Some fragrances, one of them being Jicky, don't really smell all that pleasant up close but instead envelops the wearer in an intoxicating aura.
Thread: Naive Jicky Question
I smelled Jicky yesterday for the first time, both on my wrist and on a slip of paper, and am disturbed and intrigued by it. It seems the olfactory equivalent of a child's being unable to resist gorging himself on some rich sweet that sickens him. I could not stop smelling it, yet wished I could, for it made me queasy.
My musing was that its civet may persuade one to assocate the fragrance with one's own most pungent odours, with all the mixed repugnance and interest that such smells cause. 'Each person's effluvial gases smell sweet to them,' as some parrhesic Roman said. But no human - to my knowledge - produces anything remotely like the alien urinosity of Jicky's civet. Thus (perhaps) the perturbed note to one's involuntary interest.
I imagine it being worn by Roderick Usher, that last scion of a doomed and inbred house. The scent actually gave me a little more insight into that story. Reading the basenotes directory on the scent, I think I saw the phrase "noble rot." That seems the perfect descriptor.
My naive question is whether, er, Jicky is meant to smell like this? Could it have been an off tester? Or the weather? It was humidly hot, virtually tropical.
At the store where I tried it, they no longer sold the fragrance, but happened to have a dusty tester tucked away in the back of some drawer. They were not even sure whether it was the EdT or EdP. Moreover, it was sprayed directly onto my wrist, producing a point of concentration. Perhaps it would be less severe if one stepped into a mist of it, or applied it very lightly?
The longevity is simply obscene. It is 16 hours since I had a single spray applied to one wrist, and though it has 'decomposed' somewhat to a civety guerlinade it is still strong. It is also redolent on the slip of paper - easily able to be smelled from a distance. This does not seem to fit the profile on the basenotes directory, puzzling me.
As for its notes...I could barely make them out. I got bergamot, a lot of civet, iris and vanilla. I have little knowledge of perfumes, and am not used to something so well-blended. It is interesting how the civet seems to give a 'shimmering' three-dimensional quality to it. I had Eau Sauvage on one wrist, and Jicky on the other; Jicky was vastly 'fuller'. Different orders of scent altogether.
I tried Jicky knowing that it was the sibling of Mouchoir de Monsieur - Roderick Usher's mysteriously ill sister Madeline, so to speak. I hoped that I would like Jicky very much, and thus be able to sprig for a blindly-bought bottle of MdM. Instead I am disturbed and left doubting the normality of my test. If MdM is as redolent and long-lived as Jicky, how can it be considered refined and subtle? I cannot easily imagine what a subtle version of the Jicky I encountered would smell like, at all.
I would appreciate any insight from those more knowledgeable than myself.
Last edited by Merely; 11th January 2011 at 04:54 PM.
Some fragrances, one of them being Jicky, don't really smell all that pleasant up close but instead envelops the wearer in an intoxicating aura.
Merely - welcome to Basenotes. I have actually been testing Jicky and MdM these days. Feel free to see my current thread on the "Male Forum."
To what degree should one be able to smell that enveloping aura? If one cannot get as much enjoyment from it as others can, it would seem problematic.
^ You should still be able to smell "aura" scents, gently, throughout the day.
I think tott was hinting at the application method. Some scents are just better when applied to the core (stomach, chest) and allowed to waft around the wearer, allowing him/her to smell the scent as others would: from a slight distance. I find that animalic scents and sweet scents particularly fall into this category for some reason. This stinky and cloying facets just tend to come out more up close (i.e. nose-to-wrist sniffs) - probably something to do with the molecular weight of those particular scent chemicals.
"It's not what you look like when you're doing what you're doing; it's what you're doing when you're doing what you look like you're doing."
Jicky is a tough one to start with. It is the civit that is at once attractive and repellant. I have this in parfum. It is truly beautiful, yet it is so pungent that I don't think I will ever be able to wear it outside my home. It has a sexual vibe that is very noticeable. If I ever become an orgy person, it will be the perfect accessory.
See my blog; http://www.basenotes.net/blogs/2645-kumquat
Methinks you underestimate your perfumerie skills based on this post!
Jicky in EDT form is less civet-y than other formulations, IMO.
Sniff in good health.
I believe I shall return to Jicky in a cooler season. It is haunting, though not in any way that I neatly associate with either beauty or pleasure. An involuntary memory is one that a certain stimulus infallibly evokes - yet something in Jicky irresistably pulls one in two opposite directions at once. If there is any family resemblance between involuntary recollection and Jicky, it is that of a Siamese twin. (Were Roderick Usher not the last of his line, I would suggest that the bicephalous Jicky was born of his disquietening liaisons with his sister Madeline.)
Last edited by Merely; 12th January 2011 at 06:05 PM.
Yes, from your description I believe that Jicky is "meant to smell like this".
Personally, I don't understand everyone's disgust(?) with civet.
I mean as a perfume base - not in it's unadulterated form.
I have no doubt that it's because this is the sort of perfumerie I have grown up with and learned to expect it. A great deal of my perfumes over the years have contained civet or ambergris or castoreum or musk and I simply don't notice it as animalic (at first) but do recognise it as 'old-school', 'classic' or 'perfumey'. I also hardly notice aldehydes other than "oo that smack to the nose is lovely!".
I think my age has everything to do with this - perfume rarely smells truly complete to me without something along these lines in it's composition and unfortunately the perfume world has changed so dramatically in the last 10-20 years that it wont be long before we will never smell these things in our fragrances again. Not even in synthetic form. Good thing some might say - I do not.
Just as I don't understand how many people wear and enjoy watery, fruity, sweety obviously synthetic perfumes, they in turn cannot understand how I can enjoy civet or musk in any form.
If you can acclimatise yourself to the civet in Jicky or any other true animalic note, a whole new world will open up before you but that will most likely take you into vintage-land which is a frustrating and deeply saddening place at times. Joyus at times as well but ...
So my point is, I think it's just personal climate. If you love the rest of Jicky enough you will get used to the animal - even come to welcome it's stinky little head. Then classic scents like No. 5 in it's 'true' civet-rich form will no longer hold any fear for you ...
You might even find indolic's completely tame by comparison (as I do)!
I have only tested Jicky in parfum form so I cannot tell you about other concentrations but I will second someone who suggested another concentration. Whichever one you tried (EdT, EdP, etc.), try another!
I also have to agree with those that mentioned how well written you post was - it was a pleasure to read. Thank you and Welcome to Basenotes!
Last edited by Kal; 14th January 2011 at 09:38 AM. Reason: oops! spelling
He isn't poor because he lacks money but because everything he wants is unobtainable ...
My name is KaL - EL - EL - L - L - L ! D:
Welcome Merely: Jicky is one of a kind. There is nothing like it in all of scent. I consider it less a "parfum" or "fragrance" and more a "scent". Like many "scents" (e.g., skunk; civet; amber; oud; garlic; or vetiver) Jicky's olfactory impact depends on how the wind is blowing and context (I can swear that road kill skunk--in small doses--sometimes smells like strong brewed coffee).
All this to say...Jicky is a brilliant alchemy of molecules that play with our olfactory bulbs. Jicky has been called an "abstract" fragrance just because it hits you as either "pleasurable" or "off-putting" depending how your olfactory bulbs embrace this scent. I think it mimics pheromones in the human limbic system. Most people either love it or hate it; folks are rarely neutral about Jicky. I think the Jicky "scent" pheromone either attracts or repels. I'm glad that my (La)nose loves it. It's my Holy Scent Grail.
"It's not the scent that recalls the person; it's the person who recalls the scent"
ah, life is but a dream! Welcome to Basenotes. and +1 to the very nice writing style.
what you've described sounds just like Jicky, so i don't think it was an 'off' bottle.
It's not really the easiest place to start but i'm sure you won't forget the civet note and will now recognize it in other frags, so that's something
I think it's really a very acquired taste that will take a while to appreciate, and even appreciating it as a scent doesn't necessarily mean you'll even ever want to actually wear it (I have a sample I sniff regularly but i'd never wear the stuff. that's just me though). I respect it, i just don't really like it for my tastes.
Also understand that this type of frag worked in it's time, it's a scent of a bygone era and in our corrent paradigm of fresh clean aquatics or manly man 80's powerhouses, etc Jicky jumps out.
about application methods, for this type of frag I prefer to just apply to my wrists rather then on the chest, that way I'm always smelling it from a couple of feet away.
if you're interested in civet or the lavender, vanilla, etc combo then there are plenty of others to try. For example check out Ungaro II. It's cheap, very well made, very similar to jicky but a little more approachable (fresher opening).
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Welcome, Merely! Your comments regarding the nature of Jicky are insightful and well-written.
I have worn a small sample of Jicky vintage EDT that I intend to give several further good "wears" and analyze...and have a yet untested Extrait. Your description makes me eager to go ahead and try the extrait.
The animalic scents seem to affect me on a more subconscious level. I can detect the animalic, the (sometimes) slightly off-putting, but really do enjoy the effect that they have on that other level. Castoreum, a substance from the castor glands of beavers, conversely and contrary to what I've read about the substance does not "stink" to me at all, no "wet cardboard," urine, or fecal impression, it merely smells slightly sweet and has a "heady" nature to it, somewhat similar to labdanum essential oil.
Again, welcome, Merely, to Basenotes!
I think your "Jicky experience" was not naive at all - and your text was very well written and full of sensitive observations.
Jicky is not my cup of tea at all (meaning: I would never wear it myself), but I think it's a fragrance everybody should try in order to develop his/her "sense of calibration".
I mean - this stuff was produced in the 19th century - and it still moves us, stirs our imagination, triggers off discussions.
May I please wonder, of anyone who has smelled both the vintage and modern formulations of Jicky, whether the latter's note of civet smells very different? For I realise that it could be synthetic. I would be happy to think that it is a fair approximation.
I smelled Jicky for the first time today and also found it well blended. Off the test strip I really wasn't pleased with the scent then tried it on my arm - ah much better. It reminds me of some mulled drink. I'm getting spicy, smooth warm vanilla. It stayed sweet on me for hours and is just now turning a bit powdery. Definately a scent from another era or should I say century. I think that is exactly what attracts me to it.
There are degrees of vintage with a fragrance as old as Jicky, and by necessity there have been substantial reformulations of the musks over the years. I would think that the musks have been synthetic for quite some time, but the exact synthetic musks have likely changed over time as well, as early musks were displaced by more modern ones (the history of changing musks pretty much takes place over the entire timeline of modern perfumery, with naturals exiting the stage near the beginning of the 20th century, and early synthetic musks being displaced, in stages, decades later).
That much said, musks are one area where chemistry has been very successful in duplicating the exact molecules of natural musks, as well as in providing cheaper ones which give the same or even more enjoyable odors.
I believe that Luca Turin said that modern Jicky holds up very well against the older stuff, which he was fortunate enough to smell. He did not really smell pre-WWII stuff (just once, and not enough to make an impression), but the stuff of his youth smelled "raunchier" to his memory, and he believes the "cleaner" smell of the modern stuff is due to the replacement of older synthetic nitro musks with newer macrocyclic ones. Ironically, the newer ones are more chemically similar to the musks in natural civet, though not necessarily more similar from an olfactory standpoint.
In answer to your question, I think it's probably a fair approximation, and likely a very good one, measured against any vintage. I leave aside the question of a very recent reformulation, which has been raised elsewhere. And it would be wonderful for someone who has smelled stuff from the mid-1900's to speak up.
Your attraction to Jicky, Merely, sounds similar to how I feel about some fragrances containing musk. I agree the unadulterated form of civet is quite off-putting, but somehow some people are able to combine it with other things that make the whole pleasing. Now that is truly art!
"Embrace those things which give you pleasure, after all, there is so much mediocrity to endure elsewhere." -- Inselaffe
try it again, two more times. i think you will fall in love for it.
Just as an incidental note, I've lately been reading Tim Mackintosh-Smith's book, 'Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land', and earlier, quite by chance, came across a brief account of the civet cats native to the Gulf island of Suqutra (a place more famous for being the source of dragon's blood). I thought his mention might interest; certainly, it is a place I had never associated with the animal.
Although it has the advantage of being totally dogless,  Suqutra's mammalian wildlife falls short of its flora. The most interesting large mammal is the civet cat - not a cat but a member of the mongoose family. The Suqutri version is Viverricula indica, also known as the rasse. civet, an ingredient in perfumes, is obtained in Suqutra by capturing the animal in a cage and then stimulating it until it produces a buttery secretion from a sac near its genitalia; it is then released to stagger off into the bush, exhausted but little wiser, as it will soon be caught again. We were curious to watch the operation, but civet production has declined in recent years and we drew a blank. Probably it was never as highly organised in Suqutra as elsewhere. A French physician, M. Poncet, mentions in his 'A Voyage to Aethiopia' in 1709 that the people of Emfras, in the Gondar region, kept civet catteries up to a hundred strong: "once a week they scrape of [sic] an unctious matter which issues from the body with the sweat. 'Tis this excrement which they call civet, from the name of the beast.  They put it carefully into a beef's horn, which they keep well stopt."
 Wellsted says that the dog they had on board the survey Palinurus was often mistaken for a lion. The distinction of being the only dog to penetrate the Suqutri interior probably goes to Rappo, a huge black Newfoundland that accompanied Schweinforth in 1881. The reaction of the Suqutris is, unfortunately, not recorded.
 In fact it is the other way round, 'civet' having entered the European languages from the Arabic zahad, itself from the root connected with butter.