Saturday, August 30, 2008

CB I Hate Perfume: Investigation & Reviews

At first I entirely dismissed CB I Hate Perfume without even smelling the perfumes or knowing anything about the reason behind the name. I’d read about others loving the smell of Black March, which was described as smelling like dirt, mud, chilly cold puddles in early Spring. I thought to myself, “Why would I want to smell like that?” I figured CB I Hate Perfume was a flash in the pan. I thought CB was a bizarre little niche line that would last a few years and then disappear.

Just for kicks I requested a few CB samples when I placed an order with Luckyscent about eight months ago. I received Black March, Russian Caravan Tea, Patchouli Empire and In the Library. Ok, so Black March wasn’t to my liking, as I’d imagined it wouldn’t be. But it sure is an amazingly dead-on smell of early spring in New England, where I grew up. Patchouli Empire, In the Library and Russian Caravan Tea knocked my socks off. I thought, this “CB” guy, he’s an artist, I need to find out what this line is all about.

I went to the CB I Hate Perfume website. There I read that the perfumer’s name is Christopher Brosius and that the meaning behind the name “I Hate Perfume” is actually quite the contrary to how it sounds, he is quite passionate about perfume.

Here’s an excerpt, in what I believe to be CB’s mission statement taken from his website:

“I hate perfume.
Perfume is too often an ethereal corset trapping everyone in the same unnatural shape.
A lazy and inelegant concession to fashionable ego.
Too often a substitute for true allure and style.
An opaque shell concealing everything – revealing nothing.
A childish masque hiding the timid and unimaginative.
An arrogant slap in the face from across the room.
People who smell like everyone else disgust me
* * * * * * *
Perfume is a veil that reveals the soul.
Perfume is the fanfare of our individuality sounding differently to everyone who listens.
Perfume is a signpost to our true selves – a different journey for the brave to travel.
Perfume is the weather of our inner world bringing life to a personal landscape.
Perfume is an art that shows us who we can be if we dare – an invisible portrait of who we are.
Perfume is discovered fully only by our lovers when we are together – naked
* * * * * * *
I encourage you to be yourself, expand yourself and please yourself.
Allow yourself the luxury of your own vision.
Perfume is an adventure I encourage you to explore.
I love making perfume.
I love being a perfumer.”

I love this mission statement or manifesto or whatever Christopher Brosius calls it. It also makes me think Christopher Brosius has balls – he calls out most of the perfume industry for churning out crap and giving perfume a bad reputation or at least a reputation of being a trivial unnecessary accessory. However, I also think that it’s easy to sit back and be a critic; it’s relatively effortless to point out others failings. In order for CB’s statement to pack a punch, he needs to create beautiful artistic original perfumes that are also wearable.

So, I decided that the proof is in the pudding, or in the perfume in this instance. I went about ordering samples and tried at least 2/3 of his line. My overall impression, in the end, is that CB most definitely lives up to his mission statement. CB makes beautiful, artistic perfumes that are incredibly evocative. Evocative is the word I mean to highlight the most. So many of CB’s fragrances evoke a specific “thing,” such as Burning Leaves (no surprise, it smells like burning leaves), In the Library (no surprise, it smells like an old library, books, paper, a bit musty); these fragrances smell as exactly as they are named. But the reason why I believe Burning Leaves is a work of art, is that when I smell Burning Leaves, I very quickly forget that I’m smelling burning leaves and I’m transported to a beautiful crisp autumn day. The neighbors are out raking the leaves from their yards, and one neighbor a few houses down is piling up his leaves and burning them. I smell the smoke in the distance, I also think about apple picking and mulled cider with cinnamon sticks. I feel the cozy sweatshirt that I’ve had for more than a decade against my skin, I always wear these “bum around the house” sweatshirts for weekend yard work. I think of my dogs, frolicking around the yard, diving into the piles of leaves making a mess and making us crazy. Burning Leaves doesn’t smell like all these things ~ but it transports me to this scene. As an aside, if anyone reading this loves Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, I highly recommend you try Burning Leaves.

Another fragrance from CB is called Lavender Tea. Again, no surprise, it smells of lavender and tea. The notes are: French lavender, Black Indian tea, woods and a touch of Indonesian patchouli. CB does it again; he takes me on a sensory journey with Lavender Tea. I see lavender fields in Provence; I recall my last trip to France where I stayed at a bed & breakfast overlooking fields and vineyards sipping tea while the late summer sun slowly set. I also think of my Mom when I smell lavender tea. When we lived in the same state we had a ritual of meeting for afternoon tea at least once per month at the Four Season’s hotel. My Mom loves lavender and keeps little lavender sachets in all her drawers and in the closet. She uses Yardley lavender soap exclusively. Wearing CB’s Lavender Tea conjures up our monthly tea visits, when we first met and hugged I’d smell a very faint lavender on her and then we’d sit and drink tea and chat. CB’s Lavender Tea makes me very happy.

Another fragrance from CB is called Fire From Heaven. Fire From Heaven’s notes are incense, frankincense, myrrh, opopanax, cedar, sandalwood, styrax & labdanum. The scent is much more subtle that you might expect. Fire From Heaven is smoky, soft and incredibly soothing. This fragrance, unlike the others I’ve described is abstract, there obviously isn’t an actual “thing” called Fire From Heaven. I love this scent, it reminds me of my Dad and his house in Santa Fe. The smoky quality reminds me of the smell of the fireplace, which is called a kiva in adobe homes. My Dad burns mostly mesquite logs and cedar in his kiva. Fire From Heaven reminds me of my Dad, visiting him over the holiday’s, sitting in front of the kiva, the smell of juniper bushes and the cool dry desert air outside. CB describes Fire From Heaven as the memory of smoke….

CB offers his perfumes in two forms; 1. perfume absolute (which is an oil), 2. water perfume (which is a spray edt to me).

I’ve tried both the perfume absolutes (oil) and the water perfumes (edt). I usually prefer a spray edt/edp over oil but with CB’s line I'd recommend the perfume absolute/oil. The oils are more concentrated and last longer. The water perfumes tend to be too fleeting. All of the perfumes I’ve described above are the perfume absolute/oil concentrations.

If you’re intrigued by CB I Hate Perfume I encourage you to visit his website. There is much more interesting information there than I could possibly provide in a blog entry. Plus, you can also purchase all of CB’s products from his site:
CB I Hate Perfume website

Photo of Christopher Brosius above courtesy of CB I Hate Perfume website.


Tania said...

I discovered CB a few years ago. Scent Systems (a tiny perfume boutique near Carnaby Street) used to sell a selected few. But it's gone now, and with it CB's only UK outlet, sadly. I bought three from them, & I've tried a few samples.

I wondered about Brosious' 'mission statement' too, but as soon as I tried the scents, I was converted. He really does create 'smellovision', doesn't he? (apparently he was the nose behind the original Demeter scents - remember those?) and it's addictive. If I ever go back to NYC, I am definitely making a beeline for the CB studio!

I have Burning Leaves, Russian Caravan Tea, Gathering Apples and Mr Hulot's Holiday. I have samples of To See a Flower, CB93 and Winter 1972. I really like the sound of Cradle of Light, but apparently that's not even available online now, only from the NY studio.

(By the way, did you mean 'Room Fragrance' as no.3, not the perfume absolute again?)

Abigail said...

Hi Tania,
You're correct, I only meant to write that there are 2 versions of CB's perfumes - only perfume absolute and the waters (edt). I will correct the blog entry. Thank you for pointing this out.
Even though you don't have a CB shop in the UK can't you purchase directly from the official CB website? Not trying to enable you or anything... ;-)
- A xo

Tania said...


Oh, I don't need to be enabled, I'm a self-starting perfume junkie... ;-)

Yes, I can get them straight from his site. (I think - there's no way to check whether he will mail stuff internationally, without actually placing an order).

But Cradle of Light is not available online. Perhaps he thinks it would be too expensive to ship, or something. You'd certainly want insurance for something which costs $250 for 15 mil! Anyway, at that price it's beyond me. It would be nice to try it though.

Julie H. Rose said...

Hi. Finally got around to putting a link to here on my blog.

As to CB - I love many of his scents - my fave is Memories of Kindness. A good deal of them are fun to sniff and great for after dinner conversation. But wearing them? I'm trying to find the right words here (and failing). They are like one hit wonders as opposed to symphonies.

Omniryx said...

I have to disagree a bit with Julie in her observation that Brosius perfumes are one-hit wonders. I find them much more complex than they seem on the surface. Certainly a chamber orchestra, if not a symphony. And totally wearable if one doesn't feel the need to smell like the inside of a flower shop.

Anonymous said...

Hey there - just to say that these are now available in London at Liberty (and on their website for mail order!) :-)))

cletsey said...

I am so interested on this lavender tea they said that the scent really fabulous. Anyway,will certainly visit your site more often now.

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