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

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Beguiling Vice: ‘Salome’ by Papillon Perfumery

“The long black nights, when the moon hides her face, when the stars are afraid, are not so black. The silence that dwells in the forest is not so black. There is nothing in the world so black as thy hair.”

Oscar Wilde ‘Salome’

A year ago, Liz Moores launched Papillon Perfumery with three extraordinary fragrances, Anubis, Angelique and my beloved sluttish Tobacco Rose. Blended with masterly and sensual precision it was almost impossible to imagine how she had pulled off such a feat of smooth and decadent engineering. Then I had the pleasure of getting to know her through social media, messages, e-mails and electronic chatting. Liz is a very canny user of social media, she is genuinely delicious and honest, fun and deadly serious about what she does. She is her brand, Papillon is Liz, the two are savagely, sexily and magnificently inseparable.
Liz Moores, perfumer. 

Liz’s approach to her scented work is deeply committed and tempestuous. I love the meld of earned graft, home-school aromachemistry and drama she brings to the mixing table. She is a perfectionist with a lovely ability to still acknowledge the eroticism of flaws, she uses the multifarious facets of her charming and layered personality to bear dramatically on the materials and techniques she requires to render her ideas redolent with biography and brio.

She worked insanely hard to get to the point last year when she was ready to launch Anubis, Angelique and Tobacco Rose. Along the way there has been much stress and heartache, temper tantrums, hurling of formulae, diva hissy fits, packaging issues, endless modifications, tears, lot of smoking and vino (hahahaha…) but also much love and support from her ridiculously gorgeous family, daughters Poppy, Lily and Jasmine, son Rowan, cute as a button baby Daisy and dashing hubby Simon. This tight skein of love and coalition from her floral-monikered kids, spouse and the astonishing menagerie of animals that surrounds her in the new forest where she is carefully secluded away has allowed Liz to fulfil many roles all which had fed into her fiercely beautiful work. Mother, artist, perfumer, sensualist, free spirit, friend, bitch, queen, voodoo temptress, lover and glorious generous woman.

Liz & Phanta the ghostly python

The wrapped surround of trees, her semi-wild garden, horses, cats, pythons (including a singular marble toned albino one called Phanta) and owls seems to lend Liz a curious sense of chthonic, oracular, priestess. Ok, one that swears like a docker maybe, but she is profoundly grounded in her details and preoccupations. As I’ve gotten to know her better and we have chatted about different things; her powerful kindnesses and unerring sense of reality and belief in kinship have made me value her friendship like the rarest orchid in the last glasshouse at the edge of the world.

I met Liz through Twitter after a friend gave me samples of her work with me. I contacted her and she sent me more samples. As I said earlier, Liz is great on Twitter and Instagram, a lovely mix of personal and industry stuff, mingled to demonstrate her particular reflections on the perfume business. I sensed a driving combination of vitality, vice and ambition that I felt drawn to. I knew the fragrances were inherently a reflection of Liz herself, the different facets of her complex vibrancy poured into a collection of reflective and powerful aromas.

Liz & lippy..

While she has the kind of beauty that burns like a lantern in a window drawing the lovesick homeward, you can sense splashes of darkness. It can be felt in the gathering of floral and fauna around her; she needs contact with the elementals in order to create. Yes, there are flashes of urbanity, but Liz Moores is a woman of earth, seed, stem and storm. I recognise a fellow reckless lover and consumer of life. All or nothing. Age tempers us, not completely, but enough I guess to channel the potential recklessness into something more productive.

Wilde's 'Salome' illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley

I don’t think the choice of Salome as a name is accidental, even on a subconscious level; the multitude of myths and interpretations is wide and colourful. Salome is not actually named in biblical sources and there are conflicting and contested opinions as to her various methods and intent.

Nadja Michael as Richard Strauss' 'Salome' in David McVicar's
2008 production, Covent Garden

Whatever the reality and actuality of Salome’s truths, her binding dance for Herod Aptias and the demand for John the Baptist’s head have proved dark and fertile inspiration for artists and writers throughout the history of western art. The lure and power of Salome is the dichotomy of desire and lust vs innocence and sacrifice. A woman must use her veiled charms to arrest and mesmerise an enemy in order to achieve her aims. This is a perfect metaphor of beguilement and lends itself beautifully to Liz Moore’s corporeal relationship with her olfactive palette.

The superlative blending of her work is due partly I think to hard graft and years of instinctual attention to detail, but also I believe to Liz’s inherent comprehension for robing flesh in aromas that enhance our desirability. She is after all a woman of immense sensual presence and charm, unafraid to ally her own personality with her oeuvre.  

Salome is a mirror of its maker, a weapon if you like of controlled seduction. The variations of the Salome myth are legion but the most important message is the erosion and challenge of traditional masculine tropes - kingship, sword, and patriarchy with feminine subterfuge, music, dance, skin and sex. My favourite rendition of the Salome story has always been L’Apparition by the French symbolist artist Gustav Moreau, painted between 1874-76. I went to the Musée D’Orsay in Paris some years ago expressly to see Moreau’s dazzling pastels. They were displayed in a very low light in a contagiously claustrophobic room. The works glittered like vibrant coral and anemone in a shocking blue sea.

'L'Apparition' by Gustav Moreau 
L’Apparition portrays Salome encrusted in jewels like armour, her skin pale and erotic, barely covered by her precious stones, gold and silken threads. She stands in Herod Antipas’ court, her demeanour a defiant stance of sensual icon and powerful enchantress as she seemingly conjures out of thin air a horrific image of John the Baptist’s head, halo-wrapped, eyes wide and staring, neck trailing tendrils of blood like red velvet ribbons. It is an image of extraordinary power, all the more so for the fact that none of the painting’s protagonists seem aware of the floating horror head. Herod seems lost in reverie, a musician and seer staring out at us, frozen in the moment of butchered holy light. Salome herself looks beyond the light, face down, arm outstretched as if caught in the moment of terrible conjuring. Yet her foot is ballet-poised, deliberate, turned to catch the eye of the beholder. Salome is enchantress, witch, sibyl, innocent and whore. Moreau was one of the greatest of all symbolist artists, his world littered with ethereal necrophilia, sadism and morbid glittering imaginings.

L’Apparation is a highly decorative work of pornographic embellishment and conjured texture. Once seen, it cannot be unseen, Moreau’s bold melding of erotic intent, metaphor and chromatic intensity is hard to shake off. He revisited the theme of Salome a number of times throughout his career, but nothing ever really matched the power and effect of this singular work of art.

For me, it is this darkness and ambiguous feminine rage that defines the Salome myth, the bewitching shift back and forth between temptress, mother, virgin and reckless whore. With her new carnal and enslaving scent, Liz Moores has made a pelt of sensual persuasion that we ache to wear. It is mucky and salacious, an immoral funk of jasmine, orange blossom and patchouli lording over the battered senses with sneering porny majesty.  

Liz allowed me the privilege a few months back to sample an earlier mod of Salome. I evaluated it blind; it allows me to formulate my landscapes without the distractions of olfactory maps. I had a sample too of White Moth, a stunning white floral of delicate tiare absolute, beeswax and jasmine with immense ghostly transparency that Liz was battling to balance and harmonise. That was due this year, but will now launch next in 2016, allowing Liz time to breathe and re-design, re-love her haunted bleached ode to night wing and pale bloom.

My original notes opened with:

‘Mod I Leather Floral (….Tack, Lash & Bracken..)

Opens with intent to beguile. Big visceral opening salvo of verdigris leather and mildew bloom.

Can already sense a depth, a rutting smear of animalic (hyraceum..?)in the low bass/base.. I like the pungent verdancy, the vegetal asparagus tone running over copper and mossy stone…..The dampness, the hint of aristocracy and smutty forbidden you have embedded in its code?..

Jan 2015.


I was aware then how much I loved the imminent drag of Diorling and Caron mousse de saxe style of leathered weather, skins buried and marked by countless forest mammals. Reading the notes now, I love that Liz has used carnation, a much neglected bloom, sullied by its garage forecourt and bucket reputation, which used correctly with bravado can be both slut and debutante. The seductive haze of druggy eugenol can sometimes be overpowering and a tad whorish, but in Salome it has been allied to a blistering Turkish rose and burnished patchouli that allow the much maligned dianthus caryphyllus to glitter like blushing lanterns.

Hello Mr Hyrax
This boudoir Wildean reek of carnation lends a perturbing pallor to the early vampiric stages of Salome, a dusty, throat-catching grapple that rises again and again to chime with the styrax in the swelling base. There is a knowing lilt of depravity in the mix, a carnal star. This is hyraceum or African Stone as it sometimes rather euphemistically called. The odour even in trace amounts is pretty unmistakable, faecal, urinous, queer and confrontational. Only someone truly liberated in the art of not giving a fuck could hunker down and relish the abandonment of hyraceum is such a blatant dosage as this.

The substance itself is fascinating; Liz very kindly sent a decant of hyraceum absolute at 10% dilution to Mr E and myself, saying it smelled like pissy fox fur. Ha! How could I resist? Hyraceum comes from the Cape hyrax (Procaria Capensis) a bizarre, rubber-footed, tiny-tusked rock-dwelling native of African drier regions. Its little oddball tusks are the only indication of its distant connection to its nearest mammal relation the elephant. Their odd little feet are rubbery and designed in such a way to ensure they can cling brilliantly to rocks and twist and turn to outrun predators.

Over time, family groups of Hyraxes urinate and defecate in the same collective midden. Over time this petrifies and then this über-weird night-black stuff is excavated and tinctured in perfumers alcohol. How we got to his stage is anyone’s guess but the effect of hyraceum on scent is unparalleled. (Last year’s magnificent Tango by Cécile Zarokian for Masque Milano had the most gratifyingly charismatic howl of hyraceum mixed with jasmine, cedar, cumin and Turkish rose.)

It lends an addictive feral underpinning to scents, an odour of piss on hot mucky fur that may sound unsettling on paper but in epidermal actuality has the tug of forbidden sexual desire. It can have dry tobacco facets and an earthy sweet compost bloom of its own. I think it is a key component to Liz’s sensual building of Salome, the furry scat skank hints at the dangerous seduction beneath the innocent apparel. This is scent as challenge, as weapon.

Salome’s rose is smeared in the African Stone, the effect is that striking, petals furred and avant-garde. There is something a little unwholesome in Salome, but surely that is the point, Moreau’s bejewelled monster was salacious, conjuring up her bloody head, suspended like a glittering terrifying star for all to see. Salome has magnificent tonality and develops very carefully into a lingering leather chypré with echoes of rutting vintage Diorling and the original un-violated Mitsouko. Tendrils of old fumy Caron formulations whisper around the edges too, hints of Tabac Blond and Nuit de Noel, phantom echoes across time to suggest reverence and acknowledgement of technique.

Siegfried Enkelman (1905-1978)
Lydia Wieser in the 'Dance of the Seven Veils 1954

As I drift around the apartment in Salome, I detect a curious briny effect on my skin, bright and textured that helps support the sticky indolic slide of the central floral section into the fearless animalic base. Liz is a woman reflected in this febrile vocation, her menagerie of animals, her fierce love of family and friends, her beauty, non-negotiable passions and allure all mirrored subconsciously in Salome, an external projection of her emotional reactions to herself, her critics and her olfactive development since she first decided to become a parfumeuse.

The original trio are of course exceptional and it’s hard to imagine they’ve only been with us for just over a year. But Salome is a portrait of the perfumer as woman, wanton, desired, powerful, alchemist and siren. The capricious layers of classicism and dirty modernity capture the unique essence of Liz Moores’ talent, an ability to beguile with watchful spirit and masterful bending producing unashamedly sensual formulae that quite simply transform skin into gilded, alluring art.

It was always going to be a tough ask to follow her debut scents, they have been so successful and Liz’s fans are violently loyal. The tapestry of Liz’s social media is stitched and embroidered with colourful, passionate posts and messages of support, reviews and feedback on her work. People seem to live her perfumes, feel the vitality and graft that has been poured into every bottle. Salome is luscious, dark alchemy, reeking of sullied retro years and bold seduction. Overtly and unashamedly animalic, it has a true understanding of coy versus want, that eternal struggle within us all to remain pure and good, but secretly we crave loss, abandonment, disarray and the gratification of sexual control.

Now, all we need do is close our eyes and inhale. 

For more info on Papillon Perfumery, click on the link below:

Fuck-me heels... obvs..

Disclosure - Samples of 'Salome' kindly provided by Papillon Perfumery & photos of Liz used by kind permission of Liz Moores, (apped by Foxy..).

©The Silver Fox

21 July 2105

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