November 20, 2018
By Rachel Syme
"Until recently, designer perfumes represented the snooziest corner of the fragrance market. Not anymore. In today’s climate, playing it safe is a one-way ticket to irrelevancy, and this year’s crop of high-fashion scents radiates risk and adventure."
"It used to be that if you wanted to buy a new perfume, you’d have to trot down to your local department store. But the internet has completely changed the way consumers discover scents—now you can order samples from thousands of independent perfumers with a click. The new digital scentscape has led to a rise in more challenging fragrances, the kind you’d never find at a mall."
"Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex, which smacks of sticky pine, tart geranium, and juniper oil"
September 12, 2018
PerfumesTheGuide.com by Luca Turin
"This thing is to the currently fashionable empyreumatic niche fragrances (smoke, incense, creosote) what cars that have been squeezed into a small cube by sculptor César Baldaccini are to a family saloon. Like them, T.Rex. is a compression, an object of mangled, impenetrable structure, with no air left inside and no discernible top and bottom. It is probably the most laconic fragrance ever devised."
"It smells rich and addictive…", "It’s sexy as hell. Damn, give me a big, rich sandalwood base any day and you’ve got me. It’s like nuzzling into the chest of a biker who’s ridden through 50 miles of Mysore forest."
"It is also another example of how Mr. Wong can accentuate the positives of the perfumers he works with. Tyrannosaurus Rex is a show of creative force multipliers producing something amazing."
"One can almost imagine a scaly, leathery, black-grey reptile roaring in a prehistoric swirl of smoke and molten lava, perhaps breathing fire to burn down the trees in his path like a dragon."
"The result of Gardoni’s approach is a complex composition of notes and accords completing each other. The trick to the success here is getting the balancing act right. You can experience it done right in Tyrannosaurus Rex - a smoky leathery composition offset by dense creamy flowers."
"The real leap of T-Rex is that all these fantastical visions of a hellish world are there in the perfume, like a miraculous imaginary time capsule. But it's been blended so that we can actually wear it, bury our faces in it, sink in the curious warmth."
The Fragrance Journey
"Initially I smell something other-worldly, as if I've landed on a planet with a strange and different atmosphere to which I am not accustomed. … Somehow he creates a moment of magic from these mundane ingredients, a pause where I thought, "I haven't smelled anything exactly like this before."
July 28, 2018
Could you tell us about yourself?
That’s the most difficult question! I am an architect and a perfumer. The two professions don’t appear to share any connections, but I think they share a common sensibility – to experience something. Say, the shivers you feel when for the first time you walk in the Michelangelo library entrance in Florence, or the shiver you feel the first time you smell tuberose absolute. They are obviously coming from very different origins, but they are so deeply human – and so beyond what you know, your culture, your skills, your prejudices, your knowledge. It’s the pure power of nature, and here nature expresses itself through matter and space, and through flowers. It's easy to find yourself in a beautiful mood with the right light coming through the tree branches; it’s an experience of a space. It doesn't matter whether if it's designed by humans or by nature.
You are an architect first, perfumer second.
I am an architect first because I've been doing architecture longer. I had been feeling safe for a long time in the architectural world than in the perfume world, because it was something I knew better. Now I feel unsafe in both of them, for they are completely different fields coexisting in my life at the same time. They really have helped me know myself better, and I enjoy both of them. Don’t be bothered so much about what you do “officially”.
Above: Various Architectural and Interior Design Works by Antonio Gardoni
When did you become interested in perfumes and perfumery?
Eight or nine years ago. And I have to say I have never been a “perfume person”, never been that geeky about the perfumes that I wore, or genuinely interested in the subject. I got interested in perfumery because at one point I was a very interested in plants – trees, bushes and flowers. I had a “crush on nature” and tried to understand it. I got into perfumery because I was “experimenting with nature”, like chopping things up, extracting things, playing with raw materials; and eventually I really felt, okay, let’s try to simulate certain aspects of scents that nature delivers with the materials I have on hand. And that's how I started formulating, in order to reproduce an idea of nature, and I quickly moved from it because it was too difficult. For nature does it better. So I started playing with making perfumes in an unexpected way.
For years I had played with naturals, for it was easier for me to connect them with a source visually – if you picture a garden with pines, roses or grasses, etc., you could think of the materials to mix together. There were many private experiments to recreate such mini landscapes, and I called them landscapes because one of the fascinating things about architecture is abstraction. So I have realized that the “garden” I tried to create was not anymore a visual garden, but an ideal garden; furthermore, it's not anymore an ideal garden, it's a landscape, an idea, a concept.
It's very critical for me to understand the results of my private experiments. I had faced a lot of questions while studying them. I was trying to achieve a certain effect for the concept that was in my mind, and sometimes I was unable to do so. So I started studying organic chemistry from super-boring organic chemistry books, and most of the time I could find possible answers to some of my questions. While studying, you think about other ways, too, so you also learn in some non-direct ways. I'm still studying, and it’s continual process.
How long had you been experimenting with scents before you decided you wanted to publish your first perfume?
There were a couple of very early experimental “perfumes” that I had given to my family and friends. But Maai is the first official, “proper” perfume, and it was released about five years ago.
I remember when it first came out, it made a splash in social media, and of course, it was a hit! Did the positive reception surprise you?
The positive reception and reactions I received from people whom I had never heard of were a massive surprise. I really felt people were mad at liking Maai that much at the beginning! I couldn't believe it for it was really one more big experiment in my own little world. And suddenly people from all over the world started sending me e-mails, “Can I have a sample? Can I have a sample?” At the same time, I started reading things about Maai, and they were shocking – in a good way. The comments and reviews from the good ones actually helped me a lot in learning and understanding what I've done, because I wasn't that conscious about my creation process and what that perfume meant.
What is Maai about?
Well, I personally still don't know! I trust a lot of other people’s opinions on Maai. To me, Maai has something to do with the big conflict that I still have with tuberose – it’s a fight between me and tuberose and how Maai could expose certain aspects of certain smells, when they were in an interlocked play of hide-and-seek in a perfume.
When you were building Maai, had you already learned about the classic perfumery structures and used them as a reference, or have you never followed any rules or used any references?
This is a very tricky question, because if I answered “yes”, everything makes sense. If I answer “no”, it might sound like there was no ambition. But the real answer is, I actually don't know, because I didn't know that much about classic perfumes back then. I think it was almost an accident that it happened to smell like an old big chypre from the past. It was very surprising for me to find out that people reference it to perfumes of much older style. I thought I was doing something new! I don't smell that many perfumes, not because I don't want to, it just that it doesn't happen. I am interested in perfumes, but I'm not interested as well. There isn’t something that I am desperate to smell, be it a new perfume or old perfume. I mean, I can live without smelling perfumes.
Above: Bogue Maai and Aeon 001 Perfumes
After Maai, you created AEON 001 for a different perfume company and they intentionally made the perfumer anonymous. (Ironically, this is what most perfume companies had been doing in the past, and in recent years, they are doing the exact opposite by revealing the perfumer's name.) A lot of people guessed correctly that it was your work – in fact, people often say your perfumes have a distinct style. Do you agree? How do you describe your style?
How can I not agree? I believe when people say I have a signature style, I'm not fighting against it. I mean, if you want to call it a style. We are what we are, and we can't fake it. I'm not trying to pretend to be different from what I am, so that probably applies to perfumes as well.
AEON 001 was a fantastic project. The idea of hiding the perfumer was actually mine, because I believe that the perfume itself should be stronger than its creator. I think that in this little world sometimes you are a bit too obsessed about knowing who made it, and that doesn’t help us approach the perfume itself.
And how would you describe your style?
I don't know. The only way I can describe it involves a bit of a technical process – I try to create mini clashes between each ingredient that I use. Each ingredient smells different with its counterpart, so if you use a material together with its “enemy”, and achieve a balance, you get interesting results, kind of like you use the citrus to counterbalance its worst enemy…
What's the worst enemy of the citrus?
Well, it depends. It depends on the battlefield. The worst enemy of a citrus could be a deep animalic note. It could also be a “too-generous flower”, so generous that the flower is pushing to come out, and the citrus tries to kill at the beginning but the citrus dies fast and the flower wins.
People often describe your perfumes having bombastic projection, with very long-lasting quality. What's the trick to it?
Use a lot of materials! (laughs) Essentially a high concentration of perfume! For me, anything below 20 percent is very difficult to make work. I work with a lot of naturals, and somehow they need bigger quantities to deliver a certain effect.
What about synthetic aromachemicals?
I learned a bit how to use aromachemicals, and they are absolutely functional. I love aromachemicals, but I can't say I'm using them 50/50 in any formula. With all naturals, it is like a battlefield from the 17th century – but with aromachemicals, suddenly you take on someone with a laser gun or atomic bomb. So it's really interesting and exciting for me to mix both together.
You also create bespoke perfumes for clients. Can you tell me more? Do you enjoy creating them?
That's probably what I have enjoyed the most for the past four or five years, because it's a very different job from creating and selling your own perfume., When you work with a private client on a bespoke project, you have a very intimate one-to-one relationship, and you try to learn things – first of all, from the person in front of you. And at the same time you try to liberate the person from certain prejudices and certain preconceived ideas. So it's a very challenging process, because the number of time I've been approached by people saying, “Oh, the perfume I want has to have this material, that material,” and they end up with something completely different because through the process they found out that the material or an idea of a certain perfume that they used to hate was actually a fixed idea – but experienced in a different way or challenged in a different way, it could change their mind.
Also, designing a bespoke perfume also provides me a great opportunity to experiment with materials that are too expensive to use in bigger proper productions. And each of my private clients really has given me the possibility to explore notes, materials, process, ways of doing things, and at the end, they received the most diverse perfumes for weddings, for lovers, for very famous people, or completely anonymous people. It’s so challenging, interesting, super fun – and sometimes these bespoke processes gave me inspiration for something for my own perfumes.
Occasionally I see you post photos of your non-perfumery work, such as faucet design and shop interior design on Facebook. It seems to me that you are never short of projects. Do you ever intend to take your perfumery full-time and expand the distribution network?
I think my perfume passion needs architecture to survive, not because of the financial side of things, but it provides some sort of counterbalance. Fragrance is like a piece of cloud – ephemeral and extremely difficult to be bring down and to track. But when you go inside a building that you design, you see pure, physical, heavy concrete steel structures, and that physicality creates a counterbalance.
Above: Retail Space Design and Industrial Design Works by Antoni Gardoni
I don't think I would ever leave architecture behind and make perfumery a full-time job. I don’t not even plan to expand my retail network or increase production, etc. You know, as in a formula, you try to reach a good balance of things. It doesn't mean it has to be a pleasant balance. But it's my own balance.
For me, the distribution network has always been very, very, based on personal relationships. I've been lucky enough to work with some amazing people. And I don't believe in having two or three more doors opened in order just to sell 10, 20, 30 more bottles. I know it takes time and concentration, and focus on good things to establish a good business relationship.
You have been one of the judges for the Arts and Olfaction Awards (A&O) for the past few years. How did that happen?
This happened because of Maai, essentially, again. Maai was involved in a very interesting and fun project about an old 1960’s “smell-o-vision” movie, “Scent of Mystery”. The Institute of Arts and Olfaction, together with producer Tamara Burnstock, were rereleasing it, and they tried to create a new scent for the “scent track” to the movie. In the original movie, the main female character was Elisabeth Taylor, and she wore a perfume called “Scent of Mystery” by Elsa Schiaparelli. They decided to use Maai as her perfume in the movie. And when we got in contact with the institute I met Saskia Wilson-Brown (the director of A&O). That’s how we became friends, I later got involved in the judging process.
Above: At the 2017 Art and Olfaction Award Finalists Annoucement Event at Exsence, Milan Italy
What did you observe? Did you gain any insights from evaluating so many perfumes?
I did gain some experience from some other people's work. But it's an activity I don't do much on my own. Being a judge almost forces you to evaluate and smell things that you will never smell, and that's super interesting. Sometimes I really struggle to understand what I'm smelling, but I rarely smell a perfume that I find wrong. However, it’s very important for me to understand what the creator is trying to say through the perfume – some people are so soft spoken that you can almost not hear what they are saying; some people are too loud, and some people are talking in vulgar words, etc. For the past three years I've been a judge for A&O awards. There’s always something worth listening to in each perfume. So that's what I have learned. I’ve learned to listen by being a judge.
Have you come to a conclusion of what type of perfumes tend to win the award?
No idea! I've seen the most different things winning over the years. I'm so happy with the diversity and peculiarity, and, you know, when Zoologist Bat won the award (in 2016), I thought it was amazing. It was a very important thing for me, because Bat was a perfume not meant to win an award in any way. It was too extreme in certain aspects, too conceptual, too hard to experience, and it demanded a lot of process from we are used to experiencing, and sometimes difficulties are not a good thing when you want to win an award. Sometimes going on an easy way makes life easier, you know? And I think it demonstrates the possibilities of winning an A&O award are very varied. It really challenged the perception of who can win or lose. I think it's a very exciting process, and it really helps people understand new possibilities and new directions.
Let's talk about Tyrannosaurus Rex!
I remember vividly how this project began - I first met you in 2016 during the Arts and Olfaction Award, and we exchanged our perfumes. I gave you a bottle of Bat and you gave me a bottle of Maai! About a year later, I met you again at the Milan perfume exhibition, Esxence. I jokingly told you that if I could rename a vetiver-themed perfume of yours, I would call it T-Rex, because it smelled very primal and dangerous to me. I said maybe you should develop T-Rex for Zoologist, and we both immediately laughed it off. The next day, early in the morning, you messaged me over the phone that you wanted to work on this project because it was stuck in your head. We later sat down in a restaurant and talked for hours about what it should smell like.
Above: Victor Wong and Antonio Gardoni (2017)
My vision of T-Rex was a loud, chaotic, primal, dangerous scent. I wanted the scent to be an olfactive version of a fantastical, colourful illustration one would find in a junior science textbook – fascinating, lots of things happening in the background like volcanic eruptions, forest fires, crazy gigantic flora and fauna, and of course, T-Rex tearing a poor victim's bloody body apart. As you might already know, I'm a very visual person, and I like to send perfumers a "mood board", or photo collage when a project begins. With that, hopefully the perfumer would take on the clues and incorporate the feelings that it evokes into their creation. Then you told me you were not a visual person when it comes to perfumery; to you, perfumes have more of a "sound" quality. Could you elaborate on that? And what does T-Rex "sound" like to you?
It is difficult to talk about perfume, because we don't have the language to properly describe scents. So there is nothing wrong about referring to images or art. To me, sound is the closest reference because it has an ephemeral presence. It starts, explodes, expands, then leaves. Doesn't matter if it is the sound of a car passing by or it's a sound from a Mozart concert. It's more about the way sound manifests itself, how it demonstrates its physicality through the vibration of air. So sometimes for me it's easier to think about the “vibrations” of a perfume in sound than images. Perfumes need a space to work – with no space, there will be no “sound”, and we will not smell anything. So they need architecture in a way, something to reverberate, like you go against the wall and jump back.
So what does T-Rex “sound” like to you?
To me, T-Rex sounds like a very gentle noise. A gentle, continuous, annoying almost, noise. It's like continuous drops of jelly substance coming down from a leaf, or blood coming down from the mouth. The sounds of swallowing, violent sounds of falling water coming down from the river into the lake, different sounds of water from a very faraway distance… it's very visual actually. (laughter)
And which ingredients did you choose to achieve that?
In T-Rex I tried to use some materials that I considered “enemies and friends”. I have used some very earthy materials like patchouli to create a thick ground, or horizontal surface. Right above the horizontal surface is some sort of a balsamic floral layer made out of very different materials like ylang ylang or champaca. It is lighter, aerial, but not light enough to go up in the sky, just light enough to go up and come down in droplets to create some sounds. When the droplets hit the ground, or muddy lake, certain materials such as smoke bounce back and evaporate, while the patchouli gets absorbed. These matters go up and down, creating a scenario of interest to me.
When I did my research on dinosaurs, I read that at their height of their existence (the Cretaceous period), plants started blooming for the very first time. I insisted that T-Rex should have a big floral accord. Did that throw your original vision of T-Rex off? Do you think we have sacrificed the ferocity of the perfume by adding florals to it?
Not at all. I actually found florals absolutely essential in T-Rex. If you think about it, we actually have no real references to use to design a perfume called T-Rex. In fact, originally I wanted to make T-Rex smell of plastic toys, because that’s the first smell we associate dinosaurs with. We rely on the studies published by scientists, but to be honest, we have no idea what flowers smelled like back then. You have no idea of what those big animals smelled like. Actually, not a single smell you can truly refer to, because that world was all gone a million years ago. So it is important to indulge in the stereotyped idea of what things you imagine would smell like, be it gigantic flowers with super-thick petals covered with dripping nectar; forest fire and exploding lava moving down volcanoes and into cracks, animals killing each other and eating gigantic leaves… but what's the smell of that leaf? What’s the smell of those flowers? What's the smell of Earth?
I think T-Rex needed to have all the traditional Chinese elements – metal, wood, water, fire and earth. Not that the perfume smells like Chinese medicine, but those five elements needed to be there. So there is a pungent aspect of metallic notes of blood. Some kind of flowing muddy substance to represent water, smells of smoke and fire for the volcano exploding, earth as in a moving hearth that the blood drips on. And the air during T-Rex’s time fascinates me – there should also be some aspect of the sky in it, because you always think about big trees, big animals, big earth – but can you image the sky in that period of time? It had to be completely mad! We probably had two moons crossing and clouds blocking the sun and strange rains and stones coming from down! Who knows! I mean I don't know, but probably some scientists think they do. So that's why florals didn't affect it badly at all. Actually they helped. I mean, it was obviously easier for me to picture a perfume that was very earthy and very floral in a way, but the way I use florals in T-Rex is not exactly a pleasing easy way. I believe it's showing the generality of a certain idea of the flowers in a vulgar way.
At some point during the development of T-Rex, I suggested toning down the perfume a little bit to make it less avant-garde, but more wearable. Did that compromise your original vision of what T-Rex should smell like?
I think the first version was a very interesting representation of “T-Rex”. As I have already said, this subject can only refer to itself. So how does it compare to something else? Is your face more real in a photo than in the mirror? Or is it more real when after you’ve shaved, or is it more real when someone caresses your face, or when you bang your face against the wall? I think T-Rex is still T-Rex, and it has been T-Rex all the way along. We are just representing the same thing in a different way. You can tell the same story in an hour, in two minutes or with a haiku. I know it's the same story.
I am very proud that this project is going to be the only animal in your collection that is extinct. We're dealing with an animal that is very difficult to relate to… say, you look at an alligator now. Not big enough. Look at an elephant now. Still not enough. To me, it's a very conceptual animal. It's like playing around an animal, but that animal is really just a concept. It's so distant from what we know from experience. So that was really exciting for me, because if you asked me to make a Zebra perfume and said it was interesting, I will say, whatever! You can’t argue that with a T-Rex!
What is next for you?
This summer, I am going to teach some young kids, 6-8 years old, for a couple of days. We will be playing around smells, telling stories with smells. It will be very liberating and amazing because they have no prejudice against smells. You know they can sniff their own poo and feel happy. We will have a very interesting time exploring different materials, mixing them, etc.
The school is a little place up in the mountains, north of Italy, where they do some classes on very different subjects. They asked me if I wanted to do something interesting with them on perfumes. They do classes for adults generally, but they have one week dedicated to kids. It's actually something really challenging to me, for it's not easy preparing the materials because of safety issues.
Thank you so much for your time, Antonio!
Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex will be released in Fall 2018.
June 19, 2018
"You start with a blast, proceed to a sensual dream, only to end in a warm embrace of resinous amber and benzoin, creamy and woody sandalwood, earthy patchouli and the enveloping fluidity of musk."
Perfumes, The Guide, 2018
"★★★ The fragrance is a peppery rose with a strong, very pleasant animalic note somewhere between natural musk and ambergris." - Luca Turin
"At first saffron and pink pepper start to tame the hyraceum. Then a fabulous shot of whisky does the job. Like the hyraceum is soaked in a glass of Jack Daniels. I fell for this each day I wore it."
It is sultry but no as off-putting as the homeless guy funk found in [Serge Luten's] Muscs Koublai Khan. Hyrax has that carnal attraction that is not obvious until someone reminds you you’ve been sniffing your hand a bit too much.
June 14, 2018
A new generation of cutting-edge perfumers is putting Canada on the fragrance map.
Text: Sarah Daniel / Photos: Le Guartier
Like so many bright ideas, Victor Wong’s occurred to him in the shower. The video-game graphics designer had long been frustrated with his 9-to-5 in Toronto, and it was while vacationing at Quebec City’s Château Frontenac that he first got inspired by the power of perfume. He was enraptured by the hotel’s toiletries, shower gel and body lotion, which are all infused with Le Labo’s Rose 31 – a spicy floral scent that the cult perfumers developed specially for the Fairmont hotel brand. The scent’s namesake bloom, Rosa centifolia (also found in Chanel No. 5), is a prized type of the flower and is harvested in Grasse, France.
“I had never smelled anything like it,” says Wong, who promptly set out to test hundreds of perfumes and explore countless fragrance forums, blogs and books. This research ultimately led him to found Zoologist, a niche fragrance brand which features quirky yet technically sophisticated scents that are heavy on synthetic animalic notes like musk and ambergris, all meant to evoke types of wildlife.
Since then, Wong quit his job and his fragrances have earned numerous accolades (among them, Beaver was named ÇaFleureBon’s perfume of the year in 2014, and Bat won best indie perfume at the 2016 Art and Olfaction Awards) and the respect of the perfume elite, including Luca Turin, author of Perfumes: The A–Z Guide and one of the industry’s most ardent critics.
Historically, Grasse has been considered the world’s fragrance capital, with perfume dynasties as plentiful as the jasmine, orange-blossom and tuberose fields that inhabit the landscape. In fact, well-documented nepotism has created a barrier to entry for those who aren’t part of the perfumery bloodline. But Wong’s success confirms that a new era is firmly under way, one in which indie perfumers – many of whom have no formal training, let alone family ties to Grasse – are carving out significant space on our vanities, and doors are opening for first- generation perfumers right here in Canada. According to marketing company The NPD Group, fragrance sales in the United States totalled $4 billion in 2017, with new categories turning the industry on its head. In fact, while the aughts belonged to fragrances launched by celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker, “artisanal fragrances” started gaining popularity thanks to a similar trend in the food and beverage world, from micro-brewed beer to handmade cheeses. “Consumers want the same kind of quality attention and materials in their fragrances,” says Kissura Craft, fragrance-industry analyst for The NPD Group. The other part of the appeal is that these scents are harder to get your hands on, making them feel exclusive compared to the ubiquity of mainstream labels. (A recent NPD survey found that 63 percent of American shoppers say they want “a scent that is unique and different.”)
Still, while Canada can boast of being the birthplace of many globally successful makeup brands, from M.A.C. to RMS Beauty, things have remained relatively quiet on the perfume front, with the exception of Toronto-based Susanne Langmuir, who launched an exclusive fragrance line at Barneys New York before creating her Bite Beauty lipstick line. (Lang also helped Nova Scotian Barb Stegemann develop her 7 Virtues fragrance line, which features ingredients sourced from countries such as Haiti and Afghanistan, with the goal of empowering women and farmers in those regions.) There are also perfumers who outsource the actual scent-making side of the business, like Ben Gorham of Byredo, and Michel Germain, who had New York’s Sophia Grojsman (the mastermind behind hits like CK Eternity and Lancôme Trésor) help him develop his women’s fragrance, Sexual, for his wife Norma. Germain, who has been in the industry for 25 years, received a lifetime achievement award at the 2016 Canadian Fragrance Awards.
Wong has adopted this outsourcing model, working closely with perfumers in the United Kingdom and else-where, Skyping and tinkering with the formula until it meets his expectations. But many small-batch Canadian brands are popping up across the country, helmed by founders who are creating fragrances themselves, their homes doubling as chemistry labs. Arborist turned per-fumer Josh Smith is one of them. Smith launched Edmonton-based Libertine Fragrance as an alternative to what he felt were generic-smelling mass perfumes and their glossy marketing campaigns. While working on an industrial-design degree, he got interested in fragrance-making and “began to wonder if perfume could be more authentic an experience, more artful and less about fancy yachts and gendered scents.” His line of unisex scents quickly took off, a coup he owes to living in Canada rather than fragrance capitals like Paris or New York. “There’s just so little [perfumery] going on here, that it really helped me stand out,” says Smith. Canada’s landscape has also helped by serving as a muse, its botanicals featuring prominently in Libertine fragrances like Soft Woods, with notes of juniper berry and balsam fir, and Sweet Grass, which smells of freshly cut hay.
“A lot of the best tree essential oils come from Canada,” says Josée Gordon-Davis, founder of Vancouver-based perfume and skincare brand Reassembly. While Wong and Smith’s fragrances feature a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients, she primarily works with essential oils. “My mom was a holistic practitioner, so she had these essential oils all over the house – that’s what she wore as perfume,” says Gordon-Davis, who sometimes forages for ingredients right in her backyard. For instance, Mountain Milk, which features sandalwood, black spruce, fir needle and vanilla bourbon, contains evergreen tips she collects from nearby forests. Every bottle is different, depending on the season. “Similar to a wine, the rain or lack of rain, the soil, all of these things contribute to the life or breath of the fragrance. I don’t fight these natural events, but rather embrace them.” On the other side of the country, Montreal native Julie Simard Jones takes her inspiration from both nature and her own memories, hand-blending natural perfumes for her brand Les Lares. Jones appreciates the creative free-dom her home base affords. “I didn’t grow up beside a lavender field, so I can’t talk about perfume in the way that a perfumer born in France might be able to,” she says. But working here gives her the space to experiment. It also helps that these Canadian perfumers push boundaries, without being held back by tradition.
“Bat is probably one of the first fragrances to feature synthetic-molecule geosmin, which smells like earth,” says Wong. “It’s been around for a while, but most per-fumers wouldn’t use it as the predominant ingredient.” The result is “somewhere between patchouli and a woody amber,” writes Turin on his blog, perfumesilove.com, and “the fragrance seems lit from within by the earth note.” With its budding perfume industry, could Canada earn the nickname of Grasse West one day? It’s a lovely thought. But for now, all of these perfumers have much more humble aspirations. “I don’t want to take over the world or start a perfume revolution,” says Gordon-Davis. “I want to make beautiful scents that speak to people. Whether it’s six or 6,000 people, I’m okay with that.”
May 11, 2018
Ode de Parfum
"I mean, really, Moth is so good that describing it with stock perfume lingo and cliched snuffed-candle imagery doesn’t do it justice…"
"Moth echoes the seductive nature of the afterlife, that connection to the Eternal."
It is like a conductor to another world, and it reminds me story of Faust and Mephistopheles. But after a while, Moth becomes very close to the skin and very deep. It brings thoughtfulness and calmness.
Sabbath of Senses (Polish)
(Translated) "Moth is a scent that screams in a whisper. It sounds clearly in an illusory olfactory silence. Damped, matte, without reflections and reflections. Soft as wilted flowers, delicate as the wings of a butterfly, mysterious like the night."
April 28, 2018
Hi Tomoo, how have you been? Anything new since our last collaboration?
Yes. I have to say thank you for letting me compose Nightingale for Zoologist. It opened the door for me as a perfumer, and led to my second perfume creation, Tuberai, for a new brand called Beau Kwon based in California. Tuberai is one of three fragrances they released this spring.
That’s great! You are very talented, and you definitely should create more perfumes for the world!
Let’s talk about Moth. Shortly after our first collaboration in 2016, you sent me a few perfume prototypes for consideration. One of the them was called “The Night”, if I remember correctly?
It was my original composition, Kagaribi (The Cressets / Watchfire), which was inspired by an old Japanese poem, the same way Nightingale was.
The poem was written by Onakatomi no Yoshinobu Ason (大中臣能宣):
Like the warder's fires
At the Imperial gateway kept,
Burning through the night,
Through the day in ashes dulled,
Is the love aglow in me.
I see burning fire in darkness in this poem. I tried to express this with labdanum, patchouli, rose and a spice accord.
I liked that prototype instantly. It did smell dark, mysterious and a little powdery. And I think the spice accord you built was very novel. It’s strong and unconventional. You suggested calling it “Black Panther” if it was published under Zoologist. However, I had had a hard time picturing that spice accord being called “Black Panther”. I immediately thought about calling it Moth! What was your reaction?
I thought the name “Moth” didn’t sound very cute!
In the original formula, I used many spices from India, which led me to form an impression of a black panther. However, now I think “Moth” is a better fit than “Black Panther”. If it was released as Black Panther, you might have a hard time acquiring the trademark because of the recent release of the movie of the same title, even though the perfume was created a year and a half ago.
I always wanted to create a “smoky and powdery perfume”, and for a very long time I couldn’t come up with an animal whose characteristics had any association with smoke. But with that prototype, I could picture adding a smoky accord to the base to symbolize a moth flying towards flames and killed by them. It’s a bit tragic, but I think it suited the perfume’s overall mood. In Japanese culture, there is a lot of folklore around moths, correct?
In Japan, we have a proverb: “Like a moth flying into the flame”. That image fits perfectly for this perfume composition, for it reminds me of a person burning him/herself in a fire of everlasting love. By the way, I guess many Japanese would associate Moth with the movie, “Mothra vs. Godzilla”!
I want to talk about the three major accords you built for Moth. Let’s talk about the top notes first.
The opening is quite spicy, but I never feel it that much. I just wanted to create an impression of an image of burning fire with crackling sounds, and I thought I needed to use not only some smoky notes, but also spices. As you might know, it is trendy to incorporate cumin in perfumery, but it is never easy to use it effectively. I tried different materials, including natural cumin oil and the aroma chemicals cuminaldehyde (or cumin nitrile) to achieve the result I wanted. Oh, do you remember the early prototype that was overdosed with cumin? You said it smelled like the Chinese dish Beijing Duck!
For the middle notes, you have built a very interesting flower accord. I believe the powderiness of the perfume comes from this accord. I’d like to associate it to the little scales on the wings of a moth.
I used heliotropin and iris to express the scales on a moth’s wings. And I added a red rose accord (the same accord used in Nightingale) for the “passion” with other florals, too. Moth contains a lot of flowers, more than people would imagine. I needed them to make the composition softer in order to unite the notes.
I thought the smoky base accord was fantastic – it’s woody, sweet, additive, and a little “high pitch”. It almost smells like a thin, very focused funnel of smoke shooting high up to the sky. How did you achieve that effect?
Generally, birch tar and cade oil are used in perfumery to express smokiness. But I chose Guaiac wood oil instead, which itself has a spicy and smoky touch. It was a perfect fit for Moth. I also used the earthy-smelling nagarmotha (it’s widely used in oud compounds) and Indian vetiver (called Khus in India) that was matured in copper pots. Together, all those create a unique smell.
I have received some interesting and opposing feedbacks from people who have smelled Moth. Some think it’s feminine, some think it’s unisex, some think it’s very modern and avant-garde, some think it’s retro. How do you describe Moth? Who do you think will wear it well?
It has a feminine side and a unisex side, and also a masculine part! Maybe classical, or maybe modern! As you know, a fragrance has many different aspects, so people can feel anything and never be wrong, meaning all feedback gives perfect answers. I am a fragrance maniac, so I'll be happy to learn that anyone who is bored with mainstream products chooses to wear Moth!
By the way, I must say thank you to the illustrator. I am so grateful for her artwork. Her illustration turned the Moth into something cool and cute!
Thank you very much!
April 25, 2018
Sie stehen auf unisex-düfte?
Do you like unisex fragrance?
Dann sind sie reif für nischen-parfums
Then you are ready for niche perfumes
Betreten sie die wunderbare Welt des kleinen Manufakturen, wo Duft radikal-emotional und frei von Zuordnung umgesetzt wird
Enter the wonderful world of small perfume houses, where fragrance is radically emotional and free from association.
1. Banane, Feige und Leder: "Bat von Zoologist
1. Banana, Fig and Leather: Bat by Zoologist
April 15, 2018
Higgs, the science fashion magazine in United Kingdom. In issue 02, they have created artwork inspired by Zoologist Rhinoceros and Camel perfumes.
February 15, 2018
Zoologist Hyrax Deluxe Bottles and Travel Spray will be available in mid-June 2018 through this web shop and Luckyscent.com. Samples are available now.
Could you tell us about yourself? When did you become interested in perfumes and perfumery?
I studied pharmacy at the beginning of the ’90s, and was impressed by the novel Das Parfum. I visited Grasse in 1991 for the first time. So I started studying raw materials, reading books about perfume composing. During the 18 years I worked as a pharmacist in the family-owned pharmacy, I was always addicted to scents.
How long have you been studying perfumery? Are you a self-taught perfumer? Did you have any mentors?
I finished studying pharmacy in 1995 and became a pharmacist by profession, but I also started to become a self-taught perfumer, through passion, at the same time. I made contacts with some people in the industry to learn more about special molecules. Dr. Philip Kraft (Givaudan) and Egon Oelkers (Symrise) were the first professionals who ‘reviewed’ my first perfume compositions more than 10 years ago and encouraged me to go my own way. Later, I met Maurice Roucel with my Pink Patchouli on a blotter. He said I should commercialize it, that it would be a perfect niche scent. That was in 2013.
What is the fragrance market like in Germany? Do Germans wear a lot of perfume, and do they have a perfume culture like France’s? Do you know if there is a fragrance-making community in Germany? Are there any notable local indie or niche perfumers to your knowledge?
I think the perfume market in Germany is a copy of the French market. It’s difficult for niche labels, but there are people who are interested in what we do. There are not many self-taught artisan perfumers with their own brand; in Germany I know only of Tanja Bochnig of April Aromatics.
When did you decide to create your own perfume house? Was there a catalyst to making that decision? Were they any perfume brands or successful indie perfumes that inspired you?
In 2012, we sadly closed our pharmacy. There were many reasons for that, but it’s another story. After that, I was burnt out because of some bad things that had happened. But it was still my big dream to give perfume to the people, so I started my adventure by founding SP Parfums in 2016. I started with my “Essential Collection” – five fresh and five woody scents, and also published my book, Duftspuren, in German.
As far as brands that influenced me… I think I was inspired by Comme des Garcons with my interest in new molecules, but also fascinated by brands like Le Labo because of their style and marketing.
What is your book Duftspuren about?
I wrote Duftspuren as a guide for those people who are interested in perfume composing. I wanted to give them some inspiration for their studies by telling them my story. It’s about my way to learn about perfumery and perfume composing.
Can you tell us about SP Parfums? What is its olfactive style and philosophy? Are your perfumes modern or classic? Do you prefer natural ingredients or prefer mixed media?
Some scents from my childhood memories are the main ingredients of my creations. So, you can find my grandfather’s shaving soap in Lignum Vitae Forte, the smell of old pharmacies in Liquorice Vetiver… and wood, wood, wood. And animalics, vintage-style classic perfumery combined with new molecules in a (hopefully) unusual modern interpretation. That’s me, SP PARFUMS.
I first met you in Milan in 2017 at the perfume show, Esxence. You had a booth there. You were introduced to me by Fragrantica editor Miguel Matos from Portugal who spoke very highly of you. He told me I should collaborate with you. In fact, you two just had had a collaboration and you were showcasing the new scents. But first tell me, how did he know about you? What was the collaboration about?
When I presented my ESSENTIAL COLLECTION in Düsseldorf in April 2016, there was that moment when things happen… I met Miguel Matos, who was impressed by my Civette Intense. He was the first to write about my perfumes at Fragrantica. I asked him if he would be interested in creating a kind of ‘private perfume’ with me and writing about the process. Miguel was very interested in that project, and he wanted me to do a perfume with the vintage scent of suntan lotions of the ’70s/’80s and the glam of the beach life on the Algarve at that time. Three months later, Suntanglam was born, and we did two more scents together, Lisbon Blues and Funfair for “SP Private Perfume with Miguel Matos”, both also related to Portugal, Miguel’s home and home to his childhood memories. Miguel and I became friends and ‘scent twins’ while working together. It was an inspiring and exciting time for both of us.
Do you enjoy designing fragrances for someone else? Why?
It’s always a challenge to create with someone. I love to learn about someone’s scent memory. The process is always a gift of love, life and open-minded inspiration.
Above: At the Art and Olfaction Award Show 2017, Berlin. On the left, Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes, Andy Tauer and Sven Pritzkoleit of SP Parfums.
We decided to have a collaboration shortly after Esxence, and I met you again a month later at the Arts and Olfaction Award ceremony night, as both of our perfumes had been nominated. (Yours was Liquorice Vetiver and mine was Zoologist Civet.) By that time, you already had some quick prototypes for me! But first, please tell us more about your nominated perfume.
I was surprised about the A&O nomination of Liquorice Vetiver, because it has that kind of medicine smell. But there is that link to my profession as a pharmacist, and I think Liquorice Vetiver fixes that memory of an old pharmacy with herbal tea boxes.
I remember, of the many perfumes samples of your own line, the one that stands out most to me is Civette Intense. I mean, just the name itself gives me both shivers and excitement. It tells me that you have guts and you are not afraid of bold and animalic scents. Can you tell me more about that scent? Did you use real civet in the scent? Did you ever consider people might not wear it in public, and that you designed it purely for the wearer’s own pleasure? Are your other perfumes also very animalic?
I think Civette Intense is one of my signature scents – and a perfume of desire, too. The civet is absolutely in the focus with Himalaja Narde, which brings that green and vegan-animalic contrast. I love to combine animalics and woods. It’s some kind of natural-born instinct, which gives power to our soul. I think Civette Intense is absolutely wearable as a perfume to attract as well as a mood-modifier scent to give power, energy, freedom.
At SP PARFUMS, I use high-quality synthetic reconstitutions of animalic scents, so no animals were harmed for that.
You have smelled Zoologist Civet. What was your reaction? Did you find the civet note too mild?
I like Zoologist Civet. It’s different from Civette Intense, because civet is not in the focus. It’s another style.
I love to have a potent focus as a theme, which is present for hours, and I love to have contrast, like harsh and smooth or sweet and earthy, like I did with Lignum Vitae Forte.
What was your reaction when I told you I wanted to make a perfume called ‘Hyrax’?
It was a challenge to create Hyrax, absolutely!
Hyraxes are little rodent-like mammals that live in African mountains. Their closest relatives are actually elephants! Hyraceum is the petrified and rock-like excrement composed of both the urine and feces excreted by them. It ages and petrifies over hundreds of years, and now it’s a sought-after material for perfumery. In the perfume industry, people like to call it African Stones. Can you tell me what hyraceum tincture smells like?
The smell of the tincture of Hyraceum / African Stone is like a combination of civet and castoreum, plus that urinous smell.
Civet and castoreum are two popular animalic notes in perfumery, but not so much for hyraceum. Can you tell us more about the ‘hyraceum accord’ you initially built?
First, I tried to make my own accord that smells like hyraceum with different materials so I could get it in contact with other raw materials and see how it works in them. Also, authentic hyraceum tincture is not strong enough to have the power of civet/castoreum to last for hours, so I created my own animalic mix.
But in the end you still added some real hyraceum to it. Why?
I used authentic hyraceum not just because I want to have authenticity, but because there are some side effects – like that urinous aspect, and some special tar-woody notes, which are unique.
Zoologist uses only synthetic musks, but in Hyrax we use hyraceum. Apparently, Hyrax is no longer a ‘vegan’ perfume, but can you reassure the wearer that no animals are harmed with the use of real hyraceum?
With using hyraceum tincture, no animals are harmed. Hyraceum is a kind of olfactoral 'fossil', the excrement of hyrax.
Can you tell me what other notes you’ve picked for Hyrax and why? What’s the olfactive theme or effect you want to achieve with this fragrance?
While ‘playing’ with some hyraceum tincture, I got an association of oud from Laos, which has that animalic smell. The idea of an “oudy perfume” with hidden florals was born, and I tried to find some molecules to construct that. In the end, I decided to do an animalic floral oud with a harsh mineralic, peppery, razzle-dazzle start to represent 'Hyrax is coming, look at me!', then soften it with hidden lilac-hyacinth florals, coming up more and more with tonka, woodsy and musks and a slightly soapy touch in a skinny musk dry-down.
I have to say when people look at the notes pyramid and compare it to the actual scent, many might not be able to tell they are in the perfume… as if the notes have all fused together to create a single scent.
A friend of mine, who is really not a big fan of animalic scents, tested Hyrax and he wore it in public without any fear! And he didn’t wear it as an animalic scent.
I think Hyrax is abstract in the sense of being typical animalic – it’s an ‘oudy’ concept with the effect of a real oud attar with a hyraceum focus, but is much more than extended hyraceum. And I tried not to destroy the hyraceum focus with the additional notes.
Yes, it’s a fusion. The structure of Hyrax is not a pyramid – it’s done with a focus and layerings to move it, but not to destroy the main theme. I hope, it will move people, too.
Now I have to mention the cost of the perfume compound based on your perfume formula! When the compounding house gave me the quote, I was shocked! It was so high that I had to ask you to replace some materials with less expensive but similar-smelling ones. In the end, you successfully persuaded me to use the original formula.
Hyrax contains high-quality animalic reconstitutions and natural raw materials like tonka bean and Turkish rose oil, which are expensive. I always use the materials a perfume needs so it will be as unique in smell, volume and quality as I want it to be. You were a bit concerned about the costs and determined to change it. I was really sad to lose that spirit we created. Any changes in the formula would destroy that unique oudy fusion spirit. But in the end, you used the original formula. I was happy, and you felt the same.
Compared to other Zoologist scents, I must say the opening of Hyrax will be very confusing to most perfume wearers, including perfume connoisseurs. Some might be repulsed! What would you say to them? Who’s the target audience, in your opinion?
The opening of Hyrax is a peppery, "razzle dazzle" animalic, a hyrax declaring, 'Here I am, it’s me!' scent. I love that shock! I love perfumes that open with a shock, because I am excited to find out what comes next. In the case of Hyrax, it changes to a smoother floral oudy type on the skin! Take your time. You won't believe it’s the same perfume after the first two minutes.
I don't think there is a special target client. I think every meeting with a perfume is a play of trial and error. It’s the same with people. The same in real life.
What’s next for you?
I just finished a new perfume with Miguel. It has the working title Nowhere Fast, for an exhibition in Lisbon. And now I am working on two new floral perfumes, hopefully to be launched late summer.
Thank you very much!
February 13, 2018
By Tresor Prijis
…"Further expanding on this notion of eroticism is the breathtaking Civet from Zoologist, which paints a portrait of this animal magnetism in hues daringly dark. The feral nature of the civet accord is veiled in a cloud of spice that reverberates through a bouquet of subdued florals."
December 27, 2017
By Hanan Haddad, 27 December 2017
"This is where niche perfume houses come into the picture. In recent years, we have seen an incredible spike in popularity and demand for niche perfumes as more and more people are discovering unique scents that speak to them, beyond just crowd-pleasing fragrances. Everyone wants to be distinct in every aspect.
These are the niche fragrance brands that you might never have heard of before but should totally get your noses on. Their artistic and one-of-a-kind scent offerings will leave a memorable trail that’ll linger in the air for you and others to enjoy."