I am always looking forward to new Kerosene releases, not because John Pegg is “one of us”, a perfume blogger turned perfumer, but solely because I enjoy his perfumes and I find them beautiful and amusing. His Black Vines scent is not an exception to my perception. Having read that it is a licorice bomb my anticipation was only heightened. First of all licorice is not very common in perfumes and when it appears it rarely is the star. Smelling Black Vines for the first time was a confusing experience: I was not getting the licorice…. There were hints of it but nothing like the sticky, salty piece of licorice candy I expected. I put it aside as I felt completely unable to write a review about it without having actually smelt the licorice bomb others were reporting. I kept wearing it though because it is a lovely perfume and then slowly I managed to unlock the mystery of my misconstrued take on licorice. You see, I have never actually chewed on a piece of licorice root. My understanding of it relies only on these worm like strings of candy that give you this perverse sticky sweet, salty and slightly fatty tang when you chew them. What I get instead is a woody, spicy, slightly salty and unexpectedly fresh fragrance. It appears in transparent layers that allow the wearer to focus wherever they want. On the first layer a get cinnamon mixed in equal parts with licorice. This layer is hot, the way a stick of cinnamon bark is hot when it is chewed. It has this super dry quality, like dried earth on the roots of a plant that has been pulled from the earth and left to dry. But underneath this first layer lies a second accord of apple and vanilla. Not the vicious, foody rendition of these notes, but instead an airy, cool version that contradicts the macho spicy opening. Being the only person who smells apple in this one lead to me to search a little deeper and actually what I interpret as apple is the ivy. I believe that it is not just a case of misinterpretation. Black Vines immediately reminded me of one of the best Joop releases, All About Eve. This one was a magic concoction that smelled of apple, cinnamon and vanilla, yes you could clearly smell all these, but in the end there was nothing remotely foody about it. It was green, sheer, cool, bright and still extremely homey. Black vines recreates the same contradiction between individual notes and end result. There is a rustic feel to it because of the selected notes but in the end what you smell is a hot, metallic swoosh of joy. Further in the drydown (please, please, please do not write reviews of Kerosene perfumes without a full wearing, they change so much over time) the cinnamon note flies away allowing the licorice the glow.
Notes from Parfumo: Ivy, Fig, Canadian fir, Peru balsam, Star anise, Vanilla, Frankincense, Cedar, Cinnamon
Notes from my nose: Cinnamon, Licorice, Pepper, Apple, Vanilla
Dirty Flower Factory is supposed to be a shameless floral that men would wear unabashedly. And it opens provocatively floral. There is this dense floral quality but it seems diluted with a fresh, terpenic juice. Like overripe flowers and green stems were put in a blender and whirled around. I can actually smell the chili note and I think this is what gives this scent its character. The flowers smell leathery, like the petals of gardenias as they whither and turn yellow. Somewhere in the development there is a creamy turn in the florals, something that always makes self conscious when trying to wear white flowers, but overall this is truly a scent that men can wear. There is something ceremonial about it and the dirty aspect is not some gimmicky cumin or musk note. It is rather an overall aura of decay that makes this decadent and slightly morose.
Notes from Parfumo: Ambergris, Chili, Jasmine, Musk, Orange blossom, Pepper, Rose, Sandalwood
Notes from my nose: Stale white flowers, Green sap, Chili
I still have not tasted real licorice root… Spyros Drossopoulos of Baruti (formerly Magnetic Scent) has done a dutch version of licorice candy, probably like the ones featured in my photo. Samples of Black Vines and Dirty Flower Factory were kindly offered by Kerosene.
Christos, I absolutely detest black licorice candy, at least the kind they make here in the States (but oddly enough, I do like the related smell and taste of anise), so I originally thought that Black Vines sounded horrifying for a perfume. But your review comparing it to a licorice root (which I have tried, during a venture into herbalism classes back in the 90s, and which was very good) makes it sound quite appealing. Especially with the dry cinnamon contrast that you describe. Who knows whether I would like this perfume or not, but if I ever encounter it, I will at least give it a spritz. It’s very evident how much you enjoy his perfumes.
I think licorice is somewhat of an acquired taste, that’s why it is very popular in some countries and almost unknown to others. Black Vines was a very original approach on licorice, very creative and without any cliché accompanying notes. Even the vanilla used is soft, cool and not sweet.
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