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