Sunday, October 15, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Eight: Elephant

Elephant is the latest release from Zoologist Perfumes, brainchild of Canadian owner and creative director Victor Wong and the work of perfumer Chris Bartlett, who is also the creator of Zoologist Beaver. I should know by now not to try to predict in which direction the Zoologist perfumes will interpret their "animal" but I was sort of expecting elephant skin, aka their rough and distinctive hide translated into a leather based fragrance. I was wrong as it turns out, but I was interested to read that the final version of Elephant is very different than the perfumer's initial interpretation. Victor is always very generous in crediting his perfumers with their work and he always posts an interesting interview which give additional insight into the creative process. Click here is his latest interview with Chris Bartlett.

In the interview Chris states that initially his vision was of an elephant from the Indian subcontinent illustrated by notes of sandalwood, spice, and chai tea. At the point of the third prototype of Elephant he decided to take the scent a different direction, becoming more about the elephant's habitat and food foraging habits. This made the perfume greener and fresher. In the interview on the Zoologist website Mr. Bartlett states, "In my view, if you can pick out the individual notes in a perfume too easily, it's not finished yet." I will describe notes below but the perfumer succeeded in making this a unique scent, not defined by any one note.

So how does Elephant smell? At first spray there is a blast of very photorealistic green. Perfumer Chris Bartlett was going for the illusion of a hungry elephant stripping trees of vegetation, taking every last leaf and blossom then tossing the bared branches before heading for the next tree. There is a rawness to the green aroma in Elephant as if large leaves were snapped from the bark, leaving green wet sap oozing out of the torn foliage. This is a bright green smell, not the moody dark green of forest or fougere type scents. The intensity of the green aroma, used as a reference to the elephant's olfactory perception, made this image of my dog pop into my head.

Look at that nose, sniffing the wind. She has a bit of a long nose and when I take her for her daily walks it goes aquiver with the delightful scent of nearby squirrel, possum, and raccoon. Dogs clock in with double the genes that control our sense of smell, 800 to our not quite 400 olfactory receptors. A dog's nose is long, so how many more receptors would an elephant have with its very long proboscis? The answer is almost 2000, more than double that of the dog and five times that of humans. This is the sense of green I get from the first spray; the intensity that the elephant must feel when it finds a field of ready food. A green on steroids. I have no idea if this is what Victor and Chris were going for but that's my take on it. Only a few of the notes used to achieve this effect are listed, and they are tree leaves, Darjeeling tea, and magnolia. Mr. Bartlett also mentions violet leaf in his interview with Victor.

After about thirty minutes the green loses its intensity and a freshness enters, again to display the elephant's surroundings. Chris wanted to give the sense of fresh air.  Coming on the heels of this freshness the scent becomes creamier and almost milky. Some of the heart notes are cocoa (can't pick it out!), coconut milk (milk yes, coconut no), incense (light and fragrant!), jasmine (can't discern), and wood notes. With the scent's green fading to soft woods, the perfumer references the idea of the satiated elephant lumbering through the woods, now stripped of greenery. This velvety green is embroidered with a beautiful but faint trail of incense and it is imbued with a soft appealing creaminess, the same sort of creaminess that certain fig scents can display (minus the fig scent itself).

The entry of sandalwood sets the stage as the scent languidly drifts to a more woody dominance. Other base notes are amber, musk, and patchouli. I find the amber adds a very delightful warmth to the wood notes and slowly simmers with a touch of spiciness. This is my favorite stage of Elephant. It has become softer and a little more serious,  and on my skin at least is a more personal scent, apparent to me but probably not those a few feet away. It gives a sense of meditative beauty, which is a fitting tribute to these magnificent creatures. Once again Zoologist Perfumes has produced  a thought provoking study on the scent of an animal, in this case Elephant, and also created a very wearable and beautiful perfume.

See more reviews of Zoologist Perfumes starting here with Part One.

Top Photo Google image. Second photo my own. Third photo from Sample provided by Zoologist perfumes.

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