Sikkim Girls by LUSH (Gorilla Perfumes)

Get a whiff of this:

It’s late summer and you’re camping with a few close friends – somewhere tropical or subtropical – to me a memory of Okinawa comes to mind. You’re back from a late afternoon jaunt in the woods, and feel slightly sweaty and grubby from the waning heat of the day that has melted some foliage onto your legs. The air is still thick and sweet but beginning to cool. One of your friends is piecing together the start of a campfire, not to warm up, but to cook dinner on, and another passes you a cup of Jasmine tea as you sit yourself down in an old Coleman camp chair and place the cup under your nose, so the warm, aromatic steam can gently soften your face with sweet moisture. Your hippie friend has lit several sticks of Indian Nag Champa incense, to clear the air from her farting tent-mate, she says, but you smell no traces of the latter. Your old chair feels delightfully soft and warm and you laugh as one of your more attractive camp mates surprises you from behind by pouring a small bag full of collected frangipani flowers over your head. He knows you like them.

This warm, sensual and exotic fragrance created by father and son team Simon and Mark Constantine conjures up thoughts of hippies, and as such I can imagine the likes of Janice Joplin enjoying this scent that is Sikkim Girls. That’s definitely due to the Indian incense vibe that wafts off from the fumes. I have never been particularly partial to hippiedom, at least the fashion, and when it comes to incense I much prefer the scents that drift out of my local places of worship where I live here in Japan.

That said, I found myself continually diving back down another sniff of my wrist all afternoon in a café while doing some editing work after having held my breath to make it in and out of the Lush store down the street without procuring a headache.

No, I have never been partial to the Lush brand. The projection of the cluster-four-letter-word of enormous and clashing scents that shoot loudly off  from their cosmetics, emanating all together from one bright little, in-your-face outlet adorned with lively, enthusiastic sales staff has always driven me to run, not walk, in the opposite direction. I find the obnoxiousness of the brand contradicts somewhat with the message of “naturalness” that is their claim. I mean, how natural can neon green-colored soap really be? Seriously. And like the other UK powerhouse cosmetics store, The Body Shop, Lush says no to animal testing, which I’m most certain animals are indelibly grateful for, but I am personally grateful to all the little beasties out there who have unwillingly sacrificed their lives, over many years in the past, for my safety as a cosmetics consumer.

One cannot deny that testing products on animals has avoided all sorts of nasty contraindications in humans, including death. Not that I am pro-animal testing here, I’m just saying. I’ve actually been a vegetarian, aspiring to veganism, for almost 25 years, if that means anything. Are all Lush and The Body Shop customers hard-core vegan animal-rights activists? Undoubtedly some are, but I bet a lot of them like the fact that the marketing makes them feel a bit more conscientious than they perhaps really are, and I just think that some companies out there are simply capitalizing on all this trendy, left-of-center stuff. Or maybe I’m just cynical. Perhaps the people behind the company really do have pure and caring souls. I may never know.

Speaking of this concept of “naturalness,” I’m actually neither pro nor against the use of either natural or synthetic ingredients in perfumery. There is in fact a lot in nature that can harm, and synthetics are not necessarily nasty. Substituting a synthetic fragrance ingredient can indeed help save endangered species, be more humane, and reduce production costs, but I do doubt the extent to which real musk, ambergris, or castoreum can be well-replicated. Oh well, perhaps being progressive means letting go of the power such ingredients have, and searching out new, completely different and likely synthetic ones that hold equal allure as perfumery notes?

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a bit of a rant here. Basically I want to say that after sampling a few of the Lush fragrances in the company’s earlier days, I never gave the brand any further consideration. When Volume 2 of the Gorilla Perfume line was launched in 2013, packaged in containers that look like toilet rolls bearing gaudy comic renditions of a, surprise – Gorilla, I was doubtful. I don’t mean to put down illustrator Steven Krakow, as I actually don’t mind pop art, but gimmicky stuff brings out the snob in me. Honoré des Prés has done something similar with their We Love NY collection, which uses paper coffee cups, à la Starbucks, for packaging.

Anyway, after tuning into some of the media attention some of the smells were getting (and do notice that I deliberately use the word “smell” here, not scent or fragrance) I decided that I should bravely take a dive, with noseplugs in my pocket in case of dire need, into a wee Lush chain to get a whiff of what was going on. For pure originality, I must suggest that you get your nose on “The Voice of Reason,” “The Bug” and the extremely strange, seaweedy “Lord of Goathorn” if you have not already. I don’t feel any in the collection smell particularly well-rounded or finished, but they are interesting.

Sikkim Girls, to my nose, is the only scent in this collection that I would want to wear, rather than being an interesting smell that I would perhaps more likely enjoy sniffing from the bottle. It’s not as original as some of the others, and it is also rather linear. But it is also an intoxicating, seductive, regal yet unpretentious and subtle blend of frangipani (plumeria), tuberose, and jasmine – all powerful and heady white blossoms. On my skin the floral combo smells like the flowers were picked at the perfect time. Earlier and I’d get a tart prudish sort of fume; later, and I’d get an overly ripe, fit-for-the-bin feel.

It smells to me like there might also be a pinch of rose in the bouquet, and these florals lie comfortably on a fluffy futon of silky, honey-ish vanilla. Although there is no incense in the fragrance per se, the dustiness and the floral combo itself most definitely bring to mind Indian Nag Champa. The scent has a teasing bite to it for the first hour. We are talking about some heady florals, after all. Once they’ve exhausted themselves from all the jumping up and down on the futon, the flowers collapse into the velvety vanilla, which cheerfully soaks them up, and then proceeds to burp up a very subtle, clean, and soapy musk at the end. On warm, well-lubricated skin, this scent will last a few hours, but won’t be loud for most of its life. On dry skin I find this scent fades much more quickly than I would like – get out some cream to keep it going!

UK musician Sheema Mukherjee composed a wistful melody and brought it back from Darjeeling, naming it after two so-called, “Sikkim Girls,” who apparently could charm a man with just a sidelong glance and sensual sway of their hips. Lush’s Gorilla perfumers decided “to match her song with theirs, blending notes of their own to invoke intoxicating temptation.”

Sikkim Girls bears a resemblance to what you might get if Guerlain’s Nahema and Tauer’s Le Maroc Pour Elle had a child together. You kind of feel like you are in a rather sensual day dream when you wear it. You can snatch yourself a bottle at any LUSH cosmetics store in your area, or try eBay.

From Fragrantica:

  • MAIN ACCORDS: white floral, vanilla, tuberose, animalic, citrus
  • TOP NOTES: —
  • MIDDLE NOTES: frangipani, tuberose, jasmine, vanilla

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