The other day, luxury blogger Nathan Branch gave me a nudge in the comments section of my "Holiday Party Fragrance Tips" post:
“Perhaps for your NY's Eve party schedule you might wish to sport that sample of JAR Bolt of Lightning that I know you have . . . *ahem*. It's lush, gorgeous and radiates goodwill.”
Okay, Nathan, I've finally taken a stab at the generous decant of JAR Bolt of Lightning you sent me, and...is there such as thing as being too generous? Because here's what Bolt of Lightning is doing to me:
First thing on the skin, it's a stomach-roiling cross between Etat d'Orange Sécrétions Magnifiques and Gorilla Perfumes Breath of God: thick, rotting undergrowth, white florals and menthol. It calms down pretty quickly, and smells like fresh tuberose for a minute. And then after about 20 minutes, it smells like minty, metallic meat. Or perhaps “minty, metallic meat” is the fresh tuberose?
Oh, it's lush, all right, but whatever it's radiating is not "goodwill.”
|Guaranteed to give you a severe dose of goodwill radiation.|
I did a quick whirl around the fumisphere to see what the other kids were saying about Bolt of Lightning, and had one of those “duh” moments as I realized that Bolt of Lightning was the hip, obscure object of desire about five years ago already. I may have missed it then, but thanks to Nathan, I was catching up on my homework now.
Despite its ritzy-titsy price of almost 800 clams for a 1 ounce bottle, I was interested to find a distinct consensus on BoL's startling out-of-the-bottle yakkiness, including this comment from Nathan on Basenotes:
“Opens up with a seriously foul, rotting vegetation note, but after twenty minutes transforms into one of the most beautiful fragrances I've ever smelled -- an airy, fresh, lightly green and subtly sweet concoction”
...a theme he develops on his BoL blog post, here.
Well, my Bolt of Lightning clock might need another electrical charge, because at T minus 25, all I was getting was still that minty, metallic meat. Along with what Basenoter Marlen Harrison described with breathtaking specificity: “stale ice cube trays.”
Bolt of Lightning did put me in mind of LesNez Manoumalia, another sultry white floral that also cha-cha-chas with the gag reflex. Though with Manoumalia, I happily embrace its sexily suffocating tropical allure, represented by tiare instead of BoL's tuberose.
It was instructive to apply Manoumalia for the inevitable dance-off, however, because their imagined similarities were outweighed by their actual differences. Manoumalia stayed warm, salty skin-like, almost nutty. BoL revealed itself as cooler, thinner, sweeter.
But I couldn't shake the sense that BoL's earthy florals resembled something I'd recently worn, and still trying to pin the tail on the donkey, I dabbed on my sample of Aftelier Perfumes Parfum Privé.
Ooooh -- dig that smooove tropical leather! Parfum Privé is Mandy Aftel's essay on the night air in Hawaii, and wearing it, I'm there: the humidity, the orange blossoms, the ocean.
As Aftel only uses natural ingredients in her perfumes, it's actually meaningful to consult her list of notes: bergamot, pink pepper CO2, orange flower absolute, osmanthus, pimento leaf, ambrette, ambergris. Yes, ambergris: the legendary -- and legendarily rare -- oxidized whale hork that has imparted a lived-in physicality and sensual warmth to centuries of perfumes.
|Brigitte Bardot has a lot in common with ambergris. Like the way she washes up on the beach.|
Parfum Privé has a chewy, latex aspect to the florals. The nutmeggy pimento is spicy, but spice without bite, just flavor. Privé isn't as “warm, wet beach towel on the face” as Manoumalia, but both trade in the seashore's muggy allure. There's an almost-sweetness to Privé, like cooked-to-caramelized brown butter.
As a natural perfume, Privé doesn't have the tenacity and throw of fragrances 'roided up with synthetics, so the experience is softer. Even still, Privé has a beautiful, persistent presence on the skin.
The more I contemplated tropical triplets Parfum Privé, Manoumalia and Bolt of Lightning, the more it became apparent that at most, they were only fraternal siblings.
|Will the real tropical triplets please stand up?|
And most unexpectedly, while I wasn't paying attention, Bolt of Lightning outgrew its ugly monkey baby stage and turned into a genuinely pretty perfume. It smelled like the distant drydown of Comme des Garçons' bombastic Daphne: tuberose and candied incense.
“It does the darnedest Ugly Duckling To A Beautiful Swan transformation -- from foul to fowl! Its development from awful intro into utter gorgeousness would be almost comical if it weren't so breathtaking.
BoL is the fragrance that made me believe in the possibilities of tuberose. From what I understand, it has a hefty overdose of natural tuberose essence, which is why it's so expensive.”
And which is why I was getting all that minty meat. In Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, Tania Sanchez describes the smell of tuberose absolute as “rubber tires, steak tartare, Chinese muscle rub.”
But as much as I enjoyed the nasal workout, Nathan, I will not be sporting Bolt of Lightning come New Year's Eve. By the time BoL got pretty, it was well into the fadeout. Why couldn't the pretty part be as loud and insistent as the ugly monkey baby part?
|A baby anything is never ugly. Unless it's a perfume.|
So, my New Year's tuberose choice is still on schedule as Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower. Carnal Flower not only starts pretty but it stays pretty, and it stays pretty forever.
Aloha Girl by tsevis
Tube Rose Snuff via
Bardot still from ...And God Created Woman
Rodgers triplets via
Baby monkey via