Byredo Pulp & Boudicca Wode ~ fragrance review

Byredo Pulp & Boudicca Wode fragrances

Ok, raise your hand if you'd like to see a moratorium on new niche brands? At the very least, I'd like to see an independent judging panel evaluate each line, sniff a sampling of their wares, and determine if they have anything to offer that the world really needs. Given how much product is already out there, we don't need much, do we? More product makes it harder to find the perfect scent, not easier.

I used to define a perfumista as someone who wants to smell everything, but I can't say I fall into that category anymore. I don't want to smell everything if that means smelling 1500+ new fragrances a year, and that's my (obviously unofficial) estimate of what we're going to see before 2008 is over*. More and more often, new niche lines launch, and after reading the fragrance descriptions, I decide I'm just going to save myself some time and trouble and not smell them at all.

Byredo was one of those lines. They launched five fragrances earlier this year, and as I said at the time, none of the fragrance descriptions made me drool on my keyboard. So I didn't chase after them. Luckily, a kind friend sent me a sample of Byredo Pulp so I could see what I was missing. Byredo Pulp has in spades what is missing from most new niche lines: fun. Here's the description from Les Senteurs:

The top notes are dewy blackcurrants laced with green bergamot and cardamom seeds: The heart is of sun-ripened figs from Greece, the reddest of Eve’s apples, the creamy coconut sweetness of tiare blossoms; the opulent base mixes peach fruit and flower, praline and cedar wood, giving richness and tenacity.

Perhaps that sounds enticing to you, but to me it sounds like a hot mess. The real thing, however, is fabulous: a huge burst of fizzy-sweet juicy berries + green fig + peach tempered by something tart that smells to me like rhubarb. Someone on MakeupAlley described it as "insanely fruity", and that's exactly what it is, and it stays that way for an insanely long time. I can't claim it isn't sweet (it smells like fizzy strawberry rhubarb jam) and I wouldn't claim it was wildly sophisticated, it's just that it's a lot more inspired than your average fruity floral. The dry down is calmer, drier, and woodier, but it stays fruity (with more and more emphasis on the fig) and cheerful pretty much straight through to the end.

Byredo Pulp is $195 for 100 ml, which most unfortunately spoils the fun, at least for me. I haven't tried any of the others from the line, if you have, please comment! For buying information, see the listing for Byredo under Perfume Houses.

A different sort of fun, more along the lines of weird-little-niche-oddity-fun, comes from Boudicca Wode. Wode, if you remember, is the one that comes in two versions: the disappearing dye-your-skin-blue version, called Paint, and the regular, "just fragrance" version, called Scent. If you don't remember, you can read more here, or just watch the video here. I'm trying the Scent, which is in a stronger concentration (presumably you'd want to spray the Paint with abandon, just for the fun of it).

The juice itself was developed by perfumer Geza Schoen, and was reportedly inspired by the smell of raw opium. I'm fresh out of raw opium so the reference is lost on me, but here's the full description from Boudicca:

The fragrance opens with herbal spicy notes of juniper berry, cardamon, nutmeg absolute, clary sage, coriander seed and angelica root. A touch of fresh hesperidic and lighter floral notes add airiness. Through rare elements like black hemlock extract and the smell of raw opium, you will enter an olfactive space where saffron, tuberose absolute, tonka bean, styrax resin, and treemoss slowly unfold round a musky leather heart. Amber and animalic notes like synthetic castoreum and cistus labdanum deepen the lingering impression of warm and radiant flesh.

Luckyscent says it smells like "wet stone", and that's as good a description as any, especially of the early stages. It's a sheer fragrance, dark-ish, and nearly bone-dry. Early on it's spicy and resinous; later, it's dry, softly spiced leathery woods. It's probably more masculine than feminine, but in the best weird-little-niche-oddity tradition, it doesn't really smell like it has a gender. It's far more wearable, even enjoyable, than I expected, and it's unusual enough (if I was on that independent judging panel, I'd let it through) but I can't say I'm entirely captivated: I'd wear it if I had it (and it would be awfully fun to have a can of Paint), but it's not going on my "to buy" list.

A word of warning: don't layer Pulp and Wode; the combination is not so very wonderful.

Boudicca Wode is available in Scent (150 ml Eau de Parfum, $165) or Paint (150 ml Eau de Toilette, $140); it can be found at luckyscent in the US, brownsfashion in the UK, colette in France.

* The official count, by which I mean Michael Edwards' count, will probably be around 900, but if you include all the indie brands he doesn't count (some of which I announce here, but many of which I don't), I'm sure it will be closer to 1500. Last year, a reader mentioned in the comments that she'd kept a spreadsheet listing new releases for 2007 and her final tally, if I remember correctly, was over 1200.

To put that into perspective, bear in mind that the official count for 2005, the year I started Now Smell This, was around 450.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I smelled Pulp and Chambur last week at Barneys. The Pulp was okay, but quite persistent and odd, and the SA told me he recommends people wear a sample of it for a whole day before deciding to buy, because it can become unbearable after a few hours if you don't really love it, and I have to agree. Chambur was supposed to be incense from Mumbai, and it was okay, but a little weak and underwhelming.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, I'd agree with that too — the fruit really does not let up, and I should mention that it got more than one “rotting fruit” accusation on MakeupAlley as well. I think it's a fun scent but I certainly wouldn't want to wear it every day! Nor would I pay that price for it in any case.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well, I love Pulp, maybe because it really “fits” with this dry, warm weather we are experiencing in my area. It smells like a B&BWs fragrance finally done right: outstanding ingredients, well-blended, well-executed, fizzy and truly fun.

    As for the Wode-thingy: Angela, SA extradornaire at Scent Bar (and a darling friend, too!), demonstrated it for me last Saturday. I have to admit that I was not amused. Indigo blue ink and perfume do not go together. And, even though it evaporated completely off the blotter, I would not let my skin touch that stuff even if they were giving it away.

    Does that sound harsh? I'm sorry, but I don't get it. I am sure it's a fine fragrance, but I don't like the histrionics.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Fresh out of raw opium? What's wrong with you, or didn't Whole Foods have it in stock?

    In the wearable, “I'd wear it if I had it” category, which would you rather have: Wode or Dans Tes Bras? I still find the videos creepy/nasty so I'm opposed to Wode on those grounds alone.

    Pulp sounds fun. Rhubarb? Fig? Sign me up. Jammy-sweet, not so much, but I'm not opposed to a well-made fruity floral as a blues-buster. Speaking of cheerful, this review of Pulp reminds me that I let a bottle of PdN Balkis get away for a song on eBay just this weekend. Oh well… I really did NOT need it. LOL.

  5. Anonymous says:

    R, that's a perfect way of putting it: a BBW fragrance finally done right. Wish it could be a wee bit closer to BBW prices — at anything less than $100, I'd think it was reasonable, but $195 is rather steep for fizzy fun!

    See, and I didn't get to try the Paint — and thought perhaps that would add the extra bit of fun that would make me love, rather than like, Wode! But admittedly, it's a project that's probably after conceptual art freaks, not perfumistas.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Um, I microwaved it all with the tootsie rolls last week, maybe? LOL — we do try to what we can in the name of perfume research.

    Good question on the Wode vs. Dans Tes Bras. Wode is probably the more conventional of the 2, maybe? But you're going to have to wait until DTB comes out of purgatory for my final answer. By which time, both of us will have forgotten the question ;-)

    And on Pulp — seriously, you can't imagine how fruity this is.

    And on Balkis — I like my Balkis Light, but not sure how often I'd reach for “full strength”. Still, if it went for a song….

  7. Anonymous says:

    I hope someone else besides me started reading this article in the hope that Pulp would smell something like eau de Jarvis Cocker.
    maybe it is just me…
    I agree that it would be great fun to have Paint, but it would probably get old after about 5 minutes of being blue.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Robin, your quote “but to me it sounds like a hot mess” made me laugh and then snort. Thank you! As far as your independent panel of judges, I vote for Jackie to be Chair. I trust her.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi Robin,

    never had the occasion to try this one but now you've made me very curious. Two scents that come to my mind when I think “very fruity” are Piguet Visa (which I love) and Tom Ford Black orchid (which I found really “rotten fruit” after the top notes went away). May I ask you how thi is in comparison?

    Thanks as always

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I wonder if that inspired the name?

    W/ Paint, I think you're only blue for a few minutes. Then you have to spray more if you want to be blue again. So it would presumably get old AND expensive.

  11. Anonymous says:

    You're welcome! But who is Jackie??

  12. Anonymous says:

    Way, way fruitier than either — this one is *about* the fruit, you know what I mean? The fruit is front and center almost all the way through, whereas in Visa & Black Orchid there is lots of other stuff going on.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Do the respective creators of Boudicca Wode and Boadicea the Victorious know that Boudicca and Boadicea are the same person?

    Just watched the Boudicca Wode “Paint” video again and found it really creepy–perfume ads should not make you think of “CSI.”

  14. Anonymous says:

    Jackie from Angela's post about BS for Her. Jackie said it smelled like grape juice.

    • noush says:

      sorry, which perfume is it that smells like grape juice? i’ve actually been wanting a perfume that smells like that for ages….

      • Robin says:

        I think they’re talking about Beckham Signature for Her.

  15. Anonymous says:

    LOL — whoosh — that went right over my head! Actually, I don't think Jackie would like Pulp either :-)

  16. Anonymous says:

    I wondered about that myself! Hard to imagine 2 more different takes on the same subject matter.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hard to imagine an ancient Celtic warrior queen wearing perfume, for that matter. But then again, if it were blue…

  18. Anonymous says:

    Gypsy Water by Byredo is watery-spicy-laundry-in-sunshine; I would definitely love to hear your thoughts on it. Smelled it at the Chicago Barney's a couple of weeks ago.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Yes, at least the blue part resonates, I guess…

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, that sounds like it could be interesting! I imagine these will get more widely distributed in the US eventually, and then I'll get to try them all.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Pulp made me sit up and take notice when I encountered it this summer in Sweden (where it's from) at NK dept store. The smell of the scent on our skin and shirt cuffs lasted a couple of days and scented our entire luggage when packed away. STRONG stuff. It easily is head and shoulders above the others in the line. I swear I couldn't even smell Gypsy Water (!)
    Wode I encountered this weekend at Scent Bar (in town visiting Mom & Dad) but only smelled a scent strip and I do agree with the 'stone'/flint association I got from it.
    I'm one of the weird ones that wants to spray the paint on my skin. Fun!! :)

  22. Anonymous says:

    I want some of that BLUE stuff! Wow, how cool!!! I'd love to see my BF's face… first I'd beg him to buy me another overlyexpensive perfume again this year (and as always it will be the last one for a “while”, or at least a week or two:)), then it would come in an ugly cane instead of a nice bottle, I'd spray some infront of him. He would probably expect some nice fragrance, right? Then I'd spray some… blue paint, and be like OHH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS??? Somebody sold me some blue paint for 200 bucks… yes, yes I WANNA SEE HIS FACE!!!

  23. Anonymous says:

    It really is strong stuff..I'd like to wear it once in awhile, but not sure I'd like to work in a cubicle next to someone who wore it every single day!

    And I think the paint is fun too.

  24. Anonymous says:

    An expensive joke, HA! But it would be fun.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Oh my god, I could totally see myself wearing the paint everyday and only switching over to the scent for the higher concentration. A ritualistic arming myself for the “battles” I will face that day. (I could have been an Amazon in a past life.)

    “spicy and resinous” and “softly spiced leathery woods” sound gorgeous.

    The scent seems fitting of Boudicca. The scent of the woods where the Celts love to fight with guerrila tactics, their leather armor, musky skin hot from battle. Paint's a perfect picture.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like you need both cans :-)

  27. Anonymous says:

    you people that are so overly critical and making a silly mockery…you know absolutely nothing. for one thing if this were just lame-ass joke,why would it take 7 years to thoughtfully create? second,the designers-ZOWIE BROACH & BRIAN KIRBY,btw-never EVER intended it to be a scent that was going to be marketed to macy's customers…come on! they were trying to create something innovative and poetic….completely against the grain of commerce driven perfumes(which is actually a principle they don't just preach…..they practice to a T)and homogenisation.

    and if you're in shadows about them as designers,talents how about doing a bit of homework before coming to a message board before making half-assed ignorant,disgusting comments about their integrity as creators.

    they have two web sites,you know. +

    the fact is some will learn why boudicca became their label's namesake.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the clarification.

  29. sharviss says:

    The very nice people at Byredo sent me three free samples all the way from Sweden! I had emailed awhile back asking about sampling their fragrances and received a response saying they were out but they’d let me know when they had more samples. I assumed that would be the last I’d hear of it but I was wrong. A few weeks later a Byredo rep emailed me asking what I would like to try. I asked for Pulp, Bal d’Afrique and Rose Noir and here they are! And for no charge – how unusual and how nice!
    The only one I’ve tried so far is Pulp. Wow you guys weren’t joking, it’s intense! I also really agree with your description of Pulp as a fun fragrance. It seems like something that was created to put a smile on the wearer’s face. So unlike most fragrances which, if the ad copy is to be believed, aim to put a smile on the face of everyone else.
    I would be interested in a decant of this but doubt I would ever use a full bottle as you don’t need much.

    • Robin says:

      Hey, that’s really great customer service, how nice! I still have not tried Bal d’Afrique myself.

  30. Subhuman says:

    About two years late to the party, but just wanted to say that “I’m fresh out of raw opium” nearly made me spit cocoa all over my keyboard. Thanks for the guffaw, Robin!

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