Regular readers of my The Sunday Magazine column know I enjoy a skewed kind of Holiday fare at the Home Office in Poodlesville. If there is a movie which captures my Christmas perspective, it is 1993’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” by director Tim Burton. The short synopsis is the denizens of Halloweentown take over in Christmastown. What should become obvious is they put their own spin on traditional Christmas tropes. It is that part of the movie which delights me on each viewing. There is a place for the straightforward traditional activities in any holiday, but I am always drawn to the odd spin imparted to those pleasures. Blackbird Anemone is an incredibly odd delight for those who enjoy their perfumes a bit askew.
The entire Blackbird collection from Nicole Miller has always marched to its own contrapuntal beat. If there was ever a perfumer I would compare to the visual perspective of Tim Burton it would be Ms. Miller. This has always produced perfumes from a unique perspective which exist to push at the edges of what smelling good means.
Anemone takes one of the traditional ingredients of the Holidays, plum, and gives it a non-holiday treatment which I can’t get enough of. Ms. Miller takes the well-known fragrance ingredient and skewers it with spikes of contrasting effects over a flat champagne accord providing its own kind of unusual Holiday vibe.
Anemone starts with that plum bobbing on the surface of a watery lotus. It is like looking at a lily pond and finding a plum underneath the green. Then this is where the whole thing turns into an odd Holiday party as the watery effect is replaced by a flat champagne accord. There is a stray teeny bit of effervescence underneath a stale wine which is where the plum happily floats. The champagne accord has sour and sweet pieces. Ms. Miller teases out both sides with honey and tobacco picking up the sweet while amber and styrax grab the sour by the hand. Everywhere I smell there is something which feels part of the Season but twisted around. The whole effect is of a Christmas party as only the creatures of Halloweentown could put on.
Anemone has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
There is no current brand taking as many successful risks as Blackbird. It is a refreshing way to bring a little Halloweentown to the staid village of Perfumetown. Anemone is at its best in the Holiday weather. I wore it to our local tree lighting ceremony last week. As we sang along with the carolers, Anemone smelled like The Night Plum Before Christmas.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Blackbird.
The way we all experience perfume is unique to each nose. We can agree that something smells like a rose. From there it might remind one of us as a cosmetic rose; another might see it as a fresh cut stem. The difference of perception is why one person’s holy grail fragrance is another’s scrubber. It also carries over when I hear from others about a perfume. I tend to have to battle through that to find my personal interpretation. This would be the situation with Blackbird Y06-S.
Blackbird is the Seattle, Washington-based brand owned and creatively directed by Nicole Miller. I have met Ms. Miller on a few occasions and one of the things which delights me about her is her fearlessness at producing perfume. Particularly over the last couple years, nothing which has the Blackbird label on the bottle is produced to be easy. Ms. Miller embraces an aesthetic which asks the wearer to confront their idea of what fragrance means to them. I also admire that Ms. Miller doesn’t feel the necessity to produce new product every few months.
Y06-S was released at the end of 2017, but it has taken six months to find its way to me. In my community of fellow perfume lovers, it has been one of the things I have been most asked about which I did not have the chance to try. The consensus description was it smells like bananas and skanky jasmine. Sounded like something I would like. When I received my sample a few weeks ago and sprayed some on a strip it was bananas and jasmine but that’s not what came up in my mind’s eye. Y06-S smells like my organic chemistry lab.
There is a reason for this disconnect. The organic molecule in banana oil is isopentyl acetate. Ms. Miller, as perfumer on Y06-S, uses a lot of this to produce her banana effect. For me it crosses from banana to chemical. This is not unpleasant in any way, but it is because I work with so many esters in a laboratory setting it is sort of the ambient sweet smell of a research lab. What is also the ambient scent of a laboratory is the heated electronics of the equipment. Ms. Miller wanted to use a metallic accord as contrast to the banana overdose. It achieves that but instead of contrast it completes the laboratory accord for my nose. The indole-laden skanky jasmine does come next. This will provide a floral complement to the strong fruit for most. For me the indoles are just more of the lab milieu. A figurative pinch of oud provides more of that as it amplifies the indoles over the floral in jasmine.
Y06-S has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Ms. Miller has continued the avant-garde aesthetic Blackbird is becoming synonymous with. Most others are going to smell a skanky banana; which it is. I just have a different view. Y06-S reminds me of happy days working in the lab. It is all a matter of perspective except that Ms. Miller is one of our most daring independent perfume producers.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Blackbird.