Over on TikTok today, I gave a brief, updated tour of my perfume cabinet for 2023. And now that I’ve said that, I am thinking maybe I need to do a longer one for my much-neglected YouTube channel–what do you think?
This little show and tell was at the request of someone who left a comment on one of my previous TikTok videos, but even so, in recent years, I’ve become a little self-conscious about showing off my collection. I know it’s a lot (and believe it or not, that’s not the part I’m worried about being judged for.) I don’t mind saying ‘BEHOLD MY STUFF,” but I never want it to come off as ‘BEHOLD ALL OF THE THINGS I HAVE THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE.” I never want to make someone feel bad about themselves or less-than.
Please keep in mind this is nearly 20 years’ worth of collecting perfumes. I know that when you are new to a passion or enthusiasm, it’s tempting to want to keep up with everything that reviewers or influences are talking about, and it’s easy to spend a lot —way too much—money in doing so. You don’t have to build a collection overnight. You certainly don’t have to build a collection that looks like this. Lord knows, I sure don’t need this many perfumes. But I love to sniff and ponder beautiful, evocative things, and even if I’ve already got something beautiful, maybe even many beautiful somethings, I’m always on the hunt for that holy grail of beauty. It is a strange and wonderful and horrible craving that I can never seem to satisfy.
At any rate, I just suppose this is a little disclaimer and just pre-emptively answering a few frequently (un) asked questions. Because most of you are too polite, but you have perhaps wondered these things. Although I know there are people out there who have twice as many, three times as many, fragrances on their shelves as mine, I am aware that even this is a ridiculous amount of perfumes, and you really don’t need anything even close to this number. I’d love to say that these were all PR or gifted and that I didn’t spend my own money on them…but honestly, except for some of the indie scents from niche-interest creators that I am friendly with, none of them were free, or even discounted. I’m not that kind of writer/reviewer. I’m not on any brand’s radars. I’m just someone who enjoys writing about perfume and does it joyfully and generously even though I am in no way getting paid for it– and as a matter of fact, this enthusiasm has cost me more money than I would ever be comfortable confessing to. But. I do have a full-time job that I have had for almost 20 years now. I am married to someone who has a full-time job. So we are a two-income household…with no children, no car payments, and no student loans. We saved up for this house and between that and the sale of our old home, it is paid for in full– so we don’t even have a mortgage. I don’t go out to restaurants, I don’t travel, and I don’t spend a lot of money anywhere else. So, sure. I am almost stupidly privileged to have the play money to afford an obsession.
Well. Maybe that’s not entirely true. I do have a Patreon where I write about perfume, and the wonderful supporters of that endeavor are giving me money every month. So I am sort of getting paid to write about perfume, I guess? But maybe not in the traditional way of things.
This shadowy photo above was the extent of my collection in 2011 when I wrote about my ten favorite scents for the bloodmilk blog. It’s a little embarrassing to admit that these are still my best-loved fragrances…and yet I have kept acquiring more bottles. What if there’s something still out there that I have not experienced? What if there’s a favorite yet to be found? I don’t dare stop looking! I had to go searching through my Tumblr to find this photo again. Can you believe I still update that thing? I do! I’m stubborn. I’ll be on Tumblr til I die, probably. If you’re curious as to what I was into in March of 2011, have a peek, hee hee!
And is my all-time favorite scent still the cool meditative forest temple dream of CdG Kyoto? (Yes.)
But I also have some new favorites!
The Holy Mountain (this is the old formula from Apoteker Tepe) If you are in the market for a smoky fragrance that smells like maybe the smoke cleared after a super-beardy wizard threw a mystical resin into a fire to conjure an ancient dragon lord or something, but the dragon flew away and the wizard has gone to bed and the fire has burned down so that only the embers are smoldering and the deeply scented, resinous smoke has seeped into all the old wooden beams in the top-most tower room where all the magical shit is locked up…well, The Holy Mountain may be the scent for you.
Stroopwafel from Scent Trunk is a gorgeous gourmand that balances what could potentially be intensely heavy and cloying with something that still feels light and airy, and effortlessly cozy. It feels perfect for what can be a really intense time of year when you’re pulled in every direction, you’re spread too thin, and there’s never enough time. The holidays can be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually draining, and the last thing you want to do is top all that off with a fragrance that leans too far into any of that mess. Stroopwafel is a scent that feels nostalgic to a point, but in the way that books and dreams are nostalgic, unsullied by what goes on in your real life, and even then, it’s saved by various other elements before it can get its hooks into you and become something maudlin or suffocatingly sentimental. This is not to say I don’t connect with this scent, because I do! But in a way that feels like it’s a treasure just for me. Like being wrapped up in something special that I don’t have to share and in it, creating memories of moments that are solely my own. Nostalgia happening now, rose-tinting the present as I am living it. It opens as the rich, fragrant gooey chewy treat it’s named for, that buttery bourbon caramel syrup center and brown sugar deliciousness of that sort of not-baked-all-the-way-through waffled cookie sandwiching it. But alongside all that cozy, sweet warmth, there’s a breath of something cool and breezy, this side of piney marjoram, that side of woodsy cedar, that makes itself known. It’s the emotional equivalent of waking up too warm in bed at night and slipping your toes from beneath your quilt to give them a little chill. Or perhaps baking up a storm in a humid kitchen on a wintry day and cracking the window open to let in a frigid gust of air. In the end, a lovely vanilla musk rounds out the fragrance. At this point, and until you can no longer detect it on your skin, it smells like the sweater you spent all day wearing in that cookie kitchen, but with a light dusting of snow after you left it on top of the woodpile overnight.
Fort and Manle Confessions of a Garden Gnome I don’t believe this earnest little gnome’s secret to be particularly incendiary, but it does present some specific imagery. Shirking garden tasks to sneak into a woodland affair he’s heard rumors about, and, expecting an opulent ball, he washes behind his loamy soil-caked ears and spritzes on his little limbs a soft herbal cologne with notes of violet leaf and strange citrus. What he finds upon arrival is a fairy ring rave; intoxicated pixies and sprites flirting and frolicking across pepper moss, under disco balls reflecting the birch and cedar trees… and the guilty face of the gnome who doesn’t know how to dance.
Chapel Factory’s Heresy is the sharp green metallic floral of violet leaf, mingled with cool aromatic cedar, lofty sandalwood, and the smoked leather notes of vetiver; elements which alchemize into the austere elegance and kindred glooms of a dry, peppery violet incense. If you like the dark ambiance and nocturnal aesthetic of dungeon synth coupled with spectral visionary Simon Marsden’s black and white photographs of haunted ruins and moonlit abbeys, this is a transportive scent that will spirit you away to those eerie, ominous realms.
Oud Wood from Tom Ford is a ghostly, glacial coniferous rosewood sandalwood melange of chilly, bitter, peppery woods. It is a tiny, sinister statue of a scent in an empty room where the temperature drops suddenly, with no explanation. The perfumed version of a little gremlin that appears in a haunting tale; one that skitters in the corners of your vision when the eye is focused elsewhere and inches eerily to your pillow when you’re at the knife’s edge of wakefulness and dream.
Madar from Poesie Milky, custardy pudding delicately spiced with cardamom’s weirdness and melancholic orange blossom water and kooky sugared pistachios, and damn if this isn’t a low-key melodramatic goth rice pudding on its way to a Cure concert.
November in the Temperate Deciduous Forest from For Strange Women is the aroma of a mushroom queen surveying their loamy domain on a cool, rainy morning. A soft green fern tickles your gills as your mycelial threads in turn wave at the worms moving through the rich earth beneath you; the ground mist rises through the dense forest canopy as cool trickles of rainwater drip off the oak and beech and fir trees to dampen the velvet, verdant moss carpeting a cropping of stones nearby. Your reverie is interrupted by the scent of expensive leather hiking boots on the breeze, crunching leaf detritus, and tiny woodland creatures beneath its self-important tread. You smell the smoke and steam and artisanal resins and tannins of a gourmet flask of tea, and before you can let out a little spore-filled, mushroomy warning, you hear a shrill, nasally human female voice chirp HEY Y’ALL WELCOME BACK TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL. Oh no, you despair, it’s the slow-living mushroom forager YouTube influencers. You sincerely hope they pass you over for your poisonous cousins.
So I guess I will wrap up this tour by letting you know that if you have any questions about my collection, my habits or preferences or anything related to something me + perfume, let me know, and I will round all of those up and address then in an upcoming YouTube video!
If you are curious about all of the perfume reviews I have ever written, you can find them over at fragrantica (which is not a great site and I am trying not to be there), so you can also find all of my reviews on parfumo. Curious about BPAL reviews? I have a PDF with loads and loads of them! It hasn’t been updated since I created it in 2020, but I’ll get around to it sooner or later…
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