Between the years of 2016-2020 I wrote several reviews of the wildly imaginative aromatic enchantments from visionary indie perfumer Solstice Scents. Sadly, the site which hosted all of these reviews shuttered its bloggy doors last year and so the reviews are no longer available for curious scent-seekers to find and read. I thought that was a shame, so I gave them a new home, here, at Unquiet Things! Below you will find a collection of all of these reviews. I have linked back to the product page on the Solstice Scents site where possible, but please keep in mind that some of these scents are seasonal and not available at the moment…
After The Rain: (Lilac, Wisteria, Blue Lotus, Rain, Green Accord, Wild Violets, Earth) Is a misty watercolor painting of a fragrance, conjuring romantic visions of an elegant lady of the manor looking up from her ledgers to wistfully gaze out at her garden on a cool, rainy morning in early spring. Delicate, purple florals, restrained greenery, and the ghostly tracing of rainwater on a chilled glass windowpane. I wouldn’t quite call this an aquatic, but I hesitate to call to call it a floral. Can we pretend that there is a category of fragrance called “haunting breeze?”
Cameo: (Almond, Rose, Yellow Cake, Tonka Bean, Coconut, Ginger and Red Orange) Creamy almond cake batter with rose petals, softly folded in. The oven is still heating and as the kitchen warms, the fragrances of lightly spiced ginger and milky, vanillic coconut waft from the bowl. On my skin, this confection never bakes fully through, and all the notes all remain slightly separate throughout the duration of the scent.
Blossom Jam Tea Cakes: (Southern Tea Cakes, Petit Fours, Floral Infused Jams & Preserves and a Delicate Aroma of Tea) I am not generally a fan of gourmands, but I do know that Solstice Scents always hits the mark with their delectable dessert-influenced fragrances… and though perhaps Blossom Jam Tea Cakes is not–initially– my cup of tea, I can recognize that it’s a lovely portrayal of these dainty tea-time delicacies. Fluffy cakes, jammy preserves, and, later, the rich sweetness of buttercream round out this fragrance. Several hours later I catch whiffs of a plastic-y vanilla from wrist, and that is fine with me; it reminds me of sniffing the heads of my Strawberry Shortcake dolls when I was a little girl, and it’s a comforting reminder that sometime a little sweetness can be a very nice thing.
Chiffon: (Vanilla, White Amber, White Musk & Lemon Myrtle EO) At first spray this is LEMON– a bright, tart, enormous face-punch of tangy yellow juice and sour, citric acid. What’s interesting is that it dissipates almost immediately and an airy sweetness emerges, which becomes a whipped cream/marshmallow note as it lingers upon the skin. Chiffon is a “dual concept fragrance” that brings together the sweet and refreshingly tart taste of Lemon Chiffon pie and the wispy beauty of chiffon fabric.
Cliffside Bonfire (Conifers, dry woods, rain, saltwater, seaweed, ambergris (vegan), charred wood, smoke) is a woody, coniferous aquatic fragrance–and before you immediately tune out at “aquatic”, let me assure you that this is not the sort of milquetoast, watery “aquatic” that you may remember from high school in the 90’s, though anecdotally, this does remind me of certain high school experiences. This is dry woods, sea spray-kissed skin, and the barest hint of pine and spruce; I don’t get very much smoke or fire or char from this at all. It vividly recalls for me sunset streaked summer evenings after spending from noon until nightfall at the beach with my freshman year-boyfriend. Skin too hot to the touch from sun and hormones, sand in our hair and on our tongues, salt-tinged kisses and the impatient, inexperienced fumbling at damp swimsuit strings..twenty five years later this perfume causes a sweet, clenching ache, low in my stomach (and a strange, sexy nostalgia for a dude that kind of turned out to be a turd.)
Corvin’s Smoked Apple (Applewood Smoke, Apple, Caramel, Benzoin, Guaiacwood) I am not a huge fan of apple scents, I guess I’m afraid they’re going to smell like those horrible green apple martinis, which in turn smell like those super gross Jolly Ranchers. And don’t get me wrong–I actually love apples, that is to say, the real thing. I don’t much care for the eating of fruit overall (don’t fear for my health–I love vegetables!) but I have been known to say that the apple is the only fruit worth a damn. So it’s not that I don’t like them! I generally just don’t like apple-scented things; they’re typically a neon, cartoon parody of their true selves. So, knowing this about myself, the sampling, then, of Corvin’s Smoked Apple is such a marvelously wonderful surprise; this is the most sweetly nuanced smoke-scent I have ever encountered: woodsmoke; smoldering apple bits, if you, say, roasted a Honeycrisp over a campfire; the burnt caramelized edges of a brown-sugar-y baked thing, and a touch of earth and detritus from the forest floor that has crept into the flames. Unexpected and utterly delicious.
Desert Thunderstorm (Desert Sage, Pinyon Pine & Resin, Petrichor, Sweetgrass, Creosote Bush, Sand, Ponderosa Pine, Smoke) Richard Thomas explains that many natural dry clays and soils “…evolve a peculiarly characteristic odor when in contact with moisture,” and notes that this odor is particularly prevalent in arid regions and widely associated with the first rains after a period of drought. Thomas, working with partner Joy Bear, discovered a yellowish oil–trapped in rocks and soil but released by moisture–that appeared to be responsible for this smell, and the oil itself came to be named petrichor (from the Greek petra, meaning stone, and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.) This scent of petrichor –the blood of the stone– is the powerful opening blast of Desert Thunderstorm. Steaming gusts of hot stone and earth, upon which beads of moisture dance and sizzle, and release a fizz of aerosols resulting in the scent of wet dirt and minerals. Later, the fragrance of peppery, sun-baked sagebrush and pine’s verdant astringency mingles with the dusty, resinous scent of distant canyon fire and the subtle sweetness of milky, musty sweetgrass. I’ve never spent time meditating in the desert (or any time in any desert at all, actually) but this is precisely how I envision a strange desert journey alone, curling inward with myself and my demons, for a spell of mediation and healing.
Estate Vetiver (Estate Vanilla, Vetiver, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Lime) A perfume for vetiver and patchouli lovers, Estate Vetiver is a dank, dream of a scent that is raw, and narcotic and strange. With this one I smell only what I see in my mind’s eye, which is the damp, rotting splinters of a ship wreck, portentous dark skies and piercing sea breezes, and the lost and vengeful ghosts of two young women haunting a band of rogue pirates. As you can imagine, Estate Vetiver is my favorite among Solstice Scents Spring Collection.
Gibbon’s Mischief Night (Sugar Cookies, Vanilla Frosting, White Chocolate Popcorn, Toasted Marshmallow, Graham Crackers, Gibbon’s Boarding School, Cream Soda, Bourbon, Pear Brand) Having spent a goodly amount of time in the kitchen baking, I can assure you that I know a thing or two about invoking the temptations of a sugary-sweet atmosphere, a beacon to thieving, sweet-toothed bandits everywhere, and their corresponding rotten, sneaky fingers. And also, yes, I know, I began this piece talking about fall feelings and autumnal observations and all that, but, whatever it is that the weather is doing, I cannot overlook that it is, in fact, already the second week of December and these seasonal treats aren’t going to bake themselves! At any rate, the masterminds at Solstice Scents far exceed my admittedly scant expertise when it comes to alerting the tummies to rumble and calling forth the midnight cookie sneaker. The scent’s backstory: “The austere and formidable Gibbon’s Boarding School will be opening its doors for the annual Mischief Night: a night of Halloween costumes, live music, apple bobbing and games of hide-and-seek within its extensive rooms and gardens.” Now, I (sadly) don’t live in Solstice Scents’ fictional town of Foxcraft, nor have I attended anyone’s Mischief Night celebratory revels, but just as with anything else in life–if there’s an abundance of free food, I will accept your invitation. I envision a refreshments table staggering under the weight of a multitude of mouth-watering promises: sugar cookies iced with orange-colored vanilla frosting, popcorn smothered in creamy white chocolate, charming little toasted marshmallow pillows studded with graham cracker crumbles, and vanilla cream soda punch spiked with golden, oaky bourbon and a nip of pear brandy. This enchanting combination of confiture, though it needs no embellishment, is subtly enhanced by the hallowed halls and history of the sprawling brick school, itself. Dry, cracked leather, dusty woodwork, and autumn air round out this complex, gourmand fantasy
Full Dark’s (Amber resin, saffron, black rose, black musk, oud, fossilized amber, leather, smoked amber, spice) opening notes give the impression of a scent both heavy and heady, redolent of resins, rich, earthy leather, and a subtle, animalic note that lends to a musky sweetness as the scent warms on the skin, it’s a scent that somehow leaves me feeling remarkably light-hearted. During my childhood FL summers, we would at least once, usually around the fourth of July, make a visit to our Aunt’s mobile home park. We didn’t see her often, despite the fact that she only lived twenty minutes away (I don’t think she and my mother got along very well), so these trips were a rare treat. We’d spend all day in the lukewarm community pool packed with other kids like us, and their beleaguered parents, and then we’d dine on hot dogs and pretzels for supper, with a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert. The kind with the tiny, black vanilla-bean flecks in it–which I had never seen before, and for a 10-year-old kid, seemed pretty exotic. As the sun disappeared for the day, I would sit with my bowl of unadorned dessert–no chocolate syrup for me, thanks– a shabby old towel draped over my head, goose-pimpled and freezing in that remarkably efficient air-conditioning, and flipping through my uncle’s Playboy magazines, which apparently no one thought was weird and for which nobody ever scolded me. Once my swimsuit was no longer sopping wet, I’d step out onto the open carport, where the rest of my family was softly chatting and waiting for fireworks to light up the balmy evening’s shadows. As the chill faded from my small bones, and I drank the sweet, milky remainder of my ice cream from the bowl, I recall idly wondering about future summers and future me and where does it all lead? As the sky came alive, alight with the glittering explosions of infinite possibilities, I took my mother’s slender hand, and I felt her smile down at me in the darkness. Full Dark recalls for me those long ago evenings of warmth and sweetness and inextinguishable wonder.
Gin Flower, pictured above: (Osmanthus, Elderflower, Apricot, Vanilla, Juniper, Lime, Manuka Honey Accord (Vegan), Pear, Citron, Hawaiian Sandalwood) Ok, so if you ever invite me out for a drink, and maybe I step away to powder my nose just as you happen to get the bartender’s attention–you can never go wrong with ordering a stiff gin & tonic for me. Ever since I took a sip of my grandmother’s G&T at the tender age of four and promptly burst into tears (I thought it was a tumbler of ice water!) I’ve been both obsessed and repelled by this crisp, classic cocktail. There’s something about the aromatic, pine-y gin, the bitter quinine of the tonic, and the sour, zesty astringence of that essential twist of lime that has me both “ahhhh-ing” with satisfaction while simultaneously pulling that “blech!” face. Gin Flower is based off a gin and St. Germain elderflower liqueur cocktail and is the first in a series of cocktail perfumes at Solstice Scents. It starts off with a piquant blast of juniper that is immediate and prominent and takes me back to that first quaff of my grandmother’s acrid aperitif, but shortly softens to a citrus-y, honeyed floral and sweet woods that wears very close to the skin.
Gunnerson’s Pumpkin Patch (Leaves, Vines, Autumn Air, Pumpkin Flesh, Lavender, Moss, Balsam, Tonka, Hay, Caramel, Dirt, Patchouli, Mushroom) I’m not sure how to talk about this scent without sounding incredibly morbid, so I have to preface what I am going to say here by telling you that I mean it in the best possible way: Gunnerson’s Pumpkin Patch smells like digging up the corpse of your grandmother in late autumn and sharing a slice of warm pumpkin pie with her. Okay. Well. Maybe not digging up her corpse, that’s a bit extreme. Perhaps picnicking at your granny’s grave? That sounds a little nicer, right? So for starters…although I don’t recall in my lifetime that my grandma often wore Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew– that iconic vintage elixir and rich, balsamic, aldehydic, powerhouse of a perfume– I do have memories of all her jewelry carrying the phantom of its bouquet, and that’s what I smell first in Gunnerson’s Pumpkin Patch: the gauzy, gossamer ghost of its resinous amber/patchouli grandeur. Next, in anticipation of my visit, I have made a pie with the requisite can of Libby’s orange puree, sweetened it with swirls of caramel, and bedecked its glossy surface with fiery-bright maple leaves; I have carried it, still cooling in its aluminum pie pan, through the rusted cemetery gates, late autumn vegetation at my feet, the sun deeply hidden in a sky heavy with clouds. I meet no one along the path to her gravestone, and as the bittersweet spectre of her signature scent mingles with the chilled afternoon air and the buttery steam rising from the crimped pie crust, I kneel, and with quiet reverence, carefully carve two slices.
Headmaster (Apple, bourbon, oak, cedar, pipe tobacco, applewood, amber, spices) opens with ripe, red fruits, the nose-tickling delight of high quality pencil shavings, and a blast of sweetened, unlit pipe tobacco. I imagine the experience of being trapped, as a sullen teenager, at a posh boarding school during the summertime might smell a bit like this; all of your classmates are jetting out to Amalfi or the the French Riviera, but your mother has remarried and is honeymooning in Egypt with her new husband; her final words to you, over a rushed, static-filled overseas phone call were along the lines of, “…garble garble I’m sure you understand, love you darling garble garble see you on Christmas break…!”
There’s a skeleton staff, all of the professors are on break except the creepy one whom no one but you has ever seen (that’s weird, right?) but the cook is very much a real, solid creature–she thinks you’re a dear and makes your favorite treat every night: baked apples en flambé, the secret ingredient being a generous nip of the headmaster’s special bourbon. You savor it at the bottom of the massive staircase every night, spoon in one hand, your other hand languidly sliding along the oaken bannisters, polished smooth by the hands of all of the young ladies over the years who have attended this strange institution. The golden glow of the setting sun glimmers through the ornate stained glass set into building’s solid front doors, and between the dust motes dancing in the amber light, vague shapes begin to take form, swirling and eddying, coalescing into an almost-human shaped cloud. You rub your eyes, sleepily, and the vision is gone.
Loggia (Mahogany, Amber, Musk, Vanilla Bean, Allspice, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Cognac & Sandalwood) Imagine the poshest, most polished home you’ve ever been invited to, recall the awe you felt traversing its passageways and the illicit delight you felt at peeking in every doorway and chest of drawers, and that may give you a minute inkling of Loggia’s appeal. Conjure the memory of those opulent wooden doors with their exacting filigree details; creamy white European linen draped on tables whose construction may be older than the country in which you’re currently living; an enormous, roaring fireplace where exotic woods crackle and blaze merrily; a silvery, bright kitchen from which the most ambrosial aromas drift, sparking visions of delicacies and confections the likes of which you, you poor sod, have never before experienced. An elegant glass snifter with a generous pour of deep amber liquid shimmers in the firelight. (You’re too young to drink that, but you’re quite certain it tastes of clover honey and sweet tea and vanilla wafers, and it will make you feel giddy and giggly and important and maybe a little sad.) Have you ever been to such a place? Have I? Or have I only read of it in books, or dreamed it?
Master Bedroom (Soft Skin Musk, Sandalwood EO, Amber, Clove EO, Somalian Myrrh EO, Vanilla, Aged Patchouli EO and Champaca Absolute.) Delicate musks and airy vanilla, powders and lotions; this is, at first, the scent of warmed skin after a perfumed bath. The dampness from the tub, toweled tenderly, then softly massaged with fragrant oils, and finally wrapped in a silken robe redolent of the resins and incenses that had been stored nearby. A soft, spicy clove component, along with a strangely unidentifiable grassy/woody dried floral note, round out this cozy scent that is the very definition of an evening of self-care.
Midnight Marquee (Black Musk, Gasoline, Supple Leather, Earth, Tobacco, Moss, Leaves, Foxcroft Air, Vanilla Musk) makes me think of a noir-esque episode of your favorite contemporary television series (remember when they did that with Pretty Little Liars? P.S. are you a PLL fan? Let’s chat!) It’s as if a black and white filter has been draped over what might otherwise be a creamy, sarsaparilla-y vanilla musk, lending it an air of melodrama and intrigue. The gasoline and leather ride in, circling, bold, intimidating, at first, but then settle down and combine with the sweet, earthy tobacco and moss to create a gorgeously atmospheric, full-bodied femme fatale of a scent.
Mountain Vanilla: (Sweet Clover, Coumarin, Vanilla Musk, Fresh Green Accord, Poplar Buds, Morning Dew) Described as “…a coumarin-heavy scent with vanilla and light green elements,” Mountain Vanilla is…not the vanilla that I thought it was going to be! I guess that’s what I get for not reading the full description until just now. Coumarin, if you are wondering, is described as smelling of new-mown hay–and there is definitely a warm, sweetly herbaceous aspect to this fragrance. Don’t be put off by the opening notes, which smelled aggressively chemical to my nose for a few moments; it’s a stinging tang that burns off quickly before those grassy vanilla notes and subtle green nuances materialize. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything quite like it; it really does evoke imagery of an Appalachian meadow brimming with sweet clover and dew-dappled ferns and the soft musk of a Bambi or two.
Postprandial (Vanilla, Irish Cream, Coffee, Chocolate, Bourbon, Pipe Tobacco) is a dark gourmand fragrance, an evening’s libation incorporating a medley of liqueurs, among them sweet, creamy vanilla, and woody, oak-heavy bourbon, and which contains a true cacao absolute and an organic dark roast coffee tincture. An ice-cold thimbleful of this boozy draught is a nightcap more potent than you might initially realize–so guide your midnight spritzes accordingly, and prepare for the sweetest of midsummer dreams.
Russian Caravan (Amber, smoked black tea, leather, pine resin, Earth, smoke, black currant, black pepper) is an impressively leather-forward scent. I don’t own any leather jackets, but I’ve smelled a great many of them (I’ve lived next door to the annual Bike Week revelries in Daytona Beach for most of my life, after all) but rather than stinking of sleazy bars and unwashed summer bodies, this is a lovely, worn-in leather that smells of an early June trek through forest greenery, a soft, piney astringency mixed with the tart sweetness of woodland berry bushes. And no hike is complete without a flask of lapsang souchong tucked into your pocket, right? (Wait, is that not a thing?) The fragrance of this dark, smoky tea takes a backseat to the other notes, but is a dry, peppery constant woven throughout
Sacred Vow (Vanilla, Amber, Bay Rum, Sandalwood, Oak, Patchouli, Vetiver, Saffron, and Lime)<–I don’t know if these notes are accurate, so I will update if I find anything different! There is something delightfully old-fashioned feeling about Sacred Vow, and I mean that in the most beautiful way possible, not in the “ew this smells like old lady” sense that you sometimes see mentioned on perfume reviewing forums. Ahem. Warm, spicy, and resinous, Sacred Vow is an amber-focused Oriental blend with the faintest trace of floral notes. With its heart of bay rum and amber, touches of oak, vetiver, and jasmine, it reminds me very much of my late grandmother’s bottle of Youth Dew by Estée Lauder; her small, mirrored tray of compacts and lipsticks, and a velvet-lined, mother of pearl jewelry box that held all of her sparkling costume jewelry–all of these luxuries specific to her rituals of beautification smelled softly of Youth Dew’s heady glamour. A strange, witches brew of balsamic resins, amber’s golden glow, and soft, powdery vanilla.
Sea Of Gray (Vanilla rain, saltwater, seaweed, ambergris (vegan), white amber, roasted seashells, white sandalwood, frangipani) The concept behind this scent is that you’re strolling along the beach and as tide rolls in, the sky darkens and the first drops of rain begin to fall, you take refuge in a nearby ice cream parlor. I would take this one step further; this is a seaside ice cream shoppe in Innsmouth, and you’re on a date with of its fish-people denizens. This is not to say that Sea of Gray is a fishy scent, but there is more than a hint of murky dankness upon initial application, and, if only for a moment, you’re swept away in scents of sand, sedge-grass, and stunted shrubbery that gives way to crumbling houses and their repellent inhabitants, and a feeling of overall disquiet and decay. This feeling passes as soon as you cross the threshold into the cool, bright interior of the frozen dessert establishment; the cheery clanking of small metal spoons gently scraping faceted sundae glasses and the soft, vanillic aroma of cold, creamy confections lulls you into a feeling of well being as you glimpse the sun peeking out from behind the clouds again, and all that’s left of your brush with the murky seaside secrets of that shadowed port town is the salt-spray on your skin. Your fishy paramour is nowhere to be seen.
Travelers (Amber, Clove, Frankincense Smoky), spicy, and sweet–the camphorous clove is nicely tempered by the warm amber and the cool, resinous frankincense and I can’t help but to think this a perfect fragrance for summer time ren faires with your beardiest, dorkiest, D&D-est friends. Or maybe *you* are that friend, which makes the fragrance even more perfect! It immediately conjures imagery of drum circles and mead and mesmerizing bosoms popping out of their corsets and a man with a cloak and a feather in his cap who repeatedly calls you “mi’lady”. I just went to a ren faire two months ago, so this is all very fresh in my mind. By the end of the day I smelled like goats and pickle barrels; I could have really used some Travelers right then.
Wilcox’s (Dry Woods, Fresh Herbs, Dried Herbs, Warm Woody Spices, Sweet Annie, Sage, Rosewood) The first time I wore Wilcox’s I was surprised; it smelled, initially, of the cool gloom of a crypt–that damp, earthen, mineral smell that conjures quiet meditations on mortality in the solitude of cold, stone chambers. I don’t know that it ever warms up on my skin, but it evolves into a wonderfully soft, compassionate scent: gentle chamomile and sweet, woody nutmeg, the sort of aromas that may waft from an uncorked phial, tipped gently past your lips while a leathery, bright-eyed acorn of a woodwitch murmurs, “just a drop, dearie!”
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