Nature Boy (Garner James)

If the world were to end, we should look to the perfumers to rebuild our cultures from the ground up, because the good perfumers, at their very best, can capture the beauty and mystery of planet Earth using mere wisps of loving inspiration. Jim Gehr is one such perfumer, but his talent surpasses mundane explorations of notes and accords that typically smell "good" in a conventional sense, delving instead into more challenging territory. Nature Boy is evidence that niche perfumery can be every bit as complex, sophisticated, and memorable as the best examples of designer fragrances. It is infinitely more complex, more legible, and ultimately more rewarding than giants such as Yatagan, Polo, Fahrenheit, or any one of the greats from the seventies, eighties, and nineties. Jim has asked me to not treat him with kid gloves in these reviews, because he can take constructive criticism and run with it. I'm sorry, Jim. There's not a single useful critique that I could possibly muster about Nature Boy. Your perfume surpasses most of what I have smelled, niche and designer, well over four hundred perfumes and counting. Let me tell you and everyone else why.

There is a very distinct evolution that occurs from the time this perfume hits skin, to the furthest part of the far drydown. Before I describe it, let me just list some of the materials used here. Nature Boy's naturals include Mysore sandalwood EO, Mysore sandalwood SCO2, castoreum, Haitian vetiver, Patchouli dark (aged ten years), oakmoss absolute, jasmine absolute, Choya Loban (a pervasive frankincense note), lavender absolute, bergamot mint, and labdanum absolute. Its synthetics include Evernyl, Iso E (Timbersilk), Muscone, Coumarin, Ambroxan, and Celestolide. There are a few other materials, both natural and synthetic, but I should leave some mystery here and just highlight how inclusive Jim was in crafting this formula. Now people may read my gushing, then read this list and say, "Well okay, he has said in the past that he doesn't believe the IFRA restrictions on these materials significantly effect the quality of perfumes in a general sense, and yet here he says this perfume with all these wonderful materials that have been over-regulated by the IFRA surpasses pretty much everything else he's ever smelled. What gives?"

That's a fair observation, and a fair question. What gives is that Nature Boy is a product of near limitless skill. There is no innate desire to please the masses here with a big product for department stores across the world. There is no short-sighted attempt to emulate, to join in the esteemed ranks of names etched in ivory, like Edmond Roudnitska, or Pierre Bourdon. There isn't even an adherence to any basic fragrance structure, be it chypre, oriental, or fern. Nature Boy is a product of introspection, private expression, the need to be different, yet successful. It smells of money, in the very same league as Eau Sauvage and Green Irish Tweed, yet it begins with the skankiest muck note, an odor Xacto-knived from a North American forest immediately after heavy summer rains, loaded with bittersweet damp greens, rich tree barks, stones, mosses, animal shit, and hints of white flowers. Applied liberally, Nature Boy is intimidating, a bit of a green Kouros. Its castoreum is full-throttle, and the labdanum is quite deep and sweaty. Testosterone incarnate.

Ninety minutes later, and a minty floral note emerges from the mud. It is demure, very much present, yet soft and sweet, lightened by something remotely similar to eucalyptus. An hour after that, and there's the Choya Loban, resinous, an intense vegetal green with a spiced evergreen exhale. In conjunction with lavender, it takes on a mild lilac effect for a while, before it rounds out with woodier tones and becomes part of an immense, vetiver covered amber. This note continues to dominate for fifteen hours. Solid. Longevity is incredible, the throw is at least five feet from the wearer, and the wearer can expect to enjoy a weaving in and out of two accords: sticky green incense and mossy, sweaty sandalwood, with just enough herbal freshness from the lavender on one end, and natural labdanum on the other to make it balanced and coherent. No easy feat. You'd think it would smell like a failed test-tube perfume, overloaded with naturals and lacking the spine to make any of its soggy greens sing. Instead it reads as a rich, smooth, textured fragrance, very much a product of unfettered creativity and brilliant calculations. In making something this complex, how did the man know when he had it? How did he know where to stop? How did he recognize this result as the perfect green perfume?

There are of course aspects of the structure that resonate as being "familiar" and aren't necessarily superior to similar elements found elsewhere. For example, the combination of sandalwood materials creates a very lucid, smooth-as-ice wood accord, definitely the best type of sandalwood. Arden Sandalwood focuses on this accord and really makes it shine more prominently, while other fragrances like Cotton Club, Polo Crest, and Green Irish Tweed exemplify the best use of the note. What makes the wood in Jim's scent special is its blending. The moss notes are on the wood. You smell them on the wood. Then you smell the animal funk on the moss, on the wood. Then the sappy resinous raw greens poke up, wafting through air like a humid breeze, and there's just enough sticky pine needle and velvety amber to blow my mind.

You can wear this perfume on a walk with a friend or a loved one. You can wear it to a black tie event. You can wear it to work. Spray it at seven in the morning before you leave for work, then come home at five, walk into your bedroom and into a silvery cloud of residual jasmine sweetness, that ghostly flower that ties the bow on this animal. From the deepest dregs of the Earth, the elements of God and Devil toil in a struggle for their claim on eternity. Nature Boy reminds you of that. Despite all the concrete and metal, we are children of nature, and fragrances like this awaken a yearning to return to Earth and be free.


  1. "If the world were to end, we should look to the perfumers to rebuild our cultures from the ground up..."

    Dmitry Orlov is a Russian immigrant who writes about economic collapse (Five Stages of Collapse) both from an historical perspective and, disconcertingly enough, in the future.

    He went through the collapse of Russia and is familiar with events in Yugoslavia. During their respective troubles, two things in particular were apparently in huge demand and/or commanded premium prices: Vodka...and perfume. In the worst of times people desperately need connection to the things that remind them of civility and peace and I can't think of anything better than a great drink and the wafting of a wonderful perfume!

    1. I remember Dmitry and used to read his blog! Thanks for sharing, it doesn't surprise me about the need for a sense of restored social civility.

  2. Would be nice if for such posts you can post a link to where it can be purchased from :) very convenient when browsing from the mobile.

    Is this the correct link http://www.garnerjamesparfums.com/ Here neither Nature Boy nor Black Antlers seem to be available or am i missing something?

    Love visiting your blog and reading your reviews and thoughts.


    1. Hi Anup, thanks for your comment. I intentionally avoid posting links to commercial points of purchase for virtually every scent reviewed here. The thinking is that while this blog is a place to get information and opinions, it's not a place for linking to commercial sites with the intent of promoting and improving sales for other parties. If my opinions sway readers toward investigating on their own, that's great. However, my work stops at conveying the message without being an indirect storefront.

      Jim Gehr currently uses Nature Boy as his personal fragrance, and is not offering it for sale at this time. Keep an eye on his "limited edition" section, maybe he'll sneak a few ounces of the stuff on that page at some point. In the near future I will be collaborating with Jim on gathering some samples to send out to readers/bloggers. Of course you can always contact him and see if he'll work with you on getting a sample of Nature Boy and other fragrances also. For the record, I've said to Jim that he'd be wells served to sell this scent, it's beautiful enough to move units on a daunting scale - but maybe too daunting - I believe production of this one is likely a bit pricey, to say the least. Still, hope springs eternal.


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