Saturday, November 4, 2017

Zoologist Perfumes Part Nine: Camel

The Courtyard of the Copic Patriarch's House in Cairo by John Frederick Lewis

Zoologist Perfumes will be releasing their twelfth scent, Camel, on December 8, 2017. The perfumer for Camel is Christian Carbonnel who works for his family's fragrance company in Spain. A chance meeting between Zoologist's Victor Wong and Mr. Cabonnel at the 2016 Art and Olfaction Awards ceremony led to a collaboration and the creation of a new Zoologist perfume, Camel, as well as a rework on a perfume previously released, Panda. I have said in past reviews that I am often surprised, in a good way, by the direction Zoologist's various perfumers have taken in interpreting their perfume creations. This time I was hoping the perfume would center around the romantic idea of the camel as "the ship of the desert" and I was not disappointed.

When I first sprayed Camel I thought I was smelling vetiver, because the opening note is earthy, rooty, and dry,dry, dry. Vetiver is listed as a base note so I believe it is frankincense that is used to provide this arid opening which brings to mind the camel's trek across the barren desert of sand.  The scent of frankincense can also veer fruity and spicy and here I believe this enhances the other opening notes of dried fruit and palm date. These dried fruit notes do indeed smell dry rather than plump and succulent, and this gives the perfume the scent of the fruit but none of the sweetness. A gentle trill of rose flits in the background as the scent begins to warm and develop. Then the heart notes are already starting to appear, rising like a perfumed cloud of smoke trailing from a censer. At this point the perfume's journey represents the camel's stop at an oasis or encampment for the trading of the wares he carries on his back.

Camel's listed heart notes are amber, cedar, cinnamon, incense, jasmine, myrrh, and orange blossom. I first notice the cedar and it serves to embellish the dryness of the perfume with its distinctive aromatic air. Then the notes become more of a melange, mixing the spices with the floral notes of jasmine and orange blossom. There is the scent of smoke from a distant fire through the note of incense. The inclusion of amber gives Camel the structure of an oriental perfume: the amber for warmth, spice for a touch of the exotic, and rich floral notes to add a touch of sensuality. There is a slight touch of sweetness as the perfume blooms.

A Frank Encampment In the Desert of Mount Sanai by John Frederick Lewis

The base notes of civet, musk, and oud perhaps sound heavy but here they are delicately managed. The addition of sandalwood, tonka, and vanilla cloak the more animalic notes in a soft wrap of comfort, mimicking the tired camel at the end of the day gratefully shedding his heavy load and nestling into a bed of sand as the hazy desert dusk sky fades to inky blackness.

These paintings in the orientalist style by John Frederick Lewis struck me as a good visual for the perfume. Lewis traveled extensively and lived for many years in what was then the Ottoman Empire. He was known for his exacting and admiring portrayals of Islamic architecture and life, and it was noted that he never painted salacious scenes of harem women as did many other orientalist painters. In a similar style, Camel has exotic notes but they are precise and contained. This is no flamboyant show of spices and overripe sweet fruit but rather the refined suggestion of these goods. This perfume tips toward exotic elegance rather than extravagant excess. Just as in the paintings, an exotic world unfolds but it is displayed in the most impeccable and polished style.

Camel wears rather gently on my skin and I most appreciate the period where the florals and spice mix together. I literally can't stop smelling my hand where I've sprayed.

To read more about Zoologist Perfumes you can start with my first review at Part One.

Thanks to Zoologist Perfumes for the sample of Camel.

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