The Stories Behind Zoologist Perfumes (Part 3)

Breakfast Television Montreal, Nov 1st, 2016

Just a month ago, The New York Times ran an article on the rise of animalic perfumes and Zoologist Beaver and Bat were mentioned. Such publicity had created a little ripple effect and a Toronto trend spotter contacted me and asked me to send her a few bottles ASAP to be shown on Breakfast Television Montreal. In the show, the handsome TV host, while holding a bottle of Beaver, jokingly said, “I have never smelled a beaver before, I don’t know what it smells like. Have you?” The next night, comedian Chris Hardwick also made fun of Beaver in his TV show, Midnight. I told the trend spotter that I didn’t find his skit that funny, and she asked, “Was the beaver joke lost on you? How long have you been in Canada?”

Oh dear, I know the beaver joke. In fact, I wanted such publicity in the very beginning, but it didn’t happen till three years later. I wanted people to have a giggle looking at the bottle but also love the scent as much as I loved Kiehl’s Original Musk, the scent that inspired me to start an animalic perfume line.

I remember receiving the first prototypes of Beaver from Chris Bartlett in a silver bubble envelope in the mail. My heart was beating so fast as I opened the package… and they were completely not what I expected, and I panicked. (He stated that he would only make two revisions for me and these starter mods really worried me.) I’d expected my perfumes to smell like perfumes that I liked, but what I got was something that I didn’t realize exist – indie perfumes. (Andy Tauer actually started off as an indie perfumer but he was one of the very few pioneers who succeeded to become a popular niche brand. If you have watched enough Youtube reviews, you might notice some people are crazy about his works and some who completely don’t.)

Opens like some light floral fresh air then aggressively turns animalic and musky and smoky, this unusual scent, was Chris’ interpretation of a beaver as a perfume: fresh ozone and linden blossom notes represent the cold wilderness, fresh water note and iris represent the river, woody notes and smoke and ash represent the beaver lodge, and castoreum and vanilla represent the beaver butt. I had never smelled anything like it and neither did the world.

It is easy to dismiss Chris’ creation when his scent is so radical and new perfumes are released every two seconds. In fact, I didn’t know how to appreciate it until enough perfumers had told me how skillful Chris was; people didn’t like it not because it’s badly mixed, it’s just that it’s not their cup of tea.

Fast forward two years, I was chatting with Chris on Facebook, and I asked him if he ever recalled receiving a decant of Kiehl’s Original Musk from me, so that he could use it as a reference. He said yes, but he intentionally ignored it. I didn’t get upset, because “I got it” now, in fact, I am glad that he had stuck to his guns and insisted on his creation. Perhaps his unique indie style, artistic integrity or stubbornness, combined with my lack of experience as a perfume producer/director in the beginning, unintentionally set the direction for Zoologist, turning it into a perfume house that people often refer it as, “niche within a niche”, “artistic and creative”, “I love/hate them all”.

Daniel Barros’ Perfumes

Daniel Barros Perfumes
Daniel Barros’ Cuir Mojito, Yuzucello, Sex on the Peach and Gincenso (9ml, 2016) © Victor Wong

After all those years, I can vividly remember two things that happened in my sister’s econo-lite wedding – she served raw cauliflower florets on a platter with some ranch sauce on a buffet table. Who eats cauliflowers in a wedding party? Might as well serve just one head of cauliflower; there might come someone who really wants to eat it and says, “excuse me, I hope you don’t mind, I really like cauliflowers” and takes the whole thing and starts chomping it away in a corner.

The second thing was that my sister asked me to be a bartender at the wedding party. She casually said, “Just mix vodka and orange juice together, I think it’s called a screwdriver.” I was really glad that none of her guests went blind after drinking my concoctions, for I had mixed them big plastic cups full of orange juice with a few drops of vodka, and vodka with a few drops of orange juice as the night started to drag. I really had no clue what I was doing, for I don’t drink beer or any cocktails at all.

So I guess my total ignorance and disinterest in alcohol is useful when I test my friend Daniel Barros’ brand new line of cocktail/drinks inspired perfumes – I don’t have any perceived idea whether the perfume is a successful reinterpretation of the cocktail that it is supposed to represent.

Currently his line consists of 12 scents, and he has sent me four.

After testing them, I have come up with this silly conclusion: his perfumes are like South Park episodes – super outrageous, creative, crazy, but all somehow end with a moral redemption, in a form of traditional, proper perfume dry down, for he knows what he is doing, but somehow the theme of the perfumes that he has chosen confines what the perfume should smell like.

Yuzucello – probably my favourite. The opening is like you have won the Superbowl and your teammates dumps a barrel of Limoncello over your head. Crazy strong lemon candy opening, surprisingly non-sticky, if you let the opening subsides a bit, you are rewarded with a very addictive great sandalwood/tonka/lily of the valley dry down.

Gincenso – A gin fragrance that’s actually more like an incense fragrance but somehow smells like a latex fragrance to me? This incense fragrance is masculine, respectful, and sparsely aromatic. Actually it is not at all a comedy fragrance, it’s a proper and properly made fragrance, but if it is a real drink, it is garnished with one blue plastic flip flop on a toothpick. I have said it many times, a lot of leather perfumes smell like plastic flip flops to me. I remember it was a group favourite.

Cuir Mojito – It’s refreshing like mint but rustic like brown leather hide; it’s clean like lime but damp like oakmoss and vetiver; Cuir Mojito is full of contradictions, the movie Cowboys vs Aliens, despite a bit confusing, it’s entertaining.

Sex on the Peach – there is a salty note in this fragrance that reminds me of the beach, and the peach accord is supposed to represent peach schnapps. So far so good, but I must confess I wish the cumin and black pepper isn’t that strong in this fragrance for it gives me a bit of seasickness.