Hemlock was created to escape the banality of perfumes. It is one of the nine fragrances introduced by Perfumes Quartana to commemorate the fascination with the worlds poisonous flowers. Appearing simple, beautiful and seductive upon arrival, they are in reality quite dangerous. With Parfums Quartana ‘Les Potions Fatales’ which happen to be a limited-edition of very prestigious scents, Hemlock is the perfect elixir to highlight the strange eroticism with the dark side of such flowers. Hemlock, manages to combine the Femme and Homme Fatale to make for an interesting fragrant experience. After all, naming a perfume called Hemlock that killed one of the worlds greatest philosophers can be somewhat of a risky adventure, don’t disclose these concerns to Parfums Quartana for they ushered in one of the more interesting fragrances of 2016. Hemlock does not fall short or even disappoint. Excuse me as I explain.
Hemlock in it’s very own serene way is a deceptive perfume. Initially, is could present itself as a skin scent which have the usual suspects; jasmine, soft musk, amber-ambergris and maybe tuberose but the layers of scent in Hemlock run so deep that it takes it beyond just a skin scent. That would be only a 1/4 of an explanation of Hemlock with 3/4 to go. In a similar fashion but not exactly the same Hemlock could appear as smelling like Orto Parisi’s masterpiece; Brutus, the mysteriously good smelling juice with supposedly ‘just’ three notes (Bergamot-Patchouli-Mandarin Orange). Even today I continue to fathom how just three notes provide so much depth and wholesome goodness that Brutus possesses. Well, Hemlock has that same warm and comforting appeal like Brutus but is volumes more interesting. 21 more volumes interesting because there are 21 fragrance notes! The same Bergamot and Pachouli ‘Citrus’ theme is front and center but Hemlock wants to take chances to create in our minds the dangerous fascination of what Hemlock would/could smell like or if you will, even taste like.
As Hemlock escapes the Brutus or ‘skin scent’ labels it moves into a barrage of florals or better yet mystery florals. The mystery floral is a Glossy White floral among jasmine sambac (skin scent), Black Magnolia and some Cyclamen sprinkled in. Together the floral combination is a winner in that it gives Hemlock a subdued presence with so many notes that it has a sheen quality to it. With so many notes functioning it could actually result in being real hemlock which would be a monumental disaster but Parfums Quartana nails it in expert fashion as perfumer Christelle Laprad weaves in and out from the many layers of scent.
There are the spices that we are all familiar with Cinnamon bark, Clove and Black pepper that controls the tempo in this fragrance as it mixes in with Martinique Rum which you can detect instantly, but the backdrop of crushed leaves comingling with spices is just brilliant! You will savor this moment when you sniff hemlock as it will whip you into the vertigo like symptoms when one drinks Hemlock. The crushed leaves mixed in with everything else is really is sexy! You will like this. Then there is the addition of resinous influence: Benzoin-Styrax to calm down a very potent Vanilla and Tonka bean combination. By this time, the crushed leaves makes this perfume smell even better. I think my fondness for crushed leaves or laurel has been solidified with my encounter of Hemlock. Then there is Sandlewood, Musk and Masculine Amber woods to compete for the base.
So after all the ingredients of Hemlock mentioned one might wonder what makes this so exclusive, so limited edition, so prestigious and so mystifying. For the more qualified noses the excitement lies in the exceptional performance of these three ingredients. Salt. In between the amber-musk-Tonka-Vanilla notes the salt gives it a representation of salt caramel. You don’t recognize the salt note right away but when you do it just elevates Hemlock a little further into the stratosphere. The suede note is subtle but detectable so it is perfectly fine as it stands. What is really outstanding with hemlock is the decision to use a Black Vinyl accord. Parfums Quartana decision for the Black Vinyl accord was to emit the scent of ‘Black Liquid’ further adding to the Les Potions Fatale theme and the dark concept in the history of Hemlock concoctions. The vinyl accord has a slight burnt record smell but not antagonizing while antagonizing. It is the perfect irony in Hemlock, an irony you will enjoy. The vinyl accord does not bob and weave like the other notes but remains constant giving Hemlock a most signature smell that you would not dare pass up. I personally have sampled some perfumes that tried to capture this concept tapping into the dark gothic themes and the juices by all means fail. Not so with Hemlock. It is carefully crafted and constructed with the most pleasing antagonism! The accolades for this creation are just beginning.
“I would trade all my technology to spend an afternoon with Socrates”