I get bored of new niche brands, I really do. Yes, there are a lot of wonderful new things popping up on a daily basis but my problem is that so many of them are nothing more than familiar fragrances housed within pretty bottles, with some gimmick or other to set them apart from everything else on the shelves. They often try and offer something new, something exciting, but in more cases than not it’s just the emperor’s new clothes – pretty packaging, yes, but what’s within is nothing more than derivative juices, or in some cases, pretty dreadful smells! So yes, I’m a bit cynical of new niche brands, but not all of them are bad – in fact, some of them are bloody brilliant!
Jusbox Perfumes could fall into the trap of being yet another niche brand with a gimmick if it weren’t for two important factors; 1) the scents are incredibly well made, and are not secondary to their packaging; and 2) the attention to detail the brand has factored in to every element of the product is remarkable, not to mention perfectly in keeping with their overarching concept. It’s the little things that matter here – the weight of the vinyl-capped bottle, the fact that each is sold in a 78ml size, the boxes which contain beautiful CD cased-sized cover art for each scent, the individual print designed for each fragrance, and need I mention the fact that the four scents in the collection have been composed by two industry greats – Dominique Ropion and Antoine Lie? I could go on.
The concept behind Jusbox is the link between music and scent. Their four fragrances are inspired by a particular decade of music, as opposed to a specific genre. For the 1960s we have Beat Café (Dominique Ropion), a tobacco, leather and booze fragrance inspired by Bob Dylan, for the 1970s there is 24 Hour Dream (Antoine Lie), a hazy vanilla and patchouli scent that feels like a hippy encounter with a mind-altering substance at Woodstock and for the grungey 1990s we’re treated to Micro Love (Dominique Ropion), an aquatic with the feel of hot circuit boards. You may have noticed that I’ve omitted one fragrance from these descriptions and you would be right and that’s because today’s review focuses on my favourite from the collection: Use Abuse.
Use Abuse (Antoine Lie) is inspired by the 1980s and specifically the overtly theatrical showmanship of the band Queen, and their frontman Freddie Mercury. It’s an ode to the excess of the decade – a time where everyone demanded more, more, more – more money, more sex, more music, more drugs and more theatre. Use Abuse is a hedonistic expression of freedom and a scent that is likely to rub one up the right way or the wrong way. Either way, it makes for an experience that is entirely unforgettable, for all of the right (or wrong) reasons.
“More, more and more! No rules, no limits, no boundaries, the celebration of the excess: in everyday life as on stage! Boom!”
– Jusbox Perfumes
Top: White Tuberose and Mandarin
Heart: Incense, Jasmine Sambac and White Peony
Base: Sandalwood, Opoponax Resin and Musk
How Does it Smell?
Use Abuse opens with a giant whoosh of mandarin-flavoured sherbet. To my nose, it’s a playful nod to the drugs of the 1980s but instead of a line of premium gutter glitter served on a pane of mirrored glass, Use Abuse serves up something more innocuous, yes, but just as fun. Initially, Use Abuse is fizzy and loud, but never is it thick, cloying or heady. There’s an intoxicating sense to it, almost like the sense one gets when walking through a cloud of steam – it disorientates and overwhelms, but like a transparent mist, it clears, leaving a hazy, heady and hedonistic shroud.
Like many of the fragrances released in the 1980s, Use Abuse celebrates gigantic white flowers, specifically tuberose, jasmine and white peony. But the flowers here are not the syrupy cocktails of impenetrable weight that dominated the decade, no these are synthetic flowers cultivated in a laboratory by some very nifty perfumers. The impression I get is of tuberose and jasmine blooms crafted from cellophane – each petal cut to perfection and glued together with a toxic, psychoactive substance. It sure as hell is a lot of fun and is as far removed from the prim and proper soliflores of the world as it can be – Yardley Tuberose, this is not, that’s for sure!
The base is an airy mix of transparent musks, vanilla and sandalwood, but it’s important to note that Use Abuse is fairly linear, so the base isn’t something that appears late in the composition as a finishing touch. I see the scent as being fairly ‘front loaded’ meaning that the initial spritz pretty much reveals all that Use Abuse has to offer. It’s like clapping powder between one’s hands – initially there’s a huge blast of everything, but as the cloud dissipates the transparency enables space to move between the particles, allowing them to be smelled in isolation. The base notes cling to the flowers and fruits, softening them and lifting them with time, enhancing the composition to giddying heights. In short, these base materials are akin to autotune for the nose, cleaning up the vocals, as it were, but also intensifying that synthetic edge that makes Use Abuse so dynamic and interesting.
Use Abuse is not for the feint-hearted, nor is it for those that expect something natural or conventionally beautiful in their fragrances. This perfume is entirely fake, crafted to create an impression of excessive experiences not found in nature. It’s a theatrical overdose that pays homage to a decade where everything was big and bold, without trying to emulate the scents of that era which, I think we can all agree, are more than just a little bit dated in this day and age. Use Abuse showcases all of the good and bad of the 1980s in a fragrance that is decidedly modern and wearable, and just like many of the catchy tunes of the decade, this fragrance is a complete ‘noseworm’ that gets under one’s skin and refuses to leave. Consider me hooked – now give me more, more, more!
Use Abuse is available in 78ml Eau de Parfum for £130. In the UK it can be found at Selfridges.
Sample, notes and quotes via Jusbox Perfumes. Images are my own.