Boadicea is a line that I approached with some trepidation, perhaps unfairly. It's strange sometimes, at least to me, how certain perfume houses gain an almost fanatical following, while others are either overlooked completely, or are received with ridicule. Perhaps ridicule is a bit over the top, but Boadicea has certainly met with some disdain in the blogosphere. I have found few, if any, favourable reviews.
So I decided to order a sample of Complex, which has been described as 'the underside of an old car', 'something you would pour into your car to make it explode', 'sharply animalic', and 'a mess'. Hardly the sort of glowing descriptions that would usually make one scramble for the credit card!
The notes from Luckyscent include violet, labdanum, leather, basil, sage, musk and civet. On me the opening is a sharp blast of rubber, leather, plastic/vinyl and something green, dark and sappy like crushed stems. To call this a memorable assault on the senses is somewhat of an understatement. The early phases of development remind me very strongly of two other leathery fragrances that equally scare the wits out of me, namely Vierges and Toreros by ELDO and Cuir by Mona di Orio. I suppose one might call this a leather green chypre, but Complex is a bold, scary and severe whiplash of animalic leather that smells metallic, synthetic and yet at the same time bizarrely organic. It's hard to describe really.
The heart is as uncompromising as the top, staying intensely leathery, almost charred, with a deep woodiness to it that at times smells disturbingly like blood and fur to me. It's really no holds-barred stuff. Complex is a linear fragrance, but having said that, like some other very strong and long-lasting perfumes, I suspect the linear feel comes not so much from actually being simple, but rather that the playing out of development is so prolonged that it just feels that way. Complex remains leathery for the next few hours, to the point where I struggle to smell my skin where applied - it is relentless. However, deep into development, some eight hours later, I start to detect a green vetiver note every now and then, gleaming through the dark base like sparkling gems, and a couple of hours later the leather softens sufficiently to allow a little sweetening of the woods, a relief to the battered olfactory senses!
To sum up, Complex is not for the faint-hearted. If you like your leather strong, I suspect you might tolerate this, but only barely. If you don't, then watch out. I can't help feeling as if they missed a trick here - the far-dry down is actually very nice once the charred leather note is softened, showing glimpses of what this fragrance could have been, had it displayed just a bit more restraint and subtlety. Those of you who know my tastes will know that I usually like bold, challenging perfumes, and Complex is definitely that. However even Complex is a step too far for me. Even so, I was taken on a journey, albeit a macabre and scary one, and there's something to be said for that.
Image credit - Luckyscent.com