BDK Parfums Gris Charnel (2019) is an interesting addition to the line, being both familiar and strange at once, combining iris, vetiver, tea, fig, and tonka with oriental elements. Perfumer Mathilde Bijaoui is nothing if not creative in her portfolio, with unconventional creations for the likes of Jacomo and Penhaligon’s alike, and here that penchant for being “outside the box but also not” comes through. To be certain, this is not a challenging perfume after it settles, but there is also nothing 100% like it and you’ll spend time processing its weirdness before deciding if you enjoy it or not. Oh well, such is niche, and BDK Parfums seeks to a true niche house in the spirit of L’Artisan Parfumeur or Diptyque, so Gris Charnel under those auspices is no surprise. I’m also reminded of some Commodity scents that take a similar direction of smelling like the bottom of a handbag where multiple cosmetics or perfumed products mix after being jostled around for months/years until a new unique “grayed” accord is made from it.
The first thing this does is introduce the fig and black tea, smoothed over by a green cardamom. Fans of Bvlgari Black (1999) and Salvatore Ferragamo pour Homme (1999) will liken this opening to an orgy between the two, with cardamom keeping both notes from taking hold over the other, like a form of emulsion. The bourbon vetiver feels familiar to Lalique Encre Noire (2006) and the iris reads more as orris root in this context, very much waxy and rubbery, not powdery or soapy. The iris never fully takes center stage but the accord does feel appropriately “gris” and eventually affords a touch of powderiness late in the wear, especially after a dry sandalwood note joins the fig and vetiver to recall the Ferragamo again but gets blurred by a rare old-school unsweetened tonka that keeps Gris Charnel polite. Wear time is over 9 hours and sillage in “in the pocket” but this can project far in heat thanks to the sharpness. Overall, I’d call this masculine office-ready fare but anyone can wear it, especially if you still listen to Bauhaus or wear old surplus military petticoats as fashion.
The general vibe I get from BDK Parfums Gris Charnel is one of moodiness but lacking enthusiasm, like the edgy kid all dressed in black and grey, too “individual” to identify with goth, metal, or hipster subcultures but also enjoying content from all three “ironically”. That’s the feeling Gris Charnel gives me, a perfume that dabbles and freestyles with typically unsweet and austere notes, but adds a fig here and a tonka there to keep itself one foot in and one foot out of the artisanal coffee shop where it might hang out if it was a person. I like Gris Charnel but it isn’t something I’d reach for personally, since I have scents I can layer to make a similar effect if I so chose, but I can see the value in one perfume checking off the same boxes as several while still feeling like it’s own thing. In short, this is a singular perfume for fans of layering. Fans of BDK should definitely check this out but anyone else should NOT start their exploration of the house here, as Gris Charnel is a black (or should I say gray) sheep in the range. Thumbs up.