"...Skarb is romantic in a forgotten sense; the word "eruptive" chosen by the authors to describe this sensation is completely apt. The perfume opens with a hitherto unknown sense of aggression and dynamism, literally jumps at you like a surge of violent emotions breaking one's sense of tranquility and resounding of a diffuse noise that seems to emanate from a crowd. One is reminded of the tears streaming down on the faces of Czechoslovakian men standing on the streets when the German Nazis invaded Prague in 1938." - Chant Wagner
The smell-personality of the scent is immediately complex: leathery, fougère/fresh, peppery, a trace of semen-like impression (see Sécrétions Magnifiques), metal, a deepening spicy brew. There is a refined undertone of orris adding a sense of melancholia, tenderness and femininity to the scent. It smells of, or perhaps abstractly suggests dusty history books, whose leather covers would have kept, somehow, the faint traces of men's sweat and layered experiences; the sweat is refined and exquisite. The herbs are almost violent in their expression at times, like the scent and properties of natural plants can be. There is also a more systematic peppery and salty impression, which makes one think of pepper gas and tears running down on one's face.
A resinous quality emerges, which conjures up a witch's hut in a forest, whose door sill is announced by bunches of tied up herbs drying upside-down. The area feels vaguely magic and enchanted, but also dangerous. The forest motif here suggests a place of liminal danger in reference to it having been a locus of traumatic experiences during WWII. It signals hidden executions and refuge places for escapees from concentration camps and Nazi raids (perfumer Christopher Laudamiel worked with historical photographs we are told, but I do not know if this type of reference was included)...
Robin Williams performing a crying man in Crying Men by Sam Taylor-Wood
Regarding the spatial impression conveyed by the scent described as being that of a "star," it would not have been possible to say, at least for me, that it makes me think of a star-shaped structure just by smelling it. It however offers a perceptible center that feels like a hollow, a depression in the middle of the scent. The texture of the scent feels alive too. After the initial wave of indescribable emotions that literally seems to jump at you, there remains a pulsating sensation to the scent, a throbbing. It even distinctly creates the sensation of a heaving chest like that of someone sobbing in the movement it imparts on the smelling experience. One's torso seems to constrict and then expand, the face muscles feel both tense and ready to relax - and one feels in a state of crying without crying per se.
But Skarb also offers in the end angelic peace. In its last chapters, the resolution is very calming. It makes one feel rested and deeply relaxed as if after an overflow of emotions. It is like those moments after a swim or a crying session, like returning to a state of innocence and purity; Skarb is a deeply cathartic perfume through the sufferings and upheavals it leads you to imagine. The perfume wearer, despite herself or himself, becomes an actor in a drama scripted by the perfumer. Feel the lead of despair then feel the abandoned sleep of an innocent baby.
Skarb is a stunning, extremely sophisticated piece of perfumery art, which elicits true emotions and admiration. It not only elaborates upon figurative motifs, but provides a sense of movement, kinesthetics and drama by having a suggestive physical action on the body. It evokes, somehow, the depth of history, images of humanity's sufferings we have seen on TV, the rumor of bygone ages, our profoundly collective tragedies.
Beyond its psychological effects, it smells beautiful and unusual.
It does not make much sense to point out that Skarb is the most something of 2007 or the best of something in 2007, such is its uniqueness. It is simply off the chart and confirms the fact that perfumer Christophe Laudamiel succeeds, and amply at that, at maintaining a personal balance between rigorous artistic works that can be characterized as being experimental in nature - but it would be somewhat limiting to say so (the coffret inspired by the novel Perfume also) - and more mainstream commercial creations.
If you need an antidote to chronic perfume cynicism, this is the cure.
Notes: Absinth, myrtle, lovage, barley extract, musk, watery accord, carrot seeds, incense, myrrh, patchouli, orris, Roman chamomille, prune.
Needless to say, despite its masculine theme, the scent is not just for men.
The perfume (Eau de Toilette concentrée) is available for $210 at Luckyscent. You can also start by sampling it for $4.
Image: Humiecki & Graef