Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Amouage Bracken Woman-Review

I won't be the first to review Amouage Bracken Woman with an equal measure of enchantment and sickness. This is a perfume that shifts between extremes, and continues to do so over the course of several hours. There's a lot to sort through in that time.

Some fragrances are simple to describe by their notes. A few dabs on pulse points and in a couple hours you've worked through opening to end. Sure, not everything is that linear but typically there's a predictability in how those notes emerge. A few wearings later, a "Yes or No" emerges, and that's that. Bracken isn't like that. Bracken emerges like the first fiddleheads of spring pushing through the late winter mud when everything else is still struggling to wake. A blast of green breaking the matted straw of last autumn's wheat coloured ground cover. But not any old green. Not any old fern. It would be a mistake to assume Bracken is some sort of fougere you can lump together with a generic label of, "Green notes." This fern isn't bright or bracing but rather herbal, sometimes medicinal, and sometimes like the measuring cup of water holding a bunch of asparagus. It smells more asparagus fern than asparagus, but it also smells of the salinated sandy dirt it was grown in. Then, it buggers off for a bit and you catch a nice berry note before it returns with some lily and narcisus and tries to kill you. Some people get "Romantic walk in the woods" from this part of the Bracken experience-I get the opening credits of a sci-fi movie. That isn't a bad thing.

At some point in the Bracken Experience (like the Jimi Hendrix Experience with less feedback and more patchouli) it goes 60's. I think it is the chamomile more than the patchouli, but really, who knows. My experience of the 60's largely consisted of learning to read, gluing pieces of tissue paper to construction paper, and Flintstones chewable vitamins which were a brand new thing and probably the closest anyone in our family got to candy. The 60's to my mind smells like rubber cement and iron fortification. Anyway, there's enough leather and vetiver in there to satisfy any filthy hippie worth the title. It isn't constant though, and the leather is subtle, sort of damp like it was caught in a cold March rain that could snow if it wanted to. Then, our friend Fern returns. My mum had a friend named Fern. I don't think Fern would have fancied Bracken Woman as she always smelled of Lysol. Bracken is anything but clean.

When we lived on the farm we'd get to this point in the year (March) and with any luck the snow would be mostly gone and the mud would soften into the sort of stickiness I can only liken to being caught on a glue trap. More than once, my husband went to take the trash to the pit and would lose a boot on the way back-unable to pry it from the muck. Oh, he'd retrieve it eventually, but that clay-heavy mud was something else. It had a different smell when wet or dry. It was almost powdery when it would dry enough to chisel it off your shoes, but wet it smelled of everything from decaying vegetation to a pottery class. Combined with the mouldy, bitter smell of damp hay in the barn, it shifted between, "Ahhh, springtime" and, "Oh god, what died?" The snow geese would be migrating through about this time, settled in for the evening in the wetlands that surrounded the farm. The smells, the noise, the mud-a glorious rebirth that only lasted a day or two before the flies arrived. Bracken...smells like the day before the flies. And it is a lovely day. 24 hours later your sci-fi movie will take a decidedly horror-bent turn, but while it lasts...and the berries are so nice.

I would have liked Bracken to have a bit more of the birch note. I know it can be an overwhelming note and the use here is quite restrained, but I do like the smell of damp bark, and I'm a little sorry there isn't more of it.

I hate to keep banging on about the berries, but they are strange here. Sweet, but not too, tart but never veering into raspberry. Mulberry? Something dull between blackcurrant and blackberry? No idea. I am terrible at nailing down berry notes, but it keeps returning, sometimes only a whiff and my brain thinks, "Wow, that's nice" and I go to sniff again and it is gone. "Ha! Take that perfume lover."

Narcissus makes me sneeze. So many fragrances I would have loved to wear leave me with watery eyes, a running nose and a hacking cough. I like the smell of narcissus, but it has to be a pretty special perfume to suffer through what it does to me. I am pleased to report no such trouble from the narcissus in Bracken Woman. I almost wish it had made me sneeze because at $300 bucks a bottle, I'm going to be going in deep to smell like I've been out photographing snow geese in the March mud of Nebraska. The generously gifted sample bottle (thanks, Emily!) will last a good long while as this stuff is a powerhouse that requires but a small drop, but yeah, I see a full bottle in my future. Obviously I haven't tried it in warm weather, but I would think it would be suffocating in the heat and humidity. I could be wrong-sometimes fragrances surprise me.

Notes according to Fragrantica:
Fern, chamomile, berries, narcissus, birch, lily, leather, vetiver, and patchouli.

What I smell:
Biker caught in the rain, Nebraska clay/mud, fiddleheads, pottery class, unseasonably warm but rainy spring days when you open the kitchen door to let in the smell of rain but immediately regret it when two hours later everything on the clothes drying rack smells like a field mouse died behind the fridge.  And some berries๐Ÿ˜. Something mushroomy. Dirt. wooden canoes. You get the idea.

I understand this review isn't exactly selling Bracken Woman, and honestly-it is a tough sell. I would advise getting a sample or decant before investing in a bottle, but I'd also encourage you to wait it through to the end without scrubbing. It changes and shifts so much through the (very long) wear that you might miss out on something you adore because you were retching into a wastebin. I mean, come on, what's a little puke in the face of magical perfumery?


beate grigutsch said...

thats a very poetic perfume review!!
it totally makes me want it. but oh the $$$..... so maybe i have to do with a roll in my garden - as there is exactly this kind of mud - laid down from the river ages ago. narcissus/daffodils are on its way now - finally. but the ferns - immigrated from the woods surrounding us - need a few more weeks and sun rays to show their bright green rococo spirals......
and maybe i can get lisbeth to deliver me a mouse ;-)

Mim said...

Hmm, you make it sound intriguing but weird. I'll try it if it crosses my path. Amouages are so pricy, aren't they? I tried Amouage Woman but didn't get on with it.

Beth Waltz said...

" $300 bucks a bottle, I'm going to be going in deep to smell like I've been out photographing snow geese in the March mud of Nebraska." Your review of Bracken Woman is going into a file of writing samples I use when coaching aspiring writers. Reading it, they'll EXPERIENCE A SMELL! Gads, woman, you could describe a color to a blind person!

Polyester Princess said...

Can only agree with Beth that you could describe a colour to a blind person. I'd never heard of this scent, but at this price I'd rather not smell biker caught in the rain or - I like this one best - like a field mouse died behind the fridge! Jos recently bought a new scent. I didn't know he was wearing it, but asked him if he could smell something burning ... xxx

Anonymous said...

OMG, Goody, that is without a doubt the very best review of Bracken that I have ever read on the Internet, hands down. :)

I will forward your review to my friend D., a fellow perfume lover. She gave me that sample spray of Bracken, so if it hadn't been for her generosity, I would not have had the sample to pass on to you. She'll get a kick out of your vivid and evocative writing.

Emily from Etsy

Bibi Maizoon said...

Beautifully written. Amazing how much scent is linked to memories of times and places. My brain thinks narcissus smells like moldy breath & baby poop which leads to nausea.

Before you go off spending $300 on a full bottle have a look here on Fragrancenet where it's only $167-

Fragrancenet sells a lot of grey market stuff but I've bought a lot of perfume & makeup from them & have never gotten a fake.

I've heard a lot of the new Amouages are lightened up versions of their earlier releases - Bracken is supposedly the "light' version of Myths. Some of the older Amouages are so heavy they're impossible to wear.

Vix said...

You're so good at describing smells - I only know whether or not I like something - and I usually don't. xx

Veronica Cooke said...

Blimey! This is more like a thesis than a perfume review...but it's so well written. I don't think I particularly want to try this perfume; I either like a perfume at first sniff or not. Sometimes the smell gets better after a while and sometimes it doesn't. At least I've learnt to give perfume time to 'settle' before I make a judgement...

It amazes me how smells can evoke memories and experiences and you describe both so beautifully.

Goody said...

A roll in the garden might smell better ;)

There's something in Gold Woman that I'm anosmic to-it smelled like water!

Thank you. I'm limited to perfume though, I'm not generally good sat describing things.

"Smell something burning?"
I love that!

Thank you. It sure is an interesting fragrance.

I've never had a problem with Fragrancenet-thank you for reminding me to check there.

I spend an absurd amount of time thinking about perfume. I probably need a better hobby.

Bracken definitely isn't something you'd wear to smell pretty ;)