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Boadicea the Victorious "Complex" - Uncompromising personality

Image - Queen Boudica by John Opie, 1761-1807 -

Who is Boadicea the Victorious? - that’s her above. Hmmm...the name is familiar, but I can’t remember her story. Let me check my Nuttall:

Boadicea (Boadice`a) , a British heroine, queen of the Iceni, who occupied Norfolk and Suffolk; roused by indignity done to her and her people by the Romans, gathered round her an army, who, with a murderous onslaught, attacked their settlements and destroyed them; but being attacked and defeated in turn by Suetonius Paulinus, the Roman governor, she put, in her despair, an end to her life by poison, A.D. 61. Cowper made her the theme of one of his poems.  The Nuttall Encyclopædia of General Knowledge, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

So she’s the iconic warrioress of Great Britain, the embodiment of feminine will and fearless power, and the inspiration for Michael Boadi’s perfume range which launched in London in late 2008. And who is Michael Boadi?  Not a household name, but he’s known as an haute hairstylist for celebrities – Madonna, Kate Moss -  and couture brands -  Chanel, Gucci. You’ve seen his work, but likely not his credit.

The perfume range took eight years to become a reality and is “a luxe range, with only high-concentration, pure parfum available, all extravagantly packaged in black tissue, lead crystal, lead-free pewter and silver. Boadi calls the vessel designs, heavily engraved with knotwork on both sides, ‘Year 3000 Celtic’.” (Quote from - read their interview with Michael Boadi.

Nosing around for niche on the net one day, I found  Boadi’s website, and was intrigued by his concept and the descriptions of the wide range of scents in the range. Complex is described as “a confident fragrance for an uncompromising personality”, so being in a moment of total self-delusion, I knew that it was made for me, and immediately arranged for a friend in London to send me a bottle, unsniffed.

My reaction to the packaging and the ornate bottle was immediate – rich, beautiful. My response to the fragrance was.......complex. The notes in Complex are basil, sage, civet, leather, resins, violet, labdanum, musk, and the top notes come out of the bottle green, dry, bitter. I smell sweat mixed with herbs and weeds, the leaves trampled, stems slashed by frightened horses and flashing swords.

Then a much more intense animalic smell of leather from the civet and resins (probably birch tar), but this is raw living leather, not the sweet refined leather note I’m used to, and this raw earthy note intensifies, continuing strongly for several hours. Finally, the violet, labdanum and musk provide relief with a slight sweetness, creating a smoky/leathery/incense accord, and Complex relaxes into the skin.

Michael Boadi’s catalogue description says that Complex “has an animal positivity, is luxurious, seductive, and meant to be worn by someone totally secure in their sensuality”. He believes that "it lives up to its name; there is something every breath of this sexy perfume.”

That's not my experience of Complex. I think Complex is unrelenting, linear, in- your- face. It’s organic, animalic, but not seductive or sexy (unless you’re incredibly kinky). It’s eccentric, a “don’t-mess-with-me” scent, the confident fragrance for an uncompromising personality like Boadicea. I think Complex is Boadicea’s signature scent, and probably closest to how she smelled after destroying the Romans.

The question for me is “Do I love it?” Yes, I do, but not for the  regular reasons, not because it smells great. I love it because it shocks me, and takes me to places that other scents don’t, which is what good perfumes do. The fragrance itself has an uncompromising personality which yanks me back in time, when life was short and living was hard, and smells reflected back that hard reality.

Complex is a walk on the wild side. You should smell it, uncompromising personality or not, and judge for yourself whether Complex  really lives up to its name. Or whether it should have been named Boadicea.

Complex is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.


The joy of "complex" perfumes

Thanks for such a thoughtful post Kay. One of the things I'm enjoying about exploring fragrance and my new (and developing!) understanding of it is this idea that I can like a fragrance without necessarily wanting to wear it all day. I can admire the artistic value: the grace of the storytelling, the way the scent has been constructed and how it unfolds, the way I'm challenged to think about fragrance or a specific smell in a new way. I'm not sure I'd wear Complex, but I will definitely give it a sniff, and I'll be keeping your thoughts about it in mind as I do!

Re: The joy of "complex" perfumes

And thank YOU for your thoughtful feedback. You're right about the idea of liking a fragrance without having to wear it - I have several which fall into that category.
At first I felt guilty for not wearing them, then I realized that I don't necessarily look at all my paintings, or read all my books, every day. It's enough that I've experienced the artistic vision and the technical excellence behind each scent. When I've done that, memory lets me recall the scent without wearing it.
I hope you try Complex  - it's so weirdly different from any perfume I've ever sniffed or worn. When you try it, the memories and connections it triggers may take you to a very different place than it does me - let me know what happens.