I like Juliette Has a Gun. They have succeeded in producing relatively artistic fragrances with good quality ingredients at an affordable price (lets face it £59 for 50ml is practically free by today’s niche standards) and they straddle the line between designer and niche fragrances quite happily. For these reasons I find it utterly baffling that they would decide to launch something as naff as Not a Perfume.
In 2010 the man behind Juliette Has a Gun (Romano Ricci) made the bold decision to shake things up with the brand by following the Escentric Molecules school of thought and create a non-fragrance containing only one aroma compound, and as the name suggests Not a Perfume is, well, not a perfume.
Ricci opted to use the rich, ambery ingredient Cetalox, or Ambroxan as it is sometimes known, for Not a Perfume, stating that: “usually used in perfumery as a back note, I have decided for once that it would play the lead role…because it is one of my favourite ingredients…the result is minalimst, elegant, pure”  Oh and it is “entirely allergen free”  too…
…You may not be able to see it dear reader, but my right eyebrow just met my hairline.
How Does it Smell?
Not a Perfume starts strong, sharp and diffusive. There is an extended presence of crisp alcohol over the woody warmth that makes up the heart of the cetalox. It is relatively diffusive & airy in the opening and has a weird nose-tickling quality that almost makes one sneeze.
The main structure of Not a Perfume is a deep amber, but it focuses solely on the resinous part of amber and lacks the soft, creamy vanilla of the classic (and best) ambers. This dry attempt at amber may work well as a supporting act but in isolation it leaves one crying out for something plush and cosy to fluff it out. To put it simply – it’s a bit dull.
There are a few quirky facets lurking inside this non-perfume. For the first half an hour or so there is a strong, sour odour reminiscent of human breath. It teeters on the edge of becoming unpleasant but never quite makes it, thankfully. There is also a weird, hot quality to it that makes one think of the smell of dust on a burning lightbulb but the effect is, sadly in this case, fleeting. We shouldn’t be surprised though, the fun stuff really is reserved for proper perfumes.
As expected Not a Perfume is relatively linear and it doesn’t really go anywhere. It also lacks any discernible texture and feels unfinished, as if it’s not quite enough that it smells nice, it needs the complexity and attention to detail of a real perfume to be considered as something worthwhile. But one must not forget that Not a Perfume isn’t trying to be a perfume…
Not a Perfume is far from unpleasant, in fact I would go as far as saying that is is quite a nice fragrance to smell, and whilst it may only include one ingredient it does showcase a variety of scented facets that just goes to show the complexity of the material. That said I can’t help but feel that shoving one ingredient in some alcohol and selling it for £59 is cheating.
The gimmick is lost on me I admit, but I stand by the fact that I can’t see the point of Not a Perfume and I can’t help but wonder why anyone would pay any attention to it when there are a number of other, much more interesting REAL perfumes in the Juliette Has a Gun line.
My advice? Pick up a bottle of Calamity J instead.
Not a Perfume is available in 50ml and 100ml Eau de Parfum with prices ranging from £59-£79.
Image 1 luxury-design.com. Image 2 europerfumes.com  &  juliettehasagun.com.