Animalic perfumes are back. This may help to explain the popularity of challenging scents like Papillon’s Salome with its initially furry and glandular notes. ( I also enjoyed Bonker’s wonderful interview with Liz Moores of Papillon who keeps her snake collection in drawers! And no, that is not a spoonerism of mine. She keeps them in doors in drawers or racks) If the taste of the public is changing and the sterile field of synthetic fragrance is breached by scales or fur or fins, then Salome might as well be the perfume to do the breaching, although if you ask me, Mandy Aftel’s Cuir de Gardenia did this just as well, and I personally liked Anya’s Garden Enticing which also included a strong animal note in natural musk. You could say that, from a niche point of view, this was the year that re-established the connection between our skins and our scents.
Certain perfume families have always maintained that link and I refer to chypres and leathers here. If you wore those you always kept that chiaroscuro of prettiness and relative ickiness in impasto on yourself . Your perfume read that life, and maybe you too, were complex and had different motivations and activities on different days. Some days you hibernated, some days you hunted and gathered, some days you groomed, and some days you played.
Personally I welcome this development. I like a perfume that is warm and well rounded, and these animal notes do a very good job of making a perfume into a homely habitation on skin. People need to feel as at home in their bodies as they can and a good perfume can help them do this. The new animals on the block unlike the old, often have a better proportion of naturals to synthetic ingredients. So unlike say Dzing, or more recently Dries Van Noten, which give you facsimile smells, you have a whiff of something organically stinky for an instant, and this sets off the flowers of the rest of the perfume, just the way that a black tulip or two will do wonders for a bed of pink and mauve ones.
Some perfumers like Mandy Aftel, Marc Antoine Corticchiato, and Neil Morris have been weaving these animalic layers into the designs of their scents for years, so you get say the dark leather Fetish from Neil, or Secret Garden and Sepia two fragrances with notable animal components from Mandy, or Musc Tonkin from M. Cortichiato, the recreation of an impossible to find ingredient, and the effect is surprising for a new generation of perfume wearers. Their scent is not only pretty, but also lingering and sensual, in short and maybe counter intuitively, animalics are elegant. Who knew?
I suppose you could go anyway you wanted to with this trend, more or less woody or oriental or even floral, and some of the perfumes will turn out to be re treads of old formulas (ah hem Bal a Versailles?) but others, as in say Mortal Skin by Stephane Humbert Lucas, are genuine attempts at branching out on the tree of life, if only to bask for a while in the sun.
If you love this kind of perfume I urge you to check out the work of the perfumers I have mentioned here, they do mean animalics and all have scents in production that are well worth a wearing. If you’ve come across one of these animal perfumes that works for you, please share. What purred, roared, or slithered on your skin this past year?