I’ve mentioned before my propensity to create little challenges for myself; blogging every day for 30 days,  trying out a new soup recipe once every month, etc, etc. Well, one of the other things I am doing is a perfume review a day, every day for a year, over on TikTok. Ok, sure, I cheated a little at first. I made recordings of perfumes I’ve already reviewed, maybe with a little revamping or a tweak here or there, but for the most part, I’d already formulated my thoughts. I did that to ease myself into the habit, and I don’t feel like I broke my my loosey-goosey rules too much, because, hey, that tactic worked. I just posted my 77th-in-a-row perfume review TikTok, so I think I’m doing pretty well. I started doing this because I wanted to get back into the regular practice of composing some thoughts about the perfumes I own, and also…I also wanted to actually wear them. This was a great excuse to start doing that!

Anyway, for those of you who hate TikTok, or who don’t want to watch a video compilation on YouTube, I have shared 40 days’ worth of perfume reviews (almost 6K words!) below. Some of these may sound familiar, as I definitely revisited a few fragrances along the way, but I think most of the scents in this gathering are either thoughts I’ve never shared before, or wholly new reviews.

What about you stinkers? Have you tried anything new lately, fragrance-wise, that you’ve fallen in love with?

Heresy Chapel Factory
I am still getting to know Heresy from Chapel Factory but I believe it is fast becoming one of my Holy Grail scents. It is the sharp green metallic floral of violet leaf, mingled with cool aromatic cedar, lofty sandalwood, and the smoked leather notes of vetiver; elements which alchemize into the austere elegance and kindred glooms of a dry, peppery violet incense. If you like the dark ambiance and nocturnal aesthetic of dungeon synth coupled with spectral visionary Simon Marsden’s black and white photographs of haunted ruins and moonlit abbeys, this is a transportive scent that will spirit you away to those eerie, ominous realms.

Prada (Amber) Prada
Prada Amber is a scent that reminds me of Dior Addict, and not because they really smell similar, but they’re both woodsy, sweet, resinous Orientals that take up a lot of space. They are voluminous, they envelop you in a wondrously dreamy cloud of fragrance …but it’s also a rippling billow of scent that can be sniffed several rooms away on the other side of the house, or on the other side of the globe, or maybe even on the moon. And I think you need to be okay with that to love these perfumes And side note…why haven’t we come up with a better way to describe this category of perfume. I am reviewing this scent in 2021, and calling it an “Oriental” fragrance seems deeply problematic, doesn’t it? At any rate, Prada Amber is a beautiful honeyed, balsamic amber and velvety patchouli with a discordant herbal bitterness, perhaps from tarragon or bergamot, that adds interest and intrigue and keeps it just this side of cloying, while maintaining that overblown potent headiness.

Fancy Jessica Simpson
When I was young, my mother didn’t drive, so my grandmother tootled us around with her on errands and took us where ever we needed to go. Her purse was a bottomless supply of Dum Dum lollipops and if we were well-behaved, we got one as a treat. This was a massive thrill when I was 4, but some arbitrary switch flipped when I was 5 and suddenly I found them utterly vile. No thanks, grandma! Imagine shaking sticky shards of fruit punch, cherry, and butterscotch flavored candies out of your best Belk’s church purse, and… that’s basically Fancy. It is Dum Dum dust. Interpret that however you like. You might say, well, oh, Sarah, it’s not made for you. Ok, I get that. But tell me… who is it made for? And do they keep their toy lipsticks on a hot pink plastic vanity and cook with an EZ bake oven?

Nirvana Black Elizabeth and James
I received so many samples of Nirvana Black in my Sephora orders in 2014 but I never took the time to try it. I was convinced it wasn’t going to be very good. I have since procured a mini-bottle, which isn’t too much of an investment in case I hate it. For the record, I do hate the clunky, ugly bottle, whatever size it is. This begins as Vanilla Fields from Coty, which I recall from my 20s as a fairly cheap, but unexpectedly lovely, dusty, musky vanilla sandalwood. If I wait a minute or two, it then becomes a simple combination of warm whiskey and deep woods. I’m not sure what/which woods, though? Maybe a wooden box, where you stored the whiskey? This isn’t a complex scent, but then again, I believe there are only 3 notes listed and sometimes more doesn’t always mean better. It’s nice enough, but don’t love Nirvana Black and it doesn’t feel like me, but I think it would be devastating on my doppelganger.

Sea Island Cotton Bath and Body Works
This spray from Bath and Body Works is an old friend and my ultimate comfort scent. It’s what I used for years before I began scenting myself with what I guess we tend to think of as “proper perfume.” I think this was originally called Clean Cotton Blosson, and when I went to repurchase it was Sea Island Cotton but now I think it’s just plain old Cotton Blossom. And it is a fairly plain and simple scent. It’s essentially dryer sheets composed of white musk, soapy florals, and a hint of linens drying on the line on a crisp, green, spring day somewhere near a seaside cliff. It’s what you might consider a fresh, powdery aquatic scent, and those are typically my least favorite fragrances, but this one is somehow special, it’s a dreamy treat, wrapped up in nostalgia and hope, and it never fails to soothe my soul.

Cathedral (Holiday no.3) DSH Perfumes
With notes of nocturnal resins, smoldering incense, and cool, creeping midnight moss, Cathedral from DSH perfumes conjures visions of a lone lantern lit in a solitary tower window away from which runs a stumbling figure in a long, trailing nightdress. What is this poor, doomed creature running from, barefoot across these misty moors on a moonless night? Ghosts, phantoms, and strange sinister spirits? A brooding, turbulent love affair fraught with bitter betrayals? Fearful family curses and dreams, illusions, obsessions, murders. I mean…what isn’t she running from, right? It’s not this perfume. With a resigned sigh, she turns and trudges back. Whatever else is going on in that wicked castle, she can’t leave behind this haunting and quite possibly haunted fragrance. It’s a Choose Your Own Gothic Romance in a bottle.

 

Hwyl Aesop
I purchased Hwyl on a whim solely because someone included in a listicle of fragrances that smell like camping, noting that this one, in particular, smells like how they imagine Totoro’s home might be scented. Did I want to smell like the woodland abode of an acorn-eating supernatural Japanese forest folk creature? Need you ask? Initially, I think due to the cypress and woody notes that they have in common, I thought Hwyl smelled very similar to Comme des Garcons Kyoto, and that perhaps I didn’t need both. But where Kyoto is a meditative prayer in a cool forest temple, Hywl is earthier, greener, and warmer. A mushroom-strewn, leaf-littered path leading to that temple, the sun streaming through the forest canopy, the cypress, live oak, and bamboo swaying with an afternoon breeze and rustling with the invisible movements of racoons and foxes, and maybe little forest spirits, too. Is there a Totoro following you? Or does it wait for you patiently at the Temple? Maybe we do need both scents, just to find out.

Ambre Noir Sonoma Scent Studio
Ambre Noir from Sonoma Scent Studio is dense and intense and the darkest amber you could ever hope to meet. Both somber and smoldering, with notes of labdanum, rose, incense, moss, leather, and woods, it is a blackened forest fireside frolic when the veil between worlds is thinnest. See also: the final moments in the film The VVitch. If you like outrageously dark, spellbindingly smoky amber fragrances, I believe you’ll enjoy this one.

Niki de Saint Phalle
Though I’ve had this bottle of Niki de Saint Phalle for years, I’ve been avoiding pinning down my thoughts on this one. I am not sure how much the woman had to do with the creation of the perfume, but Niki de Saint Phalle was a French-American artist and filmmaker renowned for her distinctive sculptures of voluptuous vividly colored, giant, joyously conquering women. The perfume was launched in 1982 but it smells like my imaginings of the early 70s It’s a delicately spicy, mossy green-leafed potion, with notes of wormwood, carnation, leather, peach, and soft aldehydes. It’s complex, yet eerily balanced and I can’t get a handle on any one note. It makes me think of a meandering, plotless arthaus film that you loved for the visuals and the atmosphere and the score, and even though you didn’t understand a thing that was going on, you’re still daydreaming about it decades later.

Myrrh & Tonka Jo Malone London
I love most incarnations of myrrh and this is a really nice one. Its bittersweet, medicinal edge is tempered by the tonka, and tonka’s earthy sweetness is reigned in by the inclusion of the aromatic herbal crispness of lavender. There’s the barest tinge of something smoky and acrid, which calls to mind imagery of blazing, blackened amber, and yet this is a very cool scent, and I don’t get a feeling of warmth from it at all. It makes me think of the sadly discontinued Sonoma Scent Studio Ambre Noir, a fragrance that goes hard with the smoky amber, so maybe this could be a possible, though less extreme, dupe.

Musc Maori 04 Pierre Guillaume Paris
Musc Maori from Pierre Guillaume Paris is another one that I tried a long while ago and wanted to revisit, and it’s just as quietly weird as I remember. It’s got milky vanilla notes of cumaru wood, which I had to look up just now, and Google tells me that basically, it’s where tonka beans come from. It also features appearances by coffee tree blossom and cacao pod. I typically don’t love chocolate scents, but this is like a musky, musty, ghostly packet of Swiss Miss. I say ghostly because it’s a very transparent scent, and the musk alternates eerily between something etherous in spirit and warm, sweet human skin. This is not the finished cup of hot chocolate but rather the grains of cocoa trembling in the tablespoon before being stirred into the boiling milk. It’s an odd but thoroughly charming fragrance.

Intense Cafe Montale
I first sampled Montale’s Cafe Intense years ago when I was initially getting into fragrance and perfumes. I guess I was feeling a little nostalgic for that sample a kind MUA-er sent me way back when! My recollection was that it was meant to be a coffee-forward scent, but…it is not. My partner observed that it smells like a teenage girl who typically wore a lot of candied, sugary scents and who wanted to level up with fancy florals and didn’t quite hit the mark. She tried, I guess, was his conclusion. My thoughts are more specific. This is a cloying fruity-floral that smells exactly like Rose Jam from LUSH, which I bitterly loathe because that smells just like those gaggy sweet Jolly Ranchers hard candies that all the popular kids were always eating in 6th grade. Which in turn makes me think of the MOST popular girl, we’ll call her Mary Lesa H., who broke off and ATE part of my sugar crystal science project that year. I hate science projects and I have never forgiven Mary Lesa H., and this awful perfume can go straight to hell.

Gris Clair from Serge Lutens Lea from Calypso St. Barth’s (discontinued?)
Gris Clair makes me think of Moira Rose’s observation in a later episode of Schitt’s Creek, where she’s strolling along the path outside their hotel room and remarks to her husband that she “detects a scintilla of lavender” in the air. Gris Clair is several scintillas of astringent lavender, crisp linen, and sharp, smoky resins in a cut-glass crystal bowl. I actually love to layer this with Lea from Calypso St. Barth’s, a pretty, pillowy perfume of vanilla, musk, and almond; it’s not overpowering and as a matter of fact, it’s fairly delicate. Think a simple, unfrosted angel food cake as opposed to a gargantuan many-layered Milkbar confection.  Together these fragrances lend depth where nuance is lacking in one and buff out the bitter edges of the other. Think lavender vanilla bean shortbread cookie bath bomb bedtime treat.

Fleur Cachée by Anatol Lebreton
My initial impressions of Fleur Cachée are of celery and shadows and green seeds and spice pods crushed on cool marble, desiccated bouquets more dust than bloom, and the skeletal, crumbling remains of frosted confections covered in cobwebs. This *is* a vanilla scent, you can smell it, but it’s a vanilla that’s not going to be defined by the ice creamy-cakeiness that we typically associate with this note. It’s almost as if it’s dressing itself up to be unpleasant, like it’s trying to convince us that Gillian Anderson is the creepy and clock-stoppingly tragic figure of Miss Havisham– but you can’t fool me, and I am not having it. This is gorgeous. As it wears,  a woodsy, oaky note emerges, not quite boozy but the casks were something smooth and delicious was aged. Overall, this is a deeply melancholic and complex vanilla, strange and dry and unlike all of the vanillas you may have known up until this moment.

The Afternoon of a Faun Etat Libre d’Orange
The Afternoon of a Faun feels like the olfactory equivalent of a proper meal after you’ve been subsisting on extremes of cheap, trashy snacks and the avant-garde weirdness of sneaking into a gallery opening to pilfer nibbles from molecular gastronomy art installations. It’s not a rib roast or a tofurkey or any meal in particular, but it’s that thing you dine on, whatever that might be for you, that satisfies your belly and nourishes your body and makes you feel good. I suppose this analogy is my way of admiring how extraordinarily well-balanced this perfume is. Inspired, I believe by both a poem of a faun recounting his horny dreams and the scandalous ballet based on the poem, The Afternoon of a Faun is a mossy-spicy-woody-aromatic-green-floral subscription box of a scent wrapped in a bow of bitter herbs and peppery celery enveloping a heart of immortelle’s smoky tea and burnt sugar note. If you enjoy chypre scents, you can’t go wrong with this one. If you are not sure, or are new to perfume, this is a great one to start with.

Guerlain Mon Guerlain
Everyone seems quite taken with Mon Guerlain, which I’d never tried, so I thought I’d take advantage of a Sephora sale and grab a bottle of the eau de parfum. I gotta be honest. It’s pretty gross. If you need a scent for impressing your peers after pledging yourself to Jesus as a pre-teen holy roller and you were going to hang with all of them at a rager of an overnight church lockin? This would be what you’d reach for. But listen, I’m not knocking smelling good for your lord and savior, but I think even the begotten only son of God has zero tolerance for this cloying fruity-floral bargain bin Koolaid flavor of a scent. Where’s the more interesting aspects of lavender and bergamot that people are wild for? This is just watered down CapriSun that no one even spiked. I’m flummoxed. And now I’m out $80. Dammit.

Eau Triple Sumi Hinoki Buly 1803
I’ve found interpretations of hinoki varies from perfumer to perfumer, ranging from lemony and coniferous, to tarry and peppery. This version is a deeply unpleasant boyscout campfire burning with bandaids and liniment and makes me feel the way I do when I’m dreaming and I walk into a darkened room and flip a light switch for illumination…and then nothing happens. At that point, the dream invariably descends into a nightmare, but I have learned to wake myself up at that moment, my brain boiling, electrified and panic-stricken. As a writer, at times I crave this scent when I need a freaky, feverish jolt of agitation. It’s also great for layering to add a touch of artful anxiety to a scent that’s pretty, but perhaps placid.

Sahara Noir Tom Ford (discontinued?)
Tom Ford’s Sahara Noir is a scent in my cupboard I’ve long been ignoring and I couldn’t tell you why. It’s intensely evocative in an incredibly specific way, so first my nerd review and then a translation for those who don’t have a tolerance for silliness.

Sahara Noir is the blazing binary sunset seen from the still, dry heat of sand dune on the desert planet Tatooine; a midnight canyon campfire crackling with the spicy resin of the Japor tree, the aromatic blossoms of the molo shrub, and acrid ribbons of poonten grass incense while the ground rumbles with the snores and snuffles of a slumbering bantha herd nearby.

Which is to say this is the driest frankincense, lemony woodsy pinon sawdust, a circle of fragrant burning woods, and brittle, smoky papyrus ash.

Whatever your preferred fandom or even if you stick solely to reality, Sahara Noir is utterly divine.

Daim Blond Serge Lutens
I’m revisiting Serge Lutens’ Daim Blond, a scent I thought I didn’t care for. It’s objectively “nice”, but it just doesn’t resonate with me. I smell the things that people love about it: the elusive whiff of soft suede from the inner pocket of an expensive handbag, the cool floral iris, the bowl of apricots basking in a beam of afternoon sunlight. But those things, they’re over there. And I am here. And we don’t connect. It’s the career woman who got married, had kids, holds an executive position somewhere, and does hot yoga and spin class. So very not me. It makes me think of that photo of Maureen Prescott that you see in the first Scream movie. She looks like a put-together lady. But you later find out she had a past, and it was complicated and fraught, and the catalyst for the entire franchise. Today when I smelled a previously undetected bit of pensive cedar, and wistful violet it made me think about Maureen’s pain and trauma and tragedy, and I recognized how layered we all are, and how no one’s life is ever quite how we imagine it from the outside. That’s something to sit with, and so too, I suppose, is Daim Blond.

Unknown Pleasures Kerosene
I need to be in a specific, special mood to reach for this one. Which is to say deep in the throes of a massive sugar craving. For context, the official description of Kerosene’s Unknown Pleasures mentions a picturesque vision of walking down a cold street in Manchester, listening to Joy Division, sipping on a warm cup of London Fog. And then a whole bunch of stuff about cozy vanilla and zingy lemon.” Ok, so this is less some idyllic goth afternoon tea stroll in the UK, and more a trendy bar in Austin’s house special creme brulee pina colada topped with those lightly spiced airplane shortbread cookies that are tastier than they have any right to be. This is like coconut, pineapple, and toasted vanilla custard Mcflurry with an add-in of Biscoff cookies. And by the way, I am not picking on Austin. I traveled there once, and forgot to pack perfume -the horror!- and I bought this bottle of Unknown Pleasures from a lovely little boutique there. It’s an almost horrifyingly bonkers dessert perfume and I gotta say, I love it.

Ginger Essence Origins
Origins Ginger Essence is like waking up on the first day of summer vacation and launching yourself out of bed with a whoop and a holler into the magnificence of a beautiful cloudless day, a sky so blue you feel you’re staring eternity in the eye, and eternity is having a pretty great day, too. The first day of knowing you’ve got two and a half months ahead of you where you have obligations and no one is making any demands of your time. As adults, we probably haven’t experienced that complete and utter and glorious freedom in a long time, and this bright, effervescent, zingy scent of spicy fresh-chopped ginger, and aromatic tangy citrus peels (and a nearby saucepan of simple syrup, just outside our peripheral vision) is as close as we might get to those storybook early summer holiday feels. See also all the lyrics from The Decemberists song June Hymn. “A panoply of song” is exactly how I’d describe this fragrance.

 

Tuberose & Moss Rogue Perfumery
Rogue Perfumerie’s Tuberose & Moss is a recommendation I received from writer and journalist Rachel Syme over on Twitter. I asked for a scent that smelled like Tasha Tudor’s goth great-grandaughter, and she recommended to me Tuberose & Moss. This is a stunning scent and if I’m honest, I’m annoyed at myself that she knew of it before I did. It’s plush white florals and earthy leathery dreamy oakmoss and woody, close to the skin musk; it’s classic perfumery with a wink. While there’s definitely that sense of powdery, vintage glamour, it’s lensed through a cracked-looking glass, there’s something shimmering and strange about it too. It’s the faded photo of Siouxsie Sioux reading Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit that never existed in this world, but I’m certain it does in some other reality.

Geisha Noire from Aroma M
Geisha Noire from Aroma M is a scent I first encountered via Makeup Alley, in 2004 when I was beginning my fragrance journey and spent a lot of time on the site’s forums. It was a thrilling experience swapping scent samples with strangers, but the kind of strangers with whom you were slowly making kindred connections and forming, in some instances, marvelous friendships that last many years. I have hoarded my tiny vial ever since that time and finally bought a full bottle last week. Geisha Noire is an intense, golden amber and smoky somber tonka that’s rich and hypnotic but before it veers too far into gourmand territory, you encounter an unexpected edge of leather and salt that keeps interesting and not so easily categorized.

Magie Noire Lancome
Imagine the various components of Bánh mì snack. Savory roasted pork belly, peppery chiles, pickled daikon, aromatic cilantro, right down to the yeasty tang of a crusty baguette. Sometimes one is just in the mood for a glamour sandwich, and this one is certainly complex and delicious.

Sinner Kat Von D
I’m quite certain that the nose composed this sentence no actual concept of sin either in theory or practice. This is a creamy white floral grounded with a light woody musk and it’s one of those pleasantly inoffensive scent that one might spritz when they don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about their perfume. If your idea of sin is wearing white after Labor Day or not properly sorting your recyclables, this may hit right for you. If the imp of the perverse lives permanently on your shoulder, you may think this is laughable but you keep it in your cabinet because you love the cheesy gothic melodrama of the bottle

Spice Must Flow Etat Libre d’Orange
ELdO’s Spice Must Flow is less of Frank Herbert’s space spice and more a hybrid of late-90’s English pop group members Posh Spice and Ginger Spice. It’s a lone, lush, rose, cool and fragrant, and mysteriously blooming in the dry, hot sands where only the prickliest, most pungent, and peppery spices survive. I don’t think there’s any citrus listed in the notes but there’s a mild, sour zing when you first spritz that gives the impression of brightness, and a beautiful cardamom incense note at the dry down that lends a shadowy balance. I would actually call this a rose for people who think they don’t like roses rather than a gateway to Arrakis for denizens of Spice World. Wait…what were we talking about?

Me Myself & I Egofacto
Me Myself & I by Egofacto is scent marketed as a bewitching and disturbing floral with voluptuous tuberose, mysterious hemlock flower, and smoky and vetiver. At the time I first learned of it I thought, wow, OK YES PLEASE take my money. A few years later I still consider it an exceedingly sound investment. It smells overwhelmingly to me of an unlit package of cigarettes in an impossibly expensive leather handbag, and I love that smell. I should know better. My mother smoked all her life, and she died of cancer in 2013. Me, I’m a nerd and have never smoked the slightest bit of anything, but I’ve still got this romanticized notion of sitting in a Parisian cafe, drinking espresso, smoking French cigarettes, scribbling poetry, and looking very cool. You can’t convince me otherwise. It’s a fragrance that conjures a somber, moody atmosphere that hearkens back to its very name in that you’ll want to be alone with it, and I promise you’ll both be in exemplary company.

Moss Commodity
I’ve only tried a few Commodity fragrances and own even less. The issues I have with Moss, the one I actually have, are emblematic of most of the others I’ve sampled as well.  They’re crisp in the sense that mostly what you get is the acrid, antiseptic zest of rubbing alcohol, and they’re generically cologne-y, in a plastic-y green, waxy citrus way that reminds me of every mediocre dude who talks over you in a department meeting and takes credit for your ideas, every tedious bore at a party who suggests that you’re misinformed and that you should read the work of a certain subject matter expert –and news flash ya ding dong, I’m the one who wrote the work you’re referencing– and lastly, every creeper who crawls out from his cave to follow you down the street shouting HEY GIRL NICE TATS and then calls you an ugly whore when you politely request that he leave you alone. Pretty sure all of these assholes are Commodity’s focus groups.

Vanille Noire du Mexique La Maison de la Vanille
La Maison de la Vanille is vanilla of dark, moody florals and balsamic resins that that for a few seconds smells like the platonic ideal of a hot chocolate served in your favorite childhood mug, but there’s something a bit off-kilter about it, too. You’re enjoying your steaming portion of nostalgia in a claustrophobic room with creeping yellow wallpaper, with a friend who has a mysterious green ribbon tied around her throat. She evades your questions about her enigmatic neckwear and asks how are you enjoying your bouquet; you glance down and your hot cocoa is pale orchid, an Aeranthes Grandalena, its blossoms exuding notes of jasmine, caramel, butterscotch.

Philosykos Diptyque
Philoskyos from Diptyque is a scent I don’t wear very often because I am not quite sure what to make of it…and I don’t know how to pronounce it, either. It is meant to be a perfumed ode to the fig tree in its entirety, the wood, the leaves and the fruit, but to be transparent here, I have never eaten a fresh fig, and even worse I sometimes get confused about dried figs and dried dates, so I’m already at a loss. What I do experience from this scent is the milky sap from a broken twig and the fragrance of spring greenery, damp from a morning rain. Despite that, it still comes off as dry, and I would expect it to also be fresh and light, but somehow it’s strangely musty. I wear this on days when I know I’ve got a lot to think about, to remind myself that it’s okay to not know everything, and maybe never reach a conclusion.

Hermessence Ambre Narguile Hermès
Ambre Narguilé from the Hermes Hermessence line gets a lot of apple pie references from reviewers, but I don’t get that myself. A spiced compote, perhaps. Dried fruits–raisins and plums, stewed in honey and rum and cinnamon, and left on the stove very nearly too long. It’s been cooked down to a syrupy essence of its former self, and if you hadn’t pulled it from the flame, the caramelized sugars might have started to smoke and burn. I don’t love sweet fragrances, but come October I crave this one; it calls to mind a reading firelight a book you’ve experienced a million times (like the Secret History by Donna Tartt which I only just read but I loved it so much I’m ready to go at it again) while wearing a cozy oversized cardigan with thick cables and toggle buttons and that you probably inherited from your grandpa. Not to be confused with that awful cardigan in Taylor Swift’s video. ugh, Don’t get me started on that. That’s another conversation for another midnight.

Sycomore Eau de Parfum Chanel
Sycomore is a fragrant chorus of cool autumn foliage, rich, mossy soil; soft smoke, and damp greenery. All the best smells of a forest ramble in late October with the promise of winter heard in the whispering flutter of a straggling sparrow migration. But! The hiker on this path is garbed in expensive elegance, a leather Prada bag, a silk Hermès scarf, that iconic Burberry checked coat. This is the scent of a woodland elf turned posh socialite; Galadriel who quit the forest, and is now living in a penthouse on the Upper East Side.

Milk Musk Eau de Toilette Molton Brown
Milk Musk is exactly what it says it is, an uncomplicated creamy, milky musk. It’s soft but not so faint it fades into nothing and the vanilla and resins give it a subtle richness, but it’s never cloying or powdery. When I was a little girl, I read stories about frightened children who were given warm milk before bedtime. I was always disappointed with the repulsive reality of the stuff, but this lovely scent recalls the nostalgic hope for the dreamy deliciousness of that sleepy, cozy treat.

What We Do In Paris Is Secret A Lab on Fire
This brand has taken the best of the worst and made a hilariously repulsive escape of a scent. By which I mean it combines elements from three perfumes I either hate with an all-consuming fire or which I simultaneously love and loathe, and has created a tanned, toned, trendy skin that I’d feel compelled to slip into in order to feel like someone wholly not myself. Imagine a KvD Saint plus Thierry Mugler’s Angel plus V+R’s Flowerbomb cocktail worn by someone who has never experienced crippling anxiety, who has never been called fat by her own mother, who never locked herself in the bathroom at a party and cried because they felt so ugly and unlovable. Bright, honied heliotrope, candied litchee, and powdery vanilla marzipan make for a scent that I am pretty sure is what every Influencer with over 100mm followers on social media smells like. But you know, the classy ones, not the Trisha Paytas ones. Or actually maybe this is exactly Trisha Paytas. I don’t know anything anymore, this scent has killed 100% of my brain cells.

10 Corso Como 
10 Corso Como is a perfume of dry, lofty sandalwood, smoky desert resins, and delicate, diaphanous off-kilter, otherworldly florals. This is a scent that calls to mind a mysterious, aromatic wooden chest, unearthed by a sudden sandstorm. It houses a little spirit angel that’s been trapped there for a thousand years and rather than granting you wishes once you’ve unlatched the fiddly hinge, it squints against the sun and asks, irritably, “do you mind?”  At once sensual and spiritual and strangely, a little stern, it’s somehow heady and sheer, giddy and grounded–it’s both the shining halo and its shimmering shadow–and it’s one of my all-time top ten favorite scents.

Confessions of a Garden Gnome Forte & Manle
I don’t believe this earnest little gnome’s secret to be particularly incendiary but it does present some specific imagery. Shirking garden tasks to sneak into a woodland affair he’s heard rumors about, and, expecting an opulent ball, he washes behind his loamy soil-caked ears and spritzes on his little limbs a soft herbal cologne with notes of violet leaf and strange citrus. What he finds upon arrival is a fairy ring rave; intoxicated pixies and sprites flirting and frolicking across pepper moss, under disco balls reflecting the birch and cedar trees… and the guilty face of the gnome who doesn’t know how to dance.

 

Death and Decay LUSH (discontinued?)
Death and Decay is a mass of white lilies, an elaborate wreath, a store-bought bouquet, funeral arrangement or perhaps all of these incarnations of this melancholic meditative floral. These blooms are at the height of their beauty; their alabaster form and curve full and flourishing, just on the cusp of decay. This is a narcotic white floral fragrance heavy with every aspect it evokes– from the sweet waxy petals, to the subtle spice of pollen, to the pearlescent plastic wrapped around the stems.

Sortilège Le Galion
I initially saw this fragrance referenced in a strange story, in a weird collection of stories by Amparo Davila and as I hadn’t heard of this scent I was dying to know whether it exists–and it does. Sortilège means “spell.” and it does very much conjure enchantments across time and space. This is a scent originally created in 1937, so what I have, is, of course, a reformulation. I purchased directly from the Le Galion website, which reads “…the iconic fragrance of the house Le Galion and signature perfume of the famous Stork Jazz Club in New York.” It’s ethereal aldehydes, delicate velvety florals, and a subtle woody balsamic chypre base. It is a gentle but profoundly evocative scent that awakens phantom dreams and memories of past life loves and loss.

Kiehls Original Musk
There’s polite musk, there’s funky musk and there’s Kiehl’s Musk, a perfect balance of the warm and the clean and the bittersweet and the skanky. The original formulation may have been heavier on the skankiness, and that’s what I recall from the sample I tried ages ago.  This bottle of Kiehl’s Musk is still exactly what I imagine 1974 to smell like–astrology enthusiasts and their extravagantly embroidered captains attending eternal Tupperware parties.

Rose 31 Le Labo
If you’ve seen my review of Perfumers Workshop Tea Rose and sussed out that I am not, in fact, rose’s number one fan– you would be correct. Rose 31 is more earthy-rose adjacent than rose-forward. It has got a peculiar sweaty cumin armpit opening but after that disappears it’s a rose blurred from the edges completely inward by woodsy aromatic mosses and sweetly musky resins. My boyfriend tells me it smells like his childhood Mossman Masters of the Universe toy, and I smile thinking about those fuzzy green muscles, every time I spray this subtle elegant scent.

Oud Wood Tom Ford
Tom Ford is a ghostly, glacial coniferous rosewood sandalwood melange of chilly, bitter, peppery woods. It is a tiny, sinister statue of a scent in an empty room where the temperature drops suddenly, with no explanation. The perfumed version of a little gremlin that appears in a haunting tale; one that skitters in the corners of your vision when the eye is focused elsewhere and inches eerily to your pillow when you’re at the knife’s edge of wakefulness and dream.

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Levitating Phallic God (vetiver, opoponax, licorice root, black tea, lemon peel, and cashmere wood) Earthy and rooty at the opener, like the wheelbarrow crawling with uprooted aloe vera plants that is currently danking up our garage with scents of soil and clay and rock, deeply disturbed from the digging. It perks up, so to speak, as the fragrance blooms on the skin. Pillowy, musky woods and a mysteriously sweet, herbal powderiness that call to mind the golden notes of wild fennel pollen round this out to a velvety dream of a skin-scent.

Since There’s No Help (silver-frosted white musk, juniper, and cade with bitter carrot seed, lemon peel, davana, and white tea) Interesting! This is described as “a cold scent, a severing” and as I am wearing it I can’t help but think it would be perfect for a sweltering summer afternoon. The bracing juniper and tart lemon, combined with a bitter, tannic fruitiness, conjures ice-cold, dripping glasses of sweet southern tea, and it is suddenly a glorious June evening, post-apocalyptic blazing sunset, pre-eerie electric streaks of heat lightning.

Cacao, Lime Rind, and Coconut This smells exactly like the chocolate-covered coconut bonbons that I always used to pick out of the Whitman Sampler box that my grandmother perpetually had lying around when I was a little girl. The lactonic tropical sweetness of creamy, flaked coconut and the luxurious aroma of cocoa butter is such an amazing confection of a combination that I just want to eat it out of a trough with my face. Which I can do because I am an adult now!

Dragon, Rabbit, and Snake (blue cypress, butterfly jasmine, green tea, black orchid, and white champa blossom) This is a soft, lovely floral fragrance given some earthy depth with the vegetal, grassy green tea and enlivened by the mildly licorice-like, balsamic aroma that I am guessing is from the cypress. It conjures the prettiest imagery of watercolor botanical illustrations.

Peach Vulva (sweet apricot, sugared amber, frankincense, golden cardamom, rice milk, and golden peach) I had to try this one a handful of times before it spoke to me, and when it finally did, it was a tale of the most wildly gorgeous fruit salad orgy: lychee and mango and pineapple and condensed milk and palm sugar. Even sweet corn got a last-minute invite, couldn’t leave that weirdo out!

The Elephant Is Slow To Mate (deep burgundy musk, red labdanum, smoked rose petals, opoponax, 17-year aged patchouli, blackened vanilla bean, dried black cherries, blackberries, and tobacco absolute.)  What’s the word for bombastic but wearing a bow tie of gravitas? For the cartoon image of someone having their mind blown, their eyes all wide and googly, their hair frizzled and electrified and pointing straight to the sun? This is the reddest fruit of the painter’s palette, juiced and syruped and concentrated so that it’s the most extra version of itself, spices that I can’t pick apart but which are very potent, and *dramatic* resins. This is a big, bold personality that you just feel more interesting and special being in the room with, the kind that everyone gravitates toward, and when they look at you, you feel like the only person who exists. It’s A Lot. Wow. I love it.

We Must Love One Another Or Die (white rose, muguet, white sandalwood, ambrette seed, vetiver, and smoke) This combination of notes, creates the impression of summer berries in a fancy antique silver compote dish. There’s the plushness of soft fruit flesh and a glamorous metal tang and it presents as a deceptively simple and thoroughly elegant fragrance that somehow makes me think of this painting.

Honey, Black Lilies, and Gardenia Petals In the first moments, a plummy-jammy scent, and then, a viscous, vicious dark amber-honeyed slithery undercurrent of something sinuous and sinister. This scent is the creepy-crawly that shows up in the exquisite still life painting; there’s the velvet table cloth, the artful bouquet of somber blossoms, the requisite skull or pile of dusty books, and –HEY WHAT THE! There’s a SNAKE oh my god what the hell! This is a “THAT’S A FUCKING SNAKE Y’ALL!” of a scent.

Snake Smut (Snake Oil and Smut with leather accord, cardamom, and 7-year aged patchouli.) With all the woozy boozy musky sugary spices, you’d like this would be the kind of scent that would make your eyes pop from your head like a sleazy rat in a cartoon when a gorgeous dame crosses his path…and yet. It’s not the sort of thing to make your skirts fly up or your pants tent impressively or insert whatever over-the-top horny synonym you like here. It’s actually more subtle than you might expect. I smell all sorts of deliciousness; sweet, sugared black tea, a warm, gooey spiced and iced dessert, densely chewy vanilla candied things…but imagine if you were to take all concept of foodishness out of those things. What do you have left? A deeply sensual scent, dark and delectably textured and utterly enticing, but rather than wanting to eat it, you’re content to wear it.

Honey Marzipan begins as the chewiest, most decadent brick of sweetened almond paste, then almost immediately acquires that lovely cherry note intrinsic to so many almond fragrances, and then before you can blink it swiftly shifts to a honeyed-heliotrope-apricot fairytale storybook princess of a scent where it lives out the remainder of its days in a spun sugar and spring stone fruit syrup château. From start to finish, it’s an intense and rapid progression, but at every stage in its evolution, it’s absolutely enchanting.  P.S. Honey Marzipan + Snake Smut is an amazingly over-the-top evil queen + blushing maiden battle royale of a scent combination.

Unsubtle Euphemism (milk bread, amaretto, star anise, almond cream, and cardamom) It’s interesting that milk bread is listed among the notes; by coincidence, I have just recently become obsessed with making fluffy, sweet, marvelous milk bread and I’m a little peeved at myself that I didn’t start my bread experiments with this one several decades ago. It’s just impossible to go wrong, and with all that sugar and full-fat milk and butter, even if you did somehow manage to screw it up, I bet it would still taste fantastic. Straight from the bottle and on my wrist, this Unsubtle Euphemism is an onslaught of saltiness, with nutty nuances, and something with a flaky, burnished, and crackly crust.  There’s an eventual subtle sweetness, like a sweet paste of scant sugar and egg yolks more than of something milky or creamy, and it makes me think of treats like deep-fried sesame balls, or cured egg yolk buns, and as the scent settles in, even egg custard tarts.

Cacao, Black Pepper, and Khus don’t judge this by how it smells in the bottle, it’s unfortunately a tad reminiscent of unwashed stockings– not that anyone remembers what those smell like anymore! On the skin, it’s a bar of earthy, nutty artisanal chocolate with peppery, grassy nubs of woody-herbaceous marjoram leaf. Which is a weird-sounding combination, right? I’ll answer that. Yes. It totally is. And it also totally works. Surprisingly, Cacao, Black Pepper, and Khus is my second favorite from this collection For my no.1, see Levitating Phallic God, above. Pun intended.

Discarded Sandal (beeswax, hinoki wood, Japanese black pine, juniper, tolu balsam, and muguet) The cypress and pine is at the forefront of this scent, but it’s a gentle incarnation of what can sometimes be austere and astringent notes with prickly, camphoraceous, insect-repellent aspect. These woods, however, have reached the highest levels of self-actualization and they are the most spiritually uplifting lemony and resinous evergreen best versions of themselves. An hour later the golden nectar of honey has emerged, and it too is a soft and tranquil embodiment of what can sometimes be a note that is too cloying, too sticky. If you’re looking for a suggestive aphrodisiac from this collection, I’d say Discarded Sandal is the way to go, although it’s more a perfume of desires sated than libidos feverishly spiking. The discarded sandal, a witness to lascivious sights and exquisite sighs, waits patiently. It will whisper these secrets to its mate, later tonight when they are reunited.

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Ok, so I don’t know who even wants or needs this, or what possessed me to create this, but I have put all of the reviews that I have written over the past 6-7 years for limited edition, seasonal scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab into a sort of janky PDF (I’m not a publisher or a designer, ok?!) for your downloading and perusal and so on. I have written reviews going much further back than that; they are scattered between the BPAL forums and places like MakeupAlley, but I didn’t start assessing my thoughts and writing them up to share in a serious way until about 2014-2015 or so, and those and the reviews going forward are the ones I am happiest with.

This is really not a super-edited affair, so it’s possible you’ll see some spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.  And it’s an ongoing project, so no doubt it will change and grow over time. Right now, for example, I am sampling the Lupercalia 2021 collection, so it’s not recorded in there yet, but it may be included when you check in next.

Anyway, here you go!

BPAL REVIEWS BY S. ELIZABETH (60+ page PDF download)

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By popular request and by that I mean two or three people asked me about it, I thought I might show you the current state of my BPAL collection. If you’re not familiar with BPAL, I am referring to the indie perfume house of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, beloved purveyors of stinks and sundries to all of us dark dreamers and weirdos. My hope is that if you’re not already obsessed with the brilliant creations that the Lab puts into the world, you’ll feel the stirrings of one beginning, by the end of this video.

I was a little hesitant about filming a video like this, it seems sort of all braggy and boastful and “behold my stuff!” but that’s what most of my videos are, so this isn’t really all that different, is it? And anyway, I don’t know about you, but I love getting peeks into people’s collections, seeing all of their beautiful, precious things, and hearing about what all of their favorites are, and why they love them! So I hope that you will take this in the spirit which it is intended, which is basically to say: here’s just another thing I love! Maybe you love this thing, too! Let’s connect and bond over our shared interests!

 

 

Another worry I had is that people may expect someone putting together this sort of content to be an expert in the thing they are sharing. Or, I worry that you think that I THINK I am an expert! Both scenarios trouble me a little bit. First, I am no expert in this or anything else, really. I am just a human person who likes to smell nice. And secondly, I think it’s really important to remember that you don’t have to be an expert guru virtuoso wizard with regard to a thing in order to appreciate a thing. I wrote further about this last month.

Now, back to Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. I discovered them back in November of 2004 and I guess it’s sort of odd to remember it down to the month, but I was having a really rough go of things at that time, so the one bright spot in the midst of that quagmire of misery is certainly going to be memorable for me. I had just found the website makeup alley, and I had fallen down the rabbit hole of fragrance reviews on the site.

It was at this time that I stumbled upon a review for a scent called “Snake Oil” sold by a mysterious, thrillingly dangerous sounding company, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Penned by a user calling herself “shriekingviolet”, she described it as “exotic and unfamiliar, evoking images of bazaars in far-off locales”. So fascinated was I by the description, I read further her reviews for the intriguingly named “Chimera”, “Haunted” and “Hellcat”, growing more and more exhilarated with every fragrant word I devoured.

I raced over to the website, my excitement reaching feverish levels as I read about the company: “Inspired by a vast range of influences, from the passion and decadence of the Fin de Siècle movement to the ghastliest of Lovecraftian monstrosities, we specialize in eliciting emotional responses through perfume and creating unique, masterfully molded scent environments that capture legends and folklore, poetry, and the stuff of dreams and nightmares.”

I didn’t know there were people making these kinds of scents! I grew up in a household filled with, among other things, ouija boards, meditation circles, tarot cards, and astrologers, I was raised on books of mythology and folklore, fairytales and fables. In my early teen years I became obsessed by ghost stories and horror movies, and at the time of my discovery, I was in my mid-20s and the sole employee at an occult bookstore of surrounded by rare tomes of magic, antique grimoires, and volume upon volume of every sort of esoteric, arcane subject matter that you could possibly imagine. From what I was reading in these fragrance reviews, there was a person out there creating perfumes inspired by all of these things–the things I loved best! To be honest, I was smitten before I’d even perused the entirety of the website or placed my first order.

Peruse the BPAL website and you will find collections devoted to myths and folk tales, beloved books and cinema (Dark Crystal and Only Lovers Left Alive? Yes please!), RPG tropes, poison gardens, female positive comics and graphic novels – if there is a weird or obscure interest favored by dark-minded, romantic souls, no doubt you will find a fragrance dedicated to it here.

BPAL fragrances are oil blends, which may take some getting used to if you’ve only ever used alcohol-based perfumes. All of their products are hand-blended in house, and with only a few exceptions all of the scents are vegan – and there is absolutely no animal testing.

In addition to their general catalog scents–the fragrances that are stocked all year long–they have seasonal limited releases fragrances. I’ve been collecting both for many years now, and as you can tell, I’ve got a bit of an accumulation…so it’s probably going to be tough to narrow it down to ten favorites to talk about, but I’m going to try my best!

 


☨ Owl Moon is a collaboration between BPAL and jeweler of surrealist psychic armor, Bloodmilk. A scent steeped in mythology and magic, Owl Moon opens with the blackest, earthiest patchouli and calls to mind cool, moist soil at the base of a pine tree through which all of the busy little night creatures slither and crawl, the pale, ghostly light of the moon glinting off their scales and wings. A yellow-eyed owl, perched overhead, meditates briefly before silently embarking on his nightly hunt; the sour, screechy scent of his nest, littered with rodent bones and pellets, serves as a warning nearby. This is the fragrance of potent night magics, rich and ripe with darkness and feral mysticism. The sharpness of the patchouli streaked with high-pitched honey combine to form an aura that is both graceful and grotesque, sacred and profane. It dries down to a spellbinding, narcotic musk

☨ The limited edition Schwarzermond, which I believe translates from the German to mean “black moon”–which makes sense as it was one of their monthly Lunacy offerings from several years ago. This is the 2006 version, but they have restocked a few times over the years, with 2011 behind the most recent. Brimming with notes that feel like a warped and wicked tripping of the tongue when you attempt to pronounce them, it’s a heavy, velvety, and vaguely menacing fragrance, woven throughout with brooding resins and dark, lurking patchouli. It smells a bit predatory and poisonous, but in the very best way.

☨ Dana O’Shee is reminiscent of rice pudding with a soft pour of cream on top, and/or perhaps a honeyed milk custard, and stir in some sugared marizpan… but imagine dreamy spoonfuls of all of this while a faint incense lingers in the air. Or, perhaps, envision an unlit cone of sugared milk custard incense! It sounds delicious, but don’t eat it! Tempted though ye may be.

☨ Danube is a beloved scent that is, for me, more about memory than the actual fragrance itself. It is a deep blue aquatic scent – but not salty, ozone-y, beachy aquatic, nor is it murky, swampy aquatic. Like a cold swimming pool on a hot day (maybe if you were adding grapefruit to your pool instead of chlorine) with every blue flower imaginable floating on top of it. Imagine being 6 years old and holding your breath and submerging yourself in a swimming pool, then slo-o-o-wly sinking to the bottom. The water is chilled, you feel like the only person in the world and everything is totally silent. Imagine peering up and seeing the sun streaming down into the water, between all of the blue petals. It’s calm and soothing and serene and is an absolutely a must for hot, sticky weather and for people who haven’t got a swimming pool.

☨ Thanatopsis is a meditation upon death inspired by William Cullen Bryant’s poem, and a deep, solemn earthen scent containing pine, juniper and musk. A green-ness so lush and concentrated that it is nearly a syrup, growing in mysterious realms alongside venerable woods and breathless darkness.

☨ I adore the summer scent of sweet musky floral orange blossom, so Bergamot, orange blossom and vetiver was destined for greatness long before I held the small amber bottle in my hands. The vetiver adds a bitter earthiness that binds the shimmering honeyed blossoms and tells a long forgotten story of how you sobbed your broken heart into an orange grove at midnight; you gathered the dirt and tears and blossoms and clouds that floated across the moon and hid them all in the pages of an old diary because you were young and sad and then you burned the whole thing for incense as a middle-aged woman and thought wow that was a good choice even though it felt scary and sad at the time

☨ Cottonmouth from the Carnavale Diabolique collection is a blend of the sugared incense of the Lb’s signature Snake oil combined with somber, waxy spring lilies brightened by the soft, honeyed green of fresh linden blossoms. I’ve not referenced any comparisons to previous formulations until this point but feel compelled to note that it is with Cottonmouth I sense the most notable difference. The 2006 Cottonmouth had a distinct linen/fresh laundry vibe that, when combined with Snake Oil, smelled like Bath & Body Works’ Fresh Cotton Blossom (sadly discontinued) had an affair with a super potent head shop. The result of this odd union was 2006 Cottonmouth, which summoned an apparition of the babeliest, most badass all-black-everything coven-gang leader, but who is also super approachable and cool and would respond to your comments on Instagram and you would have a total “senpai noticed me!” moment about it. All this to say: while they are two completely different creatures, both Cottonmouths are worth seeking out.

☨ Altarpiece no.1 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 Individiosa, inspired by the work of John William Waterhouse and also in the Ars Inspiratio collection is a scent that for me, is inseparable from the painting itself. The colors in this mythic scene 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.

☨ In Night When To All Colors Into Black Are Cast
-I feel like I am typecasting myself, especially since I thought I was slowly coming out of my all-black-everything phase (but don’t worry, it wasn’t just a phase in my heart) but honestly, this is the me-est thing I have ever smelled in my life.
-If there was such thing as:
– “sad dried flowers from my mom’s funeral, marking a page in a ghost story” musk
– “when I have to get up to pee at midnight and I divine phantom shapes from in the shadows of the shower curtain” musk
– “reading poetry by candlelight at 5am because I perversely read early in the morning and not late at night” musk
– “ordering a lucid dreaming blend from Etsy and drinking it, not realizing that the seller and I got our wires crossed and she made potpourri—not tea— and I stupidly brewed up and DRANK potpourri” musk
-All of the me-ness of me, all of my weirdness and sadness, and strange inner darkness, but also so much joy for beauty and friends and the lovely things in the world, this too.
-Somehow found a way into this bottle.
-And it smells like me.

Leave a comment on the video to be entered into the giveaway and while you don’t have to subscribe to my channel, it would be a nice gesture! One winner will be contacted in a week’s time to receive ten BPAL scents from my collection, chosen at my discretion.

For those who asked, marbled top is the brand Scotch & Soda brand purchased from Anthropologie, the earrings are from Haus of Sparrow, and the lippie is Strange Creature from Rituel de Fille (though unfortunately, I think it is long sold out.)

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A catch-up chat about what kept me so busy in the month of February (lots of stuff, and you may recall reading about some of it here, in which case you might just want to jump on ahead to the second half of the video.)

As well as a show and tell of some things which have recently come into my possession. Mostly because I bought them. Le whoopsie!

See below for the blogs, websites, and items mentioned in this video…

Wyrd Words & Effigies

Red Transmission Podcast

LunaLuna Magazine

Vice Magazine: Pranks Are Bad

Interview with Sarah Faith Gottessdeiner

My Midnight Stinks TikTok Perfume Reviews

-12 Months of Monastery Soups

9:00 Bradley Dolls
10:20 Mistress of the Night statue
11:06 Daphne du Maurier book
12:06 Sortilege perfume
13:39 What We Do In Paris Is Secret
13:57 Sel Marin
14:05 Heresy perfume
14:43. Fleur de Lune
15:16 Lunar Planner (sold out)
15:27 Moon Book

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Perhaps I am picky and persnickety, but the YouTube algorithm always feeds me the worst suggestions for people who may be interested in fragrance. I don’t want to belabor the point, but these people have mind-numbingly boring takes and, in my opinion, are talking about dull, unimaginative things, to begin with. No one needs to see another video about Marc Jacobs Daisy, okay?

Ugh! I don’t mean to give pick on Daisy so much. It’s the lackluster low-hanging fruit that I always reach for.  But listen, if you like Daisy, that’s fine. Mine is only one stupid opinion amongst millions of stupid opinions, so don’t listen to me. Like what you like! Whatever!

Anyway, now it’s even worse because YouTubers are making compilations of various TikTok videos. Things like SCENTS THAT WILL GET YOU A MAN… Or… MY TEN MOST COMPLIMENTED FRAGRANCES. To the former: ew, gross. Is that in any way relevant? (Answer: nope.) And with regard to the latter, I don’t give a crap about what other people think about your perfumes. I want to know what YOU think about them. Either way, if your enjoyment of something or to a further extent, if your assessment of something, is based on other people’s responses to that thing? Well, I’ll not go as far as to say that you’re doing it wrong…but maybe you should take a closer look at why you think you like that thing.

Also back to YouTube compilations. If you have your own YouTube and TikToks account…why are you making compilations…of other people’s videos? That seems supremely odd to me.

My antidote to this insipid, tiresome practice? Well, if you want something done right –or, if not “right” exactly, we’ll say if you want something done the way you wish it would be done–well, you know the rest. We do it our damn selves.

So here it is. A Midnight Stinks compilation on YouTube: Fragrance Reviews That Are Actually Interesting.
Yes, I said what I said.

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I can be an awful hater sometimes. I can admit to this! I’ll just react to something on a gut-level with no logic or real reason to back it up. Especially when it comes to a New Thing that everyone else seems to love. I don’t know if I am just a contrarian or if I think that if everyone seems to be into something then it’s probably a dumbed-down thing that was created to appeal to everyone, which is a big turn-off for me. That makes me sound a bit snobby, and I guess that would be true on some level.

The most recent New Thing I have been hating on is TikTok. Which ok grandma, yeah I know. It’s not actually all that new. But I’ve hated it since the moment I saw the stupid things that people were sharing from the app, and that hatred has only grown in intensity over the last year or so. This is unfortunate for me, because typically if there is a new social media platform, I want in on it. But not TikTok! Man, that place is obnoxious. And what’s worse, all of these TikToks are being shared in the other places I frequent. I can’t go to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram without someone’s viral TikTok nonsense screeching in my face. Make it stop!

But. Here’s the thing. In doing a bit more soul searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the platform itself I hate. It’s actually sort of a neat concept, isn’t it? Short videos to inform or inspire you, where you could learn something new or interesting, and of course, connect with the people creating and sharing these things. I think where the execution falls short for me are the things that I have seen people sharing, which overwhelmingly are these horrifyingly cringey lip-synch videos or, even worse, people pranking each other. I don’t consider myself a humorless person (I happen to think I am hilarious!) but I do not, nor have I ever, understood the appeal of or the humor in pranking people. UGH. Pranks are mean and bad, and you shouldn’t do them. This VICE article agrees with me, by the way, and I love this sentiment:

“Ultimately, pranks ignore the fundamental truth that living can be hard, and most people are trying to do their best.”

Pranks and bad lip-synching aside, in giving my TikTok hostility some more thought, I considered an idea which is something I apply to any occasion, whenever I can. Which is basically this: ok, so, this thing has got a lot of sucky aspects; how can I make it better? Or not exactly better, per se. Who am I to assume that my participation can better a thing? But I guess, rather…  but how can I make it what I want it to be? How can I contribute to it being the thing I want to see in the world?

And the answer, is, of course: to be part of it. Participate. Contribute.

I often say “I will NEVER do X/Y/Z thing…but I reserve the right to change my mind about it at any time!” Yes, I can be stubborn with my annoying, irrational hatred of a thing (see also: Taylor Swift’s cardigan…still haven’t changed my mind on that one) but I can also reassess, re-evaluate, and realign my perspective. I can say, ok, I was wrong! Everyone else was right! Or maybe just that one other person was right! But here’s me, saying that I probably was not right. And I can learn and change and maybe be just an Intense Disliker, if not a Hater.
Here’s me, now on TikTok. And many thanks to Susan Jamison and Gooby Herms over on Facebook, for the encouragement and account name inspiration!

At first, I didn’t really know what to do with it, but I think I’ve worked it out for now: 10-second perfume reviews! Is this the sort of thing everyone wants to see? Probably not. To which I say: make your own thing, then! Or watch some stupid pranks. Whatever.

Are you over on TikTok? What do you watch? Are there people knitting or cooking or doing 30-second book reviews or sharing gardening tips or reading poetry or teaching about gothic tropes in contemporary fiction and comics (and if that last one is a “no”, I see a niche that needs filling and I know just the person to do it, although I think they’d hate the idea, ha!) Tell me all! Except for the dumb stuff! Still don’t want to know about that.

 

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I took a bit of a summer break from the YouTubes, but this week I am back with a new video and some peeks into my somewhat sizable perfume collection. I also share a handful of favorites!

I hope you’ll stop by, give it a watch, and maybe leave a comment, because I sure do like chatting about stinks. Tell me your favorite notes, wax poetic about a beloved fragrance, heck, even share a scent you hate–I’m here for all of it.

I’m still relatively new to filming and editing and uploading videos, so please feel free to share your feedback and suggestions, as well. I know I have got a lot to learn, and I am grateful for your thoughts. And if you have anything you’d like to see in a future video–perfume related or not–please let me know!

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LUPER-2020-PERFUME-WEB-SMUT-01

Back in February (omg that seems like 12 years ago, doesn’t it?) Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab released their annual smutty smorgasbord of Lupercalia and Shunga scents, but I have been taking my time with formulating my thoughts about them. Finally, I am pleased to share that Part One of my series of reviews for these prurient perfume oils, hedonistic hair glosses, bawdy bath oils, and amatory atmosphere sprays can be found on the Haute Macabre blog this week!

Surrealist peaches, crisp chocolate biscuits, googly-eyed lobsters, and a guest bedroom inspired by Clive Barker were just a few of my impressions from this collection! What were your favorites?

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weenies-dracula

Weenie time, weenie time! It’s Weenie time at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, and I’ve reviewed over 40 fragrances from their Autumn and Halloween collection over at Haute Macabre this week!

There’s so many good ones, but I’ll share four of my favorites here. Shhhh! Don’t tell the others!

🎃 Cozy Pumpkin Sweater (a dribble of pumpkin spice spilled onto a fluffy orange angora sweater) Ok so imagine that demented cashmere sweater scene from Lord Love A Duck but transplant it into the eternal autumn of the Sabrina universe. Pumpkin spices and that enchanted inch or so of knitted or woven fabric along your cardigan collar that even when removed at the end of the day, retains the warmth of your skin and the phantom perfume of your favorite shampoo.

🎃 Anthocyanin (red musk, mandrake root, patchouli, pimento, saffron, red oudh, clove, and basil) Fall air rich with decaying leaves and cider-y scents and gorgeous spice and incense-saturated veils billowing in a sun-warmed October afternoon’s breeze. Like… if your very favorite head-shop had a stall at your favorite autumnal renaissance fair. This is basically the best of all worlds.

🎃 Dead Leaves, Moss, And Mushrooms if there was ever a better argument for “more is more,” I don’t know what that could possibly be. My favorite “Dead Leaves” scents have thus far been those signature dead leaves plus some unexpectedly bright or springy floral pairing…but as it turns out, the very best one is comprised of a “like + like” formula. This one smells as if you had swept your favorite mug across an autumn flotsam of forest floor and brewed up in boiling rainwater all the sylvan sweepings you had gathered. Best served warm and cozy in tiny acorn cups, to ring of sleepy woodland creatures. If you love fall but you don’t love pumpkin, maple, or apple scents, I think you are really going to fall for this one. Pun intended–I always intend my puns.

🎃 Death’s Head Moth (dusty brown sandalwood, nagarmotha, brown oudh, clove husk, white patchouli, black pepper, vetiver, green cumin, and ash.) Hand-made lace, only a little moth-eaten and musty, that has retained the gentle perfume of its owner –a combination of warm skin, fine-milled soap, and sweet, cooling herbs– a century later. This is an understated and sublimely beautiful scent

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