Category Archives: Gorilla perfume

Gorilla Perfume ‘The Smell of Weather Turning’

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….

Somerset storm

‘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.

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Gorilla Perfume ‘Sikkim Girls’

Sikkim Girls

I’ve been trying to learn more about the story surrounding this scent and it is proving a little elusive. It is supposedly based around a rumour that musician Sheema Mukherjee brought back from Darjeeling and turned into a piece of music. The story is of a pair of girls, modestly dressed in white but with quite indecent intentions…

 “It was there that she was warned that the Sikkim girls could charm a man away from your side with just a sidelong glance and sensual sway of their hips.”

Sikkim is a landlocked state in India, located in the Himalayas. I was looking for local myths about mysterious sirens luring men away from their wives, but so far all I have discovered is that woman in Sikkim are far less oppressed than women in India’s southern states. Boy children are not treasured more than girls. Although by western standards Sikkimese culture probably does not rank it’s woman folk as equal to it’s men, the women do have a lot more freedom to go about their lives unchaperoned and maintain a sense of individuality.

Hinduism is the main religion in Sikkim, where goddesses are as equally worshipped as gods. I have always been fascinated by Hindu culture and it’s complexities, it’s many, many deities, the philosophy and practice of the Hindu faith. However my interest has always been on an acedemic level, I have never actually been to India and immersed myself truly in the sights, sounds and smells of the place. And to add a further contradiction, I am generally not a fan of oriental inspired perfumes, in particular those with a blend of exotic spices and florals. Oh I love the idea of them, but as soon as I put them on my skin I feel like I am pretending to be someone else. I just don’t feel as if that style of perfume suits me. So it is probably fair to say that in my mind I may fancy the delights of the east but in my heart I am an english rose.

It is with a little confusion and a little apprehension that I approach ‘Sikkim Girls’. I wish I had a firmer basis from which to start, mainly because I feel uneducated about this genre of fragrance, but also because Gorilla have based this perfume around a whisper and a piece of music. I will step outside of the box and see what I can make of it. The music is really quite beautiful, the sitar weaving through your mind in a hypnotic trance. You can listen to it here. With the melody still rolling around in my head I take my first intoxicating breath of ‘Sikkim Girls’….

I am assailed by a full on, fleshy wallop of frangipani. Indolic, waxen white petals cling instantly to my skin. A smooth vanilla cream is quickly apparent underneath, along with a little lift of lighter jasmine. It is a very textural experience, pillowy white flesh and pollen tipped stamens, like those of a calla lily. I feel like a little fly that has crawled inside the welcoming, scented depths of a flower, perhaps never to escape.

The perfume continues to billow forth in this manner for the first few minutes. After a while I notice the jasmine turning a little antiseptic, but it doesn’t stay this way for very long. It is like the jasmine has turned it’s head to watch for the beginning of the main event, and here it comes, riding in a howdah atop a white elephant decorated with golden chains, the gargantuan carnal princess that is tuberose.

Once she arrives there is no ignoring her, the other aspects of the fragrance change in her presence. The vanilla veils itself in smokey incense, taking it’s place behind the royal guest of honour, fanning her occasionally with a drift of sandalwood. Jasmine weaves itself into her hair, becoming a note caught much closer to the skin. Frangipani, upstaged by her majesty, goes to sit in the corner and sulk. ‘Sikkim Girls’ becomes all about the tuberose, wave upon intoxicating wave of it. Warm, moist fleshliness, anointed with oils.

It is an all consuming perfume, the sillage is strong and continues to get stronger as it warms further on my skin. I am emanating a luscious, slightly over-ripe fugue at least 3 feet around myself. I really enjoy that smokey, woody vanilla, but I can only catch it every so often. In it’s place has stepped the impression of something spicy, I cannot detect it exactly, and there is no mention of it in the note listing but it is reminiscent of turmeric. There is the same golden buttery heat that you catch as it toasts in a pan of oil.

‘Sikkim Girls’ is a hypnotic chant, a continuous, hedonistic mantra that refuses to release you from it’s grip. The tuberose is relentless and for a while I am in love. But around two hours in I begin to tire of it’s insistent presence. I also keep catching a cloying rottenness, although only very slight and very typical of animalic tuberose. I think it might be my skin that brings that unpleasantness out to play. The impression is of a vase of lilies left to wilt on a hot windowsill. This picture fades slowly, over another three hours, until finally, exhausted, the princess lays down to sleep. The very end of the dry down is a soft kiss of jasmine and sandalwood.

The tantric song of ‘Sikkim Girls’ would be perfect spritzed onto silk sheets in a steamy boudoir, but it is not an intimate scent, it reaches out from the skin and invites all those around you to join in. There will be people who will fall completely in love with it, unafraid to wear liberal splashes of it’s carnal glory. Others will shrink from it’s resonant sensuality with blushed cheeks. I would love to smell this on someone else, someone with a love for exotic florals who could show me how to wear it with no shame. For me ‘Sikkim Girls’ is overwhelming and extrovert, I don’t perceive any modesty covering it’s sensuous nature. I feel as if I am shouting very loud and completely naked when I wear it. It has such beauty though, and I think that if you were tempted to stray by that mesmerising sway of the hips, you’d never return.

Gorilla have yet again created a perfume that provokes an emotional reaction, this time a powerhouse of exotic blooms that sings a siren’s song of mystical eastern pleasures. It has no restraint, makes no apology for it’s lustful desires and would capture your soul, enfolding you within it’s fleshy embrace forever, if you so wished…. wear it at your own risk…

Gorilla Perfume ‘Furze’

Furze

There is a wonderful and very kind fragrance fairy out there who has sent me samples of the entire Volume 2 collection of Gorilla Perfumes! This is wonderful because it means that I can really experience these fragrances and give them time to tell me their stories.

The more Gorilla Perfumes I try, the more I am coming to realise that they are up to something quite special as a brand. They really are ‘fragrance without fear’. Each has a very distinctive voice and there is no apology made if what they have to say is not to everyone’s taste. They are perfumes that demand not only to be sniffed but to be seen, the air becomes coloured around you when you wear a Gorilla scent. I have also noticed that my response to these fragrances is far more visceral than intellectual. It may still have a lot to do with my history with Lush but it is also more than that. It is as if the scent is reminiscent of some collective knowledge that I know without knowing, if I could just shake the dust from the part of my brain that remembers unconscious thoughts, I might know it better.

I have read a lot of responses to Gorilla Perfumes and there is a unanimous agreement that the scents make you feel….. How they make you feel is completely personal because after all there is nothing so subjective as scent. In the world of fragrance writing and reviewing, a perfume is observed, deconstructed, analysed, then pieced back together again with an opinion hung around it’s neck. With scent built around a traditional structure it is easy to take it apart and objectify each component and it’s relationship with the others. Gorilla perfumes (to my poorly educated nose anyway) seem to have a much more straight forward layered structure, but what is incredible is their demand for a reaction. Whatever perfume from the range you are trying, it hits you in the gut and provokes an emotional response before your mind has had a chance to start assessing the actual smell.

There is always something slightly twisted in Gorilla Perfumes, I am often surprised by the weird little kicks I come across and I can hear the perfume chuckling “ah ha! Thought I’d be gentle on you ay? Well tough shit have some of that!” Then in comes some odd note or sensation. In ‘Flowers Barrow’ it was the unrelenting powder, in ‘The Sun’ the sticky orange squash, in ‘Euphoria’ the uncontrollable desire for sleep. ‘Furze’ has it’s own little quirks, which I shall tell you about if you read on…

When I was growing up, I knew the dark green prickly shrub of this story as broom, or gorse. It grew in abundance on the windy bluffs of the Cotswold hills and in the early spring it would provide one of the first splashes of colour on the dun coloured landscape. I remember loving it’s name and imagining witches creeping about on the hills at night, harvesting the hardy green branches to fly home on in the moonlight. I also remember being told as a teenager that if you dried broom leaves you could smoke them and get high. I never tried to do this mum, honest.

Broom, or furze as we shall refer to it from now on, is one of those ancient plants that isn’t much to look at but was highly regarded in folklore for it’s magical properties. It was representative of light, banishing the lurking winter gloom with it’s burst of yellow petals. Given as a gift, furze was a symbol of good luck, unless you gave it to someone you were romantically involved with, in which case it meant that you were angry with them. Above all it was believed to be powerfully protective. Planted around the perimeter of your house it created a barrier which no bad spirit could cross. Burning furze wood and blooms helped to prepare and protect you during conflict.

I don’t remember furze flowers having a particular smell, however it is interesting that for some people they smell very distinctly of coconut. This must be the case for Simon Constantine, who created the ‘Furze’ fragrance. On the Gorilla Perfume website it is described as

 “Warm Vanilla like a honeyed Caramel snuggle and Coconut cuddles and kisses leaving you smelling mouthwatering and delicious…   swoon!”

Interesting. A potently protective, ancient scrub being represented using phrases like ‘coconut and caramel snuggles’? Those mind benders at Gorilla are at it again. The story of the scent is steeped in folklore and Simon’s feeling of protection for his family by the furze growing in his garden, yet it’s description is about as fluffy and insubstantial as you can get. I cannot wait to get ‘Furze’ on my skin and let it whisper it’s own story to me….

A recipe for protection.

This recipe much be made on a bright morning, preferably with the sun’s rays falling onto your work surface. Firstly, wash your hands with warm water and your finest mimosa scented soap. Then gather your ingredients together and light the stove, placing two copper saucepans on to warm gently.

·Take a large wooden bowl and into it tip the flour and sugar. Sift them together using your fingers.

·Into one of the pans pour your coconut milk and drop two vanilla pods in to infuse. Don’t be stingy with the vanilla, add three pods if the protection you need is strong. Leave it to heat through, stirring occasionally.

·Into the other pan place a knob of unsalted farmhouse butter and melt until it is golden and liquid. Pour the butter into the wooden bowl with the flour and sugar, then combine into crumbs using your fingers.

·Remove the coconut milk from the hob and gently stir in the yeast, then scoop out the pods and set them aside to dry. Do not dispose of them, you will need them again later. Pour the vanilla infused coconut liquid into the wooden bowl to gradually to form a dough.

·Once a sticky dough is formed, transfer it to a flour and sugar dusted wooden surface and begin to knead, all the while filling your mind with positive, protective thoughts. Envisage the colour yellow filling the room all around you and try to stay as relaxed as you can.

·When the dough is ready, wash your wooden bowl with the mimosa soap and return the dough to it. Cover it with a yellow cloth and set it in the warm sun to rise for an hour. During this time, go out and collect five sprigs of flowering furze from the garden. Separate the flowers from two of the sprigs but keep the other three intact.

·Return to the kitchen and uncover your dough, which should now have doubled in size. As you deflate it and begin to knead again, imagine your enemy’s power diminishing and your own power becoming stronger.

·Separate your dough into seven and roll them to create little buns. Cross each bun with a star, dust with more vanilla sugar and place in the oven to bake. Stay in the kitchen, and as the bread begins to rise and the smell mingles with the sunshine, imagine yourself as a strong and happy person, free from any worries or ill wishes.

·Prepare a box lined with white tissue paper and sprinkle some of the furze flowers into it. When the little buns have cooled, stud them with more flowers, place them in the box and tie it with a yellow ribbon.

·Send this box of sweetness to your enemy with all the positivity you can muster. Take the remaining furze sprigs and fashion them into a bunch with your vanilla pods, secure it with more yellow ribbon and hang it above your front door. Whenever you pass beneath this posy, say thank you for your continued happiness and protection from evil.

I believe that ‘Furze’ needs a much stronger identity than the one that is offered for it. Yes it is buttery and coconutty and delicious, but it is not a frivolous confection for little girls, it is a serious, adult-sized dish of delight and magic, to be handled with respect.

‘Furze’ begins with a clean, soapy mimosa that is quickly chased by coconut. At first the coconut is also very clean and soapy, creamy like lather. As it begins to warm on my skin the vanilla slowly oozes out and the coconut becomes buttery and sumptuous.

The mimosa is still very much present and when combined with the now unctuous, creamy butter it has an effect akin to not rinsing the washing up liquid from your glass properly then drinking milk from it. This is one of those strange little kicks that is always present in Gorilla Perfume, unsettling your nose so you can’t get comfortable with the scent too quickly.

I am pleasantly surprised at the character of the coconut in this perfume. I was expecting either a floral coconut combination, which I have experienced in products from Lush and was sad to find smelt a little bit sicky, or I was expecting more of a raw cocoa butter thing to happen, rich and chocolatey and nutty/earthy. Neither of these is present however. This coconut is delicious macaroon, slightly dry and sweet but also, when combined with generous lashings of custardy vanilla, becomes creamy smooth and melting.

There is a definite butter note present too, melting, unsalted butter. I can almost smell the greasiness of it before a caramel swirl brings it back from the brink. And always present, those clean soapy bubbles, floating high up in the fragrance, continually pulling me up out of the vat of custard. This is what I mean when I say that this is a grown up perfume. It is not simply sickly sweet and gloopy. That shiny, floral lightness helps to keep ‘Furze’ interesting and sophisticated. It is an adult gourmand rather than an ice cream sundae.

Another interesting facet of this perfume is that it has heights. Usually my experience of perfumes as they develop is that they get deeper. Darker base notes start to dominate as the sparkle at the top fades. In ‘Furze’, the deepest note is the vanilla, which gets warmer and combined with the coconut becomes creamy. There might be the tiniest hint of sandalwood but it certainly doesn’t show it’s true colours here. It’s the soapy froth on the top that doesn’t fade. It develops a slight green sharpness and holds itself entirely separate from the sweet custard tart below it. Very evocative of a furze bush, with it’s sharp thorns forming a protective guard over the creamy yellow flowers. If that was intentional on Simon’s part then it is an extremely clever piece of perfumery.

‘Furze’ is a very comforting fragrance. I love that the coconut and vanilla stay true, hours into the dry down. There is no complex shift where the perfume morphs into another shape, no nasty surprises lurking in the background. I could probably find words to criticize it’s simplicity and if ‘Furze’ didn’t have such a strong identity already I would say that it’s lack of depth diminished the resonance of the scent. However, ‘Furze’ is meant to envelop you in the softest woollen shawl and keep you safe from harm. It is sweet sunshine and simple happiness. There is no place for shadows here. To avoid the childish connotations of being safe and protected, ‘Furze’ reminds you that it has thorns with that sharp, twisted soap top note that only recedes at the very end, into a clean vanilla haze.

It really is rather beautiful. Bewildering, yet again, but lovelier for it.

I wonder how many people really ‘get’ Gorilla Perfume. It takes me a while to understand these scents and discover their true natures. The descriptions and hype surrounding them do not always ring true to me. I really do love the visual identity of the brand, created by the mad genius that is Plastic Crimewave, but it paints a very strong picture of the perfumes as graffiti scrawls on the pristine wall of modern cosmetics. This is going to put some of those classic ‘haute perfumerie’ fans off instantly. It would be very interesting to see what people’s response to these fragrances would be if the perfume and the brand was presented in more sophisticated packaging. I suspect it would be quite different. For those Lush customers popping in on a Saturday to buy bath bombs, I can imagine Gorilla being just too weird to consider.

Gorilla really does epitomise ‘niche perfume’. It has a very strong, forthright identity but I feel that sometimes (especially in the case of ‘Furze’), some of the beauty is diminished by the brand’s shouty persona. There is only a very small stage for it to stand on and perform and I would love to be at the Edinburgh Fringe right now, to see how they are doing it. Art and scent and performance is a heady trio. I hope that once you are embraced within the arms of the giant purple gorilla, it will whisper it’s more delicate secrets to you with due reverence.

Gorilla Perfume ‘Euphoria’ and ‘The Sun’

Euphoria The Sun

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.

Gorilla Perfume ‘Flowers Barrow’

Flowers Barrow

This is going to be interesting. As I begin to write I am stealing myself to put this perfume on. I feel I need to work up to it. Look out all of you who aren’t into emotional ramblings, for this essay is about to become one.

I will find it impossible to review ‘Flowers Barrow’ without wreathing myself in the past. Too much has gone before, I cannot find my objectivity.

I should explain. I used to work for Lush and towards the end of my time there Gorilla Perfume made it’s eccentric re-entrance. Mark and Simon Constantine, the beautiful minds behind the brand, wanted to take a great, artistic step away from Lush and fragrance the world with a more diverse and eclectic collection of perfumes. I was around for the first launch but then the time came for us to part ways. So as Gorilla has evolved and developed I have experienced it from a customer perspective. Which is quiet a different trip.

When you work for a company like Lush you are literally dunked head first into a steaming vat of creativity, colour, scent and sensation. During working hours you exist in a super saturated, neon world which will insist on coming home with you at the end of the day. It is a full throttle, palpitating fairground of a job and you ride the scented bumper cars in your sleep. Then you have to get back on the next morning. And the next, and the next. Christmas starts in August. New products have parties thrown for them, campaigns involve wearing orange Guantanamo Bay style pants over your clothes and trying to stop angry pro-hunt supporters from trashing your shop. It is as unrelenting as a monkey with a pair of cymbals, grinning manically and chattering away about essential oils.

The company is inspirational, their ethos admirable/brilliant/crazy, the products ingenious. The job?  Shattering. The shop? An emotional sink hole. There are a lot of opportunities glimmering away within the company because it is so big, but grasping them is like trying to catch a tiny fish in a vast ocean. Attempting to chase a swift, rainbow tailed unicorn on a child’s tricycle. I was pedaling so fast, running on empty the entire time and by the end every single one of my fuses was blown. I was left feeling exhausted, ridiculous and unsure of who I was or what I was doing. The mad-eyed, anxious person in the mirror was rather worrying, both to myself and to my nearest and dearest. There was nothing left for me to give, I’d lost all passion for the job so I decided it was time to go. There were relieved sighs all round, some farewell drinks and then off it sped, that relentless, perfumed machine, with not even a backward glance. I was left gasping in it’s wake.

For a while afterwards if I walked past the shop the smell would induce a near panic attack. My heart would start to race and the adrenalin would flood through my body in a most unnerving way. I was a bit of a mess for a while, I think I just burned out and it took some time to get myself back together again.

So…. That was cathartic. Thanks for bearing with me.

A few years on and I have some perspective, I’m much happier and it’s time to re-acquaint myself with Gorilla’s latest batch of weirdness. I think I can keep the anxiety levels to a minimum but all the same I’ve decided to forgo the intense experience of having the perfumes shown to me in store. I might not have all the knowledge of the sales assistants anymore but I know the performance and I’d prefer to make up my mind in my own time, in my own space. It would have been fun to visit the Gorilla tour bus, had it come down to Devon, but alas not. So mail order it is.

I decided on ‘Flowers Barrow’ after reading an excellent review by The Silver Fox. I was also very interested in the imagery and history surrounding the fragrance.

 “Heed the sages, walk back in thyme

The air is filled with memories. Sprawling brambles and nettles have seized domain of these Roman ruins. Voices of roaming spirits whisper to each other around the fallen stones. Below the sea sings “Come, come, hush, hush” to the eternal, inevitable rhythm of her tides…   “

This conjures some pretty potent imagery and I was hoping to experience some sort of past life stirring, a connection with the pagan roots of the ancient site that inspired the perfume. Herein lies a conundrum. The picture had already been painted in vivid strokes, I had already imagined this scent to fit it’s description. Earthy, musty, crushed greenery with the tang of salt in the air, aromatic with herbs and sweetly bitter blackcurrant. So when I first breathed in the real thing, I found it to be so resolutely not what I’d imagined that I didn’t know where to go with it. It was rather like being given ice cream when I’d asked for tomato soup.

I have spent quite a while wearing ‘Flowers Barrow’, wasted quite a lot of words trying to make my experience of it somehow fit with it’s description. Maybe if I had been introduced to this fragrance from inside the company, been on the training course to better understand Simon’s choices. Maybe if I had allowed myself to be sold this fragrance by an undoubtably knowledgeable assistant…. but there will be lots of people buying this fragrance in the same way that I did, online. It is therefore perhaps more appropriate to review it cold, or so to speak. I’ve realised that I am just not going to fit this square peg of a perfume into its pre-prepared round hole. Scent is extremely personal and each individual will experience it differently. So I have decided to give ‘Flowers Barrow’ a different personification.

There is a house at the crossroads. An ancient cottage that leans shabbily beneath the spreading branches of the grandfather oak tree. People come here to leave their wishes tied to the massive trunk, bound around with red string and fluttering scraps. The cottage has high garden walls and over them drifts the sweetest smell of wild roses.

Sometimes, when wishes aren’t enough and a loved one is sick, someone will be brave enough to fearfully push open the wooden gate and step into the garden. Mumbling an incantation against evil, for these are a superstitious folk, the person creeps down the path between the rose bushes, stepping into a heady mist of scented petals. There are blackcurrant bushes heavy with berries, a cat watching from beneath the shady leaves. As the person approaches the cottage a trill of bird song erupts from the thatch.  Little brown house sparrows dart in and out from under the eaves, the wall stained grey and white with droppings.

The air is dry, it has not rained for a month and the scent of the garden and it’s inhabitant’s is palpable. The front door of the cottage stands ajar but it is dark within. The person can just make out bunches of dried herbs hanging from the beams and the glint of a copper cauldron sitting in the hearth. Another cat slinks out from the gloom and lifts it’s tail against the lintel to mark its territory. A witches familiar perhaps? Fear mounting in his stomach, the person turns to shuffle down the path and away from the strangeness of the garden.

On the lightest of breezes drifts the sound of singing. It comes from the side of the house. The person peeps around the corner stones and sees a woman, bending to fill her basket with the plentiful herbs that grow all around her. Sage, thyme, rosemary, camomile. There are vegetables too, carrot tops grow bushily in neat rows and red tomatoes sag from their willow frames. It is a beautiful kitchen garden. The woman herself is statuesque and broad shouldered, strong hands dusting dried earth from her skirts. Her skin is scrubbed pink and clean. There is a baby tied to her breast with a long piece of linen and another child sits in the dusty pathway, eating a pile of blackcurrants.

A mother then. Not an old crone. This eases the person’s fear. The woman looks up then and smiles, opening her arms in a welcoming gesture…. “Come to me” she says, “I will heal all”.

‘Flowers Barrow’ certainly is a mother earth of a fragrance, with it’s wonderful herbatiousness and sweet, milk powder ending. I found I had to go through some oddness to get there though, the initial power of it made me recoil. It was a bit like having a ton of dry pink petals dumped on top of me. I have noticed that quite a few Gorilla perfumes have this initial knockout effect, which can temporarily stun your senses.

This is a natural perfume and as such is startlingly real in it’s delivery. There seems to be nothing man made to subdue the behaviour of the different notes. At first they all clamour together in one great floral punch. It is also unbelievably sweet, which I wasn’t ready for. Not gourmand in the slightest, just cloying, throat tightening sweetness. After this comes the blackcurrant. At first it is a relief to detect this fruity, green leaf and I was expecting it to quench the initial dryness with dark juices. But it very quickly turns pissy, like hiding under the bushes in the park as a child, unaware that you are sitting in a cat’s toilet until your mother drags you out.

It is at this point that I consider scrubbing ‘Flowers Barrow’ from my skin. The overwhelming sweet floral dryness is making me angry and I feel an olfactory headache starting. However, when my husband walks past and tells me I smell lovely it is enough to stop my mad dash for soap and water. I should give it some more time.

Another 10 minutes and ‘Flowers Barrow’ is changing, softening, sprouting lovely herbs. The overall feel of the fragrance is still dry but now there is just enough savoury thyme and sage to balance the sweet rose and camomile. There is also a suggestion of fresh milk, although I cannot pin point where it comes from.

It is hard to reconcile the beginning assault of this perfume with its soft and gentle ending. By the evening I felt ever so comforted and soothed. I smelt like I’d taken a healing bath with herbs and petals floating in the water, then dried myself with the softest white towel. It was lovely. But to struggle through the opening stages to get to this point might be a little too much like hard work.

I would definitely agree with Gorilla that ‘Flowers Barrow’ is ancient and powerful. I wish that the herbs revealed themselves earlier in the development to cut through the sweet camomile, rose and geranium. The blackcurrant is only pleasant at the very end, when it is bearly detectable as a slight fruitiness.

With several re-applications I have noticed that this is quite a trippy perfume. It wreathes you in fumes and starts to twist your mind a little. I am wearing the tiniest amount dabbed on the insides of my elbows and I emanate ‘Flowers Barrow’ through the whole house. I don’t know how I would feel about wearing this fragrance out until I’d given it time to settle down. I wouldn’t want to induce visions-or sickness- in the people standing around  me.

I knew that I probably wasn’t going to fall in love with Gorilla Perfumes wholeheartedly. Mark and Simon Constantine have a very recognisable signature and I find the fragrances more interesting as pieces of art rather than wearable perfumes. It is also the case that any scent with that particular signature is going to induce a spike of anxiety in me, even years on. Call me sensitive but I think that when you incorporate a constant, strong smell into an already stressful working environment, things can only become more stressful. My senses were being bombarded constantly until I became raw from it.

So, ‘Flowers Barrow’, thank you for the ride. It’s been interesting. I’m still not sure what to make of you. I’m glad that I had a chance to experience you from the other side of the counter, but I think you are just a bit much for me. I am still delicate from years of olfactory overload. It’s not your fault, continue to sing your sweet herbal song and I’m sure many others will fall under your spell. Standing at the crossroads under the grandfather oak, I do not have a wish to weave into the branches. I will take another road.