Byredo’s Mojave Ghost (2014)

Byredo's Mojave Ghost (2014)
Byredo’s Mojave Ghost (2014) © Victor Wong

I remember how disappointed I was when Mojave Ghost came out in 2014. It smelled pale, non-descript, something sweet, something faintly floral and fruity. Actually, this is what I get now; two years ago it was just a sweet nothing scent to me. I also remember when it debuted my fraghead coworker and I went to sniff it, and I said I didn’t find it interesting at all, but she said, “Oh really, I think this scent is so you.”

Two years later, out of boredom, I re-smelled again in a department store and suddenly I found it very attractive. The nuances that I didn’t detect all became vivid. Maybe on that day it was the first bottle I sniffed and my nose was very sensitive.

To me, Mojave Ghost is a bottle of irony. Firstly, It is supposed to be a soliflore, a fragrance that mimics the scent of a type of flower that blooms in the harsh condition in the Mojave desert. But I doubt most anyone has smelled it before. Has the perfumer succeeded in bringing you the scent of that flower with her creation? No one knows. Secondly, the nature of this scent is of a vague fruity floral perfume, kind of like the soft sweet scents of cactus pears or sugar-apples, but unnaturally, this perfume lasts and lasts for a whole day. My deduction is that in this perfume they use some very powerful and long lasting synthetic aroma chemicals or boosters to make it stick. A perfume that smells pale, subtle, rather complex and smooth but has such powerful longevity and yet no hard edges, is quite impressive to me.

At one point I wanted to learn perfumery and have bought an aroma chemicals starter set to play with, but I just didn’t have the time and diligence to explore. I don’t know how challenging it is to make something like Mojave Ghost, but I feel like you have to be a very well-trained perfumer to come up with something like it.

P.S. I got my bottle from eBay brand-new at a very good price and was surprised by the deal. Maybe it didn’t sell very well?

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Byredo’s Bullion (2012)

Byredo Bullion (100ml, EDP)
Byredo’s Bullion © Victor Wong, 2013

Slowly I’ve learned that the smell of leather in modern perfumery comes from a mixture of different aroma-chemicals (very likely birch tar is involved), but not something one would get from, say, soaking a stack of leather hides in some extraction solvent in a sink.

I tend to like perfumes with a touch of the leather note, not a full-fledged leather-themed perfume like Chanel’s Cuir de Russie. (Although I must say it’s a masterpiece.) Leather-themed perfumes are often too “sticky” and too butch for me.

Then there’s the smell of suede in perfumes that I find softer, lovelier, but also unsettling. I often associate the smell of suede to fine, supple furniture or luxury leather accessories, and it gives me anxiety that I might ruin them or nick them with my clumsy ass and Edwardscissors hands.

To make things even more unsettling, when a perfumer adds fruity notes to a suede-themed perfume, such as Serge Luten’s Diam Blond – you have an untreated white suede sofa spread with apricot jam, not only my ass would scratch it, it sticks to it.

I blind-bought Byredo’s Bullion in 2013 on eBay because at that time it was not available in North America and I was very into that brand. I had very little idea what it might smell like despite I had been reading the fancy marketing copy on their website over and over again while waiting for the bottle to arrive.

I tell you, Bullion, was so strange to me – a plum suede. Yes, the smell of slightly sweet gooey plum, spread on some leather/suede, then sprinkled with sweet indolic osmanthus that also smelled like plum and apricot. I wore it to work, and my coworker said, “You smell so nice,” while my stomach was ready to flip and hand me back my breakfast. And the scent lasted a whole day without too much development.

Well, years have passed and my taste and acceptance of certain perfumes/accords have changed. I occasionally wear Bullion and find it very well-blended, quite unusual, and luxurious-smelling. I just make sure I don’t have a full stomach when I wear it.

Byredo’s La Tulipe (2010)

Byredo La Tulipe © Victor Wong
Byredo La Tulipe © Victor Wong

About two years ago I asked members of a Facebook fragrance group to post a photo of their first five perfumes. No one participated. They simply couldn’t remember. (However, they did post photos of “Your Top 5 Perfumes”.) I suspect that people can’t even remember the last five perfumes that they have purchased recently. But I remember Byredo’s La Tulipe being one of my very first purchases.

Looking back, I find it amusing that out of that many perfumes to choose from, I picked La Tulipe. I remember I rationalized that it’s ok to wear a feminine, light floral scent. The sales person said, “It’s a very dapper scent, and perfect for a white tuxedo bow tie event”. I totally get that, but I couldn’t imagine I would ever be invited to such event unless I own a flying unicorn. I also remember that I struggled trying to justify its price for it is just a very spring / summer / laundry / Frebreeze scent. (May be I could spray Frebreeze on myself and tell people I am wearing La Tulipe? Or pour two cups of detergent instead of one in a laundry cycle? Hmm…may be not.)

I don’t have much to say about this perfume except that I love it. Freesia, rhubarb, lovely and fresh synthetic chemicals… it’s so gay. (Both happy and Ellen DeGeneres.) However, there is one review of a completely unrelated perfume that prompts me to write about La Tulipe, and it’s the review of Body Shop’s Smokey Poppy. The reviewer complains that Smokey Poppy smells nothing smokey and nothing like poppies and the title of the perfume is misleading, which I think he has a valid point. One thing though, I think most people know that poppy flowers don’t have a scent. I also know that tulips don’t have a scent either. People say that a certain type of tulips do have a floral scent, but I highly doubt that La Tulipe is a solifore of such. So what does that mean? I guess the title of a perfume is just a suggestion of a state of mind. In this case, tulip is a perfect symbol of spring breeze, flowers and happiness.

Byredo’s Palermo (2010)

Byredo Palermo © Victor Wong
Byredo Palermo © Victor Wong

I had once offered some samples of my perfumes to a nice guy nicknamed “TheNaughtyProf” whom I met on a fragrance forum. After testing out my scents, he politely wrote, “Do you do ANY citrus/citrus floral or citrus woods based frags?”

I think I might disappoint him for a long long time because I find citrusy fragrances/colognes very boring. If a bottle of cologne wants to impress me by jumping off a plane over the Grand Canyon without wearing any parachute I would just let it fall. I just hardly care for any colognes because 1) I have probably eaten too many oranges and lemons in my life, and they are not special to me, and 2) a lot of colognes all end up smelling similar to me when the citrus notes are gone. I have smelled Guerlain’s Eau de Cologne du Coq, Mouchoir de Monsieur, Eau de Guerlain, Eau de Cologne Imperiale, while their base notes all have subtle differences, I still regard them as “very similar”.

But Byredo’s Palermo (an Italian city) is a little different. Palermo smells like pomelos to me. They are huge citrus fruits that I only eat every Chinese Autumn Festival. (It’s just my family tradition to eat pomelos that time of the year and it’s a pain to peel a pomelo.) The citrus smell of pomelos is just subtlety different enough to push me off the edge to fall in love with it. (Similar to people who only like the smell of limes but not lemons.)

What’s funny about Palermo is that it doesn’t contain any palermo essential oils. However, the perfume just smells like pomelos to me, and I associate it to family good time. When the top notes are gone, Palermo again smells like any cologne to me. (Reapply!)

Inspiring Perfumes Series Pt. 2: Byredo’s Seven Veils (2011)

Byredo's Seven Veils © Caro Veliz
Byredo’s Seven Veils © Caro Veliz

[I want to write about some of the perfumes that have influenced and led me to the creation of my perfume brand, Zoologist Perfumes. They have sparked ideas and given me new understanding about niche fragrances and the marketing of them.]

Pt. II. A Second Opinion That Matters – Byredo’s Seven Veils

Fall, 2013. Like a giant bag of popcorn being nuked inside a microwave oven, my excitement over the new discovery of niche perfumes could not be contained, and everyone in the office could smell it. The daily topic of which video game was great got hijacked by me and had turned into a “Have you smelled this? This is crazy! This is called oud! This is patchouli!” nightmare for some.

Every three or four days I would bring to work a little Ziplock bag containing perfume samples that I purchased from Luckyscents to share with my coworkers. Slowly, some coworkers got quite bothered by my obsession and lost interest in this sample-smelling game, except Carolina, a designer-perfumes lover, remained interested and happy to test samples with me during lunch time. We would woo and boo over different scents, looking like a pair of lunatics that had just escaped from a boring asylum called the work place.

One day after work we went to Holt Renfrew (a Canadian luxury department store) for the first time together to smell some niche perfumes. Caro was appalled by the prices of niche perfumes, but I assured her that we came here just to explore. We tested Diptyque, Frederic Malle, Acqua di Parma, and many more. When we were at the Byredo counter, I immediately showed her Pulp, Mink and The Tulip. These three scents were some of my favourite from the line, but she wasn’t impressed. When she smelled Seven Veils, she said, “Oh this is nice”. I took a sniff and said, “Really? I felt nothing. May be it’s not for me.” We asked the salesperson for some samples and went home.

Caro eventually used up the tiny sample of Seven Veils and had decided to buy a full bottle. (I want to add that Seven Veils remains her only bottle of niche perfume ever since I have got obsessed with perfumes.) Since Caro was a very frugal person, I had figured that she wouldn’t buy another bottle till she had finished her bottle of Seven Veils, so I gave her some samples that I found uninteresting and boring to keep the fire burning.

One day, Caro text-messaged me, “Oh my god, I am in heaven!” She had put some L’artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant sample on her body and went high loving the scent. I texted her back, “That’s awesome! Enjoy!”. Later that night I checked Luca Turin’s book for Safran Troublan’s review and was surprised to find out that it got a very good 4-star review. Similar scenarios of Caro liking an excellent perfume that I found completely boring had repeated a few times, and suddenly I had an enlightenment – she has very good taste in perfumes and I don’t!

You may say I can love whatever perfume I choose and has nothing to do with someone’s opinions, but when I am in the business of making/selling perfumes, I need someone who has a better nose who can give me valuable second opinions. Sadly Caro found a new job a year ago and I no longer see her every weekday. But I make sure every time I receive a draft or a major revision from the perfumers I will ask her out for evaluation.

Byredo’s Pulp (2008)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

I keep seeing guys asking the same question on Basenotes forum regarding Byredo’s Pulp:

“I am not gay, but can I wear Byredo’s Pulp? Because I really like it… will people think that I am wearing a woman’s perfume?”

Well, let’s reword the question so that people can have a better context of what’s going on.

“If I open a can of Del Monte fruit cocktail, pour it all over my body, will I get eaten by a woman or a man?”

Well, both men and women eat fruit cocktail cups, although not everyone loves them. So, it’s totally your call to mingle with the right group of lovers. I hope it’s a satisfying answer.

I remember reading a review on Pulp and the reviewer says the fruit in pulp (figs, apples, black currants) is so intense that it almost smells rotten like garbage. I definitely do not think so, but I guess the spices, particularly the caramel in it make it over the top fruity and juicy, nevertheless, that review is forever etched in my head. One day I was at a Byredo counter and saw two women giggling and admiring Pulp; being nosy, I casually said, “some people think that it smells like garbage.” Both of them turned their heads in synchronization and shot lasers out of their eyes and yelled, “No!!! It’s wonderful!!!”

Byredo’s Flowerhead (2014)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

If I say all-natural soliflore perfume is like a piece of juicy steak seasoned with just salt and pepper, then Byredo’s Flowerhead is a hot dog wiener. Not just flowers are processed but also the leaves and stems and everything else. A different kind of meal, a different kind of settings and “tastiness”. Flowerhead smells a little bit countryish and vegetal – like a bouquet of wild flowers, a flower garland made out of chrysanthemums and little berries. If you are too used to smelling roses, Flowerhead is a completely different kind of floral perfume.

Flowerhead is not a really elegant or sophisticated scent, but I have seen people in New York wearing expensive-looking suits eating a hot dog on the street telling people through body language that, “Hey I am quite rich but I am also casual and fun.” So I’d say Flowerhead can be worn on formal or informal occasions. Its heavy-handed use of synthetics for its base makes it one of the most bombastic heavy sillage scents I have ever worn.