While the gothic aesthetic holds a certain undeniable allure, the label itself has never quite felt like a fit for me. The truth is, my love for all things gothy – the macabre aesthetics, the haunting melodies, the lyrical explorations of mortality – exists on a curious spectrum. While I find myself enthralled by the atmosphere,  I wouldn’t exactly say I identify as full-fledged goth.  I’ve written about this a lot!

Think of me more as a whimsical wayfarer, a will-o-the-wisp who flits along the fringes of your favorite hauntings, a connoisseur of the curious and the unsettling, a gentle weirdo with an affinity for shadows and darkness. Dark art, and darker music, and the darkest humor. And, of course…dark smells! Which I have somewhat already written about before: perfume of the dead // summer scents for those who shun the sun // scents for the dark

But! This is a topic I could write at least  dozen novels about and I do have quite a few goth/gothic-leaning perfumes in my collection. So here I am to share some more!

Ernst Haeckel’s Bats (1904)

Zoologist Bat is undeniably the strangest, most wonderfully unique perfume you will ever smell. Opening with a nearly overwhelming note of damp, primordial earth, both vegetal and mineral in execution, this immediately conjures inky caverns and pitch-black, damp limestone caves. The scent then morphs into something I can only describe as “night air and velvet darkness”; I cannot say how she has done this, I only know that it is the very essence of the vast, temperate midnight sky, the glowing moon high overhead. At this point, it becomes something quite different and–quite possibly–even more beautiful. Soft fruits, delicate musks, and resins lay at the heart of this enigmatic scent and combine to create a fragrance that lightly circles around the wearer to surprise them with a mysterious sweetness at the most surprising times. According to Dr. Covey, who has spent a great deal of time researching and studying bats, with this quality, the scent has succeeded pretty well in doing what she envisioned. This review is for the original 2015 perfume, but it has since been reformulated. You can still purchase the version I’m waxing poetic about, though; it’s sold over at Olympic Orchids as Night Flyer.

Tom Ford Oud Wood is a ghostly, glacial coniferous rosewood sandalwood melange of chilly, bitter, peppery woods. It is a tiny, sinister statue of a scent in an empty room where the temperature drops suddenly, with no explanation. The perfumed version of a little gremlin that appears in a haunting tale; one that skitters in the corners of your vision when the eye is focused elsewhere and inches eerily to your pillow when you’re at the knife’s edge of wakefulness and dream.

Mad et Len Noir Encens POV: you are a brooding pencil, prone to bouts of melancholia, that only scribbles at midnight and has only ever been used to draft architectural sketches of gargoyle-adorned gothic cathedrals and crumbling medieval monasteries and Baudelairian poetry and you listen to a lot of Bauhaus and Joy Division. This is discontinued, but it looks like you can buy samples here. Or you can buy a full bottle from me for $250 because I have an extra one!

bloodmilk x Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab Owl Moon A symbiosis of the moon and the magnificent night owl. A dark, rooty, sweet patchouli swirled with honey. A scent steeped in mythology and magic, Owl Moon opens with the blackest, earthiest patchouli (before learning of the notes, I actually thought it was vetiver!) and calls to mind cool, moist soil at the base of a pine tree through which all of the busy little night creatures slither and crawl, the pale, ghostly light of the moon glinting off their scales and wings. A yellow-eyed owl, perched overhead, meditates briefly before silently embarking on his nightly hunt; the sour, screechy scent of his nest, littered with rodent bones and pellets, serves as a warning nearby. This is the fragrance of potent night magics, rich and ripe with darkness and feral mysticism. The sharpness of the patchouli streaked with high-pitched honey combines to form an aura that is both graceful and grotesque, sacred and profane. It dries down to a spellbinding, narcotic musk within an hour or so, and I predict many a darkling will fall rapturously in love with this bewitching nocturnal perfume. This one is sold out for at the moment, but they have been known to restock.

Lvnea x Chelsea Wolfe Pêche Obscène is glorious– but what I mean is glorious in the way that something monstrous and magnificent stalks the dead zone of night, by stealth and in the dark. This is peach, irradiated and ashen and grown over with moss and broken bird’s nests and salted against curses, curls of ferric iron to both ward away and contain within. A peach more lore and legend than it ever had life, a peach whose shadow looms uneasily far beyond its ruined flesh. Juices corrupt with the grave dirt of vetiver and patchouli and oozing with osmanthus’ strange leathery/jammy incense, Peche Obscene is an undead lich of a peach, and it is absolutely, terrifyingly, bewitching in the way that all delicious forbidden things are.


photography by the late Simon Marsden

Solstice Scents Estate Carnation is a deeply gothic glamour amber, a musky murky chypre-adjacent fragrance that smells simultaneously like the figure in the white nightdress running from the manor house with the lone candle lit in the window at midnight and the surprise succubus that this figure is secretly possessed by–it’s all the iconic tropes of Avon Satanic Romance novel, and it’s perfect. This one may have been a seasonal or limited edition scent.

Arcana Holy Terror a blend of frankincense, deep myrrh, and beeswax candles, it smells of gentle resins, lofty sandalwood, and less of the fearsome spirits known to haunt certain long-deserted abbeys than it is curling up and reading about them in a horrid novel by the warm glow of candlelight.

Diptyque Tempo conjures an atmosphere of dolorous elegance, patchouli’s murky woods and dusky loam, with a wraithlike metallic chill and an herbal shiver of something green and strange simmering underneath. It carries a disquieting heaviness, the shape of a feeling impossible to give voice to; like having to climb into bed with someone and tell them they’re dead. It also reminds me of this passage from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within… and whatever walked there, walked alone.” This is a patchouli that has walked the long shadows of Hill House, has become lost in the thick, unspoken secrets of its notorious halls, and suffered its mad face in the growing darkness. This is a twisted, haunted patchouli that has seen some shit, but all the edges of that unnerving terror have been blurred by the creeping of moss, the settling of dust, and the softness of time and memory, of unreality and dream.

Chapel Factory Heresy is the sharp green metallic floral of violet leaf, mingled with cool aromatic cedar, lofty sandalwood, and the smoked leather notes of vetiver; elements which alchemize into the austere elegance and kindred glooms of a dry, peppery violet incense. If you like the dark ambiance and nocturnal aesthetic of dungeon synth coupled with spectral visionary Simon Marsden’s black and white photographs of haunted ruins and moonlit abbeys, this is a transportive scent that will spirit you away to those eerie, ominous realms.

Beaufort London Terror & Magnificence This is the very gothest thing: tarry, leathery shadows, wet, stony paths leading into the teeming dark, and moonless midnights presiding over all. Like being enfolded by bat wings, encased in obsidian, enveloped in a stark abyss. A silent secret from the mouth of one just dead. This departed speaker whom no one hears is you.


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Stephanie says

You had me at Frankincense and Myrrh!

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