Fumes in the News: What Does David Bowie Smell Like?

David Bowie is described as “the best-smelling human I ever met”, by Arcade Fire musician Will Butler.

The Thin White Duke's fumes came up in Butler's conversation with BBC 6 Music's morning goddess Lauren Laverne last week while promoting his debut solo album Policy.

Never one to let an intriguing detail slip away, Laverne pounced, insisting firmly, “I am going to require some more adjectives. How would you describe the smell of David Bowie?”

Butler replied:
You walk into a room, and you're like, “Something's different. I'm in a different dimension. It smells so good in here!” [And then you realize] “Oh, David Bowie's here.”

It smelled like if an ancient pine forest had a massive forest fire -- but like, a month ago. So you get the new growth of the grass and the moisture, but still there's an undercurrent of pain. But also of smoke, so kind of like marshmallows...? It's powerful.

So what was David Bowie wearing? To me, “smoky, month-old pine forest fire” says Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyante loud and clear. But that misses out on the grass, moisture...and marshmallows.

What do you think? Let's put our noses together here people, and figure this out.

And then the next time any of us run into Dave, we can confirm and report back.

Perfume Pen Pals: Frapin 1270, Paradis Perdu and Speakeasy


Have you tried any of the Frapin fragrances? Until recently, I hadn't. There are entire perfume lines that don't interest me. I don't know why and I'm so apathetic I don't care to investigate why. I see the word "Frapin" and I don't even remember liking perfume.

Which reminds me...I've never watched a moment of Friends but recently I saw a reunion of several of the actors from the show. They appeared on The Jimmy Kimmel Show, in a dull, hackneyed skit that I suspect mirrored many episodes of Friends, though of course I can't say for sure. And then the actors stood around onstage, and the audience applauded for a hundred hours like they just saw Charlie Chaplin.

Charlie Chaplin in his failed screentest for Friends.

I guess it was the first time they've all appeared together since their show ended and that warmed everyone's hearts. But I say, "Is it possible everyone was wrong about Friends all along?" Again, I don't know. And I like not knowing and yet feeling deeply suspicious. It's my favorite disposition.

I still wish I wrote that classic "take a hike" Montale Musk to Musk review on Lucky Scent. Which is now missing at Lucky Scent, by the way. (I guess it worked.)

The Brady Friends.

This is all to say that I finally tried a Frapin, an old bottle of 1270 I almost accidentally purchased on eBay, and it's great and original and somewhat fruity -- halfway between raisin and grape -- but also woodsy and spicy and smooth.

So I tried Paradis Perdu and liked it even more. It's a soft, smoky vetiver that doesn't smell too far removed from Comme des Garçons Synthetics -- Tar and Garage -- but it's more refined and sweetened with something resembling a cola note. Next came Speakeasy, which was created by the Marc-Antoine Corticchiato, the Parfum d'Empire perfumer, and it smells like it: a sharp, boozy tobacco. Some say it smells like a mojito, but I've never smelled a mojito and so, yes, I'm deeply suspicious.

All these Frapins are complex and unique, and yet somehow also versatile and easygoing. And it's making me question my resistance to Friends, not to mention my entire personality.

What's making you question your entire personality these days?


Clinique Aromatics Elixir

Aromatics Elixir by Clinique had been around for 20 years by the time I discovered it in the early 90s. I started off admiring it from a distance: even the most tentative spray hurled a lavish, densely-packed cloud of flowers, moss and woods into the air around me. I wasn't sure I could deliver on the promise of this perfume.

I began smelling AE on people I admired, creative, fiercely intellectual yet playful women who designed operas, archived films, curated art. I finally claimed it for my own a few years ago after hungrily sniffing at the voluptuous haze lingering around a friend. When she told me it was Aromatics Elixir, I understood for the first time how this juggernaut of rose, jasmine, and patchouli transforms the skin into an enchanted forest.

The smell out of the bottle is not the perfume on the body. This juice needs skin and heat to make it sing. It takes only one spritz of AE on the small of my back to send tendrils of witchy mystery out into the world. The initial denseness is dissipated by air and time.

Aromatics Elixir is a siren song muted by melancholy, my favorite flavor of mood. I especially love its abundant ylang-ylang, which smells lascivious and feral.

Perfumer Bernard Chant's masterwork may have been launched all the way back in 1971 (in the original "apothecary" bottle seen in photo above), but I've been tickled to encounter the occult allure of Aromatics Elixir in more recent releases.

Le Labo Ylang 49 is a brother from another mother, with perfumer Frank Voelkl swapping AE's rose for gardenia. And with Kinski, perfumer Geza Schoen takes AE to a party and gets her stoned on weed.

Whenever I wear Aromatics Elixir, it shimmers in the air around me. I know I smell good in it.

My favorite Aromatics Elixir compliment ever came from a friend as we ambled through a park.

“Stop!” he suddenly exclaimed, yanking my arm for emphasis. “Can you smell it? Some tree smells really good!”

Some tree was me.

Aromatics Elixir is available from Perfume.com and FragranceX.com

For jtd's insightful analysis of Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve limited edition, click here.

Perfume Pen Pals: Neutrogena Rainbath


For me, summer vacation has come to mean traveling from one house in which I don't write to another house in which I also don't write. The vacation houses are always more scenic than my own but they also have more ants and less water pressure and so my state of mind remains about the same.

This year would have been no different if only on the morning of my departure I hadn't tried to carry too many things, stumbled and, with great force, slammed my leg into the stairs. People always say accidents happen in slow motion but for me the accident was instantaneous and it was the whole week after the accident that happened in slow motion.

Acqua di Parma Colonia

Living in London, the defining perfume of my past few years here has been Molecule 01 by Escentric Molecules. Not a day goes by that I don't nab a whiff of a waft of "the little aromachemical that could" in the city's streets and tubes, galleries and supermarkets. I smell it in double-kiss hellos with film editors, yoga teachers and pop stars' himbo consorts.