I cannot possibly sing the praises of Zara’s Bohemian Oud highly enough. I don’t think ten choirs of angels could do it. But let’s just say you took a pillowy bit of the marshmallow fluff those angels were floating around on and stirred it into the lightest, fluffiest chocolate mousse you can imagine, served it in a hand-carved bowl made from some sort of resinous holy wood, and topped it with the incendiary floral of a dusting of gently toasted black pepper, then you might have an inkling what we’re all singing about. Bohemian Oud is a splendid delight made that much more fantastic because at less than $30, it is a freaking steal. Buy a bottle. Buy 12. This stuff is marvelous.

Ok, so, Ariana Grand Cloud I’ll be honest here, I’m just as surprised as anyone that I really like this scent. There’s not much to say about it. It’s a marshmallow skin scent, a sort of floofy vanilla, a low-key magical-realism, everyday-fabulism, quotidian-fairytale scent…with an elusive hint of sour, canned pears. That’s a weird element that shows up very rarely, but I can’t pretend I didn’t smell it.

Violet Ida from Miller Harris makes me think of something I read recently, that struck me, it’s from The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu: “I am going to tell you a story you already know. But listen carefully, because within it is one you have never heard before.” In Violet Ida we have encountered these elements before: the cool chalky vanilla violet of vintage talcum powder, the smooth floral waxiness, sometimes rosy, sometimes lily, that you associate with the decadent nostalgia of certain decade’s old lipsticks. But then it takes turn– there is carrot seed’s woody-earthy melancholy, the bitter tears from an ancient elemental who has been weeping for a thousand years, and finally twists intriguingly, but dead ends with the barest balsamic sliver of mirrored amber, a resinous veil that’s somehow reflective, too. It broods on all of those other notes and casts them back at the wearer, never allowing further glimpses into what one imagines to be its sweeter, warmer heart. The path just…stops there. I’m thinking maybe it was deceptive to open with that quote; I’m quite certain that there has just got to be more to this story, and maybe I just haven’t unlocked the last leg of the journey yet.

Do I need another smoky vanilla? I don’t know, man. Hypnotizing Fire from The Harmonist is stunning but I hate the way the copy reads and how most reviewers talk about it, all sexy this, seductive that. You people need some cold showers. Or maybe I’m a cranky old hag with a cooter full of cobwebs. I’d liken this perfume more to the silken veils of an ancient seer, gauzy with prophecy and incense fumes, softly draped over their faces and shoulders as they channel the words of the gods from the depths of trance as black pepper pods are tossed into the smoldering embers of sacred, spiced woods. But no matter how fabulous and fantastical the revelations from this ritual might seem to be…at the end of the day, when you lift the veil, it’s just a smoky vanilla scent (even if it does have a really cool name) and I have a handful of scents similar to this sitting on my shelf, already paid for…and this one goes for $250 for a bottle. Le sigh.

Zara’s Unusual Flower is herbal green sharp and peppery acrid, like the med-mist spray of Bactine, the chemical weirdness of insect repellent, and the mineral UV filters of sunblock, along with both chlorinated pool water and salty ocean air. It sounds awful, but you know what, I love it. It reminds me of childhood summer vacations with my family. The sharpness dissipates and it becomes a combination of a sort of cottony crisp linen spray and the classic late- 90’s early aughts omnipresent ubiquity of a certain scent: that sparkling grapefruit, watery cucumber, sweet honeydew melon spa water fragrance that I’m sure some amongst us recall vividly. I do, because it’s the fragrance I associate with my best friend’s townhome, where I housesat for a week, while they were visiting Japan. It’s a fragrance that makes me think of Neon Genesis Evangelion marathons, Soma FM’s Groove Salad downtempo electronica radio station, and oversized cargo pants that unzipped at the knee to better allow for flailing to bootlegged Japanese copies of Dance Dance Revolution. This scent is not “good” (just my opinion, man) but this is an instance where the heart tells the brain “you know nothing,” because friends, I love this perfume.

Trying these samples from Poesie has been a really surprising experience, somewhat because I’d forgotten the notes and the descriptions, and they didn’t seem to square up with my preconceived notions of what they should be…but also because these are just really fun, exciting fragrances and when I did go back and read the inspirations, I was like, oh that’s right, it was some of my dreamy favorites themes and motifs in mythic and gothic literature! Anyway, here are my brief thoughts on a few. Whisper Your Bitter Things is a shifting cipher of a scent, a very pretty but unnervingly inconstant beauty. At first sniff I thought it was honeyed tobacco, and then it became an earthy spiced coffee and shortly thereafter a sort of peppery apricot floral. Library Ghost is following the soft susurrus and whispering trail of a floating cotton bedsheet through the stacks, only to corner it in the supernatural romance section, whip the linens from its levitating form and see that the spirit was three sugary bundles of cotton candy heaped on top of one another and a pocket full of adorable cereal marshmallows. Full Moon (at the Temple) is a fragrant burst of citrus and the dank, mineralic tang of limestone and gypsum, cave rock and and the cool, pungent mist of late night rain, like feeding a soggy baby fruit bat a little piece of tangerine.

Honey and the Moon from Tokyo Milk is if Aquolina’s Pink Sugar had a twin, not quite identical, but there are moments where they could swap places and you might not be able to tell the difference. Honey and the Moon has that same spun sugar DNA but it’s the gilded, bronzed slightly burnt brown sugar dusty golden hour version of it. Another difference is that when Pink Sugar dries, it becomes the bark of the cotton candy tree, but with Honey and the Moon, as it wears, there’s something a bit metallic about it, like those candied strands of cottony sugar floss are threaded with copper, like maybe there’s nanobots in it, or little fairies wearing steampunk goggles. And I don’t mention that as a detractor, I love every aspect of this scent and it’s definitely going on the shelf of things that my inner child is going to reach for quite often.

I have a fragrance sampler set from Fat & the Moon. I did have some preconceived notions of what these organic and plant-based scents might be like, and what fits into what I know of this brand’s vibe and aesthetic: hand-crafted, herbal body care for natural, inclusive sustainable healing that aligns with the earth and so on. I have tried a few of their bath soaks and I love their lip paints which I like to wear in an aggressive gash at the center of my mouth like I have been nomming on a blood popsicle, but I’m not so sure about the fragrances.I tried all four of them: Artemis at Dawn, Green Man, Persephone Emerges, and Wolf Shepherd.  As you might suspect from how they are made and the ingredients they include, they are all very…earthy. Some in a musty, mossy sort of way, and some more in a fresh mud pie sort of way. I really wanted to love Artemis with its notes of Patchouli, Black Pepper & Rose Geranium, but its Persephone’s Cedar, Coriander & Jasmine that is ultimately the easiest to wear and whose clay and dirt eventually lightens to a dusty floral.  I did pay my own money for them, and I’m glad I tried them but they’re really not for me…however if you’re a fan of very natural-smelling botanical fragrances you can grab a set of all four generously on their site for something like $46.

Ellis Brooklyn Salt. What is even the point of you? You’re the live laugh love of perfumes.

L’Artisan Abyssae is exciting for me in that I do believe I have found another rose that I can tolerate. The camphoraceous aspect of the eucalyptus reigns in that effusive, extravagant jamminess of the rose and lends a quality that while not antiseptic, feels in some way discreet and brooks no frivolity, while the cashmeran enshrouds it in shadowy, softly balsamic woods. It’s a scent that is still and quiet but a tick shy of calming…there is something vaguely unsettling about it. I keep coming back to the name, “Abyssae,” which to me, sounds like it could be another mystically terrifying witch-mother from Dario Argento’s giallo thrillers. There was Suspiriorum, Terenbrarum, and Lacrymarum. Abyssae adds to the ancient triumvirate but instead of joining in on their esoteric and attempt to rule the world, Abyssae’s thing is just sitting around in arcane solitude while her sisters wreak havoc. She’s reserved, she’s dignified, she’s not interested in an invite to your stupid gender reveal party. She’s a rose thinking serious things in silence.

Imaginary Authors Sundrunk I don’t want to call this a novelty scent because that’s a little dismissive, but it is definitely the sort of thing that one might wear to evoke a very particular nostalgia. In my case, it’s being locked outside in the afternoon heat of childhood summer vacations; my mother would hand us each a sticky, effervescent orange push-up pop, and send us outside to, ostensibly, get us out of our hair. The door wasn’t actually locked behind us, but it felt like to seek entry back indoors would be risking the sort of fury and frustration on the part of our mother, that as children, we feared immeasurably. So there’s that syrupy, citrusy, fizziness, the scent of fresh-cut grass and chopped-up jasmine from the lawnmower, a sort of soapy green honeysuckle note, and a bit of a chemical-plasticky element, that you will recognize if you have ever had your damp, brassy, freshly Sun-Ined hair, drying in the sunshine on a sweltering Florida day. I don’t know that this scent is very wearable, but I am glad that I got a chance to sniff it.

Unum’s Ennui Noir is a fragrance that I have been calling Ennui LOL for the past few years and I couldn’t remember why, until I reacquainted myself with a bit of the PR copy I had found at the time, which must be some sort of weird translation. Lots of talk of the void and mediocrity and boredom and emptiness, interwoven with word salad ingredient highlights, hyperactive patchouli, psychotic vanilla, and so on. Here is my favorite snippet: “boredom as well opening you, throws yourself in another dimension, distant from every trivial and certain contamination. There is no certainty in the dark boredom, as it is experienced on You, becoming part, crust, bark of your deep hidden woods. A lonely flute in the fog of yourself.” I shared that with a friend when I first read it, and they got an Etsy seller to embroider a charming little piece of art with that phrase, and it remains one of my most cherished possessions. As to the scent, it literally makes my lip curl in disgust, it’s a bit of a gourmand, and I don’t see where the “noir” aspect comes in. It’s a perfume that affects me on a visceral,  gaggy level and it’s hard to pinpoint why, so here’s a word salad of my own to sum it up: woody mildew, softly decaying fig, unsettlingly, cloyingly sweet floral musk, musty-powdery to the point of chalky, putrefying heliotrope pudding.


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I’m so delighted to share a few reviews from Arcana Wildcraft’s new Hel’s Belles collection, a series of scents celebrating the goddesses of ancient Norse cosmology! Friends who have been reading my reviews for a while may recall my frequent mention of Arcana’s Holy Terror, a fragrance in my All-Time Top Ten favorites, so as you might imagine, I always thrill at the opportunity to try something new from them.

Frigg: (black tonka bean, raw cashmere wool, French bakery vanilla, soft warm skin, confectionery sugar, and sweet almond)  is a really soft, intimate close to the skin scent, but it’s not really a skin scent, per se…unless your skin is comprised of the gentle sweetness of a dollop of real whipped cream atop a marzipan-stuffed almond sugar cookie. It is an achingly subtle, tender scent and I thought it was sold out but I must have imagined it because it is still available and you definitely need this one.

Valkyrie (mosses, tree resin, dry heart cedarwood) is all the gravitas and stillness of the strongest and most fragrant of the ancient woods, a fitting olfactory embodiment of these valorous women seen as transformative agents, both arbiters of fate and psychopomps of the dead.

Eir (Roman chamomile tea, wild lavender buds, vanilla bean, warm flannel, ivory patchouli, coconut milk, tuberose, and magnolia) is the loveliest, dreamist herbal dram of cozy nap-time herbs and flowers, sweetened with a scant sprinkle of vanilla sugar and a spoonful of mildy, milky coconut cream.

Nott (labdanum, Madagascar vanilla, benzoin, black cardamom, vintage patchouli) is the richest, chewiest amber and cardamom toffee caramels, all dense balsamic resins and buttery vanilla and wrapped in a smoked patchouli leaf. It’s A LOT and it is freaking devastating.

Lofn (rose, violet blossoms, iris petals, orris root, apple peel, the arc of a rainbow, and wild berry nectar) Unlike the previous scent in this collection of reviews, Lofn is not A LOT. It’s elusive. It’s subtle. It is also devastating…in a gorgeously quiet, low-key way. Rose is never going to be one of my favorite notes, and I’m always so surprised and grateful when someone creates a rose-centric that works for me. (I mean I know this scent wasn’t created for me, but I still appreciate it!) It begins as a jammy rose, but not obnoxiously so. This is a rose stewed with other flowers, not fruits. Those cool purple blooms, the iris and the violet, temper the exuberance and summeriness and passion and opulence that I often associate with roses. And it’s such a cool, level-headed rose that when it dries down it almost seems like there’s woods of some sort in there to ground it...like the peppery, cedary floral of rosewood …but again, I think it’s those sober-bordering-on-somber amethyst-lustered flowers doing the heavy lifting. I staunchly refuse to actually learn anything about perfume, so I don’t actually know that. This is really just all wild conjecture and FEELINGS. I’m okay with that, but I feel like I have to remind the people reading this every once in a while, heh heh.

Rán (caves filled with incense, tendrils of briny seaweed, slivers of amber emerging from salt-soaked earth, ocean-crashed rock, and damp blonde woods) is perhaps the most terrifying aromatic evocation I can imagine of a scent to honor a goddess who presides over the realm of the drowned dead…and I truly, truly respect that. Imagine an incense made from all of the flotsam and jetsam you’ve caught in your salt-crusted nets from the shallow, sandy tides of the ocean as well as its vast, lonely lightless depths, and burn it at the place where the waves break on a moonless night, in offering.

Arcana Wildcraft: website // instagram // facebook


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One of my very favorite things is to work closely with a beloved artist whose work I adore and together, we endeavor to bring a weird vision or dream to life. Granted, my input is minimal and vague and probably not too helpful, so trust me when I sing the praises of these creators’ brilliance. Taking my infinitesimal, unformed inkling of an idea and somehow these makers are able to coax forth, conceptualize, develop, construct and create exactly what was in my head? What witchcraft, what wizardry!

But not really magic at all, as fun as that is to think about. It’s the hard work of *really* listening when someone shares their dreams with you, and the knowing which are the important questions to ask to tease out further details to gild the lily of that special dream. Its dedication and diligence to excelling at their craft, and all of the hard, sometimes weird, and vulnerable work that goes into it. Knowing this as I do, I am so appreciative every time someone has wrought something beautiful from my reveries!

The Midnight Stinks Patreon vanity banner by Becky Munich is one such meeting of minds and the fabulous artistic consequence that ensued. Today I wanted to share another such dreamy bit of synergy: this glorious Midnight Stinks tableaux by Alyssa Thorne, photographer of lustrous blooms and kindred glooms in the fluttery signs and tenebrous twilights of her gorgeous midnight floriography.

I am a firm believer in accessible art for everyone, and I am always so pleased when artists offer smaller-sized prints, postcards, and even bookmarks. Working with Alyssa, we have made a limited number of postcard-sized versions of this piece, and they are not for sale. They are *only* for the stinkers on my Patreon. I hope to get them in the mail for patrons sometime in the next few weeks and I hope that you love them as much as I do.

P.S. if you would like to read more about Alyssa and her work, I interviewed her last October!


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Between the years of 2016-2020 I wrote several reviews of the wildly imaginative aromatic enchantments from visionary indie perfumer Solstice Scents. Sadly, the site which hosted all of these reviews shuttered its bloggy doors last year and so the reviews are no longer available for curious scent-seekers to find and read. I thought that was a shame, so I gave them a new home, here, at Unquiet Things! Below you will find a collection of all of these reviews. I have linked back to the product page on the Solstice Scents site where possible, but please keep in mind that some of these scents are seasonal and not available at the moment…

After The Rain: (Lilac, Wisteria, Blue Lotus, Rain, Green Accord, Wild Violets, Earth) Is a misty watercolor painting of a fragrance, conjuring romantic visions of an elegant lady of the manor looking up from her ledgers to wistfully gaze out at her garden on a cool, rainy morning in early spring. Delicate, purple florals, restrained greenery, and the ghostly tracing of rainwater on a chilled glass windowpane. I wouldn’t quite call this an aquatic, but I hesitate to call to call it a floral. Can we pretend that there is a category of fragrance called “haunting breeze?”

Cameo(Almond, Rose, Yellow Cake, Tonka Bean, Coconut, Ginger and Red Orange) Creamy almond cake batter with rose petals, softly folded in. The oven is still heating and as the kitchen warms, the fragrances of lightly spiced ginger and milky, vanillic coconut waft from the bowl. On my skin, this confection never bakes fully through, and all the notes all remain slightly separate throughout the duration of the scent.

Blossom Jam Tea Cakes(Southern Tea Cakes, Petit Fours, Floral Infused Jams & Preserves and a Delicate Aroma of Tea)  I am not generally a fan of gourmands, but I do know that Solstice Scents always hits the mark with their delectable dessert-influenced fragrances… and though perhaps Blossom Jam Tea Cakes is not–initially– my cup of tea, I can recognize that it’s a lovely portrayal of these dainty tea-time delicacies. Fluffy cakes, jammy preserves, and, later, the rich sweetness of buttercream round out this fragrance. Several hours later I catch whiffs of a plastic-y vanilla from wrist, and that is fine with me; it reminds me of sniffing the heads of my Strawberry Shortcake dolls when I was a little girl, and it’s a comforting reminder that sometime a little sweetness can be a very nice thing.

Chiffon(Vanilla, White Amber, White Musk & Lemon Myrtle EO) At first spray this is LEMON– a bright, tart, enormous face-punch of tangy yellow juice and sour, citric acid. What’s interesting is that it dissipates almost immediately and an airy sweetness emerges, which becomes a whipped cream/marshmallow note as it lingers upon the skin. Chiffon is a “dual concept fragrance” that brings together the sweet and refreshingly tart taste of Lemon Chiffon pie and the wispy beauty of chiffon fabric.

Cliffside Bonfire (Conifers, dry woods, rain, saltwater, seaweed, ambergris (vegan), charred wood, smoke) is a woody, coniferous aquatic fragrance–and before you immediately tune out at “aquatic”, let me assure you that this is not the sort of milquetoast, watery “aquatic” that you may remember from high school in the 90’s, though anecdotally, this does remind me of certain high school experiences. This is dry woods, sea spray-kissed skin, and the barest hint of pine and spruce; I don’t get very much smoke or fire or char from this at all. It vividly recalls for me sunset streaked summer evenings after spending from noon until nightfall at the beach with my freshman year-boyfriend. Skin too hot to the touch from sun and hormones, sand in our hair and on our tongues, salt-tinged kisses and the impatient, inexperienced fumbling at damp swimsuit strings..twenty five years later this perfume causes a sweet, clenching ache, low in my stomach (and a strange, sexy nostalgia for a dude that kind of turned out to be a turd.)

Corvin’s Smoked Apple (Applewood Smoke, Apple, Caramel, Benzoin, Guaiacwood) I  am not a huge fan of apple scents, I guess I’m afraid they’re going to smell like those horrible green apple martinis, which in turn smell like those super gross Jolly Ranchers. And don’t get me wrong–I actually love apples, that is to say, the real thing. I don’t much care for the eating of fruit overall (don’t fear for my health–I love vegetables!) but I have been known to say that the apple is the only fruit worth a damn. So it’s not that I don’t like them! I generally just don’t like apple-scented things; they’re typically a neon, cartoon parody of their true selves. So, knowing this about myself, the sampling, then, of Corvin’s Smoked Apple is such a marvelously wonderful surprise; this is the most sweetly nuanced smoke-scent I have ever encountered: woodsmoke; smoldering apple bits, if you, say, roasted a Honeycrisp over a campfire; the burnt caramelized edges of a brown-sugar-y baked thing, and a touch of earth and detritus from the forest floor that has crept into the flames. Unexpected and utterly delicious.

Desert Thunderstorm (Desert Sage, Pinyon Pine & Resin, Petrichor, Sweetgrass, Creosote Bush, Sand, Ponderosa Pine, Smoke) Richard Thomas explains that many natural dry clays and soils “…evolve a peculiarly characteristic odor when in contact with moisture,” and notes that this odor is particularly prevalent in arid regions and widely associated with the first rains after a period of drought. Thomas, working with partner Joy Bear, discovered a yellowish oil–trapped in rocks and soil but released by moisture–that appeared to be responsible for this smell, and the oil itself came to be named petrichor (from the Greek petra, meaning stone, and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.) This scent of petrichor –the blood of the stone– is the powerful opening blast of Desert Thunderstorm. Steaming gusts of hot stone and earth, upon which beads of moisture dance and sizzle, and release a fizz of aerosols resulting in the scent of wet dirt and minerals. Later, the fragrance of peppery, sun-baked sagebrush and pine’s verdant astringency mingles with the dusty, resinous scent of distant canyon fire and the subtle sweetness of milky, musty sweetgrass. I’ve never spent time meditating in the desert (or any time in any desert at all, actually) but this is precisely how I envision a strange desert journey alone, curling inward with myself and my demons, for a spell of mediation and healing.

Estate Vetiver (Estate Vanilla, Vetiver, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Lime) A perfume for vetiver and patchouli lovers, Estate Vetiver is a dank, dream of a scent that is raw, and narcotic and strange. With this one I smell only what I see in my mind’s eye, which is the damp, rotting splinters of a ship wreck, portentous dark skies and piercing sea breezes, and the lost and vengeful ghosts of two young women haunting a band of rogue pirates. As you can imagine, Estate Vetiver is my favorite among Solstice Scents Spring Collection.

Gibbon’s Mischief Night (Sugar Cookies, Vanilla Frosting, White Chocolate Popcorn, Toasted Marshmallow, Graham Crackers, Gibbon’s Boarding School, Cream Soda, Bourbon, Pear Brand) Having spent a goodly amount of time in the kitchen baking, I can assure you that I know a thing or two about invoking the temptations of a sugary-sweet atmosphere, a beacon to thieving, sweet-toothed bandits everywhere, and their corresponding rotten, sneaky fingers. And also, yes, I know, I began this piece talking about fall feelings and autumnal observations and all that, but, whatever it is that the weather is doing, I cannot overlook that it is, in fact, already the second week of December and these seasonal treats aren’t going to bake themselves! At any rate, the masterminds at Solstice Scents far exceed my admittedly scant expertise when it comes to alerting the tummies to rumble and calling forth the midnight cookie sneaker. The scent’s backstory: “The austere and formidable Gibbon’s Boarding School will be opening its doors for the annual Mischief Night: a night of Halloween costumes, live music, apple bobbing and games of hide-and-seek within its extensive rooms and gardens.” Now, I (sadly) don’t live in Solstice Scents’ fictional town of Foxcraft, nor have I attended anyone’s Mischief Night celebratory revels, but just as with anything else in life–if there’s an abundance of free food, I will accept your invitation. I envision a refreshments table staggering under the weight of a multitude of mouth-watering promises: sugar cookies iced with orange-colored vanilla frosting, popcorn smothered in creamy white chocolate, charming little toasted marshmallow pillows studded with graham cracker crumbles, and vanilla cream soda punch spiked with golden, oaky bourbon and a nip of pear brandy. This enchanting combination of confiture, though it needs no embellishment, is subtly enhanced by the hallowed halls and history of the sprawling brick school, itself. Dry, cracked leather, dusty woodwork, and autumn air round out this complex, gourmand fantasy

Full Dark’s (Amber resin, saffron, black rose, black musk, oud, fossilized amber, leather, smoked amber, spice) opening notes give the impression of a scent both heavy and heady, redolent of resins, rich, earthy leather, and a subtle, animalic note that lends to a musky sweetness as the scent warms on the skin, it’s a scent that somehow leaves me feeling remarkably light-hearted. During my childhood FL summers, we would at least once, usually around the fourth of July, make a visit to our Aunt’s mobile home park. We didn’t see her often, despite the fact that she only lived twenty minutes away (I don’t think she and my mother got along very well), so these trips were a rare treat. We’d spend all day in the lukewarm community pool packed with other kids like us, and their beleaguered parents, and then we’d dine on hot dogs and pretzels for supper, with a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert. The kind with the tiny, black vanilla-bean flecks in it–which I had never seen before, and for a 10-year-old kid, seemed pretty exotic. As the sun disappeared for the day, I would sit with my bowl of unadorned dessert–no chocolate syrup for me, thanks– a shabby old towel draped over my head, goose-pimpled and freezing in that remarkably efficient air-conditioning, and flipping through my uncle’s Playboy magazines, which apparently no one thought was weird and for which nobody ever scolded me. Once my swimsuit was no longer sopping wet, I’d step out onto the open carport, where the rest of my family was softly chatting and waiting for fireworks to light up the balmy evening’s shadows. As the chill faded from my small bones, and I drank the sweet, milky remainder of my ice cream from the bowl, I recall idly wondering about future summers and future me and where does it all lead? As the sky came alive, alight with the glittering explosions of infinite possibilities, I took my mother’s slender hand, and I felt her smile down at me in the darkness. Full Dark recalls for me those long ago evenings of warmth and sweetness and inextinguishable wonder.

Gin Flower, pictured above: (Osmanthus, Elderflower, Apricot, Vanilla, Juniper, Lime, Manuka Honey Accord (Vegan), Pear, Citron, Hawaiian Sandalwood) Ok, so if you ever invite me out for a drink, and maybe I step away to powder my nose just as you happen to get the bartender’s attention–you can never go wrong with ordering a stiff gin & tonic for me. Ever since I took a sip of my grandmother’s G&T at the tender age of four and promptly burst into tears (I thought it was a tumbler of ice water!) I’ve been both obsessed and repelled by this crisp, classic cocktail. There’s something about the aromatic, pine-y gin, the bitter quinine of the tonic, and the sour, zesty astringence of that essential twist of lime that has me both “ahhhh-ing” with satisfaction while simultaneously pulling that “blech!” face. Gin Flower is based off a gin and St. Germain elderflower liqueur cocktail and is the first in a series of cocktail perfumes at Solstice Scents. It starts off with a piquant blast of juniper that is immediate and prominent and takes me back to that first quaff of my grandmother’s acrid aperitif, but shortly softens to a citrus-y, honeyed floral and sweet woods that wears very close to the skin.

Gunnerson’s Pumpkin Patch (Leaves, Vines, Autumn Air, Pumpkin Flesh, Lavender, Moss, Balsam, Tonka, Hay, Caramel, Dirt, Patchouli, Mushroom) I’m not sure how to talk about this scent without sounding incredibly morbid, so I have to preface what I am going to say here by telling you that I mean it in the best possible way: Gunnerson’s Pumpkin Patch smells like digging up the corpse of your grandmother in late autumn and sharing a slice of warm pumpkin pie with her. Okay. Well. Maybe not digging up her corpse, that’s a bit extreme. Perhaps picnicking at your granny’s grave? That sounds a little nicer, right? So for starters…although I don’t recall in my lifetime that my grandma often wore Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew– that iconic vintage elixir and rich, balsamic, aldehydic, powerhouse of a perfume– I do have memories of all her jewelry carrying the phantom of its bouquet, and that’s what I smell first in Gunnerson’s Pumpkin Patch: the gauzy, gossamer ghost of its resinous amber/patchouli grandeur. Next, in anticipation of my visit, I have made a pie with the requisite can of Libby’s orange puree, sweetened it with swirls of caramel, and bedecked its glossy surface with fiery-bright maple leaves; I have carried it, still cooling in its aluminum pie pan, through the rusted cemetery gates, late autumn vegetation at my feet, the sun deeply hidden in a sky heavy with clouds. I meet no one along the path to her gravestone, and as the bittersweet spectre of her signature scent mingles with the chilled afternoon air and the buttery steam rising from the crimped pie crust, I kneel, and with quiet reverence, carefully carve two slices.

Headmaster (Apple, bourbon, oak, cedar, pipe tobacco, applewood, amber, spices) opens with ripe, red fruits, the nose-tickling delight of high quality pencil shavings, and a blast of sweetened, unlit pipe tobacco. I imagine the experience of being trapped, as a sullen teenager, at a posh boarding school during the summertime might smell a bit like this; all of your classmates are jetting out to Amalfi or the the French Riviera, but your mother has remarried and is honeymooning in Egypt with her new husband; her final words to you, over a rushed, static-filled overseas phone call were along the lines of, “…garble garble I’m sure you understand, love you darling garble garble see you on Christmas break…!”

There’s a skeleton staff, all of the professors are on break except the creepy one whom no one but you has ever seen (that’s weird, right?) but the cook is very much a real, solid creature–she thinks you’re a dear and makes your favorite treat every night: baked apples en flambé, the secret ingredient being a generous nip of the headmaster’s special bourbon. You savor it at the bottom of the massive staircase every night, spoon in one hand, your other hand languidly sliding along the oaken bannisters, polished smooth by the hands of all of the young ladies over the years who have attended this strange institution. The golden glow of the setting sun glimmers through the ornate stained glass set into building’s solid front doors, and between the dust motes dancing in the amber light, vague shapes begin to take form, swirling and eddying, coalescing into an almost-human shaped cloud. You rub your eyes, sleepily, and the vision is gone.

Loggia (Mahogany, Amber, Musk, Vanilla Bean, Allspice, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Cognac & Sandalwood) Imagine the poshest, most polished home you’ve ever been invited to, recall the awe you felt traversing its passageways and the illicit delight you felt at peeking in every doorway and chest of drawers, and that may give you a minute inkling of Loggia’s appeal. Conjure the memory of those opulent wooden doors with their exacting filigree details; creamy white European linen draped on tables whose construction may be older than the country in which you’re currently living; an enormous, roaring fireplace where exotic woods crackle and blaze merrily; a silvery, bright kitchen from which the most ambrosial aromas drift, sparking visions of delicacies and confections the likes of which you, you poor sod, have never before experienced. An elegant glass snifter with a generous pour of deep amber liquid shimmers in the firelight. (You’re too young to drink that, but you’re quite certain it tastes of clover honey and sweet tea and vanilla wafers, and it will make you feel giddy and giggly and important and maybe a little sad.) Have you ever been to such a place? Have I? Or have I only read of it in books, or dreamed it?

Master Bedroom (Soft Skin Musk, Sandalwood EO, Amber, Clove EO, Somalian Myrrh EO, Vanilla, Aged Patchouli EO and Champaca Absolute.) Delicate musks and airy vanilla, powders and lotions; this is, at first, the scent of warmed skin after a perfumed bath. The dampness from the tub, toweled tenderly, then softly massaged with fragrant oils, and finally wrapped in a silken robe redolent of the resins and incenses that had been stored nearby. A soft, spicy clove component, along with a strangely unidentifiable grassy/woody dried floral note, round out this cozy scent that is the very definition of an evening of self-care.

Midnight Marquee (Black Musk, Gasoline, Supple Leather, Earth, Tobacco, Moss, Leaves, Foxcroft Air, Vanilla Musk) makes me think of a noir-esque episode of your favorite contemporary television series (remember when they did that with Pretty Little Liars? P.S. are you a PLL fan? Let’s chat!) It’s as if a black and white filter has been draped over what might otherwise be a creamy, sarsaparilla-y vanilla musk, lending it an air of melodrama and intrigue. The gasoline and leather ride in, circling, bold, intimidating, at first, but then settle down and combine with the sweet, earthy tobacco and moss to create a gorgeously atmospheric, full-bodied femme fatale of a scent.

Mountain Vanilla(Sweet Clover, Coumarin, Vanilla Musk, Fresh Green Accord, Poplar Buds, Morning Dew) Described as  “…a coumarin-heavy scent with vanilla and light green elements,” Mountain Vanilla is…not the vanilla that I thought it was going to be! I guess that’s what I get for not reading the full description until just now. Coumarin, if you are wondering, is described as smelling of new-mown hay–and there is definitely a warm, sweetly herbaceous aspect to this fragrance. Don’t be put off by the opening notes, which smelled aggressively chemical to my nose for a few moments; it’s a stinging tang that burns off quickly before those grassy vanilla notes and subtle green nuances materialize. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything quite like it; it really does evoke imagery of an Appalachian meadow brimming with sweet clover and dew-dappled ferns and the soft musk of a Bambi or two.

Postprandial (Vanilla, Irish Cream, Coffee, Chocolate, Bourbon, Pipe Tobacco) is a dark gourmand fragrance, an evening’s libation incorporating a medley of liqueurs, among them sweet, creamy vanilla, and woody, oak-heavy bourbon, and which contains a true cacao absolute and an organic dark roast coffee tincture. An ice-cold thimbleful of this boozy draught is a nightcap more potent than you might initially realize–so guide your midnight spritzes accordingly, and prepare for the sweetest of midsummer dreams.

Russian Caravan (Amber, smoked black tea, leather, pine resin, Earth, smoke, black currant, black pepper) is an impressively leather-forward scent. I don’t own any leather jackets, but I’ve smelled a great many of them (I’ve lived next door to the annual Bike Week revelries in Daytona Beach for most of my life, after all) but rather than stinking of sleazy bars and unwashed summer bodies, this is a lovely, worn-in leather that smells of an early June trek through forest greenery, a soft, piney astringency mixed with the tart sweetness of woodland berry bushes. And no hike is complete without a flask of lapsang souchong tucked into your pocket, right? (Wait, is that not a thing?) The fragrance of this dark, smoky tea takes a backseat to the other notes, but is a dry, peppery constant woven throughout

Sacred Vow (Vanilla, Amber, Bay Rum, Sandalwood, Oak, Patchouli, Vetiver, Saffron, and Lime)<–I don’t know if these notes are accurate, so I will update if I find anything different! There is something delightfully old-fashioned feeling about Sacred Vow, and I mean that in the most beautiful way possible, not in the “ew this smells like old lady” sense that you sometimes see mentioned on perfume reviewing forums. Ahem. Warm, spicy, and resinous, Sacred Vow is an amber-focused Oriental blend with the faintest trace of floral notes. With its heart of bay rum and amber, touches of oak, vetiver, and jasmine, it reminds me very much of my late grandmother’s bottle of Youth Dew by Estée Lauder; her small, mirrored tray of compacts and lipsticks, and a velvet-lined, mother of pearl jewelry box that held all of her sparkling costume jewelry–all of these luxuries specific to her rituals of beautification smelled softly of Youth Dew’s heady glamour. A strange, witches brew of balsamic resins, amber’s golden glow, and soft, powdery vanilla.

Sea Of Gray (Vanilla rain, saltwater, seaweed, ambergris (vegan), white amber, roasted seashells, white sandalwood, frangipani) The concept behind this scent is that you’re strolling along the beach and as tide rolls in, the sky darkens and the first drops of rain begin to fall, you take refuge in a nearby ice cream parlor. I would take this one step further; this is a seaside ice cream shoppe in Innsmouth, and you’re on a date with of its fish-people denizens. This is not to say that Sea of Gray is a fishy scent, but there is more than a hint of murky dankness upon initial application, and, if only for a moment, you’re swept away in scents of sand, sedge-grass, and stunted shrubbery that gives way to crumbling houses and their repellent inhabitants, and a feeling of overall disquiet and decay. This feeling passes as soon as you cross the threshold into the cool, bright interior of the frozen dessert establishment; the cheery clanking of small metal spoons gently scraping faceted sundae glasses and the soft, vanillic aroma of cold, creamy confections lulls you into a feeling of well being as you glimpse the sun peeking out from behind the clouds again, and all that’s left of your brush with the murky seaside secrets of that shadowed port town is the salt-spray on your skin. Your fishy paramour is nowhere to be seen.

Travelers (Amber, Clove, Frankincense Smoky), spicy, and sweet–the camphorous clove is nicely tempered by the warm amber and the cool, resinous frankincense and I can’t help but to think this a perfect fragrance for summer time ren faires with your beardiest, dorkiest, D&D-est friends. Or maybe *you* are that friend, which makes the fragrance even more perfect! It immediately conjures imagery of drum circles and mead and mesmerizing bosoms popping out of their corsets and a man with a cloak and a feather in his cap who repeatedly calls you “mi’lady”. I just went to a ren faire two months ago, so this is all very fresh in my mind. By the end of the day I smelled like goats and pickle barrels; I could have really used some Travelers right then.

Wilcox’s (Dry Woods, Fresh Herbs, Dried Herbs, Warm Woody Spices, Sweet Annie, Sage, Rosewood) The first time I wore Wilcox’s I was surprised; it smelled, initially, of the cool gloom of a crypt–that damp, earthen, mineral smell that conjures quiet meditations on mortality in the solitude of cold, stone chambers. I don’t know that it ever warms up on my skin, but it evolves into a wonderfully soft, compassionate scent: gentle chamomile and sweet, woody nutmeg, the sort of aromas that may waft from an uncorked phial, tipped gently past your lips while a leathery, bright-eyed acorn of a woodwitch murmurs, “just a drop, dearie!”

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29 Jul

Tubéreuses Castane from Maison Lancôme is such a beautiful, fabulous fever dream of a cocktail… an elderflower-forward sparking sweet Riesling with a musky, caramelized chunk of amber floating in the wine, along with a luxuriant dollop of rich chestnut puree and a generous dash of spicy ginger liqueur. It’s heady and hypnotic and a little weird but it’s not too cerebral or precious about it and lordy be, it is a friggin glamazon. Hot dang y’all. (this scent is discontinued but you can still find it in various places as well as eBay, if you keep your eyes peeled!)

I have been wanted to try Paloma Picasso for a while now and I am happy to say that it’s what I was expecting, but the best version of those expectations, I guess. It’s a sort of balsamic chypre, you know– dirty florals jasmine and ylang-ylang, alongside carnations balmy spice, and bitter herbal coriander and angelica, brightened by sour, sparkling lemon, and velvety mosses creeping over a sort of moody, fermented amber and sharp woody vetiver. It’s got a retro-futurist vibe, as if it were created by some sort of vintage visionary. If I were to embody this perfume, I’d liken it to the uncanny, vulnerable sophistication of Sean Young as Rachael in the original Bladerunner film.

If you love the offertory pencil shavings of CdG Avignon (and I do) Reve d’Ossian from Oriza Legrand is that on steroids and maybe also hallucinogens. You know, the drugs that monks and nuns and holy prophets and saints take to get swole and bench press dusty wooden pews and write trippy ecclesiastical poetry on brittle parchment scrolls? Sure, why not. Hey look, it’s gothic sex nerds Lord Byron, and Percy Shelley! Where’d they come from, smelling of nightmares and bad reputations, all gloomy and grandiose like moody vanilla and smoky leather and rich, sticky resins, and horny graveyard strolls at midnight? If Ken Russell made a fever dream of a film about the famous time-traveling debaucheries of Hildegard von Bingen and her companion, Frankenstein’s monster, I think it would result in this glorious perfume. Let’s party.

Glass Blooms by Regime des Fleurs is absolutely exquisite and I wish I could come up with the words to tell you just how exquisite it is but instead, all I can tell you is that it conjures the essence of the most beautiful woman in the world, or at least I thought she was, in 1982 when I was 6 years old. And also she wasn’t a woman, she wasn’t even human, she was a plastic doll made by the Kenner brand. A Glamour Gal. Her name was Shara. You can smell the pearly musk mallow, milky ambrette and cognac in the memory of her lustrous, opalescent hair and in her sleek shimmery gown, a vision of frosted starlight, cool, aloof lily of the valley and pale peony, delicate and dappled with dew on a spring morning when the chill is still bright and hard in the air. When I wore Glass Blooms this evening, I felt every bit as elegant and enchanting as I felt it must feel to be a Glamour Gal like Shara. Who, though Kenner has been defunct since 2000, I can find still-in-package on eBay for 24.99…which is a better deal than a bottle of Glass Blooms, at $225. If I’m being honest, though, I think I need both of them.

Initio’s Side Effect feels at first very much like their Musk Therapy, that sort of woody citrusy effortlessly-hot, hot girl summer base– but futzed and Frankenhookered with to include deeply honeyed tobacco, a rum so richly resinous and brown sugary opulent that to create any kind of cocktail with it would be a sin, and the questionable addition of a potent plasticky chemical polymer note. So…she’s a 10 but she’s also a literal plastic doll? Oud For Happiness is a dry, brittle bitter oud, coupled with a clean, soft woody musk… and something subtly sweet and pillowy-feathery like fresh baked milk bread. It then becomes a creamier version of of the preternatural Abercrombie &Witch hotnesstheir Musk Therapy, which is what all of Initio’s offerings eventually become on my skin. I am not complaining–Musk Therapy is amazing. But I don’t need a whole shelf of things that smell similar, especially at this price tag.

Ofrésia from Diptique is a thoughtful fragrance of honeyed and dewy florals, sheer and sweetly luminous, lively and peppery crushed green stems, and a softly rosy, woody musk. I find it somewhat akin to Bath and Body Works OG Freesia Fields but less watery and with a certain sensibility that comes from being a little older and having more discretionary income. And maybe just more discretion, period. It’s lovely even if it is not terrible exciting. It is very good I think, for visiting your in-laws, who really only have an inkling as to the depths of your freaky weirdness, and you are trying your best to keep it that way. This is a fragrance for inducing a certain sort of serene and sensitive spirit or state of mind that reminds you to be on your best behavior even when you’re feeling salty and snippy and sassy, and it feels like it’s got scruples enough to keep your secrets.

Diptique’s Venise is as if the velvety moss-muscled Masters of the Universe Moss Man toy found himself in a biergarten nestled in the midst of a forest of crooked pines &twining nightshade. Seating himself under the canopy of verdant flora, the green plastic henchman orders a moderately priced sampler of lambics and goses and other sour, seasonal ales (but he’s going to expense it to Skeletor anyway) and as he’s enjoying his tiny, half-filled glass of coniferous resin and lactobacilus-y fermented grains, he notices the plants stealthily creeping closer, surreptitious snaking sneaking vines with intent to strangle. For though Moss Man can camouflage himself in foliage and control all the plants on Eternia, on Earth he’s apparently powerless and our terrestrial vegetation views him as a threat. As the air becomes suffocating with the scent of sap-filled botanical defense mechanisms*, Moss Man slips into unconsciousness wishing he’d actually ordered the full-sized stein.

*thanks dear Minna, for helping me out here!

A long time ago I wrote a review in which I referred to Aquolina’s Pink Sugar as the bark of the cotton candy tree. Well, that was a confectionary botanical specimen in its sapling stage. Imaginary Author’s A Whiff of Waffle Cone is that tree a millennia later, after the rise and fall of civilization, the obsolescence of any number of gods, and you know, after it’s seen some shit. It’s still rich and redolent of carmelized burnt sugar and toasted marshmallow, along with a luscious velvety smoked vanilla custard and something like marzipan syrup incense…but imagine all of that with a jaded attitude and wearing a beautiful old leather jacket and puffing away on a pipe with warm nuances of dried sweet grass and balsamic woods in the chamber. Why is this tree smoking? Man, it’s a million years old, it can do whatever it wants. It’s earned that right.

Vetiver in Bloom from Scents of Wood is more a feeling than a scent for me, but it’s a good one. Woody vetiver, soft white musk, and some delicate yet heady orange blossom-esque floral translates to a very specific nostalgia. A summery coziness sounds a little paradoxical, but this is the scent of cocooning one’s AC-chilled, damp skin and dripping tendrils of hair in a fluffy robe and towel, after having spent all day in the swimming pool and then realizing the moon’s out, and you’ve been submerged since noon.

Copala from Xinu is a beautiful first foray into a brand I’d never even heard of. Opening on a brisk lemony pine sap incense note, it evolves into an amorphous melange of golden resins, dusty vanilla robes, with a spiked ceremonial collar of pink pepper. It’s both sharp and soft and feels simultaneously contemporary and ancient, like mystical wisdom awakened in modern blood …and I am more than a little obsessed.

I had ordered a sampler set from Libertine so that I could try several scents from this indie brand, but if I am being honest, I didn’t really peruse the notes or the copy ahead of time. With these assortments, I like to keep the details secret from myself and allow myself to be surprised and delighted at however things might turn out. So, for example, I wasn’t immediately aware that Soft Woods, with its notes of fir and incense, also included rose–a fraught note that is all kinds of problematic for me. Dead Mom issues and whatnot. As this wore on my skin, I did become aware that I’d been Trojan-horsed a rose scent, but it’s quite unlike any other rose I’ve experienced, a boldly balsamic, bordering on fruity-rose; it’s weird, the amber jamminess is there, like resinous fig preserves or a honeyed compote…but rather, the carmelized essence of it, absent the actual fruit. This is a mystical rose, a fairytale rose, an enchanting ode to a princess–any princess, all princesses. Whatever they look like, whatever form they take, whether they were graceful and benevolent, or the kind in a spicy Anne Rice novel written under a pen name, or even the sort who slaughtered their way to sainthood with a toddler strapped to their back. A princess can look all kinds of ways and do all kinds of things and I am pretty sure in all of the stories about them, they smell of Soft Woods.

Chypre Mousse from Oriza Legrand is an unexpected …honeyed absinthe chypre? It manifests as a yeast-raised donut speckled with pungent, green herbs and burnished with a ladle of lustrous warm sugar glaze made from the honey of hallucinogenic blooms and bitter wormwood extract. Like if you went to the super artisanal donut shop/altered state dispensary and ordered “the green fairy special”. It’s intensely sweet in disturbing ways that I can’t quite put my finger on, and it’s absolutely not for me–but I can definitely appreciate it.

Saffron from Scent Trunk (part of the Uncommon Palette) is deep kisses of sunshine and honey and the rich brulee of amber custard while the gauzy embrace of the moon sighs cool and close on your neck. If a god requested a dessert combining the ineffably golden, glorious, melt-in-your-mouth characteristics of a midsummer’s day celebration and the silent starry shivers of a moonless winter solstice midnight and then judged it as terrific and exactly what they were looking for and proceeded to furiously make out with it? This perfume is the aromatic interpretation of that divine, delerious delicious as-yet-to-be-told myth. 

Cloak Musk is from the same palette and is a scent of crystalline musks, fossilized herbs, and chilly snowcapped blooms which combines for a perfume that feels strangely inorganic…mechanized in some way, or maybe cybernetically enhanced. When I think of cloaking, I think less of a furry cape to keep you warm and more of the stealthy gravitational bending devices used by Klingons so that their birds of prey could travel undetected by Starfleet sensors. Do I like this hushed and cooly detached scent? Heck yeah I do. Would Klingons? Hard to tell. It’s basically the exact opposite of warrior bloodlust…but with a spritz of this on meaty wrist and a double-bladed bat’leth gripped tightly in hand, they’d be certain to enter into battle with a cool head. Perhaps today is a good day to die.

…and finally The Grief Moths, a new collection from bloodmilk, in collaboration with Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.

Grief Moth is a fragrance of half-light glooms, that liminal borderland of light and dark accessed between wakefulness and dream. When the mind, half-shrouded in night, barely begins to discern the glow of the sun beyond closed eyes, and the temporal curtain of the eyelid has not yet revealed its truth. In this place all things are possible, nothing is beyond your grasp, and in these shadows, you are safe and held. These are the soils where, in nocturnal sublimity, your subconscious has struggled with the raw and murky things you’ve been carrying–and in these lightless labors, you are slowly becoming whole. As Jarod K. Anderson writes in a poetic excerpt from Love Notes From The Hollow Tree, “The work to bring a violet up into the light happens down in the dark.” Grief moth is the flinty grey umbral amber, fog-faded forest of ghostly trees in your interior landscape where this work takes place.

Grief Moth Part II  A fitting companion for bloodmilk’s Grief Moth, this is a scent that gently arms the wearer with a little lightness and a small measure of hope when you wake of a morning, limbs weighted with the crushing gravity of grief and soul wracked with the shivers of sorrow. When in those seconds your eyes adjust to the light through the curtains and you think, “I have no heart for it all today.” But our stubborn human hearts keep on beating, don’t they? “Approaching sorrow,” reveals Francis Weller in The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief, “requires enormous psychic strength.” And though in the frozen time/cracked-watch face/inexorable slowness of loss it feels as though those moments of darkness and despair will last forever, the throb and thrum of your heart reminds you that (as many have said from poets to pop culture) that grief is your love living on, persevering–and this is a thing to cherish, a sacred strength that asserts itself despite ourselves. It’s a fearful thing to love what death can touch–but we keep doing it, beautiful, amazing fools that we are. And that in that timeworn compulsion lies the soft, quiet joys of this fragrance:  subtle, diffusive woods and bittersweet balsamic sap and resin, rich, resilient soil and stone, and a delicate floral-fruity tannic tang. The only way out is through, but sometimes we need a little help reaching the other side. Grief Moth Part II is a beautiful scent of belief and elusive hopefulness that may light a lantern to lead the way.


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These reviews were originally shared at Haute Macabre in 2020 but I realized I never posted them on my own blog!

In celebration of The Art of the Occult: A Visual Sourcebook for the Modern Mystic, the aromatic adepts at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab have summoned forth a rare opulence of fragrances inspired by a handful of these curious images that transcend time and place. The Ars Inspiratio collection is comprised of five artful scents corresponding to five mystical artworks; these pairings serve as anointed access points to all manner of fabulous occult inspiration– perfumed pathways to unknown realms for extraordinary seekers and dreamers and magic-makers.

This is indeed a truly magical collection and one that is so incredibly dear to me–many thanks to our BPAL family for creating them, and I hope that you all love these captivating scents as much as I do! Below you will find individual reviews for each scent, as well as ruminations on how these wondrous works hold me spellbound, why my gaze returns to them again and again. May these perfumes, paintings (and pages!) serve as a portal for you, too.

Altarpiece – No 1 – Group X. Hilma af Klint 1907
(A prism of sacred frankincense refracting a golden amber light into a spectrum of daemonorops draco, King mandarin, golden oud, verdant moss, blue tansy, indigo vegetal musk, and wild plum.)

I was privileged to visit the ‘Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future’ exhibit when it was at the Guggenheim in 2019. The scale and scope of some of these visionary works were of such a breathtaking nature that I grew faint and strange; I thought (hoped, even!) I might be experiencing an art attack, a psychosomatic episode, a soupçon of Stendahl Syndrome. What made the afternoon complete was when my boyfriend’s mother wandered into the Mapplethorpe exhibit and was a bit scandalized. not having any familiarity or context before doing so. All kinds of feels on this day!

A brightness as glimpsed through shadow, a keyhole’s view of the sun. Small and still as a single candle’s flame against the immense dark; as vast and total as annihilation’s afterglow. This is a scent that proves to me, more than anything, how much I have to learn about fragrance and perfume, how little I know. I can only speak of this in terms of fractured, fragmented imagery, the slivers and splinters of a dream. “It’s beyond everything,” is a phrase I just read in a (totally unrelated) book, and that’s how I feel about this gorgeously evocative offering: a bright, dry citrus haloed by amber’s translucent sweetness, bound by the spiced warmth of dragon’s blood and fixed in a state of permanent darkness by the heady, heavy imprint of where oud once was.

Circe Invidiosa, John William Waterhouse. 1892
(Salt-spray dotting an azure cove, its waters swirling with noxious poisons and venom drawn from dreadful roots: a cascade of blackcurrant and crystalline blue-green waters infused with theriac accord, bruised henbane accord, white gardenia, pear, cedarwood, emerald mosses, tuberose, and bitter almond.)

The colors in this painting are so lush and beautiful that they defy description. I have always thought that tipping dish of poison, the shade of crushed emeralds and mantis wings, must be the precise color of our heart’s blood when we are in the venomous throes of enraged, envious desire.

Circe Indiviosa captures the scent of exercising one’s powers…one’s divinity…in murky and dangerous and exhilarating ways. It’s such a gorgeous fragrance, mossy and musky with a subtly bitter treacle, and vaguely electric in the way that euphoria resulting from ill-advised behavior makes you feel. Sort of like WHEEEEEEEEE OH SHIT WHOOPS.

The Choirs of Angels, Hildegard von Bingen 1151-1152
(A radiant blend of three frankincense oils, white bergamot, crystallized cistus, lavender, angelica root, and fiery neroli)

I always thought these holy mandalas looked a little bit like saintly Spirographs. Also: can you imagine peeking into the inner sanctum of a superfluity of mysterious nuns and discovering them lounging around, playing with Spirographs and Fashion Plates and LightBrite toys?

This is a lullaby. But not one of those dark Icelandic cradle songs about sleeping black-eyed pigs falling into deep pits of ghosts or the children of the ogress growling in rocky caves. This gentle scent is a blessing, not a warning; a dozy, tranquil cocoon of soft mallow, honied ambrette, and kindly, calming musk, ensconced in a delicate, opalescent radiance, like the promise of the not-too-distant dawn.

The Wish, Theodor Von Holst, 1840
(An incense of candied smoked fruits, Oman frankincense, red oud, labdanum absolute, sheer vanilla, patchouli, red musk seed, osmanthus, and datura)

I’ve always wanted to know what wishes are longed for in the dark-eyed gaze of this intense young woman. Myself, I simply wish to rifle through the box of baubles and jewels in the bottom right of the canvas. Maybe help myself to that pearl-tipped hat-pin.

Rich and decadent but wonderfully absent of drama, like late-night Nigella Lawson b-roll. Watching the dying embers of the midnight hearth from the luxurious comfort of a generations-old leather chair, while shamelessly munching on leftover desserts after the rest of the house has gone to bed. Canelés, deeply caramelized, redolent of vanilla and an herbal liqueur that someone swapped the rum out for because they thought they were being clever…and strangely, it works, it really does.

The Witch/Strega, Angelo Caroselli, 17th Century
(Leatherbound tomes and rose cream, flickering flames of twin ambers, and a cascade of shadows: black oud, teakwood, black beeswax, 13-year aged patchouli, cinnabar, balsam, sweet labdanum, tonka bean, and smoke.)

Look at this witch’s face! You know she’s going to be a cutting-clever one, uttering snarky-sneaky observations that make you both gasp and splutter with repressed laughter about mutuals you can’t stand. I want to be her Facebook friend. She’d be a scream in a Netflix watch party.

Somewhere between angelic and infernal is a mercurial earthiness that tips the scales, either way, depending on where you’re standing. And then: venomous vermillion kisses, a canopic jar of scorpion dust, and the scent of rock reacting to the draw of the moon. That’s just in the first sniff. Later, there are phantom beehives teeming with smoke and shadows and an unforeseen katabasis with a delicious consequence: there’s something decidedly Smutty happening with this scent, but almost as if you are translating the notes of the First Smut from ancient etchings in interconnecting caves far under the earth’s surface, each carved by water seeping through the rock over thousands upon thousands of years. That’s it, then. This witch has journeyed to the underworld and, having discovered the centuries-old grocery list for the Ur-Smut ingredients, delights gleefully in her findings in this vision before us.

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28 Jun

Les Lunatiques from Lvnea is a cupped palm of night air: softly flickering mothwings at midnight, a dewy mist of cloud floating across the moon, shadow-draped blooms furled in upon themselves and dreaming, the holy gleaming poetry of cosmic light reaching us from stars long dead, and the sweet murmuring exhalations of a slumbering grove of saplings.

So, 4160 Tuesday’s The Sexiest Scent On The Planet. Ever. (IMHO). I can’t say that I don’t like it, because I really do. Is it sexy? I don’t know. I don’t really like to think about scents like that, for some reason it really grosses me out. Maybe my filthy youth–and man do I have some stories–flipped some sort of switch in my brain where now I basically want whatever the opposite of sexy is. I am not saying sexy is a young person’s game, I guess I am saying I just don’t care about sexy anymore. There’s more to life. Anyway. So this scent is fairly simple, what I might call floral vanilla and dark woods. It’s lovely, but not overly complex. It’s perfectly fine and I would almost want a full bottle to keep around for days when I don’t know what I want to wear, only that I want to smell nice. The problem is, it smells EXACTLY like the sandalwood vanilla wallflower home scent plug ins that Bath and Body Works used to sell. And there’s no inherent problem with that scent, either, it’s actually very pretty, but my sister has one–sometimes two–plugged into every room in her house and before long what was once pretty is now intensely oppressive and suffocating, and now I can’t smell this particular version of vanilla and woods without feeling like I am choking on a candle. I get how this is a me-problem, not an actually product-problem, or perfumer-problem. but sometimes that’s the way it goes.

Accident a la Vanille Almond Cake is so awful that it inspired me to write a haiku:
a robitussin,
and play-dough, and almond milk
frathouse haze: DRINK, DRINK!

Etat Libre d’Orange You Or Someone Like You is the screechy confrontational performance art of a person having a freaky public meltdown, a full out adult tantrum, taking place midafternoon in a popular coffee chain or a ubiquitous lingerie store in the mall, and which is probably being recorded by spectators for millions of future views on YouTube even as the melodrama is unfolding. It’s the synthetic aroma of an indoor public space filled with too many people breathing at once and poorly circulated air, the awkward musk of distressed and embarrassed onlookers, the cool mineralic concrete of silent complicity, the acrid, antiseptic arrogance of entitlement, and the tang of weaponized tears and performative victimhood of someone who felt personally attacked by Victoria’s Secret’s return policy regarding thong panties or the fact that Starbucks was out of oat milk for their ridiculous latte order. You or Someone like you is the fragrance of someone making a massively upsetting stink in front of a crowd and feeling absolutely no shame or remorse because they have a right to everything, they deserve everything, merely because they exist.

Blocki’s In Every Season is the gorgeous zing and fizz of pink grapefruit, balanced with the elegance and gravitas of precisely cut green stems, jasmine and tuberose’s floral summer opulence, tempered by the shadows of early spring violets peeping through the melting snow, and wound round with gauzy musk that smells like starlight on your skin. This is probably the most lovely and perfect white floral composition I have ever smelled, despite the next association I am going to throw out there. It conjures a stepmother in a VC Andrews novel, a strikingly handsome, chilly blonde from old money with impeccable taste, and unimpeachable manners. She lives in a big, fancy house, there’s this whole big screwed up family, this generational saga of dysfunction and trauma and next thing you know her husband shows up with a teenage girl from a previous marriage about which he has just decided to confess. So now here’s this surprise daughter, a young woman from a desperate situation, who dreams of better life and works, struggles, and schemes to achieve these dreams. And then when she finds herself under the cruel, calculating, controlling gaze of her beautiful blonde stepmother, she comes to realize that her dreams come true are actually worse than the life she just escaped. So…what am I saying? I don’t know. A good perfume can make you smell nice, but a great one can cover up a multitude of sins? I don’t think that’s how it works, but In Every Season should be the great one we reach for to try it this theory out.

Ineke’s Hot House Flower is a gardenia soliflore that smells like a cybernetic tropical bloom, green foliage that has become self-aware, and the simulation of lushness accompanied by cool circuitry. Like if Skynet’s neural networks got hooked on plant haul videos on YouTube and went into botany instead of killer robots.

Poesie Madar is 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.

Laboratorio Ollfattivo’s Need_U is a slight, subtle scent of bitter citrus peel and aromatic zest accompanied by mildly piney juniper berries and the nostril-singing sting of effervescence. I am not sure what they need here, is it a Campari and soda? I mean, I can certainly relate to that. But I don’t know that I need a whole perfume about it.

Givenchy L’Interdit is…oof. It makes my hips ache and my knees creak. It makes me feel like a fucking fossil. This is a candied fruity floral, like shards of every flavor Jolly Rancher forming the vague shape of a flower but I think anyone who smells it will agree it is no flower found in nature. Do you know who smelled it and loved it, and thought it was “bomb” and “fire” and “literally everything,” though? A quartet of college girls who robbed a fast-food restaurant and stole a car to fund their spring break plans and who then got bailed out of jail by a skeezy clown of drug dealer/rapper/arms dealer named Alien who looks just like James Franco. I’m pretty sure they are all about this bikini bacchanalia neon candy Harmony Korine girls gone wild hedonist hell of a scent and man, they can have it. I’m too old for this shit.

Two Hexennacht scents: Velvet Coccoon has notes of labdanum, benzoin, frankincense, burnt caramel, guaiac wood and I’m not sure I have ever experienced a fragrance whose name was more befitting. This does give the impression of being enveloped in a midnight chrysalis of soft shadow snuggies, a fuzzy, cozy void, and cuddling up to the abyss and when you finally emerge you are the most goth moth. Sanctum, if possible, is even more incredible. With notes of offertory resins, deep golden amber, soft incense-smoke finish this conjures a sacred sweetness, a sort of sanctified gourmand like a choir of seraphim baking cupcakes or a falling asleep during mass and dreaming of Saint Honore. But it’s got the loveliest airiness, too; it’s not at all a heavy scent. It’s an angel food cake with actual the actual wings of a divine messenger, or maybe the devotional incense you burn to summon such a being.  

Nyphaea from Tanaïs Jasmine is not listed in this composition’s notes, but imagine if you took jasmine aside and said, look you’re really extra, I mean you’re A LOT. Can you dial it back a bit? This is jasmine being the least version of itself. And I know it sounds like I just told someone to basically not be themselves and that’s a really crappy way to treat someone, an actual human someone, but let’s not look into it too much. Because if we do, then I sound like a real asshole. So instead, and because I really like this scent, I am going to think of it as an intimate, secret jasmine. It’s not making itself small and quiet to make me feel comfortable. It’s just not a talker. It’s not looking for participation points. It’s an introvert, sort of like me…and maybe that’s why we get along so well.

Inspired by the Huysmans novel, and meant to transport the wearer to “Saint Sulpice church in Paris’s 6th Arrondissement uprooted and transported to NYC’s upper east side, ” I think I can…eventually… smell all of these inspirations in Là-Bas from Régime des Fleurs. However, this scent opens on a bit of an iffy note for me and it’s initially not what I expected: it’s a fruity rose that thinks pretty highly of itself and makes me think of Rita Skeeter’s platinum curls, bejeweled spectacles, and crimson nails. I don’t love it at this stage. But in the blink of an eye, it becomes this profane, unholy fog of oakmoss, birch tar, musky leather, and smoky vanilla black mass of a thing, and it truly does conjure visions of disillusioned writers, gothic horror, and mystical murders. Imagine if Rita Skeeter unzipped her human suit and out stepped a glamorous, chain-smoking demon tabloid reporter who writes decadent, scandalous musings about all the astrologists, alchemists, fortune-tellers, mediums, faith healers, exorcisers, necromancers, wizards, and satanists of the time. Gossip is the devil’s telephone and all that, and if this fiendish, fascinating fragrance is ringing, I am gonna take that call every time.

I first tried Anne Pliska ages ago and it didn’t really speak to me then, but also I think that maybe I wasn’t ready to listen. Now I am all ears. Or nostrils, I guess. This is an amber-vanilla fragrance that has a very low-key time-traveling vintage vibe, it’s almost a cross between Obsession and Shalimar, but it’s not as muscle-bound aggressive an amber as the former and it’s not the prim, fussy powderiness of the latter. The notes of orange and bergamot eventually appear for me, in the form of a creamy citrus –not a juicy slice of fruit, but rather a soft, subtle molecular gastronomy desert-type thing, piped in filigrees and dusted with bitter chocolate flakes and vanilla salt. Oddly enough, before that, I get the weirdest hint of plums and pencils and an odd combination of purple stone fruit and cedar shavings that are briefly beautiful and then completely disappear as if they had never been there at all. For all the incoherent amalgamation of things I have described, this is a wonderfully easy-to-wear fragrance that is perfectly lovely. Not exactly cozy, it’s a mite too peculiar for that, but for all its eccentricities it’s somehow incredibly comfortable for me to wear? I guess when finally listened to what Anne Pliska had to say, it turns out we speak the exact same quirky language.


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A restful and relaxing and fragrant summer solstice to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere! I’m honoring the day by wearing all of my orange blossom scents at once.

Pictured above, L-R: Jo Malone Orange Blossom // BPAL Bergamot, Orange Blossom, Vetiver // Buly Fleur d’Oranger


R13 Floral Long Dress // Charo Ruiz Ibiza cut out-detail coat // Miu Miu Crystal-Embellished Gabardine Platform Sandals // Clyde – Black Caro Hat with Neck Shade // Hopeless lingerie strappy bra and briefs //
Stolen Girlfriends Club Hiss Satchel // Rodebjer Sylvia Sunnies // Sacred poppy necklace, Belladonna bell necklace, Achlys ring, and Hecate ring from bloodmilk jewels // Lvnea La Serpentine // ColourPop Hallucinogenius Jelly Much Shadow // Fat and The Moon Organic Eye Coal

photo image: S. Elizabeth, The Day Will Come That You Say You Dreamed It


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31 May

what’s that I can’t hear you over the sound of my perfume

Pictured above: when your perfume cabinet moonlights as a Penny Dreadful burlesque stage, I guess? I don’t think I am using this space optimally or efficiently, so I guess I will settle for using it ridiculously!

Here is a gathering of all of the perfumes I have reviewed this past month…

While I don’t often reach for fragrances that are considered light or fresh, Keiko Mecheri’s Les Nuit d’Izu is a scent that does these things exactly the way I like them. Les Nuit d’Izu is a poem, not a haiku, but perhaps a bittersweet tanka consisting of transparent green woods and sharp soapy florals, tempered by soft mosses and the musky powder of blooming citrus. It awoke in me a deep sense of nostalgia and it was driving me nuts because I couldn’t put my finger on what it reminded me of. I think Les Nuits d’Izu is a more posh version of Cotton Blossom, my favorite Bath and Body Works scent that’s gone through so many iterations that I’m not even sure what it’s called anymore. Cotton Blossom was a dreamy treat of white musk, soapy florals, and a hint of linens drying in the breeze high on a seaside cliff. It marked a time in my life filled with brief moments of tremulous hope tucked inside dark pockets of blinding despair. Les Nuits d’Izu shares many of these aspects, note-wise anyway, but with an intimate sense of midlife perspective from someone looking backward rather than forward. I feel like this perfume I am wearing today is the evolution and maturity of the body spray that I wore back then. I love it, but I don’t know if I can justify a full bottle when I’ve already got something that smells so similar. With maturity comes restraint and an obligation to fiscal responsibility after all. HAHA, that was a joke. You know I am going to buy a bottle.

 Saturday and Sunday from Arielle Shoshana. Saturday is reminiscent of those Choward violet candies, but instead of a chalky sweet floral, it’s a chalky sweet green leaf, as well as vaguely soapy, in a botanically-fruity chemical Herbal Essences shampoo kind of way. Saturday smells like your best friend in middle school who you probably shouldn’t look up on Facebook because you’re gonna be horrified to see who she voted for in the presidential elections a few years ago and how invested she was in building a wall. Leave the past in the past and maybe just buy the cheap shampoo from your youth if you’re feeling nostalgic, it’s probably about $150 less than this perfume. From the notes, it sounds as if Sunday is meant to be some sort of matcha horchata frappuccino thing, but the rice milk, rather than being sweet and creamy on my skin, instead comes across as more grain-like and savory, almost like a puffed, unsweetened cereal. As if I was having a bowl of hot, salted, and buttered Rice Krispies. The coconut and vanilla try to peek through but it presents in a sort of jammy, condensed milk & jello retro 1950s dessert manner that’s really offputting, especially next to the Frito-Lay vibes. I think both of these scents are a pass for me.

You know, it’s possible in my old age I am becoming less rigid, and more flexible in expanding my horizons when it comes to my former hard-passes. Over time I had come to believe that I was just not a gourmand kind of gal. So maybe I’m just running into some really well-executed compositions, full of thoughtful nuance and all kinds of interesting facets…or maybe my tastes are changing all together. Does it matter? It’s good to keep yourself open to stuff, at any rate, so either way, it’s not a bad thing. Over The Chocolate Shop by 4160 Tuesdays is, at first, basically a cake straight to the face, bittersweet dark chocolate crumbs on your chin, rich, creamy milk chocolate frosting right up the ol’ schnozerino. But after a moment or two, there’s more to it. Now, this is gonna sound gross, but there’s a certain…scatological element that I am picking up on. I don’t know how else to say it I don’t want to think about it too much but there’s definitely an indolic something or other that makes this cocoa less delicious and more funky and weird. And I’ll be honest, that’s one of the reasons I like the scent. There’s nothing like that listed in the notes, though, so I’m not sure what I am smelling. There’s also a sort of Escentric Molecules velvet woodsy sandalwood/cedar undercurrent to the fragrance, which is really pleasantly elegant and understated, especially next to something so decadent as all that chocolate. So if the idea of a bottomless chocolate buffet + a mysterious and inexplicable poopy element + a squirt of ISO E Super rings your bells (and I mean you know why wouldn’t it) then this is a definite must.

Sante Sangre, created by Dmitry Bortnikov and Rajesh Balkrishnana. Raj thoughtfully sent to me a sample of this, along with a few of his other collaborations after seeing a few of my reviews on fragrantica, and I thought that was pretty cool and awfully generous. I believe this is meant to be a scent highlighting both lotus and dragon’s blood, which is a really intriguing concept because regardless of what they might actually smell like, those two notes feel so very different to me and conjure wildly different associations. Lotus being sort of delicate and ethereal and watery and dragon’s blood more spicy-powdery, rich and balsamic. The scent surprisingly enough opens with citrus and soil, a really zippy, tart, grapefruit-orange, and earthy garden smells of freshly turned dirt on a late spring morning when you’re trying to do a bit of planting before the day gets too warm. This is followed by a very pretty vanilla orchid flower and warm, smoky tonka note, along with soft, candied confections of resins and woods, like a sort of amber nougat with a sandalwood custard-cream center. Sante Sangre is a fragrance that hovers just beyond your perception; you can’t smell it on your wrist in the moment, you smell it where you were standing just a few seconds ago, in the room you left an hour ago. It’s a bit of a temporal anomaly of a perfume that’s really just begging me to break a few laws of space in time. In order to finish this review tonight, I feel I’d best served by tootling through a wormhole to future me or slipping through a secret window to past me in order to collate and coalesce all of the mes wearing this scent, so that I can get the full picture of it. I will get to work on that.

As with many things, because I am a spiteful, hateful hater when it comes to the things that everyone else loves and are super jazzed about, I was all set to be unimpressed with Debaser from DS & Durga. a figgy scent apparently based on the opening song from the Pixies 1989’s album, Doolittle. Shame on me.
Because I actually really love creation, and although I live to be right in all things, in terms of perfume I do actually love to be wrong. At first I was kinda leery because the initial sniff was of unripe peaches, rudely knocked off the tree by the ornery flaps of sassy corvids, to lay wetly in a mound of dewy grass clippings. It was fruity but far too green to be sweet, or even edible. The coconut note is green too, a coconut before its reached full maturity, at the stage you might harvest it for the water sloshing inside rather than the flesh. It’s clean and mineralic as opposed to sweet and creamy. And maybe what I mistook for peach is actually the fig, the cool, shady leaf and the bitter sap, but thankfully not the jammy, honeyed fruit. It dries down to moody, rooty, earthy iris, and soft woody musks. Do I get the punky energy of a Pixies song inspired by surreal cinema out of this scent? I don’t know that I do, but I don’t know that I don’t. It’s a subtle fragrance with some unexpected flourishes and off-kilter appeal and if being wrong means that I smell like an oddly understated but characteristically weird A24 film, then I am very ok with it.

Batsheva from Regime des Fleurs smells of a subtly smoky blackberry and violet incense, something you might burn to summon either spectral shades from the underworld or second-ranking seraphim. It’s a strange, amorphous mixture of the undefined: it’s neither sweet nor dry, aquatic nor earthy, fruity-resinous nor herbal fresh, edgy leather metal lord nor cottagecore sweetheart–and yet it somehow sits at the intersection of all of these things. I love Bathsheva’s early collections with their frills and ruffles and ditzy, saccharine prints, and this scent is a through the looking glass version of that twee weirdness, a dark, twisted fantasy that never quite made it from La La Land to the nightmare side. “Liminal” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but this fragrance really does feel betwixt and between, grounded and ethereal– a space of utter unbelonging.

While I know that Blackbird from Olympic Orchids takes its inspiration from the warm, sunbaked days, ripe blackberries, dry grass, and cedar trees of the Pacific Northwest, my imagination took a very different turn upon first wearing it. Of time spent in a haunted glen, with hungry roots and mossy stone. And cross the brook, a of troop wicked goblin men–who find you napping all alone. They hobble, hurry, scrabble, scurry and once your face they spy, you wake befuddled, vision blurry to their helterskelter goblin cry: “Come buy our orchard fruits, Come buy, come buy.” Though I believe Blackbird is meant to evoke a dreamy temperate midsummer day, in its fruit like honey to the throat, I taste poison in the blood. The delicate mulberries, wild free-born cranberries, crab-apples, blackberries, damsons and bilberries, currants and gooseberries are born in snow and mud. Apologies to Christina Rosetti for hacking up your beautiful poem although at its heart I think it’s warning us not to be greedy sluts, but whatever. This is all to say, even though I hate fruit (in the perfume world and also in real life) I really like Blackbird. It’s an ominous blackberry cautionary tale in a grove of dramatic conifers.

I made this. It me.

Autumn Rhythm from Chris Collins is everything I wanted Autumn Vibes from Maison Martin Margiela to be, but which it miserably failed at delivering. I said what I said about it in my previous review at the time but instead today I am going to compare that scent to a dream I had last night where I crashed Reba McIntyre’s Thanksgiving dinner and she was aggressively pushing an excess of pumpkin pie on her boozy, belligerent guests. Autumn Rhythm, on the other hand, is a far cry from that cornucopia of autumnal resentment and lesson in exquisite restraint. THIS is the Ray Bradbury Autumn People fragrance I was hoping for. It’s the scent of a cool, smoky wind that clings to your hair and scarf after a walk in the waning light of a fall afternoon. Though a tussle of leaves have tumbled to the acorn-specked soil, most remain a soft serenade of green and pale, glowing yellow. Rhythm is a perfume of promise and patience as the trees slowly shed what no longer serves them, the dead and dying detritus of leaves, bark, needles, cones, and twigs, earthy, leathery, and woody and bitter. A strange melancholic verdancy, not crisp, but the tender, mossy dream of it. All of these notes, captured in a warm woolen halo of cashmere stitches and sweet musky skin. This is autumnal perfection.

I had previously tried one from Rook Perfumes–Undergrowth–which I didn’t love, but I held out hope because their offerings just seemed to evoke a sort the quiet drama and weird theatricality that I am very into. And so I think I found my gateway into their world with Thurible. I don’t smell the swinging sacramental censer of aromatic embers and worshipful smoke, but rather an abbess in her holy house working with the incense ingredients in their raw forms. Moss gathered from the lee of a stone, the earthy herbaceous poetry of crushed sage, the gunpowder floral of black pepper that dances frenzied confetti fragments of dark matter under a sturdy stone pestle’s grinding, all bound in the sticky shadows of leathery labdanum and musky amber honey. I don’t know if you light this for ritual descent into the twilight of the underworld or if you smear a fingerful across your tongue at night before navigating the dark corridors of dreams, but whatever its use it feels of disruptive eeriness and unreality where you learn of the things behind the things.

Hiram Green’s Arbolé is not what I expected from the verdant liquid pictured in the bottle. This is a woody anise, a waxy vanilla, a sweet, powdery heliotrope. A lot of reviewers describe this as luxe and cozy and elegant and I think I get that, but there’s something skin-crawling and unsettling that lies beneath. It’s the unreliable narrator in the best-selling domestic-noir thriller; she’s posh, privileged, possibly lives in a Parisian apartment or a luxury flat in London. She’s either in a troubled marriage or she’s grieving her dead husband and/or child, she’s isolated, she’s probably self-medicating and not always terribly lucid, she’s paranoid… or is she being gaslit? She’s spying on the neighbors, she suspects murder or kidnapping or espionage, she’s playing detective, she’s too smart for her own good but too late to figure out she’s been trusting the wrong person. She backs herself into a corner and rarely comes full circle, or even out on the other side of things. The scent of fear and anxiety exuded by these women as they make their way through the twists and turns of these stories? It is the fragrance of Arbolé’s queasy, uneasy prettiness.

Akro Haze is a cool, slithery scent of aromatic and bittersweet-camphoraceous herbs, the hissing sweetness of that unexpected and uncanny resinous maple syrup note that I associate with immortelle, and a quiet, stealthy base of leathery woods and patchouli. I can’t speak to the fragrance’s supposed inspiration because I do not partake, but it certainly does have a nocturnal, narcotic energy, all languid limbs, drowsing breaths, and being hypnotized by a gorgeous creature who is actually a snake spirit or a snake goddess, or a Medusa, or a half-woman, half-cobra monster created by a mad scientist, or whatever– what I am getting here is that Haze is a monstrously beautiful snake lady of a scent.

I can’t tell you anything about No. 32 Blue Oud by Cognoscenti that makes any amount of sense. Remember Smarties, those small, sweet pale, chalky disks of nostalgia, stacked in rolls, wrapped in crinkly cellophane, and which probably made up the bulk of your Halloween haul when you were a kid? Ok, well, imagine a confection along those lines, crafted by enterprising small business owner witch Pepper Dupree of the Whispering Hills (patent pending) and flavored with proprietary woodland essences of violet and bluebells and meadow rue, brambleberries, cypress and fern and a fuzzy snippet of flowering lichen that only blooms in the shimmering light of a blue moon. The candies are painted the intense velvety shade of midwinter nights, deep resolve, and slow truths, and emblazoned with silvery scenes of celestial significance. She was inspired by Zeus, the blind, starry-eyed screech owl that she saw on the internet and wanted to create a tiny treat that evoked for the user what Zeus awoke in her: a brief moment of universality, of wholeness within oneself and one’s connection with everything. As you can imagine, such visions, however exquisite or fleeting, come at a steep price–but Pepper Dupree now accepts Afterpay and Klarna.

Pear Inc. from Juliette has a Gun is rotting clumps of sour milk, canned fruit that’s been forgotten in a bunker for 35 years, and the slutty Egyptian musk that a zombie stripper demon might wear while giving you a wildly uncomfortable lap dance. My god. I just want to hurl this sample straight into the sun.

I have written about Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir before, but I thought I might revisit it because while I really do love it, the hows and whys of my love for it are certainly subject to change over time! Clinique markets the perfume as an “intriguing non-conformist fragrance.” Chandler Burr writes of its depth and shadows, and it’s described by many reviewers as “a chypre on steroids.” I find all of these things to be true, and more. It is a bitter, balsamic, menacingly astringent blend of cool, otherworldly woods and sour alien herbs, abstract florals and austere resins. Verbena and geranium, jasmine and oakmoss, bergamot and patchouli–all of the familiar notes for a classic and yet it feels out of time, wholly strange and new, as if it contains a strain of alien DNA. Like it’s been floating through the void of space in a cavernous non-Euclidean construct, the monstrous pressure and eerie whistle of the air ducts it’s been hiding in slowly driving it mad as it drifts a silent path through the cold stars, utterly alone. If this being had a message for us from across that cosmic ocean of emptiness, it would surely reach us after its death. Such a transmission from that dread abyss is the scent of Aromatics Elixir.

Imaginary Authors Fox in the Flowerbed is all fluttering spring petals, light feathery wings on a playful breeze, and unsettlingly intimate musks. Even the honeyed jasmine, usually so heavy, heralding summer’s muggy fug, feels like a gossamer dream on a cool, April evening. This conjures the beautifully tender, kinky lepidopteran weirdness of The Duke of Burgundy‘s bizarre love story. I know a fragrance inspired by the film already exists, but somehow Fox in the Flowerbed does a more proper and true job of it.


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Commissioned art by Becky Munich

I have been writing for many years, writing whether or not I thought anyone was paying attention (usually not); whether anyone was paying money for it (definitely not) and I never tried to monetize my blog with ads or a paywalll or anything because I was doing it because I wanted to. Not because I was trying to make a buck or make a living off of it. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But it wasn’t something I wanted.

I am still not trying to do either of those things, but I have finally created a Patreon to …support my perfume habit, ha! We just moved and I put every cent I had into this house! Where am I gonna get money for stinks from? So, tell you what, you donate to my habit, and you’ll get exclusive content and whatever else I come up with.

Future donaters, tell me! What would you like to see here? And current Patreon users, anything I should keep in mind with this platform? Tips, tricks, pitfalls, whatever? I appreciate all of your insights and support!

So, what’s this about? For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by fragrance, olfactorily obsessed, spellbound by scent. “Smellbound,” if you will! In the span of an inhalation, an aroma can transport us to fabulous, fantastical realms and deliver us safely back to the familiar comforts of home. Take a deep breath. Sit in the dark. Let’s experience some Midnight Stinks together.

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