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
Francesca October 30, 2008

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

Shelley October 30, 2008

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....

Patty October 29, 2008

Okay, I was trying to ignore these, but think now I must sample the darn things.

perfumequeen October 29, 2008

"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.

Gretchen October 29, 2008

Btw, does "Skarb" mean anything? In some language or argot of which I've never heard?

Robin October 29, 2008

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.

Disteza October 29, 2008

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!

violetnoir October 29, 2008

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!

Musette October 29, 2008

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!)

Francesca October 29, 2008

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.

dinazad October 29, 2008

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.

Elle October 29, 2008

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.

Melissa October 29, 2008

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. :o

MattS October 29, 2008

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.

Lee October 29, 2008

Off to order samples right now, you naughty enabler.

carmencanada October 29, 2008

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.

tmp00 October 29, 2008

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...