I’m going to start this review the way I usually end them with a disclosure statement. This is going to be a lengthy disclosure statement instead of the usual single line. The reason is one of my first friends in fragrance has finally done what I suggested would happen over ten years ago.
Back when I decided to stop lurking on the Basenotes forums in 2008 I began to gravitate toward a group of like-minded perfume lovers. It is the way all the forums I post in work. You find the people you enjoy sharing conversations with. One of these was a woman who went under the nickname Nukapai. Besides perfume we found we shared other interests. A confirmation of found camaraderie. As I began to start posting reviews on Basenotes; Nukapai aka Pia Long made the brave leap to enter the fragrance industry from the ground level. She began working for LUSH. From there she had the courage to walk up to one of the founders of the brand with her own blend. The owners then sponsored her perfume education while making her a “trainee perfumer”. She told us on the forums what was going on. She would write about it on a feature article on Basenotes. (http://www.basenotes.net/features/454-study-notes-back-to-school) We had an exchange where I told her, “one day I am going to write a review of a perfume you’ve made for someone.” Today is that day as she is the perfumer behind Beaufort London Terror & Magnificence. She sent me a sample at the end of the year. She has done her job; now it’s my turn. End of Disclosure.
Beaufort London is the brand overseen by creative director Leo Crabtree. Terror & Magnificence is the third volume of the Revenants series where British historical figures are used as inspiration. This time it is architect Nicholas Hawksmoor who designed in the Baroque style in the first half of the 18th century. He is known for his churches. The one seen below is an example. Mr. Crabtree has developed a Beaufort style wherein the perfumes are darker stories told in broad strokes. Ms. Long delivers on that established aesthetic with a perfume of old church walls and the resins within.
Christ Church in Spitalfields in London Borough of Tower Hamlets England, UK is an Anglican church built between 1714 and 1729
If you’ve ever visited an old church of this time period they often smell like the smoke of countless braziers of incense and candles have been impregnated into the stone of the walls. So many church incense styles of fragrance keep it much cleaner. Mr. Crabtree and Ms. Long embrace the history that smoke represents.
So many perfumers when going for a smoke effect pull out the cade oil. Ms. Long turns to a more classic source of olfactory smoke, birch tar. This is just as fallible to become a sledgehammer in untrained hands. Ms. Long can use it subtly while still retaining presence. She cleverly adds black pepper to the smoky tar which adds in that scent of aged timbers amidst the smoke. She then uses a set of resins to form the incense part. Starting with Somalian incense which carries its own smokiness in its scent profile she adds in the Egyptian kyphi. Kyphi adds a contrasting resinous sweetness. Tobacco and myrrh extend the sweeter resins while benzoin and labdanum do the same to the Somalian incense. This ends with a base accord of stone and vetiver. This is where I broke into a big smile. Ms. Long creates an accord which smells of the stone walls which have bits of green moss growing on them as the vetiver establishes the green while re-establishing the spicy woodiness from the top accord. Once it all comes together it is a real church incense perfume.
Terror & Magnificence has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Long is a partner in her own independent oil house, Olfiction, these days. Back in those Basenotes days I doubt either of us imagined we would end up where we have found ourselves in 2020. Finally I got to write a review about a perfume made by my friend, Nukapai. You did great. This is only the beginning. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Disclosure: Read the first two paragraphs.
The best new perfume brands find their own space; their own aesthetic. The independent brands tend to find the more interesting perspectives. This is certainly true of Beaufort London. Founder and creative director Leo Crabtree is interested in portraying a version of English history as perfume. The first five perfumes focused on the sea-faring height of the British Empire. What made them stand out was an embrace of the less pleasant scents of the milieus he was capturing. This has made Beaufort London so striking. In 2017 he began his second collection called Revenants wherein he would use British historical figures as inspiration. The new Beaufort London Rake & Ruin is the second of that series.
The historical figure used as inspiration for Rake & Ruin is artist William Hogarth. Mr. Hogarth is most known for a series of eight paintings called “A Rake’s Progress”. They are an 18th century graphic novel on the life of the titular Rake, Tom Rakewell. The early paintings show him coming into a substantial inheritance and living the high-life. The remaining panels display the decline and eventual commission to an asylum. Each painting is stuffed with detail. Which is one of the places where the inspiration and the perfume intersect.
William Hogarth "A Rake's Progress" Panel 6
Mr. Crabtree wanted to capture one of the middle paintings in the series where Tom Rakewell is out and about in the taverns slowly progressing to his eventual downfall. Mr. Crabtree turns to perfumer Julie Dunkley with whom he has collaborated on all the previous Beaufort London perfumes. They create a perfume which captures a life spiraling out of control with a perfume which reflects that unruliness.
Rake & Ruin opens with a gin-soaked accord. It is buttressed by a set of terpenic ingredients; angelica seed and pine. This produces a rawer gin accord as if you can smell the distillation inside the liquor. A mix of Sichuan pepper and baie rose lurch into view as licorice also appears to lead into the leather accord in the heart. This is where our rake’s leather jacket is stained with the cheap gin he is drinking. This is an odd effect which I alternatively found appealing and not so much. The same dichotomy happened for me in the base as Ms. Dunkley veers towards the smoky animalic. A strong decaying gin-sweat skin accord is made up of ambrarome, castoreum and costus. The costus is brilliantly used even if the effect is slightly nauseating. A haze of smoke is layered over all of this.
Rake & Ruin has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is so rare to find a perfume willing to capture the unpleasant side of the scent spectrum. Rake & Ruin does this. That Mr. Crabtree is making perfume which doesn’t pull its punches unflinchingly capturing the sweet with the sour is amazing. Rake & Ruin is the apotheosis of that aesthetic as an unruly life is captured in an unruly perfume.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Beaufort London.
One of the more interesting new brands has been Beaufort London. Founder and Creative Director Leo Crabtree spent the first five releases, called the “Come Hell or High Water” Collection, interpreting the scent of the time when the British Empire ruled the waves. What made this stand out was Mr. Crabtree unflinchingly captured all parts of that. That included Tonnerre (initially released as 1805) which vividly captured the smells of naval battle. I wasn’t fond of it when I wrote my review because it seemed too realistic of a vision as not only the gunpowder but also the blood made it into the perfume. It was disturbing in its intensity. I have since spent some more time with it over the past two years coming around to the view that it was exactly what Mr. Crabtree wanted to achieve. Now Beaufort London wants to find the traditional battlefield with a new collection Revenants and the first release Iron Duke.
Revenants is going to be perfumed impressions of British historical figures. Iron Duke is based on Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). Duke Wellington oversaw the British forces in the Battle of Waterloo versus Napoleon. It is this part of Duke Wellington’s career that Iron Duke interprets. Mr. Crabtree continues his collaboration with perfumer Julie Dunkley with whom he has worked on all the previous perfumes.
As in Tonnerre it is the scent of battle that is being captured. This time it is that of a cavalryman atop his horse riding through the battle. It is that sense of being less isolated within the chaos of war which makes Iron Duke a more enjoyable perfume.
Ms. Dunkley opens with the same gunpowder accord she previously used in Tonnerre. Except this time, it is joined by the smell of saddle leather which is what leavens it from being completely acrid. This is still a top accord more gun fight than fox hunt, but those genteel elements make it less neve jangling. There is then a musky animalic funk reminiscent of the sweaty steed underneath the saddle. There are also a hint of soapy musks, too, which is as if the saddle soap is rising up from the perspiration of the horse. This all finally comes to rest on a soft tobacco and coumarin foundation. It is after the battle and the hay has been given to the horse while the Duke puffs on a pipe.
Iron Duke has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is the inclusion of the horse and the deletion of the blood which makes me enjoy Iron Duke better than Tonnerre. Mr. Crabtree is one of the very few producing challenging perfumes which smell like nothing else available. Iron Duke starts off a new collection with a fabulously full-throated, “Charge!”
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Beaufort London.
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.
When I go to a website for a new perfume brand sometime I learn the most amazing things. For instance, when I visited the site for Beaufort London I learned the Founder and Creative director is Leo Crabtree. Mr. Crabtree is more familiar to pop culture as the drummer for the rock group The Prodigy. On the website it adds to that biography with the statement, “whose life-long love of fragrance and preoccupation with the darker elements of British history are the collection’s impetus”. His first home was a boat on the River Thames which has tied him tightly to the “the sea, its traditions, superstitions and way of life are ingrained in me.” I think it is an interesting place to begin a career in perfumery.
Mr. Crabtree oversaw the creation of a three perfume debut collection named “Come Hell or High Water”. The perfumers are unnamed but are said to be “the most accomplished perfumers in Great Britain.” The name of the brand comes from the Beaufort scale used to describe the severity of wind on land and sea. On the website each perfume comes with its own “wind chart”. East India has the gentlest of breezes while 1805 has the largest gusts. Coeur de Noir is closer to 1805 than East India. There is a real attempt in 1805 (has been re-named to Tonnerre) to capture the smell of warfare during the Battle of Trafalgar. The problem is it catches all the acrid parts. The harsh smell of a gun powder accord the copper tinted scent of blood plus an almost antiseptic fir balsam. I felt like I was the ensign swabbing the decks post-battle. It is one of the oddest perfumes I have smelled recently but I couldn’t roll with it. Coeur de Noir was slightly different in it attempted to marry the ink of a naval life. Those of the pen in the Captain’s Log with the tattoos of those below decks. The ink accord is done right but the rest of the milieu is buried underneath and never came through for me. The ink accord is worth trying but you have to like it a lot because that is pretty much all there is.
Photo by Andrew Ogilvy Photography
East India (has been re-named to Vi et Armis) was the one I found most appealing. Instead of actual war it was based on the travels of the British East India company and its travels across the known world acquiring goods. What I particularly like about the choices Mr. Crabtree encouraged in his perfumer was the addition of an opium accord to the more expected spice, tea, rum, and tobacco. This is what it must have smelled like to be in a hammock in the hold as your ship headed for home with a full cargo.
East India opens with sticky green cardamom and a smoky Lapsang Souchong-like tea accord. There is a smoky vein that starts with that tea accord that will wind throughout the development. A bit of incense and rum set up the heart of opium. Opium has a sweet narcotic odor that when it goes up in smoke is also present. East India captures that as the incense provides a bit of a contrast to it. This is my favorite part of East India. It heads towards a base where you smell the birch tar on the hull planking next to bags of dried tobacco leaf. The birch tar accord is well-realized and the tobacco provides its own sweet narcotic aspect as contrast.
East India has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I applaud Mr. Crabtree for unapologetically going for the naval vibe he was after. I believe he got the perfumers to give him exactly what he was asking for. This is one of the more unique collections you will encounter.
Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Twisted Lily.