Set aside the notes for a minute. This isn’t a fragrance overly centered on either tobacco or tuberose. Slowdive, for me, is Hiram Green’s take on honey.
And what a gorgeous and strange honey this is. Medicinal and syrupy, it begins as a river of intense aromas all knotted together so thickly that it’s difficult to make out what one is smelling. On my first wearing, I thought the opening had something of that anisic, clove-scented cherry dough that forms the medicinal heart of L’Heure Bleue (Guerlain) or even Kimonanthe (Diptyque), but a second wearing told me I was wrong.
Even in the opening, this is all about a thick floral honey with a rustic, if not medieval flavor. The honey is not animalic or smoky, but waxy and opaque with a golden, late afternoon sunshine feel to it. Dotted with tufts of mint, hay, licorice, anise, and wildflower herbs, the intensity of the honey is lifted just in time, moments before the dreaded cloy. It must have been difficult to achieve the balance between syrup (density) and air (lightness), especially in an all-natural composition, but I think Hiram Green’s managed it.
You might look at the notes list for Slowdive and imagine that the tobacco, the orange flower, and the tuberose dominate the composition. This would normally be the case, given the presence of such bullish notes. But there’s a series of pleasant surprises here in how Green has restrained these more exuberant notes in favor of the more delicate floral mead/honey/herb aspect.
The tobacco, or rather, coumarin, smells more like dry hay and chamomile tea than pipe tobacco. The tuberose hands over its textural qualities of butter and rubber, but holds back on its plushier, candied side. And although the green, waxy neroli that Green uses so well in many of his fragrances is present, under the surface, it only makes itself known through a slight orange tint to the honey.
The overall impression is of a slow-moving river of honey dragging whole drifts of meadowfoam, sunburned hay, and lacey wildflowers along with it. Imagine the court of King Henry VI camping for the night in the sprawling hunting grounds of Anne Boleyn’s uncle’s castle. It’s late summer, the hay is brown in the fields, and all about there is the gentle hum of honey bees. Cook has spilled the pale, waxy honey so beloved of the bad-tempered king, and scrapes it up off the ground hastily with a knife, not realizing that it is now flecked here and there with the malty herbs strewn on the ground to cleanse the air of unhealthy odors. And in fact, Slowdive is what the king will later taste on his bread, a delicious but inedible enfleurage of flowers in honey.
The rustic, medieval feel I get from Slowdive is underlined by the beery smell of fermenting hops in the drydown. At this point, it reminds me very much of a thick face cleanser I got in Koreatown, New York, a few months ago, called Natura Republic Honey and Herb Cleansing Cream. I love the smell of this cream, because like Slowdive, it reminds me how close the natural scent of honey is to both hay and beer hops. The smell of the Irish countryside on a good day! There is also the richness of dried fruit, but again, this gives less of the Lutensian vibe one might be expecting and more of a sour dried cherry aroma, dry and unsentimental. Like flowers doused in nutritional yeast.
Despite the syrupy intensity of its opening, I would place Slowdive more towards the clean end of the honey spectrum than the carnal one. It is not, for example, as smoky as Absolue Pour Le Soir (Maison Francis Kurkdjian), as retro-fabulous as Tubéreuse III Animale (Histoires de Parfum), or as pissy-dirty as Tabac Tabou (Parfum d’Empire), although it does share the strong rustic-rural bent of the latter. Instead, I would classify it as belonging to the same group of strong, floral, or harvest-time honeys as Golden Cattleya by Olympic Orchids and Botrytis by Ginestet. If you love thick, narcotic honey scents that balance syrupy sweetness with a herbal or floral cleanliness, then I can’t recommend Slowdive highly enough. It’s one of the best scents I’ve tried in this particular genre, and all-natural to boot.
Notes: neroli, orange flower, tobacco blossom, tuberose, honey, dried fruit, resin