Archive for August, 2014

Fire in the Hole (A review of Outlaw Soaps)

Outlaw Soaps - Fire in the Hole and The Gambler

I got some pretty good feedback on my first product review, a look at (or sniff of) Gorilla Perfume’s Hellstone, so I decided to write another review of an awesome thing that I really like and you might not know about.

I professed my love for all things richly scented in my previous review, so I won’t go into that in depth. The short version is: I love dark, woodsy, smoky warm scents that remind me of midnight campfires and nights on the town. I love scents which take me places I remember, and places I’ve never been. Especially the unusual scents which make me pause to appreciate their complexity. That’s the short version.

My good friend Anna introduced me to Outlaw Soaps, a small handmade soap manufacturer based out of Oakland, California. Perhaps Anna took pity on my shower gel collection from The Body Shop, maybe she thought I could use a good washing. She cut me a slice of Outlaw Soaps’ most popular soap, Fire in the Hole, and stuck it under my nose. Now, if you’re the kind of person who otherwise uses Dusch Das or Nivea shower gel, you’re not going to be prepared for this soap. It smells like campfire, dirt and booze. You might prefer to emerge from the shower smelling like artificial frangipani, but not me. My morning showers are extensions of my sleepy dreamworld and I prefer everything about my first waking moments in the day to be freaking awesome. And there is really nothing more awesome than campfire, dirt and booze.

Outlaw Soaps: Label

The two-person team which makes up Outlaw Soaps make all of their stuff by hand in their workshop, including making their soaps from scratch. Almost everything they make is inspired by the great outdoors, the wild west, good booze and general gun-slinging. I say “almost” because they make something called “Unicorn Poop Soap“, which might have something to do with Butt Stallion. They make products with scents that remind them of places and fond memories, which I find particularly charming; this means I get a little piece their favorite memories with every piece of soap.

Other than “Fire in the Hole”, I blind-ordered “Pine Mountain“, another outdoorsy-type soap. This one smells like dirt on a pine trail on a crisp morning, which reminds me of my childhood in the Midwest. Their lotion stick, “The Gambler“, smells like a shot of whisky by the campfire, or a lovely Whisky Collins mixed by the extremely competent staff at Hamburg’s Le Lion. My cat Thymian seemed to love the scent and couldn’t stop licking my fingers.

Outlaw Soaps: Pine Mountain

I like the ingredients they use; the soaps are made with (obviously saponified) avocado and coconut oils, which make for some pretty awesome lather. Their solid lotion is made of exactly 8 ingredients (mostly oils, cocoa butter, vitamin E and fragrance), is dimethicone-free (yay) and has no artificial preservatives.

I have my sights set on Blazing Saddles Soap (smells like leather and gunpowder) and Bacon Soap (smells like, err, bacon). They prefer their stuff to be vegetarian, but I admit I’d love the latter to be made with saponified bacon grease. Perhaps I’ll make some of my own.

PS: Outlaw Soaps guys, if you’re reading this, please make Fire in the Hole into a fragrance. Mix it with cocoa butter, make it solid, put it in a tin, I WILL BUY A MILLION!

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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