious shiver down your spine and you can’t even explain why, what’s the point?

Since the Gothic mood and mindset is dark, intense, and brooding, the perfume must somehow convey all of these things. Therefore, Gothic perfumes are often very plush, with a lot of basenotes that may often include frankincense, labdanum, oud, patchouli, sandalwood, oakmoss, castoreum, civet, musk, leather and other wonders of that fertile alchemical undergrowth that provokes all our darkest, most secret, subconscious desires.

Last but never least, if you can answer an affirmative ‘yes!’ to the question…

Would you wear this to a graveside Halloween party?

Then you’ve found your very own Gothic perfume!

What follows below are my own personal decidedly Gothic favorites, arranged from vintage (and therefore, sadly, the current versions are reformulated beyond recognition and merit) to currently available.

Vintage Glories

Magie Noir – Lancôme

This 1978 classic by Gerard Goupy was a harbinger to come of those opulent Eighties orientals. It is also without question one of the witchiest perfumes ever made. I’ve worn it off and on since 1983, and it remains the single most complimented perfume I own, even today. In fact, I’ve never met a man who didn’t tilt backwards for this one, such is the Circe spell it weaves, turning any modern Odysseus into a slavering hog whether they want it or not. Although still in production, it’s not even a wan, pale echo of its former glory.

Narcisse Noir – Caron

Sometimes, I wonder at the fragrant bombshells I wore in my wanton youth, wonder I even dared to wear them. This great immortal classic, beloved of both Norma Desmond and Anaïs Nin, more than any other delineated my long-ago Goth days. It slew several wannabe latter-day Baudelaires I knew by taking a perfumery trope – orange blossom – and turning it completely inside out. Orange blossom is usually a joyous, summery, sunshine bloom. Ernest Daltroff’s 1912 classic inverts all those expectations and turns them inside out by being a dark, smoky, slinky animal of midnight and divine delirium. Narcisse Noir is still available, although it has irrevocably changed from its inky, slinky, seductive self to a prim Park Avenue mistress in palest dove gray.

Parlous Blooms

If ever an entire perfume house’s resident aesthetic somehow encapsulates all that is Gothic with a decadent French twist, it would surely be Serge Lutens. I doubt it’s an accident it is one of my all-time favorite perfume houses for precisely that reason. Best of all, Serge Lutens has – aided by resident alchymist Christopher Sheldrake and before him Maurice Roucel – subverted several classic florals into new, unnerving territory by making them eerie, and not just through their inscrutable press copy or their names, but throughout their very souls. Iris Silver Mist will send chills of otherworldly orris down your spine, Tubereuse Criminelle shall disturb you to your depths in all its heady jolie laide beauty, Sarrasins might sink its feral feline jasmine fangs into your nose and De Profundis exude its own cold kiss of mortality down your neck, but you will not forget them – nor will anyone who gets close enough to sniff.

Numinous Numbers

Certain perfumes are more than a little… numinous. Meaning they convey a hint or a whole ruined abbey of emotion, legend, ghosts of stories past and premonitions to come. They range from the transcendental to the uncanny, which is precisely why they’re so beloved.

Trayee & Ashoka – Neela Vermeire Crèations

It may seem a bit of a stretch to call Neela Vermeire’s Trayee and Ashoka ‘gothic’ when perhaps the first word that comes to mind is ‘exotic’, but think again – if we take the word to mean transporting in an emotionally compelling, numinous sense, then they both do precisely that in two different, very complex and nearly supernatural ways. Trayee with its sacred incense, oud and sandalwood, Ashoka with its sudden, shocking shift from deepest dark to luminous light – either is perfect for that lingering trail of sanctity we all aspire to leave behind us – or the samsara we all hope to achieve.

Rouge Avignon – Phaedon

Rouge Avignon, inspired by the Papal palace at Avignon, embodies the very best of Gothic sensibilities in its very DNA. Rose, incense, smoke, dark, deep woods – it is its own unholy witchy brew of blackest red and reddest black, the shade of a drop of blood, of power and of carefully concealed secrets, too.

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Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know or… Les Hommes Fatales

Lady Caroline Lamb may well have had all sorts of personal reasons to describe George Gordon, Lord Byron as all of the above, but certain masculine-tinged perfumes will haunt me to my grave if not devastate me into a swoon, whether they’re worn by short, dark and interesting exemplars of the male gender or by tall, fair, rockstar poets in aviator shades fueled by Friday night and Pinot Grigio.

Baudelaire – Byredo

No fan of the Gothic can avoid a fatal predilection for the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. While I somehow doubt Byredo’s Baudelaire would be worn by its namesake, who did indeed have a great affinity for perfume, there’s no question in my demented mind it does full justice to the spirit of his words…erotic, evocative, subversive, and more than a little perilous to short, busty writers with (oversized) nitroglycerin imaginations. Poets beware!

1740 Marquis de Sade – Histoires de Parfums

This thick, heady, delirious leather/spicy/immortelle bombshell of a perfume was inspired by that greatest libertine of them all – or so the notorious Marquis liked to see himself. I say it’s much too good for his ghost, but absolutely grand for modern-day libertines out to slay the unsuspecting with everything they’ve got. So long as they’re careful never to promise more than they’re capable of delivering. I also say 1740 is everything any hopelessly romantic, Gothic-leaning female could wish to inhale, although the consequences of doing just that might be harrowing. My lips are sealed in scarlet ink. To paraphrase Tennessee Williams, things occur in the dark of night that make anything happening in daylight seem… all right.

A Haunted History

Perfume, I heard myself saying some time ago, is every bit as legitimate a way of telling a story as a painting, a sculpture, a film, a novel. Few perfumes tell quite such a timeless story as the most haunting pair I know…

Memoir Man/Woman – Amouage

The great thing about Amouage paired perfumes is the way both the feminine and the masculine versions reflect two sides of the same story, and here, it’s that eternal epic love story of a tempestuous heaven and a mutual melodrama heartbreak. Either of them have utterly ruined me for life for other so-called ‘bottled love stories’, since so far as I’m concerned, this one is unbeatable. Certainly, it’s unforgettable. As all the best love stories – and worst heartbreaks! – always are.

Les Femmes Fatales

Ladies – you’ve been waiting for these. These perfumes are the dragon-slayers and pale-faced Succubi of the perfume world, the pearlescent vampires, the Liliths, Ligeias and Morellas and the Annabel Lees, the transgressions, the most ebony of carnal sins and ultimate, bottled evils, the justifications for terrible, heart-rending beauty and bone-chilling emanations.  If you think about it – what is Ulalume compared to all of those? Edgar? Anyone?

Midnight At The Crossroads Café – Neil Morris

Gothic literature has been such a mainstay of popular fiction for so long, it’s increasingly hard to imagine anything new could ever be done with it. Unless you happen to be that justly famous Boston treasure, perfumer Neil Morris, who took an unknown writer’s opening chapter and turned it into a upgraded Gothic perfume novella for the twenty-first century without overlooking any single essential: a witching hour, a vulnerable woman, a glass of mulled wine, an empty café and the distinct, supernatural thrill of the definitely dangerous and dangerously erotic Devil himself. It can be classified as a chypre, but this is unlike any chypre you think you know – this is as good as fragrant perdition gets. Take it from me. I know.

Immortal Mine – House of Cherry Bomb

Two years ago (and how it could be two years I’m still not sure), I had the great good fortune to participate in the Clarimonde Project, a cross-media collaboration of perfumers and writers to explore in prose and perfume one of the earliest and most unusual vampire stories ever – Thèophile Gautier’s 1836 La Morte Amoureuse. House of Cherry Bomb’s Immortal Mine is one of the superlative finest and supremely Gothic perfumes money can buy. It’s as deep and impenetrable as Nietzsche’s abyss, as black and vast as a winter hour before dawn, as licentious as any celebrated courtesan and as haunting (if not daunting) as Gautier’s story and his creation both.

Babylon Noir – Opus Oils

Hundreds of perfumes claim to be noir. Most of them barely qualify as wannabe noir, if that much. Babylon Noir, created by perfumer Kedra Hart of Opus Oils for the Devilscent Project, is such an audacious, outrageous, luscious feline carnivore of a perfume, it makes vintage Narcisse Noir (no slouch in the darkness department) blanc in comparison. Equally suitable for vampires and aspiring Liliths, it will slay anyone it touches, guaranteed, because darkness gets no blacker nor more alluring. Wear it to any Halloween party and watch the competition turn orange in envy.

Ormonde Woman – Ormonde Jayne London

Some very long time ago, when I was still fairly new to niche perfumery, I won a sample of Ormonde Woman on another perfume blog. That it was a green and witchy creature, I already knew from the review, but I wasn’t at all prepared for my own reaction. It was without question the most terrifying perfume I had ever encountered in my life, so much so, it was the original inspiration for Lilith’s perfume. Not for being repellent (which it wasn’t) nor even poisonous (although there was that hemlock absolute…) but precisely because it was such a feral thing of the forest. It took me a good long time (and very many perfumes) to come around to Ormonde Woman, but now I have another wafting weapon at my disposal to put the capital B in bewitching.

Lil – Olympic Orchids

Still with me on this fragrant descent into the heart of October darkness? In which case, you’re in for a very big surprise, because Olympic Orchids’ Lil – also created for the Devilscent Project – is not dark in the slightest. Ellen Covey happily took every Gothic trope and cliché in perfumery and subverted them into an absolutely terrifying – and horribly beautiful – perfume of sharp, piercing, eerie green light, as if she had somehow managed to capture a will-o’-the-wisp in a perfume bottle that will haunt (and taunt) your surroundings for a very long time. Wimps and wannabes need not apply.

The Moody, Magnificent Monster

Opus VII – Amouage

I’m a bit at a loss to describe Opus VII (although I’ve certainly tried) and its effects, but basically, this is a huge, shape-shifting beast of Faërie that takes oud, black leather, cypriol, fenugreek and galbanum and provides them all with the most delirious fangs  – or pangs! – you could never have imagined. You can wear it ten times and encounter ten different stories. You will catch a waft and think you have managed to parse its depths to your satisfaction. Ten minutes later, you’ll catch another and wonder what you were thinking. Then hours later, the only thing you can be sure of is one literal wild ride – or wild hunt through the undergrowth? – that surely explains every Dionysian mystery rite from antiquity to the present. Or does it? Only its sillage knows…

In short, if you seek the unusual, the preternatural thrill, the mysteries and the magic of a most magical time of year, these perfumes will be honored to send eerie shivers down your spine.

Because every day should be Halloween!

At least in October.

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Serge Lutens perfumes are available from Luckyscent and for European customers, directly from the Serge Lutens website. Trayee and Ashoka are available at Luckyscent and from Neela Vermeire Crèations. Rouge Avignon is available directly from Phaedon. Baudelaire is available from Luckyscent and First in Fragrance. Histoires de Parfums 1740 is at Luckyscent and First in Fragrance. Amouage Memoir Man & Woman can be found at Luckyscent and First in Fragrance. Neil Morris’ Midnight is available through his Vault collection of perfumes by request. House of Cherry Bomb’s Immortal Mine is available at Indie Scents. Opus Oils’ Babylon Noir is available directly from the Opus Oils website, Ormonde Woman from Ormonde Jayne London, Lil directly from Olympic Orchids. Amouage Opus VII is available from Luckyscent, First in Fragrance and directly from the Amouage website.

With thanks to the reader who inspired the post…;)

Illustrations: Franz von Stuck, Die Sünde, 1893 and Lucifer, 1890.

A Zodiac Guide to ‘Fumes


- An irreverent – and tongue-in-cheek – guide to the rest of the world’s scented disasters!

Have you ever read descriptions of what perfumes your Zodiac sign is supposed to go for and thought:

‘They’ve got to be kidding, right? Me and Bal à Versailles??? Over my dead, decaying Diors!’

Have you ever wondered what mind-blowing insights might be offered if someone ever dared to write the whole truth and nothing but – about what we truly, really wear?

Wonder no longer! For Scent Less Sensibilities dares where others wrinkle their noses! What’s the worst thing that can happen – apart from litigation? Based on decades of experience and about 130 lbs of blarney, here’s your ultimate guide to knowing with your nose.

Aries
Rams often attack in full daylight, horns first and consequences be damned!. You always know where you stand with a Ram – right in front of their own self-interest. So when it comes to perfume, Rams of either sex are bold, brash and in your face and at the epicenter of every universe you’ve never heard of. Naturally, a personal perfume should reflect that. Male Rams prove it was no accident Chanel came up with ‘Egoíste’, and it suits them perfectly. Female Rams tend to exorcise a tad more restraint. Agent Provocateur’s ‘Boudoir’, for instance. Or Jean Desprèz ‘Bal à Versailles’.

Taurus
You think that anyone born under the sign of a placid, cud-chewing herbivore would be placid, plain and simple. You would be wrong. The undisputed sensualists of the Zodiac, Taurus l-o-v-e-s anything pertaining to the senses. You draw your own conclusions – at your peril. For Taurus, too much of everything can be…wonderful. So long as it’s classy, elegant, and smells like the million dollars they will surely own some day. Male Bulls stick with the tried-and-true, such as Givenchy Homme, and the very womanly Taurus will love, worship and adore the epically elegant, maximalist approach of Amouage’s Epic Woman. She is. You have been warned.

Gemini
The important thing to remember in dealing with Geminis is that you are always dealing with at least two people at any given moment in time, and those two – or four, or ten! – can’t agree on anything, never mind perfume! So Geminis can be all over the map. Male Geminis tend to avoid anything in the slightest floral like the plague, including the women who wear them. Fleeting, flirty and gone in sixty seconds suits their style, if not their entire M.O. If it’s something they put on and forget about, so much the better. Fougères suit their style, so long as they’re not too demanding, as well as citrus-based scents like Guerlain’s Eau de Cèdrat or Eau Impèriale. For lady Geminis, it’s whatever they darn well please – or whichever one of their many heads is yelling loudest at the time. It could be Shalimar – or it could be Tabac Blond. It could be something summery and g-r-e-e-n, such as Olympic Orchids’ A Midsummer Day’s Dream

Cancer
There are two types of Cancer. Either they are so square, strait-laced and moody, you can hear the whalebone in their metaphorical corsets creak when they breathe, or they are way out in the far outfield of avant-garde (and they’re still moody). There is no middle ground with the Crab. You may or may not come to know about the bizarre five-ring circus going on inside them. Just remember to pay attention to the phase of the moon when dealing with a Cancer of either gender and plan accordingly. It’s no fun in the middle of a hot date when Mr. Crab metamorphoses into a werewolf – or worse. He would appreciate Guerlain’s Habit Rouge, if he’s strait-laced. He might wear Yohji Homme if he’s the other kind. Female crabs know they’re tasty as well as female, and like their perfumes to reflect that. By Kilian’s Back to Black Aphrodisiac would fit the bill, so would Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille. The fruity kind of lady Crab might like the tropical tang of Olympic Orchids’ Luzonica. If Lady Crab gets her claws in you, just don’t forget that she only smells sweet…

Leo
“L’ètat, c’est moi,” stated Louis XIV, and Leo would amend that to “Le monde, c’est moi!” The Diva of the Zodiac, Leo makes the world go round and the sun rise and set, and for the love of Guerlain or Leo, don’t ever forget to appreciate it, once an hour, if not more! Leos loom Large and In Charge, in their own over-inflated imaginations not least, so for a perfume, they want whichever fragrant bicycle pump can inflate their egos the most. Amouage Gold for Men or Dior Homme Intense works when or if their own leonine musk isn’t enough to overwhelm the unsuspecting, and for those Leo diva ladies, perfume powerhouses such as Givenchy’s Amarige, Amouage Gold for Women, Guerlain Samsara and Dior’s Poison float their boats, and Piguet’s Fracas. SInce gold is the color of Leo, she might also go for Olympic Orchids’ Golden Cattleya.

Virgo
Virgos have a not altogether deserved reputation as prudes, which is a bit unfair. They’re not prudish at all, they’re discriminating, which is nowhere the same thing. Like the other earth signs, their tastes tend toward the classic rather than the startling, and the less they have to think about them, the better – so long as they know they smell good, if they’re not on an anti-perfume kick and wear no scents at all. Male Virgos like Guerlain’s Vetiver, unless they’re too worried (Virgos are always worried) they might be considered odd, in which case, they’ll choose Cool Water – or Hugo Boss. Educate them, please. Female Virgos – no virgins, no matter what you’ve heard – love restrained, lady-like florals, such as Issey Miyake’s A Scent, Penhaligon’s Bluebell or Dior’s Diorissimo. If they don’t go over to the Dark Side of the Force of Patchouli and choose Prada.

Libra
Mirror, mirror on the wall…To Libra, the world is their mirror, and they are the fairest of them all. So reluctant to commit are they, they often suffer a chronic case of indecisiveness in terms of perfume and just buy one of everything. It’s only fair. Male Libras are the peacocks of the Zodiac, perpetually in front of their mirrors, and often, that mirror will be you. Dior’s Eau Sauvage, YSL Opium for Men, Cerruti 1881…“Darling, I can’t decide. What do YOU think?” It will drive you nuts, or he will. Lady Libras, unlike their male counterparts, are basically made with titanium spines and go to great lengths to hide that fact. It might be used as leverage later. They choose very feminine, classic scents to slay the unsuspecting (that would be you, if you’re dating a Libra), such as Annick Goutal’s L’Heure Exquise, or Chanel no. 5 if they’re that kind of Libra. Or maybe Olympic Orchids’ Red Cattleya, if they’re the other kind.

Scorpio
It can’t be entirely coincidental that in my several decades of experience, I’ve encountered not a few male Scorpios who all had a thing for…skank. Not just on themselves but on their victims, too. Scorpios redefine the word ‘intense’. They live their lives on the edge and on the fringe. If a male Scorpio has his sights on you, resistance will be futile. You might be assimilated. You certainly won’t forget that encounter in a hurry, nor will you forget his choice of scent. This is the guy who would choose Knize Ten, Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, YSL Homme, M7, Dior’s Eau Noire or Byredo Baudelaire. Lady Scorpios do their best to live up to their own salacious reputations by selecting the kind of over-the-top scents even female Leos might pass over, such as Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan, Boxeuses, Arabie or À La Nuit. Whatever it takes to undo you – and she will!

Sagittarius
Happy-go-lucky – and often insanely lucky – Sagittarius canters through life, hooves in mouth, with packed mental suitcases full of opinions he or she will certainly let you know all about. Any Sagittarius has a spectacular talent for saying the exact right thing – at the worst possible time. So long as it’s time to go – and they will, as soon as they find something or someone more interesting than you. When he’s not busy puncturing your pretentions, male Archers might try to tack you up in other ways with green, woody scents such as Lagerfeld for Men, Serge Lutens’ Chêne or Creed’s Green Irish Tweed. Female Sags of all persuasions were thrilled to discover Cartier’s Les Heures IV – L’Heure Fougeuse. All the horse of their own centaur origins, and a fragrant roll in the hay, too! Giddyup!

Capricorn
A male Capricorn is a throwback to another era, the era of Manly with a capital M. Or male chauvinist, if you prefer, just so long as you remember who’s in charge – he is. At all times and at all costs. This is the guy who will wear Guerlain’s Mouchoir de Monsieur, Geoffrey Beene’s Grey Flannel, or Serge Lutens’ Gris Clair. He’ll never let you know about his need for control until it’s too late or you’re hooked, whichever comes first. The same can be said for lady Goats – but they’re not above showing themselves and their intentions a bit more, by choosing Robert Piguet’s Bandit, Serge Lutens’ Tubereuse Criminelle or vintage Cabochard. Don’t forget – she’s in charge, too. Now you know!

Aquarius
The uncontested loonies of the Zodiac, surely it was an Aquarius who cooked up the idea for the entire line of Etat Libre d’Orange – and most of the advertising copy, too. They love to shock or just surprise, in their unorthodox behavior, in their likewise radical opinions, or else just their unorthodox choice of perfumes. The men may choose very frilly, feminine scents, and the women may choose rather masculine ones. Or vice versa. Or both at once. The only thing to expect with an Aquarius of either gender is the unexpected. By Kilian’s A Taste of Heaven, Lush Breath of God, Escentric Molecules, Serge Lutens’ Fumerie Turque, Worth Courtesan – anything goes, and a lot of things do! I once met an Aquarius man who wore ELdO’s Secretions Magnifiques – for the pleasure it gave him. Needless to say, he left the party alone…I also once had an Aquarius girlfriend who adored Paloma Picasso’s eponymous perfume, so you never know…Expect the unexpected!

Pisces
It’s all too easy to dismiss Pisces as the flaky, fluffy-bunny, space cadets of the Zodiac, an impression they usually do nothing whatsoever to dispel. Like the water that is their element, they adapt to whatever container they’re poured into. That will be your last and most fatal mistake with a Pisces. Right when you think you have them all figured out, they will have disappeared…into a silver school of other fish, or in a cloud of black ink like a squid, but they will be…gone. Push them too far, and you’ll find yourself the metaphorical seal dinner of the biggest, badass orca on Planet Earth, and you will be tossed like a volleyball in the surf before you’re breakfast. Male Pisces, so I’ve noticed, like incense perfumes, especially if they’re of the more unusual kind, such as Andy Tauer’s Incense Extrème, or Serge Lutens’ Encens et Lavande, which made one Pisces cry when I introduced him to it. He now refuses to wear anything else. Female Pisces veer toward hyperfeminine, such as Jean Patou’s Joy and Guerlain’s Mitsouko, or ethereal, like Serge Lutens’ Iris Silver Mist or Bois de Violette. But do yourself a favor before you fall for a female Pisces. She only looks like the human equivalent of an angora sweater. There’s an orca lurking underneath!

Caveat: All content written thoroughly tongue-in-cheek!

Not Mad, Not Bad but Dangerous to Know!


– a review of Byredo’s ‘Baudelaire’

Picture an eighteen-year-old punk, circa 1981, small, tattered, all in black and wearing way more eye makeup than any two eyelids should ever have to bear. She was curled up on a mattress on the floor with her nose stuck in a book, which was indeed the case quite a bit of the time, when she wasn’t arguing political theory (more books!), throwing toilets out of second story windows (true story), or planning what would happen once the revolution came, and that was due, any day now…

One of her main partners in subversion was a 6’4” stringbean of a guy, a dead ringer for Henry Miller at 23 and just as avid and voracious for life and all it included. He kept throwing books at her, and she kept reading them – Emma Goldman, Henry Miller, Piotr Kropotkin, Marx, Hemingway and Kerouac, Lessing and Jung and Horney and Laing, Huxley and Capek…and on one long February night, sandwiched somewhere between Kant and Kierkegaard, a certain long-deceased Frenchman of dubious reputation. (Always the best kind!)

The well-worn cover of this fifth-hand book read “The Flowers of Evil”, by Charles Baudelaire. Just as his poetry had done so much to revolutionize poetry, poetic subject matter and even literature itself on both sides of the English Channel and the Atlantic, this one byword for bohemian decadence and dissolution completely and utterly rearranged this poor eighteen-year-old punk’s mental furniture…for life.

Byredo, a niche house based in Stockholm, isn’t a line I’ve tried before. In choosing to create a perfume and give it the name of my other favorite poet on Planet Earth, all I can say is – they have a lot to live up to! I look at that sample bottle and wonder what’s inside it. Can I expect laudanum phantasms and opium dreams on Montparnasse divans, as Jeanne Duval laughs mocking in the background? Could this be Baudelaire’s incendiary poetry in bottled form, slithering out of the bottle and sliding into my nose to perform unspeakable acts of depravity on my Jacobsen’s organ?

I’ll answer those questions first: Not quite, not really and…I wish!

First of all, Baudelaire is…very, very smooth. Very peppery and even bitter-green intriguing on the outset, before it intrigues even more with a smoky, dark brown, bitter incense that settles and stays and never strays. The incense gets in league with patchouli and black amber somewhere along the way – here we enter a color located precisely between brown and black – and gets only a bit sweeter. It’s slightly animalic and yet not well-behaved, either. There’s a tinge of naughty in there, but naughty is not subversive, and subversive is not quite so smooth or so alluring.

Sexy. Borderline dangerous. Definitely a masculine scent, because I don’t have nearly enough cojones to wear this with any degree of conviction. It is very intelligent, with that exceptional incense note that is miles away from any other incense I’ve tried, and yet there’s something in there that reminds me of that famous line said of Lord Byron: Mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Baudelaire is neither mad nor the slightest bit bad. It hasn’t received a lot of love from the perfumosphere, and that baffles me a bit, because it is intriguing, intelligent, and decadent in a good way. Opulent might be a better word to describe it, but I have to say it – this is a walk on the dark side, and if you can’t walk that walk…you’d better stay away.

I found a good home for the rest of my sample – and a little goes a long, long way. I gave it to the Scorpio. It suits him perfectly. He’s exceedingly smart, funny, very sexy and indeed…dangerous to know! ;)

For another take on ‘Baudelaire’, Brian of I Smell Therefore I Am had this to say about it.

Notes according to Fragrantica:
Top notes: Juniper, Pepper, Caraway
Middle notes: Incense, Hyacinth
Base notes: Papyrus, Patchouli, Black Amber

Image of Charles Baudelaire: pixfr.eu

Don’t Panic!


Ladies, Gents, Earthlings and Entities –
I’ve had a…HELLISH week. That’ll teach me to review Robert Piguet’s “Bandit” on a Monday. ;-)

When I haven’t been pounding the pavement this week in search of a better – and better-paid – job in this recession to finance my expensive (perfume) habits, another monumental headache in the shape of Quantum Demonology has been giving me the world’s worst case of writer’s block at a crucial expository point in my story, right when I just know I can wrestle it into a shape suitable for submission.

Thanks to Karen Blixen’s ‘Seven Gothic Tales‘, I think I’ve cracked the block, and I’ve cracked a few sidewalks, too. A two-letter media phenomenon will be talking to yours truly next week. As they say, it’s a start…

Meanwhile, here are a few coming attractions:

Serge Lutens’ Jeux de Peau arrived today, and I can’t wait to review it! This should be a goodie…hot bread? Really? Or is Uncle Serge buttering us up?

A candidate arrived in my eternal quest for The Devil’s scent…and it’s no El Presidente, but is it a cigar?

There are tigers, and there are Tiggers. I found a Tigger in bottled form. Does it bounce? You think?

Ladies who lunch wear ladylike perfumes. This one is positively refined and suitable for dinner, too. And dinners for two.

It was the kind of story that launched a legend and a thousand ships. Will it float my boat, too?

He was a poet with a passion – and with a passion for perfume. The kind that could be bottled, maybe?

Scents of place or a sense of place? The fun isn’t over with Doc Elly and Olympic Orchids, and where there are fumes, there are words – and worse – to describe them!

In the meantime, the ghost of the Baroness came to call, and you don’t mess with the ghost of the Baroness…so that’s what I have to get out of the way..first!

I shall miss you while I’m gone. And if you can’t be good, be careful! ;-)

Image: www.organic-ally.co.uk

Coming Attractions


In the unlikely event anyone has been wondering, I have not forsaken you! As the snow has thawed, I’ve been snowed under elsewhere, and 36 hours in a day are just not…enough. This is not at all the same as saying I’m going to wimp out – so instead of a new perfume post, I’ll give you a sneak preview of what’s in store!

I know I’m on the road to perdition when…I spent the better part of an evening yesterday on First In Fragrance’s website, trying to decide what to try. Decisions, decisions…so many choices, and so little time.

But in the next few weeks, expect to see my takes on a few button pushers and the ones I ordered just because my curiosity is killing me.

Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels has a lot to answer for – among them, my curiosity over Amouage. Oh, that slope is so slippery and steep, and Epic Woman is on the list…and it’s all her fault! ;-)

Robert Piguet’s Bandit has been ‘walking her catgirls on leashes in leather‘…so I have to, I absolutely have to try this again, it’s been so long…

Byredo is a line I’ve never tried, but when someone pays an homage to one of my all-time favorite poets, I have to sit up and take notice! So…Baudelaire and Green are thrown in, too.

I’ve heard plenty of great things about Odin New York. C’mon. With a name like that, it’s like throwing a spear into a Viking horde in berserker mode. So in goes…Odin New York – 02 Owari.

Heeley is another line I’ve heard lots about…and just because the name tickles my fancy, I’ll start with Esprit de Tigre.

The fun won’t stop there. Another package from Olympic Orchids arrived today and is waiting for a pickup at my local post office tomorrow.

It will be glorious, I promise you!

So what are you, dear reader, dying to try? Let me know!

Image: Edmund Dulac, Psyche and Cerebus