Kerosene Whips and Roses and Santalum Slivers: the perfumer’s hallmark

My admiration for Kerosene perfumes is no secret, I own both R’oud Elements and Creature (yes, it has now been added to my Full Bottle collection). With his follow up releases John Pegg establishes his own style in perfumery with a very recognisable olfactory identity.

Santalum Slivers is not a straightforward sandalwood perfume as the name implies. It is more of a woody citrus. The most summery and cool of Kerosene releases opens with sweet orange, sweet and natural. The opening accord is the smell of your hands after making a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. The association of this smell with the perfect breakfast is enough to put a smile on my face. Especially since the interpretation of orange is so vibrant and photorealistic. It doesn’t last long though because the undisputed presence of orange takes a back step allowing lemon and grapefruit to create a more relaxed, cool citrus accord. As the development progresses into the heartnotes a delicate rose note creates a more solid construction for the delicate topnotes. However everything remains light and softly dusted. Sandalwood is there but it never becomes the centre of attention. It is the dry but creamy base for a cool breeze of citrus and rose. However as development progresses Santalum Slivers takes a darker twist. A semi-clean musk with a smoky undercurrent lurks. It
reminds me the whiff of cigarette smoke you catch when someone smokes a cigarette in open air. It is a very interesting almost-fresh scent that maintains the quirkiness of the house while offering a more approachable option for the summer. My only complaint is that I would like a bit more presence and sillage, on a par with Creature less say.

Whips and Roses is the closest to my heart of the two releases. It showcases John Pegg’s incredible talent for creating very evolving fragrances that make me want to refresh my wearing just to re-experience the transition through all the stages of the composition. Straight from the test vial it smells like a very green banana but this does not come through on skin. The initial impression on application is that of a very fresh, “green”, white rose. It evokes the very young blooms of white roses, where the scent is subdued and cool. I get a slight anisic note in the opening making this rose even stranger. The green flower effect lasts throughout the opening but is slowly undermined by a dusty, almost mildew-like note. At this point I am reminded of the smell of an attic that has remained locked for years and the effect of the dust in the nose when the wind rushes in with the intruder. I find a lot of common lineage in Whips and Roses and Santalum Slivers. They both share the dry but creamy sandalwood note which here creates the illusion of the smell of an old library. Coupled with the rose and dust, sandalwood takes a very mysterious twist. The leather note that dominates the base creates a rather gothic atmosphere. I tend to divide leathers in two broad and very personal categories. One being the floral leather like Cuir Mauresque and Cuir de Lancome, and the other being the man-made leather, highlighting the process of tanning with notes of petrol and birch, like Cuir Ottoman and SMN Nostalgia. Knize Ten stands somewhere in between, The leather note in Whips and Roses also strands the two categories. Its lack of orange flower and spices keeps it from belonging to the first group while the very gentle birch/leather note creates the illusion of an old white leather coat. I guess the best way to describe it is as an albino leather. And what I admire most is that the rose never becomes trivial or cliché. Instead of rolling in the proverbial bed of red roses John Pegg created a solitary white rose trapped in the pages of an old leather bound book.

Having tried all Kerosene releases to date I can say that a style definitely emerges, characterised by a purity in the composition, a discreet arrangement of notes in a succession that unfolds the fragrance slowly but in a very specific direction. Nothing is cluttered and yet images are rich. There is a transparency in the composition that does not translate to weak projection or short life on skin (especially not that!). And admiring John Pegg’s compositions I cannot help but think: if an amateur perfumer with a day job can create such evocative perfumes why professional perfumers keep boring us with the same old game of notes that happen to be the flavour of the season?

Kerosene Perfumes available from House of Kerosene


About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.


  1. First, I love your sample vial photo! Nicely done. I must have been out of the fragrance loop for a while, because I only learned about Kerosene a few weeks ago. It was on a visit to MiN in NYC. The people there were raving about the brand. I love the back story, especially because I love cars (the perfumer works or has worked in the auto industry in Detroit). I didn’t get the chance to give any of them a proper smell though. I love leather fragrances, so I’m definitely going to back to check out Whips and Roses. Especially given your comparison to Nostalgia. As leathers go, Knize Ten just doesn’t do it for me. There’s a powdery chemical edge to it that hits me wrong — more like shoe polish than leather. I know it has some big fans, but I just don’t get it.

    • I think leather has so many facets in perfume. It is more of an illusion than a note so the way the illusion is created is the most important factor. Whips and Roses is a very discreet leather. You will not find any aggressive, chemical notes in it. Usually new leather or cheap leather smells more aggressive. Donna Karan Fuel for Men is a good example of new leather. Aoud Cuir d’Arabie is the perfect example of cheap leather. Don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing perfume, exactly because it captures the rawness of cheap leather. The leather of Whips and Roses is the smell of lived-in leather. Warm and subdued.

  2. This guy is getting a bit of aclaim on the blogs now, and I first heard about him here! (With your R’oud Elements review … am I spelling that right?) Good for you, Christos, for promoting new talent.

    Both these fragrances sound quite unique but I’ll take rose and leather any day over citrus. I got a chuckle to read that you caught a whiff of a dusty attic that has been locked up for years in Whips and Roses — it made me think about how much I hate attics and their attendant smells (I am always begging my husband not to store things in the attic) — but that’s probably what makes this fragrance interesting. I don’t exactly like the smell of civet on its own (I have some civettone in my olfactionary and it’s utterly repulsive), but love it in perfumes, so a touch of attic within this scent would probably win me over, too. 🙂

    • Oh, this is a very empty attic Suzanne, just as you like yours. Only dust, wooden beams and the rush of light as the door opens. I think you are going to like it. It is delicate but this does not translate into weakness, on the contrary it has excellent longevity and projection.

  3. Natalie

    Roses and leather indeed! I agree with Suzanne; all the good reviews of Kerosene are certainly piquing my interest.

    • Natalie I have tried sample kits of perfume houses that have a much more elaborate campaign and intricate packaging yet Kerosene is by far the best in terms of originality, complexity and evolution

  4. Pingback: The Spirit of Kerosene: Being John Pegg « Memory Of Scent

  5. Pingback: Kerosene Fields of Rubus and Wood Heaven: whips and kisses « Memory Of Scent

  6. Pingback: Whips and Roses by John Pegg for Kerosene 2012 « AustralianPerfumeJunkies

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