April Perfume Reviews
categories: scents & sensibility, unquiet things
Signature by Aedes de Venustas I feel like if you are going to make a signature fragrance for your brand, then you are likely going to choose notes that are universally loved, you’re going to make something everyone can agree upon, you’re going to make something safe, and probably a little basic. That’s…not what this is. It’s weird. It’s offbeat. It’s utterly unexpected. And it’s incredible. To be fair, it says right in the copy that it aimed to break from traditional perfume structures, but come on, how often have you heard something like that only to smell the same thing you’ve smelled a million times?
What an oddball cast of characters: The tangy, fruity, acidic zest of rhubarb, dry woody incense, and bitter chypre accord with sweet vining notes of honeysuckle, sour green apple, and the sharp aromatic grassiness of tomato leaf. Hazelnut and vetiver are also listed in the notes and add a lovely, cozy warmth, an aspect that you’d think wouldn’t belong here, but somehow it does. If you were going to make a perfume from olfactory extractions of the myriad, wildly differing Fraggle Rock personalities, their goodness and goofiness, their kindness and cleverness, and all their wild dreamy, delirious energy, you would end up with this funny, magical scent.
I am trying another one of Hilde Soliani’s gourmands, and to be fair to the first one that I sampled and didn’t care for, come on. I was never going to like a strawberry scent, anyway. And if you are the person to entice me to fall in love with a strawberry perfume, I will bow to your wizardry. Anyway, Quin is an Italian meringue scent, and while I like it quite a bit, it doesn’t actually have a whole lot to it. It’s not going to tax your brain or challenge you. And sometimes that’s fine! It’s sweet but not sugary, creamy but not in a heavy way– it’s frothy and frilly, not stiff frosting. Vanilla beans steeped in cream whipped to airy peaks. And that’s it.
And I do know that, of course, meringue uses egg whites, not cream, but I have never noticed an egg white that smelled like anything in particular, so I am not trying to be too literal with my meringue perfume review. This is light and sweet and simple, and I like that it doesn’t add any unnecessary notes, like chocolate or fruit or marzipan; it’s not trying to be some impossible confection in the final round of a televised baking competition. It’s nice. And that’s plenty good enough sometimes. Good enough to spend $175 on it? Ah. For me, personally? If I’m spending over $100 on a fragrance, I want a scent that is going to give me something to think about, and I don’t find that to be the case here.
I’m realizing, as I do periodically, that I’ve gotten a little complacent in my efforts to try things from more indie brands. And partially, I think that’s because I know myself pretty well; I decided a long time ago that I’ve already got my favorites. Like, between the years of 2004-2008, I found a handful of stellar brands and a shitload of mediocre disappointments, and I keep defaulting back to that mindset. And I have to remind myself to keep an open mind and just keep trying things. Because as stubborn as I may be and as much as I hate the thought of wasting money, what I hate even more is the thought of missing out on something amazing. I thought a good place to start would be peeking through indie fragrance and indie perfume Reddit threads. I got a lot of good ideas! I put together a list of the top dozen or so brands that were mentioned repeatedly, and if I’ve never ordered from them, I chose a few of the most popular scents. In some cases, there were a few brands mentioned that I’ve heard questionable things about from other perfumers or customers, so they were immediately struck from the list. If it was a place that I’ve ordered from more than once and have been repeatedly disappointed, they did not make the list, either.
In some cases, like the one I’m talking about today, I’ve been ordering amazing soaps and scrubs from Paintbox Soapworks for years now, but weirdly, I’d never tried her perfume oils! I got Blue Besom, which is a beautiful blueberry jam incense fragrance, Capybaras and Yuzus smells like soaking in a steaming mineral bath while eating lush, fuzzy slices of apricot, and remember how I said it would take a wizard to make me like a strawberry perfume? Pynk’s sun-ripened strawberry is tempered with cool floral lilac and sweet, creamy marzipan, and it may well be that magic scent that I insisted does not exist. These fragrances are all subtle, but long-wearing, and each one of them, though they all smell very differently, tugs at a strange, wistful chord of nostalgia in my heart. All three of these are wonderful, so I’m happy to say this is a pretty strong start.
Time is a Phoenix is a scent of the mythical and miraculous, but also of the intensely, personally, mundane. Fed on tears of sacred incense, resinous, volcanic, honeyed, and bittersweet, fanning its own ancient, acrid spice-scented flames, a fiery vision of scarlet and gold and eternal return, the scent left in wake of this being is incendiary, incandescent, immortal. A funeral pyre flipped through a pinhole in the darkened chamber of a camera obscura, the ashes of the afterimage captured in a winding sheet of amber: the wild, joyful zest of loving, the sour sighing sorrow of leaving, the impossible weeping, sweating, earthy-tethered, salty-sweetness of living– and through it all, climbing into our own, us-shaped mortal infernos, again and again, and again.
Oil and Flight and Vision from BPAL and exclusive to bloodmilk for Sphinx and Snakeskin is rooty and resinous, dark and droll, and brings to mind Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Hamatreya,” in which the poet reveals the earth song of dark-humored flowers, laughing to see the men who steer the plows unable to steer clear of the grave. How every one of them who lay claim to the land, who wished to control it, are now asleep beneath the very dirt they thought they owned. I like to imagine subversive, psychoactive roots and blossoms–hallucinogenic henbane, tarry opium, bittersweet mugwort–growing from the bones of those dead and being used in enigmatic preparations like fabled witches’ flying ointments. And whether or not those witchly botanical balms induced actual levitation and soaring under a full moon through the midnight air or was key to a ritual for one to travel the astral planes in spirit, I delight in the imagery of witches being borne aloft on the musky-throated gallows humor of grim growing things sprung forth from and thriving in grave dirt. Oil and Flight and Vision perfectly encapsulates the poetry of that sentiment.
Urban Beekeeper from DSH Perfumes, and it’s the most beautiful honey-inspired scent I have ever tried. They can often be so syrupy and cloying, and at their worst, they somehow smell like a urinal (am I the only one to think honey perfumes lean toward old pee sometimes??) This one is lightly floral, with a subtle citrus zing, and is quietly effervescent. The honey is still at the forefront, but it’s more of a wispy veil than a golden glop of it. This is definitely going on the full bottle list! There is actually a list. Every time I say something is “full bottle worthy” this year, I’m adding it to the list, and at the end of 2023 I am treating myself to a bottle or two. (Unlike the last two years, wherein my collection somehow doubled.)
In other perfume news, I am marinating in a scent I loved in high school, Chloé Narcisse. It smells of the things that built me: Heidi and The Secret Garden, Dracula, and Rebecca. A parlor of florals bitterly spiced with the temptations of darkness and shadowed with a strange sadness, but still, always peeking toward a life that is sunny and sweet.
Dollhouse from Astrid Perfumes. I tried this brand in what feels like a past life, back when they were called blooddrop and if I recall correctly, I think the maker also sold bespoke corsetry. But that was a long time ago, and I don’t remember any of their scents. Dollhouse, with notes of raspberry, vanilla, grapefruit, calendula, and bergamot is a hypersaturated hallucinatory Lisa Frank folder funhouse fruit salad of a scent. I think this is a fragrance that would be so much fun for jellyshoe flipflop string-shouldered neon sundress summertimes and though I don’t know if I would associate this with dollhouses, I try not to critique or judge inspiration. Like the Boulet Brothers say on every episode of Dragula, “We’re not here to judge your drag. Drag is art and art is subjective.” The artful inspiration that goes into the creation of a fragrance is intensely personal, and if this is what a perfumer imagines a dollhouse smells like, who am I to argue with that? For myself, I think it smells like technicolor dolphins tie-dye unicorns, and kaleidoscopic rainbow daydreams.
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