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Bat – Fruity and elegant and original - April 11, 2016

BAT perfume - zoologist

Last December Victor Wong, founder and creative director of Zoologist Perfumes, and I met up for coffee. Victor is soft-spoken, smart and very knowledgeable about perfume, so I really enjoy spending time with him.

The Zoologist Perfumes line is centred on animals – Beaver, Rhinoceros, Panda, Hummingbird and on this particular day, just around the holidays, Victor had some exciting news: he was about to launch the fifth fragrance in his niche line, a fragrance called Bat by nose Ellen Covey.

He was raving about working with Ellen Covey – that would be Dr. Ellen Covey, Professor of Psychology at University of Washington who studies hearing and teaches sensory and perception. Her research centred on echolocation in bats and required her to spend time in their caves studying them. This is her job. Her hobby is orchids. She grows them commercially at Olympic Orchids, an orchid nursery in Seattle and she owns. And, because one thing leads to another, her interest in orchids led to the launch of Olympic Orchids Perfumes in 2010, a line of handcrafted fragrances inspired by the variety of scents produced by orchid flowers she grows.

The perfume thing is working out for Covey - her parfum, Blackbird won a 2014 Art and Olfaction Award in the Artisan Category, her Woodcut, won a 2015 Art and Olfaction Award in the same category and now Bat has won an Independent Award in the 2016 Art and Olfaction Award category. But I’m getting ahead of myself….

I wanted to know more about the development of Bat.Victor was happy to oblige. He told me that among the first mods the one that stood out to him smelled like bat cave and not much else. He wasn’t sure how to proceed. Ellen came up with the idea of adding fruit notes to the fragrance, since bats feed on the juices of tropical fruits.

So, the next batch of mods were different versions of cave accord and fruit accord. He found them very sweet and fruity, with an overwhelming banana accord.  He suggested cutting the sweetness by adding some green notes to it. They chose fig which actually smells very fresh and green and when combined with banana, it was perfect.

And, he continued, they decided to add a good dose of good quality myrrh to make it smell very resinous (and a little bit mushroomy). It also added some darkness to it. Then they took an animalic furry musk note from Covey’s Mardi Gras perfume and put it together with a leather note to made it smell even darker. This is the final mod they went with.

I was entranced with Victor’s description of the creative process that took place between him and Ellen Covey. Then, I was entranced by Bat.

The top notes on the Zoologist website are listed as banana, soft fruits and damp earth and that’s exactly what you get at the opening. In fact, I can smell each note listed for this fragrance. The surprise is how beautiful it all smells. The fruits and their sweetness are muted, maybe because the fruits preferred by bats are fleshy and sweet, and not particularly strong smelling, and the damp earth smell is soft and true. As it blooms, there is a note of green, another dose of tropical fruits and then the myrrh – dark and resinous – anchors the fruits against the tang of mineral notes. This trip to darker depths is gorgeous and enhanced by the smell of vegetal roots. At the base, it gets animalic from the furry musk that butts up against notes of leather and vetiver that keep my nose to my wrist. Rich, woody sandalwood adds another facet of depth while tonka adds a warm, vanilla-like sweetness that counterbalances the darkness beautifully.

The drydown is aromatic, rich and elegant – it’s a true unisex fragrance.

I suppose a case could be made for this being the smell of a day in the life of a bat and that may have been the inspiration for the fragrance, but the danger with this notion is that it might create the impression that Bat smells weird or is unwearable and that, I think, would be doing this gorgeous fragrance a disservice. There is nothing ‘weird’ about the way Bat smells. It’s natural yet refined and is stunning on the skin and a pleasure to wear.

Victor Wong had every reason to be excited about the launch of Bat the day we met. Bat is a rare thing: a true original and an olfactory triumph.

Bat is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $8.00 for 1 ml.