Monday 24 August 2020


The perfume industry is usually thought of as a kind of diaphanous world of late lunches and canapés. Well prepare to have that blown out of the water by Carter Weeks Maddox, the founder of the latest niche brand from Florida called Chronotope. This self-taught perfumer is going to take us from Estée Lauder to bathhouse slings, and everything in-between, as we discover more about him during “Stephan’s Six”.

What is the first smell that you can remember?
I’m unsure of a first, and I worry that any one thing I try to answer definitively with will be a fabrication since memory, especially from early childhood, is so unreliable. Still, I grew up deep in the East Texas Pineywoods, and my earlier scent memories are mostly wild: red clay soil, loamy earth, pine sap, wild mushrooms, oak rot, creekbeds, crawfish, hay, brush fires, the hickory that dad used to smoke brisket. Then there are fecopoetic smells like cow patties and chicken shit and horse urine and skunk spray and algae. Then there are deadly smells like gunpowder and bore solvent, cottonmouth musk, tractor exhaust, our woods as they blazed one hot summer night when a campfire got out of control, and the fumes from a meth lab that was hidden on the property next to us after it blew up. I feel nostalgic for some of these smells (hickory, mushrooms, red clay soil, bore solvent) but repelled by others (cottonmouth musk!).

What perfumes did your parents wear?
Mom wore Halston Classic during fall and winter and L’air du Temps during spring and summer. She also wore Red Door as a powder and cream. Dad wore Aramis, occasional dabs from a bottle of Polo Green, and Clubman. Mom hated the Clubman. Mostly I remember wearing them too. I thought I was being really sneaky about it, but nobody could have honestly not noticed that a six year old was wearing Halston.

What was the perfume of your twenties?
I wore Gucci Rush right as I turned twenty. Then I entered grad school at twenty-one, and I was incredibly broke and hardly able to afford food, much less fragrance. Instead, I wore cheap essential oils that I dropped straight onto my wrists, which was my ignorant intro to blending! For my twenty-third birthday, with money from my first adult job, I bought Tom Ford Tuscan Leather, which I layered on top of tiny dabs of Matthew Camp 8.5. So, for a while, I smelled like a raspberry urinal cake and a black leather bathhouse sling. Don't knock it until you try it.

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
One Christmas - I would have been twelve or so - my grandmother put Tommy Hilfiger Freedom in all the cousins’ stockings. I’ve never been able to keep my mouth shut, so when I smelled it and expressed how awful it was (“like a baking soda and vinegar volcano!”), she overheard, and I ruined Christmas.

If you could only choose one perfume?
I'll take Dior's 1963 formula of Diorling in one of those big, old, pour le voyage bottles. It's such a kick-ass chypre. All chypres are kick-ass perfumes. Diorling’s hyacinth, and its off-kilter melon buzzing around with the oakmoss in the background, makes the juice so alluring. The past year has been all about green scents for me, especially the isobutyl quinoline ones, and Diorling is the perfect kind of green IBQ perfume. Unlike Bandit by Piguet, which can choke me, I can wear Diorling even in the hottest, most humid days of Florida summer.

What perfume should I try?
Why not go for Playalinda. It’s my baby, and it’s a perfume about memory, especially the unreliability of memory. I made it particularly for people who haven’t really been represented very well, thematically, in perfume yet - not outside of mockery or placation, at least. I'll let you and the readers figure out what I mean by that.

For more information about Carter Weeks Maddox, and to purchase the Chronotope perfume collection, you can visit

[Photograph of Carter Weeks Maddox © Liv Jonsé]

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