You’ve got your Morticia outfit, liner and Halloween Special FX inspo at the ready. Your Spotify playlist includes the spine-chilling, gloomy likes of Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and Marilyn Manson. But what of your perfume? Fragrance, that most evocative and elusive of mediums, is perhaps the perfect way to subtly conjure Halloween’s dark arts.
Back in the eighties, the original goths carried with them the waft of acrid patchouli oil or smouldering sandalwood incense sticks, burnt avidly whilst listening to that essential new Sisters of Mercy album.
Thankfully these days there are more sophisticated scents to choose from; a plethora of resinous ambers, piquant spices and depth charged woods are at your disposal should you wish to explore perfume’s dark side on this spookiest of nights.
"With deep forests being the natural home of witches, ghouls and spirits, scents with dark and deep woody or resinous notes are quintessential fragrances for Halloween” says Les Senteurs perfume expert, James Craven. "These unnerving accords have a life of their own. Powerful and seemingly uncontrollable scents which take over the wearer and invest them with unheard-of sorcery.”
Once you start cloaking yourself with the more profound elixirs in the perfumery lexicon, it can become addictive. For these are the perfumes that real hardcore perfume lovers love. Depth-charged and mysterious these are scents that inveigle your consciousness, and hang hauntingly in the air.
“Reasons to be drawn to darker, heavier fragrances is the sense of empowerment and liberation they can give and the thrill in bewitching another human being and bringing them under your spell.”
The choice of dark side scents is more dizzying than ever R.N. Should you wish to cast a retro spell there’s nothing more appropriate than classic 80s 'fume, Poison by Dior, full of hot Satanic blasts of coriander, wildberries tuberose and sweet myrrh. For a modern take, Six Scents Les Potions Fatales is a collection of fragrances all based on poisonous plants like Hemlock and Mandrake, which is about as ghoulish as it gets. Or look to oudh or agarwood, the latest addition to any dark side perfumery wardrobe. What’s truly lovely about these fragrances is that they last and last - and they speak to your spirit too.
So as you make up, immerse in ghoulish music and magic up your supernatural vibe, dabble in these dark-approved perfumes. Like an invisible spell in a bottle, they may just be your best sensory phantom yet...
Thank you Elle magazine for blind-choosing our Wolfsbane from amongst 25 other fantastic fragrances currently being featured at Perfumarie, one of our newest stockists AND fragrance sensory lab here in New York city.
Thanks to Ms. Yana Tommelise for mentioning that our award-winning Poppy Soma fragrance is like "two flowers having sex" and how it's powdery tuberose is so seductive in her "Top 10 Perfumes for Different Date Situations" roundup. We agree ; )
We are pleased to announce that we are now offering 15mL bottles of "lab samples" with fresh "juice" for sale. These differ from our usual 50mL bottles in that they are about 1/3 the size, have no box, and come in a bubble bag instead. Perfect for travel!
2mL Discovery sets available too!
We are very pleased to announce that 15mL "lab sample" bottles of our LONG sold out Series 3 fragrances are now available. These include Beau Bow, Trompe L'oeil, Can't Smell Fear, Ascent, #087, and M.
Our 15 mL "lab samples" are hand filled and do NOT include a box, instead coming in a clear bubble bag.
3 of our 15mL "lab samples" equate to just about 1 of our typical full size 50 mL bottles.
Discovery sets coming soon!
by: Miguel Matos
Flowers are life. Flowers are pure. Flowers are erotic. Flowers are Beautiful. But flowers can also be deadly, sinful, repulsive and ugly. Flowers are actors in nature's endless narrative. They seduce and tempt, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. The flowers invented by Parfums Quartana are the ones that lead us to dangers and illusions. To debauchery and oblivion. They are not simple plants and their smell carries unsuspected effects on the human mind. They form fatal potions inside their sexual organs. Their petals allure the ones who dare to own a voyeuristic position. After smelling these, one is not the same.
“Les Potions Fatales explores the treacherous beauty and intriguing lore behind nine of the world’s most poisonous flowers. At once tantalizing and perilous, these mortal fleurs have been used to nefarious ends throughout history. Yield to their charms and surrender to a fragrant femme fatale (or homme fatale) — seductive on the outside but ultimately dark, sinister, and dangerous.” - Parfums Quartana
Les Potions Fatales is the name of the line from the amazing brand Parfums Quartana, a line that has been praised and awarded, even if it is not a very famous name for now. All of the perfumes in this collection evoke flowers and their names come from specific species, although their smell is something of a fiction created by the personality of the flowers and the fact that all of them are poisonous. Some attract you and poison you to violent results, others merely give you a bite until you are stunned. I adore this collection and its design is remarkable.
In the last edition of Pitti Fragranze, in Florence, I had the opportunity of chatting briefly with Joseph Quartana, owner and creative director of the brand. We talked about life, death and awards:
MIGUEL MATOS: Joseph, this year you won the Perfume Extraordinaire Award from the Fragrance Foundation for your Poppy Soma. What do you think about that?
JOSEPH QUARTANA: Yes, to my surprise and shock! It was actually my second FiFi, but in a different category. The previous award was in the Indie category. What's different is that the Perfume Extraordinaire prize is completely decided blindfold. So it starts out with all the houses and their perfumers evaluating all the fragrances that they created for a year to determine their favorite. I found out that Symrise, who I have collaborated with, was going to submit my Poppy Soma for consideration for the Perfume Extraordinaire. It doesn't mean you are nominated, it just means that they have submitted it. Before that, I was actually really devastated when I heard that I was not nominated for best indie. Actually I was not mentioned in any of the “top 10 of the year” articles in perfume blogs, except for Fragrantica. You guys gave me a nice shout out. I worked on Poppy Soma for three years with hundreds of variations so I was expecting some recognition.
MIGUEL: I really love Poppy Soma. It's my favorite within your brand and I like the metallic bloody aspect in it. It's a disturbing fragrance.
JOSEPH: Thank you. You have good taste. I wanted all of them to be disturbing. The concept is about poisonous flowers, so there is a darkness there. Anyway, I was so surprised the day that I found out about the nomination. We were going up against Kilian, MAC, Diana Vreeland... I thought there was no way I was going to win. The irony is that the same night that I won the prize, I survived the ceremony and two hours later I was in the emergency room because my gallbladder was going to explode. So I was getting surgery at 7am. It was the best and worst night of my life all in one. But I was going too close to death with this. In fact, this whole collection of fragrances was a meditation on death for years.
MIGUEL: Why is it so?
JOSEPH: They are all about poisonous flowers and how they were used for murder and suicide, assassination and bad sorcery. I was imagining the design and the small films that brought back to life the femme fatale, a sort of spirit that represents each of the poisonous flowers. I was taking my mind to some very dark places during this whole time, drinking a lot of wine almost every night. And you know someone said that if you look at the darkness, it looks back at you. Truth is I almost died that night.
MIGUEL: Was it a consequence of everything?
JOSEPH: Yes, but isn't that weird? What a strange coincidence.
MIGUEL: Even though it is not part of the concept of Les Potions Fatales, it is a reflex of your own self?
JOSEPH: Yes, in the process that went into it. It was all about death and I almost died after winning the prize.
Notes: Sichuan Pepper, Curry Leaf, Red Pepper, Black Gardenia, Jasmine Sambac, Red Rose, Old Church Incense, Labdanum, Tuberose, Styrax, Musk Tonquin
"Known to the Ancient Sumerians as 'the joy plant', poppy symbolized nocturnal oblivion, specifically sleep, night, and death in the pre-Christian world. 'Soma' is a Vedic word that means 'moon' and refers to the sweet milky sap that when oozing from the poppy bulbs would glow in the moonlight, and which was processed into raw opium to be smoked. Ours captures the before-and-after of the experience from sweet, milky sap to pungent smoke."
MIGUEL: Was it the Poppy Soma poison effect?
JOSEPH: Actually, Poppy Soma is about the dreams that you get from an opium trip. We focused on the aspect of how the Chinese used it for sex. I was imagining two intertwined nude bodies, dreaming together on opium. This warmth and the smoky smell. These fragrances come from a real place. I was very angry with the fashion industry after I lost my shop in 2012 where I worked for 15 years and I almost lost Sixscents too. So I had this venom coming out of me and when I created this collection of poisonous flowers it was a catharsis. I felt better but it almost culminated in my death.
MIGUEL: Would you say that this period of your life is over and closed?
JOSEPH: I think I have passed it, yes.
MIGUEL: And how do you feel now, smelling these perfumes that came out of it?
JOSEPH: It's nice. I can look at it objectively, from a distance. And I am still surprised at how nice they came out.
MIGUEL: I think darkness can be beautiful inside.
JOSEPH: Absolutely. And in this day and age when everyone is taking Xanax and Prozac and this fake instagram bullshit of living the perfect life, you need the relativity of bad and I wanted to embrace that as a counterweight to this fake happy culture that is everywhere.
MIGUEL: Which one is the darkest, meanest of your fragrances?
JOSEPH: Wolfsbane for sure. It's a stroll through dark ominous woods at midnight with wolfs lurking around you. There's an apprehensiveness to it. Wolfsbane is actually used by warriors to poison arrow tips and also hunters to kill wolves. So we wanted to capture the rage of a warrior and the ferocity of a wolf in a psychedelic way. You don't know if it's going to fuck you to death or kill you. It's super intense in a dark beautiful way. It's like having gay sex inside Berghain listening to dark techno at 6am.
MIGUEL: What is the next step for Parfums Quartana?
JOSEPH: I have been thinking about the follow up. What's going to be next? Do I want to do a completely different thing? Very recently I found a solution with something completely different but it complements this first collection. I can't reveal much for now.
Miguel Matos joined Fragrantica in 2013 and edits the Portuguese version Fragrantica.com.br. Miguel writes for Beautyalmanac.com.
by Stephen Todd
The history of perfume and of poison are inextricably linked. In the Middle Ages, court apothecaries prepared both substances, sometimes combining the two. So a courtier could never be quite certain whether it was seduction or sedition on the cards.
Fragrance houses have hinted at this history, but none had extensively explored the relationship between fragrance and toxin. Love and death.
Dior picked up on this troubled rapport when it launched its Poison fragrance in 1985. Inspired by the infamous Affair of the Poisons, a five-year murder saga that took place under the reign of Louis XIV, Poison's olfactory profile includes top notes of coriander and tuberose and a base of opopanax (otherwise known as myrrh). Available in 15ml purse-pack sprays, the slogan ran: it "mesmerises the senses … forever".
Serge Lutens brewed up a fragrance called Datura Noir (Angel's Trumpet) in 2001. His notes read, "I took brugmansia, also known as Angel's Trumpet, and distilled the notes of its lingering memory. Some say this fragrance will enthral you; others that it will make you crazy. Others still that excessive exposure will kill you dead." Positively gothic, our Serge.
New York's Joseph Quartana is a tad less dramatic, and a lot more intriguing. An esteemed fashion retailer, he launched his Six Scents platform in 2008 with the mission to couple some of his avant-garde designer friends with some of the world's most creative noses in order to translate their sensibility into scent. He forged collaborations with Gareth Pugh, Jeremy Scott and Philip Lim, among others.
Last year, Quartana launched Parfums Quartana to apply conceptually rich thinking to very singular fragrances.
His first collection is called Les Potions Fatales, and is based on the idea that some of the loveliest flowers are toxic. Their essential oils are said to have been used for murder, suicide and witchcraft.
So you have Hemlock, which is described as "green, oriental, woody-spicy". Quartana's research revealed that "in Ancient Greece, hemlock was used to execute condemned prisoners, the most famous being the philosopher Socrates. The word itself derives from the Greek word 'konas', meaning to whirl about, as its effect is vertigo and death."
Then there is Wolfsbane, once used to exterminate wolf populations. "We wished to imbue the fragrance with this animalistic ferocity of the hunter, warrior, wolf to reflect virile rage, but complemented with rich woods and luxurious black truffle. To give it a psychedelic twist, the heart note is wormwood, the basis for the hallucinogenic liquor, absinthe."
Mandrake, Belladonna, Bloodflower, Lily of the Valley. Yes, even dainty lily of the valley has a nasty streak. Quartana refers to it as "both clean and dirty at the same time". His personal favourite is Wolfsbane, "because it's ferocious and macho". Full disclosure, I am wearing Wolfsbane as I type this – and am feeling pretty feisty.
Between the excellence of each essence and the nuance of the narrative is the collaborative nature of the Potions Fatales. Each of the nine fragrances has been devised by a different nose (with the exception of Hemlock and Bloodflower which were developed by Alexandra Carlin). Poppy Soma – devised by Emilie Coppermannand which Quartana describes as "floriental, smoky, narcotic" – last month scooped a Fragrance Foundation Award (aka a Fifi) in the "Parfum Extraordinaire" category. Last year's winner was Chanel's Misia.
Quartana explains his process. "After doing a few months of research I presented the information to nine different perfumers so each could volunteer to work on the one that they most vibed with and then interpret in their own way given their own style. From there I worked with each one-on-one to focus on certain aspects of the history, famous poisonings, each one's use in sorcery or witchcraft, their respective symbology and from there reached agreement on the initial directions for each scent."
It's an intense, lengthy process, but the results are spectacular. Fierce in their individuality, compelling on the flesh, Quartana has managed to bottle pure attitude.
But as extreme as they are in concept, they are also compelling scents. Quartana hasn't fallen into the trap that snagged Rei Kawakubo when she launched a fragrance based on dry-cleaning fluid.
We are so pleased to announce that Les Potions Fatales by PARFUMS QUARTANA is now available at Fumerie, Portland's premiere perfumery. www.fumerie.com
On Wednesday June 14 2017 while attending the annual Fragrance Foundation Awards at Lincoln Center, we were very surprised to win our second FiFi Prize in our history for Parfum Extraordinaire of the Year, honoring our Poppy Soma fragrance created by the nose Emilie Coppermann with guidance from the nose David Apel, and direction by Joseph Quartana of Parfums Quartana.
The announcement on stage
Actress Katie Holmes presenting the trophy to David Apel, Emilie Coppermann, & Joseph Quartana
Celebrating afterwards with fragrance bloggers Carlos and Steven