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Carduus – Spicy, grassy, fluid and weightless

Carduus, Jorum Studio, 30 ml. bottle -

In January and February, we spent a lot of time planning a trip to Scotland, even worked out a fairly detailed itinerary for the three-week trip. We’d researched and agreed on where we would go and what and whom we would see, and when. There’s so much history there for us, since both my husband’s and my own grandparents emigrated from Scotland over a century ago.  But travel isn’t in the cards now –it just ain’t happening.

To deal with our bitter disappointment, I’ve been doing armchair travel with perfumes. Browsing through “The Best of 2019”on the CaFleurBon blog I noticed several super-positive comments about the work of a Scottish perfumer by the name of Euan McCall. He’s the nose behind Senyokô Paris, and in 2010 he started his own company, Jorum Laboratories in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since 2016, Euan has worked with his partner Chloe Mullen, and their hand-made brand is now named Jorum Studio. 

On their website I learned about their new collection of six fragrances, Progressive Botany Vol. 1, which takes inspiration from nature:

Progressive fragrances (3): “…non-conformist and intentionally challenging…do not conform to any standard form in traditional or modern perfumery. These are ‘free-form’ fragrances…multi-faceted…”

Botany fragrances (3) “…perhaps a little more familiar - original twists on slightly more traditional perfumery structures which present new sensory forms.” 

Carduus is a Progressive…” an alter of spices, wood, resin and roots. With an intriguing buoyancy oscillating between weightless vapours and dense fluidity.” Since I crave challenging scents I ordered it immediately, and I‘ve been blissfully wandering through the hills of Scotland since it arrived.

Musk Thistle in morning light, by Paul Dickson, 21 July, 2008

The thistle is the national flower of Scotland. Carduus nutans, or musk thistle, is a common species that grows on chalky soils and can be found on rough grassland, roadside verges, waste ground and scrub. An invasive hardy plant which is a member of the sunflower family, thistles are best known for their hardy prickles that protect them from being eaten by cattle, deer and other large herbivores. The plants are extremely valuable to wildlife, their flowers providing nectar for bees and butterflies, the seeds nourishing birds, the foliage used as nurseries for larvae, the famous thistle-down lines birds’ nests. In addition, the purple blooms of the musk thistle have a sweet, musky scent that wafts in warm summer air, July through August, and is reported to inspire Scottish perfumers. 

That potent musky scent flies right out of the bottle onto my skin, part of a dense and complex bouquet of herbs, leaves, seeds, grass, spiced up with black pepper and cloves, sage and chamomile, with honey and rose petals, then tuberose, then heliotrope, then branches and twigs and roots and dirt. There is a rich intensity but no stand-out top note, or recognizable accord, rather the notes waft up and down, in and out, sometimes feeling vegetal, then medicinal, then floral or green, then woody and dry. Carduus is definitely non-conformist, challenging my expectations so that I’m fully experiencing what it is revealing, and not judging and comparing as I often do with new fragrances..  

After an hour or so the intensity in Carduus changes, herbal and floral notes relax and become more static, revealing a subtle accord of dark cocoa infused with sweet tobacco and wood notes, cherry and mahogany, and the drydown expands into an airy musky incense-like accord that is absolutely weightless. I feel like I’ve arrived at a place I’ve been before, where the grasses ripple in the fields, the sun is warm, the bees buzz in the garden, a familiar place where the rhythms of daily life are predictable and I feel soothed and peaceful. It smells like home.

Euan McColl is a gifted perfumer. His scent story of his native landscape in Scotland is definitely unique and non-conformist and challenging, and can be worn anywhere by anyone. For me, Carduus inspires the extraordinary sensation of being connected to a landscape and part of a history, of being in MY HOME

I’ve been wearing Carduus for the past week. It has scented my clothes, my hair, my closet, our bed in the nicest possible way. Now I want to try one of Euan McColl’s Botany scents, and I really REALLY want to make that trip to Scotland. I think I belong there, at least for a while, long enough to smell Carduus nutans in bloom.

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