Silver by Clandestine Laboratories (2021)

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Silver by Clandestine Laboratories (2021) pulls out all the stops with being the kind of bold, noncommercial perfume-as-art for the sake of itself that one can imagine from an operation that prides itself on being unseen. In contrast to others I’ve tried from the house like Master (2021), Certo (2021), or FIlm Noir (2021), Silver is does not offer a new spin on an established genre or trope, nor does it vacillate between the avant-garde and traditional design like some of the others. Instead, Silver commits to the fully-adventurous realm of other indie perfumers I’ve had the pleasure of discovering, like January Scent Project or Imaginary Authors, although I wouldn’t say Silver sits quite so intently in the realm of the bizarre as the latter. Ultimately, Silver is a perfume to be worn – as all good perfume should – as something that makes the wearer smell objectively good, and not experienced detached from that purpose as some sort of wearable Picasso or Duchamp presentation. To that end, Silver is invariably a fresh fragrance, just not fresh in the ways you see that word used by designers to mean and endless conga-line of laundromat smells parading as personal fragrance, being instead a fragrance based around both concepts of “amber” in the world of perfumery represented by their actual materials. The first and foremost concept is ambergris, which this actually has a real-smelling ambergris accord (created with synthetic magic), while the second is amber as depicted by actual fossilized tree sap; but for centuries this material as come to be represented by a compound of spices and other resins thought to smell like how amber would smell if actually burned, becoming a material in it’s own right and subject itself of many perfumes all classified as “ambers”, or more colloquially as “orientals”. This fragrance is not an oriental, and it is not sweet or spicy in the least. What Silver is, or at least to me, is a fragrance made to smell good, without being familiar or ingratiating about it.

Now you may be guessing, just how did perfumer Mark Sage actually manage to break down real amber – and I don’t mean real amber compounds, but literally “Jurassic Park” amber – break it down into something that could be stuffed into a perfume? Frankly, I don’t know, and perhaps there may be some skepticism as to whether or not he actually did this at all, or just “pulled a Creed” and said he did while actually just using proxies via synthetics or some other materials. I guess enjoying perfume of this nature itself is to take a leap of faith, since this isn’t perfectly regulated, consumer-tested, market analyzed, and beancounter-approved designer perfumery meted out by the big oil houses on their behalf, so if you pull an X-Files and say “I want to believe”, then it’s real goddamn amber. As for me, life itself is taken with a grain of salt and often accompanied by two tabs of ibuprofen, so it’s real enough to me without running my sample through the GCMS machine I don’t have. The opening is mint, oh glorious mint, and that right there might make this a wrap for some people, since mint is a love-or-hate note with dozens of failed commercial perfumes like Cartier Roadster (2008) to attest. The mint stays the whole wear too folks, so check out now of the SIlver Motel if you can’t handle the constant vague feeling of Aspercreme in your nostrils. Quickly the salty breathy ambergris makes itself known here, and fossilized tree sap does unsurprisingly smell like the tree it dripped from millennia ago, so expect a pine-like note. The other materials, of which there are many, are all inbetweeners that fill in the gaps between these main players, including sandalwood, various white florals, and aromatics like sage. This is a dry and fresh perfume, but not a powdery one. Wear time is pretty long and performance is yabba-dabba-doo strong. I still consider this very wearble in all seasons but maybe the coldest, being signature worthy as so many from the house seem to be, devoid of design suggesting contextual appropriateness, ergo being versatile for not trying to be versatile.

My boyfriend in particular thought this scent makes for a good scented candle, but he didn’t think it was something he’d like to smell on a person, while I had pretty much the opposite reaction and thought this would destroy a room as a candle but would make a novel replacement for the usual sport scent crap that fills the buses I take on the way to work. I actually do love fresh fragrances, bracing and biting smells often relegated to after-shave splashes or deodorant aerosols, but not often long-lived enough to be a day scent. Sure, you can carry a bottle of Aqua Velva Ice Blue by Williams (1935) and re-apply throughout the day if that tingle really does it for you, but that’s sorta depressing. Even beyond just the freshness, there’s that lovely ambergris and resinous amber, joined by a bit of mossiness in the late dry down, although not the buttery-thick oakmoss that drives the vintage gatekeepers wild, as that would be a nod to tradition this fragrances cannot afford to make. Ultimately, what I make of Silver is a scent that sort of smells like silver would smell if it really had one, but not polished silver. No, this perfume is the embodiment of an old tarnished silver emblem you wear on a neck-chain also of .925 sterling, both of which you never take off and never clean. This is like the Ankh that adorns my very neck, which I am both ashamed and proud of doing the very same: never taking it off, and never cleaning it (although it takes every shower I do); that’s the kind of fresh Hell which awaits you here with SIlver by Clandestine Laboratories. Bold, bracing, weirder than your Minecraft-obsessed cousin, Silver comes across like the perfume that liberal arts major you have the hots for – who works down at the local coffee roaster – might wear to overpower the smell of the beans while still being artsy-fartsy. Silver by Clandestine Laboratories is anything but conventional or expected. I like it. Thumbs up

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