Years ago I saw a quirky film called ‘Being John Malkovich’. It involved a portal to enable people to enter the mind of John Malkovich, the esteemed actor. Not being in the least arty myself, I am intrigued at how artists think, and such a literal portal would allow me to enter an artist’s mind. Kind of creepy an idea, I know, but it would be the closest I could get to producing art and the thought processes that occur in its production.
Of all the perfumers whose work I admire, it comes as no surprise to me that many are multi media artists. Teone Reinthal paints and works with video production, Andy Tauer draws and is involved in his entire image, and John Biebel works in IT and paints in a variety of styles.
John is the visionary of a brand called January Scent Project. He has produced 5 eau de parfums and 2 oils to date.
You may know of John from his Fragrantica articles and editorial contributions. I think it was through Ida Meister’s 2016 Fragrantica interview of John I first learned of John’s perfumes (link here). Smitten with Ida’s operatic writing style, I promptly ordered a sample set of John’s first three scents.
Ida Meister and John Biebel. Photo credit: Fragrantica.
The names of these scents give away the style of perfumery John has employed. Eiderantker, Smolderose and Selperniku are not of French provenance, in name and smell. They are decidedly modern, almost avant garde and come from John’s soul. Only someone like John could imagine such blends of notes and make them work. John has pushed the limits of what contemporary perfumery is capable of and I look forward to every scent he creates.
Photo credit: Fragrantica
I must admit I felt incredibly challenged by both Eiderantler and Selperniku. I spent a good week with each of them and studied every nuance like I do any building by Tadao Ando. Complexity abounds in each sniff, though I am reaching for a unified, simplified understanding I can grasp in one smell. John’s scents are not like that. From afar, one can determine they are JSP scents, but up close, each one brings a near sensory overload. A most welcome feature indeed, for JSP scents are not mundane in any way.
I find Selperniku a textural and sensory delight. In fact, all John’s scents are, but Selperniku is more so. It contains seemingly competitive notes, such as salt, tangy apricot, creamy butter and a host of things that should bump against each other in ways to repel, but they do not. I seek out the taste of the salt, I want to feel the sun kissed fuzzy skin of the apricots and I think of that rich butter melting between my fingers. Together, Selperniku has me come back for more; wanting to discover what else lies beneath.
Then there is the decadent, sensual, smoky Smolderose. Funnily, I love the scent more after I have worn it to bed and it lingers on my pillow case in the morning. My skin must amplify the smoke and the rose to make an alluring scent that is intensely boudoir. Not a high top note in sight, yet its bassy heft is complete.
John’s more recent release, Vaporocindro, is a light hearted play on crisp green notes, waxy lilac that reads violet, and florals. It flits around in a non linear way and catches notes in the same way the sun is reflected off shiny surfaces on a warm summer morning. This an aspect of John that took me by surprise; especially as his next release was a quiet, masculine, reflective scent.
Mr Biebel has me intrigued as to what lies inside his mind. If these cacophonous, contemplative, Jackson Pollckesque scents came from within, what more exists in that magnificent mind of his? It has to suffice that the closest I will get to experiencing what it is to be John Biebel is to smother myself in one of his perfumes and allow my own mind to wander where it will. Maybe that is the point to JSP? To have me want to discover what lies within me and concern myself less with others?
Have you tried any of John’s January Scent Project perfumes? If so, what do you take from them? And what of the film, Being John Malkovich?
Til next time, droogies,