Inviting us to celebrate the warmth of passion in the dead of winter, the smut peddlers at BPAL again deliver stimulating, scintillating scents for the lovelorn and lustful, the depraved and the intemerate. Whether you see these lurid delights as a dare, or as merely as a to-do list, and no matter how singular your tastes may be, there is all manner of delightful debauchery here to appeal to aficionados of arousing, amusing aromatic experiences.
Speaking of smut, let’s begin with Smut 2017! (three swarthy, smutty musks sweetened with sugar and woozy with dark booze notes) My first thought is that this as not as aggressively smutty as Smuts of yore (my boss made me go home when I wore it to the office in 2008). Like, maybe Smut went to rehab and detoxed a little. While the older versions of this scent I have are heavier on the booze and musk, this version seems lighter and sweeter and …fruity? While this smells nothing, of say, blackberries, I’m reminded of the syrupy, glazed bits of the fruit mixture crusted to the edges of a cobbler dish after the dessert is removed from the oven. I think many people are going to find Smut 2017 a touch more wearable than it might have been in the past.
Luperci (patchouli, Gurjam balsam, and essence of Sampson Root, beeswax, virile juniper, oakmoss, ambrette seed over honey and East African musk); inspired by rites of the Luperci (“brothers of the wolf”) this opens with raw, powerfully earthy patchouli, piercing and damp. The grassy soil which cradled the She-Wolf, suckling the Sacred Twins, shaded by the leaves of a fig tree and made rich by its rotting leaves and fruit, and the blood of the sacrifices spilled there. Luperci remains green and wooded and though it does not sweeten with time, it softens and becomes muskier, murkier.
Womb Furie (an itch that needs to be scratched: Snake Oil and three types of honey) I don’t know if this happens with everyone–or anyone, even–but usually anything with prominent honey notes ends up smelling like pee on me. As you can imagine, I am very saddened by this because honey is divine and delicious. However! Though this initially exhibits the sharpness I associate with most honeyed scents, there are none of those pungent, ammonia-like associations, so I suppose I can breathe easier. Snake Oil by itself, is, I believe, a rather divisive scent; there are those who love it, and there are those who are wrong. But the general complaint I hear is that it is a incredibly potent, sometimes headache inducing scent. In Womb Furie the harsh edges of Snake Oil’s exotic Indonesian oils and intense vanilla are tempered by the delicate, powdery honey and strikes a pleasingly satisfying balance; it conjures feelings not so much of itches that needs scratching but rather the warm afterglow of desires sweetly satiated.
The good folks at BPAL like to remind us “We’re not always all about death, sex, and debauchery. We like chocolate, too!”
White Chocolate, Marshmallow, Honey, and Goat’s Milk Straight from the bottle this smells of cocoa butter and marshmallow, and something else I can’t quite put my finger on–a cookie-like quality. Something with a cloying graham cracker crumb. It conjures a treasured confection from childhood, a sacred, special treat which I have just now remembered: Mallowmars!
Dark Chocolate, Whiskey, and Cardamom-Infused Caramel Whoa. This is some business, here. Rich dark chocolate, the intensely bitter sort with the amped up percentage of cacao that you don’t even have to hide from your significant other because they can’t even handle it. The whiskey is so smooth you can barely detect it, and layered with the goopy sweetness of the gently spiced caramel, this makes for an incredibly decadent bonbon of a scent.
Milk Chocolate, Cacao Cream, Ceylon Cinnamon, and Coffee Absolute While I have insisted for years that I am not a lover of foodie or gourmand scents, this may be the one that changes my mind. I’m going to give you a visual, okay? Imagine an amorous encounter with your sexy barista crush, (the one who works really long hours because they hand-grind a lot of beans), while rolling around in $240 worth of creamy, milk chocolate pudding.
Lupercalia Single Note: Riding Crop This is an exquisite “worn in” leather scent, but I don’t mean to imply that it smells somehow beat up and rugged like cowboy boots, or a horse’s saddle that has seen many denim clad bottoms across it. No, this is the scent of madam’s favorite corset– smooth and black, and perfectly fitted to her elegant curves. A handsome, tight-laced thing whose strict shine has dulled over the years but in whose reflection can still be seen countless memories of hours spent meting out untold pleasures…and in the exquisite instruction of delicious pain.
Pleasures of the Imagination I (black amber, leather, and myrrh) Clean, powdered skin, and shiny black leather and oddly enough, the delicately antiseptic smell of an expensive lingerie department. Imagine wearing your Agent Provocateur scanties underneath a leather moto jacket with just the right amount of silvery zipper accents.
Pleasures of the Imagination V (black leather, red sandalwood, orris root, tobacco absolute, oakmoss, and sweet patchouli) This is an inconstant leather, at first, lined with the softest cotton, and then, filled with strange, sweet earth. A marvelously mutable scent, I soon detect a watery greenness and sharp, metallic freshness. At the end we are left with not the pin-up girls in Art Frahm’s campy illustrations, but rather the surprise stalk of celery that is lurking, ever present, as a poor woman’s skirts fly up and her underwear, inexplicably, fall down.
Ah, my favorites. The scents I look forward to all year round because they combine my love for the beautiful and the absurd and elevate to sublime art: the Shunga scents. Novel Ideas for Secret Amusements is “a limited edition Salon series celebrating the joy, humor, playfulness, and thrill of sexual intercourse through scent interpretations of Japanese erotic art”
Kitten with Shamisen Daydreams of a Phallus Palanquin (rice milk, white musk, and pear) It is not pear I smell at first, but strawberries. Or perhaps some other twinkling, pink, “youthful” smelling fruit. The longer the scent wears, the more I feel I am aging backwards, and I am surrounded by small, plastic dolls whose, fruity, synthetic, multi-colored hair I sniff obsessively and no doubt rudely, as I am serving an imaginary tea and that’s not the behavior of a polite hostess. In our small teacups with the curly-cue handles I still dream about as an adult, we are drinking a shimmering champagne spiked with dollops of lightly sweetened cream. I apologize for the hair sniffing.
Delightful Visitor Among the Haystacks (chrysanthemum incense and red carnation) I was keenly interested in this scent in particular… I found unexpected beauty in the brevity of the notes listed; it pierced my heart with a fleeting sort of sadness. And too, this fragrance is strange and sad, musty and full of ponderous longing. Years of incense woven into threads of a poet’s pillow and perfuming their final inhalations as they pen their last words in this world:
Rusu naredo // tou hito mo kana // notorikigo? — Kizo, 1851
When I am gone // will someone care for // the chrysanthemum when I leave?
Consoling Pussy of Horse Face Mountain (tuberose incense, blue wisteria, and oakmoss) A cool, creamy, intimate floral that conjures a flood of memories for me, none of which have anything to do with each other, or with anything in particular. The fragrance of my mother’s carved wooden boxes that held sticks of nag champa and faded tarot cards; the chlorinated, rubbery scent of a pool supply store that we used to frequent when I was very young. I don’t think this is a scent that I will reach for very often, but not because I don’t care for it. Rather, it is the perfume of a life that I have already lived and know quite profoundly.
Finally, The Devil’s Lovers: the Erotic Art of Félicien Rops, a collection which showcases the work of the renowned Belgian illustrator, engraver, and printmaker, and which is a celebration of death, sex, and political and social rebellion, all reflected through a distinctly Mephistophelean lens.
Le Vice Suprême (leather and a splash of gin, whiskey-swirled tobacco, rose petals, and bourbon vanilla) What a nose-tickler this is! While I don’t smell gin, per se, I smell something a bit effervescent and dry and not quite boozy, but somewhat woozy. It’s the olfactory version of a gleeful gulp going awry, laughing and gagging until your eyes swim, and the prickly little cough that remains for the rest of the evening. At this point, you’ve also got the hiccups. Light, fizzy, giggle water.
Les Incubes et des Succubes (blackberry pulp, Bordeaux wine, grape leaves, and wild patchouli) This, my friends, is the Kool-Aid fueled orgy that you have been dreaming of. Sugar-macerated berries and wildly overripe grapes squelching amongst heaving, naked bodies as an oversized anthropomorphic plastic pitcher MCs the depraved festivities. I won’t end this sentence with his iconic phrase. It’s just too easy.
À Un Dîner D’athées (white lavender and ambrette seed, grey patchouli, rum absolute, and vetiver) A somber, sobering scent, with an initial blast of lavender which oscillates between cool and medicinal and sharp, salty licorice. The vetiver and rum add a dry, bitter, molasses-tinged edge to what, at its heart, remains a brittle, humorless scent. It is a fragrance that borders on unpleasant, but leaves me intensely curious as to its inspiration. “À Un Dîner D’athées”, or, At a Dinner of Atheists, is an illustration by Félicien Rops to accompany a story of the same title in Les Diaboliques (The She-Devils), a collection of short stories written by Barbey d’Aurevilly. According to my two seconds of research just now, the acts committed by the characters in these stories are induced not only by their extreme passion but also by their boredom–and it’s strange to say, but this fragrance does conjure images of ennui and tedium, but also of rage and revenge and other manias not given proper outlet, but allowed to fester, silent and hidden. I can’t quite think of who I would recommend this scent for, but whoever this person is, they are both fascinating and dangerous.