London-based Japanese artist and sculptor Kentaro Yamada unveiled his newest, fascinating project: Neandertal Perfume (the official launch is going to take place at Ace Hotel London on the 14 Oct 2015).
Mr Yamada has created two unisex fragrances in collaboration with perfumer Euan McCall and only on Persefume, both Mr Yamada and Mr McCall reveal more about the unique concept behind the brand and the process of scents’ creation.
Kentaro Yamada, private archives
The Neandertal Perfume project was inspired by the history of Neandertal, who mysteriously disappeared from the earth around 30,000 years ago following the arrival of humans. Neandertals lived in Europe for over 400,000 years, 10 times longer than us.
Neandertals are often thought to be wild and animal-like beings, but recent discoveries have revealed their highly intelligent life and sophistication. They painted geometric shapes on cave walls, used musical instruments and spoke their own language.
Modern humans also share up to 4% of Neandertal DNA due to interbreeding that took place when we lived alongside them for around 10,000 years. There were two sophisticated creatures in this period, creating an alternative view to our human-centric perspective of cultural constructs; such as philosophy, religion, and art. Kentaro Yamada.
Sculpture by Kentaro Yamada
The two unisex fragrances are inspired by the history of Neandertal’s past as well as an invention of what their essence might have been today. Ingredients such as leather and berry, natural to their environments, are combined with fresher tones like Hinoki; compounding into a mixture of sophisticated olfactory palettes, wearable by today’s humans.
Neandertal Perfume ‘light’ and ‘dark’ packaging designed by Kentaro Yamada
The packaging is art itself: porcelain perfume bottles have been individually crafted, signed and numbered by the artist. The bottle’s shape with its jagged edges smooth from wear was created from a flint knapped handaxe. This form, refined over a million years of human history, fits perfectly into the palm of your hand.
We have asked perfumer Euan McCall to tell us more about the insprations behind scents. It can be noted that Mr McCall is young, yet skilled perfumer who created scents for private clients, perfumed candles for Courvoisier Cognac set (Harrods-exclusive) and is working on his signature line to be presented in 2016.
Euan McCall, private archives
When creating a fragrance I am first and foremost inspired by raw materials. The joy and challange comes from translating these materials into a narrative that works in harmony with the original concept and inspiration. Artist Kentaro Yamada’s original brief for Neandertal was intriguing and complex and unfolded to me as: ‘If Neanderthals still walked the earth, how would their unique olfactory system influence their perception of perfume organoleptically?’. What odorants would Neanderthals have used and what materials would the ‘modern’ Neanderthal have an affinity with now. The fragrance is partly informed by materials available throughout ancient history, present day and in part conceptual’. Euan McCall
Neandertal Perfume ‘light’ and ‘dark’ packaging designed by Kentaro Yamada
I set about researching diverse global materials, ingredients which I felt would render a beautiful vison of Kentaro’s groundwork and designs, creating a symbiosis between inspiration and end product. Many of the ingredients and accords have ancient and historical context. These materials were used as foundations, the initial skeleton for the Neandertal project. Other materials accent and highlight the structure in a modern, contemporary notion. Most of the natural ingredients can be found across the regions of Eurasia, Western Europe, Central China, East and South West Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean; areas now understood to have been active Neanderthal habitation zones. The oils suspended within the final fragrance are of the highest quality, be they natural, isolate or of synthetic origin.
For me Neandertal had to be a balance of dense animalics, aromatic textures and fresher volatile odorants. Initially the fragrance started life as one theme but after many modifications and nine months of refining, both Kentaro and I realised we had two equally viable themes for the project. One, a darker, smokier more animalic interpretation of the concept and another brighter facet of the theme containing higher levels of lighter, delicate and fresher materials.
Woven through both scents is a hot mineral accord, taking inspiration from the hot flint aroma produced during the knapping process. The resulting accord is an overdose of several high-impact, steroidal odorants against lighter aquatic elements to recreate this sensation. Euan McCall
Neandertal ‘dark’ – story by Euan McCall
“The darker, more shadowed version of Neandertal is constructed on a base of sandalwood and cedar, both known for their pheromone characteristics. I used oud for its animalic, balsamic and resinous quality and added vetiver, patchouli and cashmeran to introduce green, earthy, rhizome facets. Vanilla, labdanum add an amber accord for sappy richness and sensuality in the evaporation of the compostion and there are musks in place to give the feral effect of animal pelt on the skin. These heavy darker materials are inspired by the Neanderthals of the past.
A series of incense materials were implemented to aid relief; frankincense, myrrh and guiacwood to bridge the heart and base reinforced by a supple leather accord. A minimal rose theme supported by tobacco and saffron was used to round out and soften the incense thematics of the heart structure. A careful and piquant duo of ginger absolute and caraway facilitated as bridge between heart and top. I used ginger absolute for its zingy, fresh, caramelised fruit nuances and to reintroduce the earthy root theme originally found in the base of the fragrance. Caraway is a stunning material when used with sleight of hand; unmistakably anise-like, cooling with green leaf facets and subtle gustatory notes hinting at an almost umami sensation. An imagined journey through recorded time if Neanderthals had walked by our sides throughout history.
The top structure concentrates on the leafier elements of the scent. Less hesperidic in tone, leaning towards an aromatic and textured feel instead. Centred on a reconstituted Hinoki accord allowing me to sway the characteristics of the top in a greener, more aromatic direction with fewer citric compounds than are are normally present in Hinoki oil. This accord was created using oximes, terpenes, aldehydes and finally pink pepper for a naturalistic depth. The result was a woody, leafy ,berry like profile. The Hinoki accord was further enhanced by the saline tang of grapefruit and the delicate sweetness of tangerine, introducing a soft citrus and oddly transgressive iodine element that might suggest Neanderthals in present day.”
Top – Pink Pepper, Tangerine, Tomato Leaf, Hinoki, Aldehydes, Violet leaf & Grapefruit.
Heart – Caraway co2, Ginger absolute, Saffron, Rose, Tobacco, Guiac wood, Frankincense serrata co2,‘Leather accord’ & Myrrh
Base – Labdanum absolute, Patchouli, Vetiver, Cedar, Amber, Oud, Cashmeran, Sandalwood, Musk & Vanilla
Neandertal ‘light’ – story by Euan McCall
“The base of Neandertal ‘light’ is a similar structure to that of the ‘dark’ version. The main point of difference is the substitution of oud, patchouli, labdanum and heavy musks for several lighter, sweeter musk products rendering the formula into an overall slimmer and more airier reflection of the dark original. In this instance vetiver has been used as a foundation material for the pronounced oceanic accord running the length of the formula. The amber sensation leans more in the direction of cedar and ambergris. The base is rounded out with creamy, nutty, vanillic sandalwood notes.
Frankincense and myrrh glow delicately in the background of the heart in this lighter interpretation, supplementing the trio of tobacco, rose, saffron and helping to accentuate their warmth. At the centre of the fragrance we find regal magnolia veiled in rooty galbanum. The intended effect here being the flower in bud stage. As the fragrance warms on skin the magnolia seems to unfurl into full bloom. The original piquant duo of caraway and ginger are also present here as in Neandertal ‘dark’.
With Neandertal ‘light’ I wanted more lift and brightness, a juxtaposition to Neandertal ‘dark’. I achieved this using a higher concentration of citrus components, an exaggerated marine/solar accord and terpenic berry notes. A quartet of citrus oils added a multi-dimensioned citric surround; sweetness imparted by mandarin and tangerine, bergamot for its unique floral bouquet and grapefruit with its bitter punch of salty citrus segueing into a marine/solar accord. The ozonic materials are tempered by salicylates sustaining effects akin to harmonics. The pink pepper in the top of the dark version has been exchanged for the clearer profile of Brazilian pepper berries and juniper berry. The berry aspect gives beautiful bite and aromatic lift to the composition suspended comfortably above the Hinoki accord.”
Top – Brazilian Pepper co2, Tangerine, Mandarin, Bergamot, Hinoki, Aldehydes, Grapefruit, ‘Oceanic’ accord, Angelica & Juniper co2
Heart – Caraway co2, Ginger absolute, Saffron, Rose, Tobacco, Galbanum co2, Frankincense serrata co2, Myrrh & Magnolia
Base – Vetiver, Cedar, Amber, Musk, Vanilla & Sandalwood.
Official launch of Neandertal Perfume will take place on the 14th of October 2015 at Ace Hotel where both perfumes will be further exhibited and available to purchase. Alongside the exhibition, there will be a flint-knapping workshop to learn how to make ancient stone tools, run by an expert in prehistoric tool making at Ace Hotel on October 27. Booking essential (6 places only).Tickets (£50) via neandertal.eventbrite.com
Neandertal ‘dark’ and ‘light’ can be also purchased via Neandertal Perfume as limited edition (100 pieces each). Price: 240 GBP for 10ml white bone china bottle individually handcrafted by the artist Kentaro Yamada, together with 10ml refill. Additional refills will be also available upon request.
Pictures and text by Kentaro Yamada, scents decriptions by Euan McCall. All rights reserved.
Personal thank you to Mr Alex Musgrave aka The Silver Fox for information about this amazing project and support in the article’s preparation. Check Alex’s blog for reviews of Neandertal duo soon!