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 Photo of monkeys in Bali from Bottle photo from the Zoologist Perfumes website. Perfume sample my own.. 


richpot said...

Baraka is one of my favorite films. Gorgeous!

Cynthia said...

I haven't seen it, but reading about it now, I'd like to.

4160Tuesdays said...

I've been to the Monkey Temple at Ubud too, you're just right about the atmosphere there.

Cynthia said...

Macaque is such an evocative perfume, Sarah. I need to try more of your work soon!

Undina said...

It might be an interesting conversation starter:
- What is that scent? What perfume you're wearing?
- Macaque...

These might be great perfumes but most animals for me are not associated with pleasant smells so this line just doesn't appeal to me. But I keep seeing positive opinions about their perfumes, and I glad that they have their fans.

Cynthia said...

Undina, you might like Nightingale--no animal connotation at all with it! But you're right, we can't like everything, and thank goodness. I couldn't afford it!