Like many good things, Norne is immensely aberrant, especially at first. It yawns wide open like a lifted slab, full of latent, moonless lycanthropy, offering up a richly phenolic bucket of neat liquorice, damp saddle, black tar something, peaty malt, signal fire and refrigerator vegetable bin feat. celery. Scraped-up moss and shovel handle, distant aniseed and molasses tins drift in and out of that dense equation. After half an hour fresh white sawdust creeps under the door as the aggressive tar and vegetable elements collapse, and this develops further into the smell of dressed timber, roasted, savoury caramels and brown liquor and cola-breath huffed against a neck. When taxed for his opinion of the surprisingly moderate silage, my partner muttered dried fruit and cinnamon, which confused me, but maybe there is an analogue in the molasses note. Then he said warm horse. Writing this an hour later leads me to reassess the tail which is both lengthy and indeed a lot more aromatic than I remembered, with lowball powdered cinnamon, maybe sandalwood and the ghosts of nameless conifers emerging.
Every time I consult Norne in its first half hour I am enclosed in a beetling ring of old-growth trees that exclude the sun and stand buried up to their titan waists in a thousand years of moss and lichen. The visual association is immensely powerful; I can't lift my wrist to my nose without seeing tannic forest colours, feeling water around my ankles and being reminded both of the sound of an approach and my own breathing. To me, that is pagan, deeply erotic and very welcome. These mental and emotional transports are rare, their value completely distinct from that of a scent's aesthetic worth. Full marks to Norne in this respect, and also to its aforementioned depravity; it is almost autoerotic, inverted and careless of spectators and if it was devised as some sort of upskirt voodoo delivery system, it certainly rings the dirty bell in my Pavlovian experience.
Is it perfect? No. I'm not averse to gritting my teeth and dousing myself in something completely fucked for the sake of art and/or pretension. But I feel there are some flies in this ointment and that they are not just questions of personal taste. Volume is one; Norne is too fucking loud on the skin. Even on a half-squirt this juice shouts I am Norne in my face like someone with tuna stuck in their teeth. This may be the extrait strength talking and while I wonder if another, more volatile embodiment might help, I also suspect this scent would lose too much to alcohol. As it is, it makes no constructive concessions to your personal chemistry, getting up to buy you a drink and coming back with a huge neat Pernod. Sometimes sarcastic generosity gives you all kinds of wood and sometimes it just engages your headbutting impulse; the chasm between wrist-experience and sillage is problematic in my humble opinion. And on a hot day it can sour and turn horribly green- I mean horribly- and this comes from someone with dry and annoyingly sweet skin. Under these circumstances Norne can morph toward that dread strain of smell that I feel many men are anosmic to, namely the low, pungent mouldy scent of stinky towels hung too long in a damp place, of cotton Tshirts not completely dry when they were stuffed into a drawer. In my opinion, while Norne is hotly courageous and deeply creative, it would flower into perfection given a modest technical revision. Apparently the dark juice stains, but that depends on your wardrobe.
For some, this fume will possess more than enough questionable charm. Of something this subjective I can speak only for my own nose; we didn't hit it off initially, but it does wrestle me onto the ground more often than not these days and my appreciation of it has grown exponentially in the course of constructing this review. Norne can be that someone in the darkness of a bar at 3 am whom you'd ride hard and put away wet, especially if he kept that coat on. But it can sometimes makes me feel like I'm floundering in a peat bog with a rubber gumboot wedged over my head while a stranger masturbates, wafting the smell of his damp army surplus jacket toward me. Dried fruit and cinnamon said my partner. You be the judge.
Norne is not for everyone or all the time, but that is more a recommendation than an aspersion.