Searing woods, rough ouds, tarry incenses. The overtly tough perfumes get most of the attention in the discussion of ‘challenging’ perfumes. Grim, dense, basenote-heavy perfumes are assumed to be threatening. Within the perfume fraternity they land somewhere between a hazing ritual and a hot-pepper eating contest. They have an aura of intimidation and tests of manhood, but conceptually they are as menacing as someone jumping out at you and yelling, “BOO!"
Room 237's challenge is less overt. It's not a dare, it's a threat.
The perfume's name is a reference to a specific scene and set from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. The scene is horrifying for the way it creates suspense, for the way evil is revealed. It doesn't confront you. It invites you, it lures you. It's banal and common and you only become aware of it because you are becoming part of it. Whether you knew it or not, sin surrounds you and always has. Having peeled back the curtain and seeing the evil, there's no turning back.
It's a great spin on the tree of knowledge myth. Temptation, the internalization of evil, the fall from grace. So how can a perfume be 'about' these concepts? Room 237 works with discord smartly and delicately. The scent does evoke bathroom rituals. It suggests an enclosed space, moist air, human skin. It even borrows the form of the musky eau de cologne that often completes the bathing ritual. Perfumes have used materials like musks and costus to depict cleanliness against a backdrop of human animalism (eg. Eau d’Hermès, YSL Kouros, Miller Harris l’Air de Rien.)
Room 237 tweaks the juxtaposition, suggesting not a steamy bath, but the lingering moments after, where condensation on cold porcelain and plastic refute the humanity of the scenario. Cleansing and grooming should leave one at the height of freshness, so why is the setting so disturbing? Why does warm skin shiver? Is it a chill or the touch of something wicked? The incongruities, the inappropriateness might be at the far corner of your attention, just past the periphery, but you can sense them and they're not going away.
Sinister and just a bit seductive.