A few months back, when Zoologist Perfumes was announcing Moth on Instagram, I commented (scent unsmelled) that the Moth artwork was giving me “lots of glamor, for some reason, like fur coats with pearl bracelets over silk gloves.” I said I was living for it then, and now that I’ve finally spent a little time with Moth, I can confirm it’s glamorous, yes, seductively so, even, but it’s also opulent and ornate, baroque yet modern, and you might even say a little bit gothic. I’m most certainly living for it, but much like life, making sense of it’s another matter entirely.
Moth is impressively dense and reminds me of my first encounter with Camel: not because they smell the same, but because they both have an undeniable richness and complexity that is evident from the opening on. It is full of spices and honey and subtle florals, and as it dries down it takes on this fantastic Habanita-esque accord that includes oud, vetiver, and patchouli. It’s powdery, resinous, woody, smoky, and a bit chilly, and even though likening it to the curl of smoke of an extinguished candle seems like an awfully on-the-nose way to describe it, there you have it. Moth is full of old-school detail and modern execution, a neo-Baroque interpolation of the Oriental that never feels stuffy, and I really hope somebody gives Tomoo Inaba a bonus and the rest of the week off (at least!), because she’s earned it.
I mean, really, Moth is so good that describing it with stock perfume lingo and cliched snuffed-candle imagery doesn’t do it justice, so here are a few cultural points of reference I think might better give a better idea of what to expect:
1. The Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde: When it comes to taste, I’m in all things a bit of a maximalist. I prefer my symphonies and operas from the Romantic era onward, so while Richard Wagner’s sociopolitical views were indefensible anti-Semitic trash, the man was one hell of a composer, and few things move me quite like his “Liebestod” from Tristan und Isolde. It’s the definition of extra: Isolde, stricken with despair over her lover Tristan’s death, literally sings herself into a state of ecstasy and dies. To my ears, it’s the sound of transcendental rapture, something that’d be camp in its excess if it didn’t work so damn well. Instead, it’s sublime, and I think Moth shares both “Liebestod”‘s sense capacity for the ecstatic and its inevitable destiny to extinguish itself, beautifully.
2. Annie Lennox’s “Love Song for a Vampire”: For a hot second I nearly included the music video for “Walking on Broken Glass” instead, because nothing makes me think “powdered wigs and candlelight, but modern” quite like that music video, but then it occurred to me that “Love Song for a Vampire” is a better fit, musically speaking, plus you get all those clips from Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which basically makes this music video a real twofer for articulating what kind of perfume Moth is. It doesn’t really matter which song I go with, though, because I’d happily drown in any perfume that lets me live in a circa-Diva Annie Lennox fantasy.
3. The Art Direction in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera: When I was a kid, my parents saw a touring version of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera, and even though they aren’t musical theater people, per se, they were really impressed by the production design, so much so that they spoke of the play chiefly in terms of how much I would love the way it looked, and when it returned to the Fox Theater a year or two later, they took me. I’m not sure what any of this says about my pre-tween sensibilities, but my parents were absolutely right, and I’m pretty sure if you could the art direction, it’d smell like Moth, because both are all about lush textures tinged oh-so-slightly with gothic horror and chockablock full of melting candles. I’ll include this clip from Joel Schumacher’s 2004 film adaptation because it’s got all that and a subtle nod to Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête.
4. Season Three of Hannibal: It’s important to know when you should quit, which is why it’s weird to me that television didn’t just stop after Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal went off the air in 2015. It’s not like anyone or anything will ever top the perfectly calibrated and executed third season of Fuller’s Gesamtkunstwerk, which combined grand guignol, high camp, slow motion, Italian Renaissance architecture, surrealism, European travelogues, aspirational food porn, and more slow motion to tell the tale of two star-crossed murder husbands. It’s like Call Me By Your Name, but with cannibalism instead of apricot juice. Moth doesn’t quite have as discerning an appetite, but it’s every bit as much a celebration of exquisite taste writ large, and just like Hannibal, you’ll find it in the dictionary under chiaroscuro. Seriously, if you’ve never seen Hannibal, do yourself a favor and watch it, preferably from the beginning.
And when you do, for heaven’s sake, wear some Moth while you do it. You can thank me later.