In our continuing series scenting popular culture films, books and music, may we present: Perfuming Persuasion – matching characters from the recent Netlfix adaptation of the Jane Austen novel to fragrances we feel really reflect their characters (and, perhaps, yours…?)
It’s a two-way street, this ‘scenting of’, because describing a perfume can be so tricky to acurately convey (there being no distinct words for any smell in the English language). So, bereft of exacting language, we always seek to liken a scent to something else: music, textures, colours, places and, yes people. Then, it suddenly becomes tangible, a thing you get a grasp of and at least partly understand.
Hot on the heels of the annual Jane Austen Festival, in which participants from all over the world get together and dress as their favourite characters or in period clothing to share their love of the pereneially Persuasion is a fabulous film to do this with, because though an adaptation of a classic novel, in style it is distinctly modern, breaking the fourth wall by having characters talk confessionally to the camera as though they’re addressing us directly – think Fleabag, The Favourite and Bridget Jones’ Diary. The costumes, too, display the more contemporary mix of historically acurate and distinctly modern styles (not quite as obviously as Bridgerton, but that was a modern novel set in an almost fantasy historical setting). Allowing Austen’s socially observant humour and tenderness while reflecting the far-reaching aspects of the charcaters we can still relate to today, this 2022 re-telling of Persuasion is ripe for the perfuming we feel!
Netflix says: ‘Persuasion is a story about the one who got away. Eight years after breaking off her engagement with Captain Frederick Wentworth, protagonist Anne Elliot still isn’t over him. As the middle of three sisters, the 27-year-old is isolated and lonely in a family that doesn’t understand her. But when the dashing blast from her past suddenly crashes back into her life, she must choose between real closure or a second chance. Can she stop self-sabotaging long enough to take it? Based on Jane Austen’s final novel, Persuasion is full of quirky, endearing characters that make up Anne’s social circle. Get to know some of them below…’
Anne Elliot (Played by Dakota Johnson): Wilgermain Passion Victim
‘Sarcastic and witty, 27-year-old Anne is the sometimes flawed narrator who takes the audience through the colorful cast of characters that populate her world. When we first meet her, she’s living with her father and older sister, having turned down her big chance at love and happiness almost a decade earlier.’
Unconventionally free-spirited and often caustically socially observant, Anne would wear Passion Victim with aplomb. Not that she’s a victim (other to her darker emotions, at times); but the ‘usual suspects’ (as they put it) of vanilla, cistus and frankincense being shot through with mandarin, feel like they’re floating through motes of gold dust suspended in tendrils of smoke. Simmering with passion it tips over into being truly sublime as it throbs to the dry down.
Captain Frederick Wentworth (played by Cosmo Jarvis) – Jean Paul Gaultier Le Beau Eau de Parfum Intense
‘After being rejected by Anne on the advice of Lady Russell, Wentworth sought a life of adventure in the British Navy. He returns to England as a rich man with far better marriage prospects. But has he forgotten the woman who broke his heart?’
A fragrance inspired by giving in to temptation, this swashbuckling-ly handsome scent has something of a subdued swagger – it’s not in-your-face, but oh how it builds (and sexily so): the bergamot burnishing the exotically creamy coconut in the heart, while addictive tonka bean is enough to make you fully swoon. You feel this is worn by a chap more worldly, wearing his medals with pride rather than ostentation; an intense soul that’s been battle-scarred but ultimately readier to submit to true feelings.
Lady Russell (played by Nikki Amuka-Bird) – To the Fairest Aubine
‘Lady Russell was best friends with Anne Elliot’s late mother, and in her absence acts as a role model, mentor, and confidant. She feels guilty for having pushed Anne away from Wentworth all those years ago, and is constantly trying to make up for it. A widow, she has little desire to remarry, instead taking extended trips to Europe, where she can have sexy continental affairs with no judgment from others, thank you very much.’
A glorious celebration of honeyed light, gardenia, frangipani, and orange blossom feels gilded, as though filtered through amber glass. Embracing the warmth of sunsets and new beginnings, this stunning bouquet of brightness blossoms into something altogether honeyed, assured and humming with secret, self-assured sensuality. The frankincense and woods in the dry-down, meanwhile, offer a welcome hug of reassurance that you’ve got this: keep going!
William Elliot (played by Henry Golding) – Carolina Herrera Bad Boy Cobalt
‘Anne’s rich and eligible cousin who once snubbed her sister Elizabeth by — gasp — marrying an American is what the mothers of Bridgerton would call a “capital-R Rake.” Now, he’s back in England, single once more, and on the prowl for a new wife. Wentworth better watch his back.’
Elegantly ‘redefining a modern masculinity’, the salt-licked breeze segues to contemporarily sophisticated lavender, the heart amplified by a rosy tinged geranium. In the base, confidence abounds absolutely, with addictively moreish truffle enhancing smoked oakwood, vetiver, and ultra-smooth cedarwood. Altogether, this Bad Boy is dashing, dapperly dressed and hard to resist. And he knows it.
Mary Musgrove (played by Mia McKenna-Bruce) – Olfactive O Gourmand
‘Anne’s spoiled, selfish younger sister has a single priority: herself. Married to Charles Musgrove, she treats her husband and children much as she does Anne — as disposable creatures blessed with the opportunity to add to her own comfort and happiness.’
We feel Mary (and those like her who might, shall we say, be prone to dramatising events and casting themselves as very much hard done by) would be well-served by this utterly delectable and soul-soothing scent. It thows a velvet rug over your knees and feeds you chocolate cake still warm from the oven, honeyed rum and a hug. For indulging your every need, every single day, you can’t do better than this.
Elizabeth Elliot (played by Yolanda Kettle) – Contradictions in ILK Nonchalant
‘Elizabeth is widely known as the beauty of the Elliot clan — although it’s entirely possible she started that rumor herself. Vain and haughty, she’s her father Walter’s pride and joy, and the only one who travels with him to Bath in an effort to escape bankruptcy.’
Elizabeth’s reluctance to settle for a suitor lead to many castigating her as self-important, but we wonder if that’s not actually better than being betrothed to someone you loathe for the sake of it? In the spirit of believing in your own worth, then, let’s allow her to arch an eyebrow in this. Redolent of cast-aside love-letters and a dressing table full of fabulous fripperies, ripples of raspberry and red berries are draped in cinnamon-dusted violets and laced with labdanum.
Sir Walter Elliot (played by Richard E. Grant) – Penhaligon’s The Blazing Mr Sam
‘ “My father. He’s never met a reflective surface he didn’t like,” Anne says early on in Persuasion. That pretty much sums up Sir Walter, a spendthrift dandy whose only fatherly instinct is to instruct his children on how to be more like him.’
What could be better for Walter than this warmly woody and sophisticatedly spiced scent that was, so Penhaligon’s tell us, inspired by a gentleman who ‘…lives fast, spends freely and speaks loudly’? Brazen, bursting with confidence and living for the moment, this fragrance makes itself comfortable in the best leather chair at the club, sinking into rich seams of pepper-flecked vanilla and oodles of tobacco (which he’ll pay you back for, no he means it this time.) Smooth, utterly charming, he’s fun to be around if you’re not the one taking responsibility for his actions…
The Sandman is currently Netflix’s number one show – topping the trending and most-streamed charts, delighting the majority of fans of the original comic books (an occurence so rare even Neil Gaiman surely couldn’t have dreamed it) and reviving the shrivelled black hearts of mostly-ex-goths (such as myself) the world over. There’s a cultural significance to this resurgence of the Sci-Fi / Fantasy genre taking over new generations, a yearning for other worlds, for escapism. Seeing as the most instantaneous escape route is through our sense of smell – it being directly plugged into our limbic sytem, the part of our brain associated with memories, emotions and survival intincts – it seemed only natural to continue our series of perfume pairings with a spolier-free scenting of The Sandman…
To truly do justice to the multiverse intricacies of The Sandman storyline(s) would take many more thousands of words than I have room for here, so for those of you not familiar with either the comic book series or the Netflix adaptation, I would suggest you just start watching or reading, along with a perusal of The Sandman Wiki on fandom.com if you want to explore more. Basically put, in the Wiki’s words:
‘When Dream is unexpectedly captured and held prisoner for a century, his absence sets off a series of events that will change both the dreaming and waking worlds forever. To restore order, Dream must journey across different worlds and timelines to mend the mistakes he’s made during his vast existence, revisiting old friends and foes, and meeting new entities — both cosmic and human — along the way.’
I would suggest for full immersion, you should burrow down various rabbit holes of your own, The Sandman has always been a springboard for further research and I promise your time will be well-rewarded.
Before we get to the wafting of various fragrant suggestions, I should address the fact that, on first hearing a live-action adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics was being made, I shrank like a salted slug.
For me, and countless others like me, these weren’t merely comic books or entertaining tales cleverly told, they were part of what made me who I am. That sounds increbibly melodramatic, but from being enthralled by the stories, venturing in various dusty comic book shops around the country and causing a sensation in some (a GIRL had crossed the threshold), through to following the threads of literature, metaphysical mythology, philosophy and history woven throughout; they proved transformational.
With every newly published edition, an increasing passion for gaining goth attire that might be accquired from boutiques within the vicinity of Tunbridge Wells (no mean feat), lashing on liberal layers of black eyeliner and a quest to burrow down the endless rabbit holes of research burned within my soul. I hold Neil Gaiman and the artists he collaborated with at least partially responsible for constructing the weirdo that sits before you, typing this.
So yes, along with everyone who’s ever endured the prospect of a favourite book ‘coming to a screen near you’, I shrank, somewhat aghast the televisual types might RUIN it. And by ‘ruin’ of course I mean not do it exactly as I never even knew I wanted.
I should have known better.
With Neil Gaimain himself firmly at the helm of the adaptation as Executive Producer, his creative fingers involved in every pie – casting, writing, filmography; hell, he might even have personally coiffured the actors’ hair for all I know (in fact that was veteran makeup and hair designer Graham Johnston, but you get what I mean) – the first two main Sandman storylines, Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House, have been intricately merged to form a single, breathtaking story. Due to the myriad complexities of entwining two full stories, and the often abstract, metaphysical way those stories are told, of course some changes had to be made, but the true spirit, the unique aesthetic, is unmistakably omnipresent and seeing the characters on the screen feels like meeting dear old friends again.
Now, if you’ve got this far, well done, and thank you for indulging this intermingling of my interests. But you might be wondering what the point is of matching perfumes to anything, let alone a TV show. It is this: fragrance is famously an invisible entity that’s tricky to convey in any format to someone who’s not yet smelled it for themselves. You must navigate the emotional maze of instinctively cultural and personal associations while attempting to clearly explain the concept without merely relying on a list of fragrance notes – which is as useless as a shopping list is to tasting the finished meal, or the names of paints are to understanding the deeper meaning an artist is hoping to project. In writing it becomes trickier still, the fact being there are no words ascribed exclusively for smells (other than negative connotations) in the English language. A bit of a stumper for writer and reader alike, then.
So, we fragrance journalists grasp at allusions and similies – colours, textures, tastes, places and people to conjure the spirit of scent in your imagination. Not exactly as though it had just been sprayed in front of you, more like you’d just woken from a dream in which it figured, and the scent of it still lingered on waking, like motes of dream dust glinting in the first golden fingers of dawn.
For painting a lyrical portrait of a fragrance, focussing on people (or, in this case, beings) to liken them to can be incredibly useful because just as we might feel beckoned by a particular character in a book or on screen, matching a fragrance to that character can help us understand something of the perfume’s own personality. It’s a shortcut to a common understanding. Each fragrance has, I believe, a scented soul, if you will, which means we can immediately feel at one with it or, conversely, borrow a perfumed persona utterly unlike our own to wear as a cloak of concealment or a shield of bravery as required.
The characters in The Sandman are perfectly suited for perfume-pairing, in my (admittedly weird, geeky) opinion, so I’ve attempted to do that with some of the cast here; but even if you’re not already a fan, I hope at least one of the following will beckon to you…
Lord Morpheus, Dream of the Endless (played by Tom Sturridge) – edeniste, Dream Lifeboost®
With the world on his shoulders as he poetically mopes his way through centuries of catastrophies, it’s definitely time for ol’ Morph to soak up the soothing nuances of this aromatic herbal musk. The house worked with neuroscientists and two of the world’s top perfumers – Aurelien Guichard and Jérôme di Marino – to ensure the perfume ingredients properly hit the spot. Spanish labdanum essence reminds you of warm skin and cuddles (which he could probably do with) snuggled in the softest white musks evoking that feeling of sinking into a plumptious feather bed. Promising to ‘foster peaceful dreams’ and advising the wearer to ‘open yourself to a pure, soothing vision of the world surrounding you, and let go’ he should probably have it in an IV drip. FYI: You can read more about this revolutionary wellbeing brand on our page dedicated to edeniste.
Death (Played by Kirby-Howell Baptiste) – Papillon, Anubis
Usually personified as some tall dude in a medieval hoodie who’s either ominously looming about the place or playing chess, Gaiman’s Death is rather lovely. Sweet-natured and caring, with a perceptive understanding of human nature, she carefully eases poor souls into her realm when she can and is the much-needed counterpart to her younger brother’s perplexed moping. This fragrance would suit her wonderfully – being inspired by the Egyptian God of the afterlife, Anubis ’embodies the sacred mysteries of Ancient Egypt’ with sultry swags of jasmine enrobed in rich suede and smouldering swathes of woody incense. Rippled with the ambered hay-like notes of immortelle, speckled with pink lotus and saffron, it’s a scent that leaves you feeling sheerly veiled in magnificent mysteries.
Desire (Played by Mason Alexander Park) – Memoize London, Black Avaritia
The twin of Despair, Desire is irresistibly glamorous with a streak as cruel as they are beautiful. You might say they have ‘issues’ (more issues than Vogue, darling). Riddled with something of a younger-sibling complex, revelling in their complexities, even; Desire often attempts to meddle in Dream’s affairs for their own gain. You might want to dislike them, but there’s something that speaks to the lust in our souls that cannot help but fall in love. True sensorialists will adore revelling in their own decadence with this scent, then – a perfumed plunge into ‘the essence of indulging all of your wants and needs in abundance.’ With a honeyed grapefruit warmth that doesn’t feel so much sun-kissed as full on snogged with tongues, the sumptuous violet / oudh smokiness twists into an addictive woody vanilla base that will have you yearning for more, more, MORE.
Despair (Played by Donna Preston) – Contradictions in ILK, Devious
The twin of Desire, we don’t get to see a huge amount of Despair in this first season, much of their time being spent marvelling at humans at the end of their tether. Extremely close to Desire, the two spend much time scheming against their elder brother (poor Morpheus). There’s a fabulously seductive urge to lean into one of our darkest depths within this scent – a hugely liberating invitation to ‘delve into the forbidden thoughts that whirr silently without sensor.’ Drowsily lulling the senses with a boozy cherry liqueur, the sweetness is stirred through with bitter almond and a dry hiss of spices – nutmeg and cardamom seguing into sticky vanilla beans, nutty tonka and creamy sandalwood. I imagine wearing this while reclining on a chaise in a boudoir, reading tear-stained love letters tied in frayed, scarlet velvet ribbons and delighting in my own sulkiness.
Lucienne(Played by Vivienne Acheampong) – The Perfumer’s Story, Old Books
Chief librarian, guardian of The Dreaming and perhaps the most trusted confidant of Dream himself, Lucienne has rather more responsibilities than issuing fines for late returns. A reminder of how useful librarians can be – and how vital libraries are to the human soul – anyone who proudly counts themselves a bibliophile or even (*whispers cautiously*) a book-sniffer, should immediately file this fragrance under Most Wanted. Hushed incense curls through motes of dust dancing on hazy, sepia-toned memories, as properly earthy patchouli, amber-veined vetivert and cooling cedar slowly evanesce. It speaks to those who relish nothing more than rifling the depths of slightly dank basements filled with ancient manuscripts, of climbing Edwardian wooden steps (the ones that slide) and finding the whole experience deliciously, subversively sexy, somehow.
Lucifer Morningstar (Played by Gwendoline Christie) – Robert Piguet, Bandit
User reviews of Bandit online range from ‘a bit scary’ to ‘a beastly mechanical terror.’ I kind of get what they’re saying – this leather and smoke scent is like wearing a whip’s kiss. It hisses at you, all airy aldehydes popping in the manner of a shaken Champagne bottle, darkness and light personified as burned rubber and the hot, greased chains from a motorbike suddenly unravel to reveal preternaturally pristine white flowers. Hugely sophisticated yet beguilingly unsettling, one can only imagine the gasps of terror when this was first launched in 1944; it’s one for outcasts, those with a reputation that precedes them, and who’d like their perfume to as well. If you’re not aware of Germaine Cellier, the deliberately devilish perfumer who composed it – look her up. She would have approved this pairing. It can be tricky to source the original, so for those less overtly Luciferian, try the newer Bandit Suprême, which glowers less gloatingly.
Johanna Constantine(Played by Jenna Coleman) – Eris Parfums, Scorpio Rising
Swaggering with all the sass one would expect of Johanna, a dry smouldering of spices sizzles to an ambery explosion of incense, smoke, and leather. ‘Like the astrological sign it’s inspired by,’ they say, it’s ‘beautiful but dangerous, magnetic but formidable.’ Dangerously spellbinding, this scent feels like it grants you extra powers, which Ms Constantine will certainly need on her chosen career path as necromancer and demonologist for hire. If you’re casting out otherworldly entities and dealing with Morpheus’s moody mumblings as a day (or night) job, you’d certainly require something emboldening to the soul. This fragrance does the deed in a bewitching performance that radiates ravishingly for hours.
John Dee (played by David Thewlis) – Calvin Klein Eternity for Men
John Dee unwittingly echoes the bleak words of Larkin’s This Be the Verse, ‘They f**k you up, your mum and dad. / They may not mean to, but they do. / They fill you with the faults they had / And add some extra, just for you.’ I feel he should cleave to the comfort of a scent that’s become a timeless classic since its launch in the 90s. A soapy froth of lavender, lemon and lily of the valley becomes sharper as it grows, a harder, metallic egde slicing through the cleanliness via the piquancy of juniper and geranium, while the base is wreathed in white floral notes – lily, jasmine, orange blossom, which ‘reject the notion of love as nothing more than whirlwind romance, choosing to focus instead on the timeless power of eternal commitment.’ Though Dee might want to reflect on that phrase and consider chasing its more romantic notions rather than an overhwhelming obsessiveness (I nearly chose Klein’s Obsession as an alternative), there’s no doubt it’s a scent you’ll want to keep going back to.
The Corinthian(Played by Boyd Holbrook) – Serges Lutens, Dent de Lait
You know those people who can assume the expression of slightly alluring approachability by smiling with their eyes in selfies (‘smizing’ as Tyra Banks memorably put it in America’s Next Top Model)? Well, meet the ultimate smizer: The Corinthian. The problem of scenting him was solved on remembering this little number. It’s suitably charming at first, a toothsome softness recalling happy childhood memories of eating a paper bag full of milk chews from the newsagents. But then, there’s a creeping realisation of the name’s true meaning as it settles on the skin. Translating as ‘milk tooth’, its inspiration, says Lutens, was the memory of a child losing its first tooth. Yes indeed. And if that concept disturbs you, don’t watch the campaign video. Fusing the electric crackle of aldehydes with almond milk and incense, right at the end there’s a metallic sharpness you can’t quite place. But don’t worry, it’s not your teeth The Corinthian is after. He’s all about the eye contact…
Cain(Played by Sanjeev Bhaskar) – Boy Smells, Tantrum
Most siblings have felt the urge to murder each other at least once a week, it seems, but Cain notoriously (and repeatedly) scratches that particular itch. Residing in a darling little cottage with said sibling in the Dream Realm, he’s not without his niceties – a softer side revealed in his love for their pet gargoyle – so something with an edginess that nevertheless manages to be secretly lovely is called for. Bring on Boy Smells fittingly named Tantrum, which is better behaved than the name suggests, but still strikes out with a punch of peppercorn splintering the woodiness of cedar. There’s oodles of grounding vetiver infusing the base, thank goodness, as senses are further soothed by the addition of powery orris. Embracing the ethos of ‘better out than in’ might not always be advisable, but I say spray this one with abandon.
Abel (Played by Asim Chaudry) – Bruno Fazzolari, Corpse Reviver
Created by perfumer and synesthetic artist Fazzolari, this ominous-sounding but actually utterly delicious scent was created as an addictive antidote to rouse the hungover back to the land of the living. Rather fitting, then, for poor, frequently buried Abel, who could do with some instant reanimation on a regular basis. Rosemary-flecked blood orange and a welcome shot of warming whiskey awaken the forest-y shadows of cypress, while a fragrant feast of dark chocolate and the salty, animalic purr of civet are swirled through the calming creaminess of vanilla. I feel this would infintely appeal to his sweet tooth (he’s fond of a reviving cuppa with a side of cake to calm his nerves, after all), and really a fabulous fragrance is the very least of what he deserves.
Matthew the Raven(Voiced by Patton Oswalt) – 4160 Tuesdays, Court of Ravens
Matthew is Dream’s emissary and can travel between worlds as a handy observer / advisor. Not that Morpheus listens to him as often as he should. Matthew is a wittily sarcastic cynic, as well he might be, having once been human and, as the Sandman Wikki explains, ‘had a car accident and is tricked into being possessed by his wife’s evil shapeshifting uncle.’ Well these things happen, and because he dies in the dreaming he becomes part of that world. Why, apart from the name, is this his signature scent? It’s got all the dryness of a Chypré’s oakmoss mixed with singed rose petals and incense, to which perfumer Sarah McCartney added Yakima peppermint, French lavender, cumin and pink grapefruit: ‘To bring glossy black glints of ravens’ wings, shining as they catch the light.’ A handsome devil, and knows it.
[Addendum]: I wrestled with including Roderick Burgess – the embodiment of ‘be careful what you wish for’ – in this, because his story is central to the first few episodes, and the decisions he makes are central to, well, everything. But for the sake of completeness, instead of describing his character and risk spoilering (which should be reclassified as a cardinal sin), and because a friend on social media asked what my pairing would have been for him and I immediately knew; I shall add my answer here in full:
Roderick Burgess (Played by Charles Dance) – Commes Des Carçon, Series 3 Incense Avignon
I would choose Commes des Garçon Series 3 Avignon for Roderick Burgess. There are lots of other options, but my mind kept circling back to this. It’s actually based on Catholicism, the ‘bells and smells’ parts, but like much of what Burgess does – it’s a cleaving, amidst the darkness, for comfort. For certainty. Avignon is old, cold incense. It’s snuffed candles and dusty cellars. It’s charred church pews and chalk circles, a trembling silence that throbs through the centuries.
Stranger Things is one of the most successful shows of all time, certainly the most talked about and trending on Netflix right now. With the release of Season Four, we’re propelled back in to the strange(r) world of Hawkins Indiana, where once again, everything is most certainly not as it seems.
Inspired by classic 1980s teen horror movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street, with elements of The Goonies and the Alien franchise sprinkled around and about (and Upside Down); its mixture of nail-biting drama, truly terrifying moments and superbly nuanced (often laugh out loud funny, amidst the horror) script is part of the recipe for Stranger Things continuing success. But as with any long-running drama, it all hinges on the incredible cast. Of course, we couldn’t resist the opportunity for an olfactory pairing, so settle down for your EPIC, scenting of Stranger Things Season Four, where we match some of our favourite characters to fragrances we feel would most suit (or even help) them through this season’s tumultuous storyline…
Warning: Though we’ve tried to keep this spoiler-free for season 4, there are references made to previous seasons’ storylines, so proceed with caution if you’re a complete Stranger Things newbie who’s only just begun your journey!
Fiercely loyal, hugely resilient, Joyce has had to fight for her children, her independence and even simply to be believed, more times than most could stand. Having already battled supernatural beings, her sheer force of character is called on in far chillier climes this season, and so her scent must radiate the warmth of her soul while serving as a shield against those who seek to harm her (and the loved ones she continues to fight for). Here, juicy ginger and black pepper add to the spicy zing while powdery orris cushions the decadently wormwood-rippled base (perfect for those who’ve fearlessly faced darkness in their lives). Cedar adds a calming note of contemplation while limette thrums with woody oudh and patchouli, but the Calabrian citrus also reminds us of holidays – and gawd knows, Joyce deserves one (with business class plane tickets this time, please, luxury all the way).
Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) – Hai Karate£9.99 for 100ml Cologne
A former investigative journalist who first appeared in the season 2, Murray goes on to display a range of rather unexpected skills in this season, where he’s paired with Joyce on their own deadly mission. Sarcastic, seemingly shambolic and yet surprisingly heroic in turn, we feel only Murray could pull off this (always very tongue-in-cheek) Cologne. First released in 1967 with the tagline ‘be careful how you use it’, Hai Karate remained a popular choice right through the 1980s, known for their (intentionally?) hilarious (now rather dated) TV ads. But Murray doesn’t care about appearances, and there’s something about the classic, retro barbershop freshness that’s actually rather comforting to smell.
Jim Hopper (David Harbour) – AKRO Smokefrom £70 for 30ml eau de parfum
Now Hopper has been through a lot already, and his troubles only increase this season. Former Hawkins Chief of Police, protective father-figure to El and revered by fans as a supposedly ‘unlikely’ sex symbol for the first seasons, we’re sure he’s swaying those who hadn’t already swooned. ‘Bottled without restraint or moderation, a concentration of excess,’ the AKRO collection are inspired by guilty secrets and addictions – and we certainly can’t get enough of this fragrance, or Hopper, come to that. Given his clever use of fire in one particularly nail-biting scene, and the fact that he really deserves a quick drag (OK, we obviously don’t approve of smoking, but the man needs a cigarette break!) the deliciously resinous drift of tobacco smokiness in this scent would surely appeal…
We know what you’re thinking. You’re assuming this fragrance was just chosen for the name, right? Wrong. Well, OK, partly it was, but mostly we selected this scent for its soothing nature (which El certainly needs this season, more than ever, as she struggles to tap into her true powers while solving the mysteries of her past), and even for the meaning of the number itself. In numerology, so the house tell us, ‘the number 11 represents two pillars, a gateway, representing awareness and consciousness.’ Inspired by ingredients that help balance the soul, the head-clearing woody greeness of geranium boosts strengthening rose, while earthy patchouli and a warm amber provide a comfort blanket of softness. Encouraging the wearer to ‘stop, take a deep breath, stay positive and consciously focus on balancing themselves,’ it also ‘awakens the senses, ignites intuition and makes the wearer truly unforgettable.’ Just like El, herself.
Seen as a ‘nerd’ in the first season, Dustin more than proved the strength of his friendship, even though he regularly feels a bit isolated and left out of some social groupings. Quick-witted and gregarious, he’s often the only one who sees things as they really are, though perhaps we’ll pass over his pet ‘slug’, Dart, in season 2, actually being a juvenile demogorgon. Oops. Never mind, none of us can be perfect, huh? In a somewhat tempestuous long-distance relationship with computer genius Suzie (see below), Dustin is driven by a quest for adventure. Inspired by ‘Demigods, explorers and those that remain unknown,’ this fragrance fizzes with a Champagne-like exuberance then surrounds you in spicy, almost curried cosiness. New heroes are born every day, say the brand, and ‘There is an element, an event, a circumstance, or maybe just a quirk in their personalities that changes them, empowers them, enables them to transcend the ordinary.’ Dustin, you’re our hero!
An aspiring journalist known as a bit of a ‘princess’ in the first season, her main concern, then, was merely trying to divide her time between her boyfriend, Steve, and her best friend, Barbara (oh, poor Barb!) When all hell (literally) broke loose, Nancy stepped up to become an integral member of ‘The Party’ of friends who try to save the world. Nancy’s cleverness at piecing clues together also earned her the nickname of ‘Nancy Drew’, and she’s desperately trying to focus on those clues this season, rather than the continuing confusion of her love life. With her love of books, we think this library-centric scent will appeal to Nancy’s nose for extensive research. It’s all waxed wood and leather-bound tomes with a twist of pepper adding spice to the pencil shavings of cedar, a sweetly dry rustle of vellum adding further intrigue as we finally get to the base of it all.
Known (and lovingly mocked for) his obsessively-tended and oft-touselled head of hair, Steve had a more supporting role as Nancy’s cooler-than-thou boyfriend in the first season, before dropping most of his foolish ways and being propelled to main (mane?) cast status. Forming an unlikely, though charmingly fraternal, sparky friendship with Dustin, their duologues make for many of the season’s funniest moments. He was a bit of an asshole, but he’s fully blossomed, so we think Steve would very much appreciate and now truly desrves the sexy scent of Halfeti that’s been imbued with protective and hair-shining properties in the hair mist. Worn alone in hot weather or layered with the fragrance for an even longer-lasting waft of woody sensuousness, the masucline rose even has smooth leather notes to remind him of his favouite jacket.
Working with Steve at a new job in Hawkins premiere video rental store, her no-bullsh*t approach comes in handy for day-to-day wise-cracking at work, and quickly becomes her scene-stealing modus operandi as the story continues. Robin is funny but seriously intelligent, her quick-thinking and bravado vital to the gang throughout the season, and she provides a balance to the darkest moments. Her sharp contrast to Nancy’s character means their friendship is often spiky, but quite apart from being independently brilliant, she’s also an amazing team player when needs be. With a similarly down-to-earth approach, this travels from the cold of night to day break’s warmth via yuzu citrus, the clarity of cedar and incense on a sea breeze. Providing clarity of mind and feeling spirit-cleansing to wear, it’s the one to turn to when times are hardest.
Lucas begins by being torn between two rival sets of friends. A difficult circumstance for any young person, it’s made all the more horrific when lives (and tender feelings) are on the line. Mixed Emotions has been created, so we’re told, ‘to reflect the tumultuous nature of our times’. Yet the fragrance itself seems to offer something of a welcome antidote to that: a beautiful, cool blend of maté tea, sharply sweet blackcurrant, reviving Ceylon black tea, violet leaves, all strongly tethered by papyrus and birch wood. ‘A refreshing reminder that it is OK to not be OK – and that from unsettling experiences, a new reality might emerge,’ conclude BYREDO. Here’s hoping Lucas emerges with a renewed sense of who his truest friends really are, and that it’s alright to be ostracised if those people alienating you are all assholes. When Lucas taps into his emotional depths he’s remarkably resilient, and this scent really encourages the spirit of ‘you do you.’
Having captured the game-playing jealousy, then potential love-interest of fellow arcade game players Dustin and Lucas in season 2, the Californian skateboarding cool reserve of Max could be read as snootiness, but in fact is down to her horrific home life (thanks mainly to step-brother, Billy, and her innate social anxiety). Having become a close friend of Eleven’s, despite their initial shakiness, her on-and-off again relationship with Lucas provides another emotionally-challenging storyline – as though these young people aren’t under enough stress right now. Though she might feel a special connection with another of the scents on this list (we can’t tell you why without spoilering!) we think she’d find solace and extra courage in the universality, yet deeply personal connections of this one. Creamy, cocooning, the softness of ambrette seed, orris and magnilia swirl protectively around you, a second skin that can be layered to magnify another scent or worn alone to ‘create the absolute essence of you.’
Leader of the Stranger Things Hellfire Club, the Dungeon & Dragons and Metal music-obsessed Eddie has become an instant fan favourite – his ‘bad guy’ stereotype soon punctured by his sweetness of character and his obvious (to his friends) sensitive side. Sadly, not everyone sees him this way, and it’s not long before he needs all the help he can get. Apart from the fact this fragrance name sounds like a song from one of his favorite bands, it features a host of potentially spooky notes. The headiness of lily has been associated with spiritualism and the afterlife since Victorian times, here smouldering alongside the billowing yet sheer smokiness of incense and an intensely comforting woody muskiness that seems to offer hope even when everything around you is on fire. Despite the ‘scary’ name, it’s a bit of a pussycat at heart this one, a place of sanctuary amidst charred wooden pews and dusty books, something that brings solace whenever you spray it. So, Eddie’s gonna need backup bottles.
Your friendly local pizza and weed delivery guy, Argyle would doubtless rather be thinking up new toppings while taking another toke, but his hippy-dippy lifestyle comes abruptly to an end when he gets involved in the horrifying Hawkins shenanigans. So, we suggest this bohemian yet beautiful balance of rich, spicy and herbaceous notes. A surprisingly floral heart of muguet and magnolia has the laid-back chill of a lazy afternoon, but the base is what really steals the show: a combination of cedar wood, patchouli and sandalwood comes together to recreate this green, hempy, smoky haze of scent. It’s dark, green, rich and altogether very moreish. As with all cannabis fragrances, this is free of THC (the ingredient that causes a ‘high’) so Argyle isn’t going to be swapping this for his usual herbal preferences… but we suggest he might like to try smelling of something altogether lovelier. The dry down is fantastically earthy with cedarwood, patchouli and sandalwood creating a peaceful vibe we reckon he could probably do with after all the excitement.
With an ultra-dry sense of humour, Suzie is a mathematical computer genius who used her hacking skills to full effect in season 3 (despite having been kind of ghosted by her beloved ‘Dusty Bun’ Dustin: “Okay, let me just be clear on this. I haven’t heard from you in a week, and now you want a mathematical equation so you can… save the world?“) Called on once again for season 4, we feel she’d get on board with this collection by Perfumer Geza Schoen – dedicated to women with extraordinary talents. This first fragrance was inspired and co-created by memory genius Christiane Stenger, a vibrant blend of magnolia bud, citrus and Schinus molle (pink pepper) with luminous florals emboldened by exotic tiara absolute on a strong, woody base. Proudly get your geek on!
Okay, we know Kate isn’t a character in season 4 per se, but as you’ll have doubtlessly seen reported, like, everywhere; Kate’s song Running Up That Hill features prominently – not merely part of the (always excellent) soundtrack, but in the culmination of a particularly important episode that proves something of a breakthrough in the supernatural plot. With her strongly independent and mysterious allure reignited for a new generation, we feel a perfect perfume match for Kate would be this groundbreaking scent, launched in 1971, the world’s first ‘aromatherapy’ fine fragrance; a classic chypre style that’s cool, grounding, rested on seductive, patchouli-rich base that fuses vetiver and amber which steadies us in a frenzied world, and is slightly weird in the best way.
Is your favourite character missing from this list? Well, before you get stroppy, can we just say it is an extensive cast, and we’ve tried to focus on some of the newer characters (or those with especially important story development roles) this season. But look, we know how frustrating it can be, so if you’ve a strong feeling for a particular character – perhaps have already imagined the fragrance you’d pair with them – do let us know! In the meantime, sit back and think how you’d scent your Stranger Things streaming.
For those of you missing Bridgerton and already wishing a new series would be delivered faster than one of Lady Whistledown‘s infamous newsletters, we present to you a themed scenting of some of the major characters in season two of Netflix’s smash-hit show. And if you’ve not yet succumbed, fear not, dear readers – it’s all scents and NO spoilers at Perfume Society Towers. So, pull on your best gloves (fragranced, of course) and get out your feathered fans for an aristocratic olfactory romp…
Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma
Fesity and fabulous, Kate’s main motivation is the happiness of her younger sister, Edwina, and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly (Anthony Bridgerton very much included). Clever, witty, often hot-headed and a brilliant horsewoman who does things her own way, we feel she’d love the simmering sensuality of Bascule. Succulent peach juice sizzles on hot leather, tobacco frottages smouldering hay while a hint of saddle-soap, lily of the valley and cut grass beckon a bath (following a torrid tumble, or a quick gallop in the park, perhaps?)
Utterly charming, Edwina’s often underestimated because of her kind nature. Enthralled by society’s welcome, and in thrall to her much-loved older sister’s wishes, there could be no better match than Delina. A sparkling rose leads the dance – swiftly followed by delicate facets of lily of the valley and peony. Lychee, rhubarb and bergamot beckon a hint of nutmeg swirled in vanilla, twirling through gauzy white musk and cashmeran. An invitation to follow your true heart…
Lady Danbury is highly respected wherever she goes, holding many of society’s secrets and always a trusted confidante. Stopping people in their tracks for decades, now, the opulent rosiness of Portrait of a Lady is shot through by piquant berries, rich sandalwood woven with resinous ripples of patchouli musk, amber and benzoin. Equally unmistakeable and unforgettable, this lady is gloriously unique, powerfully projecting and with an enormous heart.
Queen consort and wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte is always dignified, commanding respect and great loyalty in her subjects, but that’s not to say she doesn’t hold some secrets of her own (soon to be revealed in a spin-off series!) Deserving of a truly regal fragrance, the always-poised elegance of 1872 Feminine is beautifully balanced with crisp citrus atop the intense bouquet of rose de Maï, (often called the ‘Queen of flowers’) and a reassuring woody base.
Refined and warm-hearted, the Dowager Viscountess is the calmly assured matriarch of the Bridgerton family trying to keep their social standing and her children in check; and with eight head-strong offspring she certainly has her work cut out for her. We believe she’d find great comfort in the classic beauty of April Violets – a luminescent abundance of dewy violet leaves rose petals with delicate white peach, all becommingly dusted with orris and honeyed, luminous mimosa.
Burdened by grief, and his well-meaning but misguided attempts to assume the mantle of patriarchal perfection; Anthony obstinately careers between his true (passionate) nature and what high society expects. As the heart of the family tree, we think he’d benefit from the grounding nature of Quercus (Latin for oak), a true classic with a vibrant zing of lemon and basil Cologne freshness, with a warmer, woody and soft moss-swathed base (once you get to know it).
Strongly self-willed, unpredictable and often unruly, Eloise very much does things her own way. Finding the false politeness of high society utterly vile (and most of its members utterly vapid) she’s happier reading a book than dancing, and discovers her voice through subversive feminist literature. Her perfect perfume is Not a Perfume – a scent made from a single ingredient: cetalox. Zero florals or flounce, think warm, clean woodiness, your skin but better.
Artistically spirited and with a yearning for something more meaningful than glamorous but vapid parties, Benedict is keen to give himself over to his bohemian soul. Endearingly sensitive, he would be well-suited to the expressive yet enigmatic This is Not a Blue Bottle 1.1 (inspired by the Magritte’s surrealist painting). Bubbling bitter orange gives way to a heart honey-drizzled geranium, resting on an hypnotic ambered-musk base that resonates with rich patchouli.
Following his heart rather than listening to sense, Colin often comes a cropper and ignores what’s under his nose. Recently returned from Greece, Anthem will remind Colin of his travels, hailing from a Greek fragrance house and inspired by the history and rich mythology of Ancient Greece. A gilded glow of saffron illuminated by zesty lemon feels like wearing sunshine, ylang ylang and rose a reminder of romantic idealism and a spicy silage to tingle temptations
Determined to make good for her family (and herself), Lady Portia bursts into a room with all eyes on her, and often dressed in eye-popping colours. Sopoudrage is a a magnetic and vibrant composition that often surprises – the seemingly classic combo of rose and iris are beautiful but chilled at times, their contrast walzing to a harmony of brightness, here, dusted with powder for a truly lasting finish that’s way ahead of its time and cannot be ignored.
Clever, curious and treadling lightly through society (always lingering on the edges of a room), Penelope seeks solace in her close friendship with Eloise (and her deep yearning for Colin) Bridgerton. Woody has the soft paperiness of parchment lingering in the background, a whisper of a scent, with a soft cashmere hug and delicious chocolate beckoning you closer; while smoked leather, vetiver and myrrh suggests deep secrets soon to be spilled…
We’ve scoured the internet for this Fragrant Film Club – a curation of some of our favourite perfume-themed movies, documentaries and TV series to watch right now.
So, if you’re about done with Christmas and need a way to fill the weird hinterland between festive or new year celebrations and the return to (whatever will be) ‘normality’ – here’s a scented selection box of fragrant treasures…
‘With his incredible talent for discerning scents, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Whishaw) is one of 18th-century France’s finest perfumers. He becomes obsessed with capturing an elusive aroma: the scent of young womanhood. His search takes a deadly turn, and when the bodies of 12 young females are found, panic breaks out, with families rushing to lock up their daughters.’
Based on the best-selling, and now infamous, novel by Patrick Süskind, this is one every fragrance-lover should watch. It’s remarkable not only for being filmed at all (many said the book could never be made in to a screen drama), but for changing the way fragrance was talked about in the media. Stunningly shot, utterly gripping, we of course urge you to read the book first, but do then see this and marvel.
If you’ve already seen the film, have a gander at the made for TV drama loosely based on the premis of the novel, but in a modern-day setting: Perfume (series) Netflix
Telling the story of a preparatory school student who woefully takes a job as an assistant to an irritable, blind, medically retired Army officer, Frank, (magnificently played by Al Paccino) this is one of those films that helped highlight the importance of our sense of smell. In one memorable scene, Frank approaches the table where a woman sits alone, waiting for date. ‘You know, I detect a fragrance in the air,’ he says, ‘Don’t tell me what it is… Ogleby Sisters Soap?’ So, although not a movie about perfume per se, it’s a fantastic performance, and fun to look out for some well-known fragrance names he also detects along his adventures…
Perfumes (Les Parfums) Amazon Prime: rent for £4.49
We reviewed this charming film in full, here, but basically it’s the story of a reclusive, once-feared French perfumer and her new chauffeur. Though a gentle comedy, Les Parfums takes a serious (and very well presented) look at the life of a perfumer, and now this subtitled film has a wider release with Amazon, we hope many more of you will be able to see it. Certainly it’s a treat for the senses, and sadly such a rarity to see perfumery explored on screen in this manner. We particularly loved the scene in which Guillaume, the chauffeur, is discovering his newly-acquired appreciation for smell – in the supermarket, sniffing various shower gels, under the watchful gaze of a bemused security guard. ‘Something quite mellow…’ he says, as the guard shuffles closer, clearly unused to such behaviour in Aisle 5. Delightful from start to finish.
‘After a perfumer’s death, his daughter works to meet the production deadline for his company’s latest scent, which is complicated by the lack of an elusive ingredient.‘ Now we should really start by saying this a Hallmark movie, and as such has a certain look and feel to it that previous viewers of their oeuvre will recognise. That being said, this is the kind of whimsical film that one can happily curl up on the sofa with while eating your way through an entire tub of ice cream. Just don’t expect Süskind levels of olfactory detail, accept that everyone wears pastel and has perfect hair, and all will be fine.
We must admit to not having watched this one yet, but it certainly sounds like an antidote to excessive Christmas schmaltz, if that’s what you’re looking for. ‘After her mother dies, a chemist begins to have strange visions of a mysterious woman in black applying perfume in a mirror, and of strangers who follow her everywhere.’ That’s the synopsis in brief, but further reviews reveal that it’s a surrealistic film, also described as an ‘incoherent and inconsistent slice of psychological horror.’ Nonetheless, it’s a plot that sounds intriguing enough to capture our interest, and we very much we get to find out what the mysterious woman in black’s perfume actually is!
‘Mary Haines (Norma Shearer) can’t believe her husband’s having an affair with salesgirl Crystal (Joan Crawford). But when Sylvia (Rosalind Russell) and Edith (Phyllis Povah) deliver the gossip firsthand, Mary heads to Reno for a divorce. En route she meets Countess de Lave (Mary Boland) and Miriam (Paulette Goddard), who coincidentally is having an affair with Sylvia’s husband. Once in Reno, the Countess finds another beau, Sylvia shows up for a divorce and Mary plots to win back her man.’
Even though this really only has one perfume-related scene, we’re recommending this one mainly because it’s one of our favourite films EVER. And what a scent scene that is – set in the fragrance department of a classy department store, and featuring magnificently catty lines with Crawford as the predatory perfume counter gal. A stellar cast – made up entirely of women (practically unheard of even today, let alone in the 1930s!) – magnificent costumes and a gasp-inducing sudden switch to full-colour film during the fashion show sequence, make this more than worth your watching (on repeat).
Some years ago, the BBC made a fascinating doccumentary series about the perfume business, taking a deep dive into the creation of a fragrance, the revival of a perfume house (Grossmith) and interviewing perfume personalities such as Roja Dove and perfumers including Guerlain’s Thierry Wasser. Sadly the episiodes are no longer available on the BBC iPlayer website, though they are now available to watch on YouTube: Perfume (BBC Documentary series).
Following a rather gauche… sorry. A ‘driven twenty-something American woman from Chicago, who moves to Paris for an unexpected job opportunity.’ Emily in Paris has seen equal parts love and hate in the many reviews that followed its release earlier this year. Whichever camp you fall in, it’s a lovesong to Paris and HOW we yearn to get that back there as soon as we’re able. And you know what? It’s actually not a bad look at the creation and marketing of a perfume, as we follow Emily’s hapless adventures as she’s ‘tasked with bringing an American point of view to a venerable French marketing firm.’
YouTube is a treasure trove for archival fragrance adverts and wonderful little gems like this Pathé documentary on how fragrance is made. We might chuckle at the Stiff Upper Lip ‘Received Pronunciation’ of the voiceover, but it makes for a still very interesting look at Grasse, French perfumery and the technical side of perfumery still not often shown in such detail to this day. Click above to watch it now!
Another still on our ‘to watch’ list, this series certainly sounds like it ticks many (perfume) boxes for us… ‘During the Republican era, a family empire famous for making the best fragrances and incense must guard against those who are out to steal their secret recipes. Ning Zhi Yuan is the sweet young master of his family’s fragrance empire. An Le Yan is a determined young woman who is out for revenge against the Ning family. Zhi Yuan falls in love with Le Yan, but she only wants to infiltrate Zhi Yuan’s family to steal a valuable perfume formula. Le Yan’s true heart is drawn toward An Yi Chen, an inspector. But Xiao Hui, the daughter of a Japanese imperialist, is determined to capture Yi Chen’s heart at all costs. Can Zhi Yuan protect his family’s livelihood and his own heart?‘
Something for the little ones – perhaps inspiring a new ‘nose’ in your family? – this cheeky little cartoon follows the story of Mo, who is ‘…upset when Tee accidentally breaks her favourite perfume.’ And indeed she might might be upset! ‘Tee is now determined to cheer her up by making her some new perfume from ingredients found around the house. Lucky Mo!’ Hmm. Well we’re sure that’s all whimsically delightful, but if Tee tried whipping up a batch of vintage Mitsouko from stuff he found around our house, we’re very much afraid he’d be out on his ear (having replaced the bottle and cleaned the carpet, thank you very much!)
At the time of writing, the new BBC drama series of The Black Narcissus have not yet aired, but you can watch them here when they do (starting Sunday, 27th December in the U.K. at 9pm, with the following two episodes airing in the same slot over the next two nights – Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th December 2020). Based on the aponymous Powell and Pressburger classic 1947 film, Black Narcissus, named after the iconic Caron fragrance and following the intense sensual awakening of a nun who dabbles with such vices as perfume and lipstick; this 2020 version stars the late Diana Rigg (in her last role) among an incredible cast; and promises to be an absolute must-watch.
Fancy even more fragrant viewing? A little while ago, I took a look at some vintage perfume adverts, in which a surprising number of movie stars made their televisual debuts. Or, for those seeking some scented chuckles, why not gawk at these hilarious retro men’s fragrance ads – featuring chaps being spoon-fed in restaurants, a hang-gliding man in danger of being whipped by his own moustache and an impromptu musical set outside a greengrocer’s. Ah, they don’t make ’em like that anymore.
We hope this Fragrant Film Club list provides a fragrant escape for those of you desperately searching for something new to watch – and a chance to re-watch some old faves for those of you who’ve already seen them. Whichever you choose, we suggest snuggling up, staying safe and perhaps locking the door for some blessed moments of me-time…
Like your perfume dark and mysterious? Well you’re certainly in for a treat…
We’re sure the majority of you will have read, or at least be aware of Patrick Süskind‘s novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, and will perhaps also have enjoyed the 2006 movie adaptation. Now Netflix are further indulging the senses of the scent-obsessed by exploring the story at greater length, in a new original drama series, simply called Perfume.
The spin they’ve added is a contemporary German setting, following the story of a group of six students who bond together in boarding school through their intense passion for scent. When one of the six is brutally murdered years later, disturbing secrets about the group are revealed as the police investigates each one as a scented suspect.
The cast includes August Diehl and Ken Duken who were both in Inglourious Basterds, Christian Friedel (The White Ribbon) and Wotan Wilke Mohring (Valkyrie), and the whole series is directed by international Emmy-award-winning Philipp Kadelbach.
With such a gloriously gruesome backstory and dark subject matter for exploration, it’s certainly not one to binge on for the faint of heart, but we have no doubt fragrance lovers will at least be interested to give it a go. Have a look at the trailer, below, and see what you think…
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