29 May

Zoologist Rabbit: Imagine a little picnic with your beloved stuffed bunny, the threadbare and shabby old thing with the missing eye and the unraveling stitches and the patch on its little belly where the stuffing has begun to leak through, the one you’ve loved so much and for so long that there is no doubt in your mind that it is the very realest rabbit. And picture the most realistic mud pie you ever made, so true to life in fact that when you took a crumbling bite of it, it actually tasted a bit like a lightly spiced tea loaf, gently sweetened, with a soft, tender crumb– maybe a seasonal apple or zucchini bread, but minus the actual fruit or vegetation. As a matter of fact, there’s little to no greenery in this scent at all, even the clover and the hay is more honeyed sweetness than grassy or botanical, and I do think that verdancy, that sense of green growing things, is what’s missing for me. This fragrance is less Peter Rabbit and more Velveteen Rabbit, right down to the well-worn cozy, cuddly fuzzy, snuggly skin musk of it– and as a matter of here’s a fleeting there-and-gone curious note that seems to be aiming for milky and creamy, but briefly veers a touch sour and unwell almost like a hint of baby spit-up. Like your beloved stuffed bunny that served as a faithful childhood repository for various ailments and was never quite fully sanitized. Despite its peculiarities and what it’s missing, it truly feels like a love letter to something sweet and cherished, and so far back in time you can never reach it again–and I think that’s ultimately what makes it so evocative – it’s the memory, how you felt in that garden and that friendship with your soft, sweet companion, filtered through the lens of childhood wonder and a love so fierce it transcends reality.

Two more collaborations from bloodmilk x Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Midnight Snowfall is a winter’s witching hour personified; Night Queen, shock of moon-pale hair glittering, cloaked in the dark unknown of ancient terrors looming beyond firelight, a creature born of the hush that descends upon the world as the last sliver of sun sighs into the dusk. Lunar dreamworlds, surreal shadow realms, secret starlit cities beyond time–limned in a single frozen glance, a soft, bitter stolen kiss, a phosphorescent lamentation of stars fading at dawn. The resinous nectar of champaca’s intoxicating warmth chilled by a shiver of pale, pearlescent moon flowers, swaddled, sticky, and senseless in a velvety oblivion of moonless night.

An olfactory altar to the transformative agonies of sloughing off your broken chrysalis, The Shedding Time is a fragrance that calls for a moment, alone and in the dark. The clove is feral and sharp, a twisty slithering coiling around your awareness, deep in the shadows; each successive sniff draws it closer to the surface. Clinging to the bitter autumn honey of the serpentine spice is the shriveled exuviae of phantom flowers–a scorched and skeletal bouquet of tuberose and honeysuckle, mingles with the dissolving tendrils of earthy incense smoke. A rosy glowing emerges, the faintest sunrise blush on the freshly exposed skin, that much more alive. The body unshrouded, the psyche reborn, a perfume to witness the beauty of becoming through the crucible of transformation. Kick aside your broken carapace and step out into the sun.

I’ve got a sampler set from Marissa Zappas, and I don’t know if it is just me, but are all of these scents really subtle and subdued? Today I am wearing Maggie the Cat is Alive, I’m Alive! and, firstly, I should confess that I’m not coming at this scent from a place of attachment to its inspiration. With the exception of an overwrought snippet or two, I have never seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. From what I gather, it’s a whirlwind of melodrama and histrionics and conflicted, tormented souls. And considering that, this fragrance is quite an exercise in restraint.

It is the olfactory equivalent of hushed whispers, fading echoes, and pale shadows further muted by weak sunlight. The champagne is a warmed, still echo in its glass, the effervescence long gone. A delicate tension simmers between the dripping sweetness of peach and ambrette’s intimate, powdery musk, all set against an understated backdrop of cool, elusive floral notes and the gentle, woody humidity of oakmoss. Maggie the Cat isn’t at all the piercing shrieking experience that I expected but offers an introspective, understated moment instead

The Cartographer Wasp from Paintbox Soapworks. While appreciating a fragrance on its own merits is always delightful, there’s a certain thrill, a code cracked, a secret unlocked when you can discern its inspiration. And this perfume absolutely sings its source: an olfactory homage to the award-winning short story “The Cartographer Wasps & the Anarchist Bees” by E. Lily Yu.

It initially unfolds with an autumnal chalice of warm, sweetened harvest grains – perhaps barley or oatmeal – generously drizzled with the forbidden warmth of stolen honey, strange tawny nectar, haunted with the dusky whisper of hidden hives in a lightning-scarred elm. This comforting porridge soon melts away, revealing a heart of soft, velvety, caramelized apricot resin and the airy musk of pear blossoms. As it lingers, the fragrance transforms into a rich yet weightless, creamy amber-vanilla essence. It becomes an intimate companion, close to the skin, and evokes the gentle murmur of bees nestled in the dark hush of winter, dreaming of sun-drenched fields.

Norwegian Wood from Folie À Plusieurs This is not actually the scent I ordered …I double-checked my receipt a dozen times in the past few days just because I always assume I am the one who is mistaken or wrong… but you know what? I’m okay with receiving what I got, and regardless of what I ordered, I like this a lot. Norwegian Wood is inspired by the Haruki Murakami novel of the same name, but I read that so long ago that I don’t recall a thing about it, so that’s not going to factor into my thoughts. So. While I do love the scent of a heavily wooded hinterland or an ominous evergreen Mirkwood Forest midnight–basically, a syrupy resinous coniferous balsamic dirge of a scent (think Norne from Slumberhouse or Dasein Winter Nights) this is…not that. Or, well, it’s sort of that, but remove all those associations with darkness and shadows and the macabre. Rather than the Huntsman chasing a terrified Snow White into the gloomy woods, this is instead the contentment of Snow White in a sun-dappled forest glade, surrounded by woodland creatures, a soft trembling faun on her lap, and a little bluebird perched on her finger. It’s the scent of weathered branches and leaves fluttering in the breeze, sticky sap and damp creeping moss, the faint sweetness of wildflowers crushed under your feet, the rosy golden musk of a sunbeam on your skin; it’s all of that, but it’s not overly sentimental or twee. Its the sheer, gauzy summer halo of a winter haunted forest emerging from a deep sleeping curse.

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab The Storm While I am much usually much more expansive in my reviews, I am confident in saying that all you need to know is this scent is BPAL’s Antique Lace, those faded phantom attic-trunk florals, and the milky-musky-powderiness of cobwebby linens, caught up in the misty salt-air mystery and bitter cliffside botanicals of smugglers and shipwrecks on the windswept Cornish coast of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. 

Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab The Acrobats is the flushed exuberance of juicy-peachy apricot, its delicate brightness made unsettling with amber’s dimly glowing resins and the bitter tang of tannins. I don’t know if I am unduly influenced by the heart-rending painting upon which it was based, but it really does smell like a sweet memory tinged with unbearable sorrow.

I have two fragrances kindly sent to me by Noah from Amphora’s debut collection. Amphora’s offerings are “gay-hearted fragrances”, perfumes that are joyous, inclusive, and queer, and the first one I’ve got here, Sublimate, really feels like the utmost epitome of these sentiments. With notes of frozen apple, dried rose petals, candied violets, marshmallow, cashmere, and white musk, this scent is a disco ball piñata of Pixy Stix dissolving in a vat of liquid nitrogen, exploding into a supernova of candied campy Barbarellas. It is a technicolor cacophony of hyper-fruity absurdity, a celebratory sweetness that leaves your soul awash in glitter and makes you question the very fabric of reality, and truly, I think it is the penultimate recipe for euphoria. Primal Yell has elements of hot iron, cherry, and bitter almond in addition to patchouli, vetiver, and some other notes, and this is definitely the moodier and broodier of the duo. I definitely get that red fruit, but it’s swaddled in black velvet and furs, and encased in an ancient iron coffin. As a matter of fact, this is very much a blood popsicle shared between two very old, very chic, and jaded, too-cool-for-school vampire lovers. These fragrances, despite being wildly different from one another, share an underlying thread of a creator who is clearly having lots of fun– and who is joyfully inviting us along for the ride.

This Ember by Anka Kus As intrigued as I was by the idea of a fragrance inspired by the lore of the phoenix, this is less a solitary mythical firebird and more a gaggle of mean girls cackling at a sick burn. It’s the sort of ambery raspberry-smoky rose that I’m already disinclined to like, because I don’t love fruity florals, but there is something about this one that’s particularly smug and acridly unlikeable. It’s got the structure of a scent that aspires to an aura of power and allure, but it falls flat, it’s just a loud, saccharine veneer in the shape of a void where a personality is meant to be. And sure, you can tell me I need therapy for my high school trauma, but I swear I don’t even think about that stuff until a particularly awful perfume comes across my radar. This is one of those perfumes.

I got myself the Kayali fragrance sampler for my birthday as sort of a joke, which I feel a bit hypocritical for saying, as I am also someone who -most of the time- believes that if you are not doing something in earnest, then why are you even bothering to do it at all? I don’t feel good about the idea of enjoying things ironically, I’d rather approach things with genuine curiosity. So anyway, the whole reason I got the set was for a sample of Yum Pistachio Gelato, and the story for this is that whenever this scent was first released (sometime last year in 2023?) I recall that perfumetok was a bit in a dither about it for some reason…and not being all that plugged into perfume community drama, I wasn’t sure why, but I thought it had something to do with how influencers were talking or not talking about it, or maybe some people were butthurt about not receiving PR boxes? I don’t know, but I was curious as to whether the scent itself was in any way worth getting your nose out of joint about. It is not. This is a commonplace-smelling vanilla skin musk with the addition of what I think of as a sort of rancid shea butter sour baby puke element, something soft and creamy that’s gone all clotted and curdled. It’s not the worst thing I ever smelled, but if you didn’t receive a PR box about it, you no doubt lived through the ordeal of it and went on to smell better things.

Tonight on Midnight Stinks is Fantosmia from Jorum Studio, and I don’t think I know how to talk about this one, so instead, I am just going to run their list of notes through my internal translator and speak them to you in my language. This is the scent of a leather armor repurposed into a stewing pot into which you stir the sticky sap of a wounded tree, the sour scrapings of the inner rind of a pumpkin, the last few crumbles of Transylvanian honey bread blessed by the holy sisters and studded with spirit-soaked dried plums, and a scant handful of musty seeds and peppery herbs. Stir over stones that haven’t seen sunlight in one hundred years and trap the cookfire’s ghostly smoke in a glass vial for after-dinner divinatory purposes. This scent is a cryptic recipe written in a forgotten tongue; I can almost decipher the symbols, but ultimately it remains a mystery, a riddle that I can’t solve. I can admire it, yet I can’t quite call my own.


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