Papillon Artisan Perfumes Anubis, 2014

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Perfumer Liz Moores

The genre of woody/smoky perfumes is having a moment these days. Unfortunately, many of these perfumes start with a disadvantage. A glut of aromachemicals hastily produced to fill the oud-gap that manufacturers are trying to convince us exists has lead to perfumes overdosed with ear-splitting synth-oud bases.  Characteristics of these perfumes include density, a lack of topnotes, longevity and minimal evolution. Their motto is a variation on the advice, “walk softly and carry a big stick.” They urge you to carry a big stick and bludgeon everyone in your wake. It’s a genre that conceptually and olfactorily turns me off.

My mistake was to lump too many perfumes into this category, the case in point being Anubis. I bundled the fumes made principally of synth-oud base and the ones smartly calibrated to achieve a smoky darkness into the same category. Based on my dislike for many of the perfumes that comprise the genre I neglected to distinguish good from bad. I threw the baby out with the bathwater.

This all happened in own head, of course. I have written about the traps of mistaking opinion for consideration and I should take my own advice. Fortunately, with the exception of Hard Leather, I kept my thoughts to myself. I lumped Anubis in with Orto Parisi Stercus, Naomi Goodsir Bois d’Ascèse, Masque Milano Montecristo and LM Parfums Hard Leather, four perfumes, two of which are dense but balanced, two of which I find grossly out of whack and make my ears ring. I will leave it for you to decide which is which.

It’s Salome that made me see Anubis in a different light.  That and a long hike on a warm day.

If you heat up the bad examples of the Grim Genre (or The Heavy Smokers, my two nicknames for the genre) you’ll burn off the lighter materials and be left with the synth-oud skeleton in short order. I’ve tried them on some hot, sweaty days and in the end I was left smelling like shit. Literally. I recently basted myself in Anubis and went for a hike in the desert. The gasoline-jasmine bloomed, the incense was shot through with a smoky breeze and the drydown made me want to lick myself.  While dense and smoky, Anubis is also ambery, leathery and nuanced. Quite the opposite of the grim synth-ouds, Anubis is built for skin. The floral connection to Salome helped me see Anubis in a different light and I did another Anubis-hike the next day. A little Anubis goes a long way and a less concentrated dose (ie. sprayed from a distance) helps the layers unfold more evenly. It’s less smoky but more resinous this way. The gasoline-floral quality, my favorite aspect of Anubis, rises more clearly to the surface.

Whether I was right or wrong in my initial take on Anubis is something for me to keep in mind, but the bigger point is that a well considered perfume can make you work for your pleasure. Taking a risk, targeting a small audience, polarizing your audience. Ambiguity. Marketing theory might tell you that these are guidelines for failure. I disagree entirely and apparently, thank god, so does Liz Moores.

Moores took the risk of making a perfume that polarizes her potential buyers. But she also created a perfume that I came back to over the period of a year or so. In the end, she won me over.

Sample from LuckyScent.

(Photo of Yucca Valley, CA, my own. From the day of the Anubis hike.)

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