This Perfume Brand Makes Scents That Evoke Los Angeles’s Rich Music History
“Smell can transport you out of wherever you are,” says Cathleen Cardinali, who left her job in the luxury fashion industry to co-found the California-based perfume brand Thin Wild Mercury with her partner, musician Anthony Polcino, in 2017. Place-based storytelling lies at the heart of its four scents, which offer distinct, multi-layered aromas that whisk wearers to another time—specifically, to moments from Los Angeles’s ’60s and ’70s rock-music milieu. “There has to be a narrative behind what I’m doing,” says Cardinali, who puts together the notes that inform each spritz, while Polcino creates corresponding visuals for the bottles and boxes. “It could be a photograph I saw, a song, or a house that I drove by. The vision in my head sets the scene.”
Her first fragrance, Whiskey, 1969, was named after the iconic West Hollywood nightclub and the year that Led Zeppelin and The Velvet Underground performed there; its cedarwood and bourbon amber base notes mingle with pink pepper to conjure up the aura of a night on the town. Zuma, 1975, a musky jolt of sandalwood, bergamot, and coriander, recalls the Malibu beach where Neil Young released his album of the same name, while Sunset Boulevard’ Chateau Marmont, where The Doors frontman Jim Morrison stayed in 1970, gets a nod in Chateau, 1970, which smells of a rose-filled vintage bungalow. Laurel Canyon, 1966, named for the Santa Monica Mountains locale that was a music mecca at the time, recalls a more abstract scene, where Italian cannabis oil, patchouli, and clove bring to mind an open bedroom window with fresh air rushing through.
Each unisex perfume, handmade in small batches in Napa, where the couple currently lives, gives nostalgic noses the aromatic opportunity to wear the histories they admire. For those who prefer an East Coast vibe, look out for the brand’s New York–themed collection this fall—another opportunity for Cardinali and Polcino to blend scent and history with notes of imagination.