Papillon Artisan Perfumes Spell 125

It’s hot out. After all my whining about the rain and cool weather, it’s now decidedly hot. At least for the next four days. Then, slightly cooler. Slightly. The garden has gone mad in happiness. I’ve been wearing factor 50 and I’m still slightly tan.

‘Freedom day’ tomorrow. I don’t even want to think.

Two weeks ago, I talked witchiness in perfumes. A few days later, some comments on Spell 125, the new offer from the UK-based Papillon Artisan Perfumes, popped up (apparently it was released on 7 July due to meanings associated with the number 7). So, I felt it was meant to be and off I went to find a sample. In the process, I got the whole line so while some of these have been reviewed here in the past, I may do a whole line thing soon if I can find a concept to tie things together beyond there being seven fragrances by one house.

Anyway, Spell 125. I complained in the witchiness post that a number of perfumes I put in this category simply aren’t magical and mysterious on me – even if they are beautiful out of the bottle.

Well, Spell 125 goes some way to bridging that lack on my part.

Per the Papillon website, “In the Book of the Dead, Spell 125 represents a balance of light and dark, life and death. The compelling ceremony of weighing the deceased’s heart against a feather animates a delicate olfactory rendering of the lightness of the soul, with just a sliver of the underworld’s shadows”.

This is incense-focused – ie, it appears to follow the tradition of things burned for ceremony. The notes include white ambergris, Siberian pine, black hemlock, Green Sacra frankincense, Ylang and Indian sandalwood.

On me it starts with an almost rank, medicinal, astringent aspect. Note: this is not a bad thing.

I get pine, dirt with pine needle droppings in late winter when the snow has receded and things smell a little like they’ve been sitting under cover for too long, away from the air. With development, it shifts more towards orthodox incense – a mixture of resins modified by the heat of the burning. There’s a whisper of something sweet under that – the ambergris maybe. Again, this supports the perfume rather than being irritating. The drydown, sadly, is very fleeting, but is soft and smooth, almost chocolaty – perhaps the sandalwood, and, interestingly, this sandalwood works on me. This is not very long-lived on my skin (maybe three hours max). But I would remind that my body temperature generally runs slightly below 98/36.6 which definitely affects longevity of some perfumes.

I put this on my son as well because his temperature is normal. On him, this opens up pine and incense: the pine of cold air in winter forests and an incense that reminded me of cold interiors of very old religious buildings.  This opening is much truer to the fragrance in the bottle. It moves on to being a proper incense fragrance – smooth and resinous. The drydown actually is slightly woody on him. So maybe the hemlock and sandalwood. Not sweet though, just a strange juxtaposition of smooth and cardboardy. And it is far stronger and more long-lived on his chemistry. Which is to say on a ‘normal’ person it would probably be quite tenacious.

This is beautifully done and certainly dark, mysterious and enigmatic. Any sweetness is fleeting and simply softens the hard edges of the incense and pine without detracting from their specific idiosyncratic smells.

A note on the inclusion of hemlock: this is not like Ormonde Jayne Woman – it’s not unctuous or sweet.  Rather, it’s quite spare and cleaner (for lack of a better word), sharper.

In addition to the UK company site, Papillon fragrances can be found in quite a number of places. See the website for the list.

Spell 125 is offered as EdP. In the UK bottles are 50ml priced at £150.

Anyone sampled this? It’s well worth seeking out, IMHO, especially if the fragrances noted in the 5 July post are ones you love or if you’re simply an incense lover.

PS Picture above is of the one white poppy in my garden. Everything else is pink, purple, magenta, red or yellow. I’ve never seen one of these before. Thank you, Mother Nature

  • Patty says:

    that Poppy is killing me. I liked Spell 125 a lot. It’s not as much my thing as Salome is, just a different direction that I usually go. I want to test it again once I’ve cleared my head of expectations for it, which I think interfered.

  • MizChris says:

    I got a sample of Spell 125 last week, tested it, found it forgettable (though I loved the blurb copy on Luckyscent) and put it aside to pass along to a friend. After I read this post, I tried it again.

    On me, it’s very ambery and not much else. The first 10 minutes are very muted, nearly non-existent, then it goes full on amber-and that is not even a listed note. For a brief bit, the sandalwood came through. I’d welcome some pine because on me, this is just another ‘smelled one, smelled ’em all’ incense-y sort of scent and nothing about it stood out from dozens of other incense perfumes I’ve sampled over the decades. There is no frankincense from this on me at all. It IS extremely tenacious, though. The spot on my hand that got dabbed at 8 a.m. is still potently fragrant but isn’t that the way with things you don’t especially care for?! Not that I actively dislike it, more that it’s nothing unique in either a good or bad way. Hell, if it at least smelled like old mummy wrappings, I think I’d be a little happy.

    That poppy is exquisite! What a wonder of Mother Nature!

    • Cinnamon says:

      It is a real gift from Mother Nature. It’s now offered a second blossom. Ambery … Interesting what our chemistry does to stuff.

  • Dina C. says:

    That white poppy is so unusual; I’ve never seen one before! Spell 125 sounds like a good Halloween scent. Is it anything like Etro Messe de Minuit? That one always reminded me of old, stone churches and crypts. Our weather has been really hot, too. I’m suffering from summer ennui. Thanks for a nice post.

    • Cinnamon says:

      indeed, I’ve never seen a white poppy and they’ve self-seeded in my garden off and on for years. I haven’t smelled Messe de Minuit in years but my ‘feeling’ is that MdM is colder, as you point out.

      • Musette says:

        Whites are tough to keep because of cross-pollination; I have had ‘Sissinghurst’ and ‘Bridal (veil? crown?) in my garden, as well as that fringed white you show in your post, Cinnamon – but in order to continue to hold a White, it seems you must completely clear the bed of other colors, in order to keep the White. Too much work, imo.


        • Cinnamon says:

          I am cutting off the seed heads of the other colours and will actually pull out the larger magenta ones as they finish blooming as I don’t really ‘need’ them in the garden. The smaller poppies (purple, yellow, red) can stay. I’ll do the bag thing on the white once it finishes it’s thing and hope for the best, as I would really like to have it next year. I do really wonder where it came from, as there aren’t any in any of the neighbouring gardens. A wonderful conundrum.

    • MizChris says:

      Nope. It’s nothing like MdM.

  • Roxana Villa says:

    I love those poppies! I recently learned that the ancient Egyptians had a thing for poppies, specifically red ones.

  • Portia says:

    WOW! I never saw a poppy like that. Those feathered leave are amazing. It looks like a ballerinas overskirt for a tutu. So glam.
    Spell 125 is calling to me hard. Your review makes me want it even more Cinnamon, and I was already Jonesing fairly hard.
    Portia x

    • Cinnamon says:

      I’m also really taken by the frondy petal edges. Indeed, very glam — and sort of 1950s-ish. Be curious to hear how Spell 125 works on you. I wonder if I simply wasn’t putting enough of it on regarding the longevity.

  • Maya says:

    I love Spell 125. My experience is different than yours. I think that chemistry and not temperature may make the difference, because I am always also under 98 degrees, like my dad. One spray in the early afternoon and I smelled Spell 125 all day and into the next morning, something extremely rare for me. I do not get medicinal. The opening reminds me of delicate pine needles on a pile of damp hay. Doesn’t sound nice but it is. Then the middle notes appear but hints of pine stay. Lastly the ylang ylang and sandalwood add a little bit of softness and smoothness. I would be curious if this is one of those perfumes where everyone’s experience is very different.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Ya see, no Ylang at all. But the medicinal thing really is very good. I think you’re right that this is a perfume that is going to be very different on different chemistries.

    • Laura says:

      I had a very similar experience, Maya! This lasted awhile on me and never was medicinal. There was a slight mustiness at the beginning, like opening a closet door and that whoosh of old smells coming out (not a bad thing). But I’m very much in love.

  • Musette says:

    Not my thing, that perfume (Neil Morris has one, very well done, that sounds similar, but also not my jam)

    When that white drops its petals, wrap a paper bag around the pod, secure with a band or staples (Keep it on the stalk) – once it starts rattling (for you, probably… October?) snip the stalk and hang it upside down.
    If you are wanting more whites, make sure you deadhead the others (or at least the patch near where you want the whites) so they don’t crossbreed. Poppies are BEASTS! at crossbreeding.
    Sow in January.

    With any luck, you’ll get more whites next year.


    • Cinnamon says:

      Thank you on the poppy. I will do that. I’ve never seen a white one here before, anywhere. I don’t think I want loads of poppies again next year, but I would certainly like to have this one.

      I do like Spell 125. But I do think my low body temp doesn’t do it any favours. A travel candle, please.

    • March says:

      Ha! I always like to do the poppyseed sowing in a light January snow… makes it just that more magical.

    • Cinnamon says:

      hah. just looked on the Sarah Raven site here and she offers a poppy called Oriental White Ruffle which is what is in my garden.

  • March says:

    This sounds absolutely fantastic — thank you for sharing with us! I’m not entirely sure I want to wear it, but I want my whole house to smell like it.