Perfume 11 by BLK DNM

The doldrums of any winter, even a mild one, can only be broken up by certain jolts. A vacation, a good book, an amazing song, or a new fragrance. I’ve tried them all, but it’s the fragrance option that has always turned the winter around for me. On a recent trip to New York, I ambled about the gift shop at the Standard High Line and waited for my friend Chris to finish his look-see. At the time, I wasn’t scouting for a new cologne, but that’s always when you find a good one. I pulled the small square bottle of black from its shelf and opened the top. It was peppery and fresh, clean and light. A smoky underside fit into the border between fall and winter, and it was so instantly likable that I spritzed some on. (I’m a last-resort spritzer, in the event that I end up hating a scent, or if I might want to try one on later in the day. Entire vacation days can be ruined by a haphazard cologne try-out.)

This one was a safe choice. Perfume 11 by BLK DNM is unisex fragrance, named for its launch year of 2011, and it has some of my favorites in it, which is why I instantly loved it: black pepper, cardamom, musk, cedar, balsam fir, birch, amber and incense.

It begins in a soft way, and stays as such throughout its trajectory. Black pepper and incense are where it’s at, making this ideal for fall or winter. Despite its smokiness, it’s actually quite a clean fragrance, and that smoke will dissipate, leaving a woodiness that’s more than pleasant in these dimmer seasons.

Now for the super-secret, which the salesperson whispered almost apologetically to me in the cloistered confines of the shop: Perfume 11 by BLK DNM actually falls under the Levi company, which initially caused me to turn my nose up at the whole thing. “I can’t tell people I’m wearing Levi’s cologne!” I shrieked to my friend Chris. Yet another instance where I fell into the stupidity of labels and image over what is truly decent and enjoyable. At this point in our friendship, Chris wisely ignored the matter and moved on. I almost did the same, until a few weeks later, when I found myself pining and yearning for the elusive peppery scent and it was nowhere to be found online. Such exclusivity always lends things a bit more magic than they might inherently hold, but it also meant that no one else was likely to wear the scent in the environs of upstate New York. Chris was back at the Standard a few weeks later, so I asked him to procure a bottle, thus resolving the dilemma on a happy note.

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