October 25, 2016
By RACHEL SYME OCT. 25, 2016
In 2012, Victor Wong, a video game designer for a toy company in Toronto, had a tiny midlife crisis in his hotel room while on vacation. He felt burned out on work but was strangely revived by sniffing the hotel toiletries, which came from a niche fragrance line he can no longer recall.
What he does remember is that he swooned over the scents, which were spicy, musky and intense. He knew then and there that he wanted to make perfume.
Returning home, Mr. Wong began haunting the message boards of the cult perfume sites BaseNotes and Fragrantica, feverishly researching the formulas behind his favorite scents. The same notes kept popping up: castoreum, civet, musk, ambergris. He realized that he was drawn, in an instinctual way, to animal-derived scents — or rather (because most perfumery materials that come from animals are now banned or heavily regulated) to their lab-created chemical equivalents.
When Mr. Wong worked up the courage to put out an open call online for a perfumer to help him create his fragrance, he already had a specific, and beastly, concept in his head. He would call his line Zoologist, and he would release a series of scents named for the wild creatures that inspired them.
The British perfumer Chris Bartlett was the first to respond, with a bold idea for the maiden fragrance in the Wong menagerie. He wanted to capture the essence of a beaver. Mr. Bartlett proposed a scent that used no real animal ingredients, but smelled strongly of wet fur, dank musk, felled trees and the sour buttery odor of a beaver’s castor sac secretions.
Mr. Wong said yes immediately. When Beaver hit the market in 2014, it immediately became a polarizing sensation in the niche perfume world. CaFleureBon, which reviews cult perfumes, named it one of the best of the year, and fans flocked to its peppery, sweaty funk. But, as Mr. Wong now admits, “it was ultimately too challenging for a lot of people.”
“A lot of people thought it was interesting but said that they would never wear it,” he said. The smell of damp pelt (and the not-so-subtle bodily connotations of the name) made some customers feel uncomfortable rather than swaddled in the dense odor.
So Mr. Wong asked Mr. Bartlett to revisit his formula, and this fall they released Beaver 2016, a riff on the original idea but with more “fresh air and river top notes to make it more attractive.”
Mr. Wong has released six other perfumes, including Bat, a pungent reverie on banana, cave dirt, musk and overripe figs from the perfumer Dr. Ellen Covey that won the top prize at the 2016 Art and Olfaction Awards. The venerable fragrance critic Luca Turin gave Bat a rave, writing that “the fragrance seems lit from within by the earth note all the way to drydown.”
It turns out that Mr. Wong’s animal instincts were right along: In 2016, the demand for fauna-inspired scents is cresting.
“Animalic” is a buzzword floating around the industry, now that the minimalist, clean trend has given way (at least in high-fashion niche circles) to more feral fragrance clouds. Maybe it’s the desire of millennials to reclaim their beastly odors in an age of technological detachment, but fragrance buyers are newly excited to smell as if they come from an elegant zoo.
October 21, 2016
This interview originally appeared in Parfumo.net on Oct 20th, 2016, conducted by contributor Chanelle.
First of all, what gave you the idea to launch your own Fragrance Brand “Zoologist”?
Back in 2013, I wasn’t very happy with my career. I felt very insecure and frustrated. I guess that’s what people like to call a “mid-life crisis”. Lots of people playing politics and making decisions that led nowhere. I wanted a project I had full creative control over and to launch some interesting products I could be proud of. Coincidentally, I had just discovered the world of niche perfumes (and was very obsessed with it, as you would have guessed) and wondered if I could create my own brand. I had no insider connections, no entrepreneurial experience, no business strategy and no marketing research. Everything was based on gut feeling. I posted in a Basenotes.net forum asking if there were any perfumers who would help me create some perfumes, and two indie perfumers responded. The rest is history.
Did you ever think about becoming a perfumer yourself? If not, why didn't you?
I had thought about it, but later rejected the idea. I knew that one needs to spend a lot of time practicing perfumery to become good at it, and time is a luxury I don’t have much of. I still have my day job, and when I go home I either spend half the evening fulfilling online orders or developing my next scents and promotional artwork.
How would you describe the process of finding the right perfumer to match the fragrance concept (or was it the other way around)? Did the perfumers choose the animal they would develop a scent concept for?
To me, the most important thing to know before any project starts is the style of a perfumer, and their temperament (which I learn about via online chatting). Once I know his/her style, I can determine what kind of animal is best suited to that perfumer. For example, some perfumers like to make very unconventional and unique fragrances, so I would assign to them an animal that’s unexpected or less widely loved. Some perfumers like to create beautiful, classic perfumes, so for that person I will assign animals that people tend to perceive as elegant or beautiful.
Of course, there are some perfumers who approached me directly and proposed a specific animal that he/she wished to make. (e.g. Ellen Covey’s Bat.) In most cases, I won’t refuse (laugh).
Is there any connection between being a game developer and a perfume aficionado?
Maybe not, but working in a large game studio has inspired me a lot in terms of product development - what sells, what doesn’t, should we take some risks by doing unconventional things, etc. Also, it has taught me the important elements of making and marketing a product, like packaging, marketing copy, social media, etc. My coworkers who specialized in each department all offered valuable opinions, or even helped (for example, by creating the illustrations on the labels).
Are you launching your brand in Germany sometime soon? Lots of people think highly of the concept and the quality of the fragrances, but still they are not well-known over here and some people shy away from ordering overseas.
Right now, I can’t see Zoologist being widely distributed in Germany, or much anywhere else. I won’t be able to make much profit selling to a distributor, because my operation is so small. I mix, bottle and package everything by myself at home, and fulfilling an order of 30 bottles could take me a whole day. My material cost is high because the perfumers sell me their compound concentrate at a markup. I can only make a dollar or two per bottle if I choose the distributor route, but what would be the point? Wholesaling directly to small boutiques is the second-best way for me, and the best way is getting customers to buy directly from my website. But shipping in Canada is horrible, since it’s so expensive … so I guess I just have to take things slowly.
What was your inspiration for a zoology-themed range, and do you plan one in a different direction in the foreseeable future?
I have two branches of thought when it comes to product development. One highlights a particular animalic note, such as castoreum (in, say, Zoologist Beaver), and another inspired by animal habitats (such as Zoologist Bat, which smells like a cave). My new scent, Macaque, is a bit different from the others because it’s about the meditative mood that said animal often elicits in people.
October 06, 2016
Victor Wong of Toronto-based Zoologist Perfumes is so inspired by the animal kingdom that his entire perfume collection celebrates it. In 2013, Wong was just a lover of scent with a day job. He took to the internet to seek out a perfumer who could help him actualize his dream to start his own fragrance brand. He found two via a fragrance forum and started out on his journey. Each Zoologist scent is named for an animal, its formulation designed to conjure the essence and idiosyncrasies of each species. For fall, the natural choice is Bat, an earthy, mineral fragrance layered with dark plum, leather and musk.
September 05, 2016
Hi Sarah, thank you for taking the time to do this interview!
You started your perfume house 4160 Tuesdays in London, UK in 2013 and it has been 4 years since then. How are you liking this new page in life and new profession? How is business lately?
We moved into our building in 2013, but the perfumery started up in one end of our attic bedroom in 2010, while I was still working as a freelance writer and writing trainer for big corporations. That was the most terrifying thing I'd ever done, followed by employing people. I really just wanted to make perfume but now I find myself running a business; mind you I have a great team including Brooke Belldon, who knows far more about other people's perfume than I do and blogs as BGirl Rhapsody, Arthur McBain our resident actor and trainee heartthrob. He's going to be very famous soon but in the meantime I've just signed him as the face of The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO).
I recently got back into some very serious making because I've had some fascinating commissions from lovely people (not least you, Victor, and Macaque), but there's Underhill for Misc. Goods Co., Damn Rebel Bitches for Urban Reivers, a couple of very secret private commissions, and two scents to celebrate a woman swimming from England to France to raise money for refugees. There are another few collaborations coming up which I can't tell you about yet, but I do love working with other people to make their ideas happen.
We're poised to double the space we have by moving into next door's building too. I need to run more making workshops and with more people as they all sell out now, after The Guardian wrote a piece about them. We'll have bottling, packing and shipping next door, and my lab and the workshop are in the current one (if it all goes well).
I'm also working with the Facebook Group Mrs Gloss & The Goss; we're on to our third perfume together and I’ve made them an extra Christmas bonus too along the way. That's group bespoke creation and we crowd-fund it so that each group member can have a scent at a sensible price and 20 of them have a hand in its creation. I'm all for embracing the new commerce, using the internet in ways we didn't have 20 years ago. (Too many business models are based on a 150 year old method.)
So right now I'm not sure which way it will go. It's Pitti Fragranze next week – our first time – then there are the workshops, bespoke, collaborations and our online shop.
Above, Clockwise: 1. Arthur 2. Team at Studio – Anastasia, Helena, Sepphiah 3. Sarah at Work 4. Bespoke Perfume Party
I see that there are a lot of fans of 4160 Tuesdays raving about your perfumes on your Facebook page. Do you have something to say to them?
Hello! Come and visit.
Really I'm delighted by all the mentions we get, and I can't always keep up. My husband Nick aims to keep track of them, and to point me in the direction of any questions I need to answer.
I never mind if people don't like my perfumes, because when you push perfume into areas that people haven't smelled before to make things you hope some people will love, then you're going to get others really not liking them at all. That's to be expected. But when people really get what it is that I'm up to, and go totally nuts about one of them on Facebook, Twitter or their blogs, then I feel as if it's all worth the bother.
I must say it had come to us by surprise that you contacted us and proposed a collaboration in late 2015. Where did you hear about Zoologist and what triggered the thought of a collaboration?
I thought it was quite daring of me. I had no idea you'd say yes and I was delighted when you wrote back. You could have told me you weren't interested. I didn't know. When I got the EauMG best upcoming brand in 2014, you were second so I looked you up. Of course I know Chris Bartlett, that stalwart of the UK indie perfume team, so we'd heard about Beaver. Chris does a lot of PR for you over here. Then one day I saw that you'd got distribution in Poland and I thought “Wow, I want to work with that man; he's getting his fragrances everywhere!”
Did you enjoy the collaboration?
It was excellent working with you. What was great was that you warned me about wanting lots of mods (perfume prototypes) and not being able to make up your mind, so I was expecting that. I was delighted that you said Macaque was like nothing you've ever smelled before because I feel that this is my perfume role in life. I'm just not interested in releasing fragrances which smell like other people's, not on purpose anyway. Getting permission to make something unique and still wearable was right up my street. What shall we do next?
At the beginning we had spent good amount of time brainstorming which animal to make a perfume of. Ultimately we picked macaque. I know that you love monkeys. Can you tell us more about that?
I'll send you a photo of me and my toy chimpanzees when I was a child. I studied primatology at university too. What's not to love about monkeys and apes? Gorillas are peaceful, misunderstood and endangered; so are orang utans - we visited a rescue centre in Borneo - while chimpanzees are fascinating because they're like humans with a weaker moral compass. I'd love to live somewhere with monkeys in the garden. West London is not that place.
Above: Sarah and parents, and chimpanzee "Sylvester"
Perhaps to a lot of people monkeys are very mischievous, active and they love to eat bananas, yet Macaque the perfume evokes a different kind of feeling. Can you tell us more about your design and choice of ingredients?
Above: Galbanum Illustration. Source: Wikipedia
Monkeys are intelligent and fascinating. Neither of us wanted to go for the cliché tourist monkey. The first ones I met were in Africa and they would steal sugar lumps from afternoon tea in the hotel garden. They have a hand to mouth existence, and some species are ingenious enough to form relationships with humans for food. Macaques are one of them. They come to temples because people leave offerings of food there. The Japanese ones don't eat bananas because they don't grow in Japan. Many people joked "What's it going to smell of? Bananas?" imagining I hadn't heard that before. Ours wasn't going to be a cartoon monkey. So yes to the fruit and vegetable smells, but yuzu and apple. Next, the scents of a Japanese temple. I've been to several in Kyoto, Tokyo and Kamakura so I had an idea of where to set it. Incense making is an ancient craft in Japan. They have whole shops devoted to it and some handmade precious ones are $1000 a box. They are made with as many different materials as we make fine fragrance. I wanted to honour that tradition by using woods and spices including frankincense and cedar. Then there is the warm furry smell of the monkey himself. They wash and groom so the ones I've been close to smelled more like fruity cats than strong animalic perfumes. Galbanum is for the carefully trimmed foliage. I remember John Stephen saying that he thinks galbanum is the sadly underused in modern perfumery and when I was on one of Karen Gilbert's courses in 2011 she recommend galbanum as a material which always seems to answer the question, "What's missing?"
Like other non-industry perfumers I started by learning about naturals then added synthetics to my scent vocabulary (olfacabulary?) to achieve effects which aren't possible with naturals. There are so many interesting naturals in Macaque that without synthetics it would be too intense to wear, even for you Victor. Now that my perfumery is big enough to attract attention I'm getting essential oils companies and the synthetics suppliers coming to me with new discoveries and creations. With Macaque I was able to use some adventurous new things to create what we wanted.
Do you have any favourite perfumery ingredients and perfume genres? And what are your own favourite creations?
I'll reach for the opoponax, pink grapefruit, raspberry leaf absolute, rose absolute, cedrat, maltol, methyl pamplemousse, mandarine and lemon petitgrains I've just got hold of, blackcurrant, coffee absolute, cognac absolute, cedramber and broom absolute.
Genres: fruity chypres and unusual gourmands. The apple and celery herb I just got in will appear together in something soon, probably with cucumber and peach.
My favourites are Tokyo Spring Blossom and whatever I just made. Right now Rosa Ribes, a limited edition I made for myself, Mother Nature's Naughty Daughters and Midnight in the Palace Garden. (We like smelling that one on Arthur – it's his favourite – although I had Aiden Turner in mind when I made it. Don't we all?)
Recently perfume reviewer Luca Turin described your perfumes as “jubilant and unpretentious, a happy wallowing in the richness and beauty of fragrance materials.” Some people generalize your perfumery style as happy, whimsical, full of humour and of simple pleasures. Do you agree? Did you design them that way so that the wearer would feel happy, or do you simply enjoy making happy-smelling scents? Will you challenge yourself and make something is not typical of your style?
I found out about that blog piece while being filmed by an Italian TV crew for a documentary on a perfume I'm making; I cried with happiness. They filmed a close-up… of course they did.
I started the perfumery to make the scents I'd written about in a novella, The Scent of Possibility; they were all to make people think of a happy time in their lives. So 4016 Tuesdays is really only here because I wanted to make happy perfumes. I widened the scope to make fragrances which capture a time or a place or a concept (and these can be imaginary). With Maxed Out (made for Max Heusler, a Youtube fragrance reviewer) we weren't being so happy smelling. Rome 1963 (for Peroni beer) I made stylist Silvia Bergomi's interpretation of a moment from a Fellini film. When I work with others, I'm very happy to go away from my usual style. I think it's a bit like acting. You can get typecast, but you do like to challenge people's assumptions and your own limits. I think that Macaque is a perfect example of my collaborative style; take what someone else wants and do something they didn't realize they could have.
A lot of perfume companies or indie perfumers choose to release only one or two perfumes each year. On Fragrantica, it says that in a span of 3 years since 2013, you have created over 37 perfumes. What are your thoughts on that? Do you have a “perfumer’s block”? How does the development time of Macaque compared to your other scents?
Ah yes, I'd do one a day if I had the chance, maybe two; I have many ideas. I wake up most mornings with more, unless I don't have any money in the bank, in which case it all dries up. That's one of the reasons that I work with other people, I need to make so I like to share. I was aiming to cut down to two a year, then in April Brooke pointed out to me that I'd already launched eight. Franco at LuckyScent said to me, “Stop. Seriously, stop!” But then in his next breath he got all excited about doing something together so I made him three for him to try out. This morning I got an email from one of our lovely stockists about doing a collaboration with him. Creative block… not yet. There are so many materials to blend in so many millions of combinations.
With Macaque we had to go in a particular direction so I would think and think, then blend, then wait and blend a bit more; then we had to do the shipping thing, and get feedback, then do the blending again so it took a little longer. If you'd been in the room, we'd have cracked it sooner.
Finally, what is your opinion on the current indie and niche perfume market?
I can't keep up, Victor. What's happened is that it's the next big thing with the venture capital companies so like Internet businesses 20 years ago, there's funding out there if you want it as long as you structure your business correctly. Mine is totally wrong for that, as I actually do have everything made in my own studio. Since Frederic Malle sold to Estée Lauder people have piled into niche from all directions. You've got the big guys making “niche” fragrances - meaning that they only sell it in a few shops and charge four times more than they do for their mass market lines. They do it because they've seen that the only area of the market that's growing is niche so they're going to control it. You've got small ambitious brands setting up, all with their venture capital funding, their concepts and stories and innovative packaging, and they go to the same top fragrance companies as the big guys to get their perfumes made. They'll pay for the big name perfumers too. It's all good stuff, but some of them have surely got to crash and burn.
In the UK Robertet are doing really well picking up new brands as they make fragrances for some of the better known UK niche houses, and do a beautiful job. Everyone wants to get distribution in the same few stores, then to get noticed and get bought; they have their investors nipping at their ankles asking when they're going to get their money back.
For the actual fragrances, I prefer the real indie work. I like what Ruth Mastenbroek is doing, Liz Moores at Papillion of course, Andy Tauer, the late Angela Flanders, Grossmith - who are open about using Robertet to recreate their phoenix fragrances and to make their new ones, Ex Idolo…
Niche, I like Frederic Malle, Annick Goutal, Les Parfums de Rosine, L’Artisan Parfumeur. Of the big guys, I love Guerlain. I admire courage, richness, a vintage touch without an overly classical heaviness, and originality.
You can find it if you try. I like to think we have those things too.
Zoologist Perfumes Macaque Coming Soon Fall, 2016
September 02, 2016
Inaba san, thank you for the taking the time to do this interview! Would you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a perfumer and a fragrance writer/journalist in Japan. I used to work as a director of events and exhibitions in my twenties, and those were some long, hard days. A couple of years ago, I left Tokyo, the big city where I had lived for 20 years, and moved to Kyushu, an island located in the southern part of Japan. Now I have settled down with two precious puppies in the countryside by the ocean.
When did you become interested in perfumes? What made you decide to pursue a career in perfumery?
I grew up in a family with a lot of fragrant flowers and vegetables growing in our garden, and my mom and grandma took great care of them, with love. My mom was especially interested in world plants and she would travel around the world to see them in many botanical gardens. So it was natural for me to learn about those plants and their smells.
Ten years ago, I established a fragrance-distribution company, and soon I realized that I needed to learn what materials and ingredients were used in the fragrances. Otherwise, I couldn't describe them to my customers and make a sale convincingly. Since then, I have been very into fragrances and have published more than 5,200 fragrance reviews (mostly on new releases, but also a few on vintage ones) on my website, profice.jp.
Writing perfume reviews has given me great lessons on perfumery materials and helped me become a better perfumer. I think the more works of other perfumers’ I smell and review, the more critical I become of my own work.
Besides writing reviews, I've been constantly studying books on the subject of perfumery, vintage perfumes and the various plants and materials used in perfumery. To better understand the smell of natural materials, I grow fragrant plants in my garden. These include frankincense, jasminum officinale, ylang ylang, rosa damascena, rosa centiforia, cypress, cassia, patchouli, tuberose, immortelle, cardamon, coriander, pepper, vanilla and many more.
Do you have any formal training in perfumery, or did you learn it by yourself?
I learned perfumery by myself. I started 10 years ago, and I am still learning. I often travel outside of Japan to visit distilleries and farms in different countries such as Madagascar (ylang ylang and some herbs); India (tuberose, jasmine sambac, nagarmotha and more); Sri Lanka (nutmeg, mace and many other spices); Tunisia (orange blossom, geranium and more); and Réunion Island (vanilla, vetiver and geranium). I have been to 25 countries for that purpose so far.
Are there any schools in Japan that teach professional perfumery? Do Japanese like to wear fragrances?
One school in Japan teaches professional perfumery. About 90% of Japanese perfumers in this industry are “flavorist”, and 10% design fragrances for bath and toiletry products.
Although there are many fragrance lovers in Japan, most of them are satisfied with typical mainstream designers’ perfumes and only wear fragrances occasionally. As a well-mannered and considerate person in Japan, one only wears a couple of sprays, and tries to make the scents barely noticeable, fearing that too much fragrance might make people around you sick. Also, Japan is a humid country, and when you’re wearing a perfume the scent projection, or spread, becomes stronger.
Can you tell us about the classes that you teach?
I hold several types of classes, which are between 90 and 120 minutes long. In some classes you can learn about the history of perfumes and materials; in others, you learn to create your own perfume or recreate notable vintage perfumes or my original perfumes. They are hobby classes, and my students have no intention of becoming perfumers.
I first learned about you through your fragrance reviews on Facebook. I feel like you know almost everyone in the perfume industry! Is it your passion to meet and make friends with as many perfumers in the industry?
I am passionate about perfumes, and naturally I have many friends who are perfumers. Among them, I have known Stephane Humbert Lucas the longest. I met him at Cosmoprof, a salon products exhibition held in Bologna, Italy 10 years ago. At the time he was starting his own brand, Nez A Nez, with his wife. (Two years after Cosmoprof, the biggest perfume trade show, Exsence, debuted in Milan.)
Tomoo Inaba and Stéphane Humbert Lucas at Pitti Florence 2016
In my opinion, most perfumers don't like to disclose their knowledge. On the contrary, I'd like to open up mine to my friends. I also want to support niche brand perfume houses as much as I can through my online reviews and magazine columns, and also by purchasing their products. As you know, many start-up niche brands don't have much capital or many shops that carry their products.
Nightingale is your debut perfume. Are you pleased with your creation and excited about the launch?
Absolutely, yes! In Japan, you can’t sell your own perfumes or import any perfumes without a license, and you need a lot of money and time to acquire one. People often say that Japanese pharmaceutical laws are the strictest in the world! They consider fragrances and cosmetics the same as medicine. Now, through Zoologist, my perfume can reach different people in the world.
Out of many animals you could create for Zoologist, why did you choose Nightingale as your first inspiration? Are there any special meanings behind it? How do you describe your creation, Nightingale?
Actually, Nightingale was originally created in 2013. It was one of the 50 or more private blends I have created for myself over the years. It’s really lovely and unique, so I decided to enhance and polish it further for Zoologist to publish.
My inspiration for Nightingale came from an ancient Japanese poem, collected in the significant Japanese poem compilation “New Collection of Ancient and Modern Poems” (1205 AD), which goes like this:
かはるらむ 衣の色を思ひやる 涙やうらの 玉にまがはむ
“Soon you will be wearing a black robe and enter nunhood. You will not know each rosary bead has my tears on it.”
The poem was written by Fujiwara no Kenshi (藤原妍子, 994 – 1027), the younger sister of Fujiwara no Shōshi (藤原彰子, 988–1074), who at the time was the Empress of Japan. The Empress had decided to renounce her imperial duties and titles, and take vows as a Buddhist nun. On the day of her ordination ceremony, Fujiwara no Kenshi read to her this poem and subsequently gifted her a wooden box in which she found a rosary made out of agarwood. The box was tied with a ribbon and a plum blossom branch inserted in between.
The strong emotional power of this poem piqued my imagination, and I wanted to translate it into a fragrance. Its central theme led me to choose perfumery materials such as plum blossom, which is associated with the arrival of spring and new beginnings in life, and oud (agarwood). To give the perfume a classical essence, I added patchouli and moss.
In Japan, the arrival of spring is signified by the blossoming of plum trees and the beautiful songs of nightingales, so I thought Nightingale would be the perfect name for this perfume.
Speaking of the “plum blossom” accord, it is something that I have never smelled before in a perfume. Can you tell us more about that?
In Japan, we enjoy "Hanami", the viewing of plum blossoms and cherry blossoms in season. Note that the smell of plum blossom and plum are different; plum blossom is more complex and has an aroma constituent of plum. In Japan, the aroma of plum blossoms has been researched for years, and each fragrance company has their own plum-blossom perfume accord. Plum blossom has several different aromas, like powdery, rosy, fruity and more. I chose the “red plum blossom accord” for Nightingale, which I created seven or eight years ago. In it, some special vintage oils were used, such as ylang ylang from Manila and geranium from Bourbon, distilled before WWII in plum blossom accord and red rose accord respectively.
I have heard that Japanese prefer very light and “unobtrusive” perfumes. Is it true? Would you consider Nightingale a typical “Japanese perfume”, or completely something else?
Yes, that is true, but I never consider the Japanese market when I make a perfume. There is a big difference in preferences between niche perfume lovers and the majority. Zoologist perfumes is well-known for being different and daring, and I believe Nightingale is a good fit in the series.
In my opinion, Nightingale is a unisex perfume more catered towards mature perfume lovers. The combination of rose, oud, saffron and patchouli has some deep and sweet tones, and it’s quite opulent. It might be too strong for most Japanese tastes.
Now that you have a perfume under your name, do you want to design more perfumes for other fragrance houses in the future? Maybe another one for Zoologist? If so, which animal would you consider, and what would it possibly smell like?
Yes, of course. If I get an offer, why not? I’ve always enjoyed making perfumes, and right now I’m collaborating with a senior perfumer who has worked for Givaudan on a brand-new perfume that is not for sale, but just for fun – for both of us.
If I may choose next the animal for Zoologist, it'll be a black bird like a crow or black swan. I'll add patchouli, iris and coumarin and make it a powdery-sweet oriental-themed perfume.
Thank you so much for your time!
Zoologist Nightingale will be available in late October 2016
July 05, 2016
by Miguel Matos
Zoologist is a brand that has received a lot of attention lately, after winning an Art & Olfaction Award for the Independent Perfume category with Bat. Now, Victor Wong decided to relaunch one of the first fragrances from the line, Beaver, now reformulated. Why did he do it? This question and some more are answered in the conversation we had.
Miguel Matos: First of all, let's speak about the recent re-edition of Beaver. You have just reformulated it and I know that you were thinking of reformulating Panda too. I know that this is a hard question, but after the first series of Zoologist, when you launched the brand, before Hummingbird and Bat, did you arrive at a point where you realized that maybe you've made a mistake?
Victor Wong: When I launched my products I thought that I had something special. I would not say that I had something bad. To me those were the perfumes I got after a year of development and I thought I wasn't getting any big progress. I thought that this was something I could launch, something that I could live with. But it was only after talking to perfumers and insiders that I realized some of the shortcomings of the perfumes. I would not dismiss them as a failure.
May 11, 2016
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Doug Wallace chats with the olfactory animal keeper, Victor Wong, of Zoologist Perfumes.
I became obsessed with Zoologist perfumes the second I saw them trapped in a display case in Men Essentials on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. What is this? I thought. AND THEN I SMELLED THEM and became both their master and slave. I fell off my chair when I realized they were Canadian, founded by Toronto’s Victor Wong in 2013, a video game artist who landed in the world of niche fragrance on a whim.
Essentially, the Zoologist brand “captures the idiosyncrasies of the animal kingdom and transform[s] them into scents that are unusual, beautiful, fun and even shocking,” according to the website.
They’re not kidding. I mean, when was the last time someone described their perfume as “cavernous”? Yet that is what the Bat Eau de Parfum smells like: fruit, dirt, decay, leather.
There’s also Panda (bamboo, osmanthus, mandarin), Rhinoceros (rum, leather, tobacco), Hummingbird (fruit nectars, trumpet florals, moss) and Beaver (linden blossom, iris, cedar).
The small disclaimer that “Our perfumes do not contain animal products” is hilarious. So, there is no actual beaver in Beaver? Somehow, I don’t feel ripped off.
May 09, 2016
Zoologist's Bat has been named a winner in the Independent Perfume category in the Art and Olfaction Award, a highly competitive and highly selective award, designed to raise interest and awareness for independent and artisan perfumers and experimental practitioners with scent from all countries.
The Art and Olfaction Institute defines an Independent Perfume House as an organization where the company oversees branding, production and bottling of the scent. The Independent Perfume House will be privately-owned (not owned by another larger public corporation), and operated with the owner’s direct oversight.
The winners were selected out of a group of finalists by a group of highly qualified judges from the perfume world, the art world, and other creative industries. The artisan and independent category submissions were judged blindly, presented in generic vials and tracked by a numerical code. The preliminary round judges selected the finalists, and the top scoring projects in the finalist pool – as scored by the finalist judges - were selected as winners.
Zoologist Perfumes submitted Bat with the following description:
"What is it like to be a bat? In 1974, the philosopher Thomas Nagel posed this question to illustrate our inability to comprehend through our own consciousness what another living being perceives. Humans think of the bat as an elusive, mysterious, almost supernatural creature, silently gliding through the interface between light and darkness, probably up to no good. What we do not understand, we fear, but bats are not malevolent. They control pests, pollinate our crops, and contribute to the amazing diversity that is nature. To experience the life of a bat, take a trip to the Cockpit Country of Jamaica, a crater-filled lunar landscape covered with lush jungle. The entrance to a cave in the hillside is shrouded day and night by a swirling fog, created when the warm air of the outside world meets the cold breath of the dark chambers beneath, with its scent of deep-reaching tree roots, moist earth, and dripping limestone walls. At dusk the bat wakes and flies on delicate, leathery wings through the stony labyrinth seeking the balmy air outside. It drinks from a stream, feasts on the wild jungle figs that grow on the hillside, and enjoys the ripe bananas and other soft fruit that grow in the cultivated clearings near the village. Fully satisfied, it makes its way back to its roost where it snuggles with its warm companions, grooms itself meticulously, and falls asleep again, lulled by the clean, sweet scent of musky fur. In the end, it turns out that the bat’s skin is not that different from our own."
Victor Wong, founder of Zoologist Perfumes, is extremely proud of the recognition and is even more determined to bring more creative and high-quality perfumes to the niche perfume market in the future.
For a full list of winners in Art and Olfactive Award 2016, visit: https://artandolfactionawards.com/2016-finalistswinners/
April 01, 2016
Zoologist is more than thrilled to learn that The Art and Olfaction Awards has chosen Zoologist's Bat to be a finalist in the 2016 Independent Category! What a great honour!
This year's competition is stronger than ever and Zoologist is proud to be representing Canada amongst prestigious brands from France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Poland and the United States.
The award winners will be presented in Los Angeles, May 7th 2016, and we will be there! Thank you!http://artandolfactionawards.com/2016-finalists/
February 15, 2016
Winner of Art and Olfactive 2016 Independent Category
Perfume of the Year 2016
**** 4 stars, "…a strikingly original combination of an elegant, masculine, green-woody-floral"
“This is everything that I ask for a fragrance as work of art”, “Bat is so interesting, since it captures different aspects of the animal, but it's not a realistic depiction of the animal… It can be the best fruity fragrance I have smelled until now. And I absolutely love it.”
Now Smell This Magazine
“Favorite Niche / Indie Perfume 2015”
“Designed by award-winning perfumer Dr. Ellen Covey, Bat is undeniably, the strangest, most wonderfully unique perfume you will ever smell. Opening with a nearly overwhelming note of damp, primordial earth both vegetal and mineral in execution, this immediately conjures inky caverns and pitch-black, damp limestone caves. The scent then morphs into something I can only describe as “night air and velvet darkness”; I cannot say how she has done this, I only know that it is the very essence of the vast, temperate midnight sky, the glowing moon high overhead. At this point it becomes something quite different, and quite possibly even more beautiful.”
The Blog Really Stinks Magazine
“There's dense vegetal earth and rich plant life, and that sweet smell of fruit. A mineral tang from home – a cluster of rocks or a cave – cling to the air…This scent is not dark, rather it is dusk toned. As the moon sets and the bats return to roost, we're left with a faint but beautiful sandalwood and tonka sunrise. I’ve never quite experienced a nuanced, two-step beauty of a base quite like this one!”
Azar, Australian Perfume Junkies
“There is something about this combination of fruit, dirt, wet stone and vetiver that evokes not only the damp darkness of a cave but the magical lore surrounding the creature itself.”
Scent and Chemistry
“Bat is pretty unprecedented, very novel... the earthiness of Bat is unbeaten, and likely unbeatable!” –
“There is a night-ly quality here, one with the excitement and energy of a night out, as the opposite of sleepiness; fueled by the clean mineral and nectar notes. The woods are subtle and the perfume grows dimensionally as it dries down, getting softer all the way there.” –
Youtube First Impression of Bat
Youtube Review of Bat ("9/10")
Youtube First Impression of Bat
Youtube Review of Bat ("9/10")
Youtube Review of Bat
Brooklyn Fragrance Lover
Youtube Review of Bat
Fragrance Reviews by Ouch110
Youtube Review of Bat
Youtube Impression Review of Bat & Hummingbird
Now Smell This
Zoologist's Bat Fragrance Review, 2016/7/20. "Bat is very wearable, if unconventional, and it lasts all day."
When Victor Met Ellen- How Zoologist Bat Took Flight, 2016/2/11. "a look behind the curtain at the work it took to create Zoologist Perfumes Bat."
New Perfume Review Zoologist Perfumes Bat – Cave of Creativity, 2016/2/15. "Definitely one of the standout new fragrances of 2016."
Zoologist: Perfumes for Sexy Beasts
Cafleurbon (Review #1)
2016/1/5. "The drydown is wonderfully done here – the swing from damp, damp, wriggly earth to dry belt leather is disarming and fun."
Cafleurbon (Review #2)
Zoologist Bat Perfume Review + He Said, She Said Draw, 2016/1/22. "I stood in awe and took in the moment, I was in no rush- I was fully awakened."
Pierre de Nishapur
Dark fruity, cute animalistic: Bay by Zoologist, 2016/2/19. "The fragrance initiates with an uncertain romanticist pleasure."
The Silver Fox
Glimmerfur: Pungency & Shimmer – ‘Bat’ & ‘Hummingbird’ by Zoologist Perfumes, 2016/4/2. "This perfume is an ode to dense atmospheric road trips and locations, temperatures, weather, fauna, flora, habitat and odiferous experience. It is the most divine expression of sensual scientific endeavour."
Bat, Fruity and Elegant and Original, 2016/4/11. "There is nothing ‘weird’ about the way Bat smells. It’s natural yet refined and is stunning on the skin and a pleasure to wear."
The Fragrant Journey
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.
A Bottled Rose
"The damp earth accord coupled with the tropical fruit is completely unique. Consider me hooked."
The amount of images that are instantly conjured up when going through this very unique scent is incredible. From stepping into a damp and dingy cave right over to flying through the night sky on a forage for food. This is a fragrance Count Dracula can truly rely on.
7 Best Punk Scents
December 28, 2015
First, I would like to congratulate you on receiving the Art & Olfaction 2015 Award in the Artisan Category for your perfume “Woodcut”. It’s been a few months since then, how do you feel now and how does it affect your future perfumery work?
It still feels a little unreal, although I have finally gotten used to seeing the golden pear displayed on my shelf! It’s a big honor to live up to, knowing that whatever I create in future will be compared with Woodcut.
In the fragrance community you are well respected for your perfume brand “Olympic Orchids”, but not many people know that you are a university professor and a professional orchid grower. Would you share with us some tidbits about your two other professions? And when and how did perfumery come into the picture?
Tidbits? I don’t have any good gossip that would interest anyone.
I started out in graduate school at Duke University studying the chemical senses, specifically focusing on how information about chemosensory quality is represented in spatiotemporal patterns of neural activity, but later became interested in hearing, especially echolocation in bats. I currently teach undergrad courses on sensation & perception, scientific writing, and psychology of music.
Oddly enough, it was my academic career that got me into orchids because an elderly colleague who grew orchids in his office retired, and those of us in the department divided up his plants. I got four Cattleyas, which thrived and bloomed in my office. They were the only “house plants” I has ever been able to grow successfully. Then another colleague took me to an orchid show, and I got hooked. After growing orchids for over 10 years as a hobby and subsequently growing them commercially for 10 years, I’ve smelled a lot of different orchid flowers. I got fascinated by their scents, and decided to try to recreate some of them as perfumes. The resulting intensive self-study of perfumery started well before I officially launched my perfume business 5-plus years ago.
You have always been studying and fascinated about bats. Was it the reason why you chose bat to create for Zoologist Perfumes? Did you want the perfume to smell like a bat, literally, or a creative interpretation of what a bat would smell like? And in what way do you think you have succeeded?
My research on bats has focused on how information is represented in temporal patterns of neural activity (bats can recognize a species of insect from any angle based on the time-varying pattern of acoustic “glints” reflected in echoes from the insect’s body), mechanisms for selective attention in a noisy environment (our brains and those of bats adapt to high-probability sounds, but are extremely sensitive to novel sounds), vocal learning in mammals (bats are some of the only mammals known to learn their vocalizations), seasonal changes in the auditory system (properties of the auditory system change depending on bats’ hormonal and metabolic states), and other related topics. I’ve published a large number of scientific journal articles and book chapters on all of these topics, and have an extensive knowledge of bats’ physiology, behaviour, and ecology.
I have personally trekked through the jungles of Jamaica in search of bat caves, experienced an earthquake while inside one of those caves, and crawled through filthy insulation in 130+ degree F hot attics in North Carolina in search of bat colonies. (These observations are “for whatever it’s worth”).
Of course I did not want to make a perfume that literally smells like a bat, although some species do have pleasant smells (most do not). What I wanted to do was represent the cool, earthy, damp limestone cave where the bats live, the fruit that they eat, and the clean, musky smell of their fur. I wanted it to be light enough to be like the delicate, elusive flight of a bat. However, when I was working on it I also found that it had the property of coming back at times when I didn’t expect it. I would intentionally or unintentionally wear a little bit of it to bed, and days later I would suddenly smell… Bat! This is appropriate because although it is light, it is also insistent enough to keep circling around the wearer and come back at surprising, odd times on clothing or other things that the wearer had touched. Knowing bats, I think it succeeds pretty well in doing what I envisioned.
I think Zoologist’s Bat is a one-of-a-kind perfume. I really have never smelled any perfumes like it. How would you describe the scent of Bat? Does it fit into any typical perfume genre? Who do you think would like to wear this perfume, and on what occasions? Does it matter?
I agree that Bat is a one-of-a kind perfume. I would describe it as moist, airy, earthy, minerally, fruity, resinous, and musky. Those probably seem like they would not go together, but they fuse into a unique whole that just smells like… Bat. I’m not sure you could fit it into any traditional genre. It’s neither masculine nor feminine. It’s just what it is. Even though it doesn’t fit into any known box, it’s a very wearable scent. I think people who aren’t hung up on conventional fragrance classifications would like to wear it. It has enough of a natural feel to appeal to those who like natural scents, but is complex enough to appeal to those who like sophisticated perfumes. I guess the potential wearer is anyone who enjoys it, on any occasion that they see fit. And no, it doesn’t matter.
One thing I notice about Bat is that it does not have any florals in it. Traditionally even the most masculine scents have some floral accords but they are masked by some heavier or stronger wood, herbal and spice notes. Do you think adding florals in Bat would make it more of a “crowd pleaser” perfume but not faithful to concept of the perfume, or do you think a perfume without any florals is actually something particularly interesting?
I see no reason why perfumes have to be floral. A number of my perfumes, including Woodcut, contain no floral notes at all, and they seem to be quite well-liked. I’m not a fan of floral perfumes on myself or on others, although I do like to smell floral fragrances on plants. Regarding Bat, there are nectar-feeding species of bats, but their habits and diet overlap with those of Hummingbird. In fact, some nectar-feeding bats look like hummingbirds as they hover in front of flowers, occupying the same niche at night that hummingbirds do during the day. The Bat I had in mind, though, is a small fruit-feeding species that lives in caves, so they would never encounter flowers except by accident. I think too many perfumes are designed to be “crowd-pleasers”, thereby rendering them bland and very similar to one another.
Do you have a favourite perfume genre and some favourite perfumery materials? Was there a perfume that you particular liked or found influential before you started making perfumes yourself?
I have created perfumes in most traditional European genres as an exercise, and some of these have been quite well-received. However, I consider working within a given genre too restrictive, so I think I end up mostly going outside standard perfume genres. I am partial to Arabian-style perfumes, if you consider that a genre. I use a lot of woody materials, incense, musks, herbs, and spices. I like to play around with offbeat materials that hardly anyone uses in perfume. I just got my hands on some "geosmin" aromachemical before I made Bat, and used it to help create the cave smell. I guess my general dislike for traditional European-style floral perfumes was one thing that inspired me to make my own.
Do you think Bat is quite typical of your perfumery style? Do you think people who enjoy your scents from Olympic Orchids would like it or it’s actually a big surprise in store for them?
I think Bat is typical of my style inasmuch as my style is often strange and unpredictable. People who like scents like Woodcut, Salamanca, Kingston Ferry, Blackbird, and the Devil Scents will probably like Bat. I hope it will be a good surprise for them!
If Zoologist Perfumes asks you to design their next perfumes, which animals will you suggest?
There are so many interesting animals that could inspire perfumes! Some have been done - Snakes, Gorilla, big cats and little cats (Hello Kitty). I’m thinking of weird ones like Platypus, Naked Mole-Rat (did you know they live in colonies with a queen, like bees?) Termite, Raven (too close to Blackbird?), Hyrax, Shark, Hydra, Dodo, Tyrannosaurus rex, Brontosaurus, Woolly Mammoth and other extinct animals, Silkworm, Kangaroo, Koala, Penguin, Parrot, Whale, Bird of Paradise, Komodo Dragon, Chameleon, Sloth, Spider, Scorpion, Armadillo, Hedgehog, Alligator or Crocodile, Cicada, Bullfrog, Treefrog, Woodpecker, Dung Beetle (maybe not!), Opossum, Moth, Octopus, Squid, Slime Mold, … the list could go on and on …. and, of course, Human (what would that smell like? Auto exhaust, laundry musk, tobacco and marijuana smoke, fast food, a plastic phone case …) .
Wow, you have inspired me! Thank you so much for creating Bat for Zoologist and taking the time to do this interview!
Photo by Lucien Knutesen.