27 Mar
The Toilet of a Roman Lady, Juan Jiménez Martín

Well, my move has been pushed back a week, so I am peeking into the blog here to share some of the scents I have smelled over the past month. After I am moved in, let’s say maybe the second or third week of April, I will check back in with a house tour and some Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab reviews!

DS & Durga’s Bowmakers is lovely and weird and I want to bathe in it. Bowmakers is all cool, peculiar woods, maybe cypress and cedar, a fleeting leatheriness, and what feels to me like the synthetic woody cozy ambery muskiness of ISO E super. This is how I imagine the scent of a Scandinavian minimalist YouTube lifestyle vlogger’s cozy 400 square foot apartment in wintertime. Specifically chosen sandalwood candles in amber apothecary jars, a very aesthetically pleasing and strategically placed tube sweet almond and musk hand cream, hundred-year-old but well-cared aromatic hard-wood floors. A tiny capsule wardrobe displayed prominently on a coat rack, where a thrifted leather jacket in excellent condition hangs for guests to admire, the fragrance of which mingles with a chilled early morning breeze gusting from the open windows while they’re airing out their bedroom as part of their 5 AM morning routine that they are currently filming for their subscribers.

Vanille Cannelle from E. Coudray is as if the labdanum and bergamot aspects of a classic chypre met up with the balsamic, resinous warmth of a vintage amber-y perfume like Opium. Swoony old-world allure and romance! I believe this is super discontinued.

I would love to see the movie that inspired Dolls from Moth and Rabbit but I am having a hard time getting my hands on it, so I can’t say whether or not this fragrance in any way conjures the essence or spirit of the film, its characters, or its story. Dolls is vaguely sweet, in a stovetop simple syrup made with water and white sugar kind of way, somewhat powdery in a dusty violet candy way, and gently floral, as in the floral notes that come in the form of blossoms from a flowering tree sort of way. Combine the delicacy and fleeting characteristics of these mild, mellow elements with ylang ylang’s rubbery musk and you do get a bit of a plastic doll head scent. Although I don’t know if the avant-garde film inspiration even had any dolls in it, so I could be reaching there.

I will tell you that I was wearing this scent while reading Catriona Ward’s new book Sundial and Dolls makes me think of one of the books main characters, Rob, a suburban housewife who is just trying to make a normal life for her two daughters. Rob senses with growing horror a chilling and evolving darkness and in her eldest daughter, Callie. Desperate for a solution for this child with whom she struggles to connect and doesn’t actually even like very much, Rob journeys with Callie to her childhood home, Sundial, in the middle of the Mojave desert. Shocking secrets are revealed gradually, nothing here is as it seems or as you expect, and once you think you’ve got the story straight, your expectations are subverted and turned upside down and inside out. This is an intensely brilliant, brutal, breathless tale that kept me guessing right up until the end. So this ended up more of a book review than a perfume review but Dolls is a scent of someone going to drastic measures while maintaining a facade of normalcy, and you can almost smell how heartless they are going to need to be in the realization that this scent is all window dressing with no heart or soul inside.

Do you want to smell like a queer feminist dark academia anime fairy tale with dangerous duels, creepy cryptic Greek chorus shadowpuppets, trippy plot details, gorgeous imagery and bombastic symbolism? With notes of lush rambling rose, zesty, herbaceous lemon verbena, and luminous white tea leaves, Alkemia Perfume’s The Lover Tells of the Rose will scratch this highly specific itch for you. Which is to say: the weirdos who get it, get it. And those who don’t, don’t.

Undergrowth from Rook Perfumes. Imagine the acrid smoke and smolder of a peaty whiskey and the antiseptic minty chlorinated burn of an off-brand mouthwash. Now stir it up with a half-melted lime freezy pop. Gosh. This is bafflingly terrible.

Comme des Garçons Monocle Hinoki is mildly terpenic, peppery cypress, stiff black waxy leather, and that creepy sterile electrical spark ozone scent that you smell on the jet bridge gangway when you’re waiting in line to board an airplane. It’s a deeply anxiety-inducing scent, conjuring imaginary but highly plausible scenarios wherein I have a connecting flight in Atlanta and that I have only 13 minutes to make it to the gate and the gate is all the way at the other end of the terminal. I don’t need this stress in my life!

The Toilet of a Roman Lady, Juan Jiménez Martín (detail)

Myth from Ellis Brooklyn is the sort of crisp, dry, cologney-fresh fragrance I typically don’t love because it borders on the standard generic cliche of the guy with the abs and the towel wrapped around his waist in any old perfume ad. Except in this instance…there’s nuance or detail here working in its favor. So imagine instead of the cruelty and foolishness of the Echo and Narcissus myth…let’s say the gods kept their dicks in their pants and didn’t get carried away with petty vendettas, no one was scorned, humiliated, or shamed and these two just got to fall in love and live their lives. Maybe they opened up the blissful sanctuary day spa together. Maybe it features a reflection pool fed by a cool, clear spring, energetically charged by healing crystals, in the middle of a lush garden surrounded by shady woods and teeming with heady, fragrant jasmine and beautiful orchids. Maybe after a session of massage therapy, light healing, and intuitive counseling, they encouraged their clientele to spend a moment gazing at themselves in the still, crystalline waters, muscles loose and relaxed, skin pumiced and oiled, and then boop their own watery image on the nose and say “babe, I love this journey for you.” Myth is an uncomplicated, clean, woody mildly floral musk that just embraces and epitomizes feeling good about yourself.

Bosphorus Pearl from Alghabra Parfums When I envision perfumes inspired by pearls, I expect something opalescent and luminous, maybe something with notes of white musk, rice milk, or coconut. Nope. Not here. Bosphorus Pearl is a pearl envisioned by someone who has never even seen the ocean, let alone a pearl. They saw a child clutching a sticky cherry lollipop in their grubby fingers, and thought, eh, good enough. This is a rosy-fruity abomination and I actually feel insulted by it.

Jovoy Paris’ La Litergie des Heures is meant to evoke burning incense in an old monastery, but with its notes of sour, fermented ketchup and cheesy bitter bile, but it smells less like peaceful prayers at the hermitage and more like a priest being demonically puked on in the frenzied throes of a non-church sanctioned exorcism.

Rue St Honore from Ouai which is giving me some real idyllic springtime wisteria-draped cottagecore Crabtree & Evelyn Gunne Sax tradwife YouTube influencer exploited by their alt-right faschy podcaster husband for their perceived domesticity, femininity and purity vibes. Is this a field of violets and daisies and gingham picnic daydream or an escapist nostalgia-trap weaponized by Neo-Nazis? Maybe I am overthinking it, but there is something about this quaint floral garden fragrance that feels wildly wrong and deeply uncomfortable and makes me desperately itchy to stage an intervention for someone.

Serge Luten’s L’Orpheline is one of those fragrances that it took a really long time to interpret and appreciate. At first sniff, for the longest time, all I really smelled was a ghostly, soapy mist of fleeting, fading florals. I thought this was meant to be frankincense, so confused and underwhelmed, I always sort of checked out and never really paid any further attention to how it unfolded on the several occasions I tried to revisit it. Today, I think I am starting to understand. It is oddly incensey, in a way; if there were an incense of musty, dried bouquets, spectral resins from unearthly realms, and milky, artificial woods, freeze-dried, crumbled, and lit over a cold blue phantom flame. This is a fragrance faintly ominous and disquieting, of silence, and dust, and memories, and melancholia. The scent of a locked room that hasn’t been opened in over a century and witness to secrets best left well alone.

No matter how cavalier your attitude toward mortality, living through the death of a beloved person is to suffer an utter fracture in the underpinnings of your worldview and beliefs, a brutal violation of things thought unbreakable and everlasting. Grappling with grief is a perpetual choking of the throat, a deep immersion into the light-devouring waters of a hundred-year flood. On both my wrists I am finally wearing Sea of Grief, a collaboration between bloodmilk jewels and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. I think I had subconsciously tucked this small bottle behind a stack of books because maybe it felt like too much to sit with. I lost my mother, my grandmother, and my grandfather in the years between 2014 and 2017, and just when I think I have a handle on my heartache, something small-a memory, a photo, or even a scent, will bring it all back and my heart is broken anew. I often think of that quote from Wanda Vision, “But what is grief, if not love persevering?” Now, I know lots of writers and philosophers have offered some version of this sentiment, it’s not new, whatever. A lot of people heard it for the first time on this show, though, and it offered a great deal of comfort, so just let them have it, okay all of you high-brow writers and poets on writer-twitter? (Sorry, still annoyed by that particular discourse.) Sea of Grief, though. I think it may be those words, bottled, as a balm. It opens bitter, almost too bitter to bear. Like an open wound treated only with the salt of your tears. I think this could possibly be the vetiver and the carrot seed at the opening. But so quickly, more quickly than you could possibly believe, it becomes one of the most incredibly stunning fragrances I have ever encountered. The rich, floral incense of neroli and the musky green candied nuances of angelica along with the complex resinous citrus of bergamot and chamomile’s light, sweet herbaceousness alchemizes the extremes in experience and shifting realities associated with grief into a potent drop or two of aromatic solace. It is a beautiful thing to continue to love someone, even when they aren’t there. Sea of Grief is a gorgeous comfort with which to scent this love you forever carry in your heart.

Ineke’s Field Notes From Paris opens with a sort of bitter orange incense and powdery orange blossom vintage bubble bath vibe, with a rich, ambery tobacco note lurking underneath, and balanced with both earthy, herbal coriander and creamy, honeyed beeswax. It’s a fragrance that tickles the nose in a way that suggests spiciness, but maybe it just skirts the edge, I am not sure. I also wouldn’t quite lump it in with the gourmands. However you might categorize it, it’s nothing at all like what I expected, but it’s certainly got an incredibly unique appeal.

There’s just no other way to put it, Jasmin from Le Galion is quite possibly the sluttiest fragrance I have ever smelled. And I mean that from the bottom of my slutty heavy metal music video-loving heart. Imagine the late Tawny Kitaen swirling around in her lacy lingerie in a Whitesnake video where she’s cartwheeling across David Coverdale’s cadre of Lamborghinis and then sticking her tongue deep into his eardrum as they’re racing down the highway at 120 mph. Boozy champagne kisses, musky sweat-soaked sheets, heady, narcotic nocturnal blooms, and effervescent hairspray aldehydes–Jasmin is the scent of a joyfully depraved midnight rendezvous accompanied by epic guitar solos and censorship advisories.

Black Opium smells like someone squeezed Strawberry Shortcake’s sweet freckled face until the top of her plastic molded head popped off and you smeared the cloying, syrupy ichor that dribbled out all over their body, and then they rolled around in a heap of rotting jasmine that reached the point in their lifespan where the blooms stop smelling beautiful and immediately start to smell like a cracked bucket of pee-stained underwear. Thus adorned in a doll’s blood-jam and sticky toilet flowers, they boldly assure themselves they are sexy as hell and head out to the club. Oh, to have the confidence of a person wearing one of the world’s shittiest perfumes.

Tonight on Midnight Stinks is Maruyama from Parfum Prissana. Fragrant tree bark, bitter green herbs, a sweet, musky loaminess, a dusty oddball spice of some sort, and a botanical balsamic, almost maple-y nuance. If this were a color, I think it would be a hazel eye, or maybe Panetone 3995 C, a sort of cross between olive and smoky topaz. As a Taurus, my blood type is probably the sweet earthiness of Maruyama As well as some combination of briny green olives and lustrous golden brown topaz. If it were an OG cottagecore power couple, it would be beloved friends, Frog and Toad. Although…I might say this scent leans a little more goblincore. Either way, if you’re a country mouse or an earth mama or I don’t know, a secret gnome or whatever, this scent is lovely and you’ll enjoy it.

…and lastly, over on TikTok I slowly lost my shit in a hotel room during a recent business conference and documented the scents I wore while I was there. Wheeeeee!


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J says

Have you ever tried The Body Shop's Indian Night Jasmine? Dying to know what you think of it!

S. Elizabeth says

I don't think I have...I will have to see if I can get ahold of some!

Emera says

This round of perfume reviews was such an emotional rollercoaster! From mini-essays on grief to Black Opium roasts...

I haven't been able to enjoy my indie perfume collection for a while on account of headaches and other banalities, but I so love reading your reviews because of all the vivid little scenarios you conjure! <3

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