You know it’s a funny thing, most of us, plus the media, plus critics, even academics, like to say that we admire originality. That is to say that we do, very much, so long as we can see how that originality sold in the 18-49 demographic last year? Also, was that gross or net? We love originality- just so long as someone else has done it first.
This means that you will almost never smell an original perfume. They’re too risky to sell. Supposing the public doesn’t like them? The same goes for any number of new products, but trust me on this one, if you’ve smelled thousands of perfumes you know original ones are extremely rare.Some perfumers and some brands are a little more likely to produce something new but these days they are very few and far between. So what have I smelled that really is unique? Good question.
- Annick Goutal’s Folavril (1986) This perfume which is the oddest floral/fruity aldehyde ever was a mixture of mango, aldehydes, tomato leaf, boronia, and jasmine. The perfume was weird but funny and cheerful. Folavril is now almost
impossible to find and probably changed because the formula depended on that boronia which is wicked expensive. Soapy, fruity, tangy, a puddle splashing scent for people who didn’t take themselves seriously.
- Hilde Soliani’s Bel Antonio (2008) Hilde produced a couple of really strange and startling fragrances but this one which is all Gauloises and espresso, is one of the strangest and most evocative I’ve ever come across and is a wow among masculines. If you think New Harlem or A*Men was good, try this.
- Aftelier Sepia (2012) Mandy is a law unto herself and this particular fragrance is proof. Dismissing notes I will say that Sepia smells of ambergris and black tea to me and if that sounds mystifying to you, well, then that makes two of us. I don’t understand this perfume, my Hub dislikes it, but it is simultaneously soothing and strange, like being in a very warm stable. Is that good? Yes.
- Guerlain’s Pamplelune (1999) This was a one off for Guerlain, but they scored with this Mathilde Laurent composition and it is one of the weirdest perfume ideas of the last twenty years: squaring black currant off grapefruit. Bizarre.
- Neil Morris for Takashimaya (2008) Neil Morris is not getting the press he deserves for being as talented as he is. This is only one of many Neil Morris perfumes that is quite unusual,and this is one part Tokyo tea shop to two parts Kyoto garden, and is one of the most arresting fragrances I’ve ever smelled, just as complex as Une Fleur de Cassie.
- Penhaligon’s Lily and Spice (2006) I mention this lily because it is one of my long term loves but is totally oddball. This is a big old Easter lily, pepper, saffron, and dirt,
a lot of dirt. This is a lily your dog dragged in from the garden by mistake. Nothing like it, zed, nada, zip doppelgangers, and believe me I tried to find some because like a lot of these scents it’s discontinued. One of a kind.
- Parfum de Nicolai’s Cococabana (2006) Palm leaves, coconut and …tuberose! Yeah this is really really idiosyncratic and a departure for the de Nicolai firm. Not available any more and you can see why, but it might have had a cult following if they had hung on.
- Caron’s Poivre (1954) Caron has always created rather offbeat perfumes and this mid fifties scent is a case in point. This is PEPPER and CLOVES and no fooling, so much so that a few people think of clove oil and dentists. I love this and it may well be my favorite Caron. Nothing comes close, not Poivre Piquant or Le Labo’s Poivre 23 certainly not the ladylike Bellodgia or the high fallutin’ Golconda. This is just crazy hot.
- Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Cuir et Champignon (2010) Dawn has experimented a good deal while expanding her line and this is a perfume that incorporates a little umami into a leather frag. There is just a little bit of salt in there too and the result is a perfume that is oddly appealing but very peculiar. This comes in on the edge of chypre animalic but is not quite like anything else. A fine choice btw for anyone who
has had enough sugar in their perfume.
- Mario Valentino Ocean Rain (1990) A very late composition by Edmond Roudnitska and a cross between Le Parfum de Therese and Diorella- sort of. There is a strong thyme note in this along with many other odd ingredients, and like Therese, there is an aquatic component to the stuff. It reminds me, as Luca Turin pointed out, of Vie de Chateau. A showstopper of sorts and can be picked up relatively cheaply on Ebay. Maybe an aquatic leathery chypre-does that make any sense? That is my list and I’m sticking to it. Did you ever come across something totally unique in your perfume explorations?