Pears and olives. That unlikely combination is the essence of one of the most unusual fragrances I’ve tested in a while, the Pear + Olive fragrance from Slumberhouse, a niche, indie perfume brand out of Portland, Oregon. The company describes itself as follows:
Slumberhouse is a boutique cologne label in the heart of Portland, OR; created and inspired by urban and street culture, art, film and music – especially the new school of hiphop and graffiti artists. We are a group of young gents who march to our own beat, embracing an absolute disregard for other brands, trends and marketing cliches. Slumberhouse represents an unequivocal love for the art of fragrance making.
It’s a fascinating background, matched by the equally fascinating candour and genuine commitment shown by one of the founders, Josh Lobb, who now seems to be the sole force behind the brand as well as its perfume creator/nose. In his personal blog on the website, the 31-year old Mr. Lobb reveals his personal struggle with keeping costs down while using the best, absolute ingredients; his realisation that he was barely breaking even with many scents; and his personal journey in making some of the Slumberhouse fragrances. In one very revealing entry, he revealed the inspiration, notes, nuances and essence of Pear + Olive, his fourth perfume:
As I slowly made sense of my notes on how to construct this unique pairing, I knew the pear would not be the sweet and tart variety, instead a composition of vegetal/ethereal pear skin with subtle hints of dew, coupled with the rounded sweetness of pressed olive tincture (think of olive oil with its personality turned up to 10), an almost fatty oiled fresh balsam green scent that would add heft to the skeleton of pear.
[¶] The harmony between these two was so satisfying to me that I found myself wanting to end the perfume here, but with patience I began to place other elements with subtle precision: soft shades of herbal sweetness from Roman chamomile, the bitter booziness of grape tissue from French white cognac oil, the wet & earthy hues of zdravets crowned with the rich, velvety green gem of the very rare aglaia absolute. A chord of massoia bark & calamus absolute was created to provide a trace of cream.
The final product is a very personal labor of love. I smell it and am instantly back in the orchard experiencing the things that matter. A scent to serve as a reminder that the constrictions of daily routines are optional and that happiness and freedom are always yours for the taking.
Pear + Olive is classified on Fragrantica as a “floral fruity” perfume. The most complete set of notes comes from Josh Lobb’s blog entry (linked above) for the perfume:
Notes: pear, cognac, chamomile, aglaia, olive, zdravets, massoia bark and calamus
I’m unfamiliar with a good portion of these notes, so I thought I’d share the results of my internet investigations to help you better understand the perfume. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, zdravets is geranium oil from Bulgaria or Cyprus. Massoia is a tree native to New Guinea which Fragrantica says has “[m]ilky-smelling wood note, famously used in Santal Massoia in the boutique line of Hermes, the Hermessences. […] The bark of the tree is aromatic and has a pleasant sweet, coconut-like flavor.” Calamus is apparently a type of grass that originated in India and the root of which has a “refreshing, soft spicy scent” that “resembles cinnamon.”
Lastly, aglaia is a flowering shrub in the mahogany family that is commonly known as the “Chinese Perfume Tree.” It is said to have a “sweet smell,” but it was hard to find an explanation of what exactly that entailed. Then, I stumbled upon a poster on a gardening website, Dave’s Garden, who described it as follows:
To my nose, the fragrance is not as heady or spectacular as a gardenia or a jasmine, but it is so pure, clean and lemony-floral-spicy-tea sweet that it seems to refresh and brighten the atmosphere of any room it is placed in. It is truly one of my all-time favorite smells since there are never any “off notes” and it floats lightly yet unobtrusively on the surrounding air.
The opening of Pear + Olive on my skin was something truly special. Spectacular, in fact. There was a dewy, wet pear note that feels simultaneously watery-fresh and, also, the most concentrated essence of the fruit’s sweet nectar. This is such a photo-realistic pear note that you expect a plate of it to magically appear before your eyes, filled with fruit that is ripe but not over-ripe, fresh and firm, and so delicately sweet that it almost feels a little like a honey-dew melon. The fresh fruit is almost dewy, as if splattered with some condensation from the fridge. It’s never too sweet, and is the furthest thing from cloying.
There is a creaminess to the succulent, mouth-watering smell, along with hints of chamomile tea and coconut. It is honestly so perplexing — in the best way possible — because Pear + Olive sometimes feels like a ripe pear; a firm, green pear hanging off a tree branch; and the white, creamy pulp of a sliced pear, all in one go. The absolutely beautiful balancing act achieved here cannot be praised enough. This is the sweetest nectar you can imagine and, yet, in those opening moments, the perfume itself isn’t actually gooey sweet. Instead, it is the very essence of freshness. At the same time, Pear + Olive is also wonderfully soothing with a relaxing milkiness and creaminess atop the mildest base of delicate white woods. There is also a faintly floral aspect — beyond that sometimes associated with chamomile tea — that daintily tiptoes around the edges.
And then, there is the olive note. It fascinates me in this opening stage. It’s not actual olives, per se, but the most delicate, expensive, first-cold-pressed olive oil from Calabria. In the very opening seconds of the perfume on your skin, you can actually smell the unctuousness of the oil. Yet, there is something more than that as well. In one of the many places I lived during my nomadic existence, there was a large olive tree with its small, green fruit. On occasion, you could smell the fragrant, almost herbal aroma of the leaves. Here, with Pear + Olive, that same note appears very quietly, amidst the more predominant oil note.
As the minutes pass, other notes become more apparent. I’m not usually a tea drinker, but something about the chamomile undertone to the perfume in the opening is incredibly relaxing. Pear + Olive sometimes has the feel of a very expensive, luxurious artisanal oil that is given to soothe you. The chamomile note starts to become stronger, undercutting much of that fresh sweetness from the pear. At the same time, the coconut accord (presumably from the Massoia tree bark) starts to appear. It’s nothing like suntan oil but, rather, more like coconut milk. It’s creamy, but too milky at this stage to be truly heavy or buttery.
The whole thing most definitely evokes Mr. Lobb’s inspiration and personal experiences of sitting in a pear orchid in the summer. As he wrote on the Slumberhouse blog, he spent months
enjoying the expanse of a private pear orchard along the northern Oregon coast – relaxing in the spring sun with homemade wine and piles of books. This was my first experience truly immersing myself into a perfume project, keeping fragments of pear meat and shaved pear skin along with glass tinctures of olive. I spent these days almost exclusively outside (many nights too), forgetting the familiar and absorbing the simplicity of what life really is – with good friends, ukeleles and a garden with multiple fountains.
At the one hour mark, the perfume starts to change. It turns into a floral, woody, musk perfume. That spectacular pear note fades dramatically and recedes to the background, to be replaced by heaping dollops of olive oil, now-heavy coconut, and strong chamomile. The floral note (from what I presume is the aglaia) also becomes apparent, but it’s an unusual smell that, visually, feels very yellow. It’s not like gardenia, nor like mimosa, but seems a little between both of them. The coconut has also become stronger, verging a little on the unctuous, heavy side for my personal tastes. The whole thing sits atop a woody foundation that is faintly musky. The wood note is, simultaneously, creamy white and, oddly, quite liqueured. Pear + Olive is supposed to have cognac in it, and it definitely feels as though it’s flickering through the wood undertones.
At the one hour mark, I start to struggle with the perfume. Coconut is a note with which I have some difficulties if it is too thick. More to the point, anyone who has read this blog for a while knows I also have a hard time with very sweet perfumes — and Pear + Olive turns sweeter by the minute. In fact, after a few hours, it turns into what may be one of the sweetest perfumes that I’ve tried in a long, long time. The combination of the gooey, thick coconut, the chamomile, the cognac, and that increasingly heavy feel makes Pear + Olive far too unctuous for me. It’s so rich and sweet that, for me personally, it was cloying.
The sweetness recedes by a small fraction at the start of the third hour, but the perfume is still too sweet, unctuous and gooey for me. I miss that pear note so, so much with its dewy freshness, lightness and delicacy. As the hours pass, Pear + Olive turns into a very abstract, amorphous floral, woody, coconut musk with milkiness, creaminess and flickering hints of chamomile. Sometime around the eighth hour, there is a surprising feel of vanilla, combined with powder, that appears. Almost a sort of Guerlainade accord, if you will.
The perfume remains that way for many more hours until, finally, its final traces fade away well over 15 hours later. I had heard that Slumberhouse perfumes had crazy longevity and, obviously, Pear + Olive is pure parfum, but still! The duration of the scent on my perfume-consuming skin was something quite amazing. In terms of sillage, the perfume is very strong, and will have quite a big projection if you apply too much. It won’t necessarily fell your co-worker across the room, but it does create a small perfume cloud around you. I would advise you not to apply a lot if you work in a conservative office environment, but those who appreciate sillage should be happy.
All in all, the perfume was not for me. My personal tastes and the notes I struggle with mean that it was far too unctuous and sweet for me. However — and this is a big however — I cannot begin to express my utter appreciation, awe and respect for the achievement that is Pear + Olive. To the perfumer, I give a huge, massive “Bravo!” First, it is an incredibly different, original scent made from such unusual ingredients and in such a sophisticated manner that I’m quite awed it comes from a self-taught perfumer who is only 31. Second, there is an intentional purity to the scent that is clearly intended to evoke the beauty of more innocent, simple pleasures. It really does conjure up Mr. Lobb’s experiences in that orchard, sipping wine, playing the ukelele or reading poetry. There is almost a Zen aspect to it all that I find both intellectual and impressive.
Third, for all that Pear + Olive may seem like a simple scent, there is an underlying complexity behind its creation, plan and thought. CafleureBon thought that depth made Josh Lobb put many other perfumers to shame, leading one of its main editors to rank Pear + Olive as the second best perfume of 2012:
For most of the year this was going to be my best of 2012. Josh Lobb, the man behind slumberhouse, put almost every other perfume out there to shame. Pear + Olive is as intricate a creation as you can find. The delicate complexity takes my breath away with its fragility. More than anything on my entire list if there is only one perfume you should seek out Pear + Olive is that fragrance.
I personally wouldn’t rank Pear + Olive as the second best perfume of the last year (and I certainly don’t agree with his #1 choice of Musc Tonkin by Parfum d’Empires, or much else on his top 5 list), but I do agree with parts of the statement. Pear + Olive is creative and original as hell! And its pear opening is utterly spectacular! The perfume may not morph this way and that, but it’s not intended to. It’s true to the creator’s vision. He meant to create a very Zen feeling, and a mood of simple, relaxing serenity. For many, I think he will have succeeded brilliantly at that.
Lastly, (and I apologise for the length of this review), perhaps the most impressive thing about Pear + Olive is the confidence with which such unusual ingredients have been crafted so elegantly and seamlessly. There is enormous imagination and creativity at work here. There is also a very clear attempt to use the richest ingredients possible to create a luxurious experience that is intentionally different. Slumberhouse’s name has the tag-line or sub-text of “Strange and Unique Fragrances,” and it definitely applies to Pear + Olive in a really positive way.
So, while the perfume may not be to my personal tastes, I strongly urge those of you who like very sweet scents and/or fruity florals to give it a try. In fact, I think anyone who wants to try something different should give it a sniff, simply because of how original, creative and unusual it is. This is out-of-the-box thinking that really should be encouraged. In short, Slumberhouse is clearly one to watch. I am truly intrigued to see what they will try next and can only repeat, Bravo!
I had heard about and read other reviews on Pear and Olive and was a bit intrigued. Your review tipped the scale, so to speak. First off you are incredibly vivid and descriptive and based on what you have written i think I would enjoy this fragrance. I love the initial burst of pear, I don’t mind gourmand fragrances and I adore coconut (I slather raw organic coconut oil all over my body as a moisturizer in the summer) so I think i would get on splendidly with Pear and Olive. And given that it is a parfum concentrate the price is reasonable. Great review, as always!!
Oh and thank you for the lesson on those unusual notes!
I’m so happy that you liked the review and, more importantly, that you’re tempted by the perfume. It’s such an original, creative, well-crafted perfume that I’d definitely hope a lot of people will give it a sniff. And that’s apart from wanting to encourage or bring success to small perfumers who are boldly striking out where no man has gone before (to paraphrase Star Trek). I actually thought of you quite a bit when writing the review. Both the luxe feel of artisanal oil, the chamomile tea aspect, and the very serene mood it seems to reflect all made me think that this one would be right up your alley!
Ah, kafka, you know me too well! Yes, I very much prefer supporting artisanal and upstarts and I was eyeballing this one for a while until your review…now I MUST sample it…and am kicking myself that I did not jump on the StC sale that just ended!!!
Geez, I have so been wanting to try this but I think the heaviness of the coconut will do me in. For me sweet can’t be too gooey or too sweet. And unless coconut is very lightly around the edges of a fragrance, I can’t do it. But am I wrong to want to buy a tiny sample 🙂 just to get that opening note of pear, which I adore?
A few people have responded that either the coconut wasn’t heavy for them or that their skin cancelled out some of the sweetness of the notes! Plus, you have a significantly higher threshold for sweetness than I do! So I definitely think that you should try it, cherie. xoxox
Agree with everything Brie said. This scent sounded interesting but after reading your review it’s jumped to the top of my must-try list.
I’m so glad you liked the review. You’ll have to let me know what you think of the perfume once you try it. 🙂
Wonderful review as always, dear Kafka. I adore Pear + Olive and have a full bottle. It is a heavy perfume and you are so right about needing to be light handed when applying. To this end, the atomizer of my FB is one of the very best I have ever encountered. Josh continued to use the 50mL bottles but had added glass balls to displace 20 mLs. I personally don’t like cocnut notes but they are so well-blended in Pear + Olive.
Your comment on the coconut should give hope to others who may struggle with the note. So, I’m incredibly glad you said that. If it wasn’t heavy on you, the way it was on me, that should make some people very happy. 🙂
I really like this one. I’m not a big fan of pear either but in this it’s amazing. I don’t find it that sweet. My skin seems to amplify the olive part of it which tempers the sweetness of the other notes.
The pear is truly stunning. As whole, though, it sounds like the perfume was the reverse on you than it was on me: much more olive than pear. I would have loved more of that initial note and less of the heaviness of the other accords. But I’m so glad you like the perfume. 🙂
I get sweetness but it’s not as sweet as it seems on you. It could just be my nose though. Also, like Hajusuuri, I normally don’t like coconut but in this it’s good. It never reminds me of suntan lotion like some coconut does.
Orchard, lots of books – I am so there. Thank you for transporting me.
You’re very welcome, Jordan. I hope you will manage to get your hands on a sample. It has a serene Zen aspect to it that I think may definitely intrigue you. 🙂
I love this review! I’ve been so intrigued about this one, and after reading, I’m still intrigued. I would never have thought to put those two smells together, and it seems to have potential. I love when a perfume can surprise me after having tried a good number of them. I’ll need to try this one with my next decant binge!
I’m so glad. A few people seemed to experience less sweetness or thick coconut than I did, so it’s definitely one that may intrigue you. At the very least, I know you’d like the sheer crazy intellectual originality of it!
Yay! I got to try this one! 🙂 I’m really strangely taken by it, perhaps due to the novelty. My experience with it really mirrors yours in many ways. Upon spraying, I initially said “Woah, coconut.” As you note, it’s not suntan lotion coconut, but something more realistic. This perfume *is* very sweet, but the inclusion of the olive oil does temper it a bit. In general, between the olive oil and the milky coconut aspect of it, the sweetness is kept in check due to the richness of it which keeps it from being cloying for me. I really do like it. But then I also don’t think I’d ever want/need a bottle of it. It’s really unlike anything I’ve smelled to date and it goes to show I needn’t dislike all sweet perfumes.
The juicy pear note was pretty fleeting on me. I could smell it after the initial coconut blast went away (within a minute or so, truly), but I wouldn’t say it lasted more than an hour. But still, for some reason all the ingredients in this one just “click” for me, even though I can’t say I’d be tempted by a full bottle.
How was the richness for you? For me, it was too unctuous, so that in conjunction with the sweetness…. it was too much. (I’m starting to wonder if my skin amplifies sweet notes.) And the coconut disappeared on you within a minute??? Wow. Lucky you. If you like the scent, but not enough for a full bottle, you should get a small decant via FFF. Given the strength of this, 8 ml would probably last you for ages!
In some ways, I think the unctuousness helped tone down the sweetness, but the experience is just “a lot.” It’s so rich and decadent, and in that regard, less is more. For me, it was sort of like eating a hyper rich (but beautiful) desert after having a full meal. You don’t really want the dessert, but you feel compelled to taste it because it looks so appealing, and the meal was so good. But ultimately, you can’t stop yourself from eating it all and then you regret it later. The good thing is that this perfume has fabulous sillage and longevity, but this is one where I don’t necessarily want it all day long because it is so heavy, rich, and sweet.
When I say the coconut disappeared within a minute, I really mean to say the “only-being-able-to-smell-coconut” disappeared within a minute. After that, I could still smell coconut, but I could smell other components as well. But on the first spray, all I smelled was coconut and not a single other thing. Yo
Ah, got it. Blended coconut vs. initial full, solo coconut.
I think your dessert analogy is dead on. It’s a perfect way of describing what I meant by “unctuous” and far more descriptive. LOL.
I am a major coconut freak and am now desperate to try this, although I worry slightly about the olive note. Olive and pear? I can’t imagine it. Might need to try the discovery sample pack.
Don’t worry N…if I get my hands on some I will surely send your way!
If it’s any comfort, Ginza (do you mind if I abbreviate your name to that?), the olive note isn’t really detectable as olive per se for most of the perfume’s development. Instead, it contributes more of a feel in that it’s a little like an unguent that glues together everything else upon a very thick, unctuous base. At least, that is how it was for me. It’s that unctuous base that I struggled with a lot but it doesn’t really smell of olive oil for the most part. It’s hard to describe in a way but then, this is a perfume that’s outside the usual sorts of descriptions. As for the sample pack, the other 3 perfumes in the line are supposed to be full of smoke and woods and, one of them, Jeke, tempted me a lot when I was ordering samples. Fragrantica description: “Jeke evokes autumn twilight with masculine fragrance of burning wood – the atmosphere of the November leaves, the smell of trees, smoke of the cigars and leather shoes. Notes: cade, tobacco, patchouli, benzoin and labdanum.” In the end, I didn’t get it, but I have my eye on it. So, if you like very rich, dark perfumes full of spice or woods, you may enjoy the full sample pack as well. I hope that helps. 🙂
It does. I am all about the unctuous, so I now less offput by the olives!
Sounds like a great perfume. I quite fancy pears in perfume so I would definitely like this stage, now sure how the oily olive note would behave on my skin. If it wasn’t too cloying or similar to the kitchen olive oil smell then this might be fine.
Haven’t tried any of Slumberhouse offerings, they’re not sold in Poland.
The olive note isn’t really like olive oil for most of the perfume’s development, Lucas. Instead, it acts like a base and glue that draws all the other notes together. It contributes much more to the perfume’s *feel* rather than to its *smell,* if that makes any sense. I do hope you’ll get the chance to try the perfume if you like pear notes. Perhaps in a perfume swap via Perfume Posse next month? 🙂
Thanks for these few additional words for the olive note. It’s not that I “LOVE” pear because I don’t. I LIKE it when it smells like in Shakespeare in Love or U4Eahh! from YOSH.
That’s an idea to ask for it in Perfume Fairy Godmother post at Perfume Posse when it comes in early May.
Now I’m off to my French classes, talk to you later 🙂
I absolutely love and appreciate unique combination in fragrances. And your description of Pear+Olive sounds very unique. I also love ripe soft pear and would really like to discover it in a fragrance form. What makes me slightly hesitant is the sweetness which I’m not a fan of. But despite that I’ll be getting my hands on a sample and try it on my skin to see how it develops. Wonderful review, Kafka!
I’m so happy I reviewed a perfume that you haven’t tried yet (it doesn’t happen often, Ross. LOL) *and* that you’re tempted by it. As for the sweetness, I don’t have the highest threshold for that and others have said that they found the perfume much less sweet than I did, so I wouldn’t let that worry you too much. I would definitely try to get a sample pack in your case because I suspect you may like one (if not more) of his other fragrances. They’re supposed to be full of woods, spice, and smoke, and sound wonderfully rich. Jeke really tempted me as something to try and I somewhat kick myself for not ordering a vial from StC during the sale. From Fragrantica’s description of it: “Jeke evokes autumn twilight with masculine fragrance of burning wood – the atmosphere of the November leaves, the smell of trees, smoke of the cigars and leather shoes. Notes: cade, tobacco, patchouli, benzoin and labdanum. “
That sounds right up my alley! 🙂 A friend of mine has been telling me about Slumberhouse fragrances and he said they are very well made and unique. What makes me discover this house is that its quite long lasting and their prices are not astronomical (I`m pointing at you Xerjoff lol). Woods, spice, wonderfully rich…. I like it already 🙂
The way you described the opening fits exactly how Pear + Olive smells to me. If the opening part would have stayed on my skin for at least an hour I’d be buying a bottle right now. Unfortunately this havenly pear note disappears within the first fifteen minutes. Coconut isn’t too strong on my skin (thought I do not mind it at all) and I smell almost no sweetness so that part doesn’t bother me either.
That pear note is truly heavenly, as you say. Like you, I so, so wish it had lasted longer. And I’m not normally one who goes crazy for pear, either! But what an opening. My God, what an opening!
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I’ve been playing around with slumberhouse samples and decants for months now, incl some no longer found online in FB. I’ve tried Grev, Mare, Eki, Rume and Flou as well as the full sample set from Twisted lily. Pear and Olive is the one I keep coming back to. The sweetness and coconut aren’t heavy on me at all, rather, the massoia is what emerges as the dry down progresses. I had enjoyed Santal Massoia from Hermessence for 10 whole minutes before it faded into the ether. So, Pear and Olive for me, but that being said, they are all gorgeous. Like my experience with the SHL777 it doesn’t really seem to be a matter of which one is better so much as which one a perfumista is drawn to the most from their personal tastes.
Ps. Pear and Olive is a milky comfort scent on me with a tinge of pear throughout. It’s comforting in the way that Olfactive Studio’s Lumiere Blanche is – which also has a white cashmere feel in the base.
Josh Lobb has reformulated all the fragrances, first when the EDPs became Extraits, then subsequently tweaked most of Extraits as well. He told me that himself. Some of them are undoubtedly better balanced now, and it sounds like Pear+Olive is one of them. I’m glad you found the line to be interesting but especially that you found one to work so well for you, my dear.
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