There are some parts of being a perfume critic which sound like fun, but in reality are truly painful. Alas, the requisite panning of the sole offering by a new niche house is one of these arduous tasks. Thus, it is with no small portion of sympathy for the perfumer, that I offer what is likely my worst review of any fragrance to date. More dreadful still, we are talking about a 100% organic fragrance, making my review a serious black eye to the natural perfumery community. I know that we all fear the effect of IFRA on natural compositions, but after smelling this fragrance, I can only ask – where, oh where, is IFRA when you need it?
Deer Off fails to make a good impression from the very start. Let’s begin with the packaging. I can accept that niche houses are prone to making clumsy attempts at unique presentation, but this is ridiculous. Blue plastic? It just screams synthetic. One would think that even the smallest house could get SOME form of artistic direction. I have no idea what these people were thinking. Worse still, I have to assure the reader that there is not even a single aquatic note in the fragrance, nor anything else which would even remotely suggest blue. The color is, at best, an artistic faux pas, but in combination with other indiscretions, I really feel that its usage borders on misleading.
And speaking of other indiscretions, they are legion. The inclusion of a what is clearly a postmodern, if not downright exotic spray mechanism, together with a very traditional cylindrical flacon (albeit made of modern materials), robs the packaging of all coherence. Worse still, the labeling is – quite frankly – hideous. Not only is red, white and blue suggestive of a much more traditional fragrance – the relegation of yellow to mere accents – in a fragrance dominated by notes suggestive of yellow and brown – seems neither sensible nor intentionally absurd.
But the flaws here are not merely artistic. The sprayer itself is both overly liberal in its dispensations, and somewhat unreliable, in that it has a tendency to clog when left standing for years. And the latter is particularly serious in a fragrance with suspended solids.
Yes, you heard me right. SUSPENDED SOLIDS.
Unlike more conventional offerings (think Sécrétions Magnifiques), Deer Off leverages the artistically and historically apropos power of rotten eggs, bringing a Creed-like “retroscentual” sensibility and reliance on natural absolutes to the shock-and-awe regions of the 8th art. Unfortunately, there was clearly a rush-to-market here. A house such as Hugo Boss, fully under the puppet-strings of a cosmetics giant, or even a less corporate designer such as Hermès, would have surely done a minimal job of quality control on a similar effort. Even the occasional dead roach in a bottle, such as the one which famously slipped past the boys at Lomani, is acceptable in today’s fast-moving world of interesting new releases. But to knowingly use a component like putrescent whole egg solids, and then treat the composition like a traditional eau de cologne? The mind boggles.
Nevertheless, all sins are forgivable if the juice is good. Alas, I have bad news to report on that score. It is the fragrance itself, I most emphatically assure you, which truly fails to deliver.
When antifragrance reaches for its artistic halo, trampled and dirty as it may be, one hopes that emotional depths are reached, just as one would hope for equal heights in fragrance itself. When I first smelled Jean-Claude Ellena’s Hermèssence Vétiver Tonka, I may have been unshaven and half-naked, and sitting on the only throne in my house, but I swear by vetiver itself that I raised my fist and cried out “There is a God!” And though the sublime thoughts I had at that time do not merit the sorrowful presentation of this review, I most strongly assure the reader that I did have them, that they were sublime, and that I will share them in a more appropriate venue, at a more appropriate time.
My point is this – antifragrance should reach an equal low to demonstrate genius. Were I to have cried out in horrified agony, upon smelling Hermèssence Vétiver Merde, that Satan himself had seen to its creation, and had I then sent the ghastly liquid flying into the foot of my thone, and onward to bacterial doom, I would now be telling you that there is no piece of the eighth art which is not measured against the coinage of Hermès, nor valued as lesser for not bearing the likeness of the true emperor of scent, Jean-Claude I.
Thus, we look to fragrances such as Deer Off to give us what the collections Hermèssence and Exclusif will not.
Sadly, Deer Off does not provide. Without reservation, I say that it is a an utter failure as antifragrance. In a world where Sécrétions Magnifiques has the power to make Katie Puckrik squirm and emote in ways which make us all quite thankful for the modern blessings of tight clothes and viral video, Deer Off is, at best, “kinda bad”. Indeed, it begs one to sniff more closely, trying to sense if the eggs are truly rotten. Such a reaction is unthinkable in the world of antifragrance. The words “utter disappointment” are simply not enough.
But the disappointment doesn’t end there. No – it gets worse. We have not yet spoken of the fragrance’s development.
The drydown of Deer Off – particularly on skin – exposes the base, which includes pepper (rather rudely referred to as “capsaicinoids”) and a very daring component – garlic. That’s it – three components, all natural. In the hands of Olivier Polge, these three might have yielded a sublime unisex gourmand. In the hands of Christopher Brosius, they might have yielded the shockingly repulsive/attractive aroma of the loo behind the pizza parlor. But in the hands of some anonymous niche perfumers – who seem so unskilled at perfumery, that they might as well become pest control experts – these three components yield the foul smell of a HUMAN. A very common, unkempt, dirty, food-stained couch potato, in fact – stinking strongly of food and body odor, and quite possibly owning lots of guns. It is, quite literally, the closest thing to body odor and bad breath that I have ever smelled without cupping my hand over my mouth and nose and breathing gently.
Now, if these perfumers had been pursuing such a strange fragrance, I would be tempted to call it genius. However, knowing that this is merely a sad attempt to unseat Sécrétions Magnifiques as the reigning Queen of Bodily Fluids, I must call it the rubbish that it is. Were I to name Deer Off as it smells, it would be Sécrétions Très Ordinaires.
There is only one bright spot in the sad cloud of doom, which is this pitiful attempt at antifragrance. On the off chance that the pepper in this fragrance might really be unpalatable to the animals which raid our garden, I applied it rather liberally to our emerging tulips. Loo and behold, the pesky critters (whatever they are) do indeed appear to dislike the stuff.
I have to admit – I thought it rather cute that this fragrance should actually repel animals. After all, the only other pest I had tested it upon – for some reason – was made quite happy by the stuff.