Growing up in South Florida I spent a lot of time on boats as the captain. Powered by wind or by engine one of the most important things about steering a boat is understanding the conditions you are in. When I would set out into the Gulf of Mexico from our Florida Keys house the water was as blue as the sky on clear day. Shallower water meant less surprises from the waves and water beneath the hull. When I would head out into the Atlantic Ocean it was dramatically different. The water carried a deep dark blue color to it as the depth of it increased the further out I ventured. Once out of sight of land the swells carried the contained power of all that depth underneath. They could buck me off in a moment if I wasn’t alert to it. Despite that there was always an exhilaration to be out in the deep ocean on a sunny day. Just looking in to the dark blue water was mesmerizing. I would surmise Leo Crabtree the owner and creative director of Beaufort London has also spent time on the ocean in that same sense of engagement because his latest release Fathom V seems to capture that moment.
The Beaufort London line has been subtitled the “Hell or High Water” collection of which Fathom V is the fifth release. The title actually comes from a portion of “Ariel’s Song” from William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”. Despite the bibliographic reference my experience with Fathom V calls up dark depths. Perfumers Julie Dunkley and Julie Marlow have fashioned an unusual dark aquatic.
The opening eschews the usual ozonic sea spray accord for one that evokes the ocean depths. The perfumers combine fig leaf, blackcurrant, and “earthy notes”. The latter is more of a damp soil accord but that provides the watery part. The fig leaf and blackcurrant combine for a green chord to lay on top. The green intensifies as thyme, cumin, black pepper and galbanum lead to a green lily. For the base accord the perfumers dive deeply as patchouli recapitulates the earthy notes from the beginning. Vetiver and moss do the same to the thread of green. A very prominent salt accord reminded me this was the deep seas I was sailing upon.
Fathom V has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
The five fragrances to date from Beaufort London have shown a marked willingness to stay true to Mr. Crabtree’s vision without compromising. Fathom V could have been another insipid aquatic if he was that kind of creative director. Instead he has continued to work outside the conventional. Fathom V is an example of the promise that can be found in even the most overexposed fragrance styles if you are unafraid to set sail for the open ocean.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Beaufort London at Tranoi Parfums NY 2016.
When I tried the first three releases from Beaufort London I admired creative director Leo Crabtree’s adherence to his brand’s story. As part of the “Come Hell or High Water” collection he used his three initial releases to explore the naval life when wind powered the ships and exploration was part of the mission of a British naval ship. Since I reviewed East India earlier in the year it has been re-named Vi et Armis. 1805 has also been re-named to Tonnerre. These were very specific milieus of the ship going experience without compromise. There are few creative directors who would steer so faithful a course. The first three dealt with the cargoes, the ink, and the warfare found onboard these ships. The fourth release Lignum Vitae touches on the exploration these ships did while out on the ocean.
We’ve seen the scene captured on video many times of a great sailing ship anchored in a cove as a landing party rows towards shore. As a watcher we wonder what they will find knowing something will be there to provide conflict. In reality these landing parties more often found a new source of hardwoods or spices without something emerging from the jungle to surprise them. One of the things found during one of these trips was the wood lignum vitae (wood of life). It is the densest hardwood known to be traded. The other naval connection is clockmaker John Harrison was able to replace the metal gears of his clocks with lignum vitae versions which allowed the first marine chronometers to be brought aboard ship without the salt spray corroding the metal. The fragrance represents that first landing party on the beach looking at this new hardwood.
Mr. Crabtree has been working with the same team of perfumers for all four releases to date; Julie Dunkley and Julie Marlow. Together they definitely seem to have an underlying understanding of what they are trying to create with each of these perfumes. They made some really interesting choices to capture that unknown land vibe they seemingly wanted to achieve.
Lignum Vitae opens with the smell of that sea spray as you are rowing to shore. A citrus mélange provides a facsimile of the sun overhead. Once you reach the shore you look into the jungle and you are greeted with this overripe sweet fecund vegetation accord. The perfumers used an ingenious set of notes to convey this; black pepper, ginger, baie rose, and juniper berry are part of it. The next two notes surprisingly are what stitch it all together; caramel and madeleine cake accord. The sweetness of the caramel is kept as a support but the cake accord adds that yeasty bread-y nature of wild foliage. This is an excellently balanced opening stanza. The heart gets a little more literal with a mixture of oud, vetiver and guaiac providing the lignum vitae tree itself. Lignum vitae is a member of the guaiacum species so using that note is appropriate. After the work team has felled the tree the final phase of development is the transport back to the beach. For this the perfumers use moss to represent the crushing of the jungle as the trunk is dragged through it. There is a lot of animalic musks to create the sweaty exertion. Finally, there is a mineralic sand accord as the sailors collapse on the beach with their efforts.
Lignum Vitae has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
When it comes to this brand I find it is the times when it is focused on the exploration and commerce it is most appealing to me. Lignum Vitae is right next to Vi et Armis as my favorite.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.