Les Liquides Imaginaires is a line very close to my heart, partly because of their visual aesthetics and partly because of their olfactory presence. Presented in simple but evocative bottles, both functional and ritualistic, their scents dwell in an atmosphere of chiaroscuro, with pretty and challenging notes combined artfully. Their latest release, Peau de Bête, translates as “beast’s skin” and that’s exactly the kind of name that reels me in for a sample. Given the name, I was not surprised to find a prominent leather note in the opening. Leather however is a metaphor in perfume language, not an actual ingredient and there are many ways in which someone can imply leather. Here, leather makes a big entrance with the gasoline tinged civet note. I love civet and I always think of it as a confidence builder. The ogre with a heart of gold. It immediately sets a very well defined frame for the fragrance. It sits you down and makes it clear that there is no room for small talk. And this is exactly the way civet acts in Peau de Bête. There is no ambivalence as to what this perfume is about. It is not going to be about walks in the woods and herbs and blossoms. This is a fragrance about humans and their stories, told and untold. Civet is crowned with a fruity cherry and a medicinal saffron and the combination really takes the faecal edge off. There lies exactly the uniqueness of Peau de Bête: although it is a perfume built around civet, it doesn’t focus so much on its animalic origin but rather uses its ability to add a shadow around other notes. It doesn’t try to provoke directly but it aims to invoke introspection. To hint of stories that haunt by remaining untold . And in its development the original gasoline opening quite swiftly fades into a drydown of peppery, woody, creamy but dry sandalwood. This is the phase that made me smile because it cut through ten years of olfactory memories and hundreds of perfume smelled in that period and brought me back to my sample of the original Cumming launched in 2004 by Alan Cumming. This was another perfume that, in great part due to the double entente of the name, promised a debauchery of nasty animalic and human smells. It opened indeed with what I can only described as the smell of overused socks but quickly turned into a similar musty, dry, peppery sandalwood base.
Peau de Bête is not an animalic scent. It is more of a human scent, not literally because it doesn’t smell of faeces or sweat or blood. It is a human scent because it seems to speak of hope, loss and isolation. It is the smell of human efforts. Some may accuse it of being light and fleeting. In cold observation it isn’t fleeting at all, the creamy sandalwood background lasts for hours. The fact that civet is propelled into the topnotes is I guess what some people find frustrating but I believe that there lies the uniqueness of its composition. It is not a big perfume and it wasn’t meant to be. It is labelled as an eau de peau, and whatever this is supposed to mean, it is actually a discrete scent that stays close to the skin. This is an excellent choice for this type of dark, introvert beast.
Official notes:Blue chamomile, Safranal, Cumin, Black pepper, Parsley seed, Cade wood, Guaiac wood, Atlas cedar, Texas cedar, Patchouli, Cypriol, Amyris, Anthoxanthum odoratum, Ambrarome, Castoreum, Civet, Scatol
Nose from my nose: Civet, Cherry, Saffran, Salt, Pepper, Sandalwood