Surrealist jewelers of psychic armor, bloodmilk, sent me their most recent collaboration with Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, a fragrance called “Comet,” which is described as “Glittering shards of icy white plum, crystalized pink peppercorn, Oman frankincense, and silvered amber arc through a midnight haze of Sumatran patchouli, velvet oakmoss, and hothouse orchids.” This is pretty thrilling because it seems like the universe has delivered another pink peppercorn perfume when I was seeking such things. Passing between worlds over an unfathomable span of time, an ancient journey’s ending, and the abundant exuberance of new life that springs from it. This is a scent that opens with an incendiary collision of superheated off-gassing resins and the euphoric kaleidoscope of a summer meadow in full bloom, a curious but joyful amber-floral conflagration. As the incandescent radiation of the crash site dims and cools and condenses, strange alien flora, dormant in the ice and dust of deep space, burst forth and blossom, a vibrant pageant of lush, aromatic petals unfurl and fruit and ripen and decay in the span of seconds, releasing soft, fleecy seed pods in a billowing puff of bittersweet, powdery musk. Carried softly on the breeze, these small travelers burrow in the earth, float to the clouds, and enter warm bodies with an intake of breath. Other journeys. Other worlds.

Delta of Venus from Eris Parfum is built around guava, and here’s a confession: I have never smelled or tasted guava, so it’s not for me to say how realistic it is, but here’s another confession: I don’t come to fragrance for realism, so who cares! What I do experience is a fragrance ravenously lush and rosy-glowing with exuberance, a thronging pulse of velvety sunset mango, the tart-tinglingly bright shiver of pineapple, and the bittersweet toe-curling juicy astringency and vaguely funky musk of pink grapefruit. There’s nothing dark about this scent, but there’s an underlying luxe, shadowy floral that I can’t help but associate with black velvet in a way, in gorgeous contrast to those invitingly vibrant tropical fruits. In my mind’s eye, this is a brooding black velvet vanitas painting with a prismatic profusion of soft fruits tumbling lusciously off the canvas.

This is a bit unfortunate because up until now, I have loved everything I have tried from Kerosene, but Wood Haven smells like a damp, mildewed cedar bento box emptied of its contents, save a few shrimpy and brackish strips of rehydrated kombu and sour scraps of pungently pickled ginger. They can’t all be winners, I guess.

With notes of neroli, fig, bergamot, red currant, and rain lily, Brazilian Lily from Blocki is a humid, sultry honeyed orange blossom with a gorgeous glassy chartreuse streak of neon brightness. On one hand, it conjures visions of a butterfly rainforest exhibit, that lush, floral dampness, and the electric tickle of tiny wings, and on the other, it calls to mind an avant-garde weirdo tropical beach bloom art installation that becomes a midnight bioluminescent glow stick rave. I know I’ve been longing for autumn lately, but with this perfume is an endless summer evening, and I am lost in its dreaming. LC of nearlynoseblind wrote the copy for this scent and I think that is very, very cool.

Carbonara from Lorenzo Pazzaglia is another scent in my pink peppercorn journey. Lorenzo Pazzaglia is a perfumer I only heard about last year in a Facebook group which I no longer even really lurk in because I just cannot with perfume drama. Or any fandom drama or nonsense. On the one hand, I love connecting with people through a shared interest, but on the other, nothing will ruin an enthusiasm faster than the other people who share it. If anyone has ever wondered why I may seem aloof and uninvolved, that’s why. On an individual basis, I love the idea of kindred spirits, and it’s great when those connections happen organically, but I will not join group situations of them anymore. ANYWAY, no one asked about that, but there you go. So the cool thing about this perfumer is that he is also a chef, and as an enthusiastic home cook myself, I most definitely experience that link between taste and smell. Carbonara, the fragrance is a really interesting take on Carbonara, the unctuous peppery, pasta dish, wherein he expresses those savory elements through a gourmand experience: there’s a plush, creamy amber vanilla, an earthy, faintly smoky brown sugar, coconut milky with a gentle salinity, and a trio of peppers that prickle enigmatically. It’s wrapped up with a woody, boozy velvety aspect that I can’t associate with the dish at all, but it provides a rich, aromatic *something* that reigns in a fragrance that might also be at home on a dessert cart. I want to try all of this perfumer’s offerings, and I might eat them, too.

I try to respect a perfumer’s vision when it comes to the inspiration for their fragrances, but the description for Kill the Lights from Gritti Fragrance, with its story of a one-of-a-kind leather-clad, out-of-control rule breaker roaring through the storm on his beastly motorcycle, doesn’t do it for me at all. Nothing in those words resonates, and, respectfully, that’s not my story while wearing this scent. Instead, this musty balsamic woody floral takes me to a very literal place, the song Kill the Lights, from Canadian darkwave synth-rock band The Birthday Massacre’s 2007 Walking With Strangers album. This lush, melancholic song always sounded like someone found a dusty book of fairy tales and paraphrased those enchantments through a gothy, gloomy world-weary, jaded 20-year-old’s “them’s the breaks, kid” kind of lens. There’s a miasma of last night’s perfume and smoky bars about it, coupled with dusty pages plummy with the poison of hope and happy endings. It’s another scent in my pink pepper journey and also has enigmatic inclusions of artemisia and davana–two evocative notes which always catch my fancy– and though I’m not necessarily getting out of it what the creator had in mind, I’m still finding it an intriguing and enjoyable scent.

I am revisiting my samples from Sorecellerie Apothecary. I recall making a video remarking that the scents in my first order all smelled alike, but when I revisited what I ordered, I chose all 5-6 scents based on notes that appealed to me. SO if they did smell similar…that’s kind of on me for choosing the way I did! Right now, I’m wearing Strings of Light in the Forest, which when I first tried it, didn’t appeal to me for whatever reason, but today, I can’t get enough of it. With notes that include vanilla milkshake beeswax, and lavender, this is actually quite lovely. The soft, creamy vanilla, glowing amber, and velvety ambroxan are giving me vintage Vanilla Fields vibes, and I hate to compare indie perfumer’s offerings to mainstream perfumes because I’m pretty sure they don’t care for it when people do that, but that is what I smell, and there are no complaints here because I loved my old bottle of Vanilla Fields. There’s a chilly backbone to the scent not quite herbal, not quite astringent, but a cool, crystalline core that lends a spectral shivery …I don’t want to say freshness, but there is a feeling of frigid ozone that frosts over any lingering sweetness. Overall, it does make me think of lights in the forest, in a very specific way. When the fellowship is in the woods of Lothlorien, Legolas describes them as “ …the fairest of all the dwellings of my people. There are no trees like the trees of that land. For in the autumn, their leaves fall not, but turn to gold.”

Notturno, by Meo Fusciuni, is a fragrance that is meant to evoke the poetry and the imaginary rooms of night. It is soft, so soft, which is interesting for a leather-forward fragrance because, unlike most, there’s nothing acrid or smoky or tannic about it. This is leather worn close to the skin and worn down over years, padding up and down hardwood stairs in the hours of darkness, tufted with fur and spiked with little claws. Springing silently into bed with you at midnight, kneading a small spot in the midst of faded flannel quilts, and snoozing in the crook of your knees. You know these are dreams and ghosts and wisps of memory; your dear inky-furred friend died twelve years ago on a June afternoon and is buried under a lightning-struck oak in New Jersey. A phone on the creaky cedar nightstand illuminates the hour; she often visits at this time. These are warm, blanket-soft moments, a sweet slip in time or space, or sleep when everything is safe and good and exactly as it should be.

I’ve recently been sampling several perfumes from Meo Fusciuni. So far, these are all introspective, quiet creations–nothing bold or bombastic, but they’re all really lovely, and I get the sense from interviews and the way shop keeps and other perfumers talk about him that he is a thoughtful, elegant, and articulate fellow.  Because I agonize over these things, I wonder if he might be bummed out (or maybe, hopefully, elated?) to read a review wherein someone compares his Spirito offering to a less sleazy, more delicate and pensive Drakkar Noir?

Ok, some context. I love Drakkar Noir. I always have. My high school boyfriend used to wear it, and I found it rather swoony. In retrospect, I am realizing that I wanted it to be a swoony fragrance FOR ME. I wanted to smell like a villainous rascal reeking of peppery-woody-musky fougère! And somehow –just today!– I am realizing that I have been drawn to various iterations of this combination of notes all throughout my journey with perfume.My journey with perfume.” I don’t mean to sound pretentious. It’s not even a journey, really. I’m not trying to get anywhere; there’s no end destination. And I’ll always be an amateur. And that’s fine! I’m not trying to be an expert or a guru. I want to smell and learn. And learn and smell some more. And when I die, I hope it’s right after I smell something surprising and learn something new! I digress.

When I smelled Spirito this morning, I thought, “Gosh! This is like Drakkar Noir leveling up after 12 lifetimes, and it’s finally stopped being the skeeziest guy at titty bars. It mediates and keeps a journal, and it’ll listen with intent when you talk now, and it’ll ask you if you want venting space or solution space. It’s sensitive and self-aware. Maybe even a little wistful and ruminative.

In reviewing their various compositions, it looks like they don’t have an awful lot in common. Just angelica, lavender, vetiver, and cedar. Maybe the interplay between the notes creates some kind of connection for me, I don’t know. But I’m sticking with it. Spirito is a poetry-reading, contemplative Drakkar Noir whose roguish heart, it turns out, is just as fragile and hopeful, just as much as a dreamer as mine.

Meo Fusciuni, I mean no offense or insult! I adore Drakkar Noir, and as far as I am concerned, it is legendary. And Spirito took it (or my memory of it) to task and turned it into something softer, lovelier, and better.

Coastal Veil from Pineward is heavy rain clouds rolling in on a prickly breeze coupled with a brisk, delicate brininess. A placid little tidepool of a scent, a child’s memory postcard from those still, secret spaces where the sea meets the land, filtered through the misty haze of a grey, overcast day. Little fish darting between little sun-dappled shadows, starfish clinging to rock, sand dollars buried in the sediment, kelp frond canopies, and algae-slicked stone. Every six hours, a new world, a new memory to cup in your small palm, to lap at your tiny toes, to dream foggy snippets of in later years and wonder if it happened at all.

August Picnic, 1976 from DSH Perfumes: an elusive and ephemeral splash of zesty, effervescent, subtly sweet-tart strawberry lemonade joie de vivre on a summer day when the grass is blindingly green and tall enough to tickle your knees and the sun hangs golden above the cedars, not even the barest whisper of winter in its shade—the joyous and wistful and fleeting perfume of an idyllic June afternoon.

Kupala from Fantome Perfume, with its notes of bonfire, birch, and dewy fern, is inspired by Slavic solstice celebrations, but in this scent, I immediately smell smoky fur tinged with a sweet, rich perfume, spilled red wine dark as blood, nocturnal creatures reveling in cool midnight air under a full moon and weirdly enough, wreathed in fragrant yellow daisies, and the TV on the Radio Lyrics: “Got a curse we cannot lift //Shines when the sunshine shifts // There’s a curse comes with a kiss // The bite that binds the gift that gives.” So here me out…what if this is the witching hour of summer solstice celebrations…but with howling werewolves in the midst of feverish transformation?

Velvet Moon is a collaboration between perfumer Poesie and indie PerfumeTok darling uncommonsmells.  With notes of cardamom, black pepper, beeswax candles and inspired by a dark academia midnight hour moment of being ensconced in a darkened library lined with bookshelves and brooding portraits, cloaked in velvet and moonlight, this is one of those times when I can get a perfect vision of what the perfumer what trying to evoke–or at least my version of it, filtered through my own perspectives and experiences. Before stories you may know featuring murderous campus cults and demonic professors opening portals to hell and Greek lessons gone weird or whatever, there was Lois Duncan’s 1974 book Down A Dark Hall. I don’t want to assume one way or the other, but if you are unfamiliar, Lois Duncan wrote twisty YA thrillers that usually touched on the supernatural, and if you know her for nothing else, you know of the movies adapted from her book I Know What You Did Last Summer. In Down A Dark Hal, five young women are chosen for a remote, mysterious boarding school called Blackwood. They begin to flourish academically and artistically even as they unravel and dwindle away, and you eventually learn the horrifying mystery of the school. I think Velvet Moon smells exactly like the scene from this iconic book cover that’s been emblazoned on my brain for the past 30-odd years: skin damp from the bath, soft with a gently spiced lotion, rich oaken panel walls, and opulent staircases, and the sweet golden glow of candlelight beyond which dark forces are lurking and hungry. This scent is currently sold out, but I hear that it will be back tomorrow, September 1st!

Jade Vines from Regime des Fleurs is a scent I had hoped I would not love, but I knew I was doomed because I’ve really enjoyed most things from this not-entirely-budget-friendly brand. The way I want to talk about is probably unhelpful to those seeking literal reviews of perfumes, so: the straightforward take is that this is a tremulous woody green fever dream dripping with tuberose’s luminous, honeyed hallucinatory incense. There’s nothing really aquatic about it, at least not in a light-hearted sunny marine sense, but I envision a thalassic altar to invoke something darker from the depths of the abyss; picture Uxia Cambarro as the Priestess of the Esoteric Order of Dagon in her lair, a shadowy grotto dimly lit by iridescent algae blooms and spectral, glowing salt crystal. So there’s that verdant woodland, dreamy white floral element but also something of secret caverns by the sea and echoes of the arcane rituals that once took place in the darkness there. The further I think on either of these aspects, the more they elude me; it’s the perfumed equivalent of being kept in a room with more corners than logic says is possible or rereading over and over the same page of a book with the unsettling suspicion that it’s somehow vaguely different each time. I highly suggest you sample this scent while listening to the Kilimanjaro Dark Jazz Ensemble to heighten the weirdness.


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Emera says

"A placid little tidepool of a scent, a child’s memory postcard from those still, secret spaces where the sea meets the land, filtered through the misty haze of a grey, overcast day" <3 What a wonderful evocation. To follow up a much earlier, tangentially related comment - I did indeed read All the Dead Lie Down after seeing your review, and the place-atmosphere was my favorite part. The first half of the book where it's mostly the protagonist exploring the house, greenhouse, and coastal landscape -- perfect!! In the second half, the noticeably YA writing and the horror elements were at odds for me, but on the whole, I'm so glad that a queer We Have Always Lived in the Castle exists for YA audiences!

Immediately sent the link to Carbonara to a dear friend whose partner's favorite dish is the same! Thanks for turning me on to that.

S. Elizabeth says

YES! That's exactly it--the first part was the story I liked, when everything was being discovered and there was much that was unknowable. The second half was, as you said YA romance (and honestly I find romances a bit of a snoozefest!)

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