Comparative Perfumery

I posted this photo and a little summary on my instagram, but I wanted to do a more in-depth post here on the blog.

I recently ordered a sample of Casablanca from St. Clair Scents, which is an indie artisanal brand based in Vermont. Diane St. Clair is the perfumer. Casablanca is the newest release for 2018 and it’s definitely a winter-appropriate scent. You can tell just by looking at the juice in the bottle, this scent is a rich and intensive experience.

Soon after first applying and testing Casablanca, I was reminded of Baptême du Feu from Serge Lutens, which I recently wrote about. Both scents have a striking animalic undercurrent. They have a dark vibe, a sort of dark fairy tale. I decided to wear one on each arm and do a little comparison test.

The result is that they are definitely not dupes of each other, but I feel they are in the same family. Baptême du Feu leans more foodie. There is a gingerbread note and the familiar Lutens dried fruit note. It’s not quite gourmand, but it’s a well-rounded composition and feels very festive for this time of year. Casablana is not foodie at all. It opens with some lovely citrus notes that bring a real radiance to the composition. This bright radiance balances out the deep animalic notes, which include civet and hyrax. Casablanca is really an animalic scent for me. There are white floral notes in the heart, including jasmine and tuberose. But the animalic notes are most present on my skin.

The animalic note in Baptême du Feu is castoreum, and it has a dark oily undercurrent for me. The hyrax and civet in Casablanca are also dark and have a black oiliness to them, like oily animal fur. It’s sensual, but it goes even further than that. It’s like an unnamed beast lurking outside the castle grounds. This is the dark fairytale aspect. It’s the theme of a beast that cannot be named but is undeniably present.

My favorite book from 2018, The Essex Serpent, deals with similar themes: the fear of a medieval beast re-appearing to wreak havoc in the present day. Both Baptême du Feu and Casablanca recall these medieval kind of superstitions. Both scents feel appropriate right now, as we come to the winter solstice and the darkest day of the year. But, ultimately, these scents and The Essex Serpent aren’t about fear, but about wonder and awe related to the unknown out in nature.

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I got my sample of Baptême du Feu from Luckyscent (and I have now completely drained it!)

I ordered my sample of Casablanca directly from St. Clair Scents.

The Essex Serpent was published in the US in 2017 but I did not read it until this year. I highly recommend it!