I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Lay Me Down in Burning Purple: ‘MEM’ by Bogue Profumo (Interlude IV)

But you, you foolish girl, you have gone home
To a leaky castle across the sea, -
To lie awake in linen smelling of lavender,
And hear the nightingale, and long for me

Edna St Vincent Millay

For Foxy any launch by Bogue Profumo and the bearded Maestro Antonio Gardoni is akin to the completion of a complex and long awaited art installation or the revelation of a secret building project. All of which is very fitting given Antonio’s day job as the creative founder of Studio AG an architecture and design studio in Brescia, Italy where he grew up and went to university. He is currently London-based but spends a lot of time back and forth to Brescia where he is still a professor of industrial and interior design.


Everything about Antonio and Bogue is steeped in alchemical charm. He originally came across a cache of forty vintage perfumery bases and formulations in the basement of an Italian property thanks to the timely tip off from an antique dealer. These redolent recipes had assumed a whiff of dank time and darkness. Antonio patiently and strategically added modern elements, honing and editing the results to create workable and intriguing olfaction.  

As someone who moulds, conceptualises and visualises space, Antonio’s journey and approach to perfume is a little unorthodox to some. His perfumes obey few rules and yet have a powerful dowager porno ambience, recalling some of the glowering boudoir wonders of the past whilst as the same time drawing a brutalist line through these same echoes with the precision of a white-hot laser.  I have the astonishing Maai in my collection, a perfume I called the ‘..most extraordinary of brutal floral constructions …..divine sense of body, genuine skin, wrapped in indoles and whiffy animalics, a mirror of our own wanton, hidden desires’ in my review for Cafleurebon back in January 2015.  It is still one of my favourite pieces I wrote for my friend Michelyn Camen, Editor in Chief at Cafleurebon.  

Foxy's Maai.... 

My bottle of Maai smells better and better each time I inhale its oily sexiness off my skin. The colour darkens in the shadows of my study. The multitude of resins and flower deaths within the amber liquid make me giddy when the scent fills the air.  The air feels displaced actually momentarily, Maai has that much impact, the notes spinning like burning dust. I have a 15ml of OE, which I love as well, a strange soapy intensive thing that hurls its citric herbiness across your skin like an angry fisherman casting for silvered fish in a mirrored sea.

And Gardelia… sigh… what can I say.. I am quite obsessed with this extraordinary essay in gardenia egotism.  Three types of gardenia absolute make up nearly 6% of the formula; now this may not sound like much, but in perfumery terms it is both daring and dangerous making Gardelia at it’s heart a kind of honeyed, indolic bomb. It penetrates skin and senses slowly like an insistent lover then explodes in a slo-mo cascade of over fifty ingredients, all them calibrated by Antonio to ricochet, caress and infiltrate. I only have two treasured samples from Antonio; Gardelia itself is a pricy limited item, created specifically for Lia and Giovanni Padovan of Profumeria Sacro Cuore in Bologna to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary, hence the fifty materials used. Antonio also designed the distinctive blue-shaded flacon topped off in a unique moulded cap made using the ciré perdue or lost wax casting process. The design of the flacon was based on a bottle owned by the Padovans and the tactile cerulean cap resembles a bowl of fruit and a split oozing pomegranate. Only fifty bottles were made and they retail at €850/£749/$948 so it’s hardly a cheap buy but limited perfume art like this never is. The attention to detail, the casing of odour, that hand cast top and the divine, persistent liquor itself I feel for once, probably justifies the price.  I will savour my precious samples until they run dry and then just remember…


Now we have MEM, a palindromic name and a scent theoretically with a cyclical structure. I’m going to just stick a stylish little pin in that for now above my desk, as I don’t really want to get into a discussion of that. It’s not really my forte and besides, my repeated wearings of MEM have demonstrated if anything a hugely dynamic sense of scene setting, more akin to stage or opera than perfumery.  Antonio has created a perfume that tells a complex and multi-layered story of a house built for love near sea, surrounded by purple fire.

MEM is a roaring lavender thing, an unabashed hymn to one of perfumery’s most exquisite materials, a note I love and usually find side-lined as vintage old lady and moth killing. Yet when lavender is correctly adored and surrounded by notes, accords and mysteries that care and nurture it can burn and buzz, smoulder and ravish like any rose or jasmine construct. Caron’s Pour Un Homme, Dior’s Eau Noire and Mon Numéro 4 by L’Artisan Parfumeur all showcased in very different ways the beauty of lavender’s aromatic dexterity.

There is a ghostly vintage bruised mauve in MEM as it slowly settles, nothing dusty and sachet-like that might suggest said moths or cheap gift shops.  Instead Antonio’s four lavenders (lavender, lavender extract, wild lavender and blue lavender) glow like amethyst fire in empty flickering rooms.  There is something weirdly animalic in the use of high quality lavender, a certain verdant herby sweatiness, the body exuding a sheen of grasses, costus, hay and moist spices. In MEM this is reinforced with the use of civet, castoreum, musks and Antonio’s beloved indolic heavy breathing of ylang ylang and Champaca.

Local street lavender... (image©TSF)

The unusual and particular addition of malt is quite noticeable early on; rolling elegantly amid the geranium bourbon, mint and vanilla to lend a brewed sense of barley and mash to my nose. Living in Scotland and having sampled a lot of whiskies over the years I am familiar with a lot of processes and finishes used in the industry. The more I wear MEM, especially if my skin is hot, I discern a distinctive boozy vibe as if Antonio has distilled a lavender whisky flavoured with citrus peel and animal pelt.

I was very preoccupied with lavender this summer; many of the small street gardens where I live were foaming with differing shades of purple and alive with thrilled thrumming bees. I smelled it everywhere that quiet Provençal undertone to the air, the fallen flowers dusted over pavements. I like to rub and wander, the oily immediacy of the leaves staining my fingers, pieces of whorls and spikes scattered in my pockets. 

It is a perfume aroma for my own personal skin that challenges my perceptions of self. It is a note that comes with some olfactory and visual baggage. As a migraine sufferer I got weary of people telling me it was good for easing stress headaches, whereas in actual fact, concentrated exposure to lavender oil or over use in aromatherapy can precipitate vertiginous migraine. I have always associated it, as many of us do with aromatherapy and the beckoning of sleep. I cook with it, making cakes with lemon and lavender and adding it to lamb dishes with rosemary and marjoram. I also smash it in a food processor with granulated sugar. Sifted and used sparingly, this gorgeously blue-tinted powder is beautiful cast across compotes.  

Antonio has not shied away from any preconceived aspect of his lavenders. The varieties evidently have different nuances and olfactive tonal qualities or he would not have gone to the trouble of using them and Antonio does not strike me as a frivolous man. A lot of reviews have noted the intense potency of MEM; I don’t find it potent as such, I would say more immersive and demanding. The ask is one of waiting for the swirling coterie of herbal, minted soapiness to settle their lilac tongues from wagging to allow the fleshy tease of ylang and Champaca indoles to rise and bait. It is a quite a struggle mind you, between the deranged royal seethe of lavender and these lascivious creamy blooms. Then the tones bleed silently into one another creating I think a rather singular emotion of rippling lavender, marbled with ribbons of ivory.

If Antonio has a signature, it lies in his rooty, cellar-caged manipulation of tooth and clawed asshole disturbance. I once said he was a dangerous perfumer. I stand by that, albeit in the dark and blindfolded. In Maai, Gardelia and MEM there is this fingered, grasping facet that emanates from his particular use of materials such as civet, castoreum, amber and indoles. Blended with the high doses of swooning erotic florals and claustrophobic herbs the Gardoni perfumed way is a one where there is always an expectancy of the perverse in the fading light. Yet the true beauty of Antonio’s work is realising any sense of tremulous perversity is to be found purely in the anticipation.    

I wanted in some ways to resist the pull of MEM, I wasn’t really in the mood for something this complex and to be honest burning with lavender insistence, I found it hard to resist. After three or more hours the torn herbal Prince-ness of it has rendered down to those base growling, pelty reeks. Tiny shards of citrus somehow cling to the vestiges of lavender amid glorious seared woods, resins and a peculiar minted vanilla vibe that smells vegetal and vintage parfum at the same time.

A few people have asked me if Bogue is really skin perfumery or olfactive high art just to be admired? The answer is both. Antonio is a designer and architect; his approach to perfumery will be different to others, as will that of perfumer and photographer & musician Hans Hendley or perfumer & painter John Biebel. It is art if you believe so. Perfume is no different from any other medium, but it is a form of performance art that demands of you the wearer engagement in its show.


There is no doubt MEM, like my beloved Gardelia, OE, Cologne Reloaded and Maai are bold, committed odours that echo one another and yet feel like immense developments of themes within Gardoni themes. Even the hybrid monster mash of Cadavre Exquis, a rather brilliant collaboration with San Francisco-based perfumer Bruno Fazzolari inspired by the famous surrealist drinking game of creating sentences and text of mismatched random words had that distinctive Gardoni civetty ylang tang at the heart of a slightly misfired, but still intriguing interpretation of the gourmand genre, a style neither perfumer had explored before. But boldness is to be lauded, wearing Bogue perfumes requires not bravery per se, but attitude, an awareness of olfactive aura that the air will vibrate around you and people may glare.

MEM interestingly ends as it begins, palindromic I guess, faded of course, but with the same hardcore intent of purpose it opened with. I am lavender. Hear me roar.

For more information on Antonio and Bogue Profumo, please follow the link below: 


14 November 2017

13 Nov 2017

Sunday, 29 October 2017

O Sylvan Sorceress I Know You Walk the Woods At Twilight: ‘Dryad’ by Papillon Perfumery

‘Lie still, lie still, O passionate heart, lie still!
O Melancholy, fold thy raven wing!
O sobbing Dryad, from thy hollow hill
Come not with such despondent answering!

(From ‘The Burden of Itys’ by Oscar Wilde)

Dryad is a pagan thing, rooty, foliate and spellbound, forged in the crucible of the New Forest, an ancient hunting ground stained with blood and druidic oblations, trees splashed with vital fluids offered up for prosperity, fertility, sex, weather, crop life and safety. This is where you will find Liz Moores one of the most artistic and talented perfumers currently working in contemporary perfumery. Like an increasingly small number of independent makers like Bruno Fazzolari, her good friend Antonio Gardoni, Mandy Aftel, Hans Hendley, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and John Biebel, Liz is responsible for everything in regards to her perfume house Papillon Perfumery, from the sourcing of materials, tincturing and filtering to filling samples, bottling, packaging and promotion.

Beautiful image of Dryad © Thomas Dunckley
@ Candy Perfume Boy

I think Dryad is the closest thing we will get to a confession from perfumer Liz Moores as to her true desirous state. A desire perhaps sometimes to walk out into her beloved forest and be swallowed up, consumed by the foliage, roots and buds. She is many things, sensual forest dweller, mother, wife, lover, voluptuary, businesswoman, realist, role model, fierce friend and emotive animal whisperer. Owls, rabbits, cats, dogs, pythons and I imagine anything really with wings, claws and fangs falls under the enchantment of Liz Moores.

Liz 'Dryad' Moores 

I have loved Liz’s work from the first moment I smelled Tobacco Rose, her third Papillon creation launched in 2014. The unfolding of rosaceous wax and carmine excretions mesmerised me. Anubis her precious first creation was a startling and passionate debut, a perfume imbued with something intangible, a purity of intent, yet oozing oriental sensuality and an aura of hard graft and accomplishment. But that thrashed rose smelled like bloodstained skies studded with pollen-weary bee stars. My bottle has simmered in the darkness of my study and has become more waxen and lipsticked. Not polite glossy lipstick, but that sanguine overkill dragged off with the back of a hand in the glare of a neon club bathroom as walls sweat and bounce.   

Foxy's Tobacco Rose (Image©TSF) 

Then came Salome, the candlelit disturbance, whispering words of persuasive pornography. A unsettling hit for Liz, redolent of private, urgent sex and things deemed to too daring to share outside a shattered bedroom. At times it seemed too too genital, too rutting to flout in public places. Yet something in Salome clicked in so many of us, that animalic sliver of us that always denies watching porn or potentially cheating on lovers. It is one of the few seriously erotic perfumes made in the last twenty years. The trick is that each of us feels immensely special in it, as if Liz had created something bespoke and confidential that we alone can revel in.

Wearing it is an amazing experience, you feel blood stained and adorned in ruby fire. Flashes of gold and crimson come and go like pieces of impasto paint buried in chiaroscuro shadows. A film that had a huge impact on me when I first saw it many years ago was Les Amants de Pont Neuf, the hugely controversial French film by Leo Carax starring Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant. Binoche is Michèle, a painter, suffering from a degenerative condition that means she may lose her sight seeks refuge on the Pont Neuf with vagrant and wannabe circus performer Alex, a fragile and needy young who contrives to keep Michèle with him as her condition deteriorates. It is a powerful film about love and what we do for its excessive demands.

The Louvre scene in Les Amants de Pont Neuf

It is also Carax’s love letter to both Binoche and Paris. There is the most tender and emotional scene where an older vagrant called Hans breaks into the Louvre at night with Michèle whose eyesight at this point is incredibly restricted. He leads her through the galleries and with candlelight she examines works by Géricault and Rembrandt. The reason I mention this scene is because the effects of that moment, the guttering candle flame, the emotional response to the high art reflecting back in full chiaroscuro gold-shadow flicker, the red Louvre gallery walls; all these things coalesce into Salome. I came across an online selection of stills from this scene; they felt like a Salome mood board.

When I reviewed Salome for the blog I used a favourite painting by Gustav Moreau of the legendary temptress pointing to John the Baptist’s severed haloed head, floating in mid air, his blood falling to the ground like rubies. It is a shocking image, even now; there is a lascivious come hither or pride in the horror of such sanguine presentation. As with so much of Moreau’s work, the canvas is embellished in decadent, reflective detail, layers of erotic subterfuge in a painting of immense power. The Salomé legend has been played to death and has lost its power to engage us. But the Moreau image reminds us that a beautiful and dangerous woman lured an innocent man to his death and delivered up his head to a king. Liz’s unsettling perfume in its own perturbing way reminds us that not all perfumery is pretty and doll-like. Her Salome is for women (and brave men…) who are fearless in their processes, unafraid to walk the streets with skin anointed in dirty, fabulous hyrax & styrax juice.

Foxy's Salome...(Image©TSF)

Liz and I message back and forth from time to time and chat on the phone; I feel like I’ve known her forever. I’m not sharing private conversations; needless to say, we laugh a lot, curse a lot. We have a lot in common personality-wise and Liz has been solicitous and supportive during my periods of illness, stress and writers block, managing to be understanding and insightful but hilarious and not at all sentimental. This amazing mix of down to earthy conviviality, maternal ferocity, pride and self-depreciation is an alluring mix.

Her Instagram is a beautiful and honest mix of daily life at Papillon HQ, i.e. chez Liz, flowers, animals, kids, food and sensational indie perfume formulation, tincturing, filtering and compounding. These glimpses are a unique reflection of a woman working incredibly hard at her passion for perfumery but making it very clear there are also much more important things in life. This slight outsider status and reluctance to play the traditional role expected of a woman perfumer makes me love her even more. When she started out, she even had to struggle to establish the fact she was actually the perfumer; such is the nature of rumour mongering amid the perfume set.

I empathise with this mind set. I have been told a lot over the years that I will never be a successful blogger if I don’t this and that or that I am considered aloof and arrogant. What these kinds of people forget is that I don’t care. I am not important. The words are. The juice is. The creators I write about are. I use avatars and pseudonyms for a reason; I don’t want anyone to know who I am essentially. Each to their own, some folk are just amazing at it, natural and charming with an unaffected way of chatting. I feel ill at the thought of seeing or listening to myself.

So Liz settled in her forested glade away from the perfumed circus and feels empowered by the union of nature, home and family she has created. She is a natural empath, someone with a sense of nurture; it is hard not to be attracted to her light. As a result I think she tires easily, caring, giving, managing a beautiful menagerie of animals and people is exhausting and not always fun. Her refuge lies in silence and solitude, time taken away from the little people as she refers to handsome fearless Rowan and squishy baby Daisy, rugged hubby Simon and the beautiful dark girls, Poppy and Lily, like 30’s movie stars. The eldest, flame-haired wild-child Jasmine has moved out and I imagine intends to wreak wicked sexy havoc on the world in her own unique Bonnie & Clyde way with Jack, her loyal bearded love. You will note these kids weave a hex of floral enchantment around Liz, their names a litany of blooms and plants, as if chosen deliberately as a bouquet of safety and familial protection. 

Liz & Perry (dryad tint by TSF)

The other great love of her life is Perry, a bold proud horse she adores. In the photos she posts of woman and steed, there is palpable fire. He is her equine sanctuary and I’m sure like any other confessor he will hear her worries and secrets, yet of course remain loyally steadfast and true.

Liz requires a certain degree of solitude in order to create her perfumes. The way she works from raw material to bottle requires a certain isolation. It is not a team sport. Her perfumery is passion and refuge, but like everything in life, it really is a question of timing, mood and inspiration. My friend Mr E. at Jorum Laboratories, like me is up at dawn, working on his formulae all day, calibrating, editing his own work and briefs for clients. It’s all he does, we message back and forth as I write and he builds his fragrant world around himself. His dedication is both inspiring and comforting to me. Everyone is different. I get terrible writer’s block and just stop, simply unable to find words for anything. This is happening more and more recently and is seriously hampering my work.  

Liz takes time with the Papillon perfumes, they are personal things and each one is a reflective facet of Elizabeth Moores, Perfumer, Mother, Lover, Realist, Sensualist and Priestess. The gestation of the perfumes demonstrates a perfumer in search of self amid the self-created noise of Casa Papillon. It is almost as if she needs joyous discord and a certain level of tolerated chaos in order to work against it.

I’ve mentioned before in essays that Liz is pretty unique in the indie perfume world anyway in the way she uses media, Facebook and Instagram to promote herself and Papillon. From early I think it became obvious that the two were probably going to be indivisible and she was not going to be able to hide. The kind of overt sensuality in her perfumery was always going to demand some sort of figurehead and of course you couldn’t find anyone one more perfect than Liz Moores to embody her own olfaction. That’s you get when someone puts mind, body and soul into their work.

She shares evocative parts of her creative process, tincturing, filtering, raw materials, compounding, bottling, labelling, boxing and the tedious but necessary task of filling sample vials. I’m not sure many people buying her perfume have any real idea how precarious the life of an independent perfumer actually is, especially when they control all their costs and are responsible for all stages of the process from A to Z. Allied to this is the rising costs of certain key raw materials such as vanilla and rose to name but two and the obvious struggle with niche/indie/artisan definition that has now become a kind of battleground with high street and luxe names kicking around in the same playground. It’s not something that will make you a millionaire; it’s something pursued for love.

Oak Tree Diptych
(original image Vacherie Alley Plantation)

You can feel the dedication in the organic warp and weft of Liz’s scent weaving. I sense the same emotional textures in the work of Hans Hendley, John Biebel at January Scent Project, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Mandy Aftel, Hiram Green, Antonio Gardoni at Bogue Profumo, Dana el Masri at Parfums Jazmin Seraï, Maria McElroy at Aroma M, John Pegg at Kerosene and the reclusive alchemist Josh Lobb at Slumberhouse, all indie creators making deeply personal olfactive work that has difference because these guys have controlled everything from idea to bottle. Each piece of the process has been owned by them; they are invested in the aromatic machinations.

As an essayist who has generally specialised in essays in indie and artisanal perfumery, it is this olfactive intimacy that draws me in over and over again. I like feeling connected to the storytelling, creative artistry and the makers themselves; their imprint and emotional proximity to the materials is thrilling to me as a writer. This aspect of the olfactive craft is barely discernible in the larger more commercial markets and understandably so, they are compelled constantly to create big winners, perfumes that will make money, successfully flanker existing fragrances or riff off existing trends. Even the ever-burgeoning crazy world of haut-luxe niche where brands toy with the concept of individualism whereas in fact they are no more no less interesting than the plethora of counter fragrances that we can all readily access. The only real difference is maddening packaging, glossy PR and a narcissistic preoccupation with appearances.

Beautiful image of Dryad © Thomas Dunckley
@ Candy Perfume Boy

With Liz’s generous and detailed work, I feel I have always worn something personal, forged in a place of love and nurtured acceptance. Salome was the apogee of fevered desire, Tobacco Rose, the song of abandoned love, fierce and wild, but driven beyond endurance. Angélique an olfactive whisper in an empty house full of memories. Anubis was that rare thing, a private and vast swathe of oriental styling that laid down a beautiful statement of personal intent that has echoed down through her work. Dryad is a very different proposition from Liz, a profoundly personal statement by a perfumer at the peak of her daring, darling powers. I think it is the best work she has done.

Deer in Forest by Martin Friberg

Dryad is a haunting green mirror of sanctuary; both comfort and fate. A pagan thing, forged in the fertile crucible of Liz Moore’s protective forest. Echoing a time when the druids wove their mysteries in the shadows of sacred oak and mistletoe in eerie groves. Using sickle knives, blood and secret lore they called upon the very forest blood, its spirit to protect and them and vanquish foes.

The word dryad has its roots in Greek, drys referring to oak. Despite dryads being more specifically associated with oak trees, there were Meliae for ash trees, Oreads for mountain conifers, Karyai for hazelnut trees and Daphnaie for laurel trees to name but a few; over time the word dryad became the general word for a female tree spirit or guardian.  

Dryads bring harmony, light and a palpable sense of ease and balance to their arbours. Their role is to protect and cherish trees, be vigilant and obsessive through the many years of wood, sap, leaves, bark shedding and renewal. They share a singular devotion to the trees they love; their lifetimes can be hauntingly long and any human glimpses of them will seem strangely brief and eternal at the same time. Memories of beauty that cannot quite be defined yet seem indelible.  


In the midst of familial noise and the wonderful surround of the menagerie built around her, Liz is still drawn inexorably into the dendriform cathedral that surrounds her. I’ve noticed on her Insta feed an increase in the time she spends in tree-dappled light. Thinking time. Liz time. There is nothing more magical then the abandonment of self to a weather-gripped forest, be it sun-pierced, wind-shaken, rain-lashed or snow-silenced.

Liz has a favourite oak she visits and I wouldn’t be surprised if a beautiful dark-haired dryad was slumbering sinuously inside the tree, occasionally looking out at the world with sorrowful eyes as centuries roll by and people seem less feral. This connection Liz has to nature is not just a fad or something she does to pass the time between distillations, filtering and picking up the kids. She has always needed a certain measure of gathered time away from Casa Papillon in order to concentrate on her work. She is not a prolific perfumer; she doesn’t need to be, some artisanal makers are, some aren’t, it comes down to temperament and personal circumstances. The way you have your business/lab/perfume space set up is central to the way your business will organically evolve.

The (always) immaculately
manicured hands of Liz Moores 

Liz invests huge amounts of time and energy into strong themes that have developed into the singular canon of work she has launched so far. Of course she tinkers with other ideas and mods. All good perfumers do, it’s like sketching, filling notebooks with elegant sparse linework and taking it no further. A couple of years ago Liz announced the launch of White Moth, an ethereal composition based around tiare absolute. I tried an early mothy mod and what I sampled was amazing. However, it was very fleeting and the tiare felt unstable. Liz struggled to bend the material to her will and then White Moth was pinned to the wall and left for future pondering.

This isn’t unusual really; the creative process of an indie perfumer when you do everything from creating your won library of materials to bottling, labelling and packaging can be a fraught and often lonely one. I remember Liz telling me how crazy she got during the creation of Tobacco Rose; the rose absolutes were such a bitch to work with, she was shouting and throwing things. She actually ended up walking away from the Tobacco Rose edit for months. When she returned to it and smelled the shifts and profundity, things began to click and she started down the waxen petal-strewn path to the extraordinary perfume we have now.

Dryad X Oakmoss (from Berti Fernandez...)

Dryad is a bold and beautiful thing, full of green shocks and harrowed miasma. All of the Papillon launches, Anubis, Angelique, Tobacco Rose, Salome and now Dryad each have a taste of memento and vintage ornament to them. Liz is not a copier, her perfumes do not set out to recreate lost juices of the past as a number of other brands brazenly do (and deny it…) but Liz has deep reverence and love for classic perfumery as she should, as any perfumer should and pays homage to their ambered, powered and rosaceous phantoms as only she can. I like to think of it as a dirty echo, a way of reminiscing and alluding to the romantic uneasiness of the iconoclastic perfume landmarks. Yet still creating personal work that allows people to catch distant echoes of the scented past and still wear something that anchors them resolutely and sensually in the present day.

Despite my senses yelling GREEN!! my initial reaction each time to the puissant opening of Dryad is a sensation of gauzy apricots decaying softly amid wet grass and weary narcissi. An odd image I know, but if I sniff up close, this strange, slightly morbid tableau appears over and over, sometimes with clouds of powder-puff dust, sometimes without. Liz’s handling of the toxicant orpiment allure of narcissus and jonquil is quite shocking; for a moment it feels without boundary. Then it tightens like a noose around the other materials, bitter, vituperative and vigilant. 

The only other perfume I’ve smelled with this level of narcissus drama was Cristiano Canali’s swooning Romanza for Masque Milano in 2015. The indolic passive aggressive nature of narcissus is something I find tricky; I love it, crave it even. But part of me loathes it to, finding the high heady scream of buttered pollen just too much. In Dryad it has a delirious radiation that speaks of sunlight setting fire to white bedrooms with scattered clothes and sex-stained sheets.

Image © Kilian Schoenberger

There is a interestingly high gesture of citrus in the overture of Dryad; bigardier orange, cedrat and bergamot, scene setting, glittering like moon on night skin and in the case of the distinctive and textured bigardier, an ally in exalting and soothing the caprine chartreuse beauty of galbanum resin. Liz uses her materials in often-unexpected ways and Dryad is a complex, dense work. I have a few issues with the thyme and tarragon; they feel just a little overdosed to me, much as one might over tip the hand in cooking. The anisic bite of tarragon and shrubby thyme whilst obviously green and herbaceous just pull my attention away from that fascinating central galbanum thread.

Fern Dress by Catherine Latson

It’s a minor quibble and perhaps a flaw the composition arguably needs in order to justify the citric top and the viscous yellow detailing of narcissus and jonquil. As my mind finally caves into the greenery of Dryad, my repeat wearings brought me close to the delicious sueded verdigris scent of Deertongue in the base mixed with benjoin styrax and Peru balsam. These resins warm and rise through a mournful lavender that smells to my nose like so much talcum spilled on cold grey marble.

As with all of Liz’s intense creations they have the imprint of stagecraft, planned around meticulously fleshed out olfactive characters and dramatic odiferous situations. Intrinsic to drama is narrative and because her work and materials bear a maker’s mark at all stages, Liz, in many ways is her own narrative. Fragments of her DNA and persistent psychology enter the perfumes and imprint the process. If you consider the forest home a stage, it is populated by a cast of vibrantly alive human and animal players who come and go, laugh, eat, sleep, stay, grow, leave, fight, cry, get injured, heal, entertain, rebel and love, most importantly of all, love. A dangerous daughter gets tattooed and sails the seven seas, tiger cats have humbug babies, pythons have eerie white and yellow snakelets, owls are trained, roofers roof handsomely, surgery is had, a shoulder heals and fragrances gestate and slowly emerge. It is quite a show. But one with huge heart and fire.

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh
Image by Gabriel Nalepa

The backdrop is the eternal forest, an emerald, celandine, viridian, Brunswick, Hookers green place suffused with English luminescence and drunk on triumphant rain.

For many of us forests and trees are connective and emotive spaces that have an unquantifiable sense of power, an aura of chthonic vibration that elicits some unsettled response from us. Some people prefer wide-open spaces, finding forests and woods claustrophobic and menacing. I am someone who finds the eeriness and gnarled grasp, especially of old woods both intimidating and thrilling; the dappling altercation between shadow and sunlight, the sensation of aching root systems binding the earth beneath me, the enclosed nature of noise, bird-sound, leaf-fall, bark-stretch and sap-rush.

Liz & Ghost

Liz’s arboreal wanderings, solo or with Ghost her beloved owl are the reminder for me that she works in a very particular way. She is more connected to soil, weather and bloom than many of us, it radiates out of her complex perfumery. Salome and Tobacco Rose are provocative, evolving works on skin, with moments of dirty uncertainty and moody needful beauty. Anubis was her first perfume and still now the one that resonates the most for her; in many ways its odd clash of ambered heat and dry fickle spices echoes down through all of the creations in one form or another, a depiction of a sensual war in olfactive terms that perhaps reflects the reality of life for a woman who lives and works immersed in a naturally infused and beautifully chaotic life.

Dryad is the apotheosis of this; Liz’s way of communicating her fierce connection to the green surround that soothes, protects and pierces her. I wonder sometimes if she wanders amid her beloved oak trees listening to leaves twitch and bark stretch; does she yearn to step inside ancient trees and vanish quietly into sap, fibre, chlorophyll and roots? The intensity of the perfume suggests contemplative struggle and a complex gathering of emotions against this forested backdrop.

I have obviously been wearing Dryad a lot as I write this essay. There is a point about an hour in when something so beautiful unfolds; a sense of feral closeness, a perception of someone else soaked deeply in Dryad who holds me tight and won’t let go. It is an erotic dislocation played out by the costus, milky orris and ashes of smoky styrax. A genuinely startling moment of ghost-scent embedded in hair, warm neck and discarded underwear.

Image © Kilian Schoenberger

Dryad travels, well journeys really, there is a subtle difference. It’s not much to ask of a fragrance, but increasingly I find so much so much stuff laced with sulphurous tricks and brutal synth flower mimicry that my senses no longer register any genuine harmony and orchestral beauty. True composition is being left behind in the scramble for dull profit and glossy PR provocation. I’m aware that some perfumers believe that discordancy is a style and done correctly, understanding your chords and materials, opposites and complimentary on colour wheels, it can be exhilarating. However in my experience of sampling, collision and heavy-handed contrasting is best left to those with a very intensive knowledge of how materials interact.

Journeys are unpredictable and perfumery is no different. Dryad has vast complexity; I return to it over and over as one’s hand reaches out to an old tree to feel moss-clad bark, lichen and knots, caressing and imagining the created surface to Dryad of citrus and apothecary herbaceous protection that like Salome offers up something of a pagan shock to reveal below, a sap and chlorophyll boudoir ambush that takes hold and doesn’t let go.

Each time I wear Dryad I prepare for this bitter vegetal glitter that tendrils off the skin, the oakmoss a tangible inky fall and confrontation. You plunge into the forest’s embrace and dirty echoes of the past undone and flayed by Liz’s uncompromising attention to detail. The sensual flourish of bigarade, cedrat and bergamot that illuminates the opening is far more sophisticated than the usual by rote citric overture. The bittersweet and floral mingling of the citrus oils resonate far beyond expectancy, reaching for the orange blossom and lavender and gently casting glow on Dryad’s remarkable pagan heart, that union of narcissus, jonquil and mottled oakmoss.

Foxy's Séville à L'Aube (Image ©TSF)

Costus dirties and disturbs the beauty of things. It is a disruptive but compulsive guest at the assembled table. There is force and a kind of ugly magnificence. The rut beneath the façade. Remember Séville à L’Aube, Bertrand Duchaufour’s collaborative masterpiece with perfume expert and writer Denyse Beaulieu for L’Artisan Parfumeur? A scent that captures an instant of abandonment against a glittering indolic backdrop of religious Easter festivities in Séville. Two strangers fuck under an orange blossom tree, lost to carnal desire, devoid momentarily of reason and responsibility. The powerfully combined orange blossom, Luisieri lavender and oozing beeswax were erotically charged by the costus, suggesting raw skin, surface, scalp and hair, the image of two people so close as to be smelling each other’s ears, necks, hairlines and eyelashes.

In Dryad it is the unsettling presence in the forest drawing Liz toward a subconscious dissolving in the green-mulched silence. It lingers at the edges of her notes reminding us that perfumery despite its projected auras and acclamations of beauty can often perturb. I’m not sure how much of Dryad was deliberate isolation, but I know Liz battled its creation. It feels marked with interrupted intensity, which I think has imbued the curve and orbit of the perfume with beautiful doubt.

nightgreen (digital image ©TFS)

 If the drydown were a day, it is night in Dryad’s journey when the materials coalesce into glittering, powdered green. The skin glows like emerald fire. If you walked in the ancient oaken forest you would illuminate moths and bats, the carapaced things alive in damp leaf litter, perhaps the flit of moss and lichen shape-shifters as they flicker in the gloom beside their trees. This delicious sappy sweetness feels like a reward, just laced enough with a ripened apricot facet to still the green rush to balsamic, smoky fade.

As I often wrote late into the night I like to wear something to fall asleep in, or try to, a worrisome mind soothed by icy swathes of murmuring electronica or mournful soaring choral voices. I became quite preoccupied with Dryad; it was on pillows and t-shirts I slept in, on fragrance strips on my desk: I started smelling it everything. A phantom lover, asking me to lay my head in branches and let leaves cover my eyes.

Untitled (Bebe Marie) early 1940s
by Joseph Cornell

This is emotive exemplary aroma from a perfumer who chooses to work against herself in many ways. Refuge is sought in the clamour of family and the routine of animal husbandry. She is adored and loves in return. There is however a need for silence, a green, canopied wander that both calms the spirit and allows the traffic of the day to drop slowly away. Liz has increasingly withdrawn from the more conventional ways and mores of traditional perfumery making and the accompanying hype of PR, trade shows and societies. Is she losing sleep over it? I doubt it. Has she lost sales over it? Perhaps, but at the end of the day it is about personal integrity and knowing what you do has worth and moral weight.

Ultimately we return to the word dryad itself, the idea of a passionate, possessive tree guardian spirit who is bound by her nature to her oak tree or the trees that define her. The concept itself is loaded with double-edged notions of feminine force, bewitchment and mystery; but also of containment and tethering. The nymphs cannot stray far from their trees for fear of dying. They are bound to the woods, to a lifecycle of protective verdancy, witnesses to season upon season turning over like the pages of moss-stained manuscripts. There is sometimes think a sense of guilty war within Liz, the pull and friction of forested silence vs. the demands of gorgeous family and the demanding cycle of artisan perfumery.

Dryad is the green queen, the spirited surreptitious phantasm that has roamed around Elisabeth Moores, Mistress Perfumer for a while now, a whispering, compelling thing that has talked soft and low in leaf song for years, waiting to be made. There have been tiny flickers of it in the others, but with Dryad, she gives back not just to the forest that inspired her but also to herself, a gift of watchful sensuality and power, redolent with pagan hex, something a sylvan mistress might wear stepping through the veil from one world to another.

The final words on Dryad will be by Jasmine Moores, who wrote a sensual hymn to green and her mother as the perfume launched. This excerpt is beautiful... 

It is often lamented, the weight of my tongue?
Or the vetiver ash that rests in my lungs?
Wordless in woodlands, my senses can sing.
Sound is not needed
to speak from within.
I press soft flesh to bark in the evening's gold dusk,
to breathe hues of a satyr's musk.


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29 October 2017