Explorer by Boadicea is probably the nicest scent by this brand I’ve tested so far. It opens with a rubbery, dry, spicy and dark blend centered on sour woods (cedar, but really dry and gloomy), herbs, galbanum, austere resins and initially just a hint of labdanum. The texture is thin, leathery (no leather, though), somehow quiet but bold and threatening. The mood is refined and mysterious, fairly synthetic too but not (that) unpleasant, as it nicely recreates a sort of fascinating, nocturnal, silent and obscure “natural mood”, with nuances of aged wood, something salty-camphoraceous that reminds me of ambergris, dusty resins. In the middle stages it “warms up” a bit, and the orris root note emerges – fairly restrained and tamed down, well concealed behind the general austere darkness, but it’s there; almost not powdery at all (as you would expect instead), rather rooty-earthy and dusty, with a hint of amber too. Finally, a smoky, earthy, shy rose note emerges, quite a “masculine” rose despite being much subtle. Overall Explorer remains sour and dry in a way that becomes a bit boring after a while, but with a fascinating, sophisticated feel of austere darkness. Not saying it’s particularly good, but say: “not unpleasant”.
Explorer’s dry, bitter, aromatic top notes are harsh and musty to my nose, and time does little to soften the composition. Medicinal oudh steps up quickly, accompanied by a smoky birch tar and a stark conifer resin note. The effect is one of “biker” leather that bears a passing resemblance to the bitter galbanum and birch tar top notes of Bandit eau de parfum. (This is the second Boadicea the Victorious scent to remind me of Bandit in its opening, the first having been Complex.) The leather and oudh might also sound like Montale’s Oud Cuir d’Arabie, but Explorer smells very different: it is a cold, stark, flinty scent that has none of the Montale’s animalic sensuality. Oud Cuir d’Arabie oozes sex, but I’d never dream of getting into bed with Explorer’s hard edges and sharp angles.
A scent that’s this uncomfortable by design intrigues me as a concept. After all, a confrontational stance is part of the strange beauty and originality that’s manifest in masterpieces like Yatagan, Kouros, the old Route du Vétiver, Vero Profumo’s Onda, and Muscs Koublaï Khan. Yet Explorer is so unrelievedly abrasive in its execution that it becomes tiresome. Lacking both contrast and internal balance, it slips across the boundary from challenging to irritating. This I can live without.
I purchased a sample of this from a certain fragrance shop in LA, which shall remain nameless unless they wish to pay me for endorsements, and was not disappointed as some others were. The fragrance is manly and complex with above average longevity, but not overpowering to others. I like this one, but the cost is an issue. I think there are others that I would actually spend money on before this one.
Peppery, leathery, oud. Some citrus right up front but that is masked, at least on my skin, by the darker notes. Very medicinal and some would say harsh. Dries to a woody, close to the skin note pretty quickly. Heavy leather throughout.
It is listed as feminine, but it's certainly more masculine than anything, to my nose. Sort of linear, too. Not a scent you'll likely get many compliments from but it's well constructed and makes me think of a wooden box holding like a single orange with a crap of black pepper and some tobacco. Dark, brooding, very masculine. Just not sure when you'd wear it.
Cost is an issue too. It's pretty expensive for a scent like this, I think.
Explorer - grim citrus
Explorer is a dark, medicinal, camphoraceous, and leathery twist on the cologne genre, but ends up feeling extremely muddied and grim. It starts off with a lasting bitter citrus and is predominant with cypress and violets. (yet again) Initially similar in feel to Complex, but goes a totally different direction with an emphasis on leather accented by tobacco.
The press release said this was an "acidic enervating citrus." I thought it was just bad writing, but now I'd have to agree -- all the life and vitality of the citrus has been sucked out of Explorer, which may be a good thing for many people as fresh and bracing citruses are commonplace. Good sillage and longevity.
List of notes: Sicilian lemon, citron, cypress, orris, violet, tobacco, Tuscan leather, oud