It has not escaped the attention of certain perfumers that a lot of the public likes the smell of dirt. We tend to like it instinctively, e.g. my daughter and her friends and our cellar, and often gravitate to “something earthy in perfumes”. You might as well add to this observation that earthy smelling scents can and have been great sellers for decades. Consider my mother’s old favorite Tabu.
Sometimes, however, perfumers take a direct route to the unconscious via the smell of the actual dirt, or the closest approximation of it that you can bottle. They know we love it. We read it – or Rupert Murdoch would have gone out of business a long time ago- and cultivate it – or ditto Scotts- and so why shouldn’t we smell of it?
Well, there is the cleanliness issue. I’m not sure I’d want my colleagues and neighbors wondering if I had been camping out on the compost pile – and so the following perfumes are discussed with the caveat that your neighbors and colleagues may do exactly that – but if you know what you want and what you want is the dirt, then I think we’ve got some winners for you.
Christopher Brosius of CB I Hate Perfume has created a rather more sophisticated sequel to his best seller at Demeter (simply called Dirt) in Wild Hunt. I mention it here because the first long sequence of this perfume is dirt, and nothing but dirt, of a distinctly brackenish sort.
What drew me to it was the rumor that it might smell of mushrooms. I was hoping for more of the truffle note found in Cumming. After the first ten minutes or so there is rather less of the twigs and logs underfoot and you begin to smell something else that approaches a spicy woody oriental.
Off we go into the woods and who should we find but Opium hiding under the bushes. Actually, and in the interests of good taste, I suppose we ought not to ask what it was doing there, but there it is. This part of the fragrance is distinctly wearable because, all things considered, it is much less emphatic than Opium. That having been said, I’m not sure how many women could pull this one.
Much more leathery and dry, and with a pronounced mushroom note to begin is Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’ Cuir et Champignon. She’s not kidding here with either the mushroom note or the leather note. This one is elegant very dark and very dry. I mean it’s so dry that you can imagine it as the smell of a forest floor before a brushfire. There’s something chic about this absence of humidity. Still and all, I think better on the gents than on the ladies. We may be down to earth, even earthy, but men I guess, pull off putative grubbiness with more panache than we do.
Most of the time when you think of forest floors you think of dampness, of ferns and mushrooms and slightly springy earth, and it’s this kind of forest that Le Labo’s Patchouli 24 calls to mind. It is really a sort of fusion of leather and patchouli, but the combination is evocative of gardening soil and mushrooms to me. It’s a good bet for those who like their scents strong and modern and who aren’t hung up on notions of cleanliness.
Maybe we are too hard on dirt. Mancunians and Yorkshiremen insist that where there’s “muck there’s brass”, meaning that dirt = profits, and generations of Brits always called soil “good clean dirt” and don’t we always aim to get the dirt on politicians or celebrities? Maybe it’s better to be upfront about your dirt. Dirty and proud of it. If so, wear one of these, and celebrate your soil.