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A fragrance fit for a pandemic, in the best possible way


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What a pandemic smells like depends entirely on who you ask. Frontline NHS staff will have a very different answer to the baristas fueling city folk with their double shot, extra hot, oat milk cortados (what do you mean you've never tried a cortado?). There are many smells that we’ll forever associate with this strange old time, not least astringent hand sanitisers and, under the safety of our masks, breath that hints at a hangover (minging, sorry). But for the most part, it’s subjective; as unique as our DNA. One walker might describe the smell of the park as green and woodsy, while another may say it smells dark and dank.

Riddle me this then, that Byredo has bottled a scent to which we all can relate. One of, to quote its name, Mixed Emotions. An unfamiliar, initially jarring fragrance that dries down to something pleasing. Something that licks at your nostrils. Too strong Ribena, before it’s been diluted, sitting thick and syrupy at the bottom of the glass – tart but not sweet or saccharine. Then something similar to tobacco, though not the overt discernible-from-one-metre-away ashtray kind, but clean, fresh tobacco, that’s rich and enveloping. Disclaimer: I checked the notes afterwards and it includes no such thing, but the first rule when writing about fragrance is to ignore the press release, as not to parrot it. So yes, I am sticking to my guns on this one. 

Mixed Emotions, with its sticky fruit squash vibes, is a reminder of our childhood, and how the pandemic has, in a lot of ways, infantilised us (do this, don’t do that… tut tut!), but the grown-up, sophisticated layers of *sniffs wrist* hmm… I’m getting wood (pale wood) and tea, suggest we’d like to assert ourselves as adults all the same. That we won’t slither into submissiveness. It’s heavy, chaotic and complex, and it takes some getting used to (a whole weekend in my case). But stick with it: a resinous shade of amber, it glows as much on skin as it does in the bottle. And remember, this is what Byredo does best, translates ineffable emotion into a fragrance and a mood. The kind that makes you say: “yes, of course that’s what the pandemic smells like! It makes perfect sense now”.

“yes, of course that’s what the pandemic smells like! It makes perfect sense now”

BYREDO Mixed Emotions, 100ml for £178

Watch the film and hear the poem here

Images | Byredo

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