Mystical, mysterious murmurings glide upon a blanket of inky sky. Shadows smear across the moonlight, their darting journey shrouded in darkness. Bats, the only mammal capable of true flight, are enigmatic and alien.
Toronto-based indie perfume company Zoologist came to my attention at Tigerlily Perfumery in San Francisco last weekend. Being an animal lover, how could I resist a line inspired by bats, pandas, hummingbirds, rhinoceroses and beavers!? (Answer: I couldn't.)
Zoologist does not aim to capture just an animal's own scent, but the scents of its environment and diet. Thus, Bat is composed of "soft fruits, damp earth and minerals."1 Bat was developed by Ellen Covey, owner/perfumer at Olympic Orchids Perfumes, professor at the University of Washington and orchid specialist. Covey wanted Bat to smell like "the cool, earthy, damp limestone cave where the bats live, the fruit that they eat, and the clean, musky smell of their fur." She succeeded with me and apparently others, too; Bat won the Independent Category of the 2016 Art and Olfaction Awards.
Bat starts by presenting the bat's damp cave, with tough/rough mineral notes and scents reminiscent of fuzzy mint and damp soil. Next up are sticky, ripe fruits (star fruit and pineapple come to mind). As the fragrance develops, I smell myrrh, tonka bean, sweet fruit skins (figgy) and a mossy note. I really liked the fact that Bat's "cave" made a reappearance during the course of wear, it never disappeared. On its second appearance, the cave smelled a bit medicinal, camphor-tinged and "cool." For those wondering: I don't detect realistic "fresh" banana in Bat; the banana smells like a silky, mottled gold-and-dark-brown banana skin. Bat's base smells of sheerest sandalwood-vetiver — our bat has now left the wilds, donned his cloak and is hanging (out) in a parlor. I was wondering where the "furry musks" were till six hours in (!) when they make their appearance. I've never smelled bat fur but Bat's musk smells somewhat like clean hound dog with a touch of apricot-scented talc behind each ear (a novel aroma).
When I smelled Bat sprayed onto a paper strip, I thought: "GREAT! But...I can't wear it. It's a novelty perfume." I was wrong; on skin, Bat is very wearable, if unconventional, and it lasts all day.
When asked by Zoologist's founder Victor Wong what other animals are ripe for their own perfume, Covey answered:
...Platypus, Naked Mole-Rat (did you know they live in colonies with a queen, like bees?), Termite, Raven (too close to Blackbird?), Hyrax, Shark, Hydra, Dodo, Tyrannosaurus rex, Brontosaurus, Woolly Mammoth and other extinct animals, Silkworm, Kangaroo, Koala, Penguin, Parrot, Whale, Bird of Paradise, Komodo Dragon, Chameleon, Sloth, Spider, Scorpion, Armadillo, Hedgehog, Alligator or Crocodile, Cicada, Bullfrog, Treefrog, Woodpecker, Dung Beetle (maybe not!), Opossum, Moth, Octopus, Squid, Slime Mold....
I vote for cicada (with a Japanese "flavor"...I can see Lady Cicada now in a kimono on the bottle) and "southern U.S." bullfrog (an old friend from my childhood days spent hanging out at a secluded mill pond).
Bat has whet my appetite for trying the other perfumes in the Zoologist line; my assignment — getting the sample set ($25). Please comment if you've smelled other perfumes from this line.
Zoologist Bat is $125 for 60 ml Eau de Parfum. It is available at the Zoologist website, or at Indiescents.
Extra credit: read this interview with perfumer Ellen Covey.
1. Listed notes: banana, soft fruits, damp earth, fig, tropical fruits, mineral notes, myrrh, resins, vegetal roots, furry musks (synthetic; no animals products are used in the Zoologist line), leather, vetiver, sandalwood and tonka bean.
Note: lower bat image via Wikimedia Commons.
I’ve sampled them all and really like Hummingbird (reminds me of something Avon might have done in the eighties). I found Rhinoceros and Beaver nice and wearable, and count Panda as one of the few true scrubbers. Panda is all scratchy, sharp, discordant chemicals to me but seems to be hugely popular with everyone else, so what do I know?
I haven’t decided about Bat. It’s interesting and wonderful in the opening but goes strangely pissy and tannic on my skin in the drydown, reminding me a bit of decomposing pecan leaves. I’m very sad that it wasn’t instant love because I like the name and I adore many of Dr. Covey’s perfumes (have you tired of my gushing about Tropic of Capricorn yet?) I admit that I need to give it another couple of tries before I’m sure, but it may not be for me.
I vote for a hedgehog perfume next. They’re adorable and a nice earthy forest floor perfume would be a balanced addition to the line. Armadillo would be a good one too. They smell of dirt and musk so one would have to capture their environment. Mesquite, juniper, cactus blossom, Huisache, dust, hay, and a hint of asphalt for those who have become speed-bumps.
Thanks, MM…the hedgehog vote has been cast!
I’ve sampled them all and met Victor. It’s a great line. Bat is my favourite and was one of my Best of 2015 picks here at NST. I also like and own Panda, partly because it’s sharp and a weirdly discordant blend of natural-smelling and synthetic – sorry MikasMinion! It’s just a very unique, atmospheric perfume, like Bat. I quite like Rhino, too, and sometimes wish I’d bought that one, rather than Panda, but usually only in the colder months of the year. (I couldn’t see wearing Rhino in July, but you’re seasonally braver than me, Kevin, usually.) Hummingbird is actually the one that leaves me cold. Beaver, the original version, is kind of fun, just not me. I think I’d eventually like a Zoologist perfume about an arctic animal – maybe an ermine or an arctic fox.
Erin…I can’t wait to try them all…I was intrigued by Beaver (linden) and Panda…with bamboo and osmanthus. We’ll see….
My first thought seeing “Zoologist Bat” was: Indie Band Name…
I have samples of this and Panda that I need to try. What I’ve actually fallen for and bought recently is Monsillage Eau de Céleri. It’s light and green, and I can’t wait to hose myself down with it during the possibly record heat we are expecting.
Noz: that DOES sound good…will add to list.
Between this, Monsillage and Libertine, Canadian companies are starting to get noticed out there, though I have yet to smell/find them here in local stores. Which is kind of par for our course.
It is driving me crazy that I could swear I saw a display of these somewhere here and thought “oh should check those out” but now can’t recall where it was for the life of me!
The art is adorable.
Gi: I know…love the drawings.
jjlook: I feel lucky…it’s easy for me to drive up to Vancouver.
Thanks for the great review, Kevin. I looked at their website and they have travel size (11ml) for $27. I’m really tempted to pick up a TS of Bat.
Sajini: yes, they have a good selection of smaller sizes.
I have only tested Bat and really enjoyed it! It made me think of fresh dirt and the stewed fruit smell (probably fig?) that I associate with Amouage Sunshine. Enabler husband, however really disliked it!
Katrina: do what I do…”ignore husband.” HA!
I have tried them all, and quite liked Bat. I love fig, so there’s that, and I definitely enjoyed the ‘damp tropical earth’ and even slightly overripe banana facets. (Errrm, I’m not sure I’m making that sound appealing.) However I’m not confident I’d ever wear it out in public, ha.
I liked Beaver best, which surprised me since I don’t like skank/animalics and thought this one would be a bad fit for me. But it wasn’t. I got citrus, florals, musk, wood; summery. Of course I’m wondering if my nose missed all the skank and I really smelled rather different to others…
Hummingbird was ‘all kinda florals’ on me and didn’t click. My notes for Panda say ‘bamboo, plastic, vase water’ (nope). And Rhinocerous was the strangest — fun rum opening, then spicy cardboard. ?? Ah well.
I’ll probably pick up small sizes of Bat and Beaver at some point. I’d vote for Otter next. Aquatic? fishy? furry? No idea
Pixel, oh, DO wear Bat in public…I got so many compliments, though I was home alone by the time the musk appeared!
I’ve only sampled the first three of this line. I so wanted to love Beaver, but there was something strange and salty about it that wasn’t me at all. I obviously wasn’t alone because Victor has reformulated it. I did like Panda, a lovely, fresh, crunchy green perfume, great for summer, and I loved Rhino. It’s a bone dry leather, with booze and a touch of cardboard. It works fine in summer, because it has no sweetness…just makes me think of Mogambo. I do want to try Bat, but I’m a bit worried about the banana.
2rista…don’t worry about the banana…the fig and “star fruit” notes are more prominent.
And sadly, discontinued. Apparently, Victor was not happy with the compound he was getting to produce this fragrance and I will say there is a noticeable difference between my first sample and my second. The first, and older sample being significantly darker in color and the vetiver more pronounced. The second is not only lighter in color but altogether more crisp and fresh. I ordered a bottle from LuckyScent but I think it is already too late…..