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Fathom V – green and greener and greenest

Spray breaking over The Cobb, at Lime Regis, England

People often recommend fragrances to me, and I like it when they do. It's one of the best ways to discover perfumes I'm not familiar with. So, when a friend brought a bottle of Fathom V over to my place one evening and suggested I try it because it was 'great.' I asked her what it was that made it 'great.' She's not a perfumer, and neither am I, so I wasn't looking for some analysis of the composition, its chemical structure or molecular breakdown. What I was after was her experience of the fragrance. Excitedly, she said, 'It's the romantic drama of the wild sea, tumultuous and dark. When I wear it, I feel like Sarah in 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' standing on The Cobb, staring out to sea.' She began to pick up speed. 'Sold,' I said when she paused to take a breath, 'now spritz it on me'. She was right. Fathom V is great.

Fathom V is from British niche line BeauFort London and is part of its Come Hell or High Water collection. I have, and wear, 1805 Tonnerre from the same collection, so I knew Fathom V was going to be something special.

According to the BeauFort London website, the inspiration for the fragrance was a passage from "Ariel's Song" in Shakespeare's play The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
A 'sea-change into something rich and strange'? An intriguing premise to base a perfume on.

Fathom V opens with a shot of juniper berries – fresh and camphourous. A note of rich, juicy tangerine rides along and gives the top a burst of brightness before tangy, black currant appears adding an animalic edge. And then it changes. Green leafy notes and earthy notes join the mix creating the effect of being in a greenhouse or florist's shop - I smell plants, soil and water. This phase is cold, deep and dark, and that potent verdant smell that is captivating.  This is green on steroids – and driven by an aquatic note that makes me feel current- swept and tide-tossed. As it develops, a note of thyme boosts the greenness and links it to a floral heart of aquatic lily, sweet indolic jasmine, rich, creamy ylang-ylang and green-faceted mimosa. The flowers are warmed by rich spices: ginger, cumin, black pepper. This is lovely and a sharp contrast to what came before it. If the first phase was like being in the deep, dark tumultuous ocean, then this next phase is like being cast upon a warm shore.

And then it changes. The base is deep and dark, green and earthy. The green re-asserts itself again with earthy, green vetiver and moss, with its characteristic scent of decay. It smells marshy and murky to me. These are joined by sweet, earthy, patchouli, green, piney Atlas Cedar. A dark, smoky note of Frankincense weaves through the fragrance as does the smell of salt-sea air. Sweet, resinous, amber finishes the fragrance.

The drydown, is herbaceous, earthy, woody and smells of salty skin and is unexpectedly romantic and seductive. It can be a challenging fragrance for some people for sure, but it does have its own dark, haunting beauty. Labelled as unisex, it does have some 'masculine' aspects, but that doesn't stop people from leaning in when I wear it.

Fathom V is a fragrance of contrasts: light and dark, warm and cold, calm and wild based on a play about magic and magic is about metamorphosis. The way nose Julie Marlowe creates and manages these transformations in Fathom V is masterful and one of the reasons Fathom V won an Art and Olfaction Award in 2017 in the Independent Category.

It’s also what makes Fathom V so exciting to smell and to wear. It’s this kind of excitement that drew me to niche fragrances in the first place.

Fathom V is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $6.00 for 1 ml.

Image - Wikipedia, by Peter Levy, June 20, 1997