Brand guide: January Scent Project

If you’re struggling to find something different, something unusual, something hauntingly beautiful in the world of fragrance then you’ve come to the right review. January Scent Project might be about to blow your mind.

The vibe

Not everything familiar is safe, not everything unusual is threatening. This is how we would encapsulate the January Scent Project line whose scents are strange creations. In equal parts unsettling, beautiful, hypnotic. These are not easy scents to ‘get’. You can’t just thoughtlessly sling one on and head for the office, and they don’t smell particularly commercial. But neither of those points is a criticism. Instead what January Scent Project has is something truly unusual; a line which are quite unlike anything else, a unique voice and a singular take on perfume as wearable art.

To stand in front of January Scent Project is to be Alice in Wonderland faced with the bottle of ‘Drink me’ potion, or Neo offered the red or blue pill. Once you go down this rabbit hole, there is no turning back.

The brand

January Scent Project are a small, independent brand operating out of Rhode Island in the United States of America. The brand is the work of John Biebel, a visual artist, UX designer and now perfume creator, and their line is quite unlike anything else we have smelled in forever.

The scents

The first point to note about January Scent Project is that they aren’t weird for the sake of being weird. Their formulas aren’t clashing combinations of odd notes slung together to create barely-wearable concoctions; provocation for the sake of provocation. No. This is thoughtful perfumery, wearable perfumery, bold perfumery with a very distinct voice. Undoubtedly this will not be for everyone, probably won’t even suit the majority. But, for those that it does chime with, a world of wonder awaits.

Another enjoyable factor was the way in which these fragrances unfolded. These scents seemed to give up their secrets slowly, over a number of hours rather than seconds or minutes. They open and unfurl over long periods and this version of slow-motion perfumery makes them feel thoughtful and considered.

Dinudisit

Listed notes: Bergamot, rue, narcissus, jasmine, caramel, celery seed, ocean accord, oakmoss, amber, beeswax, patchouli, vetiver.

On the January Scent Project website, the Dinudisit page has ‘sea flowers’ in brackets after the name. And although it is a simplistic point to make, it really does smell like one imagines sea flowers would. Dinudisit begins fresh, almost gently citrusy, with green and floral notes playing around and amongst. It’s not unlike the scent of a forest standing on the edge of the sea. As the fragrance wears there is a palpable sense of descent within the fragrance and although it starts of deceptively bright and simple, it becomes more complex and deeper. It felt as if we begin bobbing around on the surface of a calm sea, gentle breezes blowing, but get sucked down under the waves by a leviathan and shown the delights of the octopus’ garden.

Dinudisit becomes much more of a salty, marine scent once it has really settled and been on skin for an hour or more. The celery seed note chimes with a sweeter caramel note beautifully. Both notes are distinguishable if you stop to think about them, but if you don’t then what you get is an interesting impression of a boiling sea instead. There are layers here, of notes, of accords, of meaning. Like the whole of the January Scent Project line, it feels like their creator is trying to tell you something, trying to communicate some secret knowledge to you alone.

We felt that if you liked this scent then you may also like Every Storm a Serenade by Imaginary Authors.

Selperniku

Listed notes: apricot, immortelle, butter, cardamom, petitgrain, chamomile, milk, cypress, juniper, tobacco, and sandalwood.

Of all the January Scent Project fragrances, Selperniku was one of our favourites at The Sniff. We also felt that it was the most linear of the creations in that it didn’t change vastly from start to finish but as we liked how it began, we were perfectly okay with that. Selperniku opens with a salty, milky apricot, it’s fruity, buttery and creamy, and manages to be both potent and retain a lightness in spirit.

This is a milky fragrance that doesn’t feel like it has been done before. The creamy tones add this sense of familiarity and the idea that we might know what is about to happen, but then the salty fruity tones give the impression of milk that has that ripeness in the moment before it starts to go ‘on the turn’. It doesn’t smell rancid, just like a moment of perfect ripeness just before the rot sets in. There’s something incredibly potent and moreish here with the dry down of the fragrance being particularly fascinating. Is it sweet, is it sour, has the moment of ripeness fallen into decay yet? It certainly kept us coming back for more.

If aliens landed tomorrow, and brought with them a strange fruit from another land which was still recognisable as fruit but quite unlike anything we have on earth, that’s what Selperniku would smell like.

Vaporocindro

Listed notes: lilac, green leaves, apple, turmeric, black pepper, jonquil, mahogany, cedar, agar, davana, black currant, cumin, coffee, sandalwood, and ambergris.

Of all these fragrances, Vaporocindro feels most likely to be the one that has a dollop of anger in it. There’s something rather brutal about this fragrance, which opens with a spicy, damp, honeyed earthy tone and then morphs into a peculiar-yet-irresistible burned rubber and hay. There’s a yeasty note here which evoked a very old storage barn that had been used for keeping hops, but which had got a bit damp. There’s also a dry loamy tone, a burned earth nuance, that made us think that this fragrance might be the colour of rage.

Like many of the line, Vaporocindro smells both familiar and weird all at once and there is something really spellbinding about the line’s ability to do that.

Eiderantler

Listed notes: lavender, green leaves, moss, pink pepper, lavandin, champa leaf, ivy, elemi, fir cone, hay, oak wood, cashmere, vetiver, and musk.

The greenery that opens Eiderantler is so green that it almost becomes metallic. This is ivy winding around a rusty metal gate that leads to a secret garden deep in the woods. It’s the undergrowth of the forest just after a downpour. It’s cool, zingy and oh so green. The lavender is punchy but – as you might now expect – this isn’t the sort of lavender you have smelled a million times before and it most definitely isn’t granny’s toilet water of a fragrance.

The dry down of Eiderantler was particularly beautiful. It reminded us of a shaded grove deep in the forest of a fairy tale. There’s a sense of secrecy about the scent, of old knowledge and things hidden by time.

Burvuvu

Listed notes: geranium, Canadian white cedar, red cedar, Texas cedar, rose, patchouli, ginger, amber, Tonkin musk, mushroom, henna, basil, honey, and castoreum.

Burvuvu is the easiest of all the January Scent Project fragrances to understand and to wear, so it is a good place to start if you feel a degree of trepidation when trying new things. Burvuvu felt to us like the sort of scent that people would really go for and buy. It opens with a cold yet spicy personality and the image that it called to mind for us was of a Roman pot, just being unearthed. The pot and the soil are cold and ancient, but clumped under the rim of the vessel are old, old spices, the remnants of what the pot once held. Once lifted from the earth, the pot is wrapped in plastic to protect it, and you get a sense of that coming through in the scent too, shiny, contrasting against the pot’s ancient matt-ness.

What enthralled us about Burvuvu was its duality and the fact that it smelled really old and really modern at the same time. The rose adds a fleshy tone and there is enough sweetness to balance and soften the woods out beautifully.

Smolderose

Listed notes: Damask rose, bergamot, saffron, roasted seashells, frankincense, elder flower, patchouli, cade, agarwood, and labdanum.

Smolderose is the most widely known of the January Scent Project line and one which people seem to fall in love with most easily – at least from the internet anecdotes we have read! It opens with a rose quite unlike any other rose we’ve tried. This is a rose 3D printed in plastic, set on fire, and then extinguished with swimming-pool water. It’s so strange that we defy you to not smile when you try it. The ‘real’ rose is definitely in there, but it acts as a foil to this hot-plasticky accord and the two interpretations of what a rose is stare at each other from across a bed of smouldering coals.

Smolderose convinced us that January Scent Project are trying to communicate some grand message about life, disposable culture, fake beauty that would be really profound and life-altering if only we just knew how to tune in to the message. And that, dear friends, is exactly the purpose of good art.

The verdict

Bold fragrances, uncompromising fragrances, but fragrances that have interesting stories and messages for us to experience. Each one of these scents feels a little familiar and a lot strange, like a series of fairy tales about modern life. There’s no way that January Scent Project could be described as run-of-the-mill and that alone would be enough to make the fragrances worthy of discussion, but as well as being different, there is also beauty at work here. Strange things which are also beautiful are the most fascinating of all creations, and January Scent Project have been clever enough to beguile and delight in equal measure.

The longevity and sillage of all the fragrances was excellent, with longevity being of particular note – easily 12 hours in most cases, sometimes longer. Fabulous fragrances that will stay and slowly bloom on the skin of most people.

If we had to pick only one to keep it would be Selperniku, because we can’t resist milky fragrances and the milk/fruit/salt combo had us sniffing our wrists all day long.

Buy it

January Scent Project fragrances are available from their web boutique with a 30ml bottle of EdP costing $65 and a 100ml being $145. Smolderose is also available as an oil fragrance, priced at $30 for 10ml.

We were very kindly given a sample kit of January Scent Project fragrances by John Biebel when we met earlier in the year. Thank you to John for the samples, which were given freely with no strings attached.

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