Zoologist: Beaver - Clean and skanky

A river pools in the clearing of a peaceful wood. Wild flowers mingle in the undergrowth. This is where the beavers build their kingdom.

Perfumistas often find themselves divided over the topic of "skank." That dirty, gritty, animalic aspect of some perfume that some find disgusting while others feel is sexy.

Perfume notes that add "skank" are usually musks: civet (from a catlike creature of the same name), deer musk, and castoreum (from beavers). Musks are removed from the glands near the anus of the animal and, as one can imagine, this does not leave the animal intact after the procedure. Considering this procedure and its impact on the animal, modern musks are usually synthetics or not sourced from these creatures. Then there's ambergris, expelled from the sperm whale, like vomit but not. Since ambergris is not harmful to the sperm whale, it is not a no-no from the animal-cruelty standpoint - but it's super rare (and super expensive!). Luckily, perfumers have been experimenting with dried hyrax poo ("African stone"); choya nak, which is made from roasted sea shells; cumin; costus; and cassie - all to create the skank we like without the animal cruelty (and without the synthetics, for the natural perfumers purists out there).

Happy beaver butt.

In Zoologist's beautiful Beaver edp, one will find a healthy dose of what smells like castoreum. Fear not! No beaver butts were harmed in the making of these perfumes. Zoologist founder Victor Wong challenged perfumer Chris Bartlett (of Pell Wall Perfumes) to create this animalic tribute to Canada's favorite little hard worker without using a single animal product. After all, a tribute is not a suitable tribute if it harms the honoree.

Adorable, isn't he?

There's been a lot of buzz about this scent in Perfume-o-Sphere, but not a ton of reviews. Is that because we're all fifth graders and can't hear the word "beaver" without turning stupid? I literally saw someone post, "I won't try it because of the name." Oh grow up. You're missing out.

Beaver opens with a breath of the lightest citrus, a simple-sweet linden swirl, and the feeling of an expanse of beautiful clean air. And as my skin always brings the heavier notes forward early, yes, I get the castoreum already.

As the perfume progresses - and this is an edp that wears strong, 6-8 hours at least - the musky leather scent builds a bit, always trailing the most beautiful light musky floral notes...

There's a whisper of vanilla and smoke that adds to the feint of leather in the heart of the scent. Not enough to take us into handbag territory, but enough to keep us from tripping into a pile of steaming skank. Hours later, the scent fades gently into softer progressions of musks over woods.

I find the perfume fairly linear in concept with enough subtle nuanced lifts tossed in here and there to keep it from being boring.  As a lover of skank, I'd call this one "skank lite", and recommend it to anyone who enjoys leather scents and may be interested in branching out into more animalic scents.

*Note: as with all musk-based scents a warning must be made. Since musk scent molecules are perceived differently by each nose, what I find not-too-skanky may smell like a barnyard to you, and what you think smells like a skunk may smell as clean as soap to me.  

Beaver is like a remade classic scent. A modern vintage. It has the lovely, earthy skank of an older perfume (that castoreum is really an accord and not a little dose of the real deal?!), with a modern and light hand shaping the notes around it.

And can we talk about the packaging and bottle presentation? GoodNESS those are gorgeous.

Once again, the Zoologist Perfumes house gets an A++ and a "must buy" rating from me, and I don't "do" ratings...

 Beaver edp by Zoologist Perfumes $125 
Top Notes: linden-blossom, Fresh Air, Musk, Light-citrus 
Heart Notes: Castoreum*, Iris, Vanilla, Smoke, Undergrowth 
Base Notes: Animal Musks*, Ash, Cedar, Amber
                             *Synthetic notes. Beaver Eau de Parfum does not use animal products.

 Disclosure: samples are my own

Image Credits: happy as shit beaver, pinterest.com (edited); beaver dam, theamericaninparis; swimming beaver, ign.com; cute begging beaver, docakilah.wordpress.com; all others either zoologist.com or my own

Zoologist: Panda - A perfume review that gives me an excuse post pictures of pandas!

For those of you who haven't heard about Zoologist Perfumes, it is a Toronto-based line founded by Victor Wong in 2013. It has made quite an impact in the perfumista world, and I'm hoping they start making a wider swath on the market soon. I hadn't yet tried them, and am working my way through the three scents in their collection: Panda, Rhinoceros, and Beaver. All three are soundly unisex, and all three are made with absolutely no animal products, which is sensible for a line that is paying tribute to the animal kingdom, wouldn't you say?

I have an interview with Victor coming up, but first I'll review all three scents individually, mmkay?

Dude is CHILLIN'.   And perhaps lacks dignity.

I picked Panda to review first not just because HELLO, PANDA PICTURES! but also because it's the most difficult one for me to review. I'm weird like that. I like to get the hard stuff out of the way.

This is not to say that Panda is a difficult to wear scent. It is not.

Panda is, in fact, a delight to wear.

It's a little like this:

It makes me happy. 

Panda was orchestrated by Victor in conjunction with perfumer Paul Kiler (of PK Perfumes).

The perfume is quite obviously a tribute to the panda bear, but not meant to smell like one. Which, I must say, is probably good. I mean... they're cute and all, but I imagine they smell kinda musty and dirty and not at all like something I feel like spraying on my body.

The scent -which is an edp in strength but wears like a pure perfume, mind you- is billed more as a walk in the bamboo woods that would be the panda's environment.

The adorable Panda is a born charmer and a true ambassador of peace. Indigenous to the Sichuan bamboo forests, the Panda’s natural habitat is a majestic mosaic of dewy greens and enchanting aromas. 
Panda Eau de Parfum is a fresh green fragrance that combines the delightful scents of bamboo and zisu leaves to send you on an unforgettable aromatic adventure. Your journey begins at a quaint Sichuan pepper farm surrounded by mountain streams and then leads you through a forest of osmanthus flowers as you finally make your way into a cozy garden filled with juicy mandarin trees and blooming lilies. Panda is a scent ensemble that will truly awaken and rejuvenate your senses.

Let's start off the review with: this is a green fragrance. Big green. I happen to like green fragrances. If you don't, I still think you should try Panda. It's not your typical green fragrance. I don't know that I've ever tried anything quite like it before...

The opening is bright and light, courtesy of not just any lemon/citron but apparently Buddha's hand citron...

... and green tea, zisu leaves, and magical, lovely mandarin, a favorite of mine.

Apparently zisu is in the mint family, but there's no overbearing mint smell to this scent or I would have scrubbed it off. I can only assume this note is present to provide lift and brightness.

Also at the top of the scent is, apparently, bamboo, which I do not know as a smell, and Sichuan Pepper, which for the life of me I cannot smell. I must be anosmic?

The top notes are clear like a bell, definitely strong but not overbearing. They're beautiful. This is the playful, fun part of the scent, in my personal opinion. Then things start to get a little more serene.

Have you ever had blooming tea/flowering tea/pearl tea? It seems to go by many names. I'm not a big tea drinker, but I have had, in the past, wonderful jasmine tea pearls -- rolled-up tea that unfurled in the hot water. It's just a beautiful, hypnotic process, a meditation in my mug.

This, to me, is how the middle notes of Panda develop.  The top notes don't die or fade and suddenly you're in the middle of the perfume. No, the top notes are the water and the heart of the scent unfurls...

As with so many many perfumes, the heart of Panda is floral, here with added incense. I, personally, do not really pick up the incense. I get lingering green-ness from the opening. Added to that is delightful osmanthus, lending a tea-like impression. This is not a heavy tea note. No, it's beautiful osmanthus flower with it's dash of citrus, and maybe a hint of leather, pulling those top notes along for the ride.There's orange blossom, too, but lightly. A breeze. The lillies, too. You're walking by a field with flowers, not sticking your face in a bouquet.

This part of the scent is still bright and sunny. It's clean, but not soapy. It's green, but not leafy or grassy. It's a spa day, and you're relaxed. You're feeling calm. You're feeling open and, well, zen.

Eventually, and this takes quite awhile because Panda has some massive longevity, you find that your walk is ending and you're in the basenotes.

The vetiver and, I assume, "damp moss," continue our green theme, while cedar and sandalwood transition us into a fairly typical -and still quite "zen"- base.

I had to Google Pemou Root, and it seems that's a cedar-like oil with some benzoin and maybe some blood orange tinges, so hey there tricksy Paul Kiler - I see what you're doing there!

There is a linear quality to the scent, but it's not a linear scent. That is to say, it tells a story that is cohesive. It has continuity, but by no means is this perfume boring or "one note." It stays bright and clear without ever becoming annoying, shrill, or sharp. And it's definitely one I keep re-sniffing while wearing.

By the way, I can still smell Panda more than 12 hours after applying (at that point it's mostly soft musky woods). For a "fresh green edp" that's, frankly, astounding to me.

I do not grade scents, but if I were to do so Panda would get an A++. I plan on putting it on my must-buy list because there is nothing at all like it in my perfume collection. I think it's quite brilliant.

Top Notes: Buddha's Hand Citron, Bamboo, Sichuan Pepper, Green Tea, Mandarin, Zisu Leaves
Heart Notes: Osmanthus, Orange Blossom, Lillies, Mimosa, Incense
Bottom Notes: Sandalwood, Pemou Root, Cedar, Fresh Musk*, Bourbon, Haitian Vetiver, Damp Moss
*Synthetic notes. Panda Eau de Parfum does not use animal products.

Available only at Zoologist Perfumes

                       Disclosure: samples are my own  

Photo credits: no dignity panda, bbc.com; tumble panda, cutearoo.com; bamboo, greenlifestylemarket.com; Buddha's Hand, wikicommons; zen spa, peaceriverzenspa.com; sleeping zen panda, theguardian.com; hugging pandas, telegraph.co.uk; bamboo flute panadas, filmcrithulk.wordpress.com; samples, my own.