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…
🎃 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

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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9 Jun


The above is a little peek at June’s scented thoughts for my lovely Midnight Stinks Patreon supporters.

Every month I take a few moments to do a bit of scentomancy: I throw open the doors of my wooden perfume cabinet, close my eyes and take a big sniff, and reach in to choose a bottle at random. I then spritz a card with the perfume, write some thoughts, and mail them all out…hoping against hope that the aromas of the perfume will have survived the travel!

This month, the selection is Rouge from Comme des Garçons.

Comme des Garçons Rouge is an odd and surprising scent, and at all not what I expected to smell from this glossy, cherry red popsicle of a bottle. It instead reminds me of an artwork by the fabulous and flamboyant Argentinian painter Leonor Fini. In Les Sorcieres, we observe five frenzied witches swarming and swooping on their broomsticks through a swirling blood-red sky. This scent mirrors these feverish sensations of airy, dizzying fizziness and couples them with a terrestrial earthiness, like herbs and leaves and things freshly dug from a garden patch. Rouge smells like an effervescent shrub (the vinegary drink, not the bushy plant. But also minus most of the vinegar) of rhubarb and beet, fiery ginger root, and floral pink pepper. A witch’s cauldron tipple that tapers to a beautiful gingery incense.

Leonor Fini ‘Les Sorcières’ (The Witches), 1959

Les Sorcières makes an appearance in the pages of my book The Art of the Occult: A Visual Sourcebook for the Modern Mystic, although regrettably, you will find no mention of perfume in its accompanying caption. Oh, how I wish a publisher would contract me to write a kooky book pairing works of art with kooky perfume reviews! What a fun idea. Maybe I just need to write that book and hope that someone is interested in publishing it? I mean…that’s about as niche as niche can be, but surely that will appeal to a certain swath of people? What do you all think?

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31 May

Valaya from Parfumes de Marly is lively and elegant and immediately brings to mind the heroine of a period romance, someone you might describe as beautiful, free-spirited, and headstrong. And she probably doesn’t want to marry or have children or live by society’s standards or conventions, and she may in fact, get kicked out of finishing school because she punched one young woman in the mouth and kissed another young woman in the same place. She runs away to Europe, holds feminist salons, and becomes both a secret political power and an ungovernable poet of no small renown. She smells of crisp cotton and luxurious linen pantaloons, the dozens of verdant, woody ferns which adorn every square inch of her Parisian apartment, and the delicate, musky nectar of a ripe peach which she is frequently seen biting into, her sharp, small teeth pausing to smile enigmatically between juicy mouthfuls.

Hygge from Hexennacht has notes of stroopwafels, cardamom-infused custard, oatmeal porridge, and fir, and it smells like a witch’s coffee shop brimming with aromatic baked goodies and artisanal lattes in the midst of an enchanted evergreen forest.

With Stars Surrounded is one of the most recent collaborations between Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and Haute Macabre, and I have tried every single one of their myriad collabs, so I can say without a doubt this one is unbelievably beautiful and is probably my absolute favorite. This is a silvery night queen opalescent moonstone of a scent with notes of coconut, tobacco flower, white tea, and violet.

I really love how I experience the different notes comprising Full Moon (at the Temple) from Poesie Perfume, so separately and distinctly upon the first few minutes of sitting with the scent: the grainy popped corn sweetness of the white rice, yuzu’s tart, sparkling floral citrus complexity, the musty mineralic mossy limestone melancholy of cool lake water. These elements orbit each other independently until they merge, seamlessly and suddenly with the otherworldly holiness of the hinoki wood in a tender, glowing poem of a perfume. The inspiration for Full Moon (at the Temple), Lady Murasaki’s writing rituals, and her pilgrimage east from Kyoto, where at the temple she observed the August moon reflected in the waters of Lake Biwa, these things really speak to me, as a writer who practices my own rituals, who frequently and frustratingly observes the various sums of the disparate words I’m writing forming an eventual, sometimes satisfying, and hopefully beautiful whole. 

Black Chamomile from Bath & Body Works (this is discontinued, but you can find it on sites like Mercari, which I did). I have a soft spot for those Bath & Body Works bedtime aromatherapy blends, and I was intrigued by the idea of this one, even though I apparently found out about it a few years too late. With notes of chamomile and bergamot, it’s a soft, pretty scent that perhaps smells vaguely of chamomile’s apply-floral/sweet straw aspects, but I can’t detect the begamot at all. If anything, it leans somewhat aquatic, with notes of white tea and waterlily. It makes a pleasant pillow mist and room spray and I’m glad I was able to find a bottle and give it a try. (Thanks to LC of nearlynoseblind on TikTok for putting this on my radar.)

My experience with Steamed Rainbow from DS& Durga leaves me in a state of mind to offer impressions rather than a proper review of the perfume: childhood summers scooted out of the house from sunup to sundown by a harried single mother tired of children underfoot during times of day when they are typically in school/dewdrops on grass clippings and neon hibiscus petals hastily evaporating in early July morning Florida heat/my mother’s rare appearances on those afternoons, the scent of those synthetic citrusy florals of her Bain de Soleil sun oil/a rare sprinkler day, the small device rotating and twisting and spitting thin streams of ice cold water, shocking on sun-warmed skin, sizzling on scalding asphalt/that dizzying kaleidoscopic shimmer and spray as a sunbeam prisms through a small splash, a magic summer star in my palm, toes cool in already warming puddles.

DS & Durga sent me a few samples of Pistachio. I know there was a bit of a kerfuffle a few months ago with regard to another Pistachio fragrance, and not being among the perfumetok elite, I am not sure I understand or care to understand what that was all about, but now I can’t think of any kind of Pistachio without internally referencing what I came to think of as “Pistachio Gate.” Drama and silliness aside, and full transparency, I don’t know what a freaking pistachio smells like– my only experience with them is as savory salt-barnacle-crusted nibbles. This fragrance is not that. It’s a soft, cardamom-blossomed, marzipan-petaled, floral meringue, velvety heliotrope musk of a scent, sprinkled with a pinch of vanilla cake mix. Imagine all of that in a fluffy pudding. Now convert that pudding to a plush velour onesie. Ok yes, there it is. An adult onesie full of pudding. Subtly sweet, close to the skin, not really all that potent and yet somehow…aggressively cozy?

Park of the Monsters from In Fieri s a fragrance I found via an Instagram account that I follow. I love reading this person’s thoughts on fragrance because they’re not really reviews structured around opinions and critiques but rather gently disjointed stream-of-consciousness musing. As someone who experiences perfume in terms of dreams, memories, and stories, as opposed to notes, noses, houses, and brands, I connect with their approach. At any rate, I can’t remember what they said about Park of the Monsters, but that’s not the important thing–what matters is that they brought to my attention the reality that there exists a fragrance inspired by a place I have long been obsessed with: the Italian  gardens of Bomarzo, where one may take a serene stroll through a Renaissance horror show filled with massive statues sculpted of volcanic rock– giants, dragons, sea monsters, a gaping hell mouth etched with the phrase, OGNI PENSER VOLA, or “All reason departs.” The fragrance created from memories of childhood visits to the garden actually caused all my reason to depart because before the first spray had fully dried on my wrist, I decided I desperately required a bottle. If you were to climb inside the monstrous, mossy maw of a dead stone god and lose all sense of time and perspective, this is the scent that would slowly descend upon you. Animalic musks of the retro vintage glamour variety, the peppery emerald spice and incense of sacred trees, and hypnotizingly intense florals, not just lilies, but maybe all lilies, each lily there ever was, a confounding, never-ending magic eye painting, a perpetual lily illusion. This is a gorgeous, profoundly thoughtful, and thought-provoking scent, and it is everything I want from the art of perfumery.

I did a lot of research before placing my first order with Cocoa Pink, and all signs on Reddit indie perfume threads pointed to a massive crowd favorite: Ivory Eyelet. With notes of buttercream, lemon curd, marshmallow, and vanilla ice cream, it is the perfumed embodiment of the saccharine froth and frills of this dreamy, gauzy pale lemon meringue cream of a Gunne Sax dress...which is not to say I don’t love it BECAUSE I DO.

I will confess that when I first smelled these perfumes from Andrea Maack I was having a particularly bad day. I told you all about it on TikTok. I was going to smell some Strawberry Shortcake candles and hope things got better. But what actually made it better was the sample selection I was trying from this perfumer. The first and only scent I’d ever tried from Andrea Maack was Coven, and that was a dark, dank scent that smelled like the Witch King of Angmar got wrecked and fell asleep in a mossy gutter just outside the Prancing Pony. I loved it. But these two scents I’m mentioning today are NOTHING like that. The first is Smart,  it’s a powdery vanilla sandalwood tempered by some leathery jasmine musk and it’s less heady than you might expect; it has a similar vibe to Glossier’s You and Studied from Liis, and I don’t mean they smell at all alike, they just feel like the perfect finishing touch to make you feel put together. And, like if you spritz it when you’re feeling less than stellar, it gives you that “I’m smart enough, I’m good enough, and gosh darn it, people like me” energy. Now the other one that I tried is Lightsource, and it is also on the lighter side, by which I guess I mean it’s light as compared Coven’s black mold and decay. It’s pretty, but it’s got an element of the weird, which I always appreciate. There’s the somber gravitas I always, for some reason, associate with perfumery’s green fig note and pink pepper’s tingly rosy effervescent spice. And this is a note that always seems a bit jaunty, gleeful. It’s that imp of the perverse who whispers something silly and inappropriate in your ear then you’re appallingly the gigglingest dickhead at the funeral. These two fragrances cheered me immensely, both sniffing them and thinking about them, and I think it’s safe to say that perfume saved the day.

P.S. now is probably a good time to remind you that I have a Patreon where I talk about perfume-related things that you might not see here (including the snarkier stuff, heh!) There are also giveaway opportunities and a monthly scented missive in your mailbox from yours truly!

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Aurora in white toga smelling a flower, 1864, Jean Louis Hamon

Signature by Aedes de Venustas I feel like if you are going to make a signature fragrance for your brand, then you are likely going to choose notes that are universally loved, you’re going to make something everyone can agree upon, you’re going to make something safe, and probably a little basic. That’s…not what this is. It’s weird. It’s offbeat. It’s utterly unexpected. And it’s incredible. To be fair, it says right in the copy that it aimed to break from traditional perfume structures, but come on, how often have you heard something like that only to smell the same thing you’ve smelled a million times?

What an oddball cast of characters: The tangy, fruity, acidic zest of rhubarb, dry woody incense, and bitter chypre accord with sweet vining notes of honeysuckle, sour green apple, and the sharp aromatic grassiness of tomato leaf. Hazelnut and vetiver are also listed in the notes and add a lovely, cozy warmth, an aspect that you’d think wouldn’t belong here, but somehow it does. If you were going to make a perfume from olfactory extractions of the myriad, wildly differing Fraggle Rock personalities, their goodness and goofiness, their kindness and cleverness, and all their wild dreamy, delirious energy, you would end up with this funny, magical scent.

I am trying another one of Hilde Soliani’s gourmands, and to be fair to the first one that I sampled and didn’t care for, come on. I was never going to like a strawberry scent, anyway. And if you are the person to entice me to fall in love with a strawberry perfume, I will bow to your wizardry. Anyway, Quin is an Italian meringue scent, and while I like it quite a bit, it doesn’t actually have a whole lot to it. It’s not going to tax your brain or challenge you. And sometimes that’s fine! It’s sweet but not sugary, creamy but not in a heavy way– it’s frothy and frilly, not stiff frosting. Vanilla beans steeped in cream whipped to airy peaks. And that’s it.

And I do know that, of course, meringue uses egg whites, not cream, but I have never noticed an egg white that smelled like anything in particular, so I am not trying to be too literal with my meringue perfume review. This is light and sweet and simple, and I like that it doesn’t add any unnecessary notes, like chocolate or fruit or marzipan; it’s not trying to be some impossible confection in the final round of a televised baking competition. It’s nice. And that’s plenty good enough sometimes. Good enough to spend $175 on it? Ah. For me, personally? If I’m spending over $100 on a fragrance, I want a scent that is going to give me something to think about, and I don’t find that to be the case here.

I’m realizing, as I do periodically, that I’ve gotten a little complacent in my efforts to try things from more indie brands. And partially, I think that’s because I know myself pretty well; I decided a long time ago that I’ve already got my favorites. Like, between the years of 2004-2008, I found a handful of stellar brands and a shitload of mediocre disappointments, and I keep defaulting back to that mindset. And I have to remind myself to keep an open mind and just keep trying things. Because as stubborn as I may be and as much as I hate the thought of wasting money, what I hate even more is the thought of missing out on something amazing. I thought a good place to start would be peeking through indie fragrance and indie perfume Reddit threads. I got a lot of good ideas! I put together a list of the top dozen or so brands that were mentioned repeatedly, and if I’ve never ordered from them, I chose a few of the most popular scents. In some cases, there were a few brands mentioned that I’ve heard questionable things about from other perfumers or customers, so they were immediately struck from the list. If it was a place that I’ve ordered from more than once and have been repeatedly disappointed, they did not make the list, either.

In some cases, like the one I’m talking about today, I’ve been ordering amazing soaps and scrubs from Paintbox Soapworks for years now, but weirdly, I’d never tried her perfume oils! I got Blue Besom, which is a beautiful blueberry jam incense fragrance, Capybaras and Yuzus smells like soaking in a steaming mineral bath while eating lush, fuzzy slices of apricot, and remember how I said it would take a wizard to make me like a strawberry perfume? Pynk’s sun-ripened strawberry is tempered with cool floral lilac and sweet, creamy marzipan, and it may well be that magic scent that I insisted does not exist. These fragrances are all subtle, but long-wearing, and each one of them, though they all smell very differently, tugs at a strange, wistful chord of nostalgia in my heart. All three of these are wonderful, so I’m happy to say this is a pretty strong start.

Time is a Phoenix is a scent of the mythical and miraculous, but also of the intensely, personally, mundane. Fed on tears of sacred incense, resinous, volcanic, honeyed, and bittersweet, fanning its own ancient, acrid spice-scented flames, a fiery vision of scarlet and gold and eternal return, the scent left in wake of this being is incendiary, incandescent, immortal. A funeral pyre flipped through a pinhole in the darkened chamber of a camera obscura, the ashes of the afterimage captured in a winding sheet of amber: the wild, joyful zest of loving, the sour sighing sorrow of leaving, the impossible weeping, sweating, earthy-tethered, salty-sweetness of living– and through it all, climbing into our own, us-shaped mortal infernos, again and again, and again.

Oil and Flight and Vision from BPAL and exclusive to bloodmilk for Sphinx and Snakeskin is rooty and resinous, dark and droll, and brings to mind Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Hamatreya,” in which the poet reveals the earth song of dark-humored flowers, laughing to see the men who steer the plows unable to steer clear of the grave. How every one of them who lay claim to the land, who wished to control it, are now asleep beneath the very dirt they thought they owned. I like to imagine subversive, psychoactive roots and blossoms–hallucinogenic henbane, tarry opium, bittersweet mugwort–growing from the bones of those dead and being used in enigmatic preparations like fabled witches’ flying ointments. And whether or not those witchly botanical balms induced actual levitation and soaring under a full moon through the midnight air or was key to a ritual for one to travel the astral planes in spirit, I delight in the imagery of witches being borne aloft on the musky-throated gallows humor of grim growing things sprung forth from and thriving in grave dirt.  Oil and Flight and Vision perfectly encapsulates the poetry of that sentiment.

Urban Beekeeper from DSH Perfumes, and it’s the most beautiful honey-inspired scent I have ever tried. They can often be so syrupy and cloying, and at their worst, they somehow smell like a urinal (am I the only one to think honey perfumes lean toward old pee sometimes??) This one is lightly floral, with a subtle citrus zing, and is quietly effervescent. The honey is still at the forefront, but it’s more of a wispy veil than a golden glop of it. This is definitely going on the full bottle list! There is actually a list. Every time I say something is “full bottle worthy” this year, I’m adding it to the list, and at the end of 2023 I am treating myself to a bottle or two. (Unlike the last two years, wherein my collection somehow doubled.)

In other perfume news, I am marinating in a scent I loved in high school, Chloé Narcisse. It smells of the things that built me: Heidi and The Secret GardenDracula, and Rebecca. A parlor of florals bitterly spiced with the temptations of darkness and shadowed with a strange sadness, but still, always peeking toward a life that is sunny and sweet.

Dollhouse from Astrid Perfumes. I tried this brand in what feels like a past life, back when they were called blooddrop and if I recall correctly, I think the maker also sold bespoke corsetry. But that was a long time ago, and I don’t remember any of their scents. Dollhouse, with notes of raspberry, vanilla, grapefruit, calendula, and bergamot is a hypersaturated hallucinatory Lisa Frank folder funhouse fruit salad of a scent. I think this is a fragrance that would be so much fun for jellyshoe flipflop string-shouldered neon sundress summertimes and though I don’t know if I would associate this with dollhouses, I try not to critique or judge inspiration. Like the Boulet Brothers say on every episode of Dragula, “We’re not here to judge your drag. Drag is art and art is subjective.” The artful inspiration that goes into the creation of a fragrance is intensely personal, and if this is what a perfumer imagines a dollhouse smells like, who am I to argue with that? For myself, I think it smells like technicolor dolphins tie-dye unicorns, and kaleidoscopic rainbow daydreams.


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Three Perfumes 1912 By Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh

New Valaam from Phronema perfumes is a fragrance inspired by the Alaskan Spruce Island hermitage of New Valaam, named so by holy man and clairvoyant wonderworker Father Herman, a monk who was eventually sainted in 1970. A scent celebrating wildlife and the fertility of nature, it opens with bitter, brittle greenery preserved in a bygone botanist’s notebook: a small curl of fern, fronds fanned into shrunken shadow against the page, crest crumbling into dry dust. But by some manner of perfumer’s alchemy, you can smell where that fern once furled:  the dew dewdrops on wildflowers, lily of the valley and forget me nots, yarrow and aster, the faint, wild musk of a snowshoe hare streaking through lichen. In a strange but not entirely unpleasant twist, the scent dries a bit soapy and sour and yeasty, not entirely unlike wet dog ears. This is such an interesting and unique green scent, and though it’s not something I can see myself wearing, I do think it’s nice to just spray the sample and think about it.

Corfu Kumquat from Aedes de Venustas: In a small Greek village built on the slopes of the island’s highest mountain is a quietly atmospheric little ghost town with only two or three permanent inhabitants. One of them is a kumquat that never fully ripened, too sour and pithy for marmalade and liqueurs, too small and strange to be of much practical use. Perhaps it was overlooked. Perhaps it forged its own little path in life. It’s now the local guide for the village, steering tourists hither and yon along cobblestone roads, sharing historical anecdotes and eerie legends, and finally depositing them at the gift shop once the excursion has concluded. As the crowd disperses, it reaches into its pocket for a cigarette and lights up in the cool shade of an ancient stone cottage, exhaling smoke through its citrus peel pores, whirling and curling in satisfying vaporous salt-air swirls, while catching glimpses of the sun glinting on the sea through the undulating mountains.

So…Poivre Sacre, or Holy Pepper, from Parfums Caron. For some brief backstory as to why I’m sampling this right now, whenever a perfume is mentioned in a book I’m reading, if it’s something I’ve never heard of or that I haven’t tried before, I’m always keen to track it down. I recently read Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent, which I was wildly looking forward to after having finally read The Ninth House, and one of the characters was wearing Caron Poivre, described as smelling of “clove, tuberose, amber.” Unfortunately, I think even the reformulation of Poivre is discontinued. So, I got the samples of the next closest things on the Caron site: Poivre Imperial and Poivre Sacre. And here we are. This is a gorgeously dry scent: the bitter, bracing bite of black pepper that somehow runs both cool and hot, leathery, smoky woods that feel like a cross between palo santo and cedar, and hints of grassy, earthy, bittersweet saffron and the tiniest dash of sour, pungent cumin, to keep things interesting. This is a very close-to-the-skin scent that makes me think of candle flames and shadows and secrets, chasing the darkness to its depths, following a temptation –without succumbing– straight to its sinful, sulfurous source, and you, glowing, incandescent, a lit match in hell.

On one hand, I am clearly enjoying my sample of Liis Luciennne— it is all but sniffed through–on the other hand, I can’t really see myself wearing this fragrance. This is not a rose perfume, and yet it’s the most beautiful rose scent I’ve ever experienced. A bright, perfect citrusy midsummer afternoon rose when there’s not a cloud in the sky, and the sun is an explosion of lemonade-scented joy, and dipping your feet in the cold water sputtering from the sprinklers sends the most delirious shivers of delight up your spine. And the more you splash around, the more you are compelled to take a deep dive to the bottom of the pool or, better yet, the tranquil currents of the ocean. This rose has a lovely, serene aquatic aspect, a fresh marine musk, and it’s less rose at this point and more mermaid, swimming in peaceful tides while the sun beams a watery light through the warm, turquoise waves. So why can’t I see myself wearing it? Honestly, it’s too perfect. It’s like a rose who is a mermaid who is also a cheerleader and valedictorian and is a natural leader and is never awkward and always knows the right thing to say and would definitely never lock themselves in a bathroom and cry in a party because they were feeling overwhelmed and shy and just wanted to go home. This is a rose that is not even actually a rose and one that is also not me, and I’d feel like a giant fraud every time I wore it. I often think of the transformative power of fragrance and how a spritz of perfume is akin to slipping into another skin and magical and liberating that can be. So why can’t I pretend for a while? I think I’m just so set in my ways as a grimy little hermit-hearted gremlin that as much as I admire that immaculately rosy person I’ve described, I’ve long let go of wanting that for myself.

Jorum Spiritcask opens with notes that waver wildly between blithe, breezy, and aerated, as well as viscous, syrupy, and raisiny. Like stewed prunes gone parasailing through the fluffiest-tufted cumulus clouds. Unfortunately, their ultimate destination appears to be a cloying, claustrophobic rootbeer-filled oak-barrel hot tub orgy, and that’s a scene I’m just not into. If you ever thought, “boy I sure wish Hypnotic Poison were 1000% more potent and suffocatingly gaggy!” this may be for you.

Fraaagola Salaaata from Hilde Soliani is fun for a split second; it smells like strawberry Jello-scented lipgloss or a tiny bottle of effervescent summer berry eau de toilette that was sold alongside Angel Face Barbie in the 80s. Very sweet, no nuance or complexity (though I do think that’s sort of the point of a perfume like this.) BUT then it becomes this monstrous vision of a wild strawberry kiwi ice-breeze-whatever vape pen shoved up a half-melted red gummy bear’s butt, and even more horrifying still, a plume of vape juice smoke billows out of its squished little vape bro mouth, and oh my god I am gagging again you don’t even want to see the face I am making just now.

photo by me; background art by Tino Rodriguez

I don’t want to end on a sour note with those last two bummers, so here are four more silk flower perfume oil blends from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Lupercalia Collection!

Blue Silk Rose, with notes of sugared violets and dried blackberry and elusive hints of citrusy rose and smoky musk, is a light, impish fruity floral that’s the olfactory equivalent of excellent advice from astrologist Rob Brezny, something fun about liberating our imaginations and encouraging us to visualize life as a mythic quest. It’s the playful poetry of the weightless, mid-air hops and skips between dodging the shadows or jumping over the cracks in the sidewalk, a bright pop of color on a grey day, a tiny reprieve from the everythingness of everything in a waft of fleeting sweetness.

Silk Tiger Lily very nearly gives me savory vibes when sniffed right out of the bottle–something like saffron and cumin mingled spice cupboard tendrils– and from there on, the evolution is just rapid-fire-revelatory. First, a briny ginger fire, a spicy salinity, as if the knobby little rhizome has been treated to an oceanic pickling; then, seamlessly, a warm, peppery floral with a nose-tickling lemon halo, beautiful, bracing, and buoyant.

Black Silk Orchid looms from the vase sweet and shadowy, summoning associations of a trio of BPALs I know and love: the dark brown sugared musks of Smut, the deeply vanilla-patchouli incense of Snake Oil, and Haunted‘s murky, mysterious amber glow. There’s a breezy element that runs through it, though, something that sets it apart, conjuring something wholly new. It’s a thin, weird wind, not brisk and autumnal and not of the gentle spring variety; it’s not outdoorsy at all. More like a draft from deep within your home that you can’t locate, a door that maybe you didn’t even know was there, ajar and inviting things from beyond. It’s full of darkness and a bit dusty, emanating from somewhere utterly, disturbingly unknown. A prickling shiver you feel when somewhere in the old house, in an unused, forgotten room, a vampire quietly steps out from inside a grandfather clock at the stroke of midnight.

Silk Daffodil is profoundly green and sticky sweet, a heady murmur of celadon syrup and crushed emerald honey, veined with dark whispers of woody-floral spice and a last gasp of jasmine-orange blossom-vanilla.


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I’m afraid these reviews will be a bit shorter and to the point, much more so than my typical long-winded rambles. I am suffering from some wrist and thumb pain, and I don’t know if it is carpal tunnel badness or something to do with being a million years old, but it is, unfortunately, rendering typing quite excruciating. So I am challenging myself to an economy of words, in saying what needs to be said in as few characters as I can get away with. We’ll see how it goes with the following bakers’ dozen of Lupercalia scents from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab!

Green Silk Carnation (cypress-green carnation petals crushed into grass, hemp flowers, and weed) A sweet vegetal mustiness with a tiny amount of terpenic funk, which as it wears is, at turns, sweeter and greener, never committing to one or the other. It dries to a frosty-soapy pleasantness. It has a chilly, verdant vibe that calls to mind the greenhouses in a snowstorm from the first story in Kelly Link’s forthcoming collection White Cat, Black Dog.

Pink Silk Peony (cotton candy peonies, rose cream, and white cognac) Sweet, cold strawberry ice cream scented with lush, velvety rose petals; alternatively, if the entire cast of Rose Petal Place were whizzed up in your ice cream maker, with fresh cream and tons of sparkling sugar.

How Write The Beat Of Love (red musk, red mango, labdanum, black honey, black gardenia, Indonesian patchouli, and champaca blossom) A swoon and sweep of pulpy fruits, deeply jammy, wine-drunk on umbral honey.

Dalliance With A Comedian On Stage (sawdust and red musk, blueberries, black currant, plum blossom, sake, rose petals, and frankincense) A fruity-herbal tea, left to steep and steam in a porcelain cup, now fermenting in a jar. Berries and blossoms begin as a humble, wholesome tisane but somehow end up a tart, tipsy kombucha.

Chocolate Chypre (no notes listed) Cocoa butter incense smoke, the mysterious aura of scholarly studies late into the evening, accompanied by a chocolatey treat rummaged from deep within velvet peacoat pockets.


White Silk Chrysanthemum (vanilla floral aldehyde laced with spicy chrysanthemum) An enchantingly fizzy vanilla cream soda/ ebullient ginger ale hybrid, but not something you’d want to drink; rather, the scent of a strange, invisible bloom trailing up a trellis, something you walk by every day without really noticing, and then one day the breeze blows just so, bobbing its petals invitingly. Intrigued, entranced, you stop to sniff it, and in that small instance, with the slightest deviation from your path– everything changes forever. This is the scent of that singular, crystalline moment, tremulous and flickering, between the before and the after.

The Morning Star Among The Living (black fig encased in saffron-threaded amber)  The scent of a honeyed, floral lozenge that began as a liqueur made from macerating figs –both the delicate, fresh fruit as well as their rich, dried, pruney counterparts–in two parts bourbon to one part vanilla. Mash the pulp and the liquid together, simmer until very thick and allow to set on cool, aromatic eucalyptus leaves. Administer these sweet drops as needed to individuals who pride themselves on their brutal honesty, but you suspect they enjoy the inherent cruelty of that sentiment more than the idea of actual truthfulness and sincerity.

An Oiran on New Year’s Day (polished mahogany, black tea, green cardamom, russet peppercorn, and ginger root) Dark, fruity woods, rich, rosy, and resinous. This is a scent that becomes darker and darker and begins to smell both rare and obscure and somehow a bit crafty and cunning, something you’d find on the black market from a dealer whose expertise lies in acquisition rather than provenance.

Contest of Colors, Pink Peach Blossoms and White Plum Flowers (pink peach blossoms, white plum flowers, carnation petals, labdanum, skin musk, and white amber) Reaching down into a barrel of vibrant fruit blossom flavored hard candies, just to feel all of those thousands of small, sweet treasures with your fingertips, pushing further down through their cool weight, sugared orbs clicking together like porcelain buttons, glass eyes, faceted gems, a plume of fragrance released, boiled syrup and dripping fruit flesh, and frothy clouds of frilled, perfumed petals.

Wandering Eye (blackcurrant, carrot seed, rose otto, immortelle, salt musk, violet leaf absolute, and lemon peel) First off, get a gander at that label art! Long-time readers of this blog will no doubt instantaneously recognize what I have come to think of as The Eyes of Becky Munich, as this artist’s eerie ocular renderings are truly things of eldritch beauty. And though I was not familiar with the particular sonnet that this fragrance was inspired by, there is no denying that the scent overall encapsulates the mournful lyricism that I associate with Edna St. Vincent Millay. For me, this is more a whispery, poetic feeling with an exquisitely elegiac quality–somewhere between gothic melodrama and tragic Victorian fairy poetry– than it is an actual smell that I can pinpoint …but envision this: a handful of sweet, dried chamomile brewed in a teacup of tears and pebbled with precious stones gathered from a reliquary; left as a graveside offering on a day when the sky is sullen, and the light is bruised and the descent of evening fog, milky, opaque, thick as wool, concludes the silent ceremony.

Courtiers and Cats (amber musk, cedarwood, agarwood, spikenard, black pepper, cacao, tobacco absolute, toasted cardamom, and cream) The biscuity warmth of musk and roasted cocoa beans, a sassy spike of black pepper, spikenard’s earthy, dirt-between-paws mustiness; between the woods and the amber and the hint of creaminess, this is a softly rumbling purr of comfort and coziness.

Aristocratic Warriors (gleaming tamahagane, polished leather, and auburn amber) A clan of juicy citrus samurai brandishing swift, shining steel swords and disco dancing; not a “lemon party” in popular parlance, but also, a lemon party is exactly what this is: a party of literal lemons, jubilant and joyful, bright, bouncy, and boogieing down. “Boogieing down”? Oh, Sarah. Are you Stephen King-old now? Also, there are no lemon notes in this scent, so maybe like King’s telepathic chef at that haunted hotel, I’m smelling something that’s not there right before I’m hit with the shinning.

Dark Chocolate, Blackcurrant, Rosewater, and Apricot (no notes listed) The most exquisite chocolate truffle, hand-piped with a velvety wild woodland brambleberry jam filling, enrobed with another layer of chocolate, embellished with freeze-dried bilberry pieces and rose petals. You’ll only find this treat deep in the forest at a pop-up stand run by hedgehogs with little purple jam-stained claws and sugar-crusted quills.


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

Need more Lupers? Have a peep at my Lupercalia reviews from 2022 // 2021 // 2020 // 2017. unfortunately, things between and before those years were written for other sites, and I wasn’t cross-posting to my own blog at that time. Lesson learned I can assure you!

And you might be wondering, “why don’t you ever post these reviews on the BPAL forums?” I was honestly just asking myself the same question the other day. I’ve been on the forums forever but never posted reviews there because, early on, I was just too self-conscious. And if you look at my profile at, it says I’ve been a member since 2011, but that’s not true! I was a member under another name (ok, a few other names) since the forum opened in 2004 or 2005. I’ve been there since the beginning!  And now, all these years later, I have a comfort level for writing about fragrance and have more or less found my voice, but I guess it would feel weird and somehow…. interloping? overstepping? who do I think I am-ing?  to start posting my reviews there all of a sudden? Am I being dumb and precious about it? I don’t know!

Anyway…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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