February 2023 Perfume Reviews
categories: scents & sensibility
Lemon Blossom from TRNP is a wholly unexpected and immediate love for me, perhaps bordering on violent obsession. I’ve been fixated on the idea of it ever since sundaysmells mentioned it in her Instagram stories. I sought out a sample, and now there is no going back.I have a lemon tree and a lime tree, and I’ve spent most of my life in FL, surrounded by orange groves. Not literally, of course. I have pretty much always lived in the suburbs, but my point is that I’m keenly familiar with the deeply musky, honeyed, powdered sweetness of citrus blossoms…and this perfume is not even close to that. Which is fine. I’ve sniffed dozens of blossoming citrus fruit tree interpretations, and while so many of them are perfectly lovely, they are more or less all the same. This one, however, is a remarkably unconventional lemon blossom. It’s a heavy-metal music video glamazon duo of the brightest, zestiest lemon and most pungently incendiary, zingiest ginger in matching, metallic-threaded glinting-golden bodysuits, crowns of tresses teased to the heavens with sharp, acrid, patchouli-spiked hairspray and festooned with snowy, fragrant gardenias, and twinning extravagantly climactic guitar solos in a wild tangle of richly floral, fragrant yellow jasmine. This is an intense, sensational, bombastically glamorous lemon, and I have never smelled anything quite like it.
Lady Reading Poetry from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab is a fragrance inspired by Ishibashi Kazunori’s elegant oil painting. One of the things that I love about BPAL is that so many of their perfumes are based upon works of art–they even have a painting of the month scent, every month. And as someone for whom fragrance translates to visuals in my mind’s eye, I love this. Of course, my mind is a wily and uncooperative creature, and the inspiration for a perfume is not always the imagery that’s conjured on the canvas of my brain, but in this instance, it is spot on. With notes of whispery, tea-stained pages, dusty vanilla reminiscent of tatted lace doilies, satiny creamy sandalwood, and lilac’s pale, wistful floral, this is scent is a charmingly melancholic delicacy, strange and sad and full of longing.
Cartier’s Baiser Volé is a fragrance that I don’t have much to say about, but I do quite like it. This is a linen-y lily with some crisp, leafy green elements and a citrusy clean softness that reminds me of perfumery’s approximation of a bamboo note. It smells of a simulated freshness and synthetic florals, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. More like a 1995 hack the planet Acid Burn Angelina Jolie with a punk Vulcan haircut listening to Kruder & Dorfmeister kind of way. Like it began as something experimental and avant-garde, and then it was pared down to a no-frills, next-to-nothing version of itself–a singular lily–which, in turn, feels kind of edgy and pioneering for its complete lack of bells and whistles. It’s sleek and minimalist in that mid-90s techno sort of way, but also feels like someone you thought was too cool for school and super interesting but when you scratch the surface, there is nothing else going on. Just that one Orbital song, over and over and over.
Espirit d’Amour from Blocki is a fragrance that immediately transported me to childhood in a very specific way. The absolute relief and subsequent elation that school was out for the year. It smells like mornings that are dewy and warm, summer flowers that are just opening to the light of the sun. It smells like spending a weekend early in June with my grandmother, helping her fold a rickety wicker basket of freshly washed and dried bedlinens and towels, bubble baths in the evening with the windows open to the breeze and the call of nightbirds, and flannel nightgowns, and sweet dreams. As an adult, these feelings are even more precious because I recognize them and can put a name to them; Esprit d’Amour is a gently uplifting citrus blossom, delicate lily-lavender laundry musk perfume of freedom from fear, a loosening of that constant knot of dread filling your belly; it feels like a summoning of a safe place for a super nervous kid who grew up to be an enormously anxious adult.
Skylar Vanilla Sky smells like some creative team somewhere thought they should make Mugler’s Angel but for babies. Someone on legal raised their hand and said, “babies are too young for this; they’re boring and can’t handle their shit.” But then the sales team was like, “hey, shut up, this is happening.” The end product was ultimately that apricot-caramel-patchouli Angel blueprint but heavily watered down with Bath and Body Works’ discontinued Rice Flower and Shea body spray. The result is something profoundly and offputtingly creamy that smells like you accidentally mixed up your coconut hand cream with your vanilla pudding cup, slathering the wrong one and slurping the wronger one. Save your money, discerning babies. This stuff is pretty gross.
Fantôme Duende is a craggy, forested floral with entangled elements of tree sap, jagged rocky hills, and purple flowers. It calls to mind Backworld’s song, “The Devil’s Plaything“: As in a ruin where violets grow / In moss-covered fields / On cold marble stone… But it also makes me think of Mikey Bustos’ “Filipino Mythical Creatures Rap.” These, you will surely note, are two very different songs.
Accento Overdose from Xerjoff is a green, fruity floral: notes of vibrant, tropical pineapple and something apple-y, but not, maybe more like the delicate floral crispness of Asian pear, with underpinnings of soft, musky jasmine and blowsy late summer rose, elevated by balsamic pine and the aromatic sharpness of eucalyptus. It’s a fragrance with a distinctive personality, something I immediately recognize as a diva, lots of glamour, a real insistent “look at me!” vibe–but this one, she’s a real feisty, fiendish wicked queen. She’s Llanview’s legendary femme-fatale, Dorian Lord, whose list of crimes on soap central dot com is extensive and kind of hilarious. Accento Overdose evokes One Life To Live’s best, bitchiest, most iconic villain, but I’ll stop there because this is a $335 fragrance, and I’m not trying to convince anyone–least of all myself–that they need it. And yes, that is also a baby-faced Nathan Fillion in the photo that I linked to.
On the less expensive end, Death and Floral’s Famous Blue Raincoat offers a scent description of “old typewriter, weathered blue fabric, and static,” but what I smell is crushed violet pastilles, misted and mixed with honeyed, mineralic Gewürztraminer to create a runny pastel paste, which a dreaming artist paints onto a neoprene shower curtain, the image channeled by punk-poet voices from beyond. It is abstract art/spirit art/automatic writing rendered in bygone materials by a contemporary hand. It’s weird as hell but also strangely lovely, and I’m a little obsessed with it.
I began the month of February with a lemon fragrance, and with Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Honeycomb, Lemon, and Sugar Cane, I guess I am ending the month with a lemon fragrance as well. I’m feeling lazy, and instead of writing here about it after the fact, I will direct you to a little video I made about the scent a few days ago. TLDR; if you like these, you will adore this fragrance.
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