My love for Byredo is unrequited. They don’t sell samples. Their perfumes aren’t sold in very many stores, and yet they don’t list stockists on their website. They don’t respond to emails about distribution. They don’t respond to tweets about distribution (or anything else). Their perfumes go “out of stock” on their website for weeks at a time. They are pretty much a silent black void that periodically spits out perfumes that I love. Yet I remain loyal, because I think Byredo is making some great perfumes.
1996 is the latest launch, and finding it was the usual song and dance: my local stockist didn’t have it yet, and Byredo ignored my pleading email about ordering a sample. I eventually tracked it down at Barney’s in San Francisco last month, where the SA took pity on me and made me a sample. Had my luggage not already been full of perfume, I would have gone back for a bottle the next day. The fragrance was originally a private commission by photographers Inez & Vinoodh, and was partially inspired by their photograph Kristen 1996 (above).
The initial top notes are strongly reminiscent of cherry Chapstick—as in cherry wax (not waxy cherry). If you know what’s coming, you can detect notes of wood and smoke beneath the cherry Chapstick, and within about 30 minutes, those notes have flip-flopped themselves on top of the cherry wax accord, making themselves dominant. The fragrance really begins to warm on the skin at this point, and there are lashings of leather, iris, incense, vanilla, patchouli, and carmelized butter spiraling through it. As it dries down, it becomes a comfortably inviting cherry leather incense.
The manner in which 1996 unfolds is really masterful. From an offbeat, wink-and-a-smile opening, it evolves into a fragrance that could inspire all kinds of different stories. Without assuming this is what Ben Gorham and Inez & Vinoodh had in mind, it does seem appropriately paired with the image of a young girl whose story is just beginning.
1996 was my runner-up for best fragrance of 2013, and a close runner-up it was. If you can get your hands on it, I would. I presume it was created by Byredo’s frequent perfumer, Jerome Epinette.
For a review of Byredo 1996, see The Candy Perfume Boy. Image courtesy Style.com. Sample kindly provided by Barney’s. I cannot comment on whether Byredo perfumes are cruelty free, due to the aforementioned lack of responses to my emails.