Modern Perfumery is predominantly about nice, pleasant smells. That is certainly what sells. Yet if perfume is an art form it can’t solely be about the pleasant. It also must examine some of the other odors which comprise the world. This is the place where independent perfumery represents a unique opportunity to evolve an entire art form. Freed of most commercial pressures an artist who wishes to go in this direction can go there. It still doesn’t happen that frequently. Even when it does it can get out of control easily. It is why when I received my sample set of Chronotope perfumes by independent perfumer Carter Weeks Maddox I became excited.
One thing I enjoyed about Mr. Maddox is his description of his perfumes. For Spite he says he was working on a vintage inspired rose which he couldn’t get to come together. In frustration he added high concentrations of two ingredients, one of which he says he hates.
First Spite is not a rose perfume. I don’t think there is any in the composition at all. What is there is orris and violet. These must have been the foundation of his vintage concept. The issue comes as orris has this powdery aspect and violet as used here has a watery quality. When you mix the two together you get clumps. Which is a bit how it begins. The florals cling to each other in an amorphous floral haze. The two ingredients he uses with wrath is an aromatic leather aromachemical and one of the maltol analogs for a burnt sugar effect. They break up the orris and violet into distinct parts as the leathery aromachemical wraps around the orris while the maltol picks up the violet. This creates a vibrant floral accord. It finishes on a sandalwood and incense foundation.
Spite has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Chronotope Buen Camino
Based on the description this was the perfume I expected to fall in love with. It was based on Mr. Maddox’s attempt to walk the 600-mile long Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. He would complete it but at a cost to his body of severely damaged feet. Buen Camino is based on this experience including the bandages.
It is with those damaged feet we begin. Mr. Maddox uses immortelle and lavender to recreate what the nun who treated him gave him to smell while she worked. In the perfume this is the dried-out versions of both. The herbal non-powdery lavender matched to the burnt earth immortelle. Underneath is an amtispetic accord which reminds me strongly of one called Bactine I used as a kid on my scrapes. It has a pleasant, sweet smell to go with the bite of the disinfecting alcohol. I could feel Mr. Maddox getting back on his legs to finish the journey. The late stages flatten out into a hot concrete and dusty earth accord evoking the final steps.
Buen Camino has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Playalinda is the one I enjoy the most. Not because it is the easiest but because it is the best constructed. It also looks, unflinchingly so, at the scent of sweaty sex on a beach.
It opens with osmanthus and jasmine given fruity intent through peach. It begins to skew as ambrette provides that botanical musk. It is the hint of arousal. Grapefruit, vetiver, and patchouli deepen this. Beginning to play with the earthier facets of all three as the ambrette weaves its way through it all. What comes next is an abstract accord of slick skinned copulation. Mr. Maddox uses a set of ingredients including indole, seaweed, and oakmoss. What completely cinches this accord is choya nakh. That ingredient is made of crushed seashells dried and distilled. It is the climax of this accord. It is sensual in its effect while also evoking the bodily fluids from the sexual act. It can create its own mood.
Playalinda has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
If you’re looking for an easy introduction to Chronotope and Mr. Maddox I would suggest Spite shows off his style with a lot less provocation. If you are looking for perfume which calls into question what you think perfume should smell like then Buan Camino and Playalinda provide that. It is a memorable debut.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Chronotope.