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.