The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
By Robert Frost
Somewhere between dark green and black, the colour of this juice announces its sinister intentions ahead of time. This stuff stains. It feels sticky where you sprayed it, like getting pine sap on your fingers, or tar. This is what it smells like, too. Fir balsam served straight up, crushed pine needles underfoot, the camphor and tar of a dark forest jostling around you. For a bit you even think “Christ, will I be able to breathe?” You will. Just wait.
The openings to such fragrances are often unfriendly. Terpenic, phenolic, and camphoraceous compounds smell of turpentine, tar, and camphor respectively. They are unbelievably pungent. A touch of a note from any one of these categories can add an interesting edge to more conventionally attractive scents – think of the way that eucalyptus sharpens the rose and raspberry top notes in Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady, for example. But it is rare to find all of these notes together at once. Pine sap, fir, tar, smoke, camphor – these are all notes that are all best taken in small doses. Here you get a full whack of them, all at once.
But soon, the resinous top notes loosen up a bit, your lungs contract and you gulp in a big breath of fresh air….aaah! As your head clears, you begin to notice other notes emerging from the blackness. Focusing, you can identify the bitter peel of a lemon or an orange – or perhaps this is just the slight citric edge that frankincense has. But if there is incense here, it is the cold, ashy remains of incense tears left in the censer and not incense that is still burning.
There is a very prominent sweet note now, almost candied, which plays off nicely against the grassy, herbaceous notes emerging also at this time. This reminds me strongly of the part in Parfums de Nicolai’sVie de Chateau Intense where the grapefruit rind plays off against the trampled grasses and hays. It’s very clever, this play between bitter and sweet, coniferous and herbaceous. There is also something here that reminds me of hashish resin – grassy, resinous, sticky. There are some points of intersection here with transitory cannabis notes in House of Matriarch’s Blackbird and Parfumerie Generale’s Coze, although, in general, outside of the pot references and the “great outdoors” feel, not much else connects these perfumes.
More than anything, this scent conjures up a photorealistic image of a pine forest at high altitudes. It is quite linear. You get a pine forest in all its glory, and not much else. But that’s more than ok with me. It reminds me of the pine forests up in the North of Montenegro, specifically the National Park of the Black Lake. We go there, my family and me, almost every year to escape the oppressive heat of the city: Norne reminds me of that moment when we step out of the car and into the deep green silence of the forest. The first gulp of that fresh, piney, cold air is simply intoxicating.
But, although my forest is a sun-lit and Mediterranean, Norne is a chilly fantasy of dark forests in Scandinavia and Russia. There is a spooky, moody feel to it that would suit Goths down to the ground. It is somewhat reminiscent of Annick Goutal’s Encens Flamboyant, which also combines fir balsam and incense, but Norne is greener, more resin-y and outdoorsy. The Goutal is as much about the church as it is the forest; Norne is an unapologetically pagan prayer to Mother Forest.
Another natural point of comparison is Serge Lutens’ Fille En Anguilles. But while the Lutens creation takes pine and spins it off into an orientalist’s fantasy of Orthodox churches, dried fruits, and booze, Norne feels cool and reserved. Filles en Anguilles is off in the corner smoking a hookah while Norne is like, totally emo, in its no logo t-shirt and Fair-trade coffee. The start to Norne had me wincing, but by the dry down, I had really grown to appreciate it. I am not sure if I would wear this one much, because it seems so oddly specific to a time and place (the forest). But I really enjoyed testing it out, and all the more because this was my first foray into Slumberhouse. All in all, an excellent start to my exploration of this daring and avant-garde indie house!