Tuesday, 9 March 2010

"Weird Wafts" - An Occasional Series: No 1 - Boudicca Wode

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.


  1. There's Weird Weird, and there's Wearable Weird, and they're not at all the same. Bvlgari Black is Wearable Weird for me, while CBIHP Burning Leaves is just Weird Weird. I don't *want* to smell like maple syrup (it was quite sweet on me and made me think of the serial killer with the odd disease in Patricia Cornwell's first novel). I'm sure I could think of other Weird Weirds, if I took the time.

    I really, really want those fish shoes.

  2. I am glad you cited the case of Bvlgari Black as "Wearable Weird", despite its distinctive rubber note, which I concede is a far cry from the nature-identical gardenia and lily whose drum I've been banging. I haven't read that particular Patricia Cornwell, but you have got me mighty curious now - she does do a good maggot.

    You should have those shoes, Mals! After all, they'd be a fat lot of use on a mermaid.

  3. Haven't tried any Boudicca scents yet, although I do have a sample of Pure which I'll try once the morning sickness dissipates.

    I like weird in moderation, and certainly not as much as when I became a self-proclaimed perfumista. I've settled down a bit, and am not attracted to the likes of CdG's Garage or Tar.....I might go as far as CdG2 :-)

  4. "What I do get is a dank, leathery, musky scent, like old, damp flagstones."

    I was going to say "yum" until you got to the carrot and the washing machine.

    I may be becoming a firm member of the Weird Contingent, which strikes me as, well, weird. I've always seen myself as such a terribly conventional person - the kind of kid who never, ever cut class, for example - that I find it strange and rather delightful to be odd in some small way. I remember someone telling me in college that I was weird for playing _Call of Cthulhu_ (a roleplaying game) and being similarly delighted.

    I _love_ Burning Leaves. And CdG Garage. And Tar. I have to draw the line at the very idea of Secretions Magnifique, and that moldy carrot worries me, but otherwise, I love the weird.

  5. LTS, which Pure is that? DKNY, Caron? They're not weird by any chance? They don't sound like it, certainly. I used to have a sample of Caron Pure myself, but may have swapped it away with the Narcisse Noir. Shudder - now there's an example of "nemesis weird" for me.

    CF, I like the fact that you and LCN veer to the dark and offbeat in your tastes - I admire you for boldly going where I tremble to tiptoe. Have no fear of the mouldy carrot - Wode is well within your comfort zone, I am guessing. It is Sienne L'Hiver with added leather for all practical purposes.

    I never cut class either and was a bit of a nerdy swot at school. I used to worry if we didn't have pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, for example. But Mr Bonkers will tell you I have caught up in the eccentricity stakes in the intervening years and now my relatively conventional fragrance tastes are a welcome contrast to my many other idiosyncrasies.

    As for Cthulhu, I saw a very fetching knitted version of this on the Internet. Me, I am struggling to finish a hippo at the moment.

  6. The thing about weird for weirdness' sake is that while I appreciate it, love experiencing it, love collecting "reference" samples of them - I don't buy full bottles of the stuff. And then when that particular gem of weirdness has logically been discontinued due to poor sales, I start yammering about the great unwashed's poor taste and how bereft (the royal) we now are of true artistry. You may spy the problem in my reasoning, here.
    I don't think I'm alone in abusing this logical flaw, either; there are many reviewers and/or forum cruisers who sing the praises of the most obscure oddities they would not actually wear.

    *Off to spritz on some Odeur53*

  7. Hi Arachne, you raise an interesting point here, for surely the ultimate tribute to a scent is to want to wear it? I guess I assumed that all those who like weird, also wear weird. In her review Robin does say she would wear Wode, though she didn't fancy parting with cash for it. I think I would pay a small, regular sum NOT to have to wear this.

  8. Hi Flittersniffer! You know what - I was wondering last night why I'm not a regular reader of your blog. I see your comments other places and share your thoughts on a lot of things. Coming back to it today - it's because I can't read on black. I'm not suggesting you change it but just so you know why. I wear glasses, and find reading on a black background impossible after a couple of lines. Hope you don't mind me saying...

  9. Hi S_S - is that any better? I haven't worked out how to make the text a different colour, so am just playing with a few shades that may not be so eye-straining as black!

  10. Hmmmm. I wear weird - actually wear it, two or three sprays, even when leaving the house. :) But can't think of many weird full bottles that I own. I do buy weird decants of moderate size, which in the end should contribute to selling some bottles, but you're making me think.

    Maybe I should make a greater effort to put my money behind my preferences, to the extent of full bottles. Burning Leaves, some other Brosius scents, CdG Tea, CdG Tar. I should bump them up on the schedule. (Does Dzing! count or is Dzing! sufficiently well loved that it doesn't need me?)

  11. Dzing! may not count as it is sufficiently well loved, I reckon. Why, I love it and it is moderately weird! : - )

    Arachne may be on to something...

  12. Hi F.S. Thanks for making the change - it looks like my feable eyes might be able to cope with that a bit better!

  13. You're quite right of course, CF - buying decants and samples *does* contribute to full bottle sales, indirectly. As it happens, yesterday I went on to re-organise my decants (bought a set of pen-holders that works surprisingly well for them) and I did discover the odd (pardon the pun) decant of the moderately weird in there. Oyédo, Tea for Two, Dzing, Odeur53, Russian Caravan Tea... and those I do wear. There are others I really don't need more than 1ml of, though: Montale Amandes Orientales? SL Chypre Rouge? Piment Brûlant? Thanks but no thanks, really.

  14. Oh, gosh. Late to the conversation...

    Well, FS, I think it's just fine that your tastes don't go to the dark and the difficult-- more for me!! I will say, I have had some luck in tempting people who claim they "hate perfume" to have some real fun with more offbeat scents like "Black March" or "A Quiet Morning." So that's been really fun.

    I agree with Arachne-- up to a point. I get a huge kick out of smelling stuff I might never wear or buy a bottle of, and I don't think that needs to be defended. There's *plenty* of boring, derivative juice out there-- that's what I have no patience for. I want to smell all the unusual stuff-- I want to know what strange things perfumers dream of.

    I appreciate wrapping my mind around something odd and off-beat, just like going to a restaurant with a cuisine I'm not familiar with. Spanish Basque or Ethiopian might not be my go-to lunch, but I'm glad I've sampled them, just the same.

  15. I am not sure if my taste extends to the weird, or rather just to the dubious. I love Black too, and Kingdom.

    Isn't Mr Schoen the (alleged) nose behind some of the Ormonde Jayne scents?

  16. LCN has a "go-to lunch"...I am so envious!

    Bonkers AND Racked with Indecision

  17. Signature_Scent - I am glad that colour is a bit less glaring for you. I had it even paler, before realising that I had inadvertently picked LCN's "proprietary" shade of grey, so this is something in between the two! : - )

  18. Arachne, those pen holders sound the business! I take it you stand your decants on their ends in those?

    The consensus seems to be - taking into account CF's and LCN's purchasing behaviour when it comes to weird scents - that these are mostly, at best, decantworthy, but that few of us own FBs of truly "out there" weird scents.

    But I can understand your wanting to dabble on the dark side, LCN - the cuisine analogy is perfect, having recently sampled some deeply peculiar Argentinian salmon - only it is just not my particular bag.

    Hebe, I have heard that rumour too about Herr Schoen, but I couldn't possibly comment...

  19. perfume is so strange- I rather liked this except that on me I found it quite light and a bit generic!! how funny! the blue thing has no relevance to the scent but it is amazing isn't it- the lady sprayed the can ONTO MY SHIRT and I was freaking out but it all vanished, no water marks nothing.

  20. I think you're right, FS-- a full bottle of the weird isn't where I'd blow my budget. I think you point to an important distinction as to what kind of collector one is-- needing to "know" a smell, and needing to "own" it-- I own fewer than 10 full bottles, and have purchased only 2 since I started going perfume bonkers.

    When I first started out, I clutched every new sample like a rare find, thinking that some day I might want to smell it again for reference. Now, I'm like-- enough. I've been there, I've done that, I know all I need to know. Move it out!

    As for the grey-- not mine only!! I felt bad discovering after the fact that I Smell Therefore I Am uses the same grey (although a different color font scheme, and some other layout changes.) I picked my grey to connote the famous San Francisco fog, and am sticking to it, but I'm not the only one...

  21. Rose, so you have had the blue version sprayed on you! How exciting and what a leap of faith that it wouldn't stay blue! And you found it "quite light and a bit generic" - well, that is just amazing, and is proof once again that all perfumistas and their noses are indeed an island unto themselves... : - )

    LCN, when it comes to weird there are definitely people like you who have a keen "need to know" - but "rabid weirdites" with complete collections of CB I hate perfume and its ilk may be rarer birds...

    Even if your foggy hue is not unique to you, I didn't want to treat on your panto(n)es! I am quite pleased with this charcoal colour for now and will monitor any further feedback I receive on its readability.

  22. I just can't do weird scents Bonkers!

    Now, does that make ME weird?????

  23. If you're weird, that makes two of us! : - )