I was really excited to hear Mark Buxton – he of the numerous Comme des Garcons scents and the magical woody-incense — was doing his own line of fragrances. Here´s a link to his website which you need a way fancier computer than mine to access, so I hope it´s spiffy, I couldn´t get much past the tear-off tab. I lifted the notes from First-in-Fragrance except where they didn´t make sense (Hot Leather) for which I relied upon Now Smell This.
Hot Leather — citrus, bergamot, coriander, mandarin, orris, jasmine, patchouli, cedar, vanilla. It´s nice. It smells like a slightly smoky suede and has an interesting kind of development where the sweet notes (vanilla and jasmine) appear much later. The orris is prominent on my skin. Unisex in the direction of pretty. It also reminds me of some other fragrance, and it´s driving me crazy that I can´t think what that it is.
English Breakfast — bergamot, orange, pepper, ginger, coriander, geranium, galbanum, calendula, jasmine, rosewood, gardenia, patchouli, vetiver, labdanum, fir, cedarwood and benzoin. An exceedingly bitter concoction of coriander, galbanum and what smells like my old nemesis cilantro. Spicy-woody drydown. It´s supposed to be reminiscent of a sushi/sashimi box at breakfast, as opposed to English Breakfast tea, so I guess that´s right.
Sounds & Visions – bergamot, mandarin, pepper, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, rose, jasmine, rosewood, patchouli, guaiac, cedarwood and sandalwood. Well…. I´ve put this on three times and can´t think of anything to say about it. Let´s move on to
Nameless – mandarin, cardamom, orange flower, lavender, cinnamon, coffee, clove, jasmine, amber, ciste, wood, guaiac, patchouli, cedarwood and benzoin. It opens with a strong spiced-coffee accord and a creamy sweetness (jasmine and amber, I´m guessing, or maybe it´s the orange?). Very promising start. Unfortunately it dries down into one of those dessicated smells that make me think of opening up the door to your spice cabinet full of five-year-old jars of McCormick, combined with the smell of celery.
Around Midnight – pepper, geranium, camomile, jasmine, styrax, patchouli, ciste and cedarwood. A very Buxton-ish peppery/woody resiny scent vaguely reminiscent of mb03, except I like mb03 better. A sweet, jasmine-rich drydown. Nice, but I really need to suck it up and buy some mbO3.
Black Angel – citrus, bergamot, mandarin, orange, rosemary, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, jasmine, lily of the valley, orris, styrax, guaiac, patchouli. Hmmmm. This smells the most commercially accessible to me. The opening reminds me of Annick Goutal´s Mandragore, and the drydown somewhat of Ralph Double Black without the coffee. I don´t mean that in a snotty way – I like it a lot. I wouldn´t call it wildly innovative.
Wood & Absinth – citrus, orange, clary sage, anise, jasmine, rosewood, wood, vetiver. Maybe it´s just my skin chemistry, but clary sage, anise and vetiver are not something I necessarily want to smell together. The jasmine keeps it from being unbearably sour, but the result becomes soapy in short order and isn´t appealing to me, although I admit the weirdly buttery drydown is interesting, it smells like monoi oil, I have no idea why. Would this be the right place to note that several of these go through a stage when they are faintly urinous?
I find myself strangely disconnected from these scents, and it´s really bothering me. I feel like I’ve failed to “get it.” On a certain level I´m not fit to shine Mark Buxton´s shoes. He forgot more about fragrance ten years ago than I´ll ever know. He´s a master. So why do these feel so … of the head, rather than the heart? I even dug up Ouarzazate looking for clues, and I guess it´s telling that I forgot he did the CdG Incense I like least, mainly because on me it is almost entirely pepper and very little else, for those of you looking for a peppery fragrance.
I´m not opposed to thought in fragrance. I´m not opposed to ridiculous fragrance agendas like Humiecki & Graef – and wow, did Christophe Laudamiel hit the ball out of the park on those. I don´t want to own any of them, but there´s no denying their interest as fragrances. The Mark Buxtons (and look at the overlays and repeats of the notes) hang together as a collection, but mostly in the sense that they sort of feel like drafts of each other, Buxton´s notes about their inspiration aside (Lake Como, Moulin Rouge, etc.) Despite the list of notes, they don´t feel entire to me, although skimpy isn´t quite right either. They feel like sketches. Again, comparing them to H&G – Laudamiel may be batshit crazy, and you may hate them all, but there´s no denying their compelling, peculiar completeness. He gave us something, something we didn´t have before. With most of these, I ended up feeling like I´d opened up some giant box of idea and found a very small bar of soap inside. Nice soap, but soap nonetheless.
I´m sorry. Writing this depressed me a little. Anyone else who´s tried these, feel free to argue with me.