Much has already been written about Papillon Perfumery’s latest launch – Salome. Indie superstar perfumer - Liz Moores likes bloggers (we like her very much too). And as such, the launch samples we received have already been thoroughly applauded and appreciated in virtual print. With this in mind, I’m not going to write another meticulous review. Instead I’d like to direct you to The Candy Perfume Boy’s evocative post for a superbly detailed description of how it smells.
I’m going to talk filth.
The overriding opinion of Salome is that it smells dirty. It has been celebrated for smelling dirty. Fans of the brand have lovingly exclaimed the word ‘filth!’ in discussion comments and a great excitement has whipped up around its skankiness. But why do we actively try to smell dirty?
The presence of a ‘dirty’ note has been detected throughout the great scents of the 20th century. Traditionally, ingredients of animal origin such as castoreum (leather/cowpats), civet (piss/honey) and musk (you know what musk smells like) were used give a corporeality and strength to more easily palatable notes. As an example, a predominantly floral bouquet could present as whimsical prettiness. Add a dollop of civet to it and it loses its girlish charms and becomes a ‘grown up’ woman’s scent. Classic examples of this include Joy, Diorissimo and My Sin.
Liz left no filthy stone unturned when it came to the animal tones of Salome. Featuring both castoreum and hyraceum, she has pushed the filth about as far as it could go without it turning into the olfactory spunk pun that is ELDO’s Secretions Magnifique.
Salome is also rich in floral notes, especially the densely indolic combination of jasmine and orange blossom. My nose detects jasmine above all others. I used to be a committed jasminophobe but have found myself recently become as attracted to it as I was previously repelled. After purchasing a small bottle of Hermitage Oils’ Jasmine Absolute, I learnt to appreciate the complexity of the smell that was absent in cheaper essential oil blends. Yes, it still retains an abhorrent whiff of milk based diet nappies to me, but there is extraordinary beauty in there too. In fact, I’ve been known to dab a little on my pillow at night and fall to sleep in gag reflex-less pleasure. I’m not alone in thinking that jasmine smells shitty. Its down to a chemical constituent in the flower – indoles, molecules that are also present in human feces. If you would like to know more about them you can read an early Odiferess post (from my jasminophobe days) here.
So why would a perfumer want to combine these potential things of vileness in order to create beauty?
I can’t speak for the intentions of Liz here, but perhaps it’s because dirtyness is deemed sensual and clean is boring. Before a potential sexual encounter we are all likely to shower away our natural smells and replace them with a carefully chosen scent. Modern manners require purity, at least at first. But as the body biologically prepares for sex, it heats up and produces hormones. Our increased heart rate helps our skin and sex organs to radiate the scent. This makes us smell. So why not smell a bit hormonal to begin with, perhaps it could aid our powers of attraction?
I received my Salome sample in the few minutes between arriving home to dump my work bags and nipping out to see my local Doctor. Without much thought I gave myself a liberal squirt and left the apartment. Upon reaching the lift I could smell myself, a lot. I smelt distinctly pissy and far too glamourous to present myself in the surgery of my rather frumpy, pallid and somber GP. I have no idea if her sense of smell is acute, but she appeared to treat me with her usual decorum.
There’s a lot more than dirtiness going on with Salome. In fact, it’s really rather beautiful. I encourage you to read The Candy Perfume Boy's article in order to fully appreciate this naughty whiff. You may also like to read my post on another scent in the Papillon line up. One that truly seduced me, the leathery delight that is Anubis.
I’m going to leave you with a list of some renown stinkers to enable you to seek out comparative filth for your delight:
My pretty little Avon 'pissycat' - A vintage bottle of Occur
Stinkers that please me:
Carven – Ma Griffe (An old fashioned aldehyde white floral with more than a hint of urine. I wore this to a wedding a couple of years ago and felt elegant and otherworldly).
Roja Dove – Enigma Pour Homme (I’m typing through gritted teeth due to the ridiculous price point of this scent but it’s a stunner. Again, a urinous whiff, this time with a wodge of honeyed cognac which adds to the dirtiness).
Avon – Occur (Discontinued many years but the white milk glass collector’s bottles have often kept the vintages alive. Another honey and urine combo with the addition of fabulous banned nitromusks). You can read my review here.
Elvis Presley's actual pants, auctioned a few years ago in Stockport, United Kingdom.
Stinkers of the very worst olfactory nightmares:
Etat Libre D’ Orange – Secretions Magnifique (watch Katie Puckrick’s hilarious video for your likely response).
Etat Libre D’ Orange – Jasmine et Cigarette (What it says on the tin. Cold, dry and vile, and I like cigs).
Parfum D’ Empire – Musc Tonkin (A terrifyingly disgusting creation from one of my favourite brands. I sprayed my sample during a work lunch break and spent the next hour worrying that a child I was working with had soiled itself. It manages to smell of both wee and poo concurrently).
Kiehl’s – Orginal Musk (Sweet floral watery nappies. Somehow both subtle and repulsive, perhaps it’s the ‘light’ water effect that makes the muskiness so unpleasant to me).
Do you have a beloved or feared dirty scent? I’d love to hear about it, and indeed your opinion on why filth scents are popular.