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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