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.
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
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.
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!