New Perfume Review Neandertal Light and Dark- Missing Middle

One of the things I’ve enjoyed about seeing perfumery being seen as an artform is artists from other forms want to create using scent, too. It is an uneven prospect because those artists don’t feel bound by the conventional aspects of modern perfumery. It can lead to inspired fragrance construction. It can lead to cacophonous disasters as the desire to be different crashes up against lack of skill. Those are the extremes. The two perfumes from Neandertal called Light and Dark fall somewhere in the middle.

Kentaro Yamada (via

Neandertal was conceived by London-based Japanese sculptor Kentaro Yamada. The concept was if Neanderthal Man has survived to the current time; what would a perfume designed for that smell like? Mr. Yamada collaborated with perfumer Euan McCall to form two perfumed answers called Light and Dark. This was released as a very limited edition in 2015 and has now been released late last year for wider distribution. When I received my samples I wasn’t sure what I’d find inside. It wasn’t as unique as I was hoping while both suffer from a shifting of effects that is achieved with caveman-like precision.

Euan McCall (via

Neandertal Light wants to be the lighter of the two and in the early and later moments it succeeds. It grinds gears in the middle going for that avant-garde touch. It opens on a nice duet of hinoki and galbanum. The Japanese cypress always has a hint of green raw wood within and the galbanum intensifies that. Then the creative team wants a “metallic accord”. What they get is a heavily synthetic accord which thuds on top of a powdery iris. Once it moves past this the base accord returns to a theme as a mineralic accord using synthetic ambergris and patchouli. This is the soul of the primitive underneath the less feral exterior.

Neandertal Dark goes the other direction as it starts with an evocation of a cave dwelling before furnishing it in other fragrant notes. Baie rose forms the core of the top accord as ginger, pine, and leafy green notes form an impression of a cave mouth overgrown with vegetation. The effect is nicely enhanced with caraway and incense. Then we grind gears again as an iodine-like seaweed accord crashes across the top accord like a club. This needed to be used much more delicately instead of as a distracting counterweight. Things get back on track in the base with sandalwood the core which has oud, tobacco, and patchouli forming a nice black leather jacket accord. Which I can see a 2018 Neanderthal wearing.

Neandertal Light and Dark both have 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

I ended up wearing both of these weeks apart for the purpose of the review. The second time around in both cases was better. Maybe because I was expecting the tonal shifts I didn’t care for they didn’t feel as jarring. I’m not sure I want another perfume from the Yamada-McCall team but Neandertal Light and Dark were good enough even if they missed in the middle.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.

Mark Behnke