Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tauer Perfumes Lonesome Rider and Lonestar Memories


Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, the Stock Show and Rodeo was an eagerly anticipated annual event held every January. We actually got a school holiday to go rummage around the cattle barns and gaze at fantastically large pigs and prize-winning bulls. It's a testament to how easily entertained we were back then that we could make a day of this, along with some cotton candy, corn on the cob, and hot dogs. This is the oldest continually running stock show and rodeo in the United States, originating back in 1896. Our rodeo arena isn't too large so you can hear the pounding of the horse's hooves in the cutting competition or the bull's grunts as he struggles to extricate his rider. This is a true rodeo, unlike the sissified event our Houston neighbors hold, where binoculars are needed to see the participants and the crowds don't start arriving until the music concert at the end of the evening. This year I'm in Singapore, not Fort Worth, but January=Rodeo has been hammered into my head for many years now, and this took my thoughts to two particular perfumes, Tauer Perfumes Lonesome Rider and Lonestar Memories.

Lonesome Rider


The idea of the lone cowboy was a constant theme in the early Western movies. There was the well known Lone Ranger, but he had Tanto. Less well known were The Lone Rider movies starring Buck Henry, one man trying to right the wrongs and make the Wild West a safer place. The perfume Lonesome Rider holds to the idea of the solitary cowboy with its beautiful but somber notes and quiet presence.

Lonesome Rider opens with vibrant citrus notes of grapefruit and bergamot, but this moment is as brief as the last flash of the sun before it slips over the horizon. Notes of pepper and clove take the citrus to a darker place and before you know it a leather note pushes the brightness aside. Vetiver gives a whisper of smokey incense. Eventually a rooty iris note joins with the leather. There is also a rose note but I hardly notice it. It is the iris and leather combination which drive the perfume for the majority of its life on my skin. Sandalwood and ambergris will ground the scent as it eventually softens and fades but the iris is a prominent note for me until the very end. Lonesome Rider fulfills its promise of cloaking the wearer in a beautiful almost melancholy perfume which wears close to the skin and is for the personal pleasure of the wearer.

Andy Tauer, the Swiss-based and self-taught perfumer, created Lonesome Rider ten years after one of his earliest successes, Lonestar Memories. For me they are the yin and yang of cowboy inspired perfumes.

Lonestar Memories


Hello, old friend! I had forgotten  how crazy I was about you. That initial burst of bitter medicinals. The smell of leather from well worn cowboy boots only improved by the scuffs and dings, souvenirs of past good times. That smell of sweat from sweet skin which brings back a long ago memory of being a shy teenager and my date casually throwing his arm around me, providing an electric thrill as I breathed in the melange of clean laundered shirt, skin glistening with a light sheen of perspiration, and faint traces of cologne.

The opening of Lonestar Memories features notes of geranium, carrot seed, clary sage, and birchtar. There is the jolt of the unexpected when you first spray; slightly medicinal, bitter, and very dry. The birchtar adds a smokey tar smell. (When I put it on my husband's skin he said, "This is bitumen!") Almost immediately notes of leather appear. This is a dry, dusty leather, not buttery or supple. Just when you're not quite sure what to make of this scent, something stirs, a hint of sweetness or the promise of resins. Labdanum and a touch of jasmine add a wonderfully addictive smell that for me is the scent of sweet sweat. This combines with the leather to make a beautifully rich skin scent; a body clothed in leather boots and vest along with the tang from a sweaty shirt that has also absorbed some nature scents from the air. This has a familiar smell to me--weekend parties from my youth at someone's parent's ranch. Campfires, nearby grazing cows, cold beers, happy faces and starlit skies would be involved in the scenario.

The leather/labdanum/jasmine trio gains momentum and I can't stop smelling my wrist. The myrrh and tonka bean notes join in to add even more sweetness and resins. Vetiver, cedar, and sandalwood provide a smokey, woody landing spot. I get great longevity out of Lonestar Memories.

Unlike the quiet solitude of Lonesome Rider, Lonestar Memories calls for a party. It will draw people in like bees buzzing around a honeysuckle vine. It is laid-back sexy. I'll use one of our states more successful exports as an example, actor Matthew McConaughey. This scent isn't the young Matthew who got arrested for playing bongo drums naked, or the cool dude Matthew that used to throw frisbee on the beach with Lance Armstrong. This is the Matthew that took his Mama to the Oscars, that is a proud husband and father, that has developed a strong social conscience and exudes that air of "I'm comfortable in my skin." That is how Lonestar Memories strikes me and although it is unisex and I love wearing it, this is something I want to smell on my significant other. I think I know what he's getting for Valentine's Day!

A note on the art. Fort Worth is most known for the Kimbell Museum but my favorite culture spot is the Amon Carter Museum of National Art, which has a huge collection of masterpieces from two of the most famous artists of the cowboy era, Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. If you ever come our way, have a look. Admission is always free.

*Note: Andy Tauer's web page is down until the end of the month. I will be adding his links after the page is back up.

Top photo by Frederic Remington. Movie poster from Google images. Bottom photo by Charles M. Russell. Perfume samples were my own. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka Cologne Intense


Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka is the newest introduction to the brand's Cologne Intense line. These colognes are meant to be richer and fuller than the offerings in the main line, which tend to be lighter scents based on flower notes. 

I sprayed myself liberally with Myrrh & Tonka at Singapore Ngee Ann City. Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui used a lavender top note but it is blended and doesn't stand out as a distinct note to me. The myrrh adds initial warmth and sparkle and is immediately apparent to my nose. Myrrh is a resin from a small spiney tree and Jo Malone copy says that it is sourced in Namibia. Myrrh has an ancient history of being used in religious practice, as well as in Chinese and ayurvedic medicine. I really enjoy the aromatic fragrance of myrrh and I wish that note lasted a little longer. Tonka appears rather quickly and from that point on the cologne is all about the tonka on my skin. Tonka bean can give fragrances a vanilla gourmand feel that leans less sweet and more balmy and comforting. There can also be almond facets with tonka and as this cologne settles both the vanilla and almond notes contribute to the warmth and creaminess. Tonka can remind me of a milder and more subtle version of amber in perfumes and this is true with Myrrh & Tonka.

Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka is a well done scent and different from anything they currently have in the line, but I found I kept waiting for something else to happen. It developed pretty quickly and then didn't change in the hours of wear. As a point of reference, I am not a fan of Guerlain's Tonka Imperiale.  If you are a tonka fan you may appreciate this but I eventually got bored. If I decide to add one of the Cologne Intense bottles to my collection I will probably go for Velvet Rose & Oud, a gorgeous deep red rose wrapped in a warm Oud.

Top photo from the Jo Malone website. Perfume sample sprayed at Jo Malone boutique. 


Monday, January 9, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Five: Panda, Beaver & Rhinoceros


Panda, Beaver and Rhinoceros were the original perfumes introduced in 2014 by  Zoologist Perfumes, brainchild of  Canadian Victor Wong. Since then five more perfumes have been added to the lineup, all of which I have reviewed except the newest, Civet. I look forward to reviewing it when I return to the States in a month where my sample awaits! I saved these three until the end, partially because I think of them as the originators of the brand, and partially because reading the list of notes, I knew they would probably be the most challenging for me to wear and write about, as pale green scents get eaten by my skin and leather and I don't always get along. While I do know what notes work best on my skin and I wasn't incorrect in my assumption, I found I very much appreciated the craft and creativity of these three perfumes and that there is an appreciative audience out there for them.


Panda


Panda  is, as you might imagine, about bamboo, green tea, and other Chinese elements. Paul Kiler is the perfumer for both Panda and Rhinoceros but some may recognize his name as the founder and creator at PK Perfumes. With Panda, Mr. Kiler took the route of showcasing the panda's surroundings with the perfume notes. Here is part of the description from the website: "Panda is a fresh green fragrance that combines the delightful scents of bamboo and zisu leaves to send you on an unforgettable aromatic adventure. Your journey begins at a quaint Sichuan pepper farm surrounded by mountain streams and then leads you through a forest of osmanthus flowers as you finally make your way into a cozy garden filled with juicy mandarin trees and blooming lilies."

Notes for Panda are:
Top Notes: Buddha's Hand Citron, Bamboo, Sichuan Pepper, Green Tea, Mandarin, Zisu Leaves
Heart Notes: Osmanthus, Orange Blossom, Lilies, Mimosa, Incense
Base Notes: Sandalwood, Pemou Root, Cedar, Fresh Musk, Bourbon, Haitian Vetiver, Damp Moss

The opening of Panda has a mellow bamboo note but the Sichuan Pepper (pandas are found in the Sichuan Province of China) makes a strong and spicy statement. These two notes clash a bit; one smooth and gentle, the other more caustic. This serves to give what could be a bland opening more interest. My nose says this is not a combination of scents it has encountered before. I also smell the zisu leaves (in Japan they would be called shiso leaves) and this has a piquant, green and herbal note. The opening of the top notes lasts some time before the panda begins moving down the garden path, so to speak. I smell the green tea and slight aquatic notes in the second stage before the floral notes appear, a slightly leathery osmanthus and lily. The lily is quiet and understated and not at all sweet. Panda gives me the sensation of breathing fresh air from the bamboo forest, along with gentle notes that lend an Asian vibe to the overall feel of the scent.

Beaver




I usually laugh when I see a perfume note like "fresh outdoor air" but miraculously that is exactly what I smell when I first spray Beaver. This is somewhat of a surprise because I remember when Beaver was originally introduced in 2014 hearing it described in ways that I thought it might be a challenging wear for me. Chris Bartlett is the perfumer and in 2016 he and Victor slightly reworked the perfume, taking away some strong animalic and smoke notes is my understanding, and making the scent less aggressive and more user friendly. I never tried the original, but this Beaver is a very easy-wearing fresh scent.

Notes for Beaver are:
Top Notes: Fresh Outdoor Air, Linden Blossom, Wood Shavings, Wild Vegetation
Heart Notes: Damp Air, DryWood, Light Musk, Water
Base Notes: Heavy Musk, Dark Woods, Vanilla, Amber, Castoreum, Leather

Like Bat, Beaver intially presents the watery habitat of the cute buck-toothesd creatures. I've only come across beavers once--on a canoe trip in Maine--but I remember the fresh air smells, cold river water, wood and forest vegetation. Beaver gives a very realistic snapshot of this scene. The immediate spray of perfume does indeed smell of fresh air, followed shortly by the linden blossom. The linden is not sweet but just adds a slight floral note to the air. After an hour or so of development I get the effect of damp air and cold water. It's interesting because it does bring to mind the beavers home, built of wood and branches in cold rivers and streams. This phase lasts quite some time on my skin. Eventually the fresh notes are joined by notes representing the beaver itself. Let me preface by saying I've noticed in reviews lately that where other reviewers get strong animalic notes in any particular perfume, I invariably find those notes to be much more subdued on my skin, so take this description with that fact in mind. I get very quiet musk and wood scents. A mere touch of dry vanilla appears, just at moments, not present all the time. The castoreum and leather note, meant to bring to mind the beaver's fur covered body and leather paddle tail are very quiet on my skin, a mere whisper.  For me Beaver wears more as a fresh airy watery scent.

Rhinoceros



Rhinoceros has a strong opening on my skin. I get blasts of rum and wood, followed by hints of the lavender and pine needles. Soon the tobacco note comes into play. The tobacco mixes with the rum note to give a darkly rich and fragrant smell reminiscent of humidors.  Wood notes play in the background, but mostly I'm smelling the tobacco.  Eventually a dry leather note enters the mix. This is not the supple leather of a fine Italian handbag. It is the thick, hard armour-like leather of the rhinoceros. This fragrance smells big and bold, and dusty and leathery, and I can see the charging rhino, kicking up dust in it's headlong charge.

Notes for Rhinoceros are:
Top Notes: Rum, Bergamot, Lavender, Elemi, Sage, Armoise, Conifer Needles
Heart Notes: Pinewood, Tobacco, Immortelle, Geranium, Agar Wood, Chinese Cedar Wood
Base Notes: Vetiver, Sandalwood, Amber, Smoke, Leather, Musk

The Zoologist website calls Rhinoceros a "leather stampede" and this seems spot on to me. The copy goes on the say, "Like a wild drunken beast, it cavorts until it comes to settle into a slow, rhythmic yet relentless beat--the rugged, raw aroma of leather. Rhinoceros is a complex, intimidating, and masculine scent that makes a bold unapologetic statement. Go forth and explore your world. Don't ask permission." Although I don't shy away from trying masculine scents, this one, I admit, is just too macho for me. Within about an hour the scent tames way down, and I'm left with mostly leather, musk, tobacco and a touch of rum. Leather lovers, this could be your new scent!

See more reviews on the Zoologist Perfumes line in Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

Top photo www.borongaja.com. Next two photos Google images. Perfume samples my own.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Four: Macaque


Zoologist Perfumes Macaque is one of the brand's newer offerings and was released in late 2016. The perfumer is Londoner Sarah McCartney who is best known for her own line of perfumes, 4160 Tuesdays. I was aware that the 4160 Tuesdays line had amassed a large catalog of scents in a relatively short time, but I wasn't aware that she frequently takes on jobs for other clients. Ms. McCartney had heard good things about the Zoologist line and contacted Victor Wong, brand creator, with an offer to create a perfume, and Wong was delighted to accept her offer. Just as Bat's perfumer Ellen Covey has a background at university of studying bats, Ms. McCartney studied primatology at university, so she came into the project with a good knowledge of her subject animal, the macaque. She has also visited an orangutan sanctuary in Borneo and this fact alone makes me think she is an enlightened and fantastic human.  Having lived in Borneo twenty five years ago when the rainforests were still abundant, and now today experiencing the smoke that drifts to us here in Singapore as corporations and farmers burn the Borneo forests to provide more arable land for palm oil plantations, the sad result is orangutans have lost most of their natural habitat. This is a subject I could rant on about but this is a perfume review so I'm going to Stop. Right. Now. Taking a deep breath.

Living in and around Southeast Asia for the past twenty years I've had many encounters with the macaque which is endemic in Southeast Asia. There is a rainforest area in the middle of the small island of Singapore where we often hike and the Long Tailed Macaque make their home there. As Ms. McCartney states in the interesting interview here  from the Zoologist blog website, macaques are one species of monkey that has ingeniously learned that man is a food source. In Asian temples worshipers leave food offerings and the monkeys have found this to be a reliable a stream of ready made meals. When she was creating Macaque, Ms. McCartney was envisioning Japanese temples and the perfume has this tagline: The Forest and the Temple.  My favorite macaque gathering place is Monkey Forest Temple in Ubud, Bali. Bali is a short hop away for us and we went there long before the Eat, Love, Pray notoriety and before the hoards of tourists descended. The monkeys at Monkey Forest Temple are a passel of Artful Dodgers, grabbing sunglasses, backpacks, cameras, or whatever they can steal with their little hands.

Macques at the Monkey Forest Temple, Ubud, Bali.

When Ms. McCartney decided to make a perfume based on the macaque she developed the scent with the backstory in mind of the macaques gathered around a temple, emphasizing green (Asian) forest notes, incense, soft floral and tea notes, and mossy temples.

Notes for Macaque are:
Top Notes: Cedar, Green Apple, Red Mandarin
Heart Notes: Galbanum, Frankincense, Jasmine Tea, Ylang Ylang, Rosewood
Base Notes: Cedarmoss, Green Tea, White Oud, Musk

When I first spray Macaque the green astringency immediately reminds me of trips to Bali or Cambodia and being in the jungle surrounded by twenty shades of green. The dry tartness of the mandarin is futher enhanced by the galbanum, which starts off making a strong green statement, before eventually mellowing into a very natural green aroma. Macaque smells rooty, dank and humid and I can imagine I am walking through the forest, sweat beginning to mist my body, tuned in to the sounds and smell of nature. In addition to the mandarin in the opening I smell cedar, although the apple note escapes me. As the green note softens the frankincense and jasmine tea take the tartness down a notch and add meditative resin and floral notes. In the later stages of wear mossy and musky notes predominate on my skin and the scent gently fades away. I think the perfume succeeds in presenting a scent picture of the macaque's habitat, and offers an easy escape to the green jungle for those currently residing in a concrete jungle.



I found that wearing Macaque revived several travel-related scent memories for me. Macaque monkeys are revered in the Monkey Temple in Ubud. If you ever make your way to Bali, get away from the beaches and the tourists and go to Ubud, the cultural heart of the country. I wish I could make it be as uncrowded and tourist free as it was fifteen years ago, but then it wouldn't have all the amazing restaurants! The Balinese work very hard to pass on and maintain their cultural heritage among their young people and one way I like to support that effort is by attending their traditional dances based on Hindu legends. The Ramayana ballet is performed at various temples and often the cast outnumbers the audience. My favorite part is the kecak fire and trance dance. In the act shown below, the hero Rama has aligned himself with the monkeys to rescue his princess. The chorus of around 100 men represent the monkeys and their voices serve as music in a hypnotic chant while Rama tells the story. Have a look, it's mesmerizing. Skip ahead to the one minute mark if you're impatient.



I enjoyed wearing Macaque. I hope the perfumers forgive me for transplanting its story from Japan to Bali. If I drifted away from the perfume description too much, blame Ms. McCartney and Mr. Wong, as the scent was evocative of past good memories for me!

For more about the Zoologist Perfume line see Part One, Part TwoPart Three and Part Five.

Top photo of macaque at McRitchie Reservoir, Singapore, from www.ecologyasia.com. Photo of monkeys in Bali from www.viator.com. Bottle photo from the Zoologist Perfumes website. Perfume sample my own.. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Three: Nightingale


The artwork on the labels of Victor Wong's Zoologist Perfumes is so engaging and witty in its depiction of the animals representing each perfume, and it has played a big part in giving the brand a distinctive presence. They are all beguiling but this drawing for Nightingale is my absolute favorite, and I think by studying it you can get a window into the perfume, as I will explain in my review.

Nightingale, one of Zoologist Perfumes newer offerings introduced in 2016, was created by Japanese perfumer Toomo Inaba. There are two interesting facts about Mr. Inaba's collaboration with Zoologist Perfumes: one,  Nightingale was his first commercial perfume and two, he had already created this scent before being approached by Victor to contribute to Zoologist's scent library. It required only a few tweaks to be accepted as the brand's newest scent.  It is immediately apparent that Nightingale's approach is different from the two perfumes I've reviewed previously, Bat and Hummingbird. Both of these scents were impressionistic scent stories following the journey of the animal they represented. Nightingale doesn't directly reference the bird and it's journey; it's origins are more esoteric.

When Mr. Inaba originally created the perfume he was inspired by a poem from around 1000 B.C., written by the younger sister of the reigning Empress of Japan, who had decided to enter a nunnery. The poem read: "Soon you will be wearing a black robe and enter nunhood. You will not know each rosary bead has my tears on it." She then gifted her sister with a rosary made of agarwood in a box adorned with a plum blossom. Mr. Inaba used these notes as a reference point to make a perfume featuring plum blossom. The blooming of these blossoms are a herald of spring in Japan, along with the song of the nightingale. You can read more about Toomo Inaba here in an interview on the Zoologist website.

Notes for Nightingale are:
Top Notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Saffron
Heart Notes: Japanese Plum Blossom, Red Rose, Violet
Base Notes: Oud, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Moss, Frankincense, White Musk, Labdanum, Ambergris


The opening of the perfume has a Japanese aesthetic, quiet yet distinctive and slightly exotic. It is as if I've opened a little wooden box and a beautiful scent comes forth. I can sense the light of the bergamot and lemon but they are indistinct; however, they serve to set the stage for the classic fruity chypre formula: a bright opening, a fruity heart, and a dark mossy base. The saffron note lends a whisper of intrigue and spice. The plum blossoms begins to take center stage but the fruitiness of the note is kept in check by the darker base notes. I enjoy chypres and this one stays rather linear on me once it reaches this stage, which suits me just fine as I very much enjoy the fragrance. Just as the nightingale above is outfitted in her structured kimono and decorative obi, this perfume with its slightly retro vibe reminds me of an era of elegance for ladies and gentlemen.

Perfumer Toomo Inaba has taken Nightingale in its own direction. Whereas Hummingbird brims with life and Bat swoops exhuberantly, Nightingale is quieter, more somber and mysterious. Ultimately it strikes me as still. Peaceful. Calming. And have I mentioned that this is the only Zoologist perfume that the juice is not the standard pale yellow but instead is a beautiful salmon pink? Not that this should matter, but it charms me. That echanting label, rose-colored juice, pink floral chypre scent! I am smitten!

Read more about Zoologist Perfumes in Part One, Part Two. Part Four and Part Five.

Photos are from the Zoologist website. Samples are my own.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Two: Hummingbird


I chose Hummingbird as the second perfume to review in my look at the Zoologist Perfume line. I knew that Zoologist's creative director and founder, Victor Wong, selected Shelley Waddington to create Hummingbird. I have admired Ms. Wadddington's work at her own company, EnVoyage Perfumes, and previously reviewed one of her scents here.

The initial opening of Hummingbird is simply delightful. For a moment we travel with the tiny hummingbird, zipping from flower to flower in frenzied flight to sip the succulent nectar from the heart of the colorful blossoms. The air is filled with sweet floral smells as well as fruit and honey ambrosial scents. It is not difficult to imagine how this lush garden of fragrance drives the tiny hummingbird into delirium in its desire to sample everything .



These are the listed notes in Hummingbird:
Top Notes:  Apple, Cherry, Citrus, Lilac, Muguet, Pear, Plum, Rose, Violet Leaf
Heart Notes:  Honey, Honeysuckle, Mimosa, Peony, Tulip, Ylang
Base Notes:  Amber, Courmin, Cream, Moss, Musk, Sandalwood, White Wood

The opening is very floral and I particularly can pick out the lilac. This is probably one of the prettiest lilac scents I've ever smelled. Maybe the strong lilac presence is unique to my skin as I checked a few reviews and didn't find mention of this. There is a slight citrus sweetness, think lemonade, not a basket of lemons. Flitting in and out are fruity notes and I particularly pick up the apple and pear. For a few minutes I smell these notes intensely but then other flowers start to flit in and out: mimosa, honeysuckle, peony. It is the sensation of zipping through a garden and briefly sampling the delights of each bloom then quickly moving on to the next. Honey notes give the florals a lush sweetness that feels golden. Hummingbird feels like spring in a bottle.


The florals stay bright and alluring for a surprisingly long time. They fade very slowly into the base notes which on my skin presents as a very light amber musk with a slight wood note. Even after a sleep I can still smell traces of crushed lilacs on my skin. Just as I was amazed at how the perfumer managed to capture the flight of the bat in Zoologist Bat, I am equally impressed with Ms. Waddington's ability to capture the flight of the hummingbird in a bottle of perfume. Well done!

The Zoologist blog has an excellent interview with the perfumer, Shelley Waddington, here.

Shelley Waddington is also the perfumer for the brand's newest release, Civet, but unfortunately when I ordered my samples it had not been released so I will not be reviewing it until a later date.

Read more about Zoologist Perfumes in Part One, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five.

Top photo www.azmzphotos.wix.com. Youtube video JCVDude. Bottom photo from Zoologist website. Samples are my own.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part One: Bat


One of the things I wanted to do when I started my blog was examine some perfume houses entire line of fragrances, or at least as many as I had access to. Buying tiny samples can quickly become surprisingly expensive and I always appreciate reading differing reviews which can help me decide if a particular fragrance sample might be worth my time and expense. I wanted to be another voice out there giving my opinions for whatever they're worth, but last year I only managed to do one house, Berdoues Cologne Grand Cru I decided to start 2017 reviewing the perfumes from a house that has fascinated me since I first became aware of it, and that has garnered quite a few accolades in other fragrance blogger's best of 2016 round ups, Zoologist Perfumes.

Zoologist Perfumes is the creation of Victor Wong. In 2013 he came up with the concept of founding a line of perfumes based on animals and using a variety of perfumers to create the scents. The brand has become known for its offbeat and unusual creations and received accolades and awards for the early 2016 introduction of Bat, which won this year's Art and Olfaction Award in the independent category. The brand is also recognized for the quirky Victorianesque artwork on the bottle labels. The illustrations are reminiscent of a time when intrepid explorers rode steamers to far off and exotic destinations, tramping through unexplored wilderness to bring back information of the natural world to the masses.

My first sniff of Zoologist Perfumes Bat almost makes me laugh, it is so wildly creative and realistic. For a city girl I have had an unusual number of bat encounters and this perfume brought back vividly one such contact with the nocturnal creatures. In the early 1990's my family lived in Sarawak on the island of Borneo. One three-day weekend my husband and I took off with our three five-year-olds on a tiny plane to visit the nearby Mulu National Park, home to Deer Cave which was then the largest cave in the world. (The discovery in 2009 of Hang Son Doong cave in Vietnam now claims that honor). The day of the cave exploration we hiked in the jungle for some way until we reached a river where we then boarded longboats, gliding down the narrow waterway bounded by impenetrable jungle. Upon alighting we continued our hike along a three kilometer plankway until reaching the huge yawning opening to Deer Cave. In those days there weren't many tourists so no more than ten of us gathered outside the cave awaiting the daily spectacle of the departing bats at dusk. Sure enough around 5:30 the bats began to emerge, first a few in thin spiraling streams, then eventually a multitude numbering over two million that physically blotted out the light of the sky and turned it inky black.

Millions of wrinkle lipped free tailed bats leave Deer Cave in Gunung Mulu National Park at dusk. Getty Images.

We explored their cave habitat which fortunately has raised walkways so one doesn't have to step on the years of accumulated guano. It was a marvelous and mysterious place and applying Bat to my wrist brought back the memory of entering that space; the damp earth and vegetation, limestone walls, dripping water, and strong animal scent. The perfumer responsible for pulling off this recreation is Ellen Covey who has her own line of perfumes, Olympic Orchids Perfume. Dr. Covey's background is fascinating. She grew up as a bit of a nomad, living with her family in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and France and learning the languages of each. She returned to the States and began to pursue a medical degree but was enjoying her job in a lab so ended up going a more academic route. While pursuing her doctorate at Duke in chemical senses she became exposed to the auditory systems of bats, and she studied bats in their natural habitat. This mixture of scientist/perfumer really works to make Bat an impressionistic rendering of the winged creature in its habitat and following it on its night flight adventures.

Bat's notes are listed as:
Top Notes: Banana, soft fruits, damp earth
Heart Notes: Figs, tropical fruits, mineral notes, myrrh, resins, vegetal roots
Base Notes: Furry musks, leather, vetiver, sandalwood, tonka

The perfume's journey starts in the damp cool cavern where the bat hides and rests in the daylight hours.  Bat's opening captures the cave habitat. Vegetal pungunt scents, water dripping from limestone cavern walls, and earth rich, loamy and moist. Fortunately we don't have to smell the guana which is piled on the cavern floors, although if my 20-year-old memory serves me, I don't remember it being a particularly horrible or overpowering smell. Mineral formations that would be found in a cave can also be noticed in the scent. I am really fascinated how Dr. Covey has managed to capture this variety of smells in one perfume.

Antique bat print from Google image.

At dusk the bat takes flight into the moonlit skies, swooping and feasting on ripe fruits of the forest. I smell the fig faintly, a subtle warmth and sweet creaminess. I also sense bananas and other ripe fruit smells. The fruit is balanced by the earth and humus so it never becomes a fruit bomb, just vaguely tropical.  As the fruit notes emerge the scent softens and makes me feel like I'm on a hike in nature with fresh and unusual scents actively engaging the senses. The longer the perfume is on my skin the softer it becomes and I eventually lose the strong cave sensation. A soft earthy musk emerges and a mere tinge of leather, which helps to illustrate the bat's silky fur and leathery wings as it dives and cavorts through the night before returning to the cave to beat dawn's light.

There is no doubt that Dr. Covey has created a superb "journey of the bat" with this perfume but is it wearable? That depends. Probably not for the novice who has never ventured beyond department store perfumes, and I don't mean that in the condescending way it may sound. Some are quite content with their perfumes and don't feel the need to explore further. But for those of us who have caught the scent bug, niche perfumes at their finest represent that sweet spot where boundaries are pushed and unfettered creativity can explore facets of scent that may not be commercially viable to mass markets. Zoologist Bat is certainly representative of that realm of creativity but it is also a very wearable scent. The initial opening may surprise you for a moment but it is not unpleasant, merely unexpected. Picture yourself standing at the mouth of a cavern, hesitating for a moment before you push onward to explore the mystery inside. What will you find? Once you submit  you find there is nothing to fear, just a different world than you are accustomed to and beautiful in its own unique way. Thus Zoologist Bat weaves its own unique path, taking you on a journey of unexpected delight.

There is an interesting article in the Zoologist blog on Ellen Covey here.

Read more about Zoologist Perfumes in Part Two, Part Three. Part Four and Part Five.

Top photo Google image. Fragrance samples are my own.