Like Nothing You've Ever Smelled Before

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Perfume is one arena of beauty that I’ve always found particularly intimidating—for a while, I associated it with smelling either like a cupcake or a bordello (I want to smell like neither). My early teenage years were spent either smelling like a combination of CK One and alcopops or engulfed in hazes of Charlie body spray so that my mum wouldn’t smell cigarette smoke on my school uniform. Later, it was Gucci Rush that I received with accompanying shower gel in a festive gift set (Gucci! So grown-up!) before I finally became devoted to Tom Ford’s Black Orchid—powerfully seductive and nicked out of the beauty closet at a friend’s magazine internship. When that ran out, I’d chuck whatever sample came closest to hand into my purse, convinced that smelling like something vaguely fragrant was better than nothing at all. Recently, things have changed.

Over the past year, I’ve spent a grotesque amount of time investigating perfume houses. My interest in a fully-done face has waned, and rather than embrace the alien concept of low-maintenance, I’ve picked up a fragrance habit to level the water.

It’s hard to talk about perfume, because it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I smell Tommy Cologne and am transported back to discos, boys in polo shirts getting handsy...always wearing too much. I smell Black Orchid and remember anxiously queuing for fashion events that I wasn’t sure I was on the guestlist for. Thierry Mugler's Angel reminds me of my teenage Australian BFF before she was cruelly taken back to her homeland. Clarins’ Eau Dynamisante reminds me of my mother during the summer holidays. Fragrance nostalgia is definitely a thing, but not a thing that I’m sure I want to be a part of in spring.

What I have come to realize is that I don’t want to smell like somebody else. I don’t want to conjure up images of someone’s ex-girlfriend when I sit next to them on the bus, nor do I want to be the catalyst for reliving some past experience. Maybe selfishly, I just want to smell like something special. The latest perfume house providing this effect (and then some) is Nasomatto.

Founded by Alessandro Gualtieri, a man who has acquired a wonderfully renegade reputation within the world of fragrance, Nasomatto refuses to publish ingredient lists (refreshing for those of us eternally perplexed by the cataloging of top notes). Instead, he describes his perfumes by their inspirations—things like Absinth’s “aim to evoke degrees of hysteria' and “stimulate irresponsible behavior” (the result: smoky, woody, and green) and Narcotic V.’s representation of “the overwhelming addictive intensity of female sexual power” (a balmy, romantic tuberose). Black Afgano, “the result of a quest to arouse the effects of temporary bliss,” is perhaps their most universally celebrated concoction—the first perfume to use hashish as a lead ingredient, it's smoky and black with an almost leathery, resinous wear. Appealing, no?

Much to the dismay of the world of fragrance forums, Nasomatto has recently released their final fragrance in the line: Blamage. Blamage is kind of magical—it comes in a creepy, David Lynch-like bottle and upon first spray smells almost chemical. On wearing, it is woody and floral with magnolia and lily appearing in the most androgynous way imaginable—plus, because Nasomatto only uses extrait strength in their perfumes, it literally lasts 24 hours on the skin. Described as “an unwise and unfortunate creation caused by bad judgement and care,” with the composite ingredients apparently picked at random, Blamage is really weird—but, good weird. Special weird. I don’t smell like I’m wearing a drugstore gift set wearing Nasomatto. I smell like something peculiarly addictive. I’m hoping that’s my vibe these days; peculiarly addictive: It’s the new sexy.

—Olivia J. Singer

Photographed by Tom Newton. For more about fragrance, click here.