Humiecki & Graef: Four Reviews

A fine perfume friend gifted me with a sample set of the new Humiecki & Graef fragrances, including the original Skarb, which was released last fall with the instant-fame-achieving news that it was a conceptualization of how men cry.  In my elegantly constructed sample set — a box with sample vials in individual niches — the enclosed booklet instructs us that H&G “is a warm and exciting emotional homeland in a virtual and global world.  Five rare fragrances mirror memories and emotions in incomparable ways, characterized by all facets of life and subtly but formatively integrated.”

There is further adulation of and inspiration by the creators´ grandmothers, which I´m not going to mock, because how sweet is that?  The grandmothers were “the inspiration for the name of the label,” and the line bears their names; the creators of the line are Sebastian Fischenich and Tobias Muksch.

“Helena and Katharina embodied security and love, experience and the courage to face life for their grandchildren and they inspired confidence.  The designers dedicated their perfume label to their sense of family… In partnership with one of the most renowned noses´ in the perfume business, Christophe Laudamiel, they created this homage to emotions.”

Skarb, “a fragrance about melancholia, inspired by a deep Slavic soul,” contains lovage, musk, barley, incense, myrrh, chamomile, absinthe.  This one came out awhile ago, and reviews of this were varied.  I think it´s … sort of delicious.  It´s weird, and there´s a metallic tinge and a hint of bodily essences up front that kind of calls up Laudamiel´s Mugler coffret for Perfume, for those of you lucky enough to get a sniff.  (Longtime readers may recall I got my hand slapped in Vienna for poking around in it, but how could I resist?)  At the risk of worrying you that I´ve drunk the H&G Kool-Aid, there is something tender about this fragrance, although I´m not sure I´d go so far as melancholy.  Its oddest moments are the top notes, when it´s watery (those Slavic tears?) and I worried some giant aquatic accord was going to bubble up and make me cry in horror.  Instead it becomes more incense-laden, and along with the hay-note of the chamomile and the sharpness of the absinthe, it´s like some herbal tisane made by weeping angels.  (Oooh, I´m ready for a job at H&G!)   It´s … equally of the head and heart, if that makes any sense.  It feels a little too calculated to be truly emotional for me.  I have nothing that smells remotely like this. I´d definitely wear it.  It´s light; you could spray this all over and not kill anyone, it lasted forever on my hand, a little flattened but still interesting.   Worth exploring if minimalist weird-yet-wearable scents like Comme des Garcons 2 do it for you.  Unisex.

Geste, “a fragrance about intensity” that was “inspired by a mature woman who loves an adolescent” with “the pureness of white shirts and the sweetness of fresh bread and the mystery of a mature love.”  Wouldn´t you love to know what grandma was up to that inspired that story?  Notes: soft amber, musky soft violet petals, soft fir resin.  Okay … in my opinion (shared by my kind friend who gave it to me) this has Laudamiel´s fingerprints all over it.  This has that not-quite-nice musk, eau de humanity.   If you multiplied it by 100 and bottled it, you´d have the execrable (to my nose) Miller Harris L´air de Rien, which I have always found less about the proverbial English mansion than its nearby village with the stinking peasants and animal pens.  But this!!   This is naughty and wrong.  This is Rien meets Guerlain´s Apres l´Ondee, powdery violets and tumbles in the back bedroom in twilight.  I can´t smell the fir.  I am not entirely sure if (or where) I would wear it, but it´s wonderfully strange.   Gets skankier by the hour.   Two-hour update: Probably over my line, but (depending how you feel about Rien) maybe not over yours.

Multiple Rouge is missing from my sample set, fortunately or unfortunately, because it sounded the silliest note-wise.  “A fragrance about extreme folly and fun,” with notes of cinnamon bark, frozen orange, green pineapple, immortelle, Vietnamese cilantro, green violet, peach kernel, freshness of ozonic red berries.   Hmmmm.  Maybe I would like to smell it, it´s got immortelle.  But I can´t, so let´s move on to…

Eau Radieuse, “a fragrance about desire, a futuristic remake of an Eau de Cologne,” notes of green banana skin, fresh mandarin peel, fresh Italian lemon, mint leaves, rhubarb juice, bamboo sape (sic) accord.  Oh.my.god.  That´s so cool.  Live-moment blogging here – this totally provokes my synesthesia.  The exact smell of green bananas at the market, followed by mandarin (so juicy and tart!!!  my mouth waters)… yep, here comes the lemon … minty lemon!!!  I die, I die!!  It´s a perfumer´s elaborate joke, how do they do that?  … yup, we have rhubarb!  And then – voila!  This awesome sap accord.  Not “sap” like any sort of normal traditional perfumery.  It´s sap glopped on top of the fruit-stall lineup.  I´m not sure it´s cologne, or even proper perfume in any traditional sense.   But it is absolutely the kind of scent that, were I to pass someone wearing it, I would throw myself in front of them and demand, what are you wearing?!?!  Also, it´s really, really strong and minty at the same time.  Seriously, it´s like mint drops for the nose, in a good way.  A nasal palate cleanser.  But it displays its true cologne-ness only by fading away within the hour, preparing us for…

Askew, “a fragrance about fury, inspired by the deconstruction and destruction of the classical perfume for me, full of fire and explosion, energy and virility.”  Notes of birch tar, cardamom, soft leather, ginger, grapefruit, vetiver, Egyptian mimosa.  Sniffing the atomizer before spraying, I was a little afraid – it had that marine/male essence smell.  On the skin the first note is a powerful, smoldering tarry leather.  It´s wonderful, and just as I was starting to think, well, this smells a bit like … the citrus and ginger appear, and can I tell you what a winning combination that is?  It´s a wonderful role reversal, with the citrus functioning as the cheerful, effervescently sweet moderator rather than its ubiquitous role in modern mall perfumery of tarting up some toothache-sweet confection.  The birchtar softens into a gentle leather (along the lines of L´Artisan´s Bottega Veneta leather) pretty quickly – it´s there, but if you´re looking for something butch and smoky you won´t find it here.  The cardamom and vetiver are very faint on my skin, while the mimosa adds a fairly significant floral aspect to the scent before it fades down into a lovely vetiver/leather.   This does a fun transformation from a “masculine” to a “feminine”, and back to masculine, although really anyone could wear it.

All of these are of that high-art-concept school of perfumery that either appeals or annoys, depending.   For a line that bases its fragrances on feelings and emotions (desire, melancholia, etc.) there is a concomitant sense of thought put into these – and not the kind of thought that boils down to: let´s make something on trend so we can sell the hell out of it.   I did my share of eye-rolling when I first read their marketing materials.  On the other hand, they appear to be reaching toward an end result that I haven´t seen (or smelled) a hundred times before, and on that score they succeeded.  The fragrances hang together nicely as a group in their unisex quirkiness, and not one of them smelled familiar.

Of all of these, Skarb is probably the most conventional, although still interesting.  Geste is the most over-the-top, and Radieuse is the most fun.  Askew would probably appeal most to fans of things like Bulgari Black, which I admire rather than love.

Skarb is currently available at Luckyscent, and I can only assume the others will follow eventually.  The company´s website is www.humieckiandgraef.com

Skarb bottle image from luckyscent.  Each scent has the same-shaped bottle but varies in the cap (porcelain, plastic, metal, wood) and the color tape.

41 Comments

  1. I tried Skarb at ScentBar and everyone involved said I sucked the life out of it. I’d love to see what the rest of the line does…

    • Tom, you scent-killer, you! [-x I was expecting some aquatic guy-scent, and was quite surprised.

  2. Ok, these are part of the “if it ain’t in Paris” series for me… And the copy did turn me off at the launch of Skarb.
    But you’re sorely tempting me to bite the bullet and order the samples. I was wearing L’Air de Rien yesterday for the first time in months and thinking of, well… how *ripe* it smells, wondering about how another take on slightly unwashed “humanity” would feel. Geste seems to fit the bill. I’m not quite in the naughty grandma age group, but as a devout reader of Colette, I could get into that vibe.

    • Um …. I was all ready to do a post poking fun at these, I’ll be honest. I remember chortling when Skarb came out. It’s easy to giggle at something that is trying that hard to “send a message.”

      But the perfumery itself, the result, impresses me. I am not going to buy any (I never do anyway), and I’m not dying for a decant, but like the Mugler coffret it was a similarly interesting experience just smelling them.

      The “ripeness” of Geste fades in and out on me, and when it’s there reminds me very much of Rien and the barnyard one from JAR that I always type wrong :”> (Ferme Tes Yeux? Terme Tes Yeux?)

    • Have you seen any of the online stills of Michelle Pfeiffer in the upcoming “Chéri”? She looks fantastic in beautiful costumes. Looking forward to seeing it.

      • I like Michelle Pfeiffer but casting her as Léa seems somewhat shocking to me — maybe because I can only see Colette, or a woman who would look like Colette, in the role (she actually played it onstage). Or someone as beautiful and lusty as Isabella Rossellini, as mischievous and tough as Isabelle Huppert… Now I’m all disconcerted: major brain-wrapping time!
        March, I’ve gone and ordered samples, you temptress.

    • I was surprised at how much …. well, “like” isn’t precisely the correct word. But they were fun and interesting and strange.

  3. L’Air de Rien meets Apres l’Ondee? Oh yes. Yes. Yes. And I’ve been trying so hard to be good.o:-)

    Sounds like a fun little journey with these scents.

      • It amazes me that with all the talk about a housing slump, how much people will ask for homes that aren’t remotely worth their price. Especially considering I’ve looked at their tax records and I know exactly how much they paid for them. So, no house yet. End of snark. I think I’m just gonna build one out of empty perfume boxes. And ease my frustration with new bottle of something. Derby or Serge Noire, I can’t decide. If all else fails, shop.

        • Same here. Only now some of those houses are being foreclosed on. It’s like the sellers want to get the 300% appreciation they were expecting when they bought it, and it’s particularly galling when you know what they paid for it. [-( I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.

  4. Rhubarb juice and green banana skin? Notes like these usually cause me to roll my eyes (or make impolite retching noises). But your review has me so intrigued that these are now on the must-try list. Too bad the Multiple Rouge was missing. Frozen oranges, ozonic red berries and immortelle-that one sounds too strange to ignore. 😮

    • We were all laughing over the ozonic berries …. my best guess (my friend got the sample from another friend, I think) is that the Multiple Rouge smelled most “normal” to a non-perfume-obsessive, so she kept it, but who knows? 😉

  5. Damn. I liked, but didn’t adore Skarb. I was feeling really smug about not needing any of the rest of the line either. Hadn’t even really looked into them, since at $210 they would need to *really* intrigue me. Remained feeling smug till your description of the Radieusse. I’m not a huge edc fan, but this one sounds wonderful enough to knock me out of my current new scent apathy. I’m thinking that if not a full bottle, a large decant is going to be essential. And I doubt I’d ever have got past the blurb about fury, deconstruction, blah, blah, blah for Askew, but after reading your description of it, I’m thinking this really may not only be decant worthy, but FBW for me. Leather, cardamom and vetiver. Very, very, very hard for me to resist them right now if they’re done well and this sounds like it definitely is. This is clearly my karmic payback for feeling so smug.

    • Well, here. Let me cool your ardor a bit … I probably should go back and put this up in the main post after further reflection. There is a particular trade-off going on in these scents. In exchange for the up-front bombast, which lasts an hour on most of them (and five minutes in Radieuse), the drydown is a lot tamer. These don’t have that classic-perfume continuity of, say, Mitsouko, where you’re still wafting that same sillage ten hours later. The drydown in these is quite agreeable (okay, with the exception of Geste, but that’s just me). But after the fireworks display at the beginning — the front-loading of the excitement in these — you have to settle for what is in the end a nice, interesting but less exciting fragrance in the far drydown. If that makes any sense at all.

      FWIW — resniffing myself, the Askew lasts 24 hrs on me, with a fair amount of sillage. I can smell it on my arm without looking for it. The Radieuse is there faintly, and the other two are gone.

  6. March, you make these sound gorgeous. I’ve only smelled Skarb (which I wanted very badly to love because of the name), and on me it was pure lovage from beginning to end. Lovage? Not particularly Slavic (if I had to choose a Slavic spice it would be caraway seeds. And poppy seeds, especially ground and sweetened and filling a nice litte pastry) and not particulary teary (and not angelic either – too earthy for angels). Plus it’s pretty abundant in my garden, so if I feel the need, I can always rub some behind my ears…
    Maybe I’ll have to try again.

    • Oh, poppy seed pastry! You’re making my mouth water! And you made me giggle with lovage — yeah, you might as well go out and roll around in your yard. That’s how Parfum de Therese makes me feel — meh, hand me some cilantro and be done with it. It sounds like Skarb made you sad even if it didn’t make you cry with Slavic emotion… /:)

  7. I haven’t had a chance to read all the copy on their elaborate website, but some of the photos are a hoot. The naked guy with the lamp in his raised hand in Askew: a fragrance about Fury??? Oh please. I do like their logo, though.

    But your post does make me curious about these fragrances.

    • The naked guy with the lamp! I should have put that up on the site, think of the hits we’d get! 😕 Wish they’d cropped the pic slightly differently 😉 but he is an eyeful.

  8. I remember seeing Skarb and thinking it sounded like a cross between ‘scar’ and ‘scab’. Very Uncle Fester. So I passed.

    Now I may have to……….well, you know, actually TRY the blasted thing!:-?

    xo>-) (he just did his “Alien” thing – Lord, but I just love when he does that!)

    • Mine never does the morph. Sometimes I clear everything out just so I can see his cute little horrifying alien head emerge. 🙂

      I don’t know. I don’t think Skarb is man enough for you.

      • I seldom clear out my .pdf files because I am a lazy wench – imagine my surprise when I got a buncho photos to review and Lo! and behold, my little extraterrestrial of love was in there, morphing away!! Like Patty, my friend D explained the morph – but I just put my hands over my ears and sang the LaLaLa song. He morphs because he is poppping out of the :o, just like he did on Sigourney’s ship…and that’s that!

        If you think Skarb ain’t man enough, then I will happily pass. I can’t slog through the samps I have (and yes, I’m still getting more:”>

        xo>-)

  9. Actually bought Skarb earlier in the year for my husband, and it smells great on him! I love that celery smell, which I assume is the lovage note.

    Hopefully, our friends at Luckyscent will ge the rest of the line in soon.

    Hugs!

  10. I’ve tried Skarb and Geste, and I wasn’t particularly floored by either of them. If you hadn’t put in so much about the skank in Geste I would never had known about it–on me it was soft rounded ambery florals and a bit of tang from what I guess is the fir. This is, of course, coming from the girl who thinks L’Air de Rien is just a thick golden incense and doesn’t get any barnyard. I think we should hold a skank-off someday where we all get together to see who is the biggest skank-eater and who is the best skank amplifier. Then we’d have a benchmark by which we could judge future ‘fumes!

    • “Thick golden incense”?!?!

      😮

      Thick. That I agree with. We definitely should hold a skank-off. Let’s invite Matt and Tom. People who don’t believe in skin chemistry have obviously never sniffed with a group. :)>-

  11. These sound way more interesting than I would have expected. I’ve starting keeping a tally of “new niche lines who have not justified their existence”, I guess I’ll wipe H&G off the list.

    • Robin, I was surprised, as I said on here earlier. I sniffed these figuring I’d either be mocking them or ignoring them altogether. I don’t know that I want to wear them any more than I wanted, say, the Mugler coffret. But at least they are interesting.

  12. Btw, does “Skarb” mean anything? In some language or argot of which I’ve never heard?

    • I remember seeing a reference to Polish, and if I’m running my Wiki correctly, it’s either “treasure” or “treasury.” Have no idea, though, whether that has anything to do with the actual fragrance.

      • Gretchen, March: skarb may mean both “treasure” and “treasury” but I would also say “precious one”. So we actually call children and other loved ones “my skarb” 🙂 Not sure which meaning was intended by H&G though.. Z from PL

  13. “inspired by a mature woman who loves an adolescent” ??? A perfume for Mrs Robinson? In anycase the notes sound like they reek of awesomeness and I’m off to order a sample which I shall not wear around boys under the age of 18.

    • Hey, maybe we’re thinking about it all wrong and pervertedly. :”> 😉 I’d seen the “mature woman/adolescent” blurb before I read the book, but the book has all this stuff about how they love their grandmas. Maybe it’s a completely innocent grandma love.

  14. Does a nose have eyebrows? If so, my sniffer is raising an interested brow at Askew…love the name, of course, but not just the notes, but also your description of how it plays out has caught my interest.

    I’m having a fuzzy recollection of when Skarb was released…am going to ignore that, because I’m calling up hints of marketing mocking mania…and shall play a game to see if I can gather Askew before the new year.

    Meanwhile, I’ve accepted a dance with Caron pour Homme today…quite the different something, with it’s lavender into vanilla thing….

  15. Wait, what did I miss? Where are you all ordering these samples from? I didn’t see that on their website.

    • I have … no idea. :”> And sorry for the delay in responding, I’m having a heckuva time with my wireless connection today. I didn’t see a sample form on H&G either…

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