Strange, Sensational or Skanky: A Selection of Perfume Presented by Nick Gilbert at Perfume Lovers London, The New Cavendish Club, Thursday 30th January 2014

By Tara

This evening we delved into all that is strange and skanky in the world of perfume. It was a lot of fun, although perhaps not for the fainthearted. Nick Gilbert has worked in perfume retail for a number of years, most recently as the manager of the Marble Arch branch of Les Senteurs and now works in marketing for Penhaligon’s. He contributes to Fragrant Reviews on Twitter and is an all round lovely bloke.


Nick Gilbert, the star of the evening

Here is a version of events re-constructed from my scribbled notes. Our event organiser, Lila, handed out paper strips sprayed with each fragrance as it was discussed.

Lila: It’s the second anniversary of Perfume Lovers London and Nick opened our very first event with his own collection, so it seems fitting that he is back with us today. Nick, what will we be trying this evening?

Nick: Everything that is filthy, weird and gross!

Lila: We’re starting with perfumes you call “a gateway to skank”. Why do we need a gateway?

Nick: Everyone needs a gateway perfume into skank because it can be a bit much if you dive right into the strong stuff.

Naughty For Beginners

Pure Honey, Kim Kardashian

Notes: red rose, freesia, vanilla, musk and honey

Honey notes often smell of pee and this is a fruity perfume with a honey note. Cosmopolitan magazine sent me a load of celebrity perfumes to give my opinion on and this was the best one I’ve come across in a long time. It came out in September 2013 and Marc Jacobs must be really pissed because this actually smells of honey (unlike his Honey).

Dzing!, L’Artisan Parfumeur

Notes: white woods, candy apple, toffee, caramel, leather, musks, tonka beans, balsam, saffron and ginger

This is supposed to recreate a circus so it smells of sawdust and animal poo but it also smells of wet cardboard and vanilla.

Labdanum 18, Le Labo

This is cosy and fluffy but it also smells of something worn for a little too long.


Charogne, Etat Libre d’Orange

Notes: bergamot, leather, pink berries, ginger, lily accord, ylang ylang, jasmine, incense, natural vanilla, ambrette absolute, animal notes

This is how I imagine corpse flowers smell; weird heat and ripe body parts. It has medicinal, rubbery notes to it.

Audience Member: It’s a bit hot water bottle.

Audience Member: In a good way.

Audience Member: Old lady’s hot water bottle.

Absolue Pour le Soir, Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Notes: rose, honey, incense, benzoin, ylang-ylang, cumin, Atlas cedar and sandalwood

Audience Member: My mother was horrified when I wore this. She said I smelt of men’s toilets.

Audience Member: It smells of unwashed silk underwear.

Lila: It’s a difficult one. It smells of old wee. Nick, what creates that smell of urine?

Nick: The two natural materials are honey and blackcurrant buds.

Lila: Would anyone wear this?

Audience Member: Yes, but not out of the house.

Nick: It has a lovely drydown once you get through the wee.

Leather Oud, Dior La Collection

Notes: cardamom, clove, birch, leather, oud, labdanum, cedarwood, vetiver, and civet.

Lila: This was described a “Sex God” perfume at one of our previous meetings. It’s as animalic as I go. It’s the right side of wearable and it’s the sexiest thing I own.

Nick: Oud often has a delicious filth about it.

Lila: To me, it’s skank perfection. Anything beautiful has to have something slightly off.


Faecal But Fun

L’Air de Rien, Miller Harris

Notes: neroli, oakmoss, patchouli, vanilla, amber and musk

Nick: This doesn’t really come across as skanky on the card but on the skin it smells delightfully of a nappy. It’s green and salty and has a wet earthy quality.

Kinski, Kinski Fragrances (created by Geza Schön)

Notes: cassis, juniper berry, schinus molle, castoreum, marijuana accord, nutmeg, plum, orchid, magnolia, orange flower, rose, benzoin, vetiver, cedar, patchouly, styrax, cistus, ginger, musk, moss and ambergris

Nick: This was inspired by the actor Klaus Kinski and created by the perfumer Geza Schoen of Escentric Molecules. It’s incensy, dry and leathery.

Lila: It’s very sexy. I think it’s amazing. It’s very baroque and rich unlike Geza’s usual minimalist style. It’s a pulling perfume.

Audience member: It’s very dry and rather salty.

Lila: It’s a bit bitter and herbal. I don’t think of it as faecal.

Nick: Maybe it’s just like that on my skin!

Sexy Bacon

Patchouli 24, Le Labo

Nick: It has a dirty, burning pork note. It’s also leathery.

Audience Member: It’s a cowboy’s bonfire.

Audience Member: It’s how Lady Gaga’s meat dress would smell.

Lila: Early in the morning in India they would clean the floor tiles and it reminds of that anti-septic smell. It’s a nice association for me.

Nick: It has a cosy vanilla drydown.

Cuir, Mona di Orio

Note: cardamom, absinth, leather, opoponax, castoreum and cade.

Lila: This smells of armpits. Like a lumberjack’s shirt that hasn’t been washed for three days. It’s glorious.

Nick: It smells more of chorizo than bacon.

A Bit Weird

Eau de Toast, The Federation of Bakers

Nick: Only about 100 bottles of this were produced as a publicity initiative by the UK Federation of Bakers to “remind women who were skipping breakfast what they were missing”. It’s the smell of blackened, buttered toast.

Lila: Have you worn it?

Nick: Only once. It’s a bit disturbing; the tenacity of it.

Lila: What did people say when you wore it?

Nick: “Have you been eating toast?” It’s hilarious.

Audience Member: Wear it in Camden and all the stoners would follow you.

Le Fin du Monde, Etat Libre d’Orange

Notes: popcorn accord, carrot seeds, cumin seeds, sesame, black pepper from Madagascar, vetiver from Haiti, sandalwood, kernels of ambrette absolute, orris absolute, styrax, cannon powder accord

Nick: This is supposed to be about eating popcorn while you’re watching a film about the end of the world. It’s carroty and sulphurous but not much like popcorn, although there is a buttery note.

Lila: It reminds me of Bois Farine by L’Artisan Parfumeur.

Audience Member: It’s similar to Like This by Etat Libre d’Orange without the pumpkin.

Comme des Garcons Series 6: Synthetic, Tar

Notes: aldehydes, bay leaf, kerosene, leather, plastic floral notes, vetiver acetate, Chinese sandal wood.

Nick: Lila recoiled when she tried this for the first time.

Audience Member: It smells of a petrol station.

Nick: It’s the bubbling, melting stage of tar.

Lila: I really don’t like the smell of tar.



Sulphur, Nu_Be

Notes: cinnamon, angelica, rosemary, grapefruit, costus, castoreum, opoponax, cedar, guaiac wood and oakmoss.

Nu_Be make perfumes inspired by the chemical elements. They’re just brilliant. The idea behind Sulphur is the smell of brimstone, though it’s not too much. It has vetiver and grapefruit to make the sulphur wearable.

Spunk In A Swimming Pool

Mercury, Nu_Be

Notes: lemon, mandarin orange, aldehydes, rhubarb, black currant, geranium, violet, cedar, patchouli, sandalwood and tolu balsam.

Nick: Because mercury is a liquid element they’ve gone for the watery, ozonic category.

Audience Member: It’s very metallic.

Secretions Magnifiques, Etat Libre d’Orange

Notes: Lodized accord (fucus, azurone), adrenalin accord, blood accord, milk accord, iris, coconut, sandalwood, opoponax

Nick: This is supposed to smell like all the bodily fluids. It’s the coconutty, milky note that makes it so disturbing. It’s metallic and ozonic, like a knife left at a very violent crime scene.

Audience Member: Does anybody actually buy this?

Nick: Yes, they do. On some people it’s quite floral. At Les Senteurs we used to give people some to try outside the shop.

Audience Member: “Do your business outside!”.

Comme des Garcons, Eau de Parfum

Notes: aldehydes, safraleine, hawthorns, lilac flower oxides, industrial glue, brown sticky tape, musk, styrax

Nick: I really adore this. It’s somewhere between hot glue gun, the back of packing tape and almonds.

Audience Member: It has that new car smell.

Nick: Comme des Garcons have two perfumes called Eau de Parfum. This is the one in the funny bottle that you can’t stand up.

Lila: Do you like it?

Audience Member: Love it!

Lila: Any favourites from tonight?

Various Audience Members: Leather Oud. Kinski. Eau de Toast.


Host Lila Das Gupta and Nick Gilbert in action

Entertaining stuff, right? It was good to try fragrances so far out of my comfort zone. By the end of the evening I could see Leather Oud being attractive at a low dose and L’ Air d’ Rien is growing on me. Secretions Magnifiques made me almost gag though and sulphuric perfumes will never be my thing. Eau de Toast was amazingly realistic but I guess that’s also the reason it’s not exactly wearable.

I’m grateful to Nick for such a riotous evening and of course, many thanks to Lila, and the other sponsors who make these great events possible.

What are the weirdest perfumes you’ve come across?


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62 Responses to Strange, Sensational or Skanky: A Selection of Perfume Presented by Nick Gilbert at Perfume Lovers London, The New Cavendish Club, Thursday 30th January 2014

  1. cookie queen says:

    Oh Tara!! Fantastic post. I sooooo wish I had been there. I dunno about skanky cookies, but skunky might well be popular. Haha! Love Val xxx

  2. Undina says:

    Tara, as always – thank you for the detailed post. Though this was the first time I didn’t wish I were there: most of the perfumes you names and described aren’t even close to what I want to even try – let alone wear. Though I do like Leather Oud. Not enough to buy it to wear but I was OK testingit.
    Oh, and I really enjoyed people describing Absolue Pour le Soir the way it is for my nose.

    • Tara says:

      There is something seductive about Leather Oud but I can’t imagine owning a whole bottle. Nothing else there was my kind of thing either but it was so great to try fragrances that weren’t just “meh”.

  3. Sandra says:

    Tara this sounds like a fun evening! Thank you for the details and descriptions. I am always willing to sniff skank, even though I might not like to wear it.

    • Tara says:

      Sandra, it was a hoot. It’s good to try something different and these evening make me do that. When out and about, I can be rather narrow in what I try.

  4. Lady Jane Grey says:

    Love it, as always – thank you, Tara !
    Was surprised to find my beloved Dzing! mentioned – naughtyy, really ? I’ve always found it rather sweet & comforting (candyfloss and sawdust 🙂 )

  5. Laurels says:

    Darn it, now I want to try a Kardashian product.

  6. That must have been amazing! I had such a good laugh reading your comments. I also like to explore more “edgy” perfumes just to shake my confort zone and to test my changing or better developing taste. I find Mona di Orio’s Cuir adorable after the harsh opening. Secretions Magnifiques doesn’t justify the name at all, and I wear L’Air de Rien every summer… I should get my hands on Toast as I don’t eat breakfast 😉 and I’m now very eager to try Kinski and Honey (even though I don’t like honey note in perfume). Nice job!

  7. Alexandra says:

    It really was a great evening and thank you for such a lovely write up. The evening reminded me quite how much I love MFK’s Absolue Pour le Soir, it deserves more outings than it gets, but it will have to be given time to calm down before I venture forth! Leather Oud was the other star of the evening for me, just too beautiful.

    • Tara says:

      Hope you enjoyed re-living it again, Alex. Nice to see you, as ever.

      I know perfumes are genderless but I’ve love to see how Leather Oud is on a guy.

      Perhaps you could spray APLS a couple of hours before leaving the house? 🙂

  8. Ahh, this sounds like such a fun and fabulous evening! As always, thank you for your detailed write-up – I feel as if I was there.

    Nick was the perfect person to discuss the world of skanky perfume. I imagine that his riotous sense of humor made for a real experience.

    I’m really intrigued by that Toast perfume. I can imagine it smelling really comforting. Or is it more disturbing?

    • Tara says:

      Thomas, Nick and skank was a perfect combination!

      Eau de Toast could be comforting if it weren’t so literal. It’s not really a perfume – it’s the actual smell of buttered, slightly singed toast. Lila said you could spray it in the air but I think it would just make you feel hungry 🙂

      I think Nick is bringing it on Sat so you can see what you think.

      • It definitely sounds more like a novelty than something wearable. All we need is a marmalade scent to accompany it and we’ll have the perfect scent! 😉

        Looking forward to Saturday!

        • Tara says:

          Yes, novelty is spot-on.

          Roll on the weekend!

        • Love the idea of marmalade – I think Sarah McCartney knows how to make a marmalade accord, she has one in the perfume she made in honour of Sir Bradley Wiggins. It’s called ‘Time To Draw The Raffle Numbers’ and she imagined that’s what he would have had for breakfast… hence the inclusion of the accord!

          • If anybody could put together a good marmalade accord it’s Sarah! I love the idea of Bradley having that for his breakfast – I’ll make sure to try ‘Time to Draw the Raffle Numbers’. Thanks Lila 😀

  9. hildegunn says:

    Aaaaah, that sounds like such a fun evening! I absolutely LOVE both Dior Leather Oud and Kurkdjian’s Absolue pour le Soir, maybe it’s because I grew up u’on a farm and had cows and horses as best friends- I always thought they smelled warm,comforting and glorious.

    • Tara says:

      Yes, I’m sure the fact that you grew up on a farm makes all the difference. You have that positive association with the smell of animals and were around those “barnyard” aromas all the time so they’re not shocking to you.

    • Sarah K says:

      I never thought I liked skank in perfume but I think I’m coming round to it, because I find Leather Oud and Absolue pour le Soir beautiful and truly fascinating scents, though I wouldn’t wear Leather Oud outside the house and I can’t imagine ever needing more than a sample, let alone 125 ml of the stuff! APLS I would dare to wear outside, but only after giving it 3 hours to dry down first! I remember trying Dzing just after it came out and thinking it wonderfully comforting but just a bit too barnyard. My standards have obviously changed because these days I think it’s entirely within skank tolerance 🙂

      • Tara says:

        Yes, I think tolerance for skank in perfume can rise over time. You still might not want to wear it out of the house but why not just wear it inside for your own pleasure? I’m not sure I’ll ever be OK with the barnyard note but I feel I’m getting better with other types. Certainly only Secretionas Magnifique repulsed me last Thursday.

  10. Vanessa says:

    Good old Nick – this was such a riot and I loved all the random descriptions – ‘old lady’s hot water bottle’ may be my personal favourite. 😉 As Lady Jane Grey said, it was good to hear a mention of Dzing!, while Labdanum 18 is another fave of mine in the ‘barnyard vanilla’ category. You always do such wonderfully thorough reporting jobs, such that we can enjoy all the fun and jave to suffer none of the olfactory trauma! I am also curious about that Kardashian one now…as honey is a tricky note for me usually.

    • Tara says:

      The comments are too good, aren’t they? Nick did a great job.

      I think of Labdanum 18 as kind of furry. Do give Pure Hoeny a try. It’s a sweet fruity floral with a well done honey note that I didn’t find urinous at first sniff.

      I’m glad I spared you the trauma, V. When spraying Secretions Magnifiques Nick said “I’m a bit scared!”

      • Thanks again Tara for a great reportage. The descriptions were hilarous though I’m glad that your account of the evening spared us a few blushes. I believe that Grant, from Basenotes, who loves all things weird and wonderful, will be putting up his own, possibly more explicit account on Basenotes. Nick is very funny when gets going and he got everyone in the mood too.

  11. Jordan River says:

    Missed my imaginary flight to this Skank Fest. Great reportage. I cannot add any weird ones as your list from Nick was comprehensive. Lol at ‘try outside the shop’.

    • Tara says:

      I wish you could have been there Jordan, I know you would have had a blast.

      Apparently someone at the shop used to put on gloves before spraying SM. It’s like a hazardous material.

  12. Amy Bella says:

    What a fun read! My nickname for Patchouli 24 is “Tire Fire”, but I’m going to try and think of it as “Sexy Bacon” the next time I wear it.

    • Tara says:

      It’s more Tire Fire than Sexy Bacon to me, I must say. I do like the smell of birch tar so it does capitivate me rather. I really don’t think I could wear it though. The Le Labo SA once told me he sprays P24 on his scarf the night before as it’s at its best for him the next morning. I can understand that.

  13. Azar says:

    Hi Tara,
    Thank you for the FUN (and the great reporting too). I do not find Dzing or Mona di Orio Cuir at all weird. Perhaps I’m just used to them. For a real barnyard smell in a bottle I go to a couple of my Indian oud oils or just brew a cup of puer tea! I am intrigued by the Nu_Be Sulfur.
    The weirdest marketed scent I’ve ever smelled is Olympic Orchids Keffi, the skankiest also by Olympic Orchids, but not marketed. I don’t need to go out and purchase any more weird or funky scents as I produce a lot of them naturally every day! Also, this morning, by accident, I spilled oregano and east cape manuka oil. That was a strange, weird, sweet-sour experience. Can you imagine adding a little smokey ham and perhaps tuberose to that mixture…?

    • Tara says:

      You clearly have it all going on, Azar. I can imagine that oregano, honey, ham and tuberose mix, strangely enough.

      Dzing! really isn’t that weird at all compared to most skank laden perfumes. I just have a very low tolerance for animalics and the minor barnyard note stood out to me.

      I totally agree that true oud oil is the real deal.

      • Azar says:

        Hi again Tara,
        I should have made the point that Kyphi (I totally mispelled it – sorry) is one of my favorite strange and weird scents. In fact I am wearing it right now. I often prefer the odd and the surprising to the lovely and predictable (hence the ham and tuberose).

        • Tara says:

          Kyphi, noted. The fact that they are so interesting and unpredictable compared to mainstream perfumes is what’s so great about the strange ones.

    • Hi Azar,
      Sulphur was my favourite of the two, it’s unusual, but very wearable. (We featured Carbon at an event before, that was beautiful too, rather sandalwoody). I didn’t quite get Nick’s association of Mercury as ‘spunk in a swimming pool’, but he obviously loves it too.

  14. Hey Tara,
    AAAARRRGGHHH! So jealous aand I’m only a week late. I would have loved to meet your Perfume Lovers crew. Saturday will be a bit like it I reckon but out in the wild.
    Thanks for the excellent write up.
    Portia xxx

  15. Ines says:

    Oh, smelling skanky perfumes must have been loads of fun! 😀
    Personally, I don’t mind wearing Absolue pour le Soir outside the house. 😉

    The strangest I’ve come across, I guess Secretions Magnifique and The Six Scents, series 1, No. 4 (how does one keep track of these after the first series?!) – that one turns my stomach.

    • Tara says:

      Ines, it’s so true that whether you like them or not, trying skanky perfumes definitely is a lot of fun.

      I don’t know that Six Scents perfume but if it turns your stomach, that says a lot!

  16. Still laughing as I re-read this. Have fun on Saturday. L

  17. Sarah says:

    lol that sounds like a weird night!! I don’t think I would ever wear any of those scents! even if they were given to me! 😛

  18. “Nick: It has a dirty, burning pork note. It’s also leathery.”

    OMG. It’s my perfume fantasy COME TRUE!!!!!!!! Pulling out sample NOW!!!!!

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