IT’S A TWISTER! ~ Basic Black by Bill Blass


“Have you ever seen a tornado?”

My grandmother kept her eyes on the road as she drove her new 1958 Studebaker along Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. She was trying to find a parking spot close to Clifton’s Cafeteria where we were going to have an adventure lunch high up in a fake redwood tree.

“Yes I have, when I was a little girl in Kansas. I saw it from a distance as my father pushed me down into the root cellar. “


“What is it like?” I perked up at the drama of being shoved underground as a killer tornado vacuumed its way toward the old farm.

“Well you see the sky turns green and looks like a pot of pea soup boiling upside-down.”

“Green? Who ever heard of a pea green sky? “

“Believe me, it’s green. Did I ever tell you about my Uncle Jarrett and the day he saw a tornado up close? “

I was all ears.

“It was the spring of 1900, I wasn’t even born yet.”



“This don’t look so good Ginny” Young Jarrett Woods said patting his old mare on the neck as he looked up at the sky that was turning from a gray mauve into something akin to pea soup. It was coming up fast from the south. Far to the west there was silver ribbon on the horizon where the clouds met a line of still blue sky that shimmered like a mirage. Home was that way. Ginny nuzzled him with her nose and pushed him back in the general direction of the buggy. Her whole body shuddered and she stamped her hoof hard into the dry road. She could smell a bad storm coming.

“Okay Gin” He laughed at her.  “we’ll get on home now.”

With a flick of the buggy whip they were off from the edge of Hutchinson and on the way out of town westward to the farm. Only a mile out of town the wind picked up mighty strong and the sliver of safe blue in the west was all but gone. Ginny was going a good trot without any encouragement. In fact Jarrett had to hold her back from breaking into a gallop. Hay was flying across the road from the haystacks in the fields. Sideways like snow in a blizzard. Then came the roar and Ginny screamed. He had never heard a horse scream and the hairs on his arms stood shocked straight out from his skin. He looked up from his arm, to see the hay flying in the opposite direction and Ginny at full furious gallop her hoofs barely scraping  the road. He couldn’t hear anything now but the roar so evil he knew it was Satan calling his angels.


That’s when Jarrett Woods looked up and saw it; the great green funnel over his head tearing down on him and Ginny. He could see all the way up inside where the lighting was white hot and feeding the mesmerizing monster. His stomach dropped to his toes and he was airborne as the twister engulfed him. He gripped the sides of the buggy seat that was all he could do as he realized he was flying over Kansas. No one had ever done that before; he thought and then knew he would be dead in a moment.  Then there were the bees all around. How did bees get here? Then blackness and nothing.

There was a buzzing sound and a bird chirping. Far away a dog was barking and a little girl was calling after it. Everything seemed wet and he could smell honey and something not so pleasant. It was sweet, too sweet and filthy and as he moved back and forth between the two worlds he saw all sorts of strange things. The color was not of this earth, so beautiful it hurt to look. He just wanted to go home. There were voices coming close now and then blackness and noting.

When they found Jarrett Woods he was still in what was left of his buggy. Stuffed under the seat and hardly a scratch on him, Ginny was never found. The tornado had dropped him smack on top of the demolished outhouse of the McInnis bee farm. The shattered privy, the buggy, and Jarrett were covered with excrement, dead bees and honey.

Jarrett didn’t speak for the next three months and really was never the same. Until the day he died he never told anyone what he saw up there in the sky and he never ever liked the smell of honey.




Basic Black by Bill Blass is a disaster that you can’t outrun once you put it on. There is no escape from this storm of heinous odors. And it is a shame. The bottle is so gorgeous and designed with great elegance.  Being named Basic Black would lead one to expect something rich simple and stylish. What you get is poo and honey. And not Winnie the Poo and his favorite honey kids, oh no. This is a wheelbarrow full of barnyard poo.  There is just no other way to say it.

I love a good old style dirty perfume, a flash of panties worn too long can be enticing, and a bit of the civet can make me purr. But this cat is swimming in the cesspool.

I am told by my research that this elixir should open with carnation, mandarin oranges, plum, ylang-ylang, bergamot and cardamom. If they are there I can’t find hide nor hair of them. What I get on the opening is a hard embalming blast of syrupy honey dolloped by the gallon over a poor dead civet, this is joined by a very rude and pushy tuberose who is dragging along by the roots some tired old violets and jasmine that have seen better days back in the 1900’s. I imagine this may just be what the Ancient Egyptians embalming mixture smelled like; sweet death in a canopic jar. The dry down is utter hell. A dying patchouli battles it out with a dreary musk, and that rotting civet. No one wins that battle.  There is some amber too that should have been left at sea for a few more years. The benzoin, coconut and vetiver are buried along with the styrax in this funeral procession that drags on way too long.  It is stomach turning in the end.

The scary thing about Basic Black is that is really projects to the rafters and for an interminable time. It goes on and on and on. If you want to clear a ballroom or a baseball stadium then this is your baby.




  1. Fantastic!!!

  2. Whoa, now that’s a bedtime story. I was hoping I’d find you in tonight! And, now I know how to clear a ballroom or a baseball stadium. But, what I’ll think about tonight when I close my eyes are green skies and the humming of the hive. When we go a-scenting in April we’ll look at the bottle and then scurry away. Thank you, Mr. Lanier — xox, V (and don’t forget to check your email.)

    • I found my mail before I found your post! LOL. I am so happy I could tell you a little tale of the big wind. Yes you should smell this at least and let me know what you think.

  3. Thanks for the warning (and the story was good too ;)).

    The bottle is beautiful and (from the picture) it resembles Jour d’Hermès.

    • You are welcome indeed Undina! But be known that I am in the minority on this one. It is so very much loved by many. Oh that Jour d’Hermes looks very nice indeed!

  4. As usual, what a lovely story, may I say a sort of one’s own very private Wizard of Oz/Over the rainbow? the good old days … well, about Basic black, the article is so nicely written that it makes me feel like trying some of BB, actually, and yes, I also would like to go through that experience myself. Also, I think the creators of BB would say a thank you very much all the same for perhaps it is because I am not a English language native it’s not easy to understand that it is no complimentary … at all. Very smart. Very clever. Now the authorites know the weapon to clear the way, in case of necessity, please. Have a nice weekend. JM

    • Who can say Jose? You may like it. Over at Fragantica it is much loved! But be careful that forest may be haunted by bees and outhouses!

  5. Hilarious! Your utter horror at this scent was palpable! I laughed and laughed at: “sweet death in a canopic jar” and “Jarrett didn’t speak for the next three months and really was never the same. Until the day he died he never told anyone what he saw up there in the sky and he never ever liked the smell of honey.”

    You poor, poor thing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a negative — let alone, scathing — review from you before. And I shouldn’t laugh at what was clearly a traumatic experience, but this was a truly hilarious review. Thank you for the warning. xoxo

    • Oh but of course it was funny! I mean when I smelled it I had to laugh out loud. It took a month or so to find my way into this review because all I could smell was honey and poo! Finally I remembered the true story of my great great uncle and the door to Oz opened.

  6. Sweet death in a canopic jar – what a fabulous story! Poor Bill, poor Jarrett and now I can’t wait to get a whiff.

    BTW, love the opening with you and your grandmother in the Studebaker cruising along Spring St. What a woman! This is one of my favourite LA streets and I have always wanted to go into Clinton’s Cafeteria which was closed for renovations the last time I was there.

    • Thank you Patti! Yes Clifton’s is a landmark and so much fun. Granny and I went there for our special “Just the two of us” outings. She was a wonderful woman. Los Angeles has changed a lot since then and the old downtown never looked better than it does now.

  7. My Dear Mr Lanier
    Oh my giddy aunt.
    Quelle horreur!!
    I am so glad that Young Jarrett Wood was up in that tornado not me and I’m so glad that you partook of the “sweet death in a canopic jar” in all our stead.
    One hates to say it… but I would love to hear your take on some other foul fragrances for this one has surely set the creative juices coursing.
    Quite superb.
    And has been already remarked the writing is so good it almost makes me want to try it…. almost.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • My dear Mr. Dandy!
      Writing about foul fragrances can be challenging but fun! Any suggestions of something I should NOT smell? You should read my Fracas For Men review is a stinker too!
      Thanks so much for your support!

  8. Poor Basic Black! Was it reformulated? The bottle is nice. You know, the sky does turn yellow-green. I’ve been in a town where a tornado hit, and it really sounds like a freight train roaring past at full speed, too. Well, I suppose I’ll put Basic Black on my list to sniff, just in case I happen to run into it. Who can resist a stinkeroo? 🙂

    • I am sure it has been reformulated …what perfume hasn’t? But like I have said there are many who love it.

  9. Great story except the part about the horse not making it. Poor horsey.
    Poo and honey? I think I’ll pass on this one. We had some tornadoes pretty close to here a few years ago. They were devastating but we did not get a direct hit. The sky really does turn a funny color. It’s very eerie actually.

    • Yes I know…poor Ginny (She was named after Uncle Jarrett’s favorite drink…Gin) I have seen that sky once as a kid on a trip back to visit relatives in Missouri. It was very very eerie!

  10. Wonderful review but oh my! Sounds like a stinker. You are very brave, my friend!

  11. Well, obviously your skin chemistry is not compatible with this scent! I wear this all the time and I’ve had strangers stop me and ask what I’m wearing (because it smells amazing, not like poo and honey).

    • You are so lucky. I was so hoping that it would work for me but alas. Cheers!

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