Clandestine Laboratories

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
This house deserves a thread.

Seriously good things are being done by perfumer Mark Sage, whose Clandestine Laboratories lineup displays a talent for mingling high-quality materials with precision and care.

Some trusted folks told me to check Sage's work out and it didn't disappoint. I very quickly turned around and purchased Silver, which was nothing like anything I'd encountered before (it's built around a fossilized amber extract that gives it an unearthly feeling reminiscent of ambergris).

Notes on the others:

  • Belem - A highly unusual quasi-aquatic (salty sea air) with a sort of green pepper note and a lot of woodiness and a bit of something animalic glowing in the base, like warm skin in the sun (feels a bit like castoreum). Probably needs warm weather to really shine, but it's weighty enough that it's holding its own. I like this.
  • Film Noir - A period-appropriate mash-up. It's Caron pour Un Homme with scaled back vanilla and a classic mid-century bouquet of florals (indolic and a bit urinous) laid on top. It's exquisitely done if this sort of "vintage dandy" thing is your vibe.
  • Cote - I don't think this has yet been released. A rich and vivid sort of "grassy hill" scent. It's acutely, bracingly realistic.
  • Master - A dark leather bomb that moves more in a creamy, boozy orris-tobacco direction as it dries down. A true leather-lovers' leather.
  • Vert - A dazzlingly sharp, crisp, green-citrus opening gives way to a floral blend. Kinda/sorta a statement-making, amped up variation on the Moustache Original 1949 DNA with a bit of the sharp citronella feeling I get from Santa Maria Novella Verbena.

I think Silver is the standout (I bought it, after all) with Master being a fairly impressive entry in a well-trod genre. Film Noir is sure to appeal to vintage fans.

I'm tempted to buy Belem, but I love sunny, ocean-feeling scents. The sort of animalic, sun-kissed-skin thing here adds a nice element I haven't encountered before.

In general, I'd say that grassy, green, outdoorsy notes are a strong point throughout, too - if you like realistic "walking through fields" fragrances - Vert and Cote are worth a sample (of the two, I'm partial to Cote).
 

naylor

Well-known member
Oct 24, 2011
Very interesting aesthetic to this brand, and most of the scents sound like things I would enjoy. I wish they had an easier way to sample the whole lineup, though. Currently, they only offer a sample set of four fragrances for $32. You'd have to purchase three of those sets to get the whole line, ending up with some duplicates, and it would cost about $100 :confused:
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Very interesting aesthetic to this brand, and most of the scents sound like things I would enjoy. I wish they had an easier way to sample the whole lineup, though. Currently, they only offer a sample set of four fragrances for $32. You'd have to purchase three of those sets to get the whole line, ending up with some duplicates, and it would cost about $100 :confused:
The sample set is actually five fragrances, but you pick four and Mark Sage picks one.

Mark Sage also includes samples with his orders, so if you sampled some and got a bottle, you could ask to try those you didn't get. (When I bought Silver, he sent me a sample of Vert, which wasn't in my original selections, and a sample of a fragrance he's working on - which I didn't feature in my takes above.)

In all our correspondence, he seemed friendly and passionate.
 

naylor

Well-known member
Oct 24, 2011
You're correct, I wasn't counting the fifth sample because he says that it will be something unreleased that he chooses. I'd really only be interested in trying what's currently available for purchase. Maybe it would be worth just emailing him and seeing if I could buy two sample sets and receive the nine current offerings that are available. But it would just be so much easier to click a button on the website and have a full set show up in my mailbox so I could try everything at once.
 

rynegne

Well-known member
Jul 25, 2012
I literally just opened up my laptop to start a thread. Crazy timing on your post! This is my first experience with Clandestine Laboratories and it's been a good one so far. Mark is by all of my interactions a really nice guy. I'm always happy to support nice people creating proper perfumes and these are all really proper. None of the three that I tried felt incomplete or lacking which sometimes happens when you enjoy trying different indie and niche perfume lines. These are all really well-executed perfumes. I'm really impressed from the few that I've tried so far.

Thus far, I've tried Ashes, Film Noir and Silver.

Silver - Minty and earthy with heavy ambergris. When I first sprayed silver I could literally feel the mint on top of my skin where I had sprayed. Hints of pine and very mild lavender after the mint in the top fades a bit. You can smell the fossil amber faintly in the mid. Fossil amber is what made me interested in this fragrance to begin with but it's the mild ambergris dry down that had me buy a bottle of this gem. This one is by far my favorite.

Ashes - A green fragrance with vetiver a punch of florals playing into both green and ethereal accord. The fragrance is stemmy and smells almost like crushed leaves or stems, vetiver, gardenia and a pinch of jasmine and patchouli. A unisex, slightly feminine-leaning green-floral. Very fresh and uplifting. Although I describe it as slightly feminine-leaning I really don't do well with more than the smallest pinch of florals. But this is really a beautiful fragrance.

Film Noir - I really enjoyed this one. A blast of neroli and lavender in the opening gives way to loads of iris in the mid-to-base and a oakmoss-musky-balsamic-slightly vanillic (very mild vanilla) dry down. This one is really well executed.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Mark is by all of my interactions a really nice guy. I'm always happy to support nice people creating proper perfumes and these are all really proper. None of the three that I tried felt incomplete or lacking which sometimes happens when you enjoy trying different indie and niche perfume lines. These are all really well-executed perfumes. I'm really impressed from the few that I've tried so far.
Agreed - these all feel properly developed and deliberate.

I'm glad you share my love for Silver. The ambergris element is stunningly well-integrated into the composition.

I'm glad people are loving this house. My favorites are Film Noir, Master, and Certo so far.
I need to try others but have been on extended semi-hiatus from perfume due to some acute upper respiratory sensitivity nonsense.
I hope you get better quickly. Your recommendation was one of those that inspired me to sample this house.
 

LightYagami

Active member
May 22, 2021
I got Belem, Silver, Ashes, Certo and a mystery fragrance called 'Racer X.' Two things I really like are the high-quality of these frags as well as their wearability. Not trying to ruffle any feathers, but CL is doing something successfully that I see brands like Zoologist often attempting and failing at.

My favs so far are Silver and Belem. There's something in Belem that reminds me of a couple of the vintage Chanel minis I own.

I love the vibrant mint and florals in Silver.

I haven't spent much time on Racer X yet; there's something very fruity in it.
 
Oct 19, 2021
yeah, Clandestine is special. All the frags have this lived-in, well-worn feeling that is quite unique, in my experience. Lots of movement and texture. Somewhat similar to the best of Papillon and Bogue but quieter and less anxiously aggressive. They are all pull and no push.

I love Certo. The others are great, too. But Certo is on the short list of things I feel like I could take into some mythical battle against people who have sworn to hate all fine fragrance and emerge victorious with a string of converts.

Racer X, which I got, too, is a really lovely, almost gentle accord of frankincense and citrus. Maybe one of the softest citruses I've encountered, in a good way.

Master absolutely ends the quest for the most leather leather. (Though I've never smelled the santa maria, peau d'espagne) Doesn't mean I love it, but does mean I love my slightly less leather-y leathers even more. It's good to have a boundary & to have that settled.

Ridari has covered Film Noir quite effectively here and on instagram. Super unique scent. (get well soon!!)

There is also another good one I am keeping to myself because I want to buy it before Mark runs out.

Lastly, his last shipment included a sample of something called Cote which so far I can't get enough of. Has this fuzzy, sparkling top like wrestling with tinkerbell in mink snowpants.
 

Varanis Ridari

The Scented Devil
Basenotes Plus
Oct 17, 2012
yeah, Clandestine is special. All the frags have this lived-in, well-worn feeling that is quite unique, in my experience. Lots of movement and texture. Somewhat similar to the best of Papillon and Bogue but quieter and less anxiously aggressive. They are all pull and no push.

I love Certo. The others are great, too. But Certo is on the short list of things I feel like I could take into some mythical battle against people who have sworn to hate all fine fragrance and emerge victorious with a string of converts.

Racer X, which I got, too, is a really lovely, almost gentle accord of frankincense and citrus. Maybe one of the softest citruses I've encountered, in a good way.

Master absolutely ends the quest for the most leather leather. (Though I've never smelled the santa maria, peau d'espagne) Doesn't mean I love it, but does mean I love my slightly less leather-y leathers even more. It's good to have a boundary & to have that settled.

Ridari has covered Film Noir quite effectively here and on instagram. Super unique scent. (get well soon!!)

There is also another good one I am keeping to myself because I want to buy it before Mark runs out.

Lastly, his last shipment included a sample of something called Cote which so far I can't get enough of. Has this fuzzy, sparkling top like wrestling with tinkerbell in mink snowpants.
Am back to wearing fougères, so I'm almost back to square one with nose tolerance. Not letting this happen again to my sinuses.

Also hoarding a mystery flavor all to yourself? Spoken like a true collector lol.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
They are all pull and no push.
What a lovely way to put it.
I love Certo. The others are great, too. But Certo is on the short list of things I feel like I could take into some mythical battle against people who have sworn to hate all fine fragrance and emerge victorious with a string of converts.
I clearly need to try this one. It didn't come in my sample sets.
 

slpfrsly

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Apr 1, 2019
A lot of releases in a short space of time is a red flag in my opinion, something that genuine craftmanship is unlikely to achieve, but having not tried the scents it may not be applicable here. It does seem to be tapping in to the Slumberhouse-esque model but with a different selling point, along the lines of the Ensar Oud and Russian Adam, but for a less-oudy clientele.

Do these smell like aromatic novelties like so many artisanal or boutique brands tend to be, or are they perfumes that also pass as wearable beauty products as well?
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Per Mark, these scents were creations he developed over years as a hobbyist and he's just bringing them to an audience now. Silver, for instance, was begun seven years ago.

I don't think that's posturing from Mark. He strikes me as a genuine guy and has been fairly open with me when I've asked him questions about his process. If you have questions I recommend contacting Mark yourself. He's a straight-shooter.
 

SubUmbra

Well-known member
Jul 9, 2018
Per Mark, these scents were creations he developed over years as a hobbyist and he's just bringing them to an audience now. Silver, for instance, was begun seven years ago.

I don't think that's posturing from Mark. He strikes me as a genuine guy and has been fairly open with me when I've asked him questions about his process. If you have questions I recommend contacting Mark yourself. He's a straight-shooter.
Seconding - he's been very open and friendly with me, and what he's said in our chats gives me confidence that he's actually worked hard on these scents and isn't just trying to capitalize on a growing indie market.
 

rynegne

Well-known member
Jul 25, 2012
They're all well done fragrances. It's my understanding from my interactions that Mark has been creating fragrances for over a decade but he more recently started selling them. In terms of quality I'd liken them to Bruno Fazzolari fragrances.
 

rynegne

Well-known member
Jul 25, 2012
You people are going to make me end up blind buying a bottle of Silver.
I blind bought it...but I wouldn't recommend doing so unless minty and mildly earthy with a heavy ambergris dry down really sounds super appealing to you. I wouldn't call it challenging at all but I wouldn't call it a safe home run either.
 

Brooks Otterlake

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Feb 12, 2019
Novochoc is now avaliable for sale on the Clandestine site:

 

Latest News

Top