Canadian niche brand Zoologist Perfumes has made quite the splash in the fragrance world since its founding in 2013. Zoologist’s focus is on recreating the scent of a given animal’s environment, and sometimes even their diet.
Bat, for example, conjures up the dark, subterranean homes of the titular animal, but juxtaposes it with the tropical fruits that make up a bat’s diet. Other fragrances, like Tyrannosaurus Rex, recall the smoky, sulfurous, humid environments of ancient earth and the hard, leathery skin of the king of all dinosaurs.
Some Zoologist fragrances are evocative, complex, and challenging fragrances that truly merit the “niche” label. Others, like the more recent Chipmunk, are quite palatable and enjoyable.
Squid, a 2019 release from the brand, is meant to evoke the cold, lightless depths of the ocean, where the elusive giant squid roams. But how does it stack up to other fragrances from the brand?
Zoologist Squid is an aquatic incense fragrance featuring notes of ink, sea salt, pink pepper, ambergris, and various fragrant resins. With a unique scent profile, incredible performance, and high-quality presentation, Zoologist Squid is a great fragrance for those looking for a niche fragrance that is different, but not too challenging.
Want to know more? Let’s take a closer look in my Zoologist Squid review.
Top Notes: incense, pink pepper, amyl salicylate
Middle Notes: sea salt, ink, opoponax
Base Notes: ambergris, benzoin, musk
First thing’s first, I’ll say this – despite the somewhat foreboding appearance of the bottle and the notes, this is actually a wonderful and quite pleasant fragrance (if you like incense, that is).
In fact, as strange as it might seem, this is my girlfriend’s signature scent. She is not a fraghead like me, but she immediately gravitated towards this scent and wanted a bottle practically as soon as she’d smelled it. It wouldn’t be my first choice for a scent I’d want my significant other to wear, but it just goes to show that this is far from the dark, sinister kind of fragrance you (and I, for that matter) had in mind.
The fragrance opens with an explosion of salt and pink pepper, along with what I assume is amyl salicylate, an aroma chemical which is said to resemble the scent of unripe banana. Underlying that intense saltiness is an equally intense, smoky chord of incense and almost gingerbread-like resins, a quality characteristic of opoponax.
Shortly after the opening blast, the saltiness starts to calm down, but never entirely goes away. The incense and resins, on the other hand, stay strong and steady throughout the life of the fragrance. If you like incense and have always wanted an aquatic incense fragrance, this might very well be the one you’re looking for.
In the mid, the ink note, perhaps the hallmark of the fragrance, begins to emerge. It’s subtle, and you might not immediately smell Squid and think, “That’s ink!” However, repeated wearings reveal the ink note folded brilliantly into the swathes of incense smoke and resins, a sharp, slightly metallic nuance which is just evident enough to add some interest.
And that’s basically what you get for the remainder of the fragrance: incense, resins, a bit of salt, and a slight metallic twang.
It’s a wonderful smell. It conjures up an image in my mind of a church on the bottom of the sea, silhouetted by gently undulating sunbeams. Suddenly, the doors of the church open, and a cloud of golden sand is kicked up, along with a haze of incense smokes from the swinging psalters and burning braziers within.
The gilded sand sparkles brilliantly in the watery sunlight, and quickly obscures everything – but for half of a moment, you think you might’ve spotted the vast, unblinking eye of a squid staring back at you through the haze. But in the next instant, it is gone, and all that is left is the church, its doors thrown open to the sea, and the faint metallic odor of spilled ink.
If I were to describe Zoologist Squid in a few words, they would be: salty, aquatic, smoky, resinous, slightly spicy, and slightly sweet.
The presentation of Zoologist Squid is fantastic.
The box of Zoologist Squid, and all Zoologist fragrances, is great. The construction of the box is sturdy and just feels premium. It’s kind of dark, navy blue in color, and features the name of the house and fragrance in golden lettering, along with the human-animal hybrid portraits which are the hallmark of all Zoologist bottle designs.
Squid’s in particular features a squid dressed up in wizard’s robes covered with barnacles, a wizard’s hat decorated with seaweed, and, of course, a wizard’s staff. It’s cool, it’s creative, and it’s well made. I totally dig it.
The bottle feels equally premium.
For one, it is heavy, solidly-built glass, and you can feel it right away. Instead of your average, everyday rectangular bottle design, Zoologist bottles kind of slope downward, for lack of a better word – I’ll let the picture do the talking here.
The label on the front of the bottle mirrors the design on the box, with the same squid wizard portrait and the name of the house and the fragrance in gold lettering.
The cap is likewise heavy metal, wrapped with black leather, and clicks into place in a most satisfactory manner. The atomizer is excellent, shooting out a huge blast of fragrance with each spritz.
Overall, Zoologist Squid honestly has one of the nicest presentations in my collection, in terms of feel alone. It might be expensive, but at the very least that money is going somewhere.
The performance of Zoologist Squid is absolutely beastly, given that it is an extrait de parfum. Don’t know what an extrait de parfum is? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered – check out this guide for more details.
The longevity of Zoologist Squid is phenomenal.
One to two sprays on skin and fabric easily gives me fourteen to twenty hours of longevity, more on fabric.
This is a fragrance that simply does not go away. I would caution you to spray two times MAX. Any more than that, and you’ll be wearing Squid for at least two days. One spray alone is enough for this thing to last all day, and then some. Squid clings to skin and fabric and just doesn’t quit.
Projection & Sillage
The projection and sillage of Squid are similarly absolutely enormous.
One to two sprays on skin and fabric give me four to five hours of moderate to strong longevity and significant sillage.
I’ll give you an anecdote about Squid. One day, my girlfriend and I decided to go to the amusement park. She put on two or three sprays of Squid, and we hopped on my motorcycle for the hour or so drive to our destination.
The entire ride to the amusement park, my nose was absolutely swimming with Zoologist Squid. It penetrated through my helmet, through my mask, and was radiating off of her immensely, from the back of the motorcycle, and at high speeds.
The fragrance then proceeded to project all day while we were at the amusement park, and had only started to get closer to her skin (but not disappear) on the drive back home that night.
My friends, this is a feat that the vast majority of fragrances are simply incapable of.
So when I say go easy on the sprays, I really do mean go easy. One spray will probably serve for most people. Two, if you’re going to be outdoors for most of the day. This thing is the definition of beast mode.
Value For Money
I would argue that the value for money for Zoologist Squid is pretty high, so long as you are willing to pay niche fragrance prices.
A 2 oz (60ml) bottle of Zoologist Squid retails for $165. That’s $2.75/ml.
Now for a lot of people, that is going to be a pretty big ask, and it is expensive. If you’re not the kind of person who drops almost $200 on perfume (like me), then it is probably well outside of your comfort zone. Additionally, Zoologist perfumes are not available on discount fragrance websites like FragranceNet and FragranceX, so no matter what, you’re going to be paying retail.
But if you are willing to pay niche fragrance prices, I would say that Squid is a really good deal, considering the sheer performance of the thing. Given the strength of this fragrance, 60ml is more than enough to last for a lifetime, hell, maybe more. Not to mention that the quality of the fragrance and the presentation is very obviously superb.
Taking those factors into account, I would say that Squid has really good value for money, actually. But of course, it’ll all come down to how much you’re willing to pay for a fragrance. If you’re not down for paying niche prices, then Squid will probably be a no-go for you.
Who Would Like It
In terms of scent alone, I don’t think this is a fragrance that most people would find unpleasant or weird. I think a lot of people would actually enjoy it. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone would necessarily want to smell like it. Sure, we might all enjoy the scent of that holiday candle from Hobby Lobby, but not everyone wants to be perfumed in such a manner.
That’s kind of the situation with this fragrance. To enjoy this fragrance, you first and foremost have to love incense. This is an incense-centric fragrance; the salt and aquatic notes play second fiddle to it.
If you like incense fragrances, I could very easily recommend this scent to you. However, if you like aquatic fragrances, it would definitely not be at the top of my list of recommendations.
That’s because most aquatic fragrances are light, fresh, breezy, ozonic, and very crowd-pleasing. This is not light at all, and certainly not fresh, breezy, or ozonic either. So you must ask yourself: do I want to smell like a happy, fun day at the beach? Or do I want to smell like the ultramarine depths of the ocean and a whole lot of incense? If your answer is the latter, then Squid just might be the scent for you.
As far as gender goes, this is totally unisex. When my girlfriend wears this, her skin amps the salty notes of the fragrance, and it actually does smell a little bit more “feminine”. When I wear the fragrance, on the other hand, the incense notes come out more. So this is a fragrance that is at home on both male and female skin.
When To Wear It
COLD. WEATHER. ONLY.
Do yourself and everyone around you a favor: do not wear this in temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Just don’t even try it. You will choke people out. You will choke yourself out. You won’t be happy. Nobody will be happy.
Wear this only in autumn, winter, and early spring. This is simply not a scent that I could ever imagine being appropriate for warm weather; it is just too heavy.
As far as occasions go, the strength of the fragrance honestly limits its wearability. I wouldn’t wear this to work for instance, nor would I wear it to a formal occasion or even to a date. This is more of a personal scent, made for the wearer to study and appreciate (despite the fact that it is downright nuclear). So I would say casual occasions would be the best time to pull off Zoologist Squid. Otherwise, I just think it would be too strong.
This is honestly a tough one.
On Fragrantica, a lot of people have listed Heeley’s Sel Marin and Profumum Roma’s Acqua di Sale, two of the most famous niche aquatic fragrances, as being close to Squid, but I just don’t see the similarity, especially considering that Squid is not all that salty. Others have mentioned Bleu Turquoise by Armani, but I think that fragrance is a good deal sweeter and saltier than Squid.
The only fragrance I’ve smelled that gets sort of close (and more in vibe than scent) would be Tom Ford’s Oud Minerale, from Tom Ford’s Private Blend collection. Even that lacks the incense of Squid and smells a lot woodier and saltier than Squid, but I think they set out to achieve similar artistic goals – i.e., making a dark aquatic fragrance.
Otherwise, there are very few fragrances I have personally smelled that are similar to Squid.
Pros & Cons
- Unique and high-quality scent.
- Incredible performance.
- Very high-quality presentation.
- Incense is not a note that everyone will appreciate.
- Almost too strong.
- Quite expensive.
The Final Word
Overall, Zoologist Squid is a unique, high-quality, and evocative fragrance which truly merits the niche label. It definitely won’t suit everyone’s tastes, but then again, who wants to please everyone? With outstanding performance, elegant presentation, and decent value for money, Squid is a fragrance I can wholeheartedly recommend to those looking for an atmospheric, artistic fragrance that is well off the beaten path.
I give Zoologist Squid:
★★★★☆ 4 stars out of 5