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Friday, September 01, 2006

CB I Hate Perfume: Black March, Burning Leaves, Tea/Rose and Musk

Our two-day CB I Hate Perfume special continues…Yesterday Tom reviewed three perfumes from Brosius’ Secret History series, and deemed them ”interesting, exceedingly well done, and even evocative in a way that's so shockingly personal I almost feel as if I had an intimate relationship with this man.” Testing Black March (and to an extent, Burning Leaves) I had much the same reaction as Tom. I felt that somehow the perfumer tapped into the darkest, the most painful and disturbing memories of mine and channeled them into his creation.

Black March, described as “a fresh clean scent composed of Rain Drops, Leaf Buds, Wet Twigs, Tree Sap, Bark, Mossy Earth and the faintest hint of Spring Flower Bulbs”, starts with a note that is not in the least depressive, a brisk, earthy, vegetal accord that makes me think of freshly picked, still dirty vegetables (for those familiar with S-Perfume Sloth, in the middle of that scent, there is a note that smell just like this, only softer). That smell of dirty potatoes, beetroots and courgettes reminded me about a summer spent in a Labor Camp … Believe me, there is nothing sinister behind that name, even though it sounds like something straight out of Solzhenitsyn’s books. In Soviet and post-Soviet times, Labor Camps were summer camps for teenagers, they combined rustic sort of work (weeding, gathering potatoes, zucchinis, carrots, or any other sort of vegetables and/or fruits) and the usual sorts of simple and, at that time in one’s life, exciting camp activities like disco nights, talking with your friends till early in the morning and having a crush on a boy from the next dormitory. I’ve only been in a Labor Camp once, I am a city girl at heart and generally abhor too much fresh air and am uncomfortable without en suite bathroom, but I remember having a blast. If Black March stayed the way it was in the beginning, bracing, fresh, green and happily soiled, I would have ordered a bottle straightaway if only for the nostalgic reasons. But it started to grow darker, it became somber, it had a strange, looming quality about it. It was the earthiest perfume that I have ever encountered. It smelled like a freshly dug grave. It was a smell of gazing into the black abyss, of utter despair and loneliness, of all the nevers and if onlys, of life without a future. I am all for the thrills and chills in perfume, but such an olfactory catharsis as the one that Black March has given me is frankly too much for my fragile nervous system.

Burning Leaves. "The world is changed; I can feel it in the water, I can feel it in the earth, I can smell it in the air” …Burning Leaves is the scent of autumn, of fires burning in the chilly darkness, of anxiety and excitement. It could have been easily called Fall 1917 or simply Revolution, because there is something disturbing and thrilling there, and rather dangerous, the smell of imminent changes, for better or for worse. Compared to Black March, it is much more wearable for me. It is actually rather delicious even; the sweetly smoky note of almost-candied wood is very appealing and, in the drydown, quite cozy. Note to self: never again layer Burning Leaves with Black March. The result, evocative of freshly dug graves AND revolution, is too unsettling.

After the misery of Black March and the dangerous excitement of Burning Leaves, what a pleasure it is to inhale a scent of freshly brewed Rose Congou tea. That is exactly what Tea/Rose smells like on my skin, like subtly sweet black tea strongly scented with rose. There is also a very green note there reminiscent of the flower stems rather than petals. The whole effect is simple, refreshing and very attractive.

When I was writing this post, the postman brought another CB I Hate Perfume sample (thank you, March!), Musk. Now, I am someone who finds Muscs Koublai Khan to be completely wearable and not even that dirty anymore. My tolerance for skank is, I believe, quite high. But apparently not high enough. If you ever wandered what is that skank that March and I so often speak about, please try CB Musk. However, proceed with caution. What you are about to smell, might disturb you. Musk is the smell of the kinds of sexual doings that will shock even the most liberated individuals. It is perverse, dirty, it smells unspeakable. I found it impossible to wear it on its own. Layered with some innocent little scent like Kenzo Amour or a luminous, angelic floral like Un Lys, it adds depth and richness and, yes, skank and gives an unexpected, X-Rated ending to the composition.

Black March ($70.00), Burning Leaves ($35.00-$55.00) and Tea/Rose ($95.00) can be ordered online. I believe that Musk is only available at the store and costs $25.00.

All images are from


Blogger tmp00 said...

I'm right there with you with the en suite bathroom, babe. I want hot and cold running room-service at all times. Sadly, real life intrudes.

I think that you and I had similar reactions to these scents- not that I find my mined memories painful or disturbing, but the fact that a man I've never met (at least I don't think so, there were the 80's after all) could distill those memories so perfectly feels, well, almost like the most minor species of rape. Like "how dare he reflect my memories back at me so well", as if no-one else was a 12 year old at the beach, or sat in the vegetable garden, or had an autumn in New England. I guess that I want to think of those memories as singular, important, something that could not possibly be captured by a mixture of oil in a small vial, sold to anyone who pays. I only got these samples a week or so ago; I've been "processing" them ever since.

As I wrote, I ordered more of the ones that will bring back my young yoof in autumn in New England. I'm going to make an effort to get over the "how dare he, doesn't he know I'm special?" hoping that he doesn't include in his apple scent the notes of tweed jacket and Alfa Romeo to further Xerox my fall memories....

A skank that outdoes MKK? Oooh, I have friends in Brooklyn... (frantically calling dear Moo)

11:45 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I felt violated by Black March, like I was hit in the gut, knocked down on the ground...yeah, I guess "the most minor species of (emotional) rape" is not that extreme a term to use in this case. I am not touching that one again. I might actually get a bottle of Burning Leaves. I will keep playing with the **STINKY** Musk. I am very intrigued by the line.
I'd love to hear how your olfactory recreation of that autumn goes. And what you think of The Stinky One. :-)

11:55 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Yes, I guess that's the way to put it. That's why I consider them what March calls "unwearable". They aren't really, but they aren't just something that I'd wear around everyone. The two that I tried are like intimate secrets, ones that are wonderful and precious and that I don't want to share with just anybody at the office.

I will be very interested to smell the autumnal ones, such pleasant memories I have of autumn in New England: as children raking leaves, leaf forts, the smell of burning leaves (oh I am dating myself- uhhhh, we mulched them. Really), piling about 5 people in my little red convertible to go off to the orchards to get apples and apple butter, stopping at Barts to have ice cream, with the thrill of the chill that happened in Indian summer evenings that told you that winter is coming....

12:12 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i can totally agree with you here

2:01 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

Huh! Now, I completely agree with you about tapping into memories, but, since everyone's memeories and associations are different, I guess--I find the dark earthiness of Black March extremely comforting! And I love it layered with BL and the simple accord, Old Leather (sorry, I forgot to send you this; it's not much on its own, only layered). This was the combo they picked out for me in the store when I went through the different scents I liked. I also didn't find the Musk that stinky (maybe my nose is missing part of it). I need to try it again, b/c I neglected to buy (though I probably should have); I do remember really liking it. CB said there is no musk--synthetic or otherwise--here; instead, he tried to evoke the idea of musk. I enjoy wearing all these scents--and now I have to try Tea/Rose!!

To Tom--I think you will love BL! And gathering apples is pure MacIntosh Apples; no tweed jacket or fancy car included!!

6:16 AM EDT  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Mah oh Mah-Ah need the smellin'salts, honey, you just brought on an attack of the vapors...

I am indecently excited and perturbed by your discussion of these.

Evocative, intrusive, daring.
This man sounds like a genius- and I abhor using that word cavalierly.

I am going to have to sample ALL...

Thanks, Marinushka and Tom, for your work...

7:01 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Like you, I'm an urban creature to the core. But I do love gardening, especially shade gardening or creating green Zen gardens. This sort of shaded, tranquil space is what Black March is to me. No graves. Sorry about that! :-( I actually get graves from Voleur de Roses. Very unfair as I *should* have loved that scent.
True confession - I've never actually experienced burning leaves in fall or even a bonfire. :-( But BL is like a hallucinogen, creating memories of that idyllic New England childhood which I didn't actually have. Reality is overrated.
I loved Tea/Rose, but didn't get a bottle. I may have to get one now and start playing w/ layering it.
Musk *definitely* sounds worth a sniff, if only out of extreme curiosity.

7:23 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...


Oh, I love these with a passion. I still send Robin at NST love notes periodically for sending me Black March. Again, I am fascinated by the individual scent-memories they conjure, and whether those memories are light or dark -- just as I find Apres L'Ondee to be a joyful scent rather than gloomy, I find Black March the smell of the promise of spring -- there is nothing ominous to me. Burning Leaves I love b/c (as I wrote Tom yesterday) in the far, far drydown it becomes just "Fallen Leaves" -- that great, dusty leaf-pile smell.

The CB Musk!!! Is that not the GREATEST THING?!?! I do have to keep it in its special, sealed canister, or the smell creeps out of the bottle. I live in fear of spilling the 8ml I have left. I have shipped samples far and wide, spreading The Gospel of Skank. Your description is so perfect I'm gonna bloglift it if/when I do the CB Musk Dedication Post I'm pondering. Can you imagine the test trials to come up with THAT?!?! Heh heh.

Seriously? As you noted, one DROP layered with a heady floral (Jasmine, Un Lys, A La Nuit) is out of this world. I even (don't tell!) dab it on by itself, but I have noticed people look around nervously, trying to discern where that raw smell is coming from. Trying to work up my nerve to layer it with Yatagan.

8:31 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Because of those wonderful memories of autumn, you'd definitely love Burning Leaves, I am sure about it. It is very unfair that my bizarre imagination should come with such a thing as Revolution for this one. It's not like I was around in 1917 or anything. Collective memory, it's a powerful thing :-D

9:09 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you :-)

9:10 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Well he sure managed to to evoke the idea of musk. The dirty, sweaty, salty, stinky, darn sexy musk. :-)

9:11 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh you'll love these. I imagien you wearing Burning Leaves layered with musk...

9:12 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

How nice it is to wake up to a comment that says, reality is overrated. Please allow me to indulge myself and quote some Baudrillard, "I hold no position on reality...The real, all things considered, perhaps it, it doesn't exist. "
:-D Ah, nothing like a touch of post-modernisim with a cup of coffee :-)

I do get graves in Voleur de Roses too, but those are stylized graves from something like Bram Stoker Dracula (Franko Zefirelli's version aka the best version). Those don't bother me at all :-)

9:17 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I was just thinking yesterday how great it would be to have a candle scented with Burning Leaves. Mmm.
I must smell In The Library, must! I am going to order a sample right now.

9:19 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

You should be ashamed. You have children too! Dont you feel uncomfortable keeping That Dirty Thing in the house where little innocent souls leave? What if the get exposed to the smell of...That. :-D Just joking. That Musk is something else, I haven't tried anything like it before. MKK is a shy little wallflower compared to that one. Thank you for introducing me to it.

PS Layer it with Yatagan??...Allright. I'll do it if you do it :-)

9:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

As a gardner, I am sure you'd get the loveliest clean, green, earthy scent from Black March. I think you'll enjoy it! And I would also highly recommend Tea/Rose to you.

9:23 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Such a great quote! Your comments on that Musk actually sort of bring to mind his hyperreality.
Had a dream last night that was somewhat along the lines of Borges' Garden of the Forking Paths, so I woke up in a wierd, reality questioning mood. :-)

10:37 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Wow! :-) May I ask what scent were you wearing last night? :-)

10:54 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

I put on some Patou Moment Supreme right before bed. Who knew?

11:37 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Ah, Moment Supreme...I actually don't find that one an easy scent to wear. It's sometimes quite agressively sharp on me. I might try to wear it tonight and see what dreams might come :-D

11:45 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I really do have to order some samples of CB in the near future. Tom and your reviews have really got me intrigued and rather curious if they will have the same evocative memory qualities (will I smell comfort? Be slightly mentally "raped"? Or intrigued but ultimately find they unwearable?

11:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I'd love to hear what you think about them. These are very unusual scents, really worth a try.

11:57 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Live, online reportage from the House o' Filth -- it's a rainy, cool day here so perfect for Musk Research...

It combines great with my orange soliflores, wearing it with SMN Zagara and iPdF Arancia... it's a nice, skunky counterpoint.

But the Winning Combo -- try it with some KJ!!! (Giggling) I put it with the vintage you sent... ahhhhh, what a smell! I want to lick my arm.

BTW the scream you heard 45 mins ago was me ALMOST kicking over the Musk Bottle on the floor of my closet -- eeeeeeeeeekkkk! We'd have to replace the flooring ;P

Will try it with the Yatagan if either of these dies down ... hey, do you think I should shower off before I pick up the twins at preschool?

12:53 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

KJ and Musk...that will definitely work!

Yeah you should shower. They'd let the SVU people loose on you if you show up at a at *preschool* smelling of That! :-)

12:57 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Don't shower.

Leave 'em wondering how you spent your afternoon...

4:32 PM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

Tom, hah! No, I didn't shower, either. Hey, at least I'm not another beaten-down frump wandering in there in my blond pageboy, Jack Rodgers sandals and Lilly Pulitzer pants at 5 p.m. Why don't the women in this town curl up and die of boredom looking at themselves in the mirror?

Marina -- it also layers well with the Colombinade, and Lonestar Memories... I am beginning to think that anything leathery or smoky is the perfect counterpoint to its dollop of perverse sweetness.

Tom, I cannot wait to hear what you think of it.

9:18 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...


I'm glad you went in there. The Uptons of Montebank deserve to get their world perturbed.

I will jump through hoops the get the skank that out-skanks MKK. I am hoping that it can get past my own chemistry, with it's patented UnSkankoTron. I try MKK and smell drrrty sex, people sniffing me tell me I smell "pleasant".

I am more than willing to pile CB's musk on to Yatagan... but you and I and Marina may have to take turns- that level of smoky ribald musk on one continent at once could invite disaster...

1:14 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I ordered the Musk. It's $75 per bottle, not $25. But for the ne plus ultra of skank, that's okay!

1:50 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Congrats and I hope that it is as skanky on you as it was on me. I won't say "more skanky", because it cannot BE more skanky :-D

1:54 PM EDT  
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