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Dark Passage - Yes! - June 29, 2012 New Fragrance Listing

Photo - Wikipedia - Bacall and Bogart in the trailer from Dark Passage - Warner Bros. 1947

“Hey, lady, you wanna smell some patchouli? Just follow me down this Dark Passage…..”

So I go. I’ve been gone for hours and I don’t want to come back – I want to stay and inhale this until I pass out.

Andy Tauer’s newest perfume is a drug for me – I am a patchouli addict totally beyond re-hab. Here’s the problem - Dark Passage is a limited edition, and I bought one very small atomizer, so when it’s gone, it’s gone – forever. What am I gonna do?

I love hyperbole. I think you get the picture of my reaction to this gorgeous scent – but to be honest, I’m not really exaggerating that much. Dark Passage is an extraordinary scent that should be available for everyone, forever, but the fact is that it isn’t, and won’t be. 

Andy Tauer describes Dark Passage as a “snapshot fragrance”, here for a while, then gone.  It’s an offshoot of the Tableau de Parfums line which Tauer has created to promote  Brian Pera's film project, Woman's Picture. The Tableau scents are fully-fledged “portrait” fragrances available in bottles to purchase, the names taken from famous movie actresses, but the scents based on the characters in Brian Pera's film Only Child. The first scent was Miriam, the second is Loretta, which will be launched in October 2012, and the third is Ingrid, slated for 2013. 

Dark Passage was offered only in March 2012, through Kickstarter, a funding program where you pledge a donation in support of a creative project, and receive a gift in return. So I pledged $60 to the Only Child film project, which entitled me to a 7 ml. gift of Dark Passage, which is a fair bit of change for a little bit of juice, but I’d read enough about it to know that it would be something very special. I received it a week ago, and I’ve been living in the dark ever since.

For inspiration, Andy went back in time to the old film noir dramas of the 40’s – “Dark Passage” was one of the four movies made by Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall – and back to his own recent past as a perfumer when he worked with dark, rich raw materials like birch tar – try his Lonestar Memories! In an blog, (March 3, 2012) he tells of getting his hands on two new raw materials – a special patchouli and a rich roasted cocoa... “ I wanted to bring the two together, the patchouli and the cocoa, but not doing a typical sweet and nice gourmand patchouli cacao pudding, but by making a patchouli-centric fragrance that comes with a dirty, rooty, earthy, animalic line linked into it.” He wanted the result to feel untamed and natural, to restore the wild beauty of the materials that is often stripped out of finished scents.

How does he do this? He pairs the patchouli and cocoa with iris. All three notes are raw, vegetal, rooty, earthy in the opening accord, which is dark, musty and powdery. Quite an effect. Where’s the sweet? There isn’t any. This is funky, on the edge of dirty. I immediately think of Serge Lutens Borneo 1834, but Dark Passage is much, much darker in comparison, and more bitter, like 90% dark chocolate versus 60%.

A camphorous, dank note fades quickly as the juice warms on my skin, and a hint of sweetness starts to slide out of the shadows. I feel relieved, but at the same time, a little apprehensive that Dark Passage is going to go somewhere I don’t want it to, but the sweetness remains as a hint, restrained by smoky birch tar and green vetiver. Beeswax creates this honeyed sweetness but colours it with a distinctive musky, animalic edge. This really does smell wild, raw and untamed, natural, and stirs some primal memory deep in my brain. I'm breathless.

Patchouli and cocoa are the true stars throughout this extraordinary scent, and after an hour on my skin, the two notes have warmed and sweetened enough so that Dark Passage has a soft leathery vanilla accord. I sniff faint bits of aged tobacco and burnt caramel floating around the edges, which is the birch tar and beeswax combo, I guess, but it’s a very very long way from becoming another sweet gourmand frag. This is exotic, luxurious, and there’s  dark energy underneath, a sensual undertone that is transmitted in the richly intimate sillage .

Dark Passage, the Bogart-Bacall movie, is a story about secrets, lies, jealousy, revenge, pursuit, and death, high-lighted by the sexual tension between the two famous stars. At the end of the film, their characters meet and embrace - at night, in a dark club, in a foreign country. Their passionate love is real, but there’s a feeling that danger still lives in the shadows. Are they safe? We don’t know. It’s a true film noir, melodramatic to the end.

Andy Tauer’s parfum noir tells this same story through scent. Dark Passage recreates the charged atmosphere, starting out raw, bitter, mysterious, dangerous, and ending with the promise of warm soft luxury. Through the dry-down to the beautiful end, the special patchouli accord still has that note of sexual danger, the possibility that the petit mort*, that momentary out-of-body experience from sexual pleasure, could be more than petit, and a little more permanent. What a way to go!

* Ahh, those French again – they have a way with words! -  Petit mort translates as “little death”, a typically Gallic interpretation of the very clinical English word “orgasm”.

I’m willing to share some of this amazing frag with patchouli lovers. Decants of Dark Passage are .5 ml – 1/2 filled - and are $5.00 each. Order soon, because when it’s gone – it’s gone.