Friday, February 23, 2024

Tropic of Capricorn is a Triumph of Experimental Perfume

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It’s a commonly held opinion that truly bad art bores its audience. If this is the metric, then Tropic of Capricorn cannot be a bad perfume. Even if you’ve plumbed the depths of experimental perfume with Zoologist’s zanier creations or L’Etat Libre D’Orange’s provocations, you are unlikely to be prepared for Tropic’s infernal array of fruits, florals, and animalic stripes. It is possibly one of the worst ‘blind buy’ fragrances of all time.

Before we get into why I’m here writing a review for this cacophonous beast of a perfume, let’s back up a little bit. Tropic of Capricorn comes from indie house Olympic Orchids, the brainchild of perfumer/neurobiologist/professor Ellen Covey. Covey first caught the spotlight as the perfumer behind Zoologist’s award-winning ‘Bat,’ another bizarre creation that paired ripe fruits with animalic undertones to fantastic effect. It is an eye-widener of a fragrance that is likely to cause noses to say, “wait, perfume can smell like this?” As it turns out, most of Covey’s perfumes are likewise confounding and bewitching. Olympic Orchids’ lineup is the most varied and bizarre of any I’ve had the privilege of smelling. Somehow, Tropic of Capricorn manages to stand out even among such a singular lineup.

Tropic of Capricorn Notes

Hyraceum, Ambergris, Mango, Osmanthus, Tuberose, Frangipani, Benzoin, Jasmine, Sandalwood, Magnolia, Green Notes, Vanilla

It’s hard to capture the richness and power of Capricorn’s opening mango note. The juiciness of the flesh, the earthiness of the peel, and the stench of overripe fruit are all here in force. Even though fruits are rarely associated with experimental perfumes, there’s something about the pairing of the central mango and the surrounding florals that place the fruitiness in an uncanny valley of edibility. If you were surviving in a tropical forest, you’d be torn on whether to eat a fruit that smelled like this.

That’s a good thing. In a world of straightforward fruity perfumes, Capricorn proves the style can be done differently. As the mango note fades, the animalic notes come to the forefront. The two-hour mark finds Tropic of Capricorn centering around a soft, furry accord that’s surprisingly warm – it’s almost along the lines of a polite, complex leather perfume. Don’t be tricked, though – this is still not the sort of perfume you could throw on hours before a date and bet on winning someone over.

As it softens over time, Tropic of Capricorn quiets and mellows into something not quite familiar, but not quite challenging. The resinous base is, like several of Olympic Orchid’s darker scents, somewhat reminiscent of Amouage. The fact that you can get something of such a caliber at Olympic Orchids’ extremely reasonable indie house prices should tell you all you need to know about the value of this fragrance. But no matter how excellent this creation and the relative tameness of its drydown, Tropic of Capricorn remains an absolute beast of a fragrance. Approach with caution. Then, if it so suits you, wear it with the abandon it deserves.

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Daring noses need to try Tropic of Capricorn, a high quality fragrance bursting with ideas. However, all should approach with caution.
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The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated.


  • Jade

    Jade is the Lifestyle Editor at the Fandomentals, where they obsess over perfume and underground music. Their wacky poetry is floating around the internet - beware! Follow them for fragrance and poetry content @johndarrextreme on Instagram.

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