Blackbird Fragrances Are Androgynous & Unconventional Scents That Tell A Story About Each Wearer
There is nothing I love more than coming across new unconventional scents. Ordinary notes like gardenia, musk, and patchouli seem more boring to me than perfumes that imitate the olfactory components of leather, weed, or even motor oil. Perhaps that's why I'm so drawn to Blackbird fragrances. I like all things weird, and when it comes to my go-to scents, the weirder the better. The use of these more peculiar notes helps me reevaluate my perceptions of beauty, while muskier notes like leather and weed allow me to redefine myself as a sensual and more empowered individual.
Not only is it fun to discover how, say, a Play-Doh-inspired scent smells, but it's also pretty great to see how that smell transports you to moments of nostalgia, love, or comfort. For me, scent is beyond mainstream beauty and consumerism: It has the power to transform, especially now that the ever-evolving idea of what perfume should smell like is arguably becoming freer.
Some of the more unconventional scents out there are not always super wearable unfortunately (note: Don't wear a perfume that smells like a campfire unless you like the smell of smoke and charred skin). Other times the concepts of these wild fragrances are far better than their actual end result (hello, pure bacon perfume). But fragrance and grooming company Blackbird seems to have things figured out.
Aaron Way, lead perfumer at Blackbird, described the process of creating these unique scents to me in a preview for the collection. "Typically we come up with an abstract concept before any notes are discussed," he says. "In the end, we want our creations to be beautiful and distinct which always means adding a few rare or unusual ingredients."
Fragrances can arguably act as vehicles through which the wearer can live out a certain persona or experience. The perfumers may have a particular idea about the feeling or scene they want to convey, but ultimately the goal is always to empower the wearer to construct their own meaning and story via the perfume. This process also informs the naming process of Blackbird's fragrances, for which developers choose vague titles (like "Broken Glass," "Tinderbox," and "Zola Jesus") so that the scents are left up to the interpretation of the consumer.
"We love creating names for our scents that people can remember," Way says. "But that the customer can elaborate on to create their own stories."
And so I tried four of Blackbird's perfumes (Moto Oud, Tinderbox, Hallow, and Pipe Bomb), and constructed my own story for each. All of Blackbird's scents are equal parts sexy cool and mysteriously strange, making for successfully unconventional but wearable fragrances.
Hallow Eau de Parfum, $88, blackbirdballard.com
Hallow is inspired by royalty and religion, and contains notes of incense, benzoin, frankincense, oud (a luxurious musky scent from agarwood, and marzipan. It makes me think of my long and ever-evolving journey with religion. Wearing the scent transported me back to the days when I went to church. I loved the smell of the church (which, for a long time, I assumed was holy water rather than incense). The muskier notes in Hallow remind me of my newer take on spirituality, and the people I surround myself with in meditation and yoga classes. Overall, this fragrance makes me feel peaceful and contemplative.
Moto Oud Eau de Parfum, $88, blackbirdballard.com
Moto Oud is inspired by "a broken down motorcycle in the desert," and smells like oud, leather, and burnt rubber. The smell didn't trigger a memory for me, but rather induced a sort of fantasy where I'm riding through the desert, leather jacket-clad and on a motorcycle, beating up misogynist bikers in dusty parking lots of roadside bars. Moto Oud made me feel tough and sexy.
Pipe Bomb Eau de Parfum, $88, blackbirdballard.com
Pipe Bomb is inspired by the faint spark of an explosion ("like an underwater firecracker bundled with incense"), and contains notes of salt water, metal, and amber. The spark scent reminded me of watching fireworks in upstate New York, while the sweet smell of amber took me back to my closest friends from childhood. It makes me feel very nostalgic for celebrating holidays when I was younger and more carefree. The way the website describes Pipe Bomb as a "faint spark before an explosion" reminds me of how some of those old friendships ended rather explosively themselves.
Tinderbox Eau de Parfum, $88, blackbirdballard.com
Tinderbox is inspired by manual labor in saw mills and smells like fresh cut cedarwood, metal, and white pepper. The combination of scents reminds me of the summer my cousin built us a wooden fence in our backyard. It makes me think of the comforts of home and the loving manual labor that went into creating that home. Tinderbox is a very familial scent.
To make these scents relatable to everyone, it's also important for the product not to be targeted to one specific gender identity. "We don't want to push gender stereotypes on people," Way says, "And the perfume industry is extremely guilty of this."
Perfume ads generally seem targeted at women, embodying a certain type of hyper-femininity in their product and packaging. But Blackbird is way more versatile. As an androgynous person and as someone who prefers tougher and muskier scents over floral and fruity ones, I very much appreciate this aspect of Blackbird's fragrances.
"It's important people know that they can be whoever they want and a find a scent that truly represents them," Way tells me. "We've chosen to ignore the concept of targeting specific genders with our perfumes, and instead we just make art for people to wear as a form of self expression."
Check out Blackbird's unconventional androgynous scents on its website (there are $5 scents available for each fragrance), and create your own stories for each smell.