Boadicea the Victorious Explorer ~ fragrance review

Temple of Nikko, Japan

The pounding rains have arrived in Seattle, and the winds, blowing into town from the Pacific, are stripping the trees of their beautifully colored fall leaves. My poor house-bound cats don’t know whether to blame me, each other, or their nemesis —  mean girl (cat) Donatella from next door — for the wet, slippery balcony, the absence of interesting birds to watch, and the non-stop twinkling of the tiny brass Thai bells that hang from each corner of my house. We’re all stuck inside: bored and feeling a bit soggy.  We’re in a mood.

The cats are shifting their focus to the comforts of the indoors: finding warm, soft places to nap and stalking treats instead of birds, moths, spiders and falling leaves. Me? I’ll read more, listen to music, and perhaps…go through the 200+ sample vials of perfume in my “to review” box on my desk.

This week, I didn’t know what to write about. I have a candle review in the works, a “shopping” post I’ve been working on and two other articles in the gestation phase. With hundreds of scents to choose from,  I looked inside “The Box” and pulled out Boadicea the Victorious Explorer, and it’s a PERFECT time to experience it.

Boadicea the Victorious makes so many fragrances (10 new releases on top of [ed. note: at least] 35 established scents for a total of 45 perfumes!) they apparently can’t provide accurate ingredients lists to retailers*. At Basenotes, Explorer’s ingredients are “Sicilian lemon, citron and cypress” and at Luckyscent and here at NST, Explorer’s ingredients are listed as Sicilian lemon, citron, cypress, orris, violet, tobacco, Tuscan leather, and oud. On the Boadicea the Victorious website, Explorer’s ingredients are bergamot, galbanum, cistus labdanum, cedar and “amber balsam…with precious orris butter.”

My nose says Boadicea the Victorious’ list is the most accurate. Explorer starts off with rich citrus tinged with bold, almost “floral” galbanum. A mélange of notes follows: leathery cistus labdanum, a “charred” birch-like note, and deep, resinous cedar wood. I detect no obvious orris butter unless it provides the sweet, powdery finish to Explorer.

Some will no doubt find Explorer too simple…more a perfume base than a fully developed fragrance. Not me. I appreciate and wear many “austere” perfumes that remind me of places (an attic, lumber yard, spice shop, or incense-filled chapel) and even objects (a leather box, a fragrant bar of soap, a newly sharpened pencil, a turpentine-soaked paintbrush, or pipe filled with burning tobacco). Many people categorize such fragrances as ambiance scents — perfect for candles or room sprays. Well…I’ve worn many room sprays over the years and, recently, almost screamed with pleasure when I discovered Cire Trudon is making room sprays.

Explorer isn't complex; it's a natural-smelling, slightly smoky, long-lasting wood/leather perfume. Every time I wear it, I think of ancient wooden Japanese Buddhist temples, filled with soot-blackened statues of Buddha and bodhisattvas. Closer to home, I can say Explorer smells good on cat fur too. I don't spray Explorer on my cats, but they can't help getting scented with my perfumes, because come fall and winter, there are more lazy days — more time for hugs and snuggling.

Boadicea the Victorious Explorer is available in 50 ($175) and 100 ml (£130) Eau de Parfum. For buying information see the listing for Boadicea the Victorious under Perfume Houses.

* They also can’t be bothered to print the names of perfumes on sample vials. I once received over 10 carded Boadicea the Victorious samples and the vials had come loose from the cards; I had no idea what vial went with which card.

Note: top image is "Nikko, Japan, Ancient Stone Dog Guarding the Temple of Nikko from Evil." stereocard view, c. 1900 via Wikimedia Commons.

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36 Comments

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  1. RuthW says:

    Great review, though it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, it was interesting to read and I loved the description of your discontented cats.
    I did however squeal (yes, I literally squealed) when you mentioned actually WEARING room sprays. I do this too! Glad to know I’m not the only one, though I usually test on my inner elbow to make sure there is nothing in it that will cause a reaction.

    • Kevin says:

      Ruth: I always assume if they are safe to breathe…they’re safe to wear. HA!

  2. maggiecat says:

    Your lovely post made me smile,having had to answer my husband’s query as to why the cat smelled like vanilla just last week. It’s the weather, silly, I should have told him, instead of trying to convince him that that’s how she always smells…

    • Kevin says:

      Maggie: you’re probably like me and wear so many different scents the cat needs a good wash at least once a season.

  3. jirish says:

    I love ‘place’ perfumes! What other smoky wood and leather scents would you compare this to – is it similar to something like Black Tourmaline? And what Cire Trudon room sprays are you looking forward to? I recently fell in love with their Balmoral candle but haven’t summoned up the courage to spent that much on a candle yet. Maybe for Christmas.

    • Kevin says:

      et tu Jirish? Everyone’s been mentioning Black Tourmaline lately and it’s one that’s been on my to-buy list for ages…guess it’s time to take the jump. This one’s more “mellow”…not quite as bleak as B.T. (and I mean “bleak” in a GOOD way!)

  4. AnnS says:

    Woo – ooh! You certainly can make the simple sound intriguing. I’ve not sampled any of this line yet, but now I think I must try this one. Galbanum and labdanum are two of my fav notes. Thanks for the review!

    • Kevin says:

      Anns: if they are favorite notes…you must try this one.

  5. Dilana says:

    Sounds like the kind of day to crank up the volume on some grunge rock. Actually, it is probably the kind of day that drove Seattle musicians to create loud, new sounds.

    • Kevin says:

      Dilana: I was actually listening to Patti Smith!

  6. dee says:

    To loosely quote Katie Puckrik re: Wonderwood, “You’re going to smell like a cabinet. A nice cabinet full of cool stuff, but a cabinet.” I loved that description.

    I have a sample of their “Delicate” fragrance, which I like, but not well enough to get excited about sampling more of the line.

    My cat likes her mice spritzed with different fragrances, so she smells like a perfume shop :).

    • Kevin says:

      Dee…believe me, don’t judge the line by one scent…there is a wide range of fragrances…some I dislike…others I’d buy in an instant if they weren’t so insanely priced.

  7. Rappleyea says:

    I loved your review, and I like the name, the bottle and the notes. Sounds like maybe I need to order samples. ;-)

    • Kevin says:

      Rappleyea…yep…but deciding which ones to sample is difficult!

  8. Tamara says:

    Kevin! Yes the tide has definitely shifted, when you wrote this it was probably yesterday -it was dreadful weather! :P But today was another glorious day and I basked in it. I love how you talked of fragrant kitties, mine are the same way, such hedonistic creatures of comfort cats are. We can learn alot from them.
    My dears smell like Feminite de Bois by Shiseido because I spray it on my blankets in my bed.
    The other morning Kinky Boy who rubbed my face good morning with his when I was on the computer smelled like URC on his soft sweet head. Scrumptious! :D

    Enjoy the afternoon<3

    • Kevin says:

      Tamara…I just took the opportunity to OPEN THE WINDOWS and deck…to get this fresh air inside. But tomorrow…more damp.

  9. Dolly2 says:

    I love the photograph Kevin. And wood-leather definitely caught my attention.

    • Kevin says:

      Dolly..I love those old “stereoscopic” photos too…was happy to find one online.

  10. helenviolette says:

    Beautifully written review Kevin- thanks- sounds like a nice one to sniff. And very curious about what candle is on the review deck :)

    • Kevin says:

      Helenviolette: a Cire Trudon…that’s all I’m sayin’

  11. killerfumes says:

    Your last line about more time for hugs and snuggling really made me less bitter about the ever approaching start of winter. I hope you and the cats will have many scented snuggles before spring comes around!

    • Kevin says:

      Killerfumes: hope so too…with scented candles burning in the background….

  12. Tama says:

    Oh, I hate unmarked samples! I just got a bunch of Odins I had to label myself, and I think the ones I got from Yosh weren’t labeled. I have a few mystery vials around, for sure. Don’t they know we don’t have room for all those dang cards??? hee heeee

    I don’t think I have tried anything from this line, although this review makes it a bit tempting. I have spritzed myself with a room spray or two, always trepidaciously, but you’re right – if we can breathe it we should be able to wear it.

    • Kevin says:

      Tama: the line’s worth exploring for sure…but it’s strange, the ones I was sure I would hate, I LIKED…and the ones I thought I would love, left me cold. It’s hard to make a decision on what to try next.

  13. mals86 says:

    Lovely word-picture of you and your cats at home, Kevin, and I enjoyed the review as well.

    I haven’t been drawn to any of the Boadicea scents, having read at least a few reviews that called them “harsh” and not well blended. But I admit to really digging that bottle – I assume all of their scents come in something like that? – and your description of Explorer sounds lovely. Like Ann, I love galbanum and labdanum too.

    I can’t help but feel a tiny bit jealous of your autumnal weather. We’ve had weeks and weeks of what I’d call Indian summer, golden and mostly dry, with warm temperatures. It’s been utterly lovely, yet the warmth makes it difficult to wear the things I reserve especially for fall (notably vtg Magie Noire, which is so *perfect* on a chilly, wet, windy day with leaves underfoot that I hesitate to mess with perfection by wearing it at any other time).

    • Kevin says:

      Mals: I’d call them BOLD instead of harsh…though a few, ones I liked, were tornadoes. Weeks on Indian summer sound GREAT to me! I grew up in Virginia and love this time of year. I’ve already fallen on the moss-covered driveway and it’s not even November!

  14. lilyboy says:

    happy lazy days to you kevin :)

    lovely review and images.. i can almost imagine you living in that nikko temple with your cats lazing around.. didnt notice there was a dog there..

    for some reason, your descriptions of natural and ambience characteristics, and even the contrast of the perfume’s liquid with the transparency of that bottle make me think of diptyque perfumes, as i always feel that most of the classic diptyques are closer to ambience perfumes (at least to my nose & skin) and have a transparent feel to them than many other perfumes.. and i love them for that.. would you say that although they may not smell the same, the aura of Victorious is around the same color?

    i doubt that we have the line here in SE asia though.. sad, coz the comparisons to bodhisattvas temples sound beautiful.. and the bottles look beautiful.. and the prices are a bit on the higher end it seems :P

    • Kevin says:

      lilyboy: there’s a stone dog sculpture in front of the temple I believe…you can see a large version of the photo if you follow my Wiki Commons link. Some of the BtV scents do have an “EARLY” (as in: long long ago) Diptyque vibe. Diptyque’s gone all “mainstream” on me!

      • lilyboy says:

        ah.. yeah, i agree on the diptyque unfortunately..

        oh yeah, i see the doggie.. or what seems to be like a doggie.. i thought the image was a painting.. it’s actually an old photograph.. lovely..

  15. miss kitty v. says:

    I have no comments about the fragrance. (Other than that I’m with Ann and those are a couple of my favorite notes and I need to try this.) I just love that the mean neighbor cat is named Donatella. :) Of course she is!

    • Kevin says:

      She’s my cat Teddy’s sister-in-law (she will never forgive him for making her sister pregnant and then moving on to other ladies). ALL kittens found homes before I “abducted” Teddy and made him an indoor gentleman…with a few, a-hem, body parts deleted! HA!

  16. teri says:

    Kevin, I will happily trade you one of your 24-hour non-stop rainy days for one of my high desert 24-hour cloud-free 10% humidity days. But only one. I’m far too fond of my ‘good hair’ days to let more than one go, but just one day of long non-stop rain would be a welcome reminder of my former life in the midwest.

    There are 2 of the Boadiceas that I like and have decants of: Divine and Intense. Neither are what I’d call ‘easy wears’, but when I’m in the mood to be challenged…and challenging…they fit the bill.

    • Kevin says:

      Teri: that’s a good way to put it: ‘challenging!’

      I will happily trade, but if you’re in the high desert don’t you get the “electricity in the hair” effect? HA!

  17. anna says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Lovely review as always.
    I don’t get cuddles from my cat as she is too snooty.
    Love being in when it rains, one of my favourite things.
    A

    • Kevin says:

      Anna: yes, love hearing the rains on the roof and the window panes.

  18. Sorry for an out of topic request here: Is anyone here from Europe travelling to Paris by plane soon? I found out that Vol de Nuit Evasion could still be found in shops in Charles de Gaulle Airport (Achats Parfums & Cosmétiques Aelia) and I just die to have one bottle. I live in Germany, so this why it would be easier for a person from Europe to ship it. I would be forever grateful for help.

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