Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex

Tyrannosaurus Rex marks the pairing of two popular figures in the niche world: Victor Wong‘s Zoologist brand and Antonio Gardoni, the celebrated perfumer. Together, they sought to create a “gargantuan” fragrance that was not only worthy of the T-Rex associations but also one which they specifically wanted to evoke the smoky, dark, hot, and fiery Cretaceous period in which he lived, a time where ferocious beasts ripped apart delicate florals amidst dark woods set alight by smoldering flames.

Zoologist in its regular and special edition packaging. Photos from Zoologist’s website. Collage, my own.

Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex with the standard label. Photo source: the Zoologist website.

Tyrannosaurus Rex (hereinafter occasionally called “T-Rex“) is a pure parfum or extrait that was released in September. The official scent description and note list are as follows:

A sultry heat wafts across the land, lapped up greedily by the abundant flora that thrives in its midst. Trees soar to majestic heights and plants flower for the first time, their petals spreading to give birth to a world rich in diversity. The Cretaceous period comes of age against a backdrop scorched by wildfire and lightning strikes. Over this turbulent landscape, a massive predator looms. Giants rule the earth, but even giants can be cut down within the powerful jaws of the fearsome tyrannosaur. Standing tall, the terrifying beast fears nothing, until that pivotal moment when a fire in the sky signals the end of their deadly reign.

Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex is a gargantuan scent that sinks its teeth into the world of delicate fragrances and rips it wide open. Primitive woods and florals seize you and snatch you away to an ancient era. Smoky, charred wood warns of the danger of smouldering fire, setting your senses on edge, while droplets of metallic rose oxide offer a chilling premonition of blood-lust. The mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex is sometimes menacing, sometimes fascinating, but never, ever ordinary.

Perfumer: Antonio Gardoni
Parfum Concentration: 23%
Size: 60 mL / 2 fl. oz.

Top Notes: Bergamot, Black Pepper, Fir, Laurel Leaf, Neroli, Nutmeg
Heart Notes: Champaca, Geranium, Jasmine, Osmanthus, Rose, Ylang Ylang
Base Notes: Resins, Cade, Cedar, Civet*, Frankincense, Leather*, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla

*Synthetic notes. Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex does not use animal products.

Source: earthweek.com

Tyrannosaurus Rex opens on my skin with woody-amber aromachemical smoke lashed with thick swathes of black rubber and burnt incense as well as medicinal and eucalyptus-like aromas, similar to those found in Ben-Gay muscle ointment. A slew of culinary, earthy, and herbaceously green notes form a cloud on top and all around that dark, dense core: warm, earthy, brown culinary spices; black pepper; bitter citrus peel; sprigs of rose geranium; fuzzy, peppery green geranium leaves; bay leaves; and laurel leaves. The base is dark with resins, more smoky rubber, dark leather, spicy patchouli, and a veritable river of cade woods which emit strong gusts of campfire smoke. When taken as a whole, however, the truly dominant elements in the earliest moments consist of medicinal-smelling herbaceous greenness, earthy spices, smoky black rubber, and heavily charred woods.

Photo: my own.

Believe it or not, there is a strange appeal to it, even if the words “Ben-Gay” or “rubber” might lead you to think otherwise. I think it’s because  the smoky rubber has such a spicy, warm, and resinous character. At times, I’m strongly reminded of Chinese Tiger’s Balm which is a much spicier version of Ben-Gay, one that is less herbal, more clove-ish, and only lightly camphorated by eucalyptus-like aromas. If you took Tiger’s Balm, lightly blended a small handful of geranium from flowers to green leaves and stem, then folded in loads of treacly, balsamic amber resins, nutmeg, cloves, cade woods, campfire smoke, incense, and citrus peel to form a more complex ointment which you subsequently slathered all over a burnt rubber latex and black leather surface, you’d end up in the general vicinity of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Photo: AP Photo/Francisco Negroni, Source: wjla.com

While the broad parameters of the bouquet remain constant during the first two hours of the opening phase, the individual components begin to shift or grow quickly in size. A mere 15 minutes in, a dark, smoke-kissed rose peeks out, adding a truer and stronger floral aroma than mere aromatic green-red geranium. At the same time, the cade in the base surges in strength and begins to rapidly seeps upwards, joining the main notes on center stage and imparting to them as a strong, resinous woodiness in addition to everything else.

I don’t think Tyrannosaurus Rex screams “Gardoni” in its opening moments the way that many of his other fragrances do, not at first sniff at least and not in loud tones but, as the fragrance develops, the signature becomes clearer and easier to discern. First, there is the mix of aromatic, herbal, and culinary spice notes up top mirrored by a slew of his favourite dark smoky, woody, leathery, resinous, and patchouli raw materials in the base. Second, there is also the way that the patchouli starts to smell, roughly 30 minutes in, when it follows the cade’s upwards trajectory to join the central rubber-leather, spice, herbal, smoke, and “Tiger’s Balm” bouquet. It wafts a subtle aroma of grilled meat, similar to the patchouli in Mr. Gardoni’s NOUN, although the smell here is nowhere near as meaty, strong, or pervasive. A third Gardoni signature is in the Ben-Gay or muscle ointment note (O/E, NOUN), while a fourth is the way a bronzed cloud of dark base notes gradually parts to reveal a floral heart. It happened in Gardelia, MAAI, and NOUN with white flowers, and it’s happening here as well, only now it’s with an assorted and redder-hued floral arrangement. The parting of smoke begins roughly 35-40 minutes in on my skin when the rose overshadows the aromatic geranium; then, 55 minutes in, jasmine pops up on the sidelines, lending a syrupy sweetness to the mix of herbs, spices, rubber, wood, smoke, leather, medicine, and amber.

Source: Clip Art free library.

The cumulative effect changes Tyrannosaurus Rex at the start of the second hour. The olfactory landscape (as opposed to the visual one) is no longer 100% filled with strongly smoky, rubbery, spicy, medicinal, woody darkness but is now cleanly bifurcated on my skin between two co-equal halves, much like one of those Chinese yin-yang symbols. Here, one half now consists of floralcy which is mostly rose-driven and a little withered and smoky in nature, but which is also a little syrupy, delicate, and sweet, thanks to the indirect effects of the jasmine. Sprigs of green-red, aromatic, and lightly peppered geranium remain, although they now lurk quietly behind the rose and other notes. When taken as a whole, it’s a mix of chewy, rubbery, dark masculine notes offset by a sweet floral femininity for a perfectly unisex circular whole. (Well, “unisex” so long as you enjoy dark, smoky, and resinous fragrances. If you require a lot of sunshine, light, and floralcy for something to read as “unisex” to you, then this definitely won’t qualify.)

One of the things which struck me about this first phase of Tyrannosaurus Rex is the merging of opposites and paradoxes. For example, many of the individual base notes convey a chewy richness, potency, and force when you smell them up close. Yet, from afar, Tyrannosaurus Rex is less dense in feel and the notes it radiates come across as being a more diffusive and airy. In aroma and sillage, the notes are unquestionably powerful, but in actual weight and body, they feel voluminous to me when smelled from a distance on the large scent cloud, rather than opaque, dense, heavy, or thick. The individual notes — the Tiger’s Balm herbal ointment, the charred wood and smoke, the rubber, the amber resins, or spices — have the same paradoxical character at the end of the first hour: Up close, they smell distinct, forceful, and unmistakable; from afar, they are not so dense or intrusive to be unpleasant, imbalanced, or harsh. Instead, and to my surprise, they’re gentler and more appealing than the words “Ben-Gay,” “Tiger’s Balm,” or “rubber” might lead you to expect.

Photo: Francisco Negroni, Agence Uno/AFP. Source:

That is particularly true 90 minutes in when Tyrannosaurus Rex gradually starts to soften its previously solid blast of darkness into something that is more suggestive of its individual olfactory components than something heavily concrete, loud, bold, and in your face. For example, when I move my arms, the wafts of medicinal Tiger’s Balm or rubber are not only more diffuse than at the start but they’re also now absorbed into the other notes. In fact, many of the previously distinct, clearly delineated note are blurring out of focus and overlapping. They’ve turned into a swirling dervish of herbaceousness, rose, spiciness, sweetness, dryness, smokiness, rubberiness, leatheriness, woodiness, and resinousness. And, depending on whether you smell it up close on your arm or from afar, depending on how much or how little you apply, it is a dervish which is, simultaneously, distinct, blurry, voluminous, forcefully potent, and gently approachable. All of it absolutely radiates the Gardoni aesthetic from the second hour onwards.

There is one exception to much of what I’ve described above: the woody-amber aromachemical in the base. It actually grows more distinct, clear, solid in shape, and forceful in power after 75 minutes, both when I smell my arm up close and when I smell the diffusive scent cloud in the air around me. It is also starting to grow sharper somehow, scratching the back of my throat and tickling the inside of my nostrils with something hot and a little harsh. Moreover, when I tested Tyrannosaurus Rex with a larger scent application (several spritzes amount to two solid sprays from an actual bottle), there was a definite, strong rubbing alcohol aroma, which is often a tell-tale signifier of some strong woody aromachemical. Whatever the note is, it grows strong enough from the 1.75-hour mark onwards to give me a sharp shooting pain through my eye whenever I smelled my arm for too long up close. From the third hour onwards and during the middle phase, I had headaches nonstop, even when simply smelling T-Rex on the scent cloud around me. However, very few people share my sensitivities to strong aromachemicals so I suspect the note won’t bother or even be noticed by the vast majority of you. I’m merely mentioning it because a small group of you read me in large part because you have similar idiosyncratic physical side effects or sensitivities, so you need to be aware that they may be a factor here for you as well.

I want to move on to a different point which I referenced up above: how much or how little you apply and the scent which ensues. I know I sound like a broken record on this point but it really, really makes a difference in my opinion and experience, and the darker, the heavier, or the greater the base notes in a fragrance, the more that theory seems to hold true. T-Rex is no different. I was sent a small manufacturer’s atomizer sample and I tested Tyrannosaurus Rex with two different quantity applications: several small spritzes equal to roughly 1 good spray from an actual bottle; and several spritzes equal to two big sprays from a bottle. With a 2-spray equivalent on one stretch of skin on my forearm, Tyrannosaurus Rex was — as I’ll detail and elaborate further down after the scent description — not just a massively “gargantuan” scent in longevity, not just forceful in sillage, but also significantly darker, smokier, and more rubbery initially. However, there was the benefit of much greater nuance and clarity in terms of the top notes from the start, as well as more noticeable secondary notes later on. On the other hand, there was a big drawback to a large dosage application: a significantly stronger, more obvious blast of woody-amber aromachemicals from the base. It was not only stronger but it also dominated the fragrance’s heart phase more forcefully and for a longer period of time.

With a smaller amount, one roughly equal to several light swipes if you had a dab vial, the fragrance was actually softer in sillage, quite diffuse in body, much less hefty in weight and body, and nowhere near as “beastly” in longevity, but it had less of a foghorn quality in both its dark accords and in its degree of rubber, latex, incense, smoke, char, and volume. Its woody-amber aromachemical was also less overt and obvious, which made the fragrance more approachable and wearable during certain phases for me personally. On the other hand, with a small/smaller application, I missed the strength, solidity, and presence of the rose, the citrus peel, the jasmine syrup, the depth of the fragrance’s floralcy as a whole, and, yes, even the Tiger’s Balm. (Sorry, I like the smell of Tiger’s Balm, at least in small doses, crazy as that may be.) There were a few other drawbacks, too. A smaller scent application resulted in a fragrance which turned blurrier sooner, dominated by broader, simpler, and more impressionistic accords. The cumulative effect of that, in turn, made T-Rex feel more generic than it otherwise is because it evoked other woody, spicy, leathery, smoky, and woody-amber fragrances like, for example, Puredistance‘s Sheiduna, which came to mind a few times in T-Rex’s fourth hour when I applied a lot, or Arquiste‘s Nanban, releases from Beaufort, and some from Guerlain‘s Middle Eastern collections. I’m not saying they’re all identical by any means, because they’re not, but I’m saying that the fragrance amount you apply will impact more than just sillage or longevity: it will impact the nuances of the bouquet, the presence and clarity of the individual notes, the fragrance’s development, and T-Rex’s olfactory distinctiveness. My advice, if you get a sample, is to experiment with different scent applications before you make up your mind about both the scent and its performance.

Photo: “Controlled Burns” by Kevin Cooley via Kevincooley.com (Direct website link embedded within.)

Regardless of quantity, Tyrannosaurus Rex’s heart phase typically begins roughly 2.5 hours into its evolution. The rose and jasmine floral accord retreats to become a ghostly blip on the periphery, while the herbal Ben-Gay/Tiger’s Balm, the geranium, and the rubber notes slink to the sidelines. Center stage is taken up by a looming, hulking mass of wood smoke, charred woods, desiccated leather, amorphous spices, and woody-amber aromachemicals. Now devoid of much ameliorating softness, floralcy, or sweetness, the arid, dry, smoky, dark mass looms up in a way which, for the first time, evokes the titular dinosaur for me. One can almost imagine a scaly, leathery, black-grey reptile roaring in a prehistoric swirl of smoke and molten lava, perhaps breathing fire to burn down the trees in his path like a dragon. (Mixed metaphors and similes there, I know, but what can you do? Scent association and mental imagery are an inexplicable, bizarre, and illogical thing.)

There is something very familiar about the heart stage, especially when I smell my arm up close and am faced with the rubbing alcohol tonality running through the increasingly parched, smoke-laden leather, but I can’t for the life of me pinpoint what it is evoking. Not exactly. It’s not one of the Guerlain Middle Eastern woody ambers or santals, nor the smoky, spiced, woody-leather Nanban from Arquiste, one of the smoky-leather-spiced-woody-amber oriental concoctions from LM Parfums, Santi BurgasBeaufort, or PG, but it’s something which nags at me in its aroma and which I’ve smelled in a similar fashion before, something in that overall leather-woody-amber stylistic genre which shares olfactory DNA in terms of the strong, dark base notes. If the heart phase went such a blur of dark accords or so overpowered by the woody-amber synth, it might be easier to narrow it down. Unfortunately, I can’t smell my arm up close for any extended period of time without having a sharp, piercing pain shoot through my eye. Again, please keep in mind that I’m much more sensitive than the average person to the woody-amber genre. Few of you are likely to experience the same thing.

“Javascapes” by photographer Daniel G. Walczyk. Source: Behance.net (Website link embedded within.)

If the heart phase wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, the drydown is. Tyrannosaurus Rex has made me realize that I really love Mr. Gardoni’s drydowns, but this one is even more scrumptious than usual even if, again, I can’t always sniff it up close without a headache. But, if I could, I would stick my nose in my arm for hours on end without cease because it is absolutely perfect for a chilly autumn or winter night. In fact, Holy Moly, it’s as snuggalicious as your favourite worn sweater or winter throw, thanks to the Gardoni base: a molten river of amber smelling just like caramel; an equally thick, rich river of delightfully buttered, smoky, spicy sandalwood running along side it; a lavish heaping of spices which smell like cinnamon wood bark mixed in with a decent handful of bitter, fragrant nutmeg; a pinch of creamy vanilla which resembles crème anglaise; and tiny, unexpected, ghostly pops of aromas which I can only describe as mocha and butterscotch on my skin, the latter no doubt stemming from the buttery sandalwood. All traces of anything floral, aromatic, herbal, harsh, medicinal, rubbery, or desiccated, or leathery have vanished.

In the most reductive, simplistic sense, the core emphasis of the bouquet sometimes smells like spiced, caramel-laced sandalwood, but sometimes like a sandalwood-infused caramel latte. In both cases, smoke (aromachemical but also woody and incense-like) stains the edges with soft, sooty fingerprints of darkness. And in both cases, something about the way the sweeter secondary notes interact with the molten main ones makes the end result or cumulative effect evoke some sort of perfumer’s version of a spiced, woody, caramel Starbucks latte.

Adding to the cozy delightfulness of the whole thing is the texture which is as plush as cream and suede. I’m guessing that is the alchemical side-effect of the vanilla, ylang ylang, and sandalwood combination. Take the picture two paragraphs up and now imagine its perfume equivalent, not only in colours and smell but also in terms of a texture as soft as fleece. Absolutely delightful.

Source: shutterstock.com

If you’ve read me for any amount of time, you’ll know that what I call “cozy comfort” scents are perhaps my second favourite out of all the fragrance genres out there, and Tyrannosaurus Rex’s drydown certainly qualifies for that descriptor. If the heart phase made me recoil a little with the strength of the arid, intrusive, harsh, and aggressively smoky leather-woody-amber aromachemical, the drydown is the exact opposite: I find it inviting, warm, approachable, and quite delicious. Even with a headache from the ongoing woody-amber note, it just pulls you in. And it does so for hours upon hours on end. Like many fragrances with a plethora of rich, dark, heavy base notes, T-Rex’s drydown continues unabated for hours and hours without much change until, in its final hours, it turns into a simple, gauzy wisp of spiced, woody, slightly smoky, but strongly resinous goldenness and cozy warmth.

Far, far too many fragrance houses — niche, luxury, and mainstream — believe in top-stacking their creations with a really good “punch” during the first 15 minutes in order to get you to buy the scent on impulse and, in my opinion, they annoyingly dismiss the drydown as something completely inconsequential or anodyne. Again and again, I encounter a repellently generic uninviting malaise and morass of aromachemical woody fillers, Bounce laundry detergent musk, bland Tonka fluff, or a depressingly impersonal combination thereof. Mr. Gardoni, however, never skints or ignores the drydown. And he hasn’t here, either.

At this point, having smelled everything he’s ever created, some to my liking and some not, I’m starting to think that his drydown is not only consistently appealing, not only consistently high quality in its slew of rich notes, but also that it is such a signature that it should also should come with its own moniker, similar to Guerlainade or Tauerade. I hereby declare that I think T-Rex has one of the most inviting “Gardoniades” of any of his releases. Okay, the portmanteau name may be a work in progress, but the drydown is not. On my skin, it’s a fully accomplished phase which is up there with MAAI’s and Gardelia’s in terms of its cuddalicious, snuggalicious coziness.

Tyrannosaurus Rex has great to superb, monster longevity but the specifics of its sillage and projection depend on how much fragrance I apply. As I mentioned up top, I used a manufacturer’s atomizer sample in my tests. It didn’t always apply an even spray and sometimes just squirted little amounts all around. In that context, I tested Tyrannosaurus Rex twice, once applying several small spritzes equal in amount to 1 really big spray from an actual bottle or to several light smears from a dab vial. With that amount, the fragrance opened with roughly 3 to 4 inches of projection and a scent cloud that extended 4 inches before expanding about 8 inches in radius after 25 minutes. The numbers dropped when the heart or middle phase began, approximately 2.5 hours in: the projection was roughly 2 inches and the sillage shrank to about 4-5 inches. T-Rex turned into a skin scent 5.75 hours into its evolution and lasted just short of 13.25 hours.

The numbers were quite different with several spritzes amounting to the equivalent of two big sprays from an actual bottle on a broad swathe of my forearm. With that amount, the opening projection was roughly 4 to 5 inches, but the scent trail shot up to about just under a foot. Again, the scent began to shrink after 2.5 hours, but not as much as before. Roughly 5.75 hours in, the projection was about an inch above the skin and the sillage was close to my body, although it briefly blew up and was easy to detect in the air around me if I moved my arms. Tyrannosaurus Rex turned into a skin scent on me after the 9th hour, but was still easy to detect up close without any effort if I brought my nose to my arm until roughly the 13th hour. It required some effort after that point. Even so, Tyrannosaurus Rex coated the skin with its soft, fluffy delights for quite a while thereafter. In total, it lasted just short of 19 hours.

Tyrannosaurus Rex has generally received very good reviews. There are a slew of reviews on Fragrantica, and while the majority are positive, they aren’t all so, because this is a challenging fragrance which I think will be polarizing. So, some people rave, while others talk about a struggle with the fragrance’s intense, “butch,” or “challenging” ” phases. A few reviews mention that the person finds “the silage [sic] and longevity to be lacking.” For a handful of people, the fragrance either doesn’t measure up to the “avant-garde” quality of past Gardoni creations or it doesn’t feel that distinctive enough. While I’m not trying to discount or “mansplain” anyone else’s experiences, I have to wonder how much fragrance commentators in the last category applied, because I noticed the scent turned more generic during the middle phase when I only used a small amount. There is even one review there which mentions just how different T-Rex can be based on whether you apply a lot or a little.

As for the positive reviews, they lovingly describe Tyrannosaurus Rex as a “monster,” not only in performance and power but also in terms of darkness, richness, complexity, and appeal. People single out the strong cade note, the frankincense, the way the resins coat the florals, or the dried earth and smoldering fire elements. One person who says that they struggled with the complexity of MAAI absolutely loved the range and seemingly “chaotic” but actually harmonious slew of notes in Tyrannosaurus Rex. And even one of the people who disliked the fragrance mentioned just how appealing the drydown can be.

It’s difficult to pull out snippets given how long and descriptive most of the reviews are, so I’ll let you read the comments on your own if you’re interested after singling out two long reviews in specific because they provide you with polar opposite perspectives, one positive, one negative, in order to have equal time and parity to show you just how different opinions can be on this fragrance.

The first review is from “Steveniox” and its a negative review which I’m singling out because I think he raises a unique and noteworthy point: Tyrannosaurus Rex was a completely different experience on skin for him than on paper. He states that explicitly, as well as the fact that it’s not the perfume’s fault it didn’t work on his skin chemistry, and the fact that he thought the drydown was genuinely lovely. I thought his comment was relevant because it suggests how Tyrannosaurus Rex might appear to someone who (in my opinion) has a sensitivity to some aromachemicals, a point suggested by the following description with its references to headaches and chemical bleach:

truly monstrous proportions, i’ll give it that; though on my skin it becomes hideously distorted beyond anything remotely connected to the imagery and instantly introduces headache-inducing components compared to on paper. imagine using a particularly strong floral / citrus chemical bleach to clean out an overused, then neglected and deeply encrusted (with bits of charred food) oven with a rag of dusty old leather and you’re somewhere in the ballpark of where my skin takes this perfume. such a shame, but by no means the perfume’s fault as, like i said, it’s a different beast on paper. gutted.

edit: as it settles down it does eventually lose some of that bleach and burnt oven impression in the opening, revealing a more natural ‘charred wood’ impression with the dusty, singed leather, however that aforementioned note is still looming in the background, waxing and waning. is it the rose oxide which is going berserk on my skin, creating this impression? i can definitely detect geranium as well, but it’s way beyond any geranium i’ve ever smelled. eventually sandalwood arrives to sooth the burns and quench the cinders, and now i can say it’s actually genuinely nice. leathery, mildly creamy with ylang and sandalwood, a sprinkling of dusty spices and a hint of furry animal, but still haunted by a quiet, much reduced mix of pretty much everything that preceded, like vague shadows in the background, giving it an ominous, metallic and slightly mineralic feel. i rode it out and the dry down is very likeable, but those opening impressions… nope. it’s too much on me.

From my perspective, I didn’t experience something as intense as “chemical bleach,” and I think I’m probably the fragrance reviewer with the greatest and most heightened aromachemical sensitivities out there. But there is no denying that there is a challenging portion of the fragrance which is present right from the start for people like us, although I found the middle phase to actually be the hardest and the one which gave me my headaches. At the risk of being repetitive, however, unless you’re one of the tiny handful of people who already knows that woody-amber synths are a major problem for you, I doubt that you’ll have a similar experience. On the other hand, you’re one of the weirdo freaks like me, T-Rex will probably be a struggle during certain stages, even if you find the drydown to be, to quote Steveniox’s words, “actually genuinely nice.”

There are a slew of positively rave, adoring reviews for Tyrannosaurus Rex, but I’m going to single out one from “Trabuquera” for a few reasons: it’s detailed and descriptive enough to give you a really thorough sense of someone else’s experience; it’s well written; and it also gives people with voraciously perfume-eating skin an idea of how this scent might compare in performance to others out there. He or she writes:

Oh, you BEAUTIFUL monster. Long live this King! It’s a huge galumphing rampaging success.

This was bound to be a love for me given its backbone of cade, that smoky/earthy/spicy extract that always makes my mouth water. It’s a big, often bullying note that can trample everything in its path. What’s so special about T Rex is that – like its stablemate Rhino – it marries a really punchy, butch, solid centre (cade in TR, leather in Rhino) with an absolute fragrant canopy over the top and it all works insanely well. Believe it or not – it is damn cute as well as absolutely fierce.

T Rex is definitely no shy blossom – it comes on STRONG with a great earthshaking rumble of cade and the crack of a rawhide whip. Deep deep smokiness, earthy-muddy, with spice and herbal notes right in there fighting for a place in the ecology too. It smells of baked earth itself – not that slightly damp/petrichor/geosmin thing, but something drier and dustier. The impression of blazing, almost alien primordial heat is definitely there – but then my brain flips a switch and suddenly it’s a vivid-red sense impression of watering dried-out pelargonium (geranium) plants, in terracotta pots, on a torrid August day.

Not just the sandy earth, but the papery roots and leaves of the geraniums, heady and peppery-warm. There’s a whole universe of flowers in there too, rose really beginning to sing after a while, and the aromatic herbal notes opening up new vistas as well. It’s dense and seemingly chaotic, but it’s absolutely unstoppable. (and I haaaaaaaated Maai, a previous Gardoni thing that was equally complex and that I couldn’t cope with at all.)

T Rex is utterly unique, really; the thudding, relentless cade meant I recalled Bois d’Ascese and Perfumer H (two personal favourites) but those are completely different smellscapes with only the cade in common. This one is just something other, a true work of art, an archaic-rugged-fragrant-adventurous category all its own. I was afraid that the ‘blood’ accord might get too nasty or some artistic notes of rotten meat might sneak in, but no, this is a very gentlemanly carnivore which never turns savage on my skin. It’s VERY assertive – maybe even aggressive – but always wearable. It might be perceived as ‘masculine’ but I’d disagree – this is a unisex adventure for the brave, and the cade lovers, of any gender.

As the hours wear on the florals swell through more and the overall heft and footfall of this giant stomping beast grow a little more discreet, but it’s still very much making its presence felt for up to 6-8h on me , with enough hanging on as skin scent for me to enjoy it privately for up to 10-14h.

My skin eats perfume like T Rex (the dinosaur) ate other dinosaurs, so that longevity is stunning, a geological age of its own.

Can you tell I loved it? That’s because it’s truly original and truly exciting as well as beautiful to wear. It will polarise: cade-loathers will hate it, and many will probably find it way too much overall, as well as too weird. But for me – this is no fossil horror, it’s a living breathing stone love. Bravo Victor Wong and Antonio Gardoni!  [Emphasis to other fragrance names added by me.]

In terms of blog reviews, everything I’ve read thus far seems to be a strange mixture of the hesitantly polite and diplomatic with the positive and admiring. I’ll be honest, I find that there is a strange tone to it because some early stuff I read actually made me NOT want to try the fragrance even though one blogger and friend, Claire Vukcevic, said that they actually loved it, immensely. I was still put off and I didn’t try my sample for weeks on end but, after having finally tried Tyrannosaurus Rex, I think that the strange tone, contradictions, or paradoxes in the reviews is simply a function of the notes and the challenging early hours of the scent. After all, there is only so much that one can describe rubber, latex, Ben-Gay, diesel, or, to quote another fragrance blogger on Twitter, “prophylactics,” before outsiders who haven’t smelled the fragrance are put off. But, honestly, really, the melange of notes actually works well in the beginning and the mix of rubber, smoke, cade, and darkness is nowhere near as challenging as they sound. (The woody-amber synth, yes, but not the rest.) In fact, I thought a few times that if you loved SHL 777’s Black Gemstone, which I did, then I think you might find the Zoologist scent to be its rawer, louder, butch, and more purely leathered, rubbered, and inelegantly beastly distant cousin in the blackness, smoke, incense, resin, spice, and amber arena.)

Going back to the issue of blog reviews, Claire Vukcevic of Take One Thing Off loved Tyrannosaurus Rex, despite struggling with the difficult opening, while Colognoisseur‘s Mark Behnke seemed less more circumspect. After noting that Antonio Gardoni’s style sometimes seems to involve “a clutter of ingredients heading off in many directions,” he found that Victor Wong generally and mostly acted as a traffic cop who reigned things in. He then described the scent as follows:

It begins with the bold opening I expected as twin pillars of smoke via cade oil and frankincense. This is amplified with notes of fir, and black pepper. This is acrid smoke the kind that makes you cough if you get too much. Sig. Gardoni captures the violence of air on fire. What twists it all is you also smell the flowers that are burning as champaca, jasmine, neroli, and ylang-ylang capture a primordial tropical milieu. It is a completely Gardoni style opening. Now the question was would this burn to the ground or soar. Mr. Wong does oversee a much more concise trip to the finish by concentrating on a set of woods and animalic ingredients to produce the giant dinosaur in the name erupting from the forest. It starts as cedar and sandalwood begin to push back at the smoke. A classically constructed birch tar leather accord joins in with civet to make the animalic accord. This is far less complicated than the typical Gardoni finish and much better for it.

I’ve taken great pains to describe other perspectives, more than usual, because I think Tyrannosaurus Rex is one of those fragrances where completely polarized opinions and perspectives will be the norm. Perhaps even more than is typically the case for a Bogue or Gardoni release. I feared that reading merely one or two reviews in isolation might give you a completely negative or overly positive impression of a scent which is, in my opinion, going to depend strongly on a multiplicity of variables — all subjective. So I’ve tried to give you a variety of opinions across the spectrum.

If you’re a huge fan of the Gardoni or Bogue aesthetic, my advice is to keep some of these comments in mind but not be swayed until you try the fragrance for yourself. As I wrote up above, even I paused for a while based on things that I had read, only to encounter a fragrance with a different character than I had expected, fewer problems, but also one insurmountable one for someone with my particular sensitivities. Nothing you read about a fragrance which is built with these particular set of notes and in this intense formula is ever going to give you the full and complete picture for you. Only trying it will. So, if you love dark, smoky, resinous, woody, and leathery fragrances, or Mr. Gardoni’s hand, then I strongly advise you to give Tyrannosaurus Rex a test sniff for yourself and with an open mind.

Disclosure: My sample was kindly provided by Antonio Gardoni. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.

Cost, Sizes, Sets, & Availability: Tyrannosaurus Rex is a pure parfum or extrait that comes in a 60 ml/ 2 oz bottle and costs $175, €175, or £175. At the time of this post, there is a limited-edition, special packaging version “that sports a red faux-leather box, and the T. Rex character on the labels wears a pair of cool sunglasses! 450 bottles made.” The special edition costs the same price as the regular bottle, $175, and is sold at a number of Zoologist retailers in the US and overseas. Exclusive to the Zoologist website are two additional options that I haven’t seen elsewhere: a travel spray that is 11 ml and costs $48; and the Zoologist Natural Selection 5-piece Travel Spray Set for $145 which lets you choose 5 different Zoologist releases, each in the 11 ml travel spray size, and packaging in a black case. Several Zoologist retailers offer a different travel set but, as best as I can tell, only the one from Zoologist itself includes the new Tyrannosaurus Rex as one of the options. Although Zoologist is based in Canada, it ships worldwideIn the U.S.: Tyrannosaurus Rex is available in the full bottle size from Luckyscent, SF’s Tigerlily, NYC’s Parfumarie (in Soho), and several other US stockists. Outside the U.S.: T-Rex is available from: Zoologist, Canada’s Etiket, London’s Bloom, France’s Le Comptoir à Parfum, Hungary’s Kremmania, Poland’s LuLua, Australia’s LKNU, and other retailers from Belgium and Italy to the Middle East and Japan. The NL’s ParfuMaria and Germany’s Das Parfum both carry Zoologist but they do not list Tyrannosaurus Rex on their websites at the time of this post. You can find a complete list of Zoologist retailers in America and overseas on their Stockist page. Samples: Zoologist sells a 2 ml atomizer sample for $6.50. You can also buy samples from Luckyscent, London’s Bloom, and a few other vendors on this list. Surrender to Chance sells samples of Tyrannosaurus Rex starting at $3.59 for a 1/2 ml size.

20 thoughts on “Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex

    • You’ll have to let me know what you think when you try it. I think the drydown will definitely capture your attention. Be patient with the opening hours….

      • I ordered a few samples and there was a mixup with order. I got a few things I didn’t ask for…. an no T-Rex! hahah I’m about to contact them to see what we can do.
        I am, however, enjoying the Hyrax a lot. It’s wonderfully skanky. 🙂

      • Victor rectified things promptly and threw in another sample, to boot. He’s really lovely to interact with.
        T-Rex… my god. What a beautiful thing this is! And for once you and I had the same expression and progression of notes. You actually helped me identify a few things that I couldn’t quite put my finger (nose?) on, so thanks for that.
        This will definitely be a full bottle purchase in the near future.

        • I’m absolutely delighted to read all this. And good for Victor Wong fixing things so quickly.

          So did you get the Ben-Gay or Tiger’s Balm too? And isn’t the drydown delectable?

          • Tiger Balm, absolutely! And all of it is beautiful to me. But, yes, the dry down is perfect. This is one of the best “morning after” fragrances I’ve ever worn. When I wake up I can’t stop sniffing my wrist.
            I’m also terribly impressed with Rhinoceros, as well.

  1. I thought I liked Upper Ten….then I became aware of the aromachemicals and how strong they are and I cannot wear it anymore….I have a bad feeling this one could be the same.

    I now always read your reviews to save me from that expense


    • It’s for people like you that I mention my issues when they arise or are a factor. We may be few in number, but we do suffer. I’m glad to know I can help a fellow compatriot.

  2. I have only tried Bat and I wasn’t amazed at all, but will give T-Rex a try if it’ll cross my way.
    But what I am more interested in, and still haven’t found a way to try them, are the Bogue perfumes. You made me curious again on the Gardoni’s signature dry down; MAAI is the first one on the test list!

    • I was not keen on Bat, to put it mildly and politely. But I think T-Rex is a significantly better scent.

      If you’re eager to try Antonio Gardoni’s fragrances, the one I think you should go out of your way to try as a hardcore vetiver lover is his creation for Aeon 001 called Aeon 001. (It may be 0001, with one extra zero, but I’m so tired that I can’t recall.) It’s like a sibling to MAAI, only with way more vetiver (and a glorious vetiver to boot, btw), tamer animalics and hyraceum, a milder or lighter floral component, and a gorgeous Gardoni-ade ambered base.

      Look at Aeon’s website, Luckyscent or the NL’s ParfuMaria for samples. Luckyscent ships samples worldwide for about $8 which is pretty good and on par with many European retailers. Look up my review for the fragrance because, if you’re interested in Gardoni, that one has your name written on it.

      • I was polite too when I’ve said I wasn’t amazed by Bat 🙂
        Thank you for reminding me about Aeon001, it’s on my to try list for some time and I will move it up the list. Will take a look at parfumaria for samples.

  3. Hello Kafkaesque, and thanks for the great review. I tried a sample of this a few weeks ago just because Gardoni is the perfumer, though I didn’t expect to like it because of the charred smokiness. The opening was not to my liking, but it is really impressive overall. Maybe I’ll try it again later and wait for the drydown. Glad that fall is finally here!

    • The opening is definitely a little intense, although I found the heart phase to be more challenging on my skin, personally speaking. I think most people fall into your camp. But the timing of things is definitely a subjective variable. I think, overall, the first half of the fragrance takes a little getting used to. Quantity applications might play a role in that.

      As a whole, the fragrance is, as you mentioned, nicely done. So, yes, give it another try and perhaps play with the quantity application to see if that helps things by bringing out more counterbalancing notes during the opening phase.

  4. I do like Victor’s work, and I also think he’s a decent fellow.He’s easy to chat with on line, even though he might not know you.
    That said, I love Camel, and I might be one of thew few that enjoyed his original Beaver. So I certainly will sample T.Rex soon shortly.
    Excellent review Kafkaesque.

  5. Thank you for the review!
    Zoologist is a brand that sparked my interest from the beginning, but I never got to the point of ordering samples. But when I heard Gardoni (i am a big fan of MAAI) made a fragrance for Zoologist, I ordered a sample right away!

    I think it is a great fragrance, slightly weird but very wearable. This T-rex growls a bit in the beginning but ends up in your lap for cuddles. Haha

    Best wishes to the hairy German, I hope for a speedy recovery!

  6. I have been intrigued by this one since the crossword puzzle release announcement, and I do love me some Gardoni! Zoologist with me is strangely lacking in middleground. Polarizing is how I describe the whole line. I love, or I hate it. FB or burn it down.
    Regardless of how this one turns out for me, so glad to read your take on it!

  7. I have full bottles of Nightengale and Mr. Cievet, which I adore! Nightengale being an excellent Chypre Floral in the tradition of Nombre Noir; and Mr. Cievet being as close as we’ll get to the great, funky, animalics of the past. I enjoy Victor’s creativity with the whole line! As he shares his processes on Facebook with us. I’m not going anywhere near this baby, and will save the samples for those who can. The only other Bogue fragrance I own is the masterful Cologne Reloaded, in my treasures area, as it is sadly, not in production to my knowledge. I , as ever, LOVED this wonderful review! Thank You, Beloved Kafka! Kisses to His Hariness! <3

  8. Gasp! I can’t believe it! For I’m a longtime follower and admirer of Kafkaesque, a recent lover of T Rex, and … I am trabuquera! To see my own review quoted on here gave me more gratification than I can express… after reading the blog so intently for so long, there was a sense of vertigo to see it here! Perhaps it was the Zoologist magic that did it, because even the fragrances they make and which I hate, tend to inspire vivid pictures and emotions – and T Rex really is an extraordinary and lovely beast.

    Thank you so much for your kind words. For the record, I am female (but pretty out-there in terms of my taste for extremely smoky/leathery/resinous scents) … and also I realised I’d made a mistake in my own review of T Rex by omitting the full name of the other cade extravaganza I love, which is CHARCOAL by Perfumer H.

    Perfumer H is the name of the house, and it/they make a huge variety of scents, many of them far far more delicate than Charcoal, which is a cade-centred autumn bonfire that can leave you and your clothes reeking like a wonderful chimney for days on end. There are other much more refined and gentler options from the same house for those strange individuals – I’ll never understand them – who don’t in fact want to smell so fiercely of smoke.

    And, of course, thanks for a beautiful review of your own for T Rex, explaining (with far more technical knowledge than I’ll ever have) just why it seduced me so.

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