Wednesday, January 10, 2018

LUSH Gorilla Perfumes - My Obsession and Collection

Gorilla scents (a play on the phrase "Guerrilla warfare") were borne of Lush's rebellion against the stale, formulaic fragrance industry where consumers are fed copycat after copycat of uninspiring synthetic scents, and more money and effort goes into advertising and packaging than it does formulas. 

While I have nothing against the cupcake-y synthetics and love a lot of them, I do consider natural perfumery an art form because of how much more complicated and expensive it is working with natural essences and extracts. Like fine wine, there are differences between batches due to variances in the harvest. And like fine wine, many perfumes that contain natural extracts "age" and develop into richer, smoother versions of themselves with time.

My on-off love affair with Gorilla perfumes began maybe around 2012 during a trip to NYC. I still recall the rather uninspiring perfume display with a somewhat random selection of identical, anonymous little black bottles and tubes with alarmingly high price-tags. But the moment I picked up that tester bottle of Lust and sprayed, I swooned, and fell instantly, passionately in love with the radiant, candy-sweet, gloriously-rich jasmine scent that you can never find with mainstream perfumes created using synthetic notes. 

Lush Lust in the new spray bottle (center) vs original Gorilla bottle and stick
I skipped a few "generations" of Gorilla perfumes and only recently rekindled my love affair after looking into the Volume IV scents. Today's perfumes come in nice squared apothecary bottles with clean white labels. Unlike the old black bottles, I can see how much perfume I have left, and what I'm actually picking up. (Plus, I love how the glass bottles look all lined up together.)

Besides 30ml and 100ml bottles, they are also available in Solid perfume pots and innovative soapy Wash Cards. I personally find the biodegradable fruit pulp Wash Cards a fun way to sample (or share) new scents in the shower. However at $5 per card, they are rather expensive and I don't find the scent stays or projects on the skin. Eco-friendly yes, eco-nomical no.

It bears mentioning that I was told the formulas were "updated". Not so much in terms of fragrance composition, as in the concentrations. These used to only come in sizes up to 30ml only, and I remember feeling they were incredibly expensive for how small they were. Now you can get 30ml from $39 upwards depending on scent, which is quite palatable for the average Lush newbie. Even if they are less concentrated now, these are in no way "light". They still pack a punch.

Lust is a long-time favorite. I have periodical obsessions over other Lush scents but I think if I could only keep one Lush scent for the rest of my life, it would be this. It's described as a sexy, dirty jasmine, and if you are not used to natural jasmine absolute, you might find it a little pungent and animalic. Jasmine has a high concentration of indoles, a compound that smells a little like decay. So this is not a scent for everyone.

In my experience, women tend to like it a lot more than men, so for me it isn't so much of a sexy scent as it is a happy scent. It smells like that first ray of sunlight, after weeks of cold, grey weather. It starts out candyish and almost fruity, then goes all ambery and sweet, before rounding out and getting slightly creamier as the vanilla absolute comes out.

Jasmine has proven mood-lifting and anti-depressant properties, so maybe that's why I get a subtle high every time I breathe this scent in. If I could rename it, it would be called Bliss instead of Lust. Even after over 5 years, I still never tire of smelling it. And for a fragrance whore who owns well over 100 bottles and changes up her scent each day, that's really saying something.

Vanillary is the other perennial best-seller. Despite the official descriptions calling it scrumptious and like "powdered caramel", this isn't a vanilla perfume to me as much as it is a tonka perfume.

It's a soft, billowy, gentle cloud of powdery sweetness that invokes a hug more than a pastry or candy. There is nothing syrupy or sticky and sugary about it. The word "powdered" is correct, because this has a cool, dry, comforting talcum-powder like quality when fresh. At the same time, it has an undertone of "Play-Doh" from the nutty tonka that some people may dislike, but that I find fun and nostalgic. It does dry down and become creamier, like cool vanilla-custard. But it stays powdery-creamy. Not sticky-sugary.

For those into niche or premium perfumes, this is like a lighter, simpler Dior Feve Delicieuse. Both are powdery, nutty sweet tonka scents, although Vanillary is a little sweeter and pre-dates the darker, bitter-sweet Dior.

Amelie Mae is Lush perfumer Simon Constantine's tribute to his younger daughter, who helped him to compose the scent by listing the key notes it should contain. If you're used to the type of rose in mainstream perfumes, this might be a total shocker for your nose.

Like Rose Jam and Imogen Rose, Amelie Mae won't smell like soft delicate petals or a fresh-cut bouquet with dew and leaves. You might want to stick with Dior and Jo Malone for those. This is dark, thick, almost boozy rose that reminds me of vintage perfumes, wine, heady Middle Eastern attars and essential oils.

The raspberry isn't sparkling or bright. It is also jammy and thick like raspberry preserves so it adds to the overall "sweet jamminess" of Amelie Mae. The lavender stays in the background like a faint whisper, a tiny dusting of icing sugar that disappears into the steaming, bubbling surface of a vat of floral jam.

Only the ylang ylang adds an animalic fleshiness but even that gets drowned by the fruity rose concoction. I find it intriguing because it's so unlike other rose scents I own, and wear it occasionally at home, but this is not one I can wear for hours on end because it's overpoweringly heady, and sometimes goes too strong and syrupy on me.

I'm Home is an interesting gourmand scent that I again only wear when I am alone at home. Partly because the hubby does not like the almost acrid, bitter pungency present in real cocoa absolute (which I quite like), and partly because I just don't want to walk around smelling like yeasty chocolate-drizzled bread.

And that's the only way I can describe this. A lot of people call it a "bakery" scent but to me it goes one step beyond and smells flat-out like burnt yeasty bread when you first spray it. Something about the bitter opening of the cocoa. And it may or may not be pleasant for you depending on how adventurous your nose is.

I'm as adventurous as they come when I sit at home alone, but if I'm going to wear a cocoa-based fragrance out, I want to smell like the sexy musky type of yummy, not the yeasty dough type, if you know what I mean.

Thankfully, the yeasty note does go away after the scent dries down, and it settles into that mellow, silky bitter-sweet chocolate silt that coats the bottom of your mug. But I still keep this one for nights alone.

Furze is a black label scent, and if I don't recall wrong these are the more exclusive, limited edition scents that in Singapore are available only online and at the Vivocity store mostly in 30ml bottles only.

Ironically, this is probably the least-loved of all my Lush scents even though there are facets of it that I like as well. Like other Lush scents it's deceptively simple; made up of two floral extracts, along with some other hidden ingredients listed simply as "Perfume". But it smells nothing like flowers. Instead it is a strange mix of coconuty, oleogenous, sweet-but-not with an edge of tinned glue or plastic. Combined together it's Play-Doh. Lots of Play-Doh. 

Fun for me to smell in the bottle. But I find the oily plastic edge makes me slightly nauseous if sniffed for too long. Possibly an acquired taste if you don't have a fondness for Gorse bushes. (I've never smelt them.)

Now here is the first of three scents that have each stolen a piece of my heart in the past few weeks because they share a certain trait which I will cover later.

Rentless is the latest fragrance I bought, and initially not one I thought I would like because it's a strong patchouli scent. Now if you're used to the very neutered, de-clawed, clean, synthetic patchouli in scents like Flowerbomb, Coco Mademoiselle and 1001 other popular fragrances on the market, you should know natural patchouli smells nothing like that. 

It is dark and sappy and vegetal; almost tobacco-like. I almost always find natural patchouli a little overwhelming on first sniff. But unlike the fake patchoulis in mainstream perfumes which I merely tolerate but don't care for, I find real patchouli slightly addictive when blended well with other notes.

Rentless is a green, herbal patchouli bomb for the first 15 minutes. Very bitter and medicinal in combination with the labdanum. The first time I sprayed it I could barely stand it. The good part for me comes when it's had some time to warm up. Then I start catching occasional whiffs of a sweetness lifting off my arm. The tonka and grapefruit combine into something almost like sugar just as it is caramelizing.

This scent is a Monet for me. It smells best from a distance. Up close, the aggressive patchouli can be a bit much for the first hour. But eventually, it always dries down to that gorgeous citrus-laced sweetness.

All Good Things is another morpher like Rentless. But it is a little more poignant for me because of the concept behind it. "All Good Things" derives from the saying "All Good Things Come To An End". Fitting, for a scent that is "bittersweet".

To me this fragrance is an ode to farewells, lost loves, and loves that were never meant to be. It smells first like harsh, dark, bitter, woody smoke. When freshly sprayed it almost chokes me. But I put up with it, because after a bit of warming on the skin, this soft almost-delicate spun sugar cloud comes through. And the soft smokiness gives it some balance so it doesn't dissolve into messy toothache-inducing sweetness.

It does the same thing on me as Rentless, in that it lasts forever on my skin, and always ends sweet. And it is absolutely beautiful in the dry down. Like someone was toasting marshmallows by the fire a few minutes before you arrived. I got this in the 30ml size, but after wearing it for a day, I logged online and ordered the 100ml bottle straight away. NEED. LIBERAL. QUANTITIES. PRONTO.

Oddly, knowing the idea behind the scent and recalling "all good things come to an end" makes it hard to not feel melancholy when wearing this.

This last fave of mine is What Would Love Do? If you tend to play it safe and have never liked anything but Karma and Twilight, I say give this a whirl.

I love Lush's write-up on this because it's so damned sweet and hits me in the gut every time.
Love would wrap you in a lavender embrace, and sing a lullaby of calm. Love makes life sweet, leaves letters, fills the world with perfume against all odds. The course of true love never did run smooth, but love would find a way. Love would brighten the world with a tangerine fragrance, always ready to find the sun from behind a cloud.
It's easygoing, cheerful, wearable and likable. I find myself gravitating to this more on a daily basis than All Good Things, naturally. At first, based on the notes alone, I was not impressed. Tangerine and Lavender. Meh.

But the blast of sweet, mouth-watering tangerine hides (again!) Lush's mystery toasty-sugary accord that I find super-addictive. The lavender doesn't stand out noticeably by itself. It's just there to add some freshness to the composition. Like a sprig of mint in a sweet drink.

What Would Love Do? is one of the two most affordable scents in the line at $39 for 30ml and $78 for the large 100ml. It is labeled an eau de cologne instead of perfume because there is a lower concentration of fragrance than the other scents. Possibly due to skin-safety regulations which limit the amount of citrus oils allowed in fragrances. I don't mind the shorter staying power since the price is lower.

I can have a large bottle AND a small 30ml in my bag for liberal re-spritzing.

Sun is an alternative if you prefer a straight-up fresh orange-based cologne without the warm, snuggly, sweet dry-down. Someone pulling you up by the hand (Sun), as opposed to someone pulling you into an embrace (What Would Love Do).



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