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Smell This: The Most Idiosyncratic Perfume Releases

Published March 2, 2022
Published March 2, 2022
Vilhelm Parfumerie

Scent has unintentionally gained a new spotlight in recent times due to the anosmia and similar smell issues caused by COVID. But the silver lining of our precious sense being threatened by viral infection is a newfound appreciation for its divine potential, as evidenced in the boom in fragrance sales over the past year, with retail figures spiking as high as 45%.

Outside of consumers buying more fragrance, some are also being more bold. “There is something in the air at the moment, and it’s not just vine tomato candles: ever more eclectic smells—from the uplifting to the downright bizarre—have been making their way into perfume and candles. Is it a consequence of having been so smell-starved, so downright bored during the pandemic? An increased desire for the things we buy to give us experiences beyond mere enjoyment?” asks journalist Imogen West-Knights in a recent Guardian article.

For most brand owners, selling perfume is selling a story, so the more fantastical the narrative origin, the more likely it is to grab a consumer’s attention amidst the constant onslaught of new releases. In honor of these olfactory rebels, BeautyMatter rounded up the most eclectic fragrance releases.

Fox in the Flowerbed by Imaginary Authors

The brainchild of Josh Meyer, every Imaginary Authors’ scent is inspired by a book—an imaginary one, of course. For the Portland-based brand’s latest release, the proverbial publication in question is penned by a writer named Chunhua Luli, who resides in a cabin in the Austrian Alps. Luli writes of a young fox infatuated with a butterfly for a story about ambition and beauty. In fragrant terms, that makes for a floral scent consisting of jasmine and tulips, with the subtle smoke of frankincense, the sweetness of wildflower honey, the zest of pink pepper, and the freshness of silver thistle and alpine air notes.

Thé Matcha 26 by Le Labo

Tea-inspired scents have a legacy consisting of the likes of Bvlgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert and even Le Labo’s own Thé Noir 29. Tea notes are unconventional enough to grab your attention, yet not so avant-garde that they become unwearable. Le Labo’s interpretation blends a matcha tea accord with sesame, creamy fig notes, bitter orange, vetiver, and cedar wood, highlighting the grassy, slightly bitter, and creamy sweet elements one might find in a cup of the viridescent brew.

When the Rain Stops by Maison Margiela

Who doesn’t love the smell of the earth after rainfall? There is a name for that scent: petrichor. The latest in the Margiela Replica series hopes to emulate said note in the hands of perfumer Fanny Bal, the nose behind creations such as the citrus gourmand fragrance Sale Gosse (which translates to little brat). When the Rain Stops focuses on springtime showers specifically, recreating the crispness of the growing greenery with bergamot, a vegetal accord, patchouli, and moss; the moistness of the rain with an aquatic accord; and equinox blossoms with Isparta rose petal essence and jasmine superinfusion.

Hallucinex by Maison Anonyme

A three-part series “designed to trigger a hallucinogenic response,” according to the brand, Hallucinex consists of a DMT, LSD, and THC fragrance. The brand’s note listings are also likely to cause a shopper head rush, as they are referred to by their chemical names, for example methyl dihydro jasmonate (a jasmine aroma compound), 2-ethyl-3-hydroxy-4H-pyran-4-one (ethyl maltol, or the synthetic with a candy floss smell), and 4-isopropenyl-1-methylcyclohexene (a monocyclic monoterpene found in citrus plants). Whether you go with scientific nomenclature or everyday terminology, Maison Anonyme is asking us to spritz on, tune in, drop out.

Spell 125 by Papillon Perfumery

Necromancers and historians alike will delight at the inspiration behind Liz Moore’s latest creation: The Book of the Dead. Papillon Perfumery had previously released creations such as the ferally seductive Salome, and Spell 125 is looking to bring some equal olfactive theatricality. In the historical, written version of the spell, the heart of the deceased was weighed in comparison to the feather of truth: a heart which was lighter granted the soul access to paradise, a heavier one meant the heart was eaten by the monster goddess Ammut, and with it the soul. Moore’s interpretation contains notes of green sacra frankincense (the ceremonial use of which dates back centuries) and black hemlock (a plant known for its uses in wiccan culture), underlined by woody notes of Siberian pine meeting the warm odor profile of white ambergris.

Varuek by PRIN

Filmmaker turned perfumer Prin Lomros is known for mastering some of the most challenging accords in perfumery: animalic musks, dense ouds, musty civets. He’s created cheeky fragrances like S&M Cafe and Sangre Dulce (Spanish for sweet blood) for his alternative perfume line, Strangers Parfumerie, but PRIN is where things get heavy—quite literally, as the scents are pure parfum or extrait de parfum concentrations. One of three 2021 releases, Varuek means wolf in Thai and is inspired by not only the wolf, but also its role within Mongolian nomad culture. The wolf shows up in the form of Thai oud, an animal fur accord, and castoreum. Jatamansi (a Himalayan herb), black pepper, cinnamon, bay leaf, and coffee absolute add aromatic touches to the animalic amber scent.

London Funk by Vilhelm Parfumerie

If 1970s London doesn’t scream delightful decadence, nothing does. “It’s five o’clock at Biba in London and Jim Morrison is leading a young Debbie Harry astray with a Long Island Iced tea, and a game of cricket in the stock room,” reads the fragrance description. While there are no ashtray accords or cocktail notes present in the composition, herbal notes like basil, yerba maté, and juniper, as well as woody notes like vetiver, sandalwood, and cedarwood, make an appearance. It’s the 1970s, just with a touch of polish.

Seahorse by Zoologist Chipmunk by Zoologist

With Zoologist, Victor Wong created an animal kingdom of fragrance, with every release inspired by a different specimen. The newest release, Seahorse, is an aquatic tour through a coral garden: a green and herbaceous concoction of algae, clary sage, fennel, and vetiver, with floral accents of tuberose and neroli, crafted by Julien Rasquinet. Perfumer Pia Long, whose body of work includes indie candle brand Boujee Bougies and olfactory consultancy Olfiction, infused Chipmunk with notes of hazelnut, oak, cedarwood, and patchouli to mimic the animal’s habitat, plus a treat of cardamom and nutmeg-dusted quince fruit hanging in the trees above.

The Ghost in the Shell by Etat Libre d’Orange

No list of off-kilter products would be complete without mentioning the fragrance house that birthed a scent smelling of sperm, sweat, saliva, and blood. For 2022, Etat Libre d’Orange collaborated with Japanese manga artist Shirow Masamune on a namesake fragrance for the cult animated show The Ghost in the Shell. The resulting formula nods to transhumanism through its mix of natural and bioengineered materials (a common industry method for creating multifaceted and long-lasting formulas), highlighting the marriage of a human art form with scientific innovation. MANE captives like Mugane (a floral note) and Orcanox (which has a woody ambery profile) mingle alongside milky skin accords and yuzu notes for a futuristic fragrance.


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