Recently I had the most fun I’ve had all year. Where? At South Africa’s first Lush store, which has been in business for about six months. Now, I’ll declare my bias: I love Lush. They don’t always get it spot-on, but when they do, and that’s often – BOY, do these people ever produce the goods! So I was predisposed to enjoy the VIP launch of the new Gorilla perfumes, but Katie and her Lush team really, truly did put on a fabulous show and gave us all (maybe 20 very happy people) a novel, super-fun perfume experience.
The info about the new Gorilla perfumes has been quite widely spread about online. The new set of perfumes all have a legible backstory which seems to sit easily with the scent – something the perfume industry at large could learn a lot from! Gorilla Volume 2 has 10 perfumes and two incense products – strangely, a single one of the perfumes (Lord of Goathorn) as well as the incenses haven’t been released in South Africa (yet). I’ll get to my very personal descriptions of the scents, but the press copy is pretty good, do read it.
I got invited to the local launch basically on the strength of pester-power. I was in there recently, sniffing my beloved Ginger, when the manager told me it would soon disappear from local shelves – so I immediately bought some (it’s fabulous and retro, do you guys know it!?). She attempted to cheer me up about its demise by saying a new lot of perfumes would be coming soon, and airily mentioning I might be invited. Ha! Did I ever hold her to that! As soon as the launch was mentioned on their Facebook page, I was all over it, begging for an invite, and it worked.
I was expecting maybe a little speech about the new scents and then standing about sniffing them. How wrong I was! The Cape Town staff really outdid themselves, and I’m not sure whether Lush ‘put them up to it’ centrally, or whether they took the initiative – whichever way, these folks all deserve bonuses. So this was the deal:
Upon arriving at the store, we were kept behind a velvet rope and fed very delicious canapés while, intriguingly, the staff were to be seen scattered around the store, all dressed up. Soon Katie, the British manager who came to set the store up and did a brilliant job (sad that it’s back to Britain for her now) appeared in ringmaster regalia – we were clearly in for something.
And that something was a beautifully thought-out little mini theatre-piece and scented prop for each scent (the props scented with the perfume at hand). The first two, Devil’s Nightcap and Hellstone, had druids and a magic potion-vibe with mason jars containing scented stones being passed round; for Sun a staffer was lounging on a beach chair on a patch of sand, and we were handed citrus fruit – a perfect pitch for this quite simple scent. Sikkim Girls featured two lusciously dressed female staffers handing out scented ‘Oriental’ fans, and for Furze there was a bonny baking lass and her honey fudge. The truly odd but great The Bug saw a virtuoso spoken piece of Big Brother paranoia, all men-in-black and headpieces, with witty scented newspaper balls as props. Euphoria had us being led through a mini meditation while the staffer anointed origami butterflies with the scent, and Flower’s Barrow was accompanied by big, bold scented faux flowers. Finally, the highlight: for The Voice of Reason we were handed aged paperbacks scented with this wonderful smell, while a staff member’s fabulous singing was a perfect accompaniment to the Beat-patchouli-Gitanes ambiance of the scent.
All of this was the most enormous fun and a truly spot-on introduction to each scent’s spirit. Now, of course I’ll tell you what I thought, but bear in mind that, barring the two I bought, I only smelled these within that night’s miasma of smells, on skin as well as on the scented props. I did go back and re-test each of them on skin a second time, but again, that’s in the store’s oversaturated olfactory environment.
In reverse order of preference:
Flower’s Barrow: All right, the backstory doesn’t mention flowers so much as herbs, and yet I was expecting something flowery, from the name. But no. This is straight-up rose geranium to my nose, and as such it smells of one thing only: aromatherapy. Fine, but not in perfume.
Euphoria: The least memorable of the lot. My extremely well-informed and erudite perfume-acquaintance who also attended was strongly reminded of Yatagan, which I don’t know well enough to ‘recognise’ here. I just thought, again: aromatherapy, but of a much less strident nature than in Flower Barrow’s case (probably because Euphoria is one of the scents in this series that aren’t labeled ‘Fine Fragrance’ but rather ‘Cologne’). And for something that’s a cologne, I really think a spray bottle is required; maybe one could use the larger sizes as a splash bottle. BUT these scents are hideously pricey, I could never afford more than the 7 ml minis. Anyway…
Sun: Another cologne. Citrus! This is nothing but the smell on your hands after peeling a nectarine or mineola. Charming, but not something I’d want to pay so much for. Extremely fleeting, but it would be awesome to have a splash bottle for summer.
Hellstone: Warm, earthy, mineraly. If you like Tauer’s Pentachord Auburn, do try. It’s the only one of the scents in a jojoba oil base – really oily. Strangely, the mentioned notes – vetiver, cumin and beeswax, in the copy provided by Lush – isn’t really reflected in the ingredients list on the back of the bottle, which just mentions vetiver, oppoponax and ambrette. This is an issue I actually have with all of these – notes being mentioned in the copy but not in the ingredients list. Where are they hiding? In the mysterious ingredient ‘Perfume’? I’d really like total transparency, I must say, from a brand such as this which does take labelling seriously.
Sikkim Girls: Nag champa! If you want to smell of very good incense, this is the one for you. Jasmine, frangipani and tuberose, says the ingredients list. If you say so! I just smell nag champa. Very nice and warm and meltey.
The Voice of Reason: Smokey Beat bar, great stuff! I have a good patchouli oil that pretty much simulates this whole scent, though. Sandalwood, Buddah wood oil and rose oil are mentioned on the bottle. What about the barbecue sauce, though? ‘Cause that’s in there. But if my patchouli didn’t give me this smokey effect, The Voice of Reason would probably be in my basket to take home.
The Bug: BOY, what a freakish fragrance! The first sniff is a head-snaps-back reeling knockout of … what? I have no idea what that is, but it is STRONG. Maybe the galbanum, but not in any form I recognised. After a very little while, a terribly fleeting banana presents itself and reminds me very much of Superworld Unknown. After this things become less strident, much softer. The notes mentioned are galbanum, black pepper (didn’t get that, really), labdanum, sandalwood and elemi. I guess the drydown is the woodier elements, and on my boyfriend it is a dream, for hours – he’ll be getting a bottle for sure.
Furze: Now THIS is the crowd-pleaser and compliment-getter of the bunch. It’s one of the two that I bought on the night, completely against type – if there’s a thing I’m opposed to on principle, it’s the smell of coconut. And yet… I found myself craving this smell immediately, as if I couldn’t bear to leave the store without it. My wise acquaintance was not impressed – old-timey vanilla essence was his verdict, and yes, it’s basically vanilla and coconut. But the mimosa is what grabbed me, only it’s oh-so-fleeting – I think the scents needs far more of the mimosa oil mentioned on the label, and less of the (not-on-the-label) coconut, but as it stands it is a warm, fuzzy, moreish, potentially edible but slightly poisonous thing of loveliness. Dabbing only on the arms delivers a very close to the skin experience. I’ll try it in greater quantities and closer to my nose when the weather turns cooler. This could be a smotherer – on the absolutely gorgeous scented scarf I got to take home from the launch, the smell of Furze was (and probably will be till the day I die) bigger than Godzilla.
Devil’s Nightcap: Aaaaah! Green sophisticated goodness, what a beauty. Druidic, mysterious, bitter and a bit dangerous, just the way I like it. If you like Madame Rochas or Chanel No 19, give it a whirl. Thought not a whole-day-frag – by the afternoon, the drydown struck me as a bit flat and bitter in the bad way, ie. mildly unwashed – this is my favourite of the bunch. The first few hours are enchantingly green and strange, perfectly named. And wouldn’t you know – it’s oakmoss! The back of my bottle, though not their website, also mentions oakwood, and both mention orange flower absolute. Clary sage and ylang ylang (really!?) are mentioned in Lush’s copy for this scent. I can see the clary sage (though it’s not too present, thank goodness), but ylang? That seems completely contrary to the sappy, twiggy nature of Devil’s Nightcap. I think this could also work as a base for any scent you want to strange-ify with some good ol’ weird oakmoss – I’ll try that soon. (Note: Don’t get this on your clothes as I did. It’s reaaaaaal pigmented.)
I can whole-heartedly recommend a visit to a Lush branch to smell these, but taking into account the strangeness of some of them, and the rather flat aromatherapy vibe of a view, AND the enormous, gigantig price tags (well, to a piteous South African-currency bearing being like me), I would strongly advise against buying unsniffed.
Now, Lush, how about bringing us here in South Africa the intriguing Lord of Goathorn and those incenses, hmm? Who can tell me something about how Lord of Goathorn actually performs on skin? Sure sounds wonderfully odd! And has anyone burnt some of the Gorilla incense?