Paint, dirt, goat hair, vomit, blood, algae, polish — they may sound like the contents of a public bin, but don’t be deceived.
You’re just as likely to find them in your perfume — thanks to a trend for fragrance with names such as Bull’s Blood and Swimming Pool that are anything but fragrant.
It is a clever piece of reverse marketing, and a way to stand out in a crowded market, where about 2,000 new scents are launched every year.
Victoria Woodhall gives verdict on trendy fragrances available to purchase in the UK, including Maison Margiela Replica: Whispers in the Library (pictured)
That’s not always the case, though. Bloom Perfumery last year sold three £75 bottles of Sombre that smells of pus, mould and vomit.
Marine scents are especially popular, as we all yearn for holidays. And it could spell a resurgence of the oldest, costliest, fragrance note — ambergris — coughed up by sperm whales. Maybe eau de vomit will catch on after all.
THE SEXY LIBRARIAN
Maison Margiela Replica: Whispers in the Library, £49 for 30 ml, selfridges.com
They say it smells like: Paper and waxed woodwork in an ancestral library.
What it’s really like: Fashion house Margiela’s Replica unisex scents transport you from a Scandinavian cafe with Coffee Break to a cosy cottage with Fireside, to the skies with Flying, or Woodstock with Music Festival. I expected this to be fusty but it’s warm and vanilla-y, like polished furniture and cake — or sexy librarian.
Verdict: Sophisticated sweetness. 3/5
WALK OF SHAME
Fresh Cannabis Santal, £41 for 30 ml, johnlewis.com
Victoria said Fresh Cannabis Santal (pictured) is fresh rather than bodice-ripping
They say it smells like: Cannabis or a man’s neck after a night of illicit passion.
What it’s really like: Earthy cannabis evokes the intoxicating and forbidden, say the makers, like your man’s ‘morning-after’ scent. With orange top notes, it did remind me of forbidden fruits — Robinson’s Orange Squash, outlawed chez mois for calorific reasons.
Verdict: Fresh rather than bodice-ripping. 2/5
Byredo Mixed Emotions, £122 for 50 ml, byredo.com
Victoria said Byredo Mixed Emotions (pictured) is easy to wear if you love the smell of berries
They say it smells like: Tumultuous modern times.
What it’s really like: Arthouse perfumiers Byredo have made a short movie to explain this genderless scent, but after viewing topless men at a stately home dancing around a tree, talking about ‘being truly seen’, I was none the wiser. Enjoying the bittersweet blend of blackcurrant, tea and birch wood was the easy part.
Verdict: Easy to wear if you love the smell of berries.3/5
BAD PAINT JOB
Demeter, Paint, £43 for 120 ml, amazon.co.uk
Victoria said Demeter, Paint (pictured) is chemical and cheap-smelling
They say it smells like: Paint.
What it’s really like: To borrow a slogan from the DIY aisle, this does what it says on the tin. The chemical waft is unmistakeably emulsion and a strong fabric softener aroma reminds you to wear it rather than apply it to the walls. If you want to smell like a new home, you won’t be disappointed. However, just like actual paint, it did give me a headache.
Verdict: Chemical and cheap-smelling. 1/5
The Nue Co Forest Lungs, £80 for 50 ml, naturisimo.com
Victoria said The Nue Co Forest Lungs (pictured) is aromatherapy that smells like chic scent
They say it smells like: Japanese forest bathing.
What it’s really like: Trees give off phytoncides, compounds which reduce stress and increase our natural immune cells when inhaled, which is why a walk in the woods (also known as forest bathing) can be so restorative. The compounds are recreated in this smoky, woody unisex scent that’s a moment of calm — a perfect anti-anxiety pandemic scent.
Verdict: Aromatherapy that smells like chic scent. 5/5
AllSaints, Flora Mortis, £49 for 100 ml, allsaints.com
Victoria said AllSaints, Flora Mortis (pictured) is soft and warm
They say it smells like: Dead flowers.
What it’s really like: The High-Street fashion store is a bit gothic and industrial — no great surprise then that its floral unisex scent does not try to replicate fresh blooms. It is perfect if you find traditional floral scents too sickly. In fact, I was hard pushed to identify a top note of ‘smoky orchid’ (is there such a thing?). Smells warm and woody.
Verdict: Soft and warm. 4/5
Zoologist, Squid, £165 for 60 ml, bloomperfume.co.uk
Victoria said Zoologist, Squid (pictured) is more seasick than seaside
They say it smells like: Sea creatures.
What it’s really like: With a smell of salt, ink, ambergris and incense, this feels less ‘holiday in the Med’, more ‘bad things happen at sea’. Like the ocean it looks clean, but may be grubby and dangerous underneath. Zoologist also makes Sloth, which smells like the green moss that grows in the animal’s fur.
Verdict: More seasick than seaside. 2/5