Poesie generously sent me samples of each fragrance from their Cardamonth collection. I shared these reviews with them, and I am so honored that the reviews are now included as copy on the site!

Coquette: A sugar spun whirl under cardamon crystal chandeliers, a frothy ballet of cotton candy whispers and rose jam wishes. Pinkberry musk and dreamwood hearts, pastel lullabies swirling through billowing marshmallow meringue petticoats, carnation, and champagne ribbons trailing whipped cream silk.

Invent the Universe: If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you set adrift in a cosmic orchard, you nibble an apple-shaped asterism, stardust crunch on your tongue. Heart a furnace, sugared cream of the Milky Way vast and steaming, a soft cinnamon wind thrums in the trail of a meteor falling before you were born and falling still one thousand years after your grandchildren are gone. A still more glorious dawn awaits, and if we do not destroy ourselves, we may bake dreams from falling stars. So, then. If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Golden Hour: Honey-skinned dusk, distilled. A thick, heady syrup, a twilight elixir, an extract of gloaming, rich with a musky-soft particulate, prickled with lavender sighs.

Kindness + Mischief: The sun unzips its heart to reveal a lemon that peels its skin back to betray its blossom brulee heart. A citrus trickster god weary of chaos tames its tartsy tanginess in retirement, watching TikToks of cute animals, scrolling with hands sticky from sweet lemon pearls and lemonade creams. The gentlest essence of all these things in a shy, pale yellow bouquet, each blossom an airy lemon souffle.

Pod Person: ethically sourced palo santo essential oil, violet, cedar, sandalwood, cardamom, ginger and sheer amber; I have only listed the notes here because I am just now realizing I did not write a review for this one. Palo santo is a tough sell for me, there’s something too minty/mentholated adjacent for me, and in most cases I cannot.

Where Most She Satisfies: candied almond, cardamom, warm vanilla, creamy white sandalwood and saffron threads a candied confection made from the contents of an oaken barrel of aged sandalwood and vanilla incense fumes, something so decadent it feels almost sacred.

Seattle Perfumers’ Discovery Set:

Under The Mango Tree by Anjali Perfumes is sour, herbaceous, and woody; it’s the unripe, sun-warmed, gold-tinged celadon skin of the mango along, with a damp floral musk hinting at the promise of future sweetness.
Séverine by ge de Querelle feels like a rendezvous with possibility, all rosy glowing, and musky blushes, the effervescent giggling flush of first kisses. Of all that I’ve tried, this seems the most familiar or relatable, which isn’t to say it’s my favorite, but I can see how a lot of people would be drawn to it.

Dead Writers by Immortal Perfumes is something I’m pretty sure I smelled several years ago when I was writing for Haute Macabre, maybe even before that. I don’t think I gave it enough of a chance last time. You have to wait a few minutes, and how it smells directly on the skin isn’t what you smell hovering just before beyond you. It’s a quill of cloves, vetiver’s dusty archives, an echoing swirl of pipe tobacco, and tattered heliotrope lace gloves on ghostly ink-stained hands. WOW.

Samar by The Tea House is a giant Studio Ghibli yokai of a ripe, fuzzy peach sipping alternately from a clattering of teacup sprites offering both osmanthus and jasmine tea.
Notget from Filigree & Shadow is inspired by Bjork, our lady of perpetual weirdness. It’s a briny cove of sea-whispered driftwood secrets, where mermaids hang their salty linens on twisting lines of kelp to dry.

Alpine Flowers by Namesake Fragrance opens as a camphoraceous cacophony of mentholated mayhem, a bitter medicinal mountain elixir like a slap in the face. But as it wears, it becomes a softer, sweeter, gentler thing, bluebell and lupine musk and fragile beauty blooming against the steel sky.

Venetian Mask by Atelier Madrona is an enigma of smoky, plummy leather, and the tannic blackberry tang of cold sugared tea. There’s no fruit listed in the description, but there is definitely phantom fruit tickling my nose.
Lions in the Library by L’Aventura Perfumes is the scent of a fierce hunger for forgotten lore, the heady hum of intellect aflame. Earthy, dusty, and resinous with labdanum, leather, and the musky murmurs of civet, this is the thrill of unraveling the mysteries hidden between the lines, the firelit triumph of a curious mind.

Omega Fool from The Phoenix and the Fool Omega Fool is prominently a riddle of Palo Santo’s smoky swirls, piney mirages that dance between licorice and camphor, maybe mirroring the Fool’s playful paradoxes. I feel like palo santo is a note that I expect to be one thing, and it never is, so I think this is a scent that encourages seeking wisdom in the unexpected and relishing the joy in tripping over your own truth.

Flame & Fortune from Sarah Baker Perfumes smells like the shivery thrill of the chase and obsession for something elusive and rare, a chimera whispered on the wind, a mirage glimpsed in moonlight– and the inevitable reckoning at the end of this road of reckless desires. A charred diary page retrieved from the incendiary blast of a midnight explosion under the desert stars. Illegible script, a puzzle of ashy smudge in a swooping desperate hand, the labyrinthine cipher of a faded map whose details are lost to dust and sand, an exquisitely-detailed botanical revelation of a night-blooming flower both intoxicating and terrifying, the softly spiced mysteries of which might be a deadly curse, might be a cure for all the world’s ills. The dawn bleeds like an accusation, like a bullet wound, like a dying breath, and in that final inhalation, orange blossom, tuberose, jasmine, the fragrant honey of buds unfurling in the rising heat of the morning. The wind rustles with the fading memory of that sweetness as the sun rises where betrayal saw you fall.

Viole Nere from Meo Fuschiuni is a wistful Rilke poem of a violet. I will say I really love violet, though most I’ve encountered smell very similar, dainty, and delicate in either a powdery or an earthy spring rain-way. Viole Nere, while similarly subtle, presents differently than those nostalgic candied pastilles or small, damp purple blooms. It’s the gossamer violet bruised and thrumming ache of never-quite-becomings, the bittersweet vetiver musk of breathless possibilities half-glimpsed, the gentle, patchouli decay of late autumn’s dying reminder that things unlived also have their season, their own quiet beauty. A melancholic wisp of frankincense dissipates like phantom ink on pages no one will ever read, an ode to a beloved who never arrived, who was lost from the start.

I have four new scents from Haute Macabre in collaboration with Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Back when they were also goth lifestyle blog, I wrote for them for several years, articles and interviews about art and music and books and fashion, and so smelling their new offerings always makes me feel quite nostalgic. I’ll be honest with you: right now I am wearing them all at once because I couldn’t decide which one I liked most. And yes, I know, only earlier this week I said that I wasn’t going to review entire collections in a single video, but here we are again.

Dragon’s Blood Incense is all dreamy red musk and heady champaca flower and a swoony curl of dragon’s blood smoke and is the olfactory equivalent of an oxblood velvet babydoll dress, big stompy boots, and lying on the floor in your first apartment at one am and listening to Concrete Blonde

Swampkin: When a soggy, alligator-chomped, flaming gourded-headed god emerges from your mossy backyard swamp in late autumn, you obviously leave offerings of PSLs with extra amber pumps of pumpkin sauce for it. Each morning the cups are emptied, and the silent god oozes a strange resinous sap, redolent of riches and good will. You think you’re onto something.

London Smoke is a perfectly brewed cup of black tea, malty and brisk, sweetened with a bright dollop of lemon curd, and garnished with the sylvan charm of young fern, unfurling in the steam. A gorgeous striation of golden light through a smoky quartz prism.

Got the Morbs actually freaked me out in that it smells like something familiar, but in a way that I, as I am here and now, could never possibly recognize. I can’t even tell you what that means. This is the scent of the velvet tremor of dusk, where shadows stretch and shiver take shapes. An invisible but slightly alarming aura that clings to the hems of twilight. Equal parts warning and pronouncement, the slither of something just around the corner that you don’t want to meet, but you’re not going to be able to stop yourself. I know this tells you nothing because it’s such a personal experience, so just imagine dusty clove incense and opium musk.

Natural History from Seance Perfumes, where the sepia-stained tableau of an attic library reveals dusty sunlight piercing the cobwebs and painting golden the peeling leather spines of centuries-old volumes of poetry and myth. A single rose, once blushing and bold, now pale and brittle with the patina of time, is pressed between fading stanzas. The ink and singe of antiquated words once quill-scratched by candlelight, loosed stories now fluttering in the air, thick with the hushed hum and papery potpourri of slowly turning pages.

Hexensalbe from Stora Skuggan is the scent of a sleazy promoter palming you a velvet VIP pass to a pulsing neon witch’s rave in a forgotten warehouse district. Moonlight refracted through sharp herbal wormwood and licorice shots, hemlock and lichen, earthy and ancient, scratch and hiss beneath twisting, writhing bodies, the dead language of angelica’s forked tongue whispers in time with the throbbing patchouli bassline in your blood, a strobing verdant blur of movement and magic, the electrifying hum of a thousand viridian dreams threaded through the smoke machine’s misty veil. Painting the town emerald, bleeding the jade of the moon, one prickly rosemary sequinned heartbeat at a time. TLDR; it is the witches’ orgy sequence from Sleep No More, distilled, bottled, and sold as an unsettling green tonic that shimmers when you hold it to the light and shudders down your throat like an ultraviolet bloom of algae.

Y06-S from Blackbird While generally I don’t review fragrances that I don’t like (unless I somehow felt personally attacked by them and I had to be spiteful and petty about it) this one is so bizarre I can’t stop thinking about it, and if I’m thinking about it so much, I am probably going to write about it, and if that’s the case, it seems like a waste not to share those thoughts here, too. I received this sample along with an order I placed for some other things, and the person who included it knew I wasn’t going to like it, but I think they thought perhaps I should experience it. And honestly, I think that’s really thoughtful, and I appreciate it. So, to get yourself in the mindset for this one, imagine the Lynchian dissonance and incongruity of the fish in the coffee percolator. This is neither fishy nor coffee beany, but I think you know what I mean. Initially, this is a fleeting whiff of Korean banana milk, and overheated electronics, maybe the chubby plastic container spontaneously combusted, splattering frothy banana juice and frying circuit boards, and the whole arcade catches fire and burns down. The metallic ozone and static of sparking wires eventually and somehow inevitably– in the way dream logic feels perfectly reasonable and rational – gives way to a monstrously animalic indolic jasmine, and somehow inexplicably becomes a barely perceptible smoky floral skin scent. I don’t think Y06-S is a scent you wear; it’s an experience you endure. It’s bizarre and bewildering and a little bit nauseating, but I think it’s a good reminder that perfume is an art form, and art shouldn’t always be easy to digest. It should make us think a little bit.

Atomic Bee Women from the Abyss from Zoologist. Oh, wait, it’s not called that. Because they didn’t consult me on the name. It’s just Bee. But this definitely a deliciously campy, over-the-top, apian B-movie femme fatale honey trap of a scent. A real Atomic Bee Women From Beyond type of experience. Imagine, if you will, Jessica Rabbit, but instead of a slinky red dress, she’s draped in a slick, sultry cascade of golden honey, held aloft by the teensiest of gleaming wings, which is quite a feat considering she’s a monstrous 50-foot tall intergalactic bee queen. Lusciously hovering with a dizzying buzz, she oozes a sweet, sticky, powdery vanilla and sandalwood secretion atop skyscrapers and military personnel as the city erupts in chaos. “I’m not bad; I’m just drawn from the honeycomb that way,” she coos, delicately drilling her enormous stinger into the aromatic dessert wine richness flowering summer gardens of mimosa and heliotrope scattered in a park at the city’s center. You realize too late as the air becomes suffused with the heady nectar of musky orange blossom and ginger syrup’s candied fire that her squadron of sisters has breached the atmosphere, thick waxy clouds of intoxicating yellow florals announcing their arrival. The city, drowned in pollen and pheromones, falls into a delirious stupor. Mankind, forgotten, dissolved into the honeyed haze, their last sighs swallowed by the incessant thrumming of a million tiny wings.

❈ When I first saw this label art for Zoologist’s Penguin, I’ll confess there was a part of me that thought, dang, I really hope this smells how the grizzled and extremely unhinged William Dafoe looks in Roger Eggers’ The Lighthouse. Of course, anyone who saw that must know that I am mostly kidding (although perversely, I am not totally kidding), and instead of an olfactory tour de force of maritime menace, unfettered madness, and the salty tang of brooding, brine-soaked despair,  we get the mythical chill of Frosta, She-Ra’s Empress of the Snows on the fantastical planet of Etheria. An invigorating blast of frozen air, crisp and clean, a tonic bracing and bittersweet, a glacial window to the indifferent beauty of the bone-chillingly wintry landscape. An ember of pink pepper trills tremulously through juniper’s whispers of icy ancient pine; saffron reveals the warm honeyed spice of its mysteries only to become lost in the cool, unknowable depths of sea moss. And yet… there’s a stormy heart to this scent, of musk and rain and the desolation of sirens and the destruction of sea gods. Perhaps that gnarly lighthouse keeper has a place in this story after all. I’m not sure what happened to the penguins, though.

The Lantern Bearers from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Much like Maxfield Parrish’s luminous artwork itself, this scent is both a lively nocturne and a study in incandescent joy. You can’t smell this and be sad. Or rather, you could also be sad because we’re capable of holding space for all of these things in ourselves, but within these haloed spheres of citrus and smoky resin, like the molten gold bellies of constellations of fireflies, there’s a glowing lemony defiance to sadness. This ember of citrine warmth doesn’t banish the night or deny its mystery– that plummy promise of the dark that still hangs heavy like velvet curtains. It simply illuminates it, freckling the musky orchid of the twilit sky with zest and glee. This is a scent that knows the ache of longing, but it also knows the unyielding spark of wonder –and is a reminder that joy and sorrow are not so much opposites but partners in the grand existential clown show of being human.

I tried Coreterno’s sample set, and here are my three favorites (though, if I am being really honest, I think people are buying this brand more for the aesthetic appeal than the fragrances. I found some nice things to say about them because they are objectively nice, but they are not mind-blowing)

Mystic Sugar, spun-sugar cobwebs woven by enchanted almond blossom arachnid fairy godmothers, shivery threads glimmering with vanilla frost and powdered cocoa snow.

Psychelicious is a kaleidoscopic glitter cannon of a K-pop music video with at least 50 costume changes, ballgowns in rosy blushing peony with dazzling strawberry and raspberry gemstones embroidered into the silk, champagne-drizzled litchi truffles nibbled between every take.

❈ And finally, Freakincense. Imagine an old Nordic church nestled in the snow, bathed in the alien light of the aurora borealis, incense smoke steeped into every stone. Lime, tart and electric, bursts like a renegade star tumbling through the heavens, pink pepper, sharp and crackling, echoes the descent, otherworldly exile, announced by heavenly fanfare. Cashmeran, elemi, and labdanum, soft, smoky, and twining with resinous secrets, whisper a lullaby of fallen grace. From the dark stained glass window, a weathered abbess sighs and lights a lone beeswax candle, its sweet ritual glow a beacon for this wanderer in the night, whose wings, once ablaze with celestial fire, now cast no shadow at all.

Я by Toskovat is a perfume inscrutable and obscure, a sigh of brakes, a hiss of steam, and a silhouette emerging from the dark as you exit the bus on a foggy evening. The shadowed figure leans close and whispers four words against your ear. “Find the secret heart,” they breathe, ghost of a smile flickering, a gloved hand, a glint of silver, a packet of forgotten sweets. The apparition is gone, vanished into the labyrinthine alleys, a wisp of a figment of a dream. The echo of their words lingers, a riddle etched in the citron zing of powdered sugar gems, the delicate swoon of sugared violets, and a blush of candied strawberry musk. You clutch the crumpled cellophane packet, the scent itself a ghostly sugared map leading ever inwards, towards the secret heart within your heart.

❈ I’ve purchased, unsniffed, a full bottle of Guerlain Shalimar Millésime Iris on the recommendation of a friend. I don’t know that our tastes align perfectly, but she was really enamored with this one, and I feel like sometimes the only way you can really commune with a far-flung friend whom you may never spend any time with in person (although I did actually meet her once) is to steep yourself in the things that they enjoy. Which is also why I bought something else she had mentioned, but we’ll do a separate review for that later. So Shalimar. I don’t care for the original. Or at least what I know to be the original, and which I’m sure is not the original-original, and you just know some smug well-actually person is going to point out in the comments because what kind of world would it be if these snobby self-congratulatory fuckers weren’t always slithering in through the cracks to shit all over everything nice. ANYWAY. At first sniff, this is a real bombastic towering vanilla powdered wig spectacle of a Sofia Coppola Marie Antoinette confection, but there’s something kind of tacky and trashy about it too, like it’s all that “ Let them eat cake” audacious opulence filmed through mob-wife cigarette ash on a leopard print suede purse Instagram filter of a reality tv show, thick with manufactured drama and desperate thirst. It’s a sort of sticky, gilded Versailles meets Bada Bing dumpster fire of a fragrance. And believe it or not, initially, when I was testing it…I didn’t hate it. Later in the evening, I smelled a woody smoky vanilla floral phantom masterclass of luxury and beauty wafting from my sweater cuff, and I nearly swooned. Surprise! It was that tabloid headline trending hashtag of a vanilla from earlier in the day! Millésime Iris, you contain multitudes, and I am here for all of them

Montblanc Signature is a weird one in that it’s not really weird at all (it’s pretty basic in composition and execution, right?), but it makes me feel some weird, twisty things. If that makes sense. It’s a sort of echo-y, empty, fresh, woody,- dewy-floral melange that smells like you’re using someone else’s shampoo, a pearlescent lather of white musk more expensive than you care to consider. You’re sleeping under a stranger’s crisp white sheets, cool against your skin, the lingering dryer sheet scent of magnolia petals and fat peony blooms, their honeyed sweetness clinging to the fabric.

Maybe a friend of a friend has an apartment for rent while they’re off being an influencer in France, so you’re availing yourself of their expensively furnished, minimalist-chic accommodations for a few months in a particularly hip part of town. You spend a lot of time lonely in the apartment, trying on her silk blouses and cashmere sweaters, picking through her curated book selection of vintage Vogue and art photography books, and trying to get a sense of who she is. You’re also stalking her social media a fair bit, and like a magpie hoarding glittering scraps, you gather up her turns of phrase and mannerisms, embellishing your own reflection with borrowed plumage. You begin ordering Door Dash deliveries under her name, all the culinary delicacies she’d artfully Instagrammed in her travels, noodles slick with sauce, and hundreds of tiny, bitter cups of coffee. You imagine her beside you, laughter echoing in the sterile silence, a phantom limb you ache to touch.

The line between mimicry and metamorphosis blurs. The creamy magnolia unfurls, a faded photograph of intimacies never shared. The luminous musk, clean and faintly powdery, becomes a shroud, a borrowed identity that both suffocates and intoxicates. This fragrance doesn’t just smell like wearing someone else’s perfume; it smells like the unsettling alchemy of becoming someone else. And in that borrowed skin, in that stolen life, the question lingers: just how far will you go to become more than just her shadow?

❈ When I first saw the label art for Zoologist’s Penguin, I’ll confess there was a part of me that thought, dang, I really hope this smells how the grizzled and extremely unhinged William Dafoe looks in Roger Eggers’ The Lighthouse. Of course, anyone who saw that must know that I am mostly kidding (although perversely, I am not totally kidding), and instead of an olfactory tour de force of maritime menace, unfettered madness, and the salty tang of brooding, brine-soaked despair,  we get the mythical chill of Frosta, She-Ra’s Empress of the Snows on the fantastical planet of Etheria. An invigorating blast of frozen air, crisp and clean, a tonic bracing and bittersweet, a glacial window to the indifferent beauty of the bone-chillingly wintry landscape. An ember of pink pepper trills tremulously through juniper’s whispers of icy ancient pine; saffron reveals the warm honeyed spice of its mysteries only to become lost in the cool, unknowable depths of sea moss. And yet… there’s a stormy heart to this scent, of musk and rain and the desolation of sirens and the destruction of sea gods. Perhaps that gnarly lighthouse keeper has a place in this story after all. I’m not sure what happened to the penguins, though.

 

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Vintage Snow Man Blow Mold (a milky plastic shell of frosted blue spruce, illuminated from within by 40 watts of glowing amber) If this scent could be a book cover, it would 100% be an R.L. Stine Goosebumps book.  Inside its plastic sarcophagus, a spectral sentinel stands guard, shimmering with the trapped souls of forty dead watts. Enchanted with its kitschy charm, you inhale deeply…and are immediately hit with a damp slap of mildew, the smell of dusty basements and rain-soaked attics. Not pleasant, exactly, but…intriguing, summoning whispers of forgotten winters, of attic dolls weeping silent tears, of cobwebs spun with memories. The scent of time clawing and gnawing at plastic and wood, turning memories into dust. Softly, a chill creeps in. Not the icy bite of winter, but something deeper, more unsettling. Flowers, pale things like ghosts blooming in the snowman’s hollow chest; the sweet decay mingled with the mildew beneath the fake plastic sun of the snowman’s smile. But there is warmth, too, hidden in the depths. Amber, like sunbeams trapped in honey, a counterpoint to the decay, a whisper of life clinging to the skeleton of memory. The snowman’s heart, beating faintly in the plastic ribs.

To A Wreath In The Snow (tobacco flower, white oud, lavender bud, and ambergris accord) Shadows of grief, the ghosts of winter, a sky bled grey by sorrow. A phantom flower blanketed in frost while spiced embers and woods spark and sizzle in a hearth nearby, an anchor of warmth and hope glowing through a glass pane inches away from the frozen bloom. A transparent divide, the bittersweet ache of proximity, a thing so frail can’t help but yearn–

Snow-covered cathedral (ecclesiastical incense wafting behind candlelit stained glass and icicles thrusting from stone archways)  A Sanctum Glacialis, a sacred space, where the aroma of lemony resins, frosty breath in the fir-scented air, and the hallowed whispers of a forest prayer beneath a sky of frozen stars converge.

Hearth (sweet pipe tobacco, cherry wood, the warm, worn leather of an easy chair, and a pleasant, subtle waft of fireplace smoke) A velvet-swathed alcove, flickering tongues of gaslight, a crystal decanter, amber liquid catching the light, a molten jewel held captive in glass, swirling with the scent of cherries bruised and black as midnight and the secret incantations of honeybees.

The Poinsettia Gown (rose cream, jasmine cream, mallow, vanilla foam, and sweet amber) Corsets creaked, silk rustled, and whispers slithered like vipers amongst the polished marble. The world of debutantes held secrets far more intoxicating than forbidden schnapps and stolen waltzes. But the elusive beauty in the poinsettia gown floated through the crowd of cutthroat Victorian debutantes untouched by their vicious mutterings, aloft on a coquettish cloud of pillowy, powdery whipped cream floral divinity. “She smells like a beautiful vintage Barbie doll Christmas card,” a blonde in pink taffeta giggled tipsily. Her dark-haired twin in canary crinoline elbowed her and whispered nastily, “Well, that’s an anachronism, dumbass.” The girl in the poinsettia gown shyly glanced their way before gracefully pirouetting from the room, and the sisters blushed all the way up to their hair ribbons.

21 Snowballs (gin-soaked slush) Overheard in the writer’s room:

Writer 1: “..with all due respect, who wants to smell like a melted snow cone dipped in bathtub gin?”

Writer 2: “Oh ho ho…this isn’t your bodega slush, this is high-society slush. Slush for the one-percenters. Slush that glides on the ice rink of life, tiara perched askew, a perfectly chilled martini in paw…”

Writer 1: “Paw? What is this? An ice-skating raccoon? Are you suggesting raccoons wearing tiaras now?”

Writer 2: “Not just any raccoons! We’re talking raccoon royalty! Imagine, Duchess Trashpanda McGillicutty the Third, gliding across the frozen pond of Central Park, diamonds sparkling, fur glistening with the essence of juniper berries and chilled tonic. This fragrance is an ode to her, a symphony of sophistication with a playful wink! Like a posh raccoon’s boudoir after a night of ice skating and high-stakes poker. You get the zesty citrus of her freshly squeezed victory cocktail, the crisp snap of her caraway and rosemary-lined nest, and the faintest whisper of that perfectly aged gin, lingering like a mischievous grin on her furry little face!”

Writer 1: “Ok, ok you had me at Trashpanda McGillicutty!”

 

Sugar Cookies and Bourbon Why does the experience of wearing this feel like being in a gritty/glittering sepia-tinted Lana del Rey Christmas song?

Like…

neon lights, sugared air,
bourbon kisses billionaire–

-or-

sippin’ on that amber gold,
vanilla’s got me in a stranglehold–

Ok, I have embarrassed us all enough, and this incredibly gorgeous scent–and my favorite of the bunch–and deserves better than my silliness. BUT. I’m also not wrong.

Snake Oil Hot Toddy (Snake Oil, soaked in whiskey, honey, and a twist of lemon) Spice and honeyed warmth and old friend Snake Oil slithering in, its mossy patchouli cloak warmed by brown-sugared vanilla, the musk a rumble in the chest, with a twisty citrusy sting like a bright yellow lemon dropped in mulled wine. And then! Apples, wonderfully squashy and blushing, stewed long with cinnamon’s fire, cloves sharp spiced pungency, and nutmeg’s gentle hum, chased by a nutty browned butter Manhattan, its rye bite tempered by sweet vermouth. There is a lot going on here, and all of it is lovely.

Gingerbread Snek (gingerbread thickened with molasses and patchouli, spiced with Snake oil, and frosted with sugared vanilla bean) Gingerbread Cabin enters the battlefield tapped unless you control three or more other Forests. And as it happens, you do have in your possession many forests, woodlands, and thickets across the wilds of Eldraine. All redolent with resinous pine snap and earthy blankets of fallen leaves beneath verdant canopies of fir. So untapped it is then, in which case, when Gingerbread Cabin enters the battlefield untapped,  a Food Token is created. I have no idea what the Food Token does, I only remember seeing the Grimms fairy tale-inspired commercials for this particular MtG set, but I imagine it smells like this: a warm, cozy gingerbread house drizzled in vanilla bean glaze, its spicy walls mingling with the patchouli’s woody whisper, lying in wait under a sky of cinnamon stars and clove-studded moons.

The Picture of Dorian Sufganiyot (a deep-fried fougere with three pale musks and dark, sugared vanilla tea) A dribble of jelly clung to his lips as he lifted the velvet curtain from the portrait. This angelic young man who looked to be sculpted from ivory and roses stuffed the remainder of the oil-kissed fritter into his mouth, a shower of glittering sugar dusting his cuffs, rendering him that much more celestial in appearance. He gestures vaguely at the monstrosity in the portrait, a study in corruption and decrepitude. “Yeah, yeah, that’s meant to be me then; what of it, mate?” he scoffs, spraying my face with fragrant crumbs and small clots of rich berried jam. “It’s a good thing his guy smells so good,” I mutter disgustedly to myself, taking in his scent of softly sweetened tea and creamy, silken musks as I pick up my brush to paint over this junky canvas of horrors.

Pomegranate Ink To you, A— my sweet-skinned muse,  I send poems of love on fragrant winds. For on my island, alone as I am with the sea and the shore, I have unearthed a perfume that echoes the pomegranate’s song, a tale Pausanias dared not speak. It bursts forth in song, a chorus of rubies– the fruit’s jeweled heart exposed to the sky, laughter spills from its crimson chalice, sweet and bright as nectar. But within this mirth, A—  a shadow stirs. Inky tendrils, like dark riddles murmured in moonlit caves, coil around the light. It is the scent of ancient papyrus, of leather-bound tales, a smoky inkwell, where myths swim in obsidian depths, their truths veiled in darkness.  This is the pomegranate’s paradox, a goddess with twin faces. One wreathed in sunlight, her cheeks blushing with scarlet wine, the other draped in midnight, her eyes holding the shadows of the world. And oh, deepest blood of my heart, oh how my fingers yearn to trace the mysteries etched in this ink! To brush away the shadows and glimpse the stories secreted within. For here, in bright sun and cool midnight, I see our love reflected. Come, A— let us follow the hidden path, hand in hand, and unravel this strange fruit’s music. Let us become the ink and the parchment, the sun and the shadows, and write our own tale—

Midnight Mass Because I don’t have a lot of experience with Midnight Mass as a spiritual practice, what comes to mind is a stirring sermon in Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass Netflix series, where Father Paul describes that faith means “in the darkness, in the absence of light and hope, we sing.”  Father Paul, piggybacking on your excellent point, would you allow me a few words?

Close your eyes, and let the thurible swing, a pendulum between heaven and earth. Each arc releases a chorus of secrets – frankincense, that ancient whisper of devotion, the very tears of the sun hardened to gold. Myrrh, heavy with wisdom, echoes the gifts of Magi, a fragrant ode to sacrifice and the mysteries locked within. Benzoin, a bridge of warmth, a holy caress. Wisps of styrax and opoponax, ghosts of forgotten rituals, prayers in tongues long dead. Let them mingle in your lungs, these veiled blessings, and know that the greatest mysteries are not those writ in books, but those breathed on the wind of belief. And oh, brothers and sisters, how they linger, these sacred echoes! Long after the last ember fades, the incense clings to your soul, a benediction etched in smoke. It is a reminder that even in the deepest darkness, in the quiet hours when doubt gnaws at our bones, the song of faith remains. We sing in the absence of light, in the hollow between breaths, for that is where the mystery burns brightest, a fragrant hymn to the unseen.

Midnight Mass becomes a fragrant hymn of spiritual devotion and ceremonial grandeur to something larger than ourselves—a fragrant homage to midnight prayer, sacred intention and a sensory invocation of the profound mysteries, calling us to sing even in the darkest of moments.

 

 

Santa Doesn’t Need Your Help (sugar plum lavender marshmallows) is a sweetly herbal fragrance with a soft, fruity tang, the olfactory version of the gentle illustration on the box of a seasonal sleepytime offering from Celestial Seasonings, along with a little poem:

Sugar plum dreams with a lavender sigh,
A marshmallow moonbeam, a twinkling eye. 
Santa takes over, a welcoming sight,
and parents, unburdened, can sleep through the night.

Lavender Plum Galette (a mouth-watering mixture of glistening plum wedges and ground almonds, enfolded in flaky crust and drizzled with lavender sea-salted caramel) This is an astonishingly gorgeous scent that, if you looked up the recipe for it on a blog, you would have to read a 20k word cautionary tale and descent into the realm of culinary darkness that begins in the heart of the enchanted forest and hints at a narrative that defies the expected dichotomies of good and evil. I really do feel like there is quite a story with this one! But no one’s got that kind of time, so I will sum it up for you. Picture a cursed orchard, a spectral bakehouse, and a dessert table tainted by the obscure whims of an otherworldly confectioner of unknown intent, a gourmand elegy of the unsettling and delicious.

Lavender Rosemary Baguette (perfectly crusty and yeasty with a pillowy-soft interior, sprinkled with lavender sea salt and brushed with herbed olive oil) From the yeasty tang to the briny sea salt to the herb-infused nuances of the olive oil, this is a perfect bready balance and the baguette-iest fragrance I have ever smelled. I recently read Sara Gran’s The Book of the Most Precious Substance (it is very good, and I highly recommend that you read it if you have not already), and aside from the murders and the mysteries and the rare books and the sex, there is A LOT of food in this book. I’m pretty sure the author detailed every single meal, and weirdly enough, this Lavender Rosemary Baguette perfume is a composition that somehow (?) captures the spirit of the story. It’s a fragrant tableau that mirrors the sensory delights of Sara Gran’s sumptuous literary landscape.

Lavender Earl Grey Cookies (a bitter, tea-stained ache soothed by softly herbaceous sugar cookies) I guess I was expecting a lullaby with this one, but it’s more a playground of sugar gremlins, citrus confetti sunshine and mischief brewed in lavender fields. A vibrant floral astringency, bergamot’s subtle fruitiness, and an effervescent extravagance of sugar crystal carnival energy launches the entire blend into a hyperactive crescendo of joyfully demented, sticky-fingered Muppet Baby chaos.

Vintage Candy Garland Blow Mold (an enticing swirl of multi-hued fruit and mint flavors, illuminated from behind by twinkling amber tree lights) I close my eyes, and I can smell a bobbled milk glass dish of vintage seasonal candies just like this, a kaleidoscope of cellophane dreams: chocolate raspberry spun-sugar swirls, pearlescent limes like sugared gumdrops, the sharp green kiss of peppermint spirals, a gateway to a childhood Candyland where plastic reigned supreme and sugar was the currency of dreams– fantastically melting Technicolor hues forever preserved in the honeyed amber glow of nostalgia. As a matter of fact, as hyperreal as this perfume is, it also has an element of the surreal, like art-witch besties Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo challenged each other to bring their own singular vision of this candy dreamscape to the canvas, hallucinatory worlds of spun sugar and starlight, the delicious chaos that erupts when two magic-wielding artists collaborate

Gingerbread London Fog Captain’s log, stardate 46254.1 Holodeck recreation “Gingerbread London Fog,” simulation running. A bistro bathed in perpetual twilight, the air thick with the scent of rain and pipe smoke. Ah, but what’s this? A  fiery sweetness pierces the fog, a whisper of cinnamon and cloves, like an exotic spice trader’s cloak brushing past. Intriguing. Adjust the olfactory interface. Notes of Earl Grey tea, vanilla, sugar, and… whiskey? A peculiar concoction, Captain. Indeed, Number One. Yet, it draws me like unexpected intrigue on Riza. The tea, smooth and familiar, mingles with the sharp nip of whiskey, a touch of mystery in a mug. The vanilla, it’s not the cloying syrup of replicated desserts, but a whisper of warmth reminiscent of a home and a kitchen many years ago. And the ginger… ah, the ginger. It’s the heart of the mystery, a fierce, fevered spice that lingers on the tongue like… a detective’s hunch. Curious, Captain. Would you say this fragrance has… narrative potential? Potentially, Number One. Perhaps a femme fatale named “Sugar” in a silk dress the color of midnight, her lips stained with the same spiced sweetness. Or a gruff inspector with a penchant for Earl Grey and secrets, the aroma of tobacco clinging to his trench coat like a second skin. The bistro fades. Brick walls crawl with shadows, gaslights sputter, casting long, incriminating fingers. The scent of gingerbread transforms, no longer a treat but a clue, a trail of crumbs leading to a darkened alleyway and a whispered confession. Intriguing, Captain. Shall we embark on this olfactory investigation? Indeed, Number One. We’ll follow the whispers of ginger, the ghost of whiskey, and see where this trail leads us. Engage.

It may be a short respite, but between exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no one has gone before, even a Captain deserves a touch of fantasy and intrigue. And so, we step into the perfumed fog, ready to unravel the mystery that clings to the gingerbread and hangs heavy in the air. The night promises secrets; the scent whispers clues, and the Captain… well, the Captain’s ready for some silly escapades, even if it’s only for a brief, spiced escape from the vast loneliness of space. End log.

The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab 2023 Yule collection is currently live and available for purchase. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available.

Need more Yule scents? Have a peep at my Yule reviews from 2023 and 2021 and a single review for 2019 though I could swear I have several years’ worth of BPAL Yule reviews floating around that out there. And I know this because…

…PSSSST! Did you know I have collected all of my BPAL reviews into one spot? I’m about a year behind with adding new stuff to the document, but as it stands, there are over 60 PAGES of my thoughts and rambles on various limited-edition scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab over the years: BPAL REVIEWS BY S. ELIZABETH (PDF download)

 

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Dream Skin, a collaboration between bloodmilk x Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is akin to a dream diary, a midnight scrapbook of filmy filaments teased from nocturnal murmurs, pressed between pages of mist and glass. Belled flowers gently floating across the face of the moon, reflected in a dark, fathomless pond. The whispered conversations between spectral, silvery quartz rock and wild, golden lightning, a tender grinding cascade of stardust. A pale moth glows and dims and dies on a cool silk shirt; a marble egg wrapped in lavender ribbon, shattered and swathed. An atlas of personal symbology, a grimoire of private fables, something beautiful but annihilating filtered through the eerieness and unreality of deep sleep brainwaves; an echo, unraveling at dawn.

The scent notes of Magic Circle from Fable and Canon somewhat correspond with the imagery and symbolism of the painting, the oudh, the cauldron smoke, the apotropaic qualities of the wilting wildflowers and clove, and in theory it sounds like a scent heavy with magic and power, evoking the claustrophobic midnight landscape of the painting. In reality, this is less moody and more foody, as if this menacing conspiracy of ravens opened up a coffee house and their special of the evening was a smoky maple latte and a demerara-sugar crusted, autumnal spiced biscotti.

DS & Durga’s new fragrance, Salem Gothic, exudes the crackling cosmic energy, celestial psychosis, and chaotic teenage telekinesis of my favorite X-files episode, Syzygy–or more specifically, the frenetic, maniacal Saber Dance music that plays during this scene. I can’t explain it, and I have no further notes.

Targhee Forest from Rogue Perfumery is the earnest, delighted musings of a daydreaming bryologist who writes wistful poems of the pensive creepings of mosses, lichen, and fern. These literary herbariums are the inspiration for their side hustle, where they saponify the loamy greenery and gently mix in an essence of white musk to create charming soaps that smell of moss-covered stone basking in a beam of sunlight.

Jones Road Shower is an aggressive laundry lily musk. This thing wants you to know its shit don’t stink, at no point has it ever been stinky, and in the future, there will be no stink, and how bold of you to suggest otherwise. It’s not just assertive in the intensity of its immaculate freshness, it is downright defensive –like you have accused it of some degree of funk&stank – how dare you!–and now it is doubling down on the extreme powdery white floral concentrated detergentness of it, it’s fucking drinking the stuff. Ok, ok! We get it! You’re clean! You’re a freshy-girl or whatever! Jesus! Calm down. You’re being quite a lot right now, Jones Road Shower, and you’re making me very uncomfortable. I don’t dislike this fragrance, but it gives the energy of something that’s trying very hard because it’s got something to prove. And some days I feel like that, too! But on other days, this perfume of freshly soaped and scrubbed skin, dryer sheets, and clean linens, cloaked in a sterile spray of something that kills both germs and joy and all dialed up to eleven, is just too powerfully hygienic smelling to me. Just let me have a little stank, please!

Imagine, if you will, that Madame de la Rougierre, the exceedingly creepy and exquisitely cruel governess in Le Fanu’s gothic tale Uncle Silas, was taken to task for her evil ways and, as divine punishment, was transformed into a brooding French bisque portrait poupée having to endure dusty shelves and grubby little hands for eternity. That is what the smolderingly honeyed orange blossom, wickedly animalic. waxily aldehydic, musty-powdery melancholy of Caron Narcisse Noir smells of. In a good way? Or…as good as it gets for Mme de la Rougierre, I guess?

Sometime in the last few months on TikTok, I shared a compilation of perfume suggestions inspired by gothic romance book cover art. I got several comments suggesting that Pulp Fragrances should have been mentioned. Apparently, gothic romance tropes are very much their thing! Though I was tempted to say “well…make your own dang list if you think you can do better!” But people don’t tend to appreciate that response, so instead I just honestly admitted I’d never even heard of the brand and took it as an opportunity to dive into something new. Anyway, I ordered a buttload of samples, and amongst them, I found one of the most perfect things I have ever smelled (even though to my nose it didn’t quite match up with the notes listed, or how I imagine the bleak melancholia of the philosophy it’s trying to evoke might smell like.) But who cares, it’s good! Hauntology smells like a gorgeously crystallized lump of sweet holy amber and a nose-tickling pencil-shaving whiff of crisp, glorious cedar incense. There is absolutely zero complexity. But also…who cares! It is simple and perfect. I need a dozen full bottles of this.

Myrrhe Mystere from Tom Ford is a scent that I really, desperately wanted to love, and in theory, with its notes of myrrh resins, sandalwood, and vanilla I feel like I should love it, I feel like it should sort of be the platonic ideal of a gothic romance novel cover art fragrance…and it is that for a few mysteriously fleeting moments. But then there arises something inexplicably off-putting about it.

It is the scented equivalent of bringing to class a very special item, something incredibly dear to you, to share for the weekly round of show and tell. As you tell the story of your precious thing’s origins you become too aware of how it looks through other people’s eyes, a little weird, a bit unsettling, maybe it exudes an underlying strange and vaguely unpleasant smell of cumin’s unwashed gym clothes’ B.O. pungency that has been masked with an herbaceous bouquet of anisette and mothballs from crinkled cough drop wrappers at the bottom of your handbag. You realize that maybe people aren’t as excited about your collection of teeth and bones and taxidermy as you’d initially hoped.

You go back to your earlier comparison or metaphor or whatever and realize your gothic romance heroine is written with more human flaws and foibles than you prefer and in fact she reminds you an awful lot of yourself, with equal parts hideous conceit and treacherously low self-esteem, that befuddling balance of the you you’re trying to put out into the world, charming, elegant, enigmatic, and the you that you try to keep locked in a secret attic, the one who hates to wash her hair and snorts like a truffle pig when they laugh and inevitably has food stuck in their teeth or a stain on their shirt. I wanted a Myrrhe Mystere representative of the gorgeous, doomed figures in those marvelously illustrated midnight tales of passion and madness–so that I could feel a bit of that beautiful gloom myself– and what I got was a mirror reflecting the glum reality of all of the ways I am none of that at all.

Tartan from Sarah Baker Perfumes/Sarah McCartney If you’ve ever smelled Hermès Ambre Narguille and thought, wow, this stuff is so sweet it’s actually going to kill me…I think you might want to give Tartan a try. In reality, I don’t know that they’re all that alike, other than a rich woody tobacco-y October vibe, but while Ambre Narguille really leans into that syrupy apple compote, Tartan is balanced by acrid leather and an embossed flask of peaty, smoky whiskey. I smell a different aspect of it every time I wear it, but when I close my eyes it conjures wooly earthen moss, the molten gold of autumn, and skeins of snow geese low on the horizon.

You can definitely smell the cantaloupe in Imaginary Authors Whispered Myths. The cantaloupe is the entire reason I passed over this fragrance with a “nah, I’m good” dismissal when I first saw the perfume announced. Its distinctive musty-musky honeyed gourd vibe registers immediately, but what’s interesting is that in combination with the accompanying and somewhat competing woody notes of barnacled shipwreck and oud’s scorched earth pungency, the cantaloupe becomes less fruity and more creamy, like if you asked a neural network to come up with a new flavor for artisanal ice cream shop’s daily special board.

Balefire Apothecary’s House of Cain is an intensely evocative fragrance with notes of fig, black tea and rice milk, labdanum, sawdust, and sandalwood. It immediately brings to mind the gauzy memory of a book I read as a child, or at least I thought I read it, and now I’m not sure if it’s real or if I dreamed it. I can’t even come up with enough of a plot to do a proper search for it. There was a young woman and an old mirror. Perhaps it was in a dusty attic, or maybe it was in a remote estate–or maybe it opened a door that took her between those places. There was a spicy element to the book, I think it was actually somewhat a progenitor to some of the supernatural erotica available today, but I feel like this particular book was from the 70s or early 80s. This fragrance though, is not about that, not her mundane existence on one side of the mirror or her salacious adventures on the other, but rather it captures those fleeting frequencies of liminality in the otherworld of those moments between. And honestly, memory is tricky, and none of that may be true to the book at all, but that’s what I’m feeling with this perfume, so it’s true enough. It’s the sweet, desiccated must of dried figs on a drift of dead branches and a ghostly moonlit snowy powder from a century’s old cosmetic puff. It’s the notion that the present is haunted by lost futures and the wistful omens that shadow your memories may be dreams of things that never occurred at all.

I’m going through the 2023 Pineward winter sampler and I am in raptures over Gingerbread, which despite its confectionary recipe list of notes, is not the least bit foody. If you’re expecting a fragrance evoking a little gingerbread house festooned with cookies and candies, you may be surprised when what you get is an elegant gingerbread mountain hunting lodge. There’s the peppery bite and zingy warmth of those autumnal spices, but the brown sugar has the smoky depth of the hearth’s charred sweetness, and the walnut is more the smooth polished brown wood and soft worn leather of an armchair, and those milky notes are come through as the creamy comfort of a buttery cashmere sweater, warm against your skin as you press your palm to frost-flowered windowpane while a furious winter blizzard whirls and wails just outside those spice-speckled, subtly sweet, smoky gingerbread walls.

 

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For this final day of October and in wrapping up our 31 Days of Horror here at Unquiet Things, we are going out in style! With reviews of twenty fragrances from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Autumn/Halloween collection!

…and also a giveaway! For one bottle of their Junji Ito-inspired Tomie perfume! If you want to read my full review of the fragrance, you can find that here.

If you would like the opportunity to win this perfume AND you live in the US, leave a comment on this blog post to be entered into the giveaway! Tell me about your favorite Halloween tradition, favorite scary movie, favorite autumnal scent–whatever you like! One winner —please note, you must be in the US to win— will be selected on Tuesday November 7th! [GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED! CONGRATS JILLIAN!]

I am sorry, but shipping outside the US is too onerous, so please, please note this giveaway is for folks who live in the US only! (I’m sorry I have to sound so desperate about it, but why does no one ever read that part? Please read it!)

Anyway, let’s get to the reviews!

A Timid Twinkling Golden Star (tuberose and sweet amber) A dusty, honeyed wistful, sepia-tinted floral; the olfactory representation of the concept of “dés-vu”, or the awareness that this moment will become a memory.

A Little Silver Scimitar (foamy orris and ambergris accord pierced by a sliver of white fir needle, moonflower, and cypress) This smells …”incisive” is the word that comes to mind. It knows something, visions of silver, fruit, blood. I picture less a scimitar and more a little letter opener, sharp-edged glinting, used to liberate clever missives, mince sour slivers of plum, impale inconstant hearts.

Witch’s Currant Cake (red currant and rosewater gooseberry cake with a sugar-dusted gingerbread crumble topping) Whenever I see the word “gooseberry” I think of the time I spent listening to Eddie Izzard’s memoir and how his British pronunciation (“guuzbury”) always makes me smile. As a matter of fact, this sweet/sour, tart/tangy scent blanketed with a molassey-gingery cozy streusel, could even be the cake he’s talking about in his “Cake or death?” clip from his Dressed To Kill special. Let’s just make it canon. Our beloved, wicked Eddie Izzard circa 1999 smells like a guuzbury gâteau, a witch’s currant cake.

Ghost Milk (goat’s milk, marshmallow, vanilla cashmere, honey dust, and white chocolate) There’s nothing fruity listed in here but this perfume is fruity, cereal-miky, and fuzzy, like slurping a bowl of Frankenberries from the pocket of your softest, pinkest, plushest hoodie. A hoodie that definitely hoodies. I watch too much TikTok.

Mummy Milk (condensed milk wrapped in coconut shavings and tea-stained linen with a hint of bitumen, myrrh, and embalming resins) Wild grains and rustic incense, something roasting over a fire until it pops and frills, and carried over the fields on the dry wind of a warm September daydream.

Snooty Bat (sugared patchouli, nag champa, black leather, and clove) and Snootier Bat (all the sugared incense you can shake a wing at with double the leather and a dollop of thick, inky black musk) These two fragrances initially reminds me of how my sisters and I might gaze at each other in abject befuddlement and say something like “That is such a bizarre thing to do–how are we even related??” Snooty with a leather that’s almost midnight-stormy sky-ozonic at the onset, and Snootier opens all gloomy musk and plummy treacle. After a moment though, it becomes apparent that they are siblings, an iron-rich vein of incense connecting them. As they wear, they grow apart and drift away from each other, Snooty becoming darker and more unrepentantly patchoulified by the hour, and Snootier, half sick of shadows, transforms into a soft, cozy creamy thing.

Batty Lace (dry flowers, aged linens, and the faint breath of long-faded perfumes with well-worn leather and caramel musk) “A leathered up, musky interpretation of BPAL’s Antique Lace.” The caramel aspect of this blend is what I notice most, a buttery-milky brown sugar caramel that wants to ooze over vanilla ice cream rather than firm up into fudgy squares. Shifting beneath the caramel are those faint, faded attic-trunk florals and creamy cobwebby linens I recall from Antique Lace and a cracked leather buckle so ghostly and elusive I’m not sure if it was actually ever there at all.

Batty Cathedral (leathery wings flapping through billows of incense smoke) I was writing this review and Ývan walked into the room, saw the label art up on the screen, and exclaimed, “Say, that bat’s wearing a fez!” So it is!  Anyway. The leather in this blend is an airy, floral leather, conjuring visions of a little bat snoot dootling deep in trellis vining, moon-luminous night-blooming flowers. The incense is cool and crystalline, frost on stone, smoky winter mists high on a mountain while a witch sits in silence, tracing runes in the snow.  Like a Wardruna video. With more bats and flowers and witches.

Dead Leaves, Paper, and Smoke This one has a spectral and musty quality, like shed snake skins and brittle, broken bird’s nests, but also oddly evokes spring leaves, damp and dewy and almost jittery green, teeming with chlorophyll. It culminates in a fragrance that you might attribute to an altar deep kept in the wood, obeisance to a thing so old it doesn’t even have a name, with offerings of shoots and stems, bones and claws, trinkets both living and dead. 

Dead Leaves, Balsam, and Green Musk The greenest stickiest resins, tree gum, and sap, tingly with a frisson of spearminty-pennyroyal cool-electric-crispness.

Dead Leaves, Shortbread, and Crystallized Ginger The softly decaying dead leaves component of this perfume is so fleeting, almost as if leaf litter and loam were used as padding for a parcel of treats, but the parcel was delivered and the packaging was tossed willy nilly, and what we are left with is the sugar-crusted delight of candied ginger-flecked buttery shortbread with crisp, caramelized edges.

Skelemingo (pink grapefruit and black licorice) it’s the most bonederful time of the year! Wherein even things that do not have bony skeletons inside their skins get treated to cheap plastic skeletons and sold for $5.99 at Michaels and Party City. Worm, you get a skeleton! Octopus, you get a skeleton! And so on! The flamingo does in fact have a skeleton and as scientists know, its aroma is that of the most delicious bitter grapefruit Haribo candy cross-bred with salty Icelandic lakkrís, spliced with white chocolate.When I talk about my profound love for things that inspire a sense of demented glee, a fragrance like this is exactly what I am thinking of.

Hand-Knitted Witch Gloves (raw wool, sweet oakmoss, and cranberry brandy) I don’t talk about fragrances in terms of whether they are masculine or feminine–that’s dumb and limiting!–but I will say that this scent is initially, and surprisingly, quite “handsome.” An aroma that at first evokes some sort of rare, centuries-old cognac and things being aged in French oak barrels, but then because you have no use for stodgy tradition, you eschew drinking it neat and instead concoct a cranberry Manhattan with bitters and vermouth, garnished with a wooly frizzle of earthen moss because you are actually just three gnomes in a trench coat.

Things Are Fine (white sandalwood smoke, hinoki, white tea, and falling leaves) Washing your hair with a fragrant aromatherapeutic “spa-like” shampoo and then immediately running outdoors on a crisp October afternoon and rolling around in a pile of loamy leaves and moss, like a great shaggy golden retriever after a bath. This is stunning. STUNNING.

A Melancholy of Goths (clove smoke, champaca incense, plum velvet, and hairspray) Can you think of anything more goth than a marble gargoyle in a mourning veil perched atop a crumbling gravestone wearing perfume of honeyed funereal florals & infernal incense ash? That is exactly what this smells like. It also smells like what I imagine Anna Falchi in Cemetery Man smells like.

Pumpkin Spice Dark-n-Stormy (extra spicy rum fizzed up with ginger beer and garnished with a lime) Utterly incandescent. Crystalline radium glass lime, the sticky bite of ginger syrup + a dry dram of allspice’s mince pie charm.

Make A Face (yellow bergamot, white pomegranate rind, lemon peel, and white musk) This smells like a thick, nourishing lemon salve that you aren’t supposed to eat but holy jeez you are definitely tempted to eat it. Ývan says he thinks it smells like luxurious lemon peel soap, to which I countered “But do you want to eat it?” And he was like like “Well, I mean yes.” This is one of those simple scents that somehow doesn’t seem like there’s much to it, and yet is more than the sum of its parts and is weirdly definitely habit-forming.

Halloween Cat (cacao and coconut husk dusted on shining black fur, illuminated by electric green mandarin and raw amber) I wouldn’t typically use the words “chocolatey” and “fresh” together in the same sentence and I don’t know that’s what I am doing here either–but I don’t know that I am not? Halloween cat smells a bit like huffing dry brownie mix; absent the sweetness and gooeyness, there’s a bracing, savory aspect to the cocoa. A pale nimbus of citrus hovers, a timorous, shimmering aurora haloing the arid chocolate.

Witch in the Woods (blackthorn, mandrake root, and myrrh scratching through cypress boughs, blackberry resin, and incense smoke) A tangled orchard, a forest-jam tart, a sharpened blade kissed-thrice, batwings circling an autumn moonrise–all of these trapped in a waxen candy wrapper curse.

The Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab 2023 Halloween collection is currently live and available for purchase. As this is a limited edition series, sample sizes imps are not available.

Need more ‘Weenies? Have a peep at my ‘Weenie reviews from the autumns of yesteryear 2022 // 2021 // 2020 // 2019 // 2018 // 2017 // 2016 

And PSSSST! Did you know I have collected all of my BPAL reviews into one spot? Here you will find 88 pages of my thoughts and rambles on various limited-edition scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab over the years: BPAL REVIEWS BY S. ELIZABETH (PDF download)

Are you new to one of our very favorite indie perfumers, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab? See my three-part primer herehere, and here

If you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

 

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“Come on! What’s so precious about a monster?”

You guys. I have been waiting on this Tomie-inspired fragrance ever since Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab teased its creation way back sometime last year. And much like the feelings provoked by the malevolent, regenerative entity herself, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since that time.

…and now it’s here!

I’ve mentioned my great love for horror manga artist Junji Ito’s creations many times on this blog; just the other day I included one of the Tomie movies (there are like nine of them at this point) in my 31 Days of Horror blogs. But if you’re unfamiliar, how to describe Tomie? I feel like a monster myself (and a horrible feminist) when I try to talk about her. Tomie is an enthralling young woman whose beauty drives people mad in different ways–women want to either be her or, or are insanely jealous of her, and men become obsessed with her to the extent that they end up chopping her up and killing her–and she returns eternally to torment all of them.

What is Tomie? A succubus? A mutation?  To me, at least, it’s never really clear.  She’s an irredeemable anti-hero who’s an absolute guilty pleasure girl-power fantasy and she brings to mind the Margaret Atwood quote, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

..and all this misogynistic violence and exploitative gendered body horror and self-flagellation on my part for even reading it at all stems from the artist’s boyhood memory of a classmate dying. In an interview, Juni Ito shared that a boy in his junior high died in a traffic accident.

He observed, “It just felt so odd to me that a classmate who was so full of life should suddenly disappear from the world, and I had a strange feeling that he would show up again innocently.” He goes on to reveal that’s how he came up with the idea of a girl who is supposed to have died but then just shows up as if nothing had happened.

In Wikipedia, it says that he was inspired by the phenomenon of lizard tail regeneration. I suppose it could be both, why not!


Anyway! Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has taken all of our Tomie angst and terror and created a “seductive and deceptively delicate blend of rose-tinted white sandalwood, ethereal white amber, voluptuous almond blossom, coeur de jasmin, and a gasp of bourbon vanilla.”

When I first wore it, it seemed a simple confectionary musk. I became unnerved and overwhelmed when I thought for a second there that it was beginning to remind me of something, a sort of candied heliotrope feather boa of a perfume that when I first smelled it in 2020 I became convinced that it was a monstrously annoying YouTube celebrity’s signature scent. (She was revoltingly pink and OKAY YES I was obsessively watching her even though I hated her and found her vile and this all makes sense to me even if I can’t explain it.) I don’t want to say who because I don’t want to be a mean girl, and I also hate comparing one perfume to another when I am reviewing things, but my only point here is, that I thought I smelled this perfume for a brief second* but when I obsessively began sniffing my wrist trying to pinpoint it, the momentary phantom was already gone.  There is actually no comparing these two scents at all, but the thing is, from then on, I never stopped obsessively sniffing.

*my point, which I am having the devil of a time trying to articulate is that BPAL, in those opening notes, nailed that sort of attractive/repellent quality that this specific perfume requires; a flash of something revolting just to remind you who you’re dealing with, but then you’re immediately and utterly subsumed by how beautiful it is and you’ve forgotten that you were briefly but thoroughly appalled. It’s hard to write a sentence with the words “revolting” or appalling” when it comes to your favorite perfumer, but it feels so marvelously intentional and incredibly executed here, I can’t not talk about it!

Tomie crawls beneath your skin, a slithery jasmine-amber-flecked marzipan cotton candy ghost musk of a scent, but not a fresh, hot carnival cone of the stuff–rather, the soft, sticky filaments of floss caught in your uniquely self-scented hair at the end of the night. And maybe a bewitched and bothered someone is bizarrely compelled to snip a few of those sweet, tangled tendrils while you’re sleeping because they’re an absolute psychopath, and maybe when you wake up in the morning the scissors are gripped in your own hands, the sultry tresses are tucked into your own little etched sandalwood box, and maybe, perhaps, the psychopath is you. Utterly obsessed with yourself.

BPAL’s Tomie is both quietly haunting and all-consuming, the ghost of something you’re desperate to possess, but which is fully possessing you even as it slips through your fingers and disappears.

This is exactly it. This is Tomie. They got her perfectly right.

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Peche Obscene from Lvnea, in collaboration with musician Chelsea Wolfe is glorious– but what I mean is glorious in the way that something monstrous and magnificent stalks the dead zone of night, by stealth and in the dark. This is peach, irradiated and ashen and grown over with moss and broken bird’s nests and salted against curses, curls of ferric iron to both ward away and contain within. A peach more lore and legend than it ever had life, a peach whose shadow looms uneasily far beyond its ruined flesh. Juices corrupt with the grave dirt of vetiver and patchouli and oozing with osmanthus’ strange leathery/jammy incense, Peche Obscene is an undead lich of a peach, and it is absolutely, terrifyingly bewitching in the way that all delicious forbidden things are.

With notes of “gasoline, dirt, rocks, leather, and funeral flowers” you’d probably expect Procession from Seance Perfumes to be a somewhat challenging scent, or a fragrance that some people might describe as “an acquired taste.” But that’s not the case at all. From the very first sniff, this gentle floral is all about softness and solace. Not the heavy, sinking desolation of sorrow, but rather the easement of having your grief and suffering witnessed by someone who is not trying to fix it, or make you feel better, just to quietly sit with you in sadness. All sorts of blooms, lilies and orchids, hydrangeas and lacy sweet alyssum, powdery, creamy, honeyed blossoms gently perfuming the darkness so that it’s not so lonely there.

I reviewed House of Matriarch Vanilla Caviar over on TikTok. You kinda need the visuals.

Fiery Pink Pepper from Molton Brown opens with so much promise, a zesty dust storm of dry citrus peel and pith, ginger’s tangy effervescent spice, and some underlying rosy-peppery woody notes. It rapidly becomes a somewhat predictable smelling woody cologne that is somehow also aquatic, but both aspects are equally lackluster. It’s that bubbly, vivacious new acquaintance that when you get to know them, you realize that they don’t actually have any interests or passions and they don’t have much of an internal life. Fun for a very short time, but it’s no one you are ever going to have a deep or lasting connection with. This fragrance is the essence of that person–what little essence they might have, anyway– distilled and bottled.

In this review for Ethereal Wave from Liis there are a few thoughts on music, and I just want to put it out there that I am an enthusiast, not an expert. Take my opinions with a grain of salt and also probably not very seriously. So Ethereal Wave is a fragrance that I am given to understand, is inspired by the gauzy, gossamer otherworldly sounds of the genre of music pioneered by musicians of the ineffable, the Cocteau Twins. And while there are just no words to convey how very into this concept I am, I am not sure that’s exactly what the fragrance gives me. I get a bright, lush, honeyed apricot (which I don’t think is a note even in this perfume), haloed by a white tea’s crisp, clean, grassy elegance. I don’t get a sense of the cardamom listed in the notes at all, but together the apricot-esque-ness and the white tea aspect meld to create something shimmering and luminous with an almost fluorescent neon radiance. Let’s say Cocteau Twins are at the more dreamy, delicate atmospheric end of the spectrum, and then all the way on the other end is the bold and strange (but also strangely catchy) sci-fi, avant-garde dream pop of Grimes, who is basically an anime character of a musician. So that’s the sort of stream-of-consciousness thinking that got me to the place where when I’m wearing this sample, I feel like a member of a colorful kawaii magical girl gang fighting space aliens when they’re not being school girls and pop idols, and i don’t know if any of you have seen or remember Tokyo Mew Mew but that’s where Ethereal Wave has taken me.

 Himitsu from Regime des Fleurs is a scent that I immediately loved and felt like it understood me, but it oddly and immediately called to mind a scent I don’t care for and which I can’t relate to…and yet on some level, they smell strangely similar. That scent I’m thinking of is Daim Blond from Serge Lutens, and its cool floral iris, expensive suede handbag, and apricot sunbeam vibes are the embodiment of someone who has it super together, they’re on a career track and probably going to make partner, they do yoga and host book clubs. I imagine they probably live in the city and they thrive in that energy and the atmosphere. I feel like Himitsu is the country mouse version of that person and they grew up with the exact opposite temperment. They live in a secluded little cottage at the edge of some remote hamlet,  and their only friends are like 25 varieties of wildflower and maybe one bluebird and they wear an actual, honest-to-patchwork, ruffled Holly Hobby bonnet which they wear unironically.  They probably own a grainy recording of the Royal Ballet’s Tales of Beatrix Potter.   They smell of dew-dappled violets at dawn, lacy cotton curtains drying in a chilly October breeze, and soft leather boots that have never clicked or clacked on concrete;  they only know the quiet creeping moss and curling fern of woodland paths.

I purchased Shay & Blue Cotton Flower because I thought it might be similar to a scent I am very fond of: Bath and Body Works Clean Cotton Blossom which then became Sea Island Cotton and which is now Fresh Cotton, but is perhaps not even available anymore? I loved the idea of that scent because it always conjured a sort of Anne of Green Gables Gunne Sax feeling for me, like cottagecore pre-whenever people started referring to it as cottagecore. Cotton Flower is less bleachy and screechy than any of the B&BW iterations; it doesn’t have that harsh lemony lily of the valley cleaning product aspect. It’s a bit woodier and muskier and warmer, with a golden nectarine glow, which is not to say it’s fruity, but it’s got a rather peachy-coral-vermillion-emberglow YouTube vaporwave neon sunset version of the scent of something like a nectarine. Shay & Blue Tonka Angelica is a resinous vanilla incense almond blossom pudding, with an underlying plastic milkiness reminiscent of Japanese milk candy.

There’s something about Craft from Andrea Maack that feels sleek and reflective, like the soaring chrome spires of a retrofuturistic sci-fi megastructure and its mechanized cybernetic inhabitants. It’s a cool, bloodless scent, like frost flowers on glass, and wintry chilled metal. I hadn’t read the description prior to writing down these thoughts and now I’m simultaneously pleased and peeved because I picked up on this perfume’s vibe to such an extent I’ve almost quoted the website’s copy about jet packs and robots right back at you. This is one of those instances when it seems the concept and the execution align in an almost preternaturally perfect way… like the android overlords have implanted these ideas directly into my brain!

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At the start of September I was pretty bummed because Florida Septembers are not super magical.  I don’t know what it’s like where you’re at, but in Florida, autumn really seems to dither and dilly-dally and lollygag and all those funny old-fashioned words that mean something’s taking too effing long!

So I  just did all the autumn things I love anyhow, to make myself feel better and perhaps summon some autumn feels while I was at it… and I thought it might be fun to film them along the way for a MONTAGE. Who doesn’t love a montage?  So yeah, here’s 3 weeks of homebody autumnal stuff distilled into about 5 minutes worth of video.

My videos aren’t like the top quality or whatever, but I have fun making them, so I hope you will give it a watch! And as per usual, everything mentioned in the video can be found below.

🎃 wreath and felt woodland creature dangle from World Market
🎃 pumpkin spice creamer recipe
🎃 sourdough bread recipe 
🎃 pumpkin bread recipe
🎃 Dragonhoard yarn
🎃 Comfort Fade cardi pattern
🎃 Zoologist Bat https://www.zoologistperfumes.com/pro…
🎃 Chris Collins Autumn Rhythm
🎃 Solstice Scents Estate Carnation
🎃 Pineward Fanghorn II
🎃 bloodmilk x BPAL Owl Moon
🎃 Arcana Wildcraft Holy Terror 
🎃 BPAL Limited Edition Pumpkin Smut is not available but their 2023 Halloween collection is live!
🎃 Botanical Interest seeds
🎃 Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle 
🎃 Lone Women by Victor LaValle
🎃 Let Him In by William Friend
🎃 Never Whistle At Night : An Indigenous Dark Fiction Anthology
🎃 Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy
🎃 The Watchers by A.M. Shine

 

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I’ve been curating little capsule collections of fragrances for myself each month— a “marinade,” if you will — and I have particularly been looking forward to revisiting these autumnal selections for spooky season. If you’re interested in hearing more about these perfumes, head on over to my TikTok account!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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28 Jun
2023

Three new scents from Bloodmilk…

LEKYTHOI Smells of the brine of the ocean and resinous petrified sap of ancient trees, like cool, polished sea glass and golden amber laced with tiny bubbles, heaped tall in vessels of dusty clay and submerged in rich, grassy olive oil. Offerings to appease the sirens, left on the crashing tides of lonely islands amidst tumbling, clackering piles of sailor’s bones.

PELANON There is a work by pre-Raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse that depicts two robe-draped figures refreshing a small altar of bronze statuettes, making humble offerings to the household gods. Not of divine nectar and sacred ambrosia, but rather commonplace, earthbound flowers, honey, and fruits –a quietly luminous but very human and everyday moment of ritual and reverence. This fragrance is the incense of that span of heartbeats and intent, ensconced in a golden beam of fading afternoon sunlight.

ENAGISMATA Translations of Homer turn up many instances of the evocative phrase “the wine-dark sea,” which, if parsed literally, may simply be describing rough, stormy seas–but I first heard the turn of phrase as the title of one of Robert Aickman collections of weird, unsettling stories. If you’re unfamiliar, this author revels in disquieting tales of haunted psychology and thoroughly unnerving but initially routine and unremarkable experiences. They’re not quite ghost stories but perhaps just quotidian situations and circumstances, slightly off-center, low-key, and almost indefinably mysterious.

If you’ve ever observed the turned-inside-out-mixedup-madness of a multicolored knitted sweater, you can see how you wear the chaos of your clothing so close to the skin, the nightmare side of something so ordinary, carried unknowingly right next to your heart. Enagismata smells of the syzygy-space where these weird divisions of unbothered/uneasy align: both a dark-fruited velvety-opulent wine with a strange, vaguely unearthly terroir and a secretive, slithering salinity, dark and bottomless from the most lightless depths of the ocean; the ways in which these elements relate to each other is in a constant flux that recalls shifting voids and pocket dimensions just outside our experience of reality. But so close, we can almost feel it. Hear it. Smell it.

Five scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Felius Silvestris Catrus Collection

A Girl Knitting smells milky and fruity, except not fruit, but milk that once held fruit. And not even real fruit, but Saturday morning cereal fruit-shaped puffed grains and marshmallows. There’s also a textural element; it smells of rustic textiles, musky, warm fleece with tiny flecks of twig and vegetal detritus not entirely combed out, a fuzzy, wooly strand of yarn spun straight from a freshly shorn sheep, knit with clacking wooden needles into a bulky beanie to keep your ears warm while you slurp your sweet, creamy, fruity cereal milk.

By Day She Made Herself into a Cat is a deep, profoundly relieving gasp of cool, nocturnal air when you’ve been exposed too long to a brutal slash of sunlight.  It’s exactly as the notes suggest, amber and inky black musk in perfect proportions. It smells like swallowing the dark stillness of a midnight dream. This is one of those scents that is very much A Whole Vibe, and if your vibe is Must Love Cats And Darkness, you will probably dig this one.

White Cat is a crisp, airy lemon wafer with a creamy, fluffy vanilla marshmallow filling. But there’s a resinous, ambery element as well; it’s a cookie by way of incense– you don’t eat it,  you scent the room with it.

Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange née de Parseval is the perfumed approximation of your favorite TikTok cat; a whirlwind of musky fur, murky herbs, and backyard grassy litterbox bedevilment scratching at your tattered window screen to the frantically building beat of Darude’s Sandstorm. This review will not hold up with time, and it won’t make sense a year from now, and I don’t even care because I know in my heart this is true. This is a scent, that, like the silliest memes, makes me giggle and makes me want to share it with someone and make them giggle too.

Cat at the Table has notes of gentle white tea and mellow, soothing sandalwood and boasts label art by Leonard Foujita (whose paintings of unsettling girls with their unsettling dolls are some of my favorites!), and maybe it’s because Foujita’s cat has a Richard Scarry Huckle the Cat quality, but or maybe because it’s just a still cat at a table, the calm before the storm, but there’s an undeniable air of charming mischief to this scent, but also of quiet playtime, of nurseries and storytimes and naps. Of milky tea parties in heirloom china cups, puddings sticky with drizzles of marmalade, and the amber-eyed gaze of an old family cat watching with interest as the children’s tea play and sup and grow.

BeauFort London Terror & Magnificence. This is the very gothest thing: tarry, leathery shadows, wet stony paths leading into the teeming dark, and moonless midnights presiding over all. Like being enfolded by bat wings, encased in obsidian, enveloped in a stark abyss. A silent secret from the mouth of one just dead. This departed speaker whom no one hears is you.

Vetiver Bucolique from Mad et Len evokes a sort of sleazy Rococco decadence stalked by a gloomy, predatory nihilism. Oh, you thought I would talk about the various notes and helpful info? Ha ha! I will not! It smells like the kooky, kinky salaciousness of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s iconic painting, The Swing, if you scratched out the creamy pastel frivolity of the faces in some sort of freaky Raskolnokovian frenzy.

Estate Carnation from Solstice Scents is a perfume I’ve talked about everywhere else but here, I guess. Time for a proper review! Ha! As if you’re ever gonna see me write an actual, proper review! Anyhow, Estate Carnation is a deeply gothic glamour amber, a musky murky chypre-adjacent fragrance that smells simultaneously like the figure in the white nightdress running from the manor house with the lone candle lit in the window at midnight and the surprise succubus that this figure is secretly possessed by–it’s all the iconic tropes of Avon Satanic Romance novel, and it’s perfect. If you love deep, mysterious scents and only have the budget for one fragrance this year, Estate Carnation should be the one.

Her Kind from Sorcellerie is a scent and brand that I talked briefly about on TikTok, but I’m not sure I have enough thoughts about either just yet to warrant a proper review. You should watch it if you want to see some really good earrings, though.

Jo Malone’s Mallow on the Moors is a fragrance I mentioned in my Sephora Haul video the other day, and I hoped it might be a little haunted. Not really in the way I was expecting, though. More like a parody from someone who didn’t realize they were writing a parody, which some might look at as a little unfortunate for their creation (no one wants to be unintentionally funny, you know?), but hey, it could also be fun, right?

Imagine you’re a buttoned-up gothic novelist who’s never even taken a lover, and fate has led you straight into the arms of a rakish lothario, a real Bluebeard type. Imagine swoons, sighs, ghosts, old gothic castles, manor grounds, bodies buried in the poison gardens, dead wives in attics, and all that jazz. And then the camera pans out, and this is a Hammer horror production directed by Anna Biller starring Lana del Rey, and it’s trying real hard to be ethereal and phantasmal and misty moors and mossy castles, but somehow it is all high camp and glinting artifice, real Real Housewives of Manderley energy. As to what it smells like, imagine the luminous violet powder of broken, scattered Guerlain Meteorites and the brassy hairspray, champagne-tossed-in-your-faceness of Tom Ford Jasmine Rouge. Imagine all of that sprayed on Dita von Teese in La Perla clutching a guttering candelabra channeling Frau Blücher.

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