New Perfume Review Apoteker Tepe Karasu- Summon Originality

As frustrated as I can get with many of the self-taught perfumers who send me their brands there are exceptions. What makes those stand out is because these artists who have essentially taught themselves how to construct perfume is they break the rules; because they weren’t told what they were. 98.5% of the rule breakers mostly serve to sharpen the reasoning for why these rules exist. The other 1.5% find new directions to explore. This group is the one which makes up our most talented independent perfumers.

holladay saltz

Holladay Saltz

One of these iconoclastic rule breakers is Holladay Saltz. She founded her brand Apoteker Tepe in 2015 with four very well thought out constructs. Ms. Saltz showed her resistance to being bound by convention throughout those releases. Now 2016 brings her first two follow-ups. Pale Fire is a good example. Ms. Saltz combines large amounts of labdanum and vanilla versus another accord of olibanum and oakmoss. The combination is volatile and wildly kinetic. That fervent energy kept me from wanting to wear it for a couple of days to review it. I have incessantly smelled the strip it is sprayed on but it is not something I wanted to wear. The other new release is called Karasu and that I did find the time to wear for a couple of days.



Karasu refers to the Japanese demons of the forest called Karasu-Tengu. They are summoned by the foolish humans who want to bind them using an incense ceremony. This is what Ms. Saltz is trying to evoke in Karasu. To do this she corrupts the incense ceremony with decay and smoke forming a desperate ritual in the woods that is not going to go well for the summoner.

Karasu opens with a version of oud from Indonesia called Gaharu Buaya. It is sort of a regular grade version of oud to its high octane cousin the purer Gaharu. Ms. Saltz choosing this as the representation of her incense is inspired because it carries an almost entropic air of collapse around it. As if right from the start the incense the supplicant is using is foreshadowing what is to come. To further enhance the deterioration Ms. Saltz takes birch tar and costus to fully warp the good intentions. The birch tar she uses is kept at a precise pitch throughout. This is the smoke of the smudge pot not the viscous contents within. Costus and its ability to push forward rot works incredibly well here. When this all comes together it is incense as scorched by olfactory brimstone. There is no surprise that what has arrived is not sunshine and light. Much later on the woods of the site of the ceremony take over as hinoki and cedar clear away the unclean act.

Karasu has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

In both of the new Apoteker Tepe releases Ms. Saltz seems to be experimenting with stark contrasts of well understood raw materials. It really comes together in Karasu to form something I was completely fascinated by. I may never be desperate enough to try and summon a demon but I surely will be summoning Karasu when I am in the mood for something unique.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Apoteker Tepe The Peradam- In Search of…..


When I was in college we would gather around the television to watch a cheesy series called In Search of…. It was hosted by Leonard Nimoy and would delve into all things paranormal and extraterrestrial. Think of it as the forefather of most of the content on the History Channel these days. When it comes to perfume I am In Search of….a uniquely authentic experience. After my review of Apoteker Tepe After the Fall I struck up a conversation with owner and perfumer of the brand Holladay Saltz. Through our exchange of e-mails I realized the way Ms. Saltz composes is also in search of authenticity. Of all of the debut four perfumes the one which exemplifies this best is The Peradam.

The name comes from the following quote from Mount Analogue by author Rene Daumal; “One finds here, very rarely in the low lying areas, more frequently as one goes farther up, a clear and extremely hard stone that is spherical and varies in size—a kind of crystal, but a curved crystal, something extraordinary and unknown on the rest of the planet. Among the French of Port-des-Singes, it is called peradam.
The clarity of this stone is so great and its index of refraction so close to that of air that, despite the crystal’s great density, the unaccustomed eye hardly perceives it. But to anyone who seeks it with sincere desire and true need, it reveals itself by its sudden sparkle, like that of dewdrops.”

holladay saltz

Holladay Saltz

The fragrance which carries the name carries an unusual amount of emotion. I would call it yearning as it seems to want to bring the wearer closer to its great density so that it can be perceived; while knowing most will never see it. Ms. Saltz uses three extremely precious ingredients to bring The Peradam in to view; an SCO2 extraction of jasmine grandiflorum, orris butter, and sustainable Mysore sandalwood. I was curious to hear why Ms. Saltz used these ingredients and here is her answer,

Orris: fizzy, soft, powdery, smoothing and soothing (I think of it almost as a shushing sound), evocative of feminine associations due to historical use of powdered iris pallida rhizome as an ingredient in cosmetics

Jasmine: the meeting point between the charnel house and the boudoir, a night flower blooming in enveloping darkness, a lover, can be masculine or feminine depending on the context

Sandalwood: both creamy and thin, sharp and mild, evokes masculine associations due to its historical inclusion in shaving products, also sacred and Eastern associations due to its use in temples and incense”

She is correct when she states many perfume lovers will never have smelled these raw materials before as very few commercial perfumes contain them in any appreciable quantity. The Peradam forms its transparent density around the axis provided by these three special notes. The only other note in The Peradam is lily. That lily is what I first notice as it is fairly rapidly enveloped by the orris. As Ms. Saltz mentions this is the orris of the cosmetics of the past. To me it speaks of a day when women powdered their noses regularly. The lily enhances that vibe. The jasmine takes it in an entirely different direction. This extraction makes the indoles even more prominent than usual while also somehow softening them. Most of the time a fully indolic jasmine has all the swagger of a Lost Generation flapper. This indolic jasmine is a wily seductress full of whispers and lies. The sandalwood is the best use of the renewable form of the Mysore sandalwood I have tried to date. Ms. Saltz has made the modern version used here feel vintage when added into the previous notes. After about an hour all four notes have found their balance and it is then which The Peradam becomes visible in all of its glory.

The Peradam has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Ms. Saltz is one of the new generation of independent perfumers for whom the journey is as important as the result. I am happy to say that when she went in search of The Peradam she found a precious bit of olfactory beauty.

Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Reivew Apoteker Tepe After the Flood- Making Mud Pies

When I was a child the twin goals of being both dirty and wet were often abetted by the near daily thunderstorm which occurs in South Florida. Just behind our house there was a depression which would fill up with the rain. I would lustily jump in, channeling my inner swine, as I rolled in the muddy water. This would all finish as the water would drain away leaving loads of ooey gooey mud for me to dig my hands in and make mud pies with. It was the afternoon version of bliss when I was seven. Considerably removed from that time I haven’t really thought about my days in the earthen bakery until I tried one of the perfumes from independent brand Apoteker Tepe called After the Flood.

holladay saltz

Holladay Saltz

Apoteker Tepe is the brand owned by Holladay Saltz who is also the perfumer. She works out of her brownstone in Harlem, New York. She released her first collection of perfumes in 2014 and has recently released her second collection called “The Illuminations”. The Illuminations are four perfumes which are meant to evoke “The Hero’s Journey”. After the Flood is inspired by Rimbaud’s poem of the same name. When I try the other three members of The Illuminations I am more easily drawn in to Ms. Saltz’s vision. After the Flood returns me to sitting in a hole surrounded by thick redolent mud.

holladay saltz at work

Ms. Saltz at work in her in-home atelier (via

One of the best, and worst, things about independent perfumers is they will try almost anything. There are times where that fearlessness coupled with inexperience can take a good idea and bury it underneath too many concepts vying for the wearer’s attention. Ms. Saltz is one who uses only a few ingredients and her perfumes are much the better for that restraint. In After the Flood her keynote is violet leaf absolute. She takes the green earthy quality of that ingredient and adds in even more earthiness. Mushroom, patchouli, and green cardamom are combined with her wet soil accord. Throughout it all there is the violet leaf unchanging and beautifully displayed as these other notes enhance and contrast it. I found the cardamom in particular helped evoke the slightly spicy nature wet dirt has. It is subtle. Ms. Saltz recognized this and keeps the cardamom finely tuned.

After the Flood has 8-10 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Any fragrance which can strongly evoke a scent memory is always going to find a fond place on my skin. After the Flood is a perfume which celebrates a time where I could sit in the mud and consider the world from its center. I’m much cleaner, and less impulsive, these days but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to be reminded that little boy is still there. Thanks to Ms. Saltz I now have a perfume which accomplishes just that.

Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Twisted Lily.

Mark Behnke