I want to thank perfumer Jim Gehr of Garner James for personally sending me five extremely generous samples of creations from his artisanal niche line. Jim contacted me recently as a fan of this blog, and I was excited to receive his care package, but I will be totally honest here - I didn't know what to expect. In the internet age, with open access to sites like perfumer's apprentice, anyone can buy materials, throw them in a bottle, shake, stir, and call himself a "nose."
I've had a few people offer me their hand-made creations in the past, and I usually politely decline the offer. It's not that I don't want to smell new and interesting things. It's just that the likelihood of my giving honest positive write-ups of everything new and interesting are very slim, and I'm not into hurting the feelings of amateurs with my own amateur reviews.
Needless to say, things with Jim have been different on a few levels. First of all, he is not an "amateur." I don't really know what his training is, or whether it falls under the designations of "formal" or "informal," but it doesn't matter. His fragrances are, without exaggeration, amazing. Their quality of materials, carefully fine blending, and rich parfum concentrations speak to the painstaking craftsmanship of luxury products that ought to be outselling much of the mainstreamed nonsense out there today.
He uses generous amounts of both naturals and synthetics (I suspect the naturals outweigh the synthetics in a few of the samples I received), and his style is apparent in every piece. These perfumes are made for men and women who seek versatility and appreciate wearability, but also value innovation and the avant-garde. I feel that his perfumes conjure strong associations to specific places, always positive associations, and his skillful handling of notes in Black Antlers achieves that effect.
Black Antlers takes me back to my beloved Ireland, where I spent a few years of my life. It opens with a mildy camphoraceous kiss of green woody notes, a tight accord of galbanum, lemon, cedar, artemisia, and anise. As it begins to dry, the woodsier notes step forward and become slightly Drakkar Noir-esque, while the mentholated anise re-balances itself to provide a cool canvas for invisible brushstrokes of firmer notes.
By the middle of the day, a crisp cinnamon and labdanum heart accord emerges, its fizzier texture playing off of the scent's inherent smoothness. Transparent patchouli, creamy sandalwood, and a hint of musk comprise the base, the perfect denouement to this little masterwork. Jim will send me an ingredients list (he does not go for the typical marketing note pyramids), and I expect it will detail the usage of several expensive naturals. Black Antlers is like a stroll through the Irish countryside after the rain, with the ephemeral magic of spotting a "Giant Deer" in the trees.
For more information on how to acquire bottles and samples of Garner James perfumes, you can contact Jim on basenotes - he goes by "Wooznib," and you can also contact his brand's Facebook page, which I linked to above. If you are someone who appreciates complex, gentlemanly niche compositions with excellent note clarity and separation (lovers of Montale, Malle, and Creed take note), you're wasting time if you're not already messaging him.