It appears that I have unearthed Pandora’s box. The key was already in the lock, in my rush to bury it deep I must have forgotten to throw it in the river. I sat down at the edge of the pit I had dug, reached out gingerly and turned the key with a slick, well oiled click. The lock had not rusted shut then. Damn.
The first time I only opened the box a little way. Out rolled the mind twisting song of ‘Flowers Barrow’, flooding me with memories and emotions. I danced with it just long enough to pick up the wild rhythm, then resolutely closed the lid again.
Except that it won’t close. There is a golden strip of light escaping from the rim and I cannot look away from it. A fleeting scent keeps tickling my nostrils, then skipping away without revealing itself. So I ask myself what possible harm can come from taking another look?
“Beware!” Screeches my still delicate soul.
“Inhale and explore” emplores my nose.
“Step inside” invites Pandora’s box.
I am but a weak minded mortal. What choice did I really have?
The two Gorilla scents that beckoned me most enthusiastically were ‘The Sun’ and ‘Euphoria’. I initially didn’t choose them for review, opting instead for ‘Flowers Barrow’ as I knew this fragrance would be a challenge for me. It didn’t disappoint. I felt that I would be too easily won over by these other two zingy bottles of happiness. I adore bright, citrus perfumes, although I very rarely buy them because most have little to no staying power. I burn them up within an hour. I thought that if anyone could make a citrus with a concrete sillage, Gorilla could.
So. How to get my hands on them. Funds were low so I couldn’t order them online like I had with ‘Flowers Barrow’. As far I was aware Gorilla don’t do samples and I felt far too wary to make contact and ask for some. The only option left was to go into the shop. Actually step over the threshold and run the gauntlet of scent, bubbles and enthusiastic sales people. God! What was happening to me? Why was I even considering this? What if I had to have a conversation with someone I knew? What if I knocked over a whole pile of ballistics and everyone stared? What if someone tried to sell me something?
The part of the job that I found the most difficult was selling to people that didn’t want to be sold to. I could see it in their faces as soon as they walked in. Eyes down, heading straight for the products they wanted to have a look at, the barest acknowledgement of my friendly hello. Then, while I was desperately wracking my brain for a way to engage them in conversation that didn’t involve spewing the generic “can I help you find something?” Or ” do you need any help?” They would be hastily stuffing the desired product into yellow bags and heading for the tills, or else fleeing, scared and empty handed. I know how that feels from a customer point of view, but also from the other side. The pressure! You really do have to be a hardened nut to weather the storm of an unwilling customer without ending up feeling like you’ve failed.
I didn’t want to do that to the poor person who was bound to approach me when I entered the shop. So I was actually going to do this then was I? Oh boy. I really wanted to get a whiff of those perfumes…..
I go in wearing a suit of armour. Food shopping hanging from both handles of the pushchair, I try to do my best impression of ‘mum in a hurry’. The shop looks really great, clean, bright and buzzing with customers and staff. This is exactly what terrifies me because I remember the energy required to create this atmosphere. Rest assured Lush retail support, the guys in this shop are doing their jobs. Someone says hello as I pass and I really try to smile genuinely back, although it may have come out as more of a grimace. There are faces I recognise, which terrifies me further. It’s so stupid, this reaction. It is really, really over the top and unfounded, yet it is happening to me. I keep heading towards the Gorilla Perfume display.
There they are, all gilded and alluring. I can imagine that the Gorilla pop-up shop and the tour bus did these fragrances far more justice, giving them a proper stage to perform on. However the packaging is significantly different from the Lush sea of black pots to make them stand out. As I reach out my hand for the glass pipette sample bottle, I see a sales assistant approaching from the corner of my eye. I knew this would be an inevitable part of the experience. It is her job to talk to me, as a customer. My hand starts to shake. There is a far off part of my brain telling me that I am being ridiculous, but the adrenalin is already pumping and I can’t seem to get myself under control.
“Have you come across these perfumes before?” The sales assistant asks me. She is polite and softly spoken and does not look in the least bit like a manically grinning monkey, as I always imagined I looked when talking to customers.
“Yes, actually I’ve come in especially” says my voice is a very calm and friendly tone. “Can I try ‘The Sun’?” I look at my hand holding the pipette. It is still shaking. I hope she hasn’t noticed. The conversation continues, I try ‘The Sun’ and ‘Euphoria’, we chat about my initial reactions to them. All the while I am watching from somewhere behind my eyes, in shock that I am doing this thing that I’ve been terrified of for the past three years, and doing it with apparent ease. I do have a limit though, I want to be able to review these perfumes properly, so when the sales assistant offers ‘Furze’ for me to try as well, it gives me an excuse to explain that I want to see how these develop, and if I like them I’ll come back. She lets me go and I am so relieved that I ask her name.
“Thank you Hannah!” I say as I turn towards the door. I really mean it too. Thank you Hannah, for not being terrifying, thank you for helping me to do something pretty difficult, even if you didn’t know you were doing it. I leave, and walking home I feel lighter. I also feel embarrassed. I realise I’m clammy and still shaking. My body heat is burning away the perfume really quickly. By the time I get home they are already fading.
I think I will need try these two again to get a more vivid picture. I can give my opening thoughts though, after all, that was the original purpose of my visit, even if I did get so worked up during the process that I pretty much destroyed the fruits of my labour.
Out of this citrus duo it is ‘The Sun’ that I can still detect on my skin, hours after I first applied it. It is a great, sticky orange boiled sweet of a scent, opening with the brightest burst of tangerine. It is just like pushing your fingernail into the firm, dimpled skin of an orange and sending forth a glistening spray of juice.
After the initial zestiness comes the sugary sweetness of orange squash and ice lollies. I like it a little less now, the sweetness is very sticky and I feel a bit like I’ve spilt orange syrup on my skin and let it dry. It also starts to disappear at this point, the scrawl of fluorescent marker pen fading to a haze of coloured pencil. At the last moment it is saved by the sandalwood which warms it back into existence.
That’s where it stays, a warm glow of orange with a slight creamy note of sandalwood. What I like about this fragrance is the absence of spices. To detect even a slight ginger or cinnamon note would ruin the whole scent picture for me. I was initially slightly disappointed by it’s simplicity though. I found ‘The Sun’ too straight forward. I love a good citrus, and it certainly delivers on that front. But there is no subtlety or nuance. No story to tell. I think however that this is the very point of it. Mark made this perfume during the long winter months when he was cold and miserable. He wanted to recreate the happiness he felt during a road trip with friends in America. The visions that came to him of a bright orange sun on a lollipop stick are totally synonymous with the finished perfume.
In it’s purest form, nothing is more simple than happiness. So this perfume delivers it’s promise.
‘Euphoria’ is the scent that still has a question mark at it’s end. When I put it on I had two very contradictory ideas of what to expect. I have seen it reviewed as ‘nice but not very unique’. I also read a great blog post from Confessions of a Creative about the Gorilla Perfume wrap party, where they filled an enclosed space with so much ‘Euphoria’ that people where describing it as being on an acid trip. So it was difficult not to have these images in my mind as I applied the dropper to my skin. The beginning burst of herby floral was really lovely. I am a advocate of clary sage as an excellent oil for relaxation. I like to put a few drops in a warm bath if I’ve had a long day. There was also a lovely little sparkle of grapefruit and a whisper of smokey incense.
When I came away from the shop it was ‘Euphoria’ that I thought I would find the most interesting. It seemed to be skipping around on my skin, alternating between happy herbal and something more profound, shrouded and melancholic. I was looking forward to getting home and focusing on this depth, but it had faded almost completely to lemon meringue by the time I got there. It might have been because my body temperature was simply too high for ‘Euphoria’ to stand a chance of lasting. Maybe I just didn’t put enough on. Or maybe this perfume is just one of those whimsical fancies that flitter away no matter how much you apply.
A state of Euphoria cannot last forever, but I would have liked the chance to experience it for a bit longer before coming down. I really need to go back and try this fragrance again. I don’t believe that Mark Constantine and his magical nose would create a perfume designed to heal and exult, then leave it unfinished. Or perhaps it is a sneaky trick to get you hooked so you keep on chasing the perfumed dragon in search of freedom and enlightenment.
I will have to come back for more, the box of delights is firmly wedged open and all the scented demons are loose. When I have worked up the courage I’m going in search of ‘The Scent of Weather Turning’, a fragrance that I have experienced before but has now faded from my memory. I am after depth and that one reaches for fathoms beneath.
Acting as my own therapist, using perfume as a tool, is an amazing and liberating journey. It is an immensely personal topic to blog about but I have been talking to myself for a little too long and having an audience helps to pull my scattered thoughts together with more coherence. Thank you to everyone who has read my work so far. I am having than exhilarating ride and I hope you are too.