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.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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.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, Basenotes.net and the other sponsors who make these great events possible.
What are the weirdest perfumes you’ve come across?