Niche Fragrance Magazine

Review of Blackbird, by House of Matriarch

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Blackbird

It’s not often that a perfume knocks me off my feet so completely. This one just did.

Composed by Christi Meshell for her House of Matriarch line of perfumes, Blackbird is made up of over 300 different notes and materials, 93% of which are all-natural. It is offered in extrait strength only, with 33% concentration of perfume essences.

The main notes are leather, oud, resins, and woods. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what your nose actually gets. This is incredibly complex, even crowded perfume – but somehow it still manages to achieve the effect of a smooth, even flow of notes, like water across a silk panel.

The opening salvo is a rush of mellow leather, black woods, and green resins. Even though it is very dark in flavor, everything feels round and smooth – no jagged edges anywhere. There is what I can only describe as a delicious “roasted” effect here that feels almost edible. This may be due to the note of cannabis here, although to my nose, it comes across more like a lump of unsmoked hashish resin, which smells sweetish, tarry, sticky, and almost like summer grass.

But make no mistake; this is no stoner’s joke, no hippy-dippy afternoon delight.  Whereas the similarly cannabis-focused Coze, by Parfumerie Generale, uses its weed note to conjure up a happy, outdoorsy vibe of buff lumberjacks lighting up a tookie, here the note is used in a supporting role to add a sweet, herbal grassiness to the other woody and aromatic notes.  The scent manages to evoke strong visual images in my head, spinning visions of dark forests of firs and pines standing untouched beside windswept beaches. The feeling is of solitude, a glorying in the fierceness of nature at its wildest. There is a genius note of sea salt weaving in and out of the perfume at this point, serving to pierce the density of the dark notes like a shaft of moonlight through the forest. For such a dense perfume, it feels incredibly ozonic.

The gentle, rounded oud accord in the opening notes becomes ever stronger as the scent develops, picking up more of a rubbery, medicinal character. This adds a surprisingly pleasant wash of something antiseptic to the complex roasted flavors of the woods and resins. In some ways, the roasted, dark woods and oud note reminded me slightly of both Montecristo (by Masque Fragranze Milano) and of Hard Leather (by LM Parfums), although I dislike both of those perfumes quite intensely and I love this one. I am not a good enough nose to guess the reasons why, but Blackbird just strikes me as the smoother, more complete scent of the three. It is also not as outwardly challenging – whereas Montecristo and Hard Leather play up their “tough” notes like oud, leather, and styrax to such a degree that they simply overpower everything else, all the potentially harsh notes in Blackbird seem to have been folded into softer, sweeter accords, like the amber and musks in the base, thus sanding down any hard edges they might have had.

The progression here is incredible for a perfume with such a high degree of natural ingredients. There is a distinct beginning, middle, and end. The whole thing is just so coherent and beautifully put together. The sticky, tarry notes from the top eventually loosen up and spread out. The sweetness of the pot resins intensifies too, mixing with the dark leather to create an effect that is intoxicating. And for once, that’s not hyperbole. If you sniff too deeply, you might find, as I did, that this has the power to make your head spin a little bit. I swear, it almost made me high. Not from the pot note, though – there is just something about this that has a physical effect on me.

And the dry down – oh my God, that dry down! It is a mix of amber, musk, and that dark, supple leather note that feels at once incredibly sensual and deeply comfortable. It reminds me of the animalic but cozy feel of L’Ombre Fauve by Parfumerie Generale, which is one of the sexiest perfumes I have ever smelled on myself. It also calls to mind the deep coziness of the latter stages of Muscs Khoublai Khanby Serge Lutens, the part where all passion is spent and now all is the sugar and cream smell of two bodies cooling on the bear hide. By which I mean to say that the dry down is very, very sensual, but not so dirty as to scare the horses. Because of the extrait concentration, the dry down lasts a long time – all the better to sit there and wallow in your own glorious juices. It is so good, I almost don’t want to have to wash it off tonight. Can you tell that I am loving this?

Now, let’s talk price. This is a superb, mind-altering scent. But is it worth $300 for 60mls? Is anything? I guess the answer to that is personal. We all perceive value in different ways. I paid €25 for a 5ml decant of this, and I have no regrets. I will wear this with pleasure for as long as it lasts, but I cannot see myself ever spending that type of money on one bottle of perfume. I would recommend that anyone who is curious invests in a split or a decant to try it out first. It is one of the most mind-blowing perfumes I have tried recently, and I highly recommend this to those seeking both the unusual and the beautiful, all in one place.

My name is Claire, I'm a 39-year old mother of two, and I am a freelance writer and consultant. I love perfume, any perfume, practically all of 'em. Other interests such as writing, reading, and painting fall tragically behind the perfume. It's a hobby that tends to be all-consuming (of both my time and my money).

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