Smells Like 90s Spirit

The similarities between fragrance and music have been well documented. (When you think about the compositions of different “notes” and chords - or accords - that work well together, even though there isn’t any precise logic as to why this is.) So it’s understandable why indie fragrance range Jusbox, is inspired by different musical eras. Founded by brother and sister Andrea and Chiara Valdo, previous scents have paid homage to the likes of Bob Dylan and Freddie Mercury. Their latest creation Black Powder is an olfactory tribute to the infamous poster-boy of 90s grunge - Kurt Cobain.


My first “encounter” with Cobain was via a giant poster my cousin had on her bedroom wall.  Taken at a rather uncomfortable close up, his face dominated the entire frame, staring out through greasy blonde tendrils with manic ice-blue eyes. (“Don’t look at that, it will give you nightmares,” my aunt remarked haughtily when she caught me staring at it.) Later when I was old enough to appreciate his music, I developed a fondness for plaid shirts, and would occasionally experiment smearing glitter on my face in the manner of his wife Courtney Love, who seemed like the paragon of confidence and badassery i.e. the polar opposite of my awkward teenage self. Watching them on MTV, the pair glamorised an alternative America – an antidote to everything you would normally associate with the chip and cheery “Disney-fied” culture.

An interesting fact: Nirvana’s most famous song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a reference to a well-known deodorant that a lot of girls were wearing (the US equivalent to Impulse 02 if you like). The name came about when a fellow musician scrawled "Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit" on his wall, as a joke because she knew his girlfriend at the time used to wear it.


Anyway, I’ve never smelled Teen Spirit, but I very much doubt it in any way resembles Black Powder. Created by Julian Raquinet, it’s a smoky concoction suede and tobacco with a punchy chorus of blackcurrent and apple and patchouli. It’s not exactly the type of thing one immediately imagines Cobain, Grohl and Novoselic spritzing on – but there’s a dark, haunting quality to it that you might associate them with. It also has guts and envelops the wearer is a cosy, mossy fug like one of Cobain’s oversized cardigans. What I like most about it is that it doesn’t disappear after a few hours but keeps re-emerging e.g. you might get a little nip of blackcurrent every so you don’t forget it’s there. Whatever you make of it, it’s definitely not a flash-in-the-pan – much like its famous muse.

£130. Available April 10th at Selfridges