I have a hypothesis about artisanal perfumers. I believe they would be much better if they had someone who would give them honest advice. I know many reach out to friends and customers but these aren’t necessarily impartial. I receive perfumes from artisanal creators who can’t stop altering them. In rare cases, I’ve received six different supposedly finished versions. It is hard to work by yourself which makes it easy for doubts to creep in. This can lead to that dilemma of the perfume being never quite finished in the perfumer’s mind. There is one brand which is helping to show that the best artisanal perfumers given creative direction and evaluation can have a positive impact; Zoologist Perfumes.
Victor Wong is the owner and creative director of the brand. In two years, over eight perfumes he has worked with six different artisanal perfumers. In every case the collaboration has produced some of the best work from each of the perfumers. With perfumer Shelley Waddington he first collaborated with her on Hummingbird released late in 2015. In that perfume, there was a real extension of Ms. Waddington’s facility with bright florals and luscious fruity notes. Now they have re-united for the latest release, Civet.
Ms. Waddington really blossomed as a perfumer in 2013 and has continued to improve since then. One particular standout for me was a trio of perfumes she released, under her EnVoyage Perfumes brand, called “Souvenir de Chocolate” in which she combined gourmand effects on top of vintage accords. There was one called Café Cacao where she paired ambergris and musk with coffee and chocolate. For Civet, the pairing of animalic and gourmand is explored again plus a blowsy tuberose also joins the fun.
The early moments of Civet are a judicious dusting of black pepper and tarragon over a fizzy set of citrus notes of lemon and orange. The spices are what move towards the heart allowing carnation to use its natural clove character to transport them towards the tuberose waiting there. This is tuberose in all of its glory. Which means it is intense it also means it is creamy with a camphoraceous grace note that if you love the classic vintage tuberoses it will remind you of that. Ms. Waddington skillfully surrounds the tuberose with a host of other florals to provide depth and texture to the overall effect. The coffee comes next and it is a plusher version of the note than I normally encounter. What has this softening effect is the synthetic version of civet oil, civettone. There are a group of perfume ingredients which only become pleasant in high dilution; civetone is one of them. The high dilution also helps in allowing the coffee to stand up to the stronger animalic nature of the synthetic civet. The tuberose is also still here and this is where Civet is finally complete as the tuberose, coffee, and civet form a complete accord. The remainder of Civet is a chypre accord comprised of leather, vetiver, oakmoss, and labdanum. If you’re a chypre lover this is not a perfume which I would primarily call it a chypre. It certainly ends there but it is the trio at the heart which give Civet its true voice.
Civet has 24-hour longevity and huge sillage. This is a powerhouse in every way that term is used in perfumery.
I imagine the effort Ms. Waddington and Mr. Wong put in to get this just right was prodigious. It shows in the final product. Civet is the best perfume of both of their careers to date. Which leads me back to my hypothesis. When two things come together you have to ask if they are additive, as in 3+3=6, or are they multiplicative, as in 3X3=9. Ideally the latter is what you are looking for. With Civet Mr. Wong and Ms. Waddington have multiplicatively created a spectacular perfume.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Zoologist Perfumes.