Every now and then in my sniffing rounds I come across a scent that is downright weird. Sometimes it gets put straight into my "bag of hell", to languish indefinitely until it goes off or some MUA swapper with esoteric taste inquires about it, and sometimes I steel myself for a second wearing, because I feel the scent is notable enough to warrant a less knee-jerk response. And so I thought I might write about these reluctant re-trials of uncongenial scents in an occasional series. "Occasional" because I consciously try not to put myself in the path of these more avant-garde fragrances. They invariably disagree with my mimsy, timorous skin. A few are utterly terrifying.
So first up is Boudicca Wode. I have Suze-R to thank for the sample, which she sent along with my decant of Damien Bash Lucifer No 3. Boudicca is an edgy British design house founded by Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby in 1997. This, their first scent, was created by Geza Schoen, the perfumer behind some of the Biehl Parfumkunstwerke and the Escentric Molecules series. I haven't tried the Biehl range, but the Escentric Molecules were well weird in an inoffensive, ethereal, deeply synthetic kind of way that didn't bother me at all. I'd go so far as to say that I "quite like" Escentric Molecules Escentric 01 (the bottle with all the lines), on account of its sheer brazen modernity and airy woodiness. Mr Bonkers and his mother were not fans, however, and made me walk on the opposite pavement during a day trip to Llandudno last summer. So clearly, I do in fact dabble in weird, and in the works of Geza Schoen. Isn't "Geza" a curious name, by the way? More like a diminutive than a name in full, along the lines of our notorious footballer, Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne. Or indeed, the Left Coast Nose's Other Nostril, Bazr.
Anyway, on to Wode. It comes in two versions: Paint and Scent. Paint is the one that goes on blue, mimicking the original characteristic of woad paint from the make up arsenal of the spear-wielding warrior, Queen Boudicca. She of the curious conical "bra armour" also sported by Madonna.
Happily Scent doesn't stay blue, but turns transparent, like the inverse of invisible ink as deployed by child secret agents everywhere. Funnily enough, when I was applying the Scent variant using the dab method, just as I was tilting the vial to get a bit on the end of my finger, a great spout whooshed up and landed on my desk diary. It is now deeply impregnated with the stuff, and I am waiting anxiously to see if it turns blue and blots out all my appointments in Germany next week.
As for the smell of Wode, here is a description from the Boudicca site:
"The fragrance opens with herbal spicy notes of juniper berry, cardamon, nutmeg absolute, clary sage, coriander seed and angelica root. A touch of fresh hesperidic and lighter floral notes add airiness. Through rare elements like black hemlock extract and the smell of raw opium, you will enter an olfactive space where saffron, tuberose absolute, tonka bean, styrax resin, and treemoss slowly unfold round a musky leather heart. Amber and animalic notes like synthetic castoreum and cistus labdanum deepen the lingering impression of warm and radiant flesh."
I pretty much agree with all of that, except that I get no "fresh hesperidic and lighter floral notes" whatsover. "Warm and radiant flesh" isn't the first image that springs to my mind either - it sounds far too inviting. What I do get is a dank, leathery, musky scent, like old, damp flagstones. There is a pronounced mouldiness about it too. It reminds me of that carrot in an advanced state of putrefaction which I came across behind the washing machine the other day. It had been living on top of the washing machine when we were in between fridges, and must have leapt to its death during a spin cycle. Wode is not a million miles away in fact from Eau d'Italie's Sienne L'Hiver, which may even have actively intended to replicate flagstones. Which is not to forget the leather or the fungi. I am also getting a slight resemblance to Cruel Intentions by By Kilian, which is more woody and less leathery, but which has styrax, castoreum and musk in it. Amouage Silver has a very similar animalic quality, come to think of it. Neither of these being my cup of tea either, it goes without saying.
Robin of NSTperfume speaks of Wode as being an example of "weird-little-niche-oddity-fun", and I am afraid that I beg to differ here. "Fun" and "weird" are not words I would tend to yoke together, indeed in most cases - for me and my delicate epidermis - they constitute nothing short of a contradiction in terms. The same issue came up in a recent guest blog by Signature_Scent on the Left Coast Nose, where we were discussing CB I Hate Perfume's Memory of Kindness. For anyone not familiar with the scent, this is straight up tomato stems in a warm greenhouse. I gave MoK credit for its stunning verisimilude, but added that I don't wish to smell like tomatoes. Signature_Scent commented: "I know what you mean about not wanting to smell of what CB I Hate Perfumes have to offer. But it is at least fun and novel."
I think I am definitely in a minority here for not finding novelty and weirdness per se fun. Which is not to say that a novel and weird perfume would never be fun - I do like Escentric 01, at considerable personal cost to my immediate family. When I first applied L'Air du Desert Marocain I thought it was insanely dusty, but I gradually got into its strange aridity and now I love it, and consider it a major league "pulling scent", if such a phrase were not also a contradiction in terms in our household.
All I think I am saying is that I would rather perfumers focused their efforts on creating the holy grail of a "true" lily or "gardenia" than pursued the cause of weird for weird's sake, losing sight of wearability in the process. No more Secretions Magnifiques, for example. Nothing with lighter fuel please - or tear gas either - Lonestar Memories, I am looking at you.
But - and I cannot stress this enough - this is my own personal and very solipsistic view. Because my skin/nose/psyche is hyperosmic to a variety of pungent perfume ingredients, more scents register as weird and distasteful to me than they would to a more "olfactorily centred" perfumista. Or indeed a man, for that matter, with a man's inherently more robust skin. So I don't expect many people necessarily to agree with me, but as I am troubled by these odd scents I thought it would be cathartic for me to review them, so I shall.
Now as I recall, Wode mutes down some 8-10 hours later into a rather wearable "whisper of leather" type scent, for which it deserves honourable mention. But ideally I would rather not wait till I'm tucked up in bed for my daytime scent to be tolerable.