Fire in a Bottle (A review of Gorilla Perfume’s Hellstone)


Gorilla Perfume Hellstone
Image by Anatomique

I usually don’t do product reviews, but once in a while, someone creates a thing that is so superbly different from other things, that I need to tell the world. Hellstone by Gorilla Perfume is a thing like this. Like a vibrant shade of orange, the texture of leather or a well-composed song, I am delighted by complex scents which take me somewhere else, if only in my head. A bakery on the Champs-Élysées, a campfire on the beach of Herzliya, midnight at a rave in Berlin or barefoot through the black sands of Lanzarote.

To say I dislike 99.99999% of mass-market perfumes wouldn’t be an exaggeration. Hight-street perfumes smell like toilet cleaner to me (apologies the friend who had me along for an opinion and watched me gag, mortified, after taking a sniff of Davidoff’s “Cool Water”). Drakkar Noir called, they want their 90’s back. Or was it the other way around?

I want to be surrounded by scents that are heady, heavy and slap you in the face (in the good way). Smells of dirt, sandalwood and trampled grass. Stuff on fire with vanilla on top. Jasmine and something from the depths of the earth. Amber, firewood, cupcakes and peppermint. 100% Cocoa. Musk. Death. You know, those sorts of things.

I ordered Hellstone online after reading the description, which said something along the lines of “The scent of newly turned earth and roots ripped from deep burial into fiery air”. Anatomique reviewed the perfume in her blog post:

The smell of earth, roots and oldest oak tree in the deepest woods, moss and dry rot leaves. Smells almost occult, like the melted candle wax, edged dagger and a drop of blood. Like a deep mud, fog and rain drops that penetrate through the tall trees. Like silence. In his forest there are no animal nor sounds.

This is clearly my kind of perfume.

I was not prepared for how intense the scent would be coming out of the bottle. This isn’t your baby daddy’s body splash, it is perfume oil and it is intense. It was so intense, that I had immediately figured I was holding a bottle which had gone off. It was weird and I wasn’t sure of my investment. I gritted my teeth and applied the oil to my wrists and waited a few (heart-wrenching) minutes to smell the dry down. I sniffed. And sniffed. And eventually realized I was probably looking like a drug addict while walking down the street. Then I decided I didn’t care and sniff, sniff, sniffed some more. It’s been five hours and I still cannot get over the complexity of the fragrance or the fantastically musky, heavy smokiness.

I thought Byredo’s Gypsy Water, another favorite of mine, was the the darkest and smokiest it could go, but Hellstone is far darker. The scent seems to change and age, starting you out on a journey through sandalwood, vetivert & cumin and morphing into a sexy, smoky, musky mass of sweet, almost metallic molasses. Whisky, resin and beeswax. After 6 hours it departs with a whiff of jasmine and dark maple syrup. This is not a casual scent. This is the scent of fire, brimstone, and things that go bump in the night. Except you wear this scent, and you BECOME the thing that goes bump in the night. If Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” was a scent, Hellstone would be it.

Make no mistake. If you walk into a room full of people wearing nothing but Hellstone, I dare say you’ll be remembered for the perfume.

Hellstone has nothing to do with anything you’ve ever smelled at your local perfumery – this is true for everything I’ve sampled from Gorilla Perfume. Unlike some of their other scents, such as Vanillary, which I enjoy slathering on every day, Hellstone is a scent I’ll want to enjoy in moderation – like my most prized pair of high heels. Except that I can’t actually walk in those, and in Hellstone I’ll be doing dances for the dead.

If you like uniquely dark scents which play tricks with your head, try Hellstone. Go into a Lush shop, resist the urge to sniff the bottle. Try it on, exit the store and wear it around for a while. See what it does for you. Then decide.

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