A cloaked and masked phantom who wanders through dense woodlands, stopping only to smell flowers. A legendary, extinct herb praised by ancient philosophers, emperors, and cooks. Puddles of gleaming white liquid dripped by stalactites in Alpine caves. You have entered the world of Stora Skuggan, a niche perfume brand that delights in translating tales of myth and mystery into olfactory experiences.
As the Stora Skuggan website says of the above-mentioned phantom (whose legend inspired their first fragrance, Fantôme de Maules), "The modern world is alight with information and the shadows are shrinking. It is rare to come across someone who doesn't feel it is necessary to explain himself." Perhaps that's why I enjoy encountering a perfume line that remains faceless, almost nameless. There are four or five individuals (perfumers and/or graphic designers) behind the Stockholm-based brand, but they keep a pretty low profile.
Back in 2017 Kevin reviewed Silphium (the one inspired by an ancient herb) and liked its "big personality and vibrancy." He was also curious about the packaging, which he hadn't seen in person yet, and I can confirm: Skora Skuggan's bottles are really fun to handle, with heavy resin caps that resemble billiard balls. My first dip into this brand was Moonmilk (above right; the cave-puddle one, with the cream-colored cap), just because I liked the name and the enigmatic motif on the bottle.
Moonmilk's composition includes notes of black tea, lime, mandarin, lily of the valley, cardamom, black pepper, sandalwood and leather. Overall, it's a contemporary sandalwood fragrance with a lactonic leaning. This creaminess smoothes out the woods and the subtle spices and tea keep things just lively enough. If you like the idea of wearing a sandalwood perfume but something like Le Labo Santal 33 is just too blunt (and too clichéd) for you, you might embrace this milky, sueded take on the theme. Moonmilk has excellent longevity on my skin and is completely gender-neutral.
Mistpouffer (above left) is Stora Skuggan's newest scent and it's named for "an unexplained natural sound, a sonic boom like distant cannon fire that seems to come out of the fog over large lakes or rivers." I've never experienced a mistpouffer, so I can only guess how it would sound — or smell — but this fragrance seems to fit the bill. It's a composition of immortelle, bergamot, pine, fig leaf, ozone, smoke, vetiver, malt sugar and cypriol, resulting in a can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it blend of air, earth, and vegetal effects.
Nothing in Mistpouffer stands alone: notes of cool air and fig leaf, damp soil and lightly incensey smoke all circle around for a while. Mistpouffer's core is as tricky to pinpoint as whatever you're trying to see or hear in that metaphorical foggy sky. Its drydown after a couple hours is easier to describe: a very skin-close, musky-sweet vetiver base. This is another gender-neutral fragrance, and it endures well, although not quite as long as Moonmilk.
I share Kevin's gratitude that Stora Skuggan, unlike so many niche and indie brands, releases its fragrances gradually and thoughtfully. This way I can get a grasp of the brand's identity by spending "quality time" with one or two fragrances rather than trying to absorb seven or eight at once and figuring out what, if anything, is their through-line. Stora Skuggan definitely has a unifying concept: the meeting point of natural phenomena and human storytelling, which is a perfect conceit for perfume, if you think about it. I'll be curious to see what olfactory tales they'll tell us next.
Stora Skuggan Moonmilk and Mistpouffer are each available as 30 ml Eau de Parfum ($148) at Twisted Lily.