One of my most memorable experiences was going spelunking. When I was in graduate school there was a nearby cave system and the school organized regular trips with appropriate professors to turn the adventure into a teachable experience. As we got deeper and deeper into the mountain there were so many sensorial experiences. For the first time I learned what dark was when we stood in one of the open galleries and turned off our headlamps. It seemed like it carries weight and motion. A black light showed us the veins of minerals running through what seemed monolithic stone. The final experience was walking into a wide-open field of limestone stalactites. The elongated hazards of every movie which ends up in a cave were all slowly dripping water into a pool underneath. Each drop was saturated with the limestone making it look like a pond of milk. When we emerged hours later back into the light the intensity of it all remained. Stora Skuggan Moonmilk is inspired by those milky stalactites and provides its own intense experience.
With its first two releases the brand was alternatively amateurish and intriguing; Silphium being the latter. With Moonmilk as the third data point I was wondering which face I would see. It turns out it is sort of in between as the early going feels amateurish before perfumer Tomas Hempel uses a firmer creative hand to outline the contours of his cavern.
The opening of Moonmilk is a grating lime and black tea accord which set my teeth on edge. It is made slightly worse as black pepper adds even more irritating screechiness. It is like having to squeeze into a very narrow crack scraping your skin along the wall. Once you get past it what is left is inspirational. This cave is an overdose of sandalwood. Mr. Hempel uses this as the basis to construct the rest of the fragrance upon. As I look towards the entrance a last breeze of fresh air comes in the presence of cardamom. Then in what really makes Moonmilk stand out Mr. Hempel uses lily-of-the-valley as the predominant contrast to the creamy wood. All my previous annoyance is soothed by this combination. As we go deeper, leather provides the animalic sense of darkness. Because of the high concentration of sandalwood it never rises to equality it provides the same kind of detail as the lily-of-the-valley.
Moonmilk has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Moonmilk is a 90% fabulous sandalwood perfume if there was anyway I could spelunk my way past the opening I would do it every time. Others may not find it as off-putting as I did. What I am urging is to make sure you work your way into this sandalwood cave there is a lot to see once you’re inside.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample I purchased.
When I receive the first fragrances from a new brand it is always a bit like putting my hand in a grab bag. Most of the time as I reach in blindly the shapes are familiar to my hand. What I eventually come to perceive in the light of day is something which is a traditional kind of perfume. Then there are the times where I’m almost afraid to clutch too hard because I can feel the protruding spines. What comes of that is invariably unique but sometimes shows the rough edges of self-taught perfumers. Trying the two releases from Swedish brand Stora Skuggan was this kind of experience for me.
Stora Skuggan was founded by Tomas Hempel and Olle Hemmendorff in 2015 out of a shared passion for fragrance. Over time they would learn that quality raw materials were more likely to lead to better perfumes. One corollary to this is too many notes make for a cacophony. Their first release, Fantome de Maules, is a victim of this. Too often a self-taught perfumer decides the idea to make their composition better is more; usually it’s not. In Fantome de Maules if they had gone in a different direction and tried to streamline down to the basics this could have been a much more focused and better perfume. After that when I moved to the second fragrance, Silphium, my expectations were lowered a bit. Except in this case they had a much more clear-eyed creative direction which resulted in a much-improved final product.
Silphium is the name of a plant used by Ancient Greeks as a medicinal herb, spice, or perfume ingredient. For the fragrance based on the name Mr. Hempel and Mr. Hemmendorff focus on creating a very green fragrance which captures both the medicinal and the spicy.
Silphium starts very green with a mixture of green notes for what the perfumers describe as a “silphium accord” which is supported by a large amount of labdanum. The overall effect is that of an herbal poultice being prepared by an Ancient Greek physician. Geranium is used to tune the green into something a little less stridently sharp while cinnamon, clove, and ginger take the fragrance in to the spicy realm without ever giving up that herbal quality from the opening. It makes this feel like the same Ancient Greek was now using it as something with which to marinade his lamb in. The perfumers use a base of cedar and frankincense. The sharp green woodiness of the cedar along with the silvery facets of the incense provide a nice finish.
Silphium has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Silphium is a perfume for those who enjoy green perfumes. The journey from medicinal to savory with the herbal nucleus is beautifully realized. As Mr. Hempel and Mr. Hemmendorff learn more through their experiences I hope for more like Silphium in the future.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.