Thursday 29 April 2021

SPELL 125 by Papillon Perfumery

When we look at the never ending stream of reviews for any new perfume you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve read it all before. Many of them seem to follow the press release from the company so rigidly that you can almost second guess what is going to be said. The real joy of fragrance is that different people can react in different ways to the same scent, so why not say so? This is what happened when I smelled the latest release from Liz Moores and Papillon Perfumery. Whilst it may have originally been inspired by ancient Egyptian rituals, Spell 125 took me instead to Germany and its annual celebration of Hexennacht.

When Liz Moores launched Papillon Perfumery it literally blew the minds of the British fragrance industry. Her skill at combining the finest ingredients with the most exciting of subjects resulted in accolades from around the world, with even Luca Turin describing her creations as having “confidence, balance, and polish.” With an ability to be guided by a unique inner voice, and never compromising on quality, this self-taught perfumer has truly offered a window into the past with her rich and luxurious fragrances. With six perfumes already in the collection, where would the much anticipated number seven take us?

Liz has taken inspiration from the final judgement in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Spell 125. She describes it as “the ceremonial process of crossing the underworld to reach the afterlife, including the famous weighing of the heart ceremony, and represents lightness pulled by darkness.” She’d previously drawn on Egyptology in her first fragrance, Anubis, which was named after the Egyptian God of the afterlife, and so feels like this is “closing the circle.” As I mentioned at the beginning, fragrance can take the wearer in many different directions and I found myself being drawn instead to Germany.

The evening of April 30th is known as Walpurgisnacht and celebrates the canonisation of Saint Walpurga, who reportedly had the ability to repel witches. The date would actually go on to become synonymous with other festivals that warded off evil. However it's also Hexennacht, which saw witches gather on the Brocken, the highest peak of Germany’s Harz mountain range, and engage in “celebratory and ceremonial acts.” These kind of dark arts led to the publication of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum in 1486, a brutal guide for the detection and punishment of witches. Thankfully you've got nothing to fear. In fact, you'll be enchanted.

Spell 125 opens with an incredible burst of pine, which almost places you on the semi-forested Brocken, but simultaneously there’s the scent of oakmoss. This adds to the feeling of a heathland location, and the arrival of a damp stone aroma definitely hints at the Devil’s Pulpit and the Witches’ Altar. However, you're then plunged into the finest ritualistic frankincense, blended with ylang and clove, which produces a ceremonial accord that is addictively disturbing. Add in a touch of black beeswax candle, alongside tonka bean and sandalwood, and the stage is set for Hexennacht. A final goat-like labdanum hints that the horned Lucifer may be nearby, but I'm sure that Liz Moores will have included a charm to protect us.

Spell 125 is available from the Papillon Perfumery website at priced at £150 for 50ml and £5.50 for 2ml. You can click on the image below to read my “Stephan's Six” interview with Liz Moores from 2016. [Sample provided by Papillon Perfumery]

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