The Michigan-based indie fragrance line Kerosene released Unknown Pleasures in 2013. I first read about this fragrance with mixed emotions. The notes sounded appealing — Earl Grey tea, lemon, bergamot, honeycomb, tonka bean, caramel, vanilla and waffle cone. On the other hand — could it really be an homage to an iconic album by British post-punk group Joy Division? Yes, apparently: Kerosene's product description continues, "You're walking down a cold street in Manchester, listening to Joy Division, sipping on a warm cup of London Fog..."
For two years I've postponed trying this fragrance, partly because Kerosene isn't widely available, and partly because I'm always hesitant to try anything inspired by a favorite work of art. Unknown Pleasures was integral to my college years and twenties, playing on steady rotation in my various dorm rooms and apartments (all decorated with a large poster of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis). I love everything the band recorded (not nearly enough, alas), but this album is my favorite and remains one of my "desert island discs."
So, now that I've finally worked up the nerve to try Kerosene's fragrance, what do I think? Short review: this Unknown Pleasures isn't something that I can imagine Ian Curtis or any of his bandmates wearing, but I like it.
Like Kerosene's Unforsaken, Unknown Pleasures is a unisex gourmand with citrus notes: it starts off with a very tart lemon that segues into tangy-sweet bergamot. There's also a thread of something mildly spicy running through this citrus phase; I'm reminded of cardamom, perhaps. Unknown Pleasures is definitely a gourmand, yet it isn't overly sweet; the honey is balanced by a bite of ginger, and the tonka and caramel are creamy yet earthy. London Fog is a beverage made of Earl Grey tea blended with hot milk and vanilla flavoring, and the sense of smoky, bitter black tea beneath softer, warmer flavors is nicely captured here. Unknown Pleasures is linear after its first hour or so. It has excellent staying power on my skin.
As I said above, I can't imagine any member of Joy Division wearing a fragrance like this one — their post-industrial aesthetic might be evoked better by something from Blackbird or Andrea Maack — but I'd wear it myself, on a rainy day when I want to curl up with a book, a snack, and an album that has become comforting through its very familiarity.
(For extra reading about Joy Division, I highly recommend Chris Ott's pocket-monograph on Unknown Pleasures, part of the "33 1/3" series published by Bloomsbury.)
Kerosene Unknown Pleasures is available as 100 ml ($140) Eau de Parfum. For buying information, see the listing for Kerosene under Perfume Houses.
Note: top image is Side street off Bower St., between Miles Platting and Newton Heath, Manchester [cropped] via Wikimedia Commons.