Imagine at a thunder and lightning midnight, in a ghosting dark forest, you encounter a Gothic vampire castle, then suddenly, fall into its gloomy moldy dungeon… If some dark perfume scents remind you of such an atmosphere, will you try it?
Though most floral, fruity, pink-bottled fragrances are marketed to women, they won’t cater to everyone. Compared with most fresh sweet perfumes on Sephora’s counter, the dark smelling perfume is a nice switch from sweet scents.
What is dark perfume meaning?
To be honest, I don’t think any fragrances that have a dark bottle, or contain the word “black” “dark” mean their smell is dark, too; dark perfume scents are what they should have instead. But the answer to this question would be subjective and individual.
People’s understanding of dark perfume scents is not similar to each other, it can be moldy wood, or drear medicine, or exotic burning incense, or rotten dirt, or a gloomy medieval dungeon, or burning roaring flame, or a midnight vampire, or devils in hell…
No matter what the variations are, dark scent fragrances have something in common: they smell evil, oppressive, gloomy, heavy with secret and mysterious scent, making you feel depressed. They won’t make you feel pleased at all!
Generally speaking, the more floral, citrus or other fresh greeny element is added in a perfume, the less it is “dark”. The common spices creating dark aroma include patchouli, oakmoss, incense, and smudging leather.
Western gothic smells dark aroma
In different cultures, dark mysterious fragrances mean not the same. For example, Goth rosary perfumes are for western culture. They have a picture of a fading rose in a gloomy, dark castle, with cold grave soil scents in the air; ghosts haunting the dark forest, blood dripping from dark tree branches…
Yes, dark mysterious perfumes usually evoke muddy, rotten mouldy wood, gloomy, Gothic imaginations. In my personal opinion, one of the best dark perfumes with gothic smells is Salvador Dalí Pour Homme.
Once pulling out the black lip shaped cap, you seem to hear it whispering all the deep dark secrets. People who have smelt it have various associations: mist from the boundary of the hell, the scent of Dracula, the rain-swept dark forest, an abandoned biochemical plant, the damp dirt, or a mouldy dungeon.
It has a blast of a bit of sweet, smoky chypre opening, moist and clean, but also smells usual. So again this is an “old school” perfume that bark is worse than his bite? When I begin to be disappointed at it, the dark gloomy bizarre scent now shows itself. The closer to drydown, the more stink scent I can smell. The mixture with oakmoss makes it even smell like something mouldy.
This is not definitely the scent of traditional “fragrances”, at least I cannot describe it as “fragrant”. Its scent doesn’t smell young, nor is the configuration of lavender+oakmoss+woody note apparently contemporary. In summary Salvador Dalí Pour Homme is a masculine but slightly bizarre fragrance.
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It’s the configuration of patchouli and oakmoss, two of the top ingredients behind all best dark fragrances, that gives the scent mystery associations. Oh, and note which house is this fragrance from! The brand Salvador Dalí was created in 1983 in France by the Spanish Surrealist artist, who is renowned for his striking and bizarre images in his work.
Besides painting, Dalí’s artistic repertoire included atomic physics, mathematics, architecture, film, jewelry.
It’s no wonder that artists were widely involved in fragrances. Salvador Dalí once proclaimed:
Among the five senses, smell is unquestionably the one that best gives the idea of immortality.
Salvador Dalí Pour Homme, the imagination-evoked, dark scent fragrance, that seems to have the immortal ideas Salvador Dalí bears in mind, deserves the rating as “demon in a bottle”.
Dark scents originated from religions
Another dark-associated gothic smell is religion-related scents. The incense offering occupied a prominent position in the sacrificial legislation of the ancient Hebrews. Among all the religionary mysterious scents, frankincense and myrrh, which twirl thoroughly alongside various religions, are the first two on the top of our mind.
According to the Biblical account, wise men from the east presented a list of gifts to newborn Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh; gold for royalty, frankincense for divinity, and myrrh for suffering.
Since then, frankincense is widely known and used in embalming, perfumery and rituals around the world. While all scents have spiritual meanings, frankincense is the scent closest to deity, according to ancient Egyptians.
Frankincense essential oil is extracted from the resin of the Boswellia tree, the moderate-sized flowering plants, which are native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia.
Frankincense has a warm, pure, balsamic-spicy, slightly lemon, woody smell, helping release stress and anxiety. Though being the same resinous, it’s slightly more pleasing than myrrh, which smells a bit medicinal, astringent. Perhaps that’s why the word “myrrh” corresponds with a common Semitic root m-r-r meaning “bitter”.
Like frankincense, myrrh resin is also harvested from trees – the spiny myrrh trees which are native to Somalia, Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, (Somali Region) of Ethiopia and parts of Saudi Arabia. The wound that deep into the sapwood causes the myrrh tree to secrete sap. When it coagulates, it turns into reddish-brown resin, that is where myrrh essential oil is distilled from.
Thanks to modern technology that makes myrrh essential oil purchasable, while the most ancient, traditional way to make the best of myrrh is burning it. But the smell of burning myrrhs is smudging, choking, like a burning rubber!
If such a scent is from the fragrance pyramid, now you can imagine how “dark” this fragrance is. However, frankincense and myrrh, together with storax, balsams and more are usually meant by “incense” in a fragrance pyramid; due to the smoky atmosphere it creates, most incense perfumes are in the oriental family.
For example, the combo of frankincense, myrrh and smokey woody notes of CB I Hate Perfume Fire From Heaven created by Christopher Brosius gives us an instant association with religion – the spiritual smell of both a Buddha hall and church.
The incensy beginning seems to burn the whole world up ruthlessly, but it’s not warm at all as it should be. After a while, the scent of black ashes goes through the nose, bringing the end of fire from Heaven.
I’d like to describe it as “holy”, which is doomed for meditation instead of on occasional days.
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Bottle: Twisted Lily
Of course, perfumers also give the choice that is more “worldly” than CB I Hate Perfume Fire From Heaven: Diptyque L’Eau Trois. If “deity” summarizes the former, then the latter would be “wild land”. Many Diptyque perfumes I can’t call perfumes, this is one of them: totally foresty, herbaceous, bitter dark medicine-y from head to toe.
It’s the scent of freezingly cold wind, withered plants, rotten pine needles mixed with dried-up dirt in late autumn, through which hippies sought for “inner peace” in the 70’s.
I guess no one in the office or at a party loves the scent of “wanderer” that just returns from the wilderness. Diptyque L’Eau Trois is proper when sometimes you want to be solemn, serious, poker-faced, as wearing this is saying “it’s your business not mine” or “leave me alone”.
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Oriental secret dark scents
Besides gothic smells dark mysterious perfumes, we have Oriental secret dark scents.
Among all the common ingredients, it’s patchouli, cypress and clove that create the dark scents. Many people don’t like the scent of clove – it’s oppressive, provocative, deep dark, aggressive, irresistible but also sexy.
Compared to clove, patchouli is reminiscent of antique wood and damp soil aroma. In China, patchouli, a herb widely planted in south China, is used in traditional Chinese medicine to regulate digestion, eliminate dampness and repel wind.
The patchouli smells balsamic, greeny, medicinal bitter, mint-cool woody scent; gloomy with mysterious scent, which mixes well with scents with vetiver, sandalwood, frankincense, bergamot, cedar, myrrh, jasmine, rose, citrus and other essential oils, while also being highly complementary.
For the richness it brings to fragrances, perfumers find patchouli a way in the middle & base note not only as the complementary to sweet, floral and fruity scents including rose, citres, but the companionship to spicy, deep scents including pepper and musk to make the fragrance mild and warm.
For example, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, perhaps one of the top sellers at Sephora, has a main note of patchouli perfectly hidden in rose. The combo of medicinal bitterness and sweet floral scent turns it into a poison that a simple sip could make a sober man suffer from love.
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But if you don’t like this Mademoiselle which seems to belong to every lady, L’Artisan Parfumeur Patchouli Patch is a relatively niche choice for patchouli fans.
It starts off with powerful medicinal patchouli, with a hint of soil and discordant sweetness, smells gloomy and depressive. This is the scent when you nudge the door of a mysterious manor a century ago and are greeted by the damp old wood furniture there.
However, the osmanthus showing up in the middle brings the scent some vitality, but the scent still reminds me of the flowers blooming on a dark rottenwood. Longevity is good, the remaining scent of patchouli still has its power.
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Like many other fragrances of L’Artisan Parfumeur that are heavy, overwhelming, L’Artisan Parfumeur Patchouli Patch, a totally patchouli one, is only for big fans of this scent.
As an end, there are some high-rating dark smelling perfumes with mini reviews that may interest you:
- Serge Lutens Serge Noire: mysterious and Gothic, pungent Arabian oil, religious totem or a sacred statue
- Chanel Antaeus: bloody, smoky, animalic dirty; the smell of the 80’s; bad boy perfume
- Jacomo de Jacomo: spicy, sharp, gloomy, dry; smoldering ash heap, not watery at all
- Davidoff Zino Davidoff: wood furniture with animalic odor
- Bvlgari Black: leather+smudging tea+rubber tyre
- Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme: old school soapy rotten wood
- Lalique Encre Noire: damp old furniture
- Guy Laroche Drakkar Noir: old school, soapy humid forest and dirt
Now it’s your turn:
Why are you interested in dark scent fragrance? What is the picture you are expecting?
Which one would you like to try first? Is Salvador Dalí Pour Homme, the “demon in a bottle”? Or you prefer the oriental patchouli first?
Let me know in the comment.