I have been waiting to write about this perfume for quite a while. I was first introduced to it whilst working for Lush and although the specific notes faded from my mind, ‘The Smell of Weather Turning’ left an indelible mark on my consciousness. I know that my memory of scent is sometimes skewed, altered by emotion and association. It can be a crushing blow to smell something again and realise that you’ve remembered it very differently. With this perfume I couldn’t remember the notes, just this feeling that it needed to be revisited, that I needed to spend some more time with it.
The manner in which the slim black vial of perfume arrived back into my hands, a gift from an old friend, has made smelling it again even more poignant.
Along with ‘Breath of God’- which made it into Luca Turin’s top 100 scents- ‘The Smell of Weather Turning’ is the most widely praised and sort after from the Gorilla Perfume line. It is described by almost every person who has reviewed it as ‘weirdly beautiful’. It is not a scent that is easily worn, it is more a scent to be spritzed onto skin and puzzled over. The combination of notes is intriguingly bizarre- oak wood, hay, beeswax, nettle, peppermint and roman chamomile. Green, dry, waxy sweet, menthol and herbal, looking at the note listing one would expect to be reminded of an old apothecary chest, filled with ancient remedies to cure ills. There are certain aspects of that within the perfume’s development but mostly I feel an almost visceral sense of time receding, sun and moon hurtling backwards across cloud darkened skies until I am transplanted into an imagined vision from long, long ago….
‘Weather Turning’ opens with damp earth and grass, moss creeping across the brittle bark of a fallen tree. This decaying giant lies at the foot of a barrow, outside an entrance sealed by grey stone. Beyond the ridge the flat plains of Somerset stretch out toward rising hills in the distance, flood water reflecting the brooding clouds above. It is a bruised and tumultuous sky, blue-grey with inky smudges, rolling over the horizon with gathering menace. The wind whips around the barrow in chilly gusts as I climb, crushing the greenery beneath my rough shod feet.
The air is oddly still at the top, electric with an inaudible hum that is sensed rather than heard. Adrenalin crackles up my spine in anticipation. There is a farmstead at the edge of the plain below, woodsmoke from the fire drifts up to mingle with the scent of harvested crops. The tiny figures in the fields are rushing to load their carts, to bring the bales in before the heavens open. From my perch I watch them toil like ants beneath the gargantuan sky. I shudder as a distant rumble of thunder cracks the silence.
Although the rain is still far away, I pull my leather cloak more tightly around myself. It’s scent is tanned hide and last night’s campfire, thick and unyielding across my shoulders. It is a comfort to settle in beneath it’s weight, a talisman of protection against the elemental hugeness all around me. As the clouds brew up their storm of noise and drenching darkness, I watch the light scurry away behind the hills, the shadows deepen and the hairs on my arms prickle with primeval foreboding. Every inch of my being screams at me to take cover, but the terrifying beauty of nature when she is angry keeps me rooted to the top of the barrow. The bones in the earth beneath seem almost to judder with the thrill of it.
It seems to me that I am balanced on top of the world, a world about to be ravaged and soaked and split open by lightening. The first splintered flash stops my breath in my throat. In the sudden brightness the landscape jumps out in stark monochrome, a terrifyingly alien vision that sends me hurtling off the ridge towards the farm, down to the comfort of the fire and the shelter and the closeness of human bodies. Nature is too big and I am but a speck on the hillside…..
‘The Smell of Weather Turning’ brings to mind a number of unsettling dreams that I remember vividly from my childhood. I would be going about something normal like playing in the garden, when all of a sudden a low hum would begin to resonate through my dreamscape, bringing with it a terrifying sense of foreboding. Nothing would actually happen in these dreams except this, but I would wake in a panic, scared and disorientated. Later in life I have felt this in the atmosphere as a storm is brewing and I’ve learned to relish the anticipation, yet always as the thunder smashes overhead I feel a spike of real fear that sends me running for cover. That instinctual need for protection is never fully rationalised. The combination of herbal, woody and leathery notes in this perfume seems to trigger some response in me that feels distinctly primal, it touches a long dead nerve, sparking it back into life.
‘Weather Turning’ is an elemental fragrance, green with crushed herbs, fragrant with grasses and mosses, leathered and smoked in burnt umber hues. In it’s dying stages there is a comforting closeness about the scent which is quite at odds with it’s atmospheric opening. There is a feeling of human vs. nature in this perfume. It is about savage wild beauty and man’s existence within it. The leathery smokiness represents the small comfort of fire and shelter in a landscape of rolling earth and storm ridden skies.
Or, if you are less imaginatively inclined, it is a pleasantly green, slightly smoky herbal scent with a deeper leather accord running through the base. When I wear ‘The Smell of Weather Turning’ I’d much prefer to experience the whole story, even if it does vaguely terrify me. Another superbly weird creation from the house of Gorilla and one that really must be sought out by lovers of deeply earthy, aromatic perfumes. It may not be an easy fragrance to wear, it seems to sit rather uncomfortably in these modern times. But this is what sets it apart as unique, fascinating and definitely worth experiencing.