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Coal – Evolution of a hunter-gatherer – May 6, 2013 New Fragrance Listing

I am a hunter-gatherer perfumista, with a wee bit of a hoarding habit on the side.

I wasn’t born this way, I evolved out of necessity. Let me explain.

When I started down the niche perfume path, it didn’t take me long to realise how difficult it was to get some of these frags, especially if you live outside of Europe. There are the ‘exclusives’, the ‘limited editions’ and the ‘special editions’. Add to this the fact that some niche perfumers are, well, really niche and for the most part produce small quantities with limited distribution – think Steidl’s Paper Passion. And, if the perfume isn’t out of Paris but say, Berlin or Zurich, well that just complicates things a little bit more. All of this makes it a real challenge to find, try and buy niche frags – hence the evolution of the hunter/gatherer perfumista.

So, when I learned that Andrea Maack Parfums were available right here in Toronto at a store called Mjölk I fell to my knees and thanked the perfume gods by sacrificing a macaron.

Andrea Maack is a young visual artist from Reykjavik, Iceland and Kay has written about her, and another of her perfumes, Silk.

I have been trying to find a way to buy her some of her frags since I first heard about them. Let me be more specific. I could have bought them online I suppose, but I hate paying shipping, duty and customs on a mailed perfume. In some cases, those additional expenses can nearly double the cost of the frag. No, I thought to myself, better to pick them up when I next go to Paris. When that time came, I did some hunting – i.e. online research and made a list of perfume stores to visit in Paris - tucked some euros in my bra, boarded my flight and looked forward to gathering some Maacks. Was I being optimistic? Was I being naïve? Can’t say. What I can say is that I came home Maackless. Sigh.

Websites of stores that said they carry the line didn’t carry it anymore when I visited them, the SA at Printemps looked at me like I had horns when I asked about the line. For the record, I do not have horns, just a small, leathery vestigial tail – what can I say? I’m still evolving. And everyone had an idea of where to send me for them: “Have you tried such and such? They might have it.” Truth be told, it’s always fun to roam around Paris on a mission and I did find some other great frags, but no Maacks – because they were in Toronto waiting for me at Mjölk.

Andrea Maack Parfums is a strong line, and I like that her philosophy is in keeping with ours here at the niche: perfume as wearable art. Frankly all of her frags are FBW in my opinion but the frag I had to buy first was Coal.

The press release for Coal says: COAL is based on one of Maacks original drawings made with black coal. It captures the feeling of creating this piece, the smudge on the fingertips, the coal falling down the white paper as the hand moves creating a pattern and the broken pieces at the bottom of the page. It is the smell and atmosphere of an artists' studio when the artist is using black coal. With dark and warm raw materials (like everlasting, leather, patchouli, papyrus) and fresh and vibrating ones (like black pepper, pink pepper, shiso) in order to show the warm / cold contrast that the black coal can have.

I’m in!

Coal opens bright and with spicy Sichuan pepper tempered with floral pink pepper and minty, herbal shiso. As it blooms, camphourous juniper berry comes forward before it gets woody from and cedar wood and papyrus. Then it gets dark, warm and dirty at the base from immortelle, leather and patchouli smoothed by sandalwood. The drydown is camphourous, woody, dry and warm.

I’m not familiar with “the warm/cold contrast that black coal can have”, so to me Coal evokes the smell of charcoal on paper – the warm/cold contrast of black charcoal lines on light coloured paper to be exact. It is this contrast, however you experience it that makes Coal so addictive and so FBW.  And, for all the talk of the smells of the artists’ studio – coal, paper, fingertips -  well, it’s all there in the bottle but Coal also has an elegance to it that makes it a beautiful, wearable fragrance.

I’m so glad I hunted it down. And if you can’t get to Mjölk don’t worry, they say they ship worldwide, but it’s an especially good deal for Canadians as there will be no duty or customs to pay.

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