Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Super furry animals and the cat's peignoir (including a mini-review of House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved)

Source: Poshmark
Undina's recent 'month of roses' project - in which I have greatly enjoyed participating, even if I did fall off the wagon a few times by testing samples that had nothing to do with the romantic topic in hand - reminded me that 'roses with a twist' are one of my top two favourite fragrance styles. I'll call them 'rosientals', as the scents I like best tend to be a subset of floral orientals. Which is also why I found the task of looking for a rose perfume in that vein for my friend Jessica so rewarding, even if we never came up with a definitive contender in the end.

And my top category of perfumes - or Holy Grail genre, if you will - is those faintly animalic woody orientals that connote furriness and intimations of what a male friend of mine persists in calling 'rude business'. Or 'intimations of intimate business', even. My prim father's slightly more opaque term for this was 'filthy slop'. Now for reasons of semantic sensitivity I am reluctant to talk about my 'louche perfume j*****' - obviously I am more sheepish about the actual journey than the louche bit (eek, it slipped out!) - but you may be interested to learn that there has in fact been one.

My first introduction to the 'WAV-style' of fragrance (Woody-Amber-Vanilla - with or without patchouli) was probably PG L'Ombre Fauve, or Bestial Shadow, as it is amusingly known in English.

PG L'Ombre Fauve

Notes: woods, incense, amber, musk, patchouli

Now L'Ombre Fauve is wonderfully hoochy, but the patchouli lends a rough edge to the scent going in. I don't mean hoochy in a Hooters way exactly, but the opening is certainly not refined. It's earthy and ragged and a bit clod- - as in sod- - hopping. I never reviewed L'Ombre Fauve, because despite being such a fan of woody orientals, I find myself even more tongue-tied than usual in describing what I smell. What I can give you, if you can 'take it' (as all good mediums say), is an image of me sitting on a stool in a moodily lit tapas bar in Hamburg with my Swedish perfumista protegee Louise and several of her friends, while wearing L'Ombre Fauve. The whole party couldn't stop sniffing my wrist, having clearly succumbed to the perfume's animal magnetism, which proved more irresistible than even the dates wrapped in bacon and dainty morsels of chorizo.

Schankwirtschaft, now sadly closed. Source: Yelp

For a good while L'Ombre Fauve stood alone as the exemplar of this category. Bvlgari Black has some crossover with it in note and mood terms, but to my nose it is ultimately more (good) weird than louche. I also tried Paloma Picasso around that time, but it is a retro animalic chypre - a classy face slap with a beaver's business end.

The other scent from my early exploration to provoke a similar sensual shiver was the discontinued Damien Bash Lucifer #3. I am indebted to Louise - by now up and running on her own perfume quests! - for the introduction to this one. Uncharacteristically for me, I did manage to review Lucifer #3, but only because I was reeled in by the association between elemi, one of the key notes in the composition, and boat caulk. However, it cannot be included in 'The WAV files' proper, for it doesn't appear to contain vanilla, or any other note with a vanilla inflection...!

Damien Bash Lucifer #3

Notes: rose, jasmine, frankincense, black pepper, sandalwood, myrrh, labdanum, ylang-ylang, elemi

In these early years I also dallied with PG Felanilla and Le Labo's Labdanum 18, fellow furry numbers - quite literally in the case of Labdanum 18.

PG Felanilla

Notes: vanilla absolute, saffron, orris, banana wood, hay absolute, amber

Le Labo Labdanum 18

Notes: French labdanum, castoreum, civetta, musk, vanilla, birch resins, cinammon, patchouli, gurjan balsam, tonka bean

Source: Pinterest

Both fragrances are sultry, but these days I find the latter a tad too 'out there'. Looking at those notes, I can see why that might be - there are several ingredients that would collectively conjure a resinous and va-va-voom vanilla vibe. Labdanum 18 lacks the mysterious quality shared by L'Ombre Fauve, Lucifer #3 and Bvlgari Black, which is so key to the genre. The same could be said of Felanilla, which is from the same stable as L'Ombre Fauve, and fittingly has a barnyard quality to it.

Fast forward a fair few years to my discovery of Ramon Monegal's Ambra di Luna while visiting Jovoy in Paris with Undina in 2013. We are firmly back on terra furra with that one, and I could best describe Ambra di Luna as a 'roughed up' Prada L'Eau Ambree (insert your own accent):

Ramon Monegal Ambra di Luna

Notes: amber, labdanum, Egyptian jasmine, castoreum, sandalwood

Then last year I discovered yet more prime WAVs: Aroma M's animalic amber Geisha Noire and By Kilian's Amber Oud. Thanks to Undina for the tip off about the By Kilian via her review (from a year ago today!).

Aroma M Geisha Noire

Notes: amber, sandalwood, tonka bean

By Kilian Amber Oud

Notes: amber, oud, bay leaf, cedarwood, vanilla

Of the two, Geisha Noire is the furrier and loucher, and though I didn't review it either, I made reference to my growing attachment to Geisha Noire as a gig-going scent in this rag bag of a post that is also about old books, a dishwasher, and my ongoing battle with eczema. Ooh, leitmotif Louise makes a cameo appearance in it - that was the last time we met, in fact. And I did at least describe Geisha Noire as a 'smouldering, furrily sensuous, ceremonial cupcake of a scent'. Geisha Noire is more sensual and sweeter than Amber Oud. Crucially, it oozes mystery.

Val (who also gave me a mini-bottle of Ambra di Luna she inexplicably didn't need!) has kindly been keeping me topped up with samples and decants of Geisha Noire. But just when I was limbering up to possibly buying my own bottle - eminently desirable on account of the decorative Japanese paper alone! - a sample of Immortal Beloved arrived. Immortal Beloved is the latest release from House of Cherry Bomb, a creative collaboration between Brooklyn-based independent perfumers Maria McElroy of the aforementioned Aroma M and Alexis Karl of Scent by Alexis. And now all bets are off as to which way my cash will fall...Though it goes without saying that owing to my chronic SABLE (Stash Above and Beyond Life Expectancy) situation, I am trying to resist all additional purchases until some of the extant bottles are either used up or go rogue on me, which can only be a question of (not very much) time.

Truffle savaging the bag, eager to access its contents

And never mind the fact that I am smitten with Immortal Beloved, my trusty familiar has clearly marked it out as Her Favourite Perfume Yet. Readers may remember that I featured Truffle's fetishistic reaction to perfume packages in my recent Winter Special post about her, in which she was pictured nuzzling a FedEx parcel sent by Undina. I also showed her mouthhandling the little drawstring bag containing the vials of edp and oil of Immortal Beloved. A feat I filed under Agility, whilst noting that it could equally sit with (Dis)-obedience and Fetishes.

But what I omitted to mention was that not long afterwards I caught Truffle lasciviously licking the bag, which is an absolute first where any possession of mine is concerned. From which I take it that she really, really thinks this is the cat's pyjamas - or 'peignoir' perhaps, to coin a more suitably slinky phrase. Eyeballing that note list, there is a lot going on in Immortal Beloved, but after a surprising start, it settles into WAV-ish territory.

Immortal Beloved

Notes: tobacco blossom, lily-of-the-valley, henna, ambergris, labdanum, vanilla, agarwood, beeswax

Yes, when I applied Immortal Beloved, my first thought was of similarities to Serge Lutens Eau Froide...with its frankincense / lemon accord; that is too extreme a comparison, but it's all I've got! At this stage I wouldn't class Immortal Beloved as an oriental, or any kind of furry animal. It is most unusual and reads on my skin as a soapy, fresh and prickly thing I am going to call incense - which I know sounds like an oxymoron, given the more immediate association of incense with death. But that impression is fleeting in any event, and must be due to some playful alchemy between the LOTV and tobacco blossom. Or even the henna listed in the notes, to which in my perplexed state I have had retrospective course! I have no idea how any of those smell, mind, apart from the LOTV, though it is not quite itself here, conveying a spring-like backdrop rather than a marked muguet scent per se.

When Immortal Beloved reaches its cruising altitude it wears incredibly close to the skin - it is far and away the most delicate and 'barely there' of all the WAV perfumes featured in this post. A WAV-wisp of a scent no less, which you really wouldn't expect from the notes. It's an immemorial murmur like old Tennyson and his bees, which figures, as there is of course beeswax in it. Oops, my bad - it's the elms that are immemorial!

"The moans of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees."

Strange to relate, Immortal Beloved melds with my skin so completely that it feels as though it was telepathically tailormade. Maybe that is why Truffle is so taken with it - as her besotted owner, I like to think she loves me - or any olfactory associations with me - back, hehe. Though perhaps she is merely high on tobacco blossom. ;)

Thinking of the HOCB name, funnily enough one of The Monochrome Set's members used to play in a football team called The Cherry Bombers, named after their record label at the time, Cherry Red. The Cherry Bombers were pitted against a team of jocks from the BBC, including John Peel. Perhaps the Beeb team should have worked 'satsuma' into their name somehow.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

And I note on Wikipedia that a cherry bomb is in fact an 'approximately spherical exploding firework', also known as a 'bangarang', which sounds like an 80s pop group of ill repute.

Also - and this is timely given that it was Shrove Tuesday only yesterday! - "during an episode of The Simpsons entitled 'The Crepes of Wrath', Bart discovers an old cherry bomb among his things and proceeds to ignite and flush it down a toilet at school, resulting in his deportation to a foreign exchange program in rural France."

In short, I can highly recommend a walk on the WAV side. And this compilation of 'WAV files' is by no means exhaustive, so please mention any further furry faves in the comments!


  1. Put down that pancake. Shrove Tuesday not until 28th (unless you feel you need an extra week of repentence of course).

    1. Oh, so it is, haha! As Roger knows, going right back to my childhood I have had trouble eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, though usually it was the eating aspect that was the issue, not the date. ;)

  2. This was quite the fascinating overview of a scent category I'd never considered before! I will have to check out the WAVs you mentioned here. They sound very much up my oriental-centric alley.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Oh, I am happy to have sowed a seed of interest in the WAV files. ;) Hope you find one that you like.

  3. Really interested to read your great descriptions of these, and in fact you have done such a great job that I have to say that they are probably the epitome of the sort of fragrance I don't care for! Which is good, as it would be so boring if we all liked the same thing. I had been curious about Felanilla and now I don't need to sample it as your words are enough.

    Love "Bringing up Baby". You have made me want to watch it again.


    1. Hi Jillie,

      Haha - well, that's a public service done then! What is your favourite genre, out of interest? I don't believe I have ever seen 'Bringing up Baby', though I recently caught up with 'Suddenly Last Summer'.

    2. Gosh - that's a hard one to answer ..... I am a tart and have favourite fragrances in practically every category, apart from the skanky and cuminy types. I would say I usually like florals and chypres and have unexpectedly fallen in love with some fruities (eg Patricia Nicolai's L'Eau a la Folie).

      Regarding "Bringing up Baby" - somewhat different to "Suddenly Last Summer"!! Which I have also enjoyed (if enjoyed is the correct word).


    3. Thanks! I am with you on the florals and chypres (except for the acerbically green or filthy), but more wary of fruities, though never say never. I have yet to find a Nicolai to love, though my info and impressions may be very out of date.

      African Queen I think I enjoyed!

  4. Oh, so many favourites in one post. Unfortunately I had to let go of my Felanilla, as it gave me yje most awful skin rashes.

    1. Ah, that's a shame, Sabine. I wonder what the irritating ingredient was? Banana wood is the one that stands out as a bit different.

  5. I almost feel bad adding my name once more by commenting after you've mentioned me once or twice in your post ;)

    Surprisingly, I'm not familiar with most of the perfumes you featured in this post. I mean, I've heard most of the names but somehow most of them just never ended up on my skin (including Ambra di Luna, which I wanted to try since that time when I remember you liked it, but just never got around doing that - and then it disappeared from the only store that carried it around here).

    Truffle looks cute and determined :)

    1. Hi Undina,

      Don't feel bad for adding your name. I believe it may even have been three mentions in all, hehe.

      Well, I can certainly sort you out with a sample of Ambra di Luna. Let me know...

      Cute and determined is Truffle's default look, I'd say. ;)

    2. (whispering) Actually, it was 4 (four) times, but who counts, right? ;)

    3. Gadzooks, really?! People will talk...;)

  6. Immortal Beloved sounds just my thing. I am even more gutted that my sample didn't get past the Royal Mail. They said they couldn't deliver it due to a 12 quid tax charge.
    I have a review including Zoologist's Civet up tomorrow and I think that would really work for you and could qualify as a WAV perfume.

    1. Hi Tara,

      A £12 quid tax charge sounds iniquitous! Where was it coming from and did the parcel exceed the import amount - which is about £18 from memory? What a blow. Could you collect it if you pay the cash, not that you would want to, with it being so much?

      Ooh, will look out for your review. Hope the civet is quite quiet, hehe. You know my historical issues with the note. ;)

  7. Bringing up Baby is one of my favourite films (I have huge love for the screwball comedies of that era, though His Girl Friday may be my favourite.)

    Also: Truffle!

    Oh, wait. This was about perfumes. Sorry, I was distracted by the fine felines. I have met very few of those you wrote about in this--clearly a huge gap in my sniffery. I must explore a little more widely; some of these sound tantalising.

    1. Hi Crikey,

      I clearly have some film watching to catch up on. May be able to slightly close the sniffery gap in connection with your recent prize draw win...

  8. I want to try ALL of these perfumes! Which is to say, I have not tried any of them yet :) But I will keep in mind that Immortal Beloved has an especial Truffles stamp of approval. I was also amused by the imagery in your review of the PG, it is hard for me to imagine any perfume beating out bacon wrapped dates! :)

    1. Hi Yuki,

      Sorry for the belated reply - am not sure how I missed your comment.

      I know just what you mean about bacon wrapped dates being hard to beat. They were delicious!

      Yes, Truffle was definitely very taken with Immortal Beloved and she is highly selective when it comes to bestowing her lick of approval.

  9. WAVs is such an economical way of describing an irresistible category. I know it is very hard to say no to any of them.

    I shall have to try some on your list and oddly Immortal Beloved sounds just a bit like Lutens' La Myrrhe. Must be wrong though...

    1. Hi Blacknall,

      Oh, I am so glad you mentioned La Myrrhe, as that was another resemblance I spotted for the bright opening, but couldn't recall the scent in question. There is a lot of incense in IM, but it is much more warm and cosy - and more like Diptyque Volutes with its addition of a tobacco note. Though different too!

  10. How funny, although I love the furry category, the ones you mention I quite like but don't really love :-) the PG are simple too messy, gourmand, linear for me, they become more of a smell than a perfume.
    Furry, is such a tricky thing to pull off, and I think the closest I ever came was Cologne pour le Soir , ( free from the cumin of AplS). I'm very interested in trying the new atelier d'or called something feline/ furry...

    1. Hi Asali,

      The PGs are not my favourite of this bunch, I must say - Immortal Beloved may well now be in the top spot and I am sure you would not find that linear. Salome is very furry, now I think of it, but not in a WAV way. There are indeed other ways of skinning the furry cat. Hope the Atelier d'Or comes up trumps for you. Or rumps even! ;)