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Beaver – Much more than a national symbol – July 10, 2015

Image - -Trying to run a beaver dam, Algonquin Park, Ontario, Nov. 11, 2006 -by Burtonpe

In our constant search for great frags close to home, Gwen discovered Victor Wong and his newly launched line of animal-inspired scents called Zoologist. It turns out that Victor lives not far from the downtown neighbourhood where we both live so she called him up and said “how about a coffee and a chat?” We met last week and had a long chin-wag with him about his perfumes, his brand, the state of niche perfumery, his vision for the future, and a lot of other things, including the Pan-Am Games and the situation in Greece.  Victor, it turns out, is a really interesting guy, a very talented guy, who decided to take his obsession with and knowledge about fragrances to another level, and actually create his own niche line. I admire him for that.

You likely read about the three Zoologist fragrances in Esther’s post this past Wednesday. Coincidence? I think not. Victor brought samples to our meeting, and the two of us were so knocked out by all three scents that we had to bring Esther into the circle. I succumbed and bought a bottle of Beaver. Gwen also bought one too, which I’m certain she’ll share with you soon.

Why the animal theme, why Zoologist? I’ll let Victor explain:

“…our fascination with animals is boundless. Their habitats, behaviours and looks; their similarities and differences with humans, even their smells give us a lot to ponder. Their cunning inspires us, their agility resonates with our primal instincts… Our scents will reconnect you with manifold delights of the natural world.” His fragrances contain no animal products – traditional musks have been replaced with synthetic ones for ethical reasons – but the eau de parfums capture “the idiosyncrasies of the animal kingdom and transform them into scents that are unusual, beautiful, fun and even shocking.”

Victor told us he was inspired to create the Beaver scent for several reasons:

-  the beaver fur trade was such an important part of Canadian history – the world famous Hudson’s Bay Company, which was incorporated in 1767, was built on their furry backs

-  along with the maple leaf, the beaver is a national symbol, commemorated on Canadian nickels and stamps. In 1975, an act of Parliament officially made Castor Canadensis the official symbol of Canada’s national sovereignty

-  it’s part of perfume history since castoreum, an oily fixative used in perfumery for decades, is sourced from the beaver’s scent glands, and is part of the distinctive ‘animalic’ note group – the skank notes.

- it’s a fascinating and highly intelligent animal, skilled in engineering and hydro dynamics – watch this CBC documentary on the beaver, narrated by Dr. David Suzuki. You’ll never think if it in the same way again!

To help him make the beaver come alive in his scent-world, Victor asked perfumer Chris Bartlett of Pell Wall Perfumes from the Edge, who is an independent perfumer based in Shropshire, England, to lend a hand. Victor sent Chris his creative brief, his verbal  description of the scented animal – the smell of his lodge, his wet fur, the pond, the water, the trees, the greenery, the bog, the warm air, the cold air. Then they worked closely by e-mail, phone, Skype, and Royal Mail to get to the final version. Victor said they’ve never met in person, but the result of their arms-length collaboration is a totally unusual and striking fragrance!

Beaver opens with the smell of animal skank, the castoreum, a thick, oily, smoked-leather big pouf! that’s soon joined by something sweet and unmistakably floral and familiar – it’s linden blossom, which lightens the skank, makes me go ahhhh and settle into the cushions on the sofa. I immediately know I’m going to love this! It smells rich, close and warm, soft and luxurious, like fur.

Then the fragrance suddenly opens up, like surfacing from underwater into bright sunshine, and the watery vegetal notes start to emerge – grasses, marshy shoreline, peatmoss, mixed with the musky smell of the sleek furred beaver bodies. The animalic funk of the opening castoreum note remains but is softened even further as rooty iris and airy musks swirl together at the water’s edge. Notes of cedarwood bring the sun-dappled forest into this natural wet pantheon – the beaver, after all, is best known for his way with trees in water. With the addition of dark vanilla and amber in the dry-down, layered over the smoky animalics and the florals and the resinous woods, Beaver becomes mesmerizing. It plays on my skin for hours, and has an intimate sillage that I find infinitely appealing.

Beaver is a scent about a fascinating animal, rather than an animalic scent. I think that Victor Wong and Chris Bartlett have done an incredible job of creating a scentscape of the beaver in his natural world, and truly captured its beauty as well as its intelligence in this debut Zoologist scent. I too, am an animal lover, and I can’t wait to smell more animals in the Zoologist bottles. Which ones will Victor choose next?.....

Beaver is listed in our Decant store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.

Zoologist fragrances can be ordered directly from Victor Wong’s website,