Erté’s illustration of a perfume bottle for British Vogue, June 1973

Roja Dove Apex: when you live in a pineapple under the sea, but you’ve converted it to a Harley Davidson showroom.

We’re encountering a rose who is not just a protagonist in a horror film but perhaps the film–a cursed film–itself. And not some schlocky nonsense that’s all jump scares and genre cliches; we’re talking the last spine-tingling, pants-shittingly terrifying film you saw and that you’ve begun to have ghastly nightmares about which are starting to eerily echo and reverberate through your waking hours. Court of Ravens by 4160 Tuesdays is, in short, and on paper, an incensey rose chypre–but rumors are the incense component is the boiling blood of a mad cultist mixed with strange and stinging otherworldly herbs; the rose grew sickly and sinister on the unmarked grave of a hanged murderer, and the chypre, well, it’s the usual materials of oakmoss and balsamic elements, but pounded to an oozing paste on an ancient black altar with a secret number of drops from a cracked, cloudy bottle, and I don’t know what’s in that esoteric essence, but it smells shockingly of acrid fright-sweat, bitter adrenaline, and is underscored by a host of sharp, burning pheromones. So, you have probably reached the conclusion that I must love this, and you’re right, and I’m glad you guys can read between the lines.

I am testing BDK’s Ambre Safrano and thinking of a collection of contemporary poetry that I’ve been reading. I’m making this connection because it’s really bad poetry. And I am now 0/2 with the samples that I have tried from BDK Parfums. Now I realize both poetry and perfume and all forms of art are intensely subjective, and what’s considered “bad” in terms of any of it can have a lot to do with personal preference. Ambre Saffano is meant to take us on a faraway olfactory journey, but I think they’ve vastly overestimated the distance this scent has the capability of encompassing because the places that it shows us seem pretty limited.. It goes as far as your laptop screen or the phone, a few inches from your face, as it’s the olfactory equivalent of fanfiction without a single measure of spice, none of the characters have any chemistry, and the writing is weirdly overwrought for a story with absolutely no plot, and then you take that uninspired mess and run it through some sort of poetry generator, and you end up a word salad that somehow manages to be nonsensical and boring and not only are you not enjoying it, it’s actually giving you a bit of a headache. And if I haven’t told you anything about what it actually smells like, that’s because I truly do not know. But imagine a bowl of plastic fruit. A facsimile of fruit, of something sweet and seasonal and juicy that once existed somewhere, but the person who molded this fruit maybe has never even seen this fruit. Imagine you melted down to a slurry those waxy, musty plastic apples and grapes and bananas and dumped in a Costco-sized bag of Truvia, and attempted to make cotton candy with it. And then, for some ungodly reason, you wrote a poem about it. Ok, this review is all over the place, and you’re probably walking away from it dumber than when you started. If it’s any consolation, I am too.

Filigree and Shadow’s The Purest Blue is all sandalwood; sandalwood can feel so lofty sometimes, like it’s speaking some sort of angelic language that you can’t quite parse; it’s over your head. But this is sandalwood that feels nicely tethered, as if there’s a terrestrial translator working on my behalf to decode those epiphanies. What’s even better is that this earthy element, he and I are real kindred spirits, and through his filter, those celestial sandalwood messages get peppered with the slightest bit of salty impish musk, and in his own words, it turns out the angels are insisting “bitch, you need an exorcist.” Tell Me About The Forest (You Once Called Home)is fir and spruce and juniper and is an immediate love. You know I have a huge fondness for fairy-tale forest fragrances, but so many of them are sticky, a fairy forest syrup that you measure a bar spoon into for some sort of Hansel and Gretel cocktail. This doesn’t have that treacly quality; it’s…dryer? Maybe a bit bitter. I feel like it’s a bit of a hermit-ascetic with an acerbic wit and a love of irony. It reminds me of dense, darkened thickets in the midnight woodland art of Tin Can Forest.

Erté Perfume serigraph


I don’t know with certainty that The people you love become ghosts inside you from Death and Floral and is inspired by Robert Montgomery’s poetic conceptual artworks, but much like this particular installation, this perfume is a translucent, tender, neon poem of light and loss and longing. The Death and Floral site doesn’t really list specifics with regard to the notes, just an evocative combination of adjectives revolving around musks, florals, and a “cold vanilla”. Not being a perfumer and not caring to learn anything about it, I can only guess as to what that means. In this case, it conjures a spectral vanilla shrouded in wintergreen morning veils and draped in shimmering shadowed musky, powdery violet dewdrop memento mori jewels. I don’t know if this is wintergreen, maybe it’s birch or sarsparilla, but I recognize something in the family of mentholated musty medicinal miasma, and typically I don’t care for these notes. You could say that in fact, I actively hate them. But I strangely love the deeply unsettling haunted house cold spots drop in temperature that it lends to this already melancholic scent, and I’ve found myself unexpectedly craving it when I’m not wearing it, and when it is on my wrists, I cannot stop sniffing them.

Destrier from House of Matriarch is perhaps the first leather scent I have ever not just tolerated but actually liked. I’m not sure if I’m even a leather fan, but I appreciate that this one just goes so hard. It is not putting on airs, and it’s not in disguise (unlike leather-clad Spongebob Squarepants, above); there is no mistaking it. AND it’s a rather 360° immersive scent experience as well as absolutely immediate, with no lead-in or preamble. Imagine you are an overachieving LARPer, and you took three years of leatherworking classes so that you could make the perfect leather coin pouch to hang from your belt for this intensely anticipated festival you’ve been dying to attend. Even though it’s a tiny piece of a larger, more intricate costume, you want every detail absolutely perfect, from the tanning to the stitching to the embossing. You’ve spent so much time on this accessory that you’re smelling those tanning agents, those fats and oils and chemicals and musks, even in your dreams now. And in waking life, too, even after the event, you are one with that leather coin purse, and you carry it with you everywhere you go. At this point in time, it is stuffed with cedar chips, sweet grasses, and soft moss…because you spent all your coins on those expensive classes and leatherworking tools.

Is Penhaligon’s Babylon meant to evoke Babylon, the den of iniquity and pinnacle of sin? Or perhaps that groovy Satanic prostitute, arrayed in purple and scarlet, decked with pearls and precious stones, with her golden cup spilling with abominations and filthiness? I’m not sure this softly-spiced, velvet-wooded fragrance is as outrageous or dramatic as all of that. Imagine that golden cup, surely sensationalized to pique public indignation, was instead some sort of humble, unassuming vessel, a bowl of roughly carved but fragrant sandalwood, filled with a milky liquid, redolent of honeyed saffron, the aromatic, earthy warmth of nutmeg and coriander’s peppery-aniseed camphor, and delicately resinous, subtly smoky vanilla. If you’re a fan of Dior’s Hypnotic Poison, but don’t love that obnoxious root beer note, I think you’d find Babylon a more tasteful option. I do enjoy this scent immensely, but I’d still like to smell a more vivid and exuberant perfumed interpretation of this apocalyptic beauty.

If you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?





Add Comment

Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.

Discover more from Unquiet Things

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading