Published November 13, 2019
Earlier this year, I decided to show up very late to the weird right twitter party. I came with only one purpose—to join the support system for an exciting cultural project that straddles multiple sensorial dimensions. In its orbit I discovered a frog’s gallery of 2016 alumni: the aesthetes, groypers, studs and based broads who make up an irreverent, post-woke scene that champions baroque maximalism, self-care and hot takes over trad pablum and tired political talking points. The shamanistic figurehead of this scene reminded us of the healing power of the mall, introduced the leftist but subversively reactionary Red Scare podcast into the conservo conversation, and taught the importance of boldly reclaiming space via fragrance in a pervasively dreadful liberal landscape.
J a c k is the nose and mouth behind The Perfume Nationalist, a cultural commentary podcast he co-hosts with his brother, a synaesthetic sound architect who goes by Ortant Aper and Jugs, the “big tiddy goth mommy of the post right”. Each episode pairs a verboten article of artistic interest with a complimentary perfume. Setting the mood perfectly with the opening smooth jazz theme song from 1980s primetime soap Knot’s Landing, J a c k, Ortant, Jugs and a variety of colorful guests discuss a chosen fragrance’s history and compare their olfactory impressions. A vaporwave-centric sound and music collage breaks the program into two halves; the second of which creators or pieces of media are appraised. Episodes have featured D.H. Lawrence’s Women In Love paired with Chanel #5, the dissident film criticism of Soiled Sinema with Knize Ten, the irony-left podcast Cum Town alongside the notorious blood and ejaculate redolent Sécrétions Magnifiques, and the Ulysses of podcast episodes, “The Mall”, a four and a half hour retail therapy field recording that involves copious fragrance counter sampling, a visit to Starbucks and a victory lap feast at The Cheesecake Factory. Frequently mentioned on the show is the preeminent writer on perfumes Luca Turin, who describes what constitutes a great scent. Beauty (does it smell good?), ideas (does it smell interesting?), novelty (have we smelled it before?), and skill (has it been worked out technically?). In its own unique medium, the podcast meets these criteria, taking a low effort format and doing something vital and visionary. A much needed look at the humanities through a politically incorrect lens.
I serendipitously discovered J a c k as an Instagram mutual last year. Intrigued by his collection of reactionary memes and vintage fragrance ads, I beat a path to his perfume review blog to find, in his writing, an already fully formed sensibility long in place before the creation of the podcast. J a c k’s declaration of intent is to artfully reconcile disparate obsessions: works from the “problematic canon” and mainstream pop iconography, disdain for the draconian neoliberal mindset and an autistic knowledge of perfumery. Many fascinating correlations and synchronicities have been uncovered along the way. J a c k is, above all, anti-censorship and anti-cancelation. He rails against the prevailing attitudes of the time from a very unique position: a gay man who refuses to check off the correct boxes. He is loved, he is despised, he is misunderstood, but the show’s influence is undeniable.
Exhausted from years of privately curating my own personal tastes in a closed circuit bubble, I decided this year to sit back and hand over the keys to the PerfNats. It has been a true delight. Having been a small time cologne enthusiast in my teens, the podcast revived my passion for the medium of smell and I became a dedicated student, obtaining samples and bottles of showcased scents and following the pod’s cultural curriculum as close as I could. It has introduced me to a whole new spectrum of aesthetic appreciation.
I count myself as but one of a growing cult. People are listening to The Perfume Nationalist. Boys and girls are wearing gender flipped scents with abandon, watching transgressive art films. Fragrance houses are scratching their heads wondering why certain vintage brands are selling again. People are eating at “The Fac”, listening to Enya, reading Camille Paglia and generally live laugh loving at the queer end of a decade wrought with social upheaval. The community that has cropped up around this show is refreshing and inspired. They are doing the good deep work to make a better smelling future, where the illusions of this era cannot hope to stand.
The Perfume Nationalist is the last breath of the 2010s and the first breath of the 2020s. Get in now while stock is cheap.