Zoologist Perfumes finds its niche

Zoologist Perfumes finds its niche

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Doug Wallace chats with the olfactory animal keeper, Victor Wong, of Zoologist Perfumes.

I became obsessed with Zoologist perfumes the second I saw them trapped in a display case in Men Essentials on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. What is this? I thought. AND THEN I SMELLED THEM and became both their master and slave. I fell off my chair when I realized they were Canadian, founded by Toronto’s Victor Wong in 2013, a video game artist who landed in the world of niche fragrance on a whim.

ZoologistSamplesEssentially, the Zoologist brand “captures the idiosyncrasies of the animal kingdom and transform[s] them into scents that are unusual, beautiful, fun and even shocking,” according to the website.

They’re not kidding. I mean, when was the last time someone described their perfume as “cavernous”? Yet that is what the Bat Eau de Parfum smells like: fruit, dirt, decay, leather.

There’s also Panda (bamboo, osmanthus, mandarin), Rhinoceros (rum, leather, tobacco), Hummingbird (fruit nectars, trumpet florals, moss) and Beaver (linden blossom, iris, cedar).
Zoologist five-perfume sample set, $32, (2.5 ml each), www.zoologistperfumes.com

The small disclaimer that “Our perfumes do not contain animal products” is hilarious. So, there is no actual beaver in Beaver? Somehow, I don’t feel ripped off.

Watch the Zoologist Perfumes video below and take a read on our Q&A with founder Victor Wong!

The Whale & The Rose: How did you start your brand?

WONG: I discovered niche perfumes around 2013. At that time, I wasn’t happy with where my career was going and I had always wanted to start a project—not even a business—that would truly belong to me. One day, the idea of an animal-themed perfume line popped up in my head and I ran with it.

TW&TR: Is each fragrance created by a different perfumer?

WONG: Almost. Beaver was designed by Chris Bartlett, Panda and Rhinoceros by Paul Kiler, Hummingbird by Shelley Waddington and Bat by Ellen Covey. At the beginning, I was clueless. I knew no one in the industry and nothing about the industry. I went to a Basenotes forum and asked if there were any perfumers who wanted to help me and Chris and Paul answered. Later, through their network and social groups, I got to know more perfumers. Occasionally, indie perfumers contact me to ask if they can design such-and-such animal for Zoologist. I think they see it as a challenge, because Zoologist perfumes are all about associations and creativity. For example, Panda has bamboo and florals from China.

TW&TR: Who is the wearer?

WONG: People who are new to niche perfumes, and have an open mind and a broader palette for uncommon scents, will really find Zoologist exciting and fun.

TW&TR: Are there different animals for different occasions?

Zoologist_BatEDPWONG: The scents aren’t designed to cater to special occasions, although I can see from a consumer’s perspective that a perfume is like a piece of clothing—you choose what’s “appropriate” for certain social occasions. Bat, for example, has received critical acclaim from reviewers such as Luca Turin, Fragrantica and many YouTube fragrance channels, but some question its versatility. I believe that people who like Bat probably have more than 10 perfumes in their collection and don’t have to worry if it’s suitable for a job interview.
Bat Eau de Parfum, $150 (60 mL), www.menessentials.com

TW&TR: Which one is your favourite?

WONG: Hummingbird.

TW&TR: What animal is next?

WONG: There are a few scents in development. It’s hard to predict which one will come out first, because if I’m lucky, a scent might go through only two revisions and it’s ready—or it could take a year to tweak. I have a good feeling that Elephant will be next.

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58817.adapt.768.1Looking for more great scents for men? Read on:
Interview with Seth Harman of Men Essentials
Beard care and botanicals
Whale vomit, AKA ambergris

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Doug Wallace is a Toronto-based writer who began his fragrance wardrobe with a bottle of the now-iconic Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel and hasn’t looked back. A big fan of scents by houses Lalique and Boucheron, he is currently having a fling with all-things-British, including Clive Christian, Floris and Penhaligon’s. He treasures the dusty shoulders of some of his more aged bottles just as much as he does the shiny young ones.