“A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?”
~ English nursery rhyme
Snow accord, lily of the valley, mint, coconut, iris, snowdrop, white rose, mate, frankincense, galbanum, ambrette, cedar, civet, musks, oakmoss, tonka, vanilla.
Zoologist haven’t shied away from boldness in their fragrances and the opening of Snowy Owl shows no sign of that trend abating.
Picture, if you will for a moment, a forest at dusk. It’s cold, the start of winter, the trees are dusted with snow and pinpricks of stars speckle the velvety sky. The moon hangs poetically behind the top of the highest trees. The air is crisp, it stings your cheeks. You rest on your haunches, bringing yourself closer to the loamy ground as it glitters with ice, your boots scuffing the surface and grinding into the layer of mud beneath which is not yet frozen hard. As you wait, an owl swoops across the clearing ahead of you on silent wings, the only trace of its passage is a slight stirring in the air that mixes the sweet smell of the trees, the mud between your feet and the coolness of snow. Winter is no longer promised, its harbingers have arrived.
The icy coolness is the first thing that hits you when you spray Snowy Owl by Zoologist. It is quite surprisingly photo realistic – very much like you have opened a window or stepped out the door into a forest. A unmistakeable coldness hangs in the air, a sweet, loamy soil underneath, wet, almost decaying vegetation suppressed by the snow and cold, but present nevertheless and waiting. There’s a strange semi-sweetness here, which feels very much like an actual forest does – too often forest smells are cold with none of the underlying sweetness of the trees, but here it is beautifully captured.
The murky, realistic coolness of the start of Snowy Owl is really well done, and shows the boldness present in other Zoologist scents. This isn’t a pretty fragrance though, but it is most definitely an evocative one. In some ways it is reminiscent of the original formulation of Bat, but instead of a warmer backdrop, Snowy Owl has a cooler one.
As Snowy Owl unfolds on skin, the mint and coconut become more noticeable in their own rights and the feeling of cold, slightly disturbed mud or loam recedes. The majority of the play within this scent takes place where sweet, warmer notes butt up against the colder notes, for example where the snow accord meets the warmer, earthier tones, where the mint bumps into the huskier coconut. These are interesting collisions and give the fragrance a sense of lightness and playfulness.
In the middle phase of the wear, early spring snowdrops start to peep through the soil, and this again leads us through the scent: from Winter through to the first hints of Spring. The floral elements in the heart of the fragrance feel like florals at the appropriate level for the scene that the scent has set; that is to say they are neither too loud or too abundantly floral, they simply serve to add another interesting dimension to the scent, that sense of richness within the landscape and of sleeping potential cradled within the soil.
Whilst the initial phases of Snowy Owl are exciting and really set a beautiful scene, one can’t help but feel that it loses some vibrancy and peters out a little as the scent progresses. The base of the fragrance is much more muted in tone than the earlier impressions and what lingers on the skin is a warmer, muskier trace. It doesn’t go far enough into the animalic elements to smell as if we have zoomed up close to the owl herself, but there is definitely a frisson of that suggested. The vanilla and tonka give some warmth and sweetness, there is a little powderiness there too, as well as continued hints at the deeper forest beyond. The play of warm/cool does continue in the base although at reduced volume and the final few bars of the scent feel pleasant but less memorable than the earlier phases.
The other stuff
Snowy Owl starts off big, and initially it seemed as if this scent would be one of those Zoologist ones that stay around forever and project wildly enough to fill a room, however, the volume and longevity of the scent very quickly reduce (within minutes, an hour or so at most) and after a couple of hours it is a skin scent and projects no further than that. This won’t be a problem for everyone though, especially those who seek to bring a bit of the outdoors life into the office for example (well, back in the days when we actually went to the office).
The shining moment of this very gender inclusive fragrance is the coldness, which is beautifully done and very transportive. For lovers of cold places, or indeed for those who find themselves in hot places and seek some respite, this may well be enough to seduce them into purchasing.
Snowy Owl is by no means the most challenging scent from Zoologist, it seems to sit somewhere in the middle of their spectrum as it doesn’t seem to have the easy accessibility of some of their other more recent releases but nor does it have the strength of character of some of their older ones. Nevertheless, it’s interesting and a bit different to the norm, so worth checking out if it sounds like it might appeal.
Zoologist are one of those perfume houses that cause a stir. Their fragrances are bold, challenging, but also capable of inspiring devotion among those who appreciate their uncompromising and unconventional scents.
Based in Canada, Zoologist stampeded onto the scene in 2013. Their fragrances are all inspired by and named after animals, but they stress that they have replaced animal musks in their scents with synthetic ones so that animals don’t have to suffer in order for us to smell good. You can read more on Zoologist on their about us page.
Snowy Owl will be available from Bloom Perfumery London from the end of February 2021 when it is released, it is priced at £195 for 60ml of extrait de parfum. You’ll also be able to buy it from the Zoologist web boutique.
We were gifted a sample of this fragrance by a friend of The Sniff who has no affiliation with either brand.