While Shazam, an appealingly spiced and mood-enhancing fragrance by 4160 Tuesdays creator Sarah McCartney that was released last year, may not have the breadth and landscaped dazzle of some more opulent ‘event orientals’, with their top to bottom geneologies of pyramids, souks and magic carpets – the shimmering vistas of the deserts and Atlas mountains beckoning in the backdrop a l’Amouage; it has, instead, a forthrightness, a directness and familiarity that makes this curious and original perfume, in some ways, even more delicious.
While I love oriental perfumes in all their guises and wish that I could smell a proper, operatically spiced caravenserai on the average person just walking down the street every once in a while – standing in front of me on the escalator, on the train – as there is a complete absence of such perfumes in Japanese life – I can imagine that if you were constantly exposed to the full Arab deal on a daily basis it might get a little too much, the total, squeezed, dioramic spectacle of all those notes; the jasmine and the musks, the oudhs and the woods, the attars, thick ambers, and the roses.
There is in fact quite of nose pleasure to be had in an oriental scent that is less panoramic, less orchestratedly breadthened: more local, focused, straight and intimate. And I find Shazam! to be more like a liquor; a sauce, a caramellized and pinpointedly spiced elixir of resins, cardamom, pepper, cacao pod, frankincense, labdanum, amber and vanilla (with a fresh and lusty twang of juniper berries, bergamot and clary sage in the top that gives the blend just the right amount of lift), immediately appealing in its apparent simplicity and ‘rightness’, despite its complexity, because of its legibility and perfumed punch (D took to it immediately, and it is now on regular rotation).
You either like this kind of scent or you don’t, as you get what you smell. The lack of endless modulations from the usual bergamot and overdoses of pink pepper to the expected conclusions is strangely refreshing for me personally, the closest reference I can think of possibly being the first clove and resin-heavy eponymous groove by Comme Des Garçons.
There was always something slightly laboured about that scent, I thought however – despite its spicy iconoclasms and groundbreaking, aromatherapeutic warmth it never really felt personal to me: more like a quietly grandiose, rule-breaking statement by founder Rei Kawakubo.
Shazam, like its creator, Sarah McCartney, is much more down to earth. It is sweet, addictive, mood-effective, like some strange, yet comprehensive, cough mixture; a warm and spiced exudation to accompany you contentedly through your day like a trusted friend. I liked it straight away.