The way we all experience perfume is unique to each nose. We can agree that something smells like a rose. From there it might remind one of us as a cosmetic rose; another might see it as a fresh cut stem. The difference of perception is why one person’s holy grail fragrance is another’s scrubber. It also carries over when I hear from others about a perfume. I tend to have to battle through that to find my personal interpretation. This would be the situation with Blackbird Y06-S.
Blackbird is the Seattle, Washington-based brand owned and creatively directed by Nicole Miller. I have met Ms. Miller on a few occasions and one of the things which delights me about her is her fearlessness at producing perfume. Particularly over the last couple years, nothing which has the Blackbird label on the bottle is produced to be easy. Ms. Miller embraces an aesthetic which asks the wearer to confront their idea of what fragrance means to them. I also admire that Ms. Miller doesn’t feel the necessity to produce new product every few months.
Y06-S was released at the end of 2017, but it has taken six months to find its way to me. In my community of fellow perfume lovers, it has been one of the things I have been most asked about which I did not have the chance to try. The consensus description was it smells like bananas and skanky jasmine. Sounded like something I would like. When I received my sample a few weeks ago and sprayed some on a strip it was bananas and jasmine but that’s not what came up in my mind’s eye. Y06-S smells like my organic chemistry lab.
There is a reason for this disconnect. The organic molecule in banana oil is isopentyl acetate. Ms. Miller, as perfumer on Y06-S, uses a lot of this to produce her banana effect. For me it crosses from banana to chemical. This is not unpleasant in any way, but it is because I work with so many esters in a laboratory setting it is sort of the ambient sweet smell of a research lab. What is also the ambient scent of a laboratory is the heated electronics of the equipment. Ms. Miller wanted to use a metallic accord as contrast to the banana overdose. It achieves that but instead of contrast it completes the laboratory accord for my nose. The indole-laden skanky jasmine does come next. This will provide a floral complement to the strong fruit for most. For me the indoles are just more of the lab milieu. A figurative pinch of oud provides more of that as it amplifies the indoles over the floral in jasmine.
Y06-S has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Miller has continued the avant-garde aesthetic Blackbird is becoming synonymous with. Most others are going to smell a skanky banana; which it is. I just have a different view. Y06-S reminds me of happy days working in the lab. It is all a matter of perspective except that Ms. Miller is one of our most daring independent perfume producers.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Blackbird.