If you had told me when I started this blog that one day in the not-too-distant future, many of my favorite oddball niche brands would be studiously courting mainstream fragrance customers with variations on clean summery colognes and that Lush — Lush! a mall chain store! — would be making some of the most daring and unusual fragrances around, I'm sure I would have scoffed. But that's about how things have turned out. I hope that a) this last crop of Lush fragrances — so far, we've reviewed Furze, Sun, Flower's Barrow and Sikkim Girls — is finding an audience and that b) the success doesn't go to their heads. Please, no Lush Sport L'Eau or Lush Oud Noir Intense, ok?
The Voice of Reason is one of the weirder fragrances from the recent collection, and I would not guess that it's going to be a big seller, but adventurous perfumistas will find it worth their while to give it a shot. Here is Lush's description...
In a basement café on the wrong side of town where the tourists won’t wander, the walls are throbbing. The band plays to back up the bard who’s pontificating, through the air, smoke laden, the hip cats supplicating. Above the squawks and the steam of the coffee machine, over the chatter and patter of the crowd who are gathered is The Voice of Reason. An intense, layered fragrance inspired by the beat poets, with tonka bean and sandalwood combining in swirls reminiscent of espresso, French cigarettes and whiskey.1
...and it does get there, to the espresso and cigarettes and whiskey, but not right away. Take what I said about the opening of Lush Furze...
The start is discordant in a way that few niche or mainstream fragrances are these days, when the first few seconds’ performance on a blotter are sometimes all that matters. Oh, and it’s strong.
...and double all of that for Voice of Reason. You will have the espresso and whiskey, yes, but not until after dinner, and the only thing on the menu is sausages in barbeque sauce, which is exactly what Voice of Reason smells like for, oh, say, the first 15 minutes or so. It's rather alarmingly meaty, but if you can make it past the opening, the dry down is a lovely woods, smooth and warm, with a very faint rose, and vague allusions to hay, peat, tobacco leaf and vanilla.2 On some wearings I thought it did smell like coffee, on other wearings I was sure that was just the power of suggestion. Either way, it's a perfect comfort scent, nicely balanced between sweet and bitter, and while it leans towards masculine, a woman could certainly get away with it — just let those top notes dry down before you leave the house.
Lush The Voice of Reason is available in splash or dropper bottles; sizes include 7, 25, 28, 43, 46 and 92 g, and prices range from £20 to $90 (sorry to mix currencies, but at the moment, the US website is sold out of the smaller sizes).
As of this writing, the following stores in the US have the collection: Portland, OR; New Orleans; Bucktown, Chicago; Glendale, Los Angeles (limited time); Partridge Creek, Detroit (limited time); Union Square, New York City; Walnut Street, Philadelphia and Austin, TX. Look for the set to appear in additional stores for a limited time over the summer.
2. Anybody still remember Dinner by Bobo? I haven't smelled it, or even thought of it, in ages, but it's the first thing that came to mind, although Voice of Reason lacks that one's overdose of cumin.