Perfume Reviews

Reviews of Cadavre Exquis by Bruno Fazzolari

Total Reviews: 14
Cadavre Exquis (2016) is a joint venture between indie artisinal perfumers Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni. The former is known for his styles totally irreverent of time or trend, while the latter is known for some rather quirky hallmark accords, so the product of collaboration is almost guaranteed to be a wild ride. Well, I'm here to report that this indeed is - or should I say was - a wild ride, since it is a strictly-experimental limited release that is long since sold out. Much like folks who lucked out on early Bortnikoff or Areej le Dore releases before the doors were blown off (and supply vacuumed up) by the small clutch of fans that have come to obsessively hover over every release announcement, early adopters of the Fazzolari brand who were treated to this little weirdo of a frag probably enjoy this on it's sheer uniqueness and exclusivity alone, aware that they're likely the only ones who ever will. It's the ultimate hipster taste maker braggadocio to say one of your signatures is a single-batch one-off handmade fragrance collaboration from two perfumers made "before they were cool", but I'm not prone to such thinking (for better or worse), so I can't say this is some amazing unsung treasure even if I agree it is indeed interesting. Both perfumers would create far more-redeeming works than Cadavre Exquis, but the collaboration here both looks and smells of mad scientists run amok in the pefume lab, which I feel was the intent. I also think the kind of obtuse-for-the-sake-of-it taste one needs to have in order to enjoy this scent commands some level of respect.

The name of this scent literally translates into "Equisite Corpse" from old French, so the stuff is meant to smell like death (of sorts), and although I can confirm this doesn't really come close to the smell of corporeal decay (long story), it does smell like a bowl of rotting fruit intertwined with some stale coffee poured into a trash can and leather notes. Put another way, if you mixed the drier gourmand aspects of Thierry Mugler A*Men (1996) with some of the mascerated fruit over leather from Maxim's Pour Homme (1987), added a whole bunch more animalic stink from castoreum and civet, but softened the dry down with vanilla, cocoa, and anise, you'd about sum up Cadavre Exquis. Yeah, read that back to yourself a few times if need be, it's a doozy. Orange peel and camphor opens this up, with a bit of dark chocolate and a dry unidentifiable woody note. The heart of Cadavre Exquis brings in the styrax of benzoin with some star anise and birch tar smoke. It's rather hairy even before the base of castoreum, civet, and that leather note appears, with the aforementioned vanilla patting you on the back saying "there there" for making it through. Final moments on skin remind me of an animalic flanker in the A*Men line, but the ride to the bottom isn't worth it to experience that result in my opinion. Wear time is appreciable but sillage is tight as per the norm with an EdP. I don't know where or when you'd really find a context to wear this, so I won't bother mentioning suggested usage. If I smelled this on somebody outside, I might wonder if they had just spilled old coffee on themselves while taking out the trash, but upon finding this out to be a perfume, would have amazing respect for the gall it would take to sport this in public.

Chances are if you are an owner of this and enjoy it, my words will fall on deaf ears, and they likely should because situations like this usually mean you didn't find the perfume, but the perfume found you instead. For everyone else curious but without any to sniff, my words as guidance are probably in vain since the stuff has long since passed into obscurity due to such a limited run being released, unless it is re-released and you have found my review for reference before purchasing the stuff from a new batch (assuming it is even made the same way if reproduced). In any case, Cadavre Exquis is an astonishingly confident "avant-garde" experiment into the world of perfume, and is truly (painfully) as niche of a perfume as the term "niche perfume" gets these days. I applaud the sense of adventure here, and I don't absolutely hate this stuff, but I'd never seek it out even if given the chance. If you're able to find out how Cadavre Exquis smells on your own terms, I suggest giving it a sniff just for kicks, but be in for a shock since this one has no pretense about smelling good in the traditional perfumery sense. If you're looking for a challenging scent, this has you written all over it, and is the only "rotted fruit gourmand oriental" I'll likely ever have the pleasure of smelling, so I don't regret trying it. Solid neutral for being a blast to sample, but recommended only to the morbidly curious, Cadavre Exquis is or was the perfect scent for people who have run all out of care to give about what others think about them.
15th April, 2019 (last edited: 16th April, 2019)
I bought a sample of Cadavre Exquis right after it came out, in hopes of experiencing the freakshow that everyone else seemed to be getting from of it. I love perfume freakshows, because I love weirdness and actively seek it out. Hell, I live there. I bought property there.

Back to the fragrance. I don't know what happened, but I'm obviously hyposmic to something in it, because all I smelled was the strongest public urinal note I have *ever* smelled--and that is saying something. Stuff like Absolue pour le Soir and Kouros fades in comparison. Then, as often happens with urinous notes, it got louder and more unbearable as it stayed on my skin, until about half an hour later, when I finally had to scrub it before I started retching. It was that realistic.

I know my sample was fine, because I passed it on to HouseOfPhlegethon, whose review jives with the general impression of "zany and inedible but compelling gourmand." Burnt chocolate? Spices? Curried Tootsie Roll? I wish. My Cadavre Exquis smelled like Paris Pissoir 1938--perfect for feigning homelessness, or maybe Jean Genet cosplay.
03rd July, 2018
Genre: Gourmand Oriental

My wife is inordinately fond of sliced bananas, dredged in chocolate that she has melted in the microwave oven. Every so often she will enter the time on the microwave’s panel incorrectly, resulting in a plume of burnt chocolate aroma that quickly fills the house. The combination of chocolate with the bitter/animalic accord common to so many of Antonio Gardoni’s compositions is somewhat reminiscent of this burnt chocolate smell, but considerably less overwhelming. Set alongside a liqueur-like dried fruit accord, woods, and sweet spices (star anise, cinnamon), I find the whole idea compelling, if admittedly very loud. While I’m normally not a fan of chocolate gourmands, the bitter edge on this one makes it more palatable, if you will, and unlike some others, I enjoy the dissonance of the thing.

(All moot, as this was a limited edition release, and presumably long-since sold out.)
30th June, 2018
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The Resurrection of Lazarus by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896
Cadavre exquis – André breton,Valentine Gross, Tristan Tzara, Greta Knutson – 1933
22nd November, 2017 (last edited: 23rd November, 2017)
I'm the oddball who actually really likes this one. It's outrageous! It started with blood orange and camphor. Then the dark chocolate cloud blasted my nose. That, lasted for quite awhile. When it slipped away I got some kind of dried fruit thing. I thought I smelled some cypress in there somewhere. Star anise, benzoin, vanilla, and a civet thing took over and remained. Bold and brash. Spicy sweet ending.

I doubt I'll seek out finding a full bottle to add to my collection. Too many other scents I love more. I'm glad I had a sample to try.
19th November, 2017
It doesn't work for me, even with full openmindness. It's like rotting jasmine and chocolate and spices all mixed together... I'll give the sample away. I never do that.
14th April, 2017
It's just two guys having fun in the lab.
The perfumers call this a "frankenstein", a "monster".
Cadavre means death body by the way.
They intentionally made something that stinks.

So where is the art here?
Is this perfume a tirade against gourmands?
Why do these artsy perfumes need to stink all the time?
That is so easy to do.

So who is wearing this?
On what occasion?
Did the big supporters buy a bottle?

Smoke. Camphor. Licorice.
Vulgar fruity bubblegum is peaking through.
On a bed of stinky animalics.

Well indeed, bravo for making something unwearable.
That is so artsy and so difficult to do.

07th November, 2016
Stardate 20160930:

Imagine a curry made by someone who has never cooked before. Then add a lot of tootsie roll into it and cook for an hour. Then add some bad old chocolate.
That would be more edible then this is wearable.

If the recipe excites you then go ahead and try it. I dare you.
01st October, 2016
Maybe it’s the combination of chocolate, cypress and star anise, but I get a strong hit of coffee in this. And as a coffee addict, trying to restrict my intake to one a day, it makes me happy – a sort of vicarious coffee hit, if you will. It’s a complex beast, but I like it – a lot. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried before (and thanks purecaramel for the sample :). It’s a beaut! When it first went on, the civet was a bit strong, but that settled once it dried down, and now it’s kind of like the “hired muscle” of these perfume notes – just hanging there in the background, lending oomph and a definite bit of darkness and mystery and menace. It’s sort of spicy but not (maybe it’s the tagetes?), and I’ll be enjoying that, then I’ll get a lovely waft of sweetness from the blood orange and dried fruits, along with a sort of dusty honey. The vanilla takes a little while to show through on me, but it’s there in the background now too, hanging out with the civet, and that’s what I really enjoy with this – the lovely creamy warmth of the vanilla which is in complete contrast to the civet. It works, wonderfully well. This is really well done, but it's definitely not a scent for the faint-hearted. As a total perfume fiend – or “frag-hag” as my husband says (you’re welcome ;) – well, I like it. A very definite thumbs up!
13th September, 2016
Interesting, but nowhere near the monster I expected. Instead, it's kind of a gross gourmand.

It's mostly a vanilla patchouli, caramelised and sweet like butterscotch candy. It's nutty and reminds me of peanut brittle. Meanwhile, there's an intentionally gross undercurrent, leathery and animal but never too nasty. I have friends here sniffing me and we've decided that it's like a mix of horse and candy. It's much nicer than I'm making it sound, though not as deeply compelling or avant garde as the idea behind it. Thumbs up, but with the caveat that it's not as crazy as the press has made it out to be.
07th August, 2016

I've to say I've been a huge fan of this project since day #1. I've been patiently awaiting for the final result for quite some time now and I can only confirm that the first aspect that's clear when smelling Cadavre Exquis is that it exudes passion. Passion for perfume, passion for art, passion for sharing. The passion of people collaborating on something they love. You may either like or not what you smell but, to me, it's clear enough that the approach to perfumery that both Gardoni and Fazzolari are showing, comes directly from the way they process art in their minds as opposed to dealing with it as a mere "product".

The perfumers are both pretty well known to the most devoted perfumisti for releasing some of the most attention-grabber fragrances of the last five years or so. Gardoni, the man behind italian Bogue Profumo, enriched the perfume world with gems that now need very little introduction such as MAAI, Cologne Reloaded and, lately, the widely acclaimed Aeon 001 while Fazzolari's Lampblack and Room 237 have immediately jumped up there amongst my all-time favorites in contemporary perfumery. They gathered together to give birth to this trans-atlantic project that is Cadavre Exquis.

The fragrance is the result of a four-hands collaboration based on moulds, samples, paintings / drawings exchanges with only one theme framing the whole project: gourmand. As stated on the Fazzolari's website, The term cadavre exquis refers to the game originated by the surrealist artists of the 1920s. In the game, players collectively assemble words or images to create a poem or drawing, with each player making a contribution of his own while totally unaware of the others’. The result is unpredictable and always surprising. The name itself comes from one of the first assembled sentences as reported by surrealist André Breton: “Le cadavre exquis boira le vin nouveau.” (“The exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.”)

So, the fragrance is supposedly a gourmand but, with much of my joy, there's really not much edible stuff about it. It reads mainly like a cocoa-patch with a camphorous quality up-top and a dark, woody-spicy base with smooth animalic facets. Vanilla does its part too though but without driving the fragrance towards overly sweet territories. In fact, I would describe CE as quite dry in the end. I also get distant florals providing nice refinements. Given the composition process, it's also supposedly a monster, kind of a frankensiein type of composition in which isolated parts were added to the main body almost randomly but, again, the final result feels incredibly coherent and consistent that the chemistry between these two guys seems to have worked pretty darned well.

Don't get me wrong now, Cadavre Exquis is not exactly what I would describe as an "easy" fragrance but it's also far from representing the monster one would expect from the descriptions seen around. Yes, it's bold (but without being overpowering), dark, sometimes even grotesque but in the best possible ways. It has the typical roughness of most indie / artisanal products but it's also very clear that this roughness is something inherent to the style of the perfumers involved. Something completely unrelated to the skills of either. Something that's part of a treasured personal aesthetic that belongs to style and self-expression. Something I would probably compare to the artistic choice of a band to express via a rougher sound as opposed to the super-polished / auto-tuned production of mainstream pop. In other words, a visceral roughness that comes directly from passion.

I could go on and on with a more detailed description of the fragrance itself but I strongly believe any serious perfume lover should at least experience this little jewel that transcends perfumery to bring us back the love for the things we do.

Long live to two of the most interesting and kindest people to populate the current fragrance game.

Rating: no need to rate this. Maximum Support.

15th July, 2016
Cadavre Exquis is artsy perfume, unique and unexpected, strong and pungent. It smells like a mix of candy and woods, with an antiseptic or disinfectant smell at the top that fades over time, mostly leaving a base of sweet woods. I could get used to it, and I would be impressed by someone else wearing it.

Update: Wearing this again, finishing the sample, the opening crosses the line from challenging to cloying for me, but I still find it interesting.
07th July, 2016 (last edited: 06th September, 2016)
Cadavre Exquis is a gourmand perfume from two perfumers known for exploring ‘classy’ genres like animalic chypres and aldehydic florals. It was made following the rules of a surrealist parlor game called exquisite corpse. In an exquisite corpse the participants take turns adding words or images, or in this case accords and materials, until the project is complete. The final product might be nothing that the participants imagined. The corpse is rigged to favor unpredictability and can give rise to some wonderfully bizarre results.

Perfumers Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni’s hybrid backgrounds—the former is a visual artist, the latter an architect—establish the creative landscape where the collaboration can take place. There isn’t a roadmap for this sort of creative alliance, so Gardoni and Fazzolari had the freedom to make it up as they went. The exquisite corpse model provided a framework for the process to unfold but what defined the scope of the project was the choice to make a gourmand perfume. Genre was the gauntlet each perfumer threw at the other.

The perfume may be a gourmand, but it’s a dry one. The decision to go big must have been made early in the process because the perfume is very well finished and doesn’t appear rushed. Gourmand qualities are reinforced by not-quite-gourmand notes giving the perfume an edible/inedible balance. There’s chocolate, but there’s also patchouli, which has a strong cocoa aspect. Creamy vanilla is balanced with vanillic-woody tones that stop just short of pure dessert. The cool quality—is it herbal like licorice or camphorous like mothballs? Both? The juggling of gourmand notes generates gluttonous hallucinations: An orange that drips maple syrup when you peel it. Frozen butterscotch. A mint chocolate brownie that turns to dust as you bring it to your mouth.

Fazzolari and Gardoni didn’t just dare each other, they challenge us, the audience. The gourmand genre is derided by the indie/artisan fumie crowd, the ostensible audience for Cadavre Exquis and the perfumers play with our biases. C’mon, you know what you think of gourmand perfumes. They’re tacky. They’re beneath us. They’re tired. I doubt that it’s a favorite genre of Gardoni or Fazzolari either, but here’s the point of the perfume: risk.

A dicey process, a ballsy choice of genre, a potentially incredulous audience. This is perfumery without a safety net. There are more risks than just the creative: cost, time/labor, the creative capital, reputation. But if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing big and Cadavre Exquis is an enormous perfume that makes no attempt to tone down the ostentatiousness of the genre. It’s rightly been called a monster, but it’s not the Frankenstein version we’ve been led to expect. It’s glaring, conspicuous, undeniable. It’s frightening not because it’s ugly, but because of its candied beauty. It overloads us with recognizably beautiful features until it crosses a threshold and becomes as hideous as it is beautiful. It’s a showgirl.

Cadavre Exquis is more than two perfumers branching out into gourmand territory. It gets at the heart of the relationship between artisan perfumers and their audiences. Forget the product for a moment, do you support the process? Is it enough to buy Fazzolari’s Monserrat or Gardoni’s Maai? They are exceptional perfumes—exciting, beautiful, thoughtful—and buying them supports the artists. But Cadavre Exquis asks us to go further. It’s the put-up-or-shut-up slap to the face. I’ve whined for years about the shitty perfumes that result from low aspiration, demographic targeting, least common denominators, focus groups and flankers. Gardoni and Fazzolari are calling us out: if we want exceptional perfumes are we willing to support unconventional, experimental work? Are we willing to support the artists? Do we trust the artists?

My answer is yes. Beauty is easy, so I’m chasing the monster instead. I bought the corpse and while I appreciate its unconventional aesthetics more with each wearing, I love the ideas that it contains.
21st June, 2016
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Yes! The Cadavre is positively Grotesque. Applyiing it is like Swallowing a gulp of Buckley's Mixture. It goes on like a sticky Camphourous Syrup. It takes you on a journey through an Arcade with the Greasy Butter Caramel Corn, the Indian Market choked with Fenugreek. There are breaths of the Seyrig citrus that provide a hope. The orange begins to expand, sweeten and turns to the colour of a sunripened Peach. As it dries I am able to rest in whispers of Animalic, Dried Fruit, Singular Spice above an Ambery Brulee.
The spice is reminiscent in placement as the cumin dose of a 1991-2001 Bel Ami and points to the animal but overall this is much sweeter than the Hermes. A tilt to the Anise draws my sense away from any cloyness and elevates this from the start of oily depths of Indian Sweets into the heights of dry Marigold clouds. Altogether Delicious!!!
Cadavre Exquise indeed.
A Splendid presentation of an Artist's Game.
A difficult wear for most and an acquired taste.
Most certainly it fits mine.
Oh! You need to eat the candy and lolly to understand the story.
19th May, 2016 (last edited: 15th December, 2016)