Much like there’s a world of fashion that seems to be divorced from the idea of looking good, there’s a section of the fragrance industry that focuses its efforts not on making you fragrant, but in crafting scents that emulate stuff most people would never want to smell like.
These tend to fall into a couple of camps: artistic concepts, often from rule-bending fashion and fragrance houses like Comme Des Garçons; and recreations of real-world scents you wouldn’t traditionally spritz on for date night, but are akin to perfumers flexing their noses by crafting the scent of a garage or baby powder – not things you can just extract the essence of and bottle.
So while none of the fragrances below will likely slot into your everyday scent rotation, they are impressive. In the same very niche way that watching someone recite pi to hundreds of decimal places is impressive.
Etat Libre d’Orange Sécrétions Magnifiques
French perfumer Etat Libre has a thing for avant-garde scents. Launched by a luxury perfumer bored of working at commercial brands who played it safe, its 30-fragrance stable features such gems as Fat Electrician – a scent inspired by the hazardous life of a young gigolo in 1970’s New York (really) – and Tom of Finland, an ode to the master of homoerotic illustration that features top notes of poppers.
But its most, er, divisive scent is probably Sécrétions Magnifiques, created by nose Antoine Lie. Spray on and you’re hit by a waft of blood, sweat, semen and saliva. It’s a coital quartet for when you want to bring the bedroom to the boardroom.
Blood Concept Red+MA
Antoine Lie’s friends might think he’s slightly obsessed with bodily effluvia, since he also created this emission-inspired scent for Blood Concept.
The niche fragrance house produces scents inspired by blood and named for blood types, and this juice is designed to emulate the first bodily fluids we experience when we enter the world; blood and milk. Which translates to super-metallic notes mixed with a milk accord for something that could probably clear most rooms.
One for those embracing their inner Oedipus.
Anything From Demeter Fragrance Library
Demeter Fragrance Library is devoted instead to creating single scents from as few ingredients as possible – the base notes that you can then combine to create something holistic.
But although its archive includes the expected – lavender, patchouli, oud – some staff seem to have gone rogue. Which is why you’ll also find more avant-garde accords like crayon, Play-dough, baby powder and even sunshine. All of which we’d blend into a fragrance called ‘Youthful Nostalgia’, available soon at all good retailers.
A line that perfumers constantly need to straddle is between things that smell nice and those we actually want to smell like. Foods, for example, have a way of titillating the nostrils. But they’re better in the kitchen than dabbed behind your ears.
Not something that bothers the good folks at Fargginay, who blended the undeniably fine scent of bacon with grapefruit and bergamot, so now you can wander around town smelling like you spilled your breakfast down your shirt.
Comme Des Garçons Odeur 53 And Odeur 71
Rei Kawakubo’s approach to fragrance has always been as envelope-pushing as her brand’s clothes, which is why the label’s scents include an entire series dedicated to different synthetic smells, from dry cleaners to tar.
In fact, Comme Des Garçons has something of a fascination for unnatural scents, which reached a zenith in two fragrances pitched as introducing an alien visitor to the scent’s of earth: Odeur 53 and Odeur 71.
The former featured notes of everything from desert sand to fire and oxygen, while its follow-up did at least make space for some rare organic scents; bamboo and bay leaf nestled alongside ink, batteries and toast.
A deft display of the perfumer’s art, but probably not something you’re going to spritz on most mornings.