This is a journey into Skank
(Page 1 of 10)

23rd May, 2017

It’s funny, you make one tiny confession in public about not being able to smell farts, and the next thing you know you’re writing an entire article about “fragrances that are inspired by the human body”.

I recently took part in a BBC documentary or two about my “extraordinary” sense of smell (I’m a recovering anosmic), and some of that may have involved me smelling “sweaty feet*” on camera and being remarkably unbothered by the experience. My actual current olfactory condition is a somewhat surreal one, making ordinary things that have no business (coffee, chocolate, bacon, etc) smelling like poo smell (and taste) like sewage, and making actual bodily emissions either completely non-existent as an odour, or just barely smellable as a kind of yeasty, toasty kind of thing.

Enter Basenotes, and some Actual Science** for a change. Ironically, whilst not being able to smell bad odours can be seen as a blessing by many (many people who can smell normally, that is), there are actual dangers involved in not being able to perceive danger signals via your nose – not being able to tell if milk is off, for example. Or if there is a gas leak. Or if your kitchen is on fire (and my husband does have a nasty habit of occasionally grilling random kitchen implements, it turns out). Or even if you need to blame the dog if you had, say, a particularly onion-heavy dish for dinner. But maybe that’s just me.

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Anyway, my not being able to smell the natural indoles that I’m (apparently) surrounded by every single day means that, even though I’ve recovered quite a bit of my sense of smell over the last few years, there is an entire category of fragrance which remains a closed book to me, and that is, of course, skank. My latest Basenotes mission (and I chose to accept it, fool that I am) was to wear a selection of those “Oh my, that’s smells … unusual. Did you shower today?” fragrances for a couple of weeks, and figure out if I can smell bad things “better” afterwards for having done so.

After consulting my Facebook perfume posse, 11 fragrances were chosen and worn over a two week period, and I enlisted my unwilling “auxiliary nose” (aka MrLippie) to wear and comment on the fragrances too. Either because I find some smells too tricky, too unbearable, or just plain want to wind him up by making him smell like a litter-tray for a day or two, having a secondary nose comes in handy sometimes. Because MrLippie is a skank novice, I tried to order the fragrances from “skank-lite” in the first week, into full-on “hazard warning” in the second.

Frankly, after the Poundshop challenge I put him through a couple of years ago, and now this, it’s a wonder we’re still speaking. But hey! On to the fragrances:


* No sweaty feet were harmed in the making of “Incredible Medicine: Dr Weston’s Casebook”. There was one rather green-looking director though.

** Not “Actual Science”.

About the author: Get Lippie

Louise is a management accountant by day, beauty editor by night, and has been writing since 2009 in a (failed) attempt to rid herself of her lipstick addiction. She also writes regularly for SLiNK magazine



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      • cacio | 23rd May 2017 17:15

        Excellent article as usual.

        Glad the author started with Mouchoir de Monsieur (which is now quite light. But Jicky has been cleaned quite a bit as well, my Jicky parfum purchase wasn't very satisfying).

        As for l'air de rien, either I am anosmic or there has been a lamentable reformulation, because on me it's animalic for about 30 seconds, then it dries down to not much.

        Aqua Allegoria had me puzzled... here it must be a case of oversensitivity to grapefruity materials, whereby what registers as zingy citrus becomes mephitic vapors to others.

        Anyway, now I have to test the Zegna musk gold (and lament that I don't have access to Theo Fennel).


      • teardrop | 23rd May 2017 17:38

        Thanks for a great read! l especially loved your raw honesty in describing your reaction to L'Air de Rien.

        Perhaps l missed something, but l'm curious: how are you able to smell perfumes, but not other scents in your surroundings??

      • MrsDalloway | 23rd May 2017 18:09

        Loved this - heroic effort from MrLippie too!

        I find Vol de Nuit (modern extrait) quite animalic but do have a low threshold. Not trying Salome at home...

      • ClaireV | 23rd May 2017 18:38

        Great article - thanks so much! I sympathize with your reaction to L'Air de Rien, which mirrored my own experience with it - greasy, unwashed scalp! It is one of my great perfume disappointments. I came for the old book smell and the radiator dust, but alas, unwashed scalp is something that just gives me the dry heaves. I have avoided anything with costus in it ever since.

      • Ken_Russell | 23rd May 2017 18:51

        Thank you for the article and kudos for the indeed very daring and brave experiment- enjoyed reading the insights and descriptions about the various notes and fragrances developing and also being perceived by both the author and others around while wearing them

      • Get Lippie (article author) | 23rd May 2017 19:49

        Great question! The answer is complicated though, first off, I generally don't get the same "there's something here to be smelled" messages most people do when there's a general "background" smell in the air. Or, if there is enough of a smell for me to register that one is around, then without context, I often can't recognise it. A regular question in the Lippie household is "Is there a smell?". My olfactory nerve died, and as it regenerates, it now plays tricks, so sometimes I "smell" things that don't exist, or regular smells are distorted. I have many fewer smell receptors now than I used to, so smells have to be much more concentrated for me to notice them. Also, there are still things I can't register at all - no one knows why - which is annoying.

        As for how I smell perfumes, I have to concentrate, much more so than I used to. A quick sniff isn't enough for me to pick much up. I find that it really helps if I can get an idea of the ingredients beforehand so I can start to draw a picture of some of the things I'm expecting to smell before I apply. Sometimes though, perfumes just aren't "distinct" enough for me to register much (lots of pink sugary florals in this category), or there is something in the which is distorted, and I can't "smell past" the distortion. These are the frustrating ones. It's very rare for me to recognise a fragrance - or even notice - that someone else is wearing these days too. I have to smell in a very mindful fashion, which can be exhausting, but it's much better than the alternative.

      • Get Lippie (article author) | 23rd May 2017 19:51

        Isn't that funny? Same smell to each of us, very different effects. I love it.

      • Get Lippie (article author) | 23rd May 2017 19:53

        Salome is utterly fupping amazing. You should definitely try it. But yes, in a well-ventilated area the first time!

      • Get Lippie (article author) | 23rd May 2017 19:54

        Can't wait to see what you make of the Zegna! I thought it was hilarious and wonderful and terrible and amazing all at the same time.

      • teardrop | 23rd May 2017 20:36

        lnteresting, thanks for answering my question. "Mindful sniffing" makes sense! :)

      • Starblind | 23rd May 2017 23:01

        Fun, informative article!

        If you'd like to forage further into animalic territory, Mazzolari's Lui, Lutens' Muscs Koublai Khan, Les Nereides' Fleur poudree de musc, Brent Leonesio's Untitled No. 8, and Ava Luxe's Kama are all wondrous, stinky, skank-fests! Kama, especially, is as close to rank as anything I've ever tried. I love it--my husband won't be in the same room with it. :-)

      • ClaireV | 23rd May 2017 23:31

        Oh my God, yes, that Les Nereides musk is floats around pretending it's a little Fiorucci angel on a cloud when in reality it smells like densely packed, powdered, sweaty balls on a humid day. Speaking of which, paging Kaern....

      • purecaramel | 24th May 2017 00:02

        My kind of Article. Thank-you Get Lippie!


      • pluran | 24th May 2017 00:44


      • Cevenol | 24th May 2017 02:47

        A iourney which along the way will bring to you a new odour

        New dimension

        new value.

        When all is ready I throw this switch;

        Pump up the volvme

        pump up the volume

        pump that beast

        M de Morabito tonite haha

      • Redneck Perfumisto | 24th May 2017 05:57

        Very nice! Great article - I really enjoyed it.

        I was blessed to recover from a cold-caused anosmia in a matter of days to weeks, but I see much of that experience in your recovery.

      • donna255 | 24th May 2017 08:09

        Monsieur skank really!!!!! I have worn this one for years and love it. Warm rich but no skank on my skin.

      • Diamondflame | 24th May 2017 10:28

        Thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed your take on these skanky fragrances. Makes me want to revisit some and find samples for the others you highlighted. I don't know if it's a sound idea to first read about a scent or list of notes before actually putting your nose to it. I'd recommend going in blind without any preconceived ideas. When the brain has been 'primed' to detect/expect something it has the tendency to construct it, imagining its existence, literally creating something out of nothing.

      • Get Lippie (article author) | 24th May 2017 11:00

        Whilst this is (arguably) quite sound advice on how to approach a new fragrance for someone without a smell disability, in this context, it's akin to telling a blind person they should be able to imagine how something looks without having it described to them. I have a disability, and I have to work around my physical limits in the best way I can, no olfactory context just means cacophony can occur. I prefer to avoid cacophony, so need a little more "help" with the process than a "normonosmic". There's no "right way" to smell anything, and for some, the "right way" is actually the wrong way.

        All that said, I'm glad you liked the article. It was fun to write.

      • Redneck Perfumisto | 24th May 2017 15:22

        This is a great question, and these comments show that the situation and its ethics are quite analogous to rehabilitation and recovery from stroke and other forms of nerve damage, IMO. Which recovery, in turn, is analogous to childhood learning.

        While I think it would be fascinating to do a "feral smell recovery experiment", where little or nothing is re-learned from socially stored information, I think it would be unethical to not warn the patient of the risks. My prediction is that it would turn dear Lippie into a "troll nose", forever at odds with the community about many aspects of scent, and requiring a much deeper "interpretation level" for us to "get" her nose and her thoughts on fragrance. A terribly interesting experiment, but only for the most self-sacrificing volunteers.

        In my own recovery, I found great solace in the familiarity of Tokyo by Kenzo, as its fragrance slowly returned to normal, and my stockage of it when it was discontinued is partially due to that odd love. Hospital stuffed animal, baby blue blanket, or even a recovery animal. Cartesian coordinates, continuous function, or Euclidian geometry. First fragrance, parent's fragrance, or signature scent. Mother tongue, lullabies, or well-read books. It's good to come home to the simple and the familiar.

      • Get Lippie (article author) | 24th May 2017 15:37

        Hey! I'm right here! Also, I've been there and done that, and lost all memory of smell - that is, essentially, what parosmia, phantosmia and caosmia are. When the brain no longer "remembers" how to literally interpret smell, it interprets all smells the same. And it is disgusting, and practically un-liveable with as a result. What I've spent the last three years doing is reconstructing the neural pathway between the brain and the nose, partially using memory, partially retraining with olfactory materials. I've written several times about for Basenotes (and the Guardian) about the various smell disabilities, and you might find it interesting as an illustration of your idea.

      • Get Lippie (article author) | 24th May 2017 15:38

        It's actually more analogous to physiotherapy than childhood learning, to be honest. Google Hummel and smell therapy, it's quite fascinating.

      • Redneck Perfumisto | 24th May 2017 16:01

        Thank you for this! Your first comment in bold is something I suspected after my much milder anosmia. All notes seemed like variations of "buzz", until they regained a kind of focus. This seems like almost proof that beauty is more in the brain of the beholder, but to a large extent is downloaded from the network, then subjected to local modification.

        Western Frag OS 10.2.5 for XX Architecture, Anglophone Edition. Please do a complete backup of your current system, even if corrupted, as some pictures, music and documents may be lost in the process.

        I will seek out and read your other pieces! This is really good stuff.

        Will do!!!

      • Kaern | 24th May 2017 17:13

        Sounds like a nice accord to me, Claire -- but then I have got through a bottle of L'Air de Rien and really liked it

      • Cevenol | 24th May 2017 17:51

        Not Monsieur, M different frag

      • Scarce | 25th May 2017 15:18

        Fun read.

        (I'm wondering now what it says about me that my main criticism of Papillion's Salome was that it wasn't quite skanky enough?)

      • Get Lippie (article author) | 25th May 2017 15:21

        I can't really tell the "volume" of skank at the moment - just be aware that it's there. So you might be right!

      • teardrop | 25th May 2017 18:48

        lnteresting. l like a little skank, but Salome was way too much for me! l got no florals or anything else, just huge skank all the way.

      • freewheelingvagabond | 25th May 2017 18:57

        Actually Salome wasn't skanky as such to me, just a hint of animalic musk but that's about it. I didn't like the composition as it seemed to sit right between Absolue Pour Le Soir and Bogue MAAI, however I prefer the other two compositions more for different reasons (like MAAI the most out of these).

        However, I still could've fallen for Salome if the animalic notes were more prominent but they were not, so I passed on that one. However IMO it was much better than Tobacco Rose which was somewhat anaemic to me.

      • Scarce | 25th May 2017 19:22

        I liked it, as a throwback to another era. Just seemed a little "flat" to me, a bit lifeless for what I had hoped for. Good, but not great, imo.

        (Bear in mind though that at least 95% of what I smell I think of as junk, so "good" is praise also.)

      • Obodaour | 29th May 2017 22:11

        What a wonderful article. I'm a huge skank/animalic fan and a few of these are new to me. I'll be checking them out asap. Best of luck recovering your sense of smell!!!