Let us talk about life, death, rebirth and perfume.
Anubis, a mysterious and powerful Egyptian God from the cradles of civilisation was watcher of the transition, between the earthly plane and the dark ethers above. He would guide human souls from the red earth to the infinite, inky, blue black punctured velvet skies; with their million fragmented glass shard stars, suggesting souls reborn, glowing far, far away in the milky omnilucent heavens.
This constant recurring theme of the relationship bewteen earth and sky, the connection between man and God is perfectly captured in this rare, soulful and majestic example of modern niche perfumery. Let us not forget that when incense was burnt at the dawn of time, it was accepted that the billowing upward spiral of scented smoke was percieved as the connection between human and deity, and Per Fume ( through smoke ) is where our obsession with one olfactory word begins ….. Perfume.
Anubis is a rarity as a modern day perfume, not only in its exceptional use of raw materials, but also for its complexity, depth, and the sensitivity of the palette and nose that created it. It’s rich, smokey opulence is in perfect synchronicity with it’s subject matter : the intense opening – all fire and smoke – is in olfactory terms, an overture that begins with a climax. Uncompromsing and volatile, one inhalation of it’s narcotic, burnt, ritualistic inferno and it feels as if one perhaps has died and temporarily gone to heaven. Enter Anubis, strange and shadowy figure of the underworld to guide you into another realm, to the next phase of development of this enigmatic composition.
Although the blazing hues of burnt umber, scorched sienna and flame red still flicker; subtler and softer nuances appear, perhaps a nod to willowy souls being carried away to the great infinite ; something elegantly contrasting quietly creeps in with fresh, marginally bitter green vigour, and a simultaneously, peppery wood emerges adding a little light within the brooding perfumistic darkness. This all develops at an assured and measured pace, until a sweet, slightly unnerving presence makes a suprise arrival. It is floral but not in the conventional or modern sense : it is somewhat eerie and fractionally melancholy – like caramelised faust, as if old books had been dunked in beeswax and golden syrup.
We then have the slightly urinous leather note appear here, but in a good castoreum like way which pairs with an anisic secondary floral element. At various points, the enveloping smoke becomes less burnt gold and more of a silvery incense, adding a deeply spiritual layer to an already remarkable creation.
Nearly six hours into the development, we twist and turn again… From the darkness of goodbyes, to the arrival of Anubis himself; being whisked from our mortal shells on a journey that takes us high above the lonely canyons and the tiny pyramids far below on distant earth, towards the moon and the stars, and perhaps Nirvana, we finally enter a new enlightenment – peehaps the scented afterlife ( the compositions dry down ).
The very final stages of this perfume hover into a golden, glowing mass of dying but perfect embers, where warm sweet musings of benzoin mingle – I think – with Labdanum, Vetiver, maybe even a touch of ambergris.
It has been quite a journey of the senses : an opening of leathery, burnt, castoreumy, tarryness that brings to mind the ‘Parfums Fourrours’ of the 1930’s which were created especially to be worn with furs and have never been rivalled since for their outrageous animalic leathery depth and opulence. In this sense, there are moments when Anubis really does bring to mind Guerlain’s ‘Vol de Nuit’ (1933) in the parfum extrait; however this is a creation that belongs more to the carnal, the exotic, the unknown. It is a wily beast, neither male nor female, of either the old or new, but definitely of the eye raisingly sensuous, and has elements of the oriental zenith, Shalimar (1925), with the savagery of musk, incense and vanillin elements as opposed to the powder clouds and tart overload of bergamot.
Up close, Anubis can be like charred antique paper – burnt words lost forever and deliciously aromatic; on the heat of a warm body and in sillage, it is something quite different altogether : soft, intangible, mysterious and deeply, deeply provocative. Perhaps the two perspectives sum up Anubis consumately ….. upon skin – it is an eternal, intense, burning fire of passion; and with a little distance, it has an assured soulful, spiritual and sumptuous air about it.
Maybe, just maybe, this composition encapsulates the essence of life, death, rebirth and perfume in their entirety – after all, when life is stripped of all its earthly delights, our souls vacate the building, and all that remains are the ghostly imprints of how we held each other in the
darkest of nights, love and perfume really is, all that matters.
Anubis by Papillon ( Perfumer: Liz Moores ) 50ml EDP, £94 –
Available now from Les Senteurs & www.