Saturday, November 10, 2012

New Kid on the Block

I recently had the opportunity to sample a few perfumes from Twyla Perfumes and apothecary. I ordered 3 samples and received one free. They got here quickly and everything was packed nicely.

The samples were Milk Flower, Migraineur , and Honekakala and my free sample was Santisima Muerte. Twyla is a member of a FB group I frequent, so I was excited to try these new scents.

 isn't exactly a perfume, it's an aromatherapy blend. Here's her description: "Fractionated coconut oil, a blend of essential oils, including clary sage and cannabis flower oil. Contains NO THC.. This blend has a high concentration of essential oils known to help with pain, specifically the kind of head-in-a-vice, "i'm seeing yellow pulsating globules of light", eyeball-exploding pain that is common in migraines." 

The first thing I did was check with her to see if the blend included lavender. So many headache/insomnia/relaxation blends do, which means that I can't use them. Luckily, Twyla is not a lavender fan either, so this is a blend I can use. I haven't tried it yet, because, ironically, I haven't had a migraine since my order got here. Several other people in the FB group have tried it though, and declared it remarkably effective. I'll have to keep you posted on it. She also has a joint/muscle pain blend, which I want to try, both for myself (TMJ, fibro) and my mother (osteoarthritis).

On to the scents!

Honekakala (say THAT 10 times fast) is a honeysuckle blend - Honeysuckle Absolute, Pikake, Tuberose Absolute, Massoia Bark, Monoi de Tahiti and a dribble of aged sweet Patchouli - and it is sweet! Very sweet and very exotic smelling, with a hint of patchouli to ground it. With this one, a little goes a long way, so if you're sensitive to very sweet, floral blends, approach with caution! If you want to smell like a flower shop burgeoning with fresh, delicious, heady blossoms on a summer afternoon, you'll want this one. It's quite lovely.

Santisima Muerte - Sandalwood Absolute, Golden Champaka, Rose Absolute, Blood-Orange, Benzoin, sweet Patchouli. This one smells a bit odd and camphor-like in the bottle, but that fades almost immediately on the skin into a deep, dark creamy blend. It's got a rich, heady bottom of spices and a sweet flowery-overlay that blend beautifully. The rose note smells more like an antique rose, rather than a tea rose type, and doesn't stand out sharply against the other notes.  The blend smells like you've opened an antique box to discover a dried corsage or bouquet with scent still clinging to it. It reminds me of some of the perfumes TMTM used to make, a similar sort of dark warmth and floral overlay. It's wickedly delectable, and right now it's on sale.

Milk Flower - this was the most unique blend of the bunch, in fact, one of the most unique blends I've smelled in awhile. Lilac, Carnation Absolute, Tuberose and White Rose drenched in Vanilla, Amber and Cream with the faintest breath of Mint. The description sounds like it might smell like a powdery old-lady blend, but it doesn't. The mint is light but distinct and adds a wonderful, unexpected note. The vanilla  and amber mix everything together into an amazing fluffy confection of fragrance. If this blend were a colour, it would be Tiffany Blue - if it were a candy, it would be Seafoam or Divinity. It's got that same sort of uncanny blend of lightness and rich intensity.  It's one of those fragrances that you just can't stop sniffing once it's on your skin. 

If the quality of these three scents bears out in all of her blends - and I don't see why they wouldn't - Twyla is well on her way to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the indie-perfume business. I highly recommend her shop to anyone looking for another perfumery to add to their shopping list.

As always, all products were purchased by me for my own use. My opinions are my own and always will be. Your mileage may vary.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Is It Fall Yet?

I'm really looking forwards to autumn this year.

I love the beginning of summer, when everything leafs up, I get to start working on my garden, watching my flowers and rosebushes bloom and the smell of fresh cut grass. By August, though, it's usually blast-furnace hot, dead lawns and drowning in my own sweat. Nighttimes are still wonderful, if they're cool enough, and if the mosquitoes aren't too bad. This year they're awful (I'm allergic to chemical bug sprays and especially DEET) and with West Nile Virus being so bad this year (60 reported cases in humans in Ohio this year, with infected mosquitoes being found only a few blocks from where I live), I'm not spending nearly as much time outside after sunset as I might like. They call it the 'dog-days of summer', though my dogs spend this time of year glued to the air conditioner. This summer was an odd one, starting out wet then ending up super-dry and hot. Also the pollen has been bad, so I've been in an anti-histamine induced coma for most of it. I've yet to find an anti-histamine that doesn't turn me into a zombie, even in the smallest doses, but I've really got no choice.

Ah well. The saddest part about super hot, sweaty weather is that so many of my favourite scents are just too heavy for the weather. What smells like heaven on a balmy day can be pretty nauseating when the heat index starts being measured in Kelvin. Even Lassi, a definite go-to scent, can be a bit too clingy on a really hot day. I do have a couple of favourites for summer,though, and I relied heavily on them through most of August.

Solstice Scents Linen and Ivy: Fresh sun-washed linens hanging on the clothesline in the spring breeze meets crisp green top notes of English ivy and a touch of new green spring leaves.
From their spring collection and I'd call their description dead on. It's bright, clean and fresh with just a hint of green. It smells like clean sheets drying on a clothesline on a bright, summer day. 

like this

Solstice Scents Gulf Breeze: Gulf Breeze smells like sand, salt, wind and ocean. It is crisp, clean and refreshing and is a wonderful unisex fragrance. Imagine standing on a dock as a storm is about to roll in...the air is thick with energy and as the sky turns grey you are splashed with salty spray from the gulf. This is the scent of Gulf Breeze. It is a very fresh and oceany fragrance with aslight hint of rain and a dominant note of seaspray.
From the summer line. This is a very wet, beachy smell.* A bit salty, very fresh and very, very wet. It clings to you without being cloying and you can almost feel the wet sand between your toes. Like Linen and Ivy, it smells fresh and clean. It's very similar to Tenebrous Mist, but lighter and sweeter.

Both these smells start out strong then slowly fade into your skin before you have a chance to be overwhelmed by them. Just about the time you forget you're wearing perfume you'll get a sudden whiff and think: "Oh, what's that wonderful smell? -oh, right, it's me!" That's perfect on a hot day when you don't want your fragrance to envelope you.

HoG Madcap Garden: A lively blend, pure black tea chilled with peppermint and the tiniest spike of sweet honey. Very unisex, stimulating, addictive, and bright.
Mint tea and honey. Pretty straightforwards, a nice fresh, invigorating blend that almost makes you forget how much you hate hot weather.** The tea and the honey ground the mint and give it body, while the mint convinces your brain that you're not as sweaty and miserable as you thought you were. Really good when I have to be out of the air conditioning for awhile.

HoG Insalata Nocturna: In the night garden, green Bolivian lemon, rubbed tomato leaf, olive leaf absolute, black fig syrup and basil.
This started out as a summer scent but it was so popular it got added to the regular line. It smells green and gardeny with bright citrus overtones. Like being transported to a greenhouse while sipping a lemonade. It's deliciously leafy and bright without being sweet.

Solstice Scents Summer Garden: Summer Garden is a blend of green and bright scents inspired by plants and vegetables that grow seasonally and year round in our garden. The fragrance is that of rubbed tomato leaf, grass and lettuce with a heavy dose of petitgrain.
New for summer this year, and amazing. If you liked HoG's Insulata Nocturna, you will almost certainly like Summer Garden. It's the same green, herbaceous 'I've been working in the vegetable garden' scent only greener and less citrussy. Breathing this in smells exactly like the smell of tomato leaves and herbs on a summer day. It's rich and evocative, but not too heavy. It's also on sale right now, so I recommend checking it out.

SteamBath Factory Time Traveller: tingly mint and fresh cut thyme whirling through time and space...
This is the part where I confess my shameful love of bad puns and word play. I hope you still respect me. I have this in spray mist, which means I can spray it into my hair and on my clothes and not have to worry about sweating it off.  It's mint and thyme. Nothing fancy but very fresh, bright and invigorating. It's a wonderful counter to that hot asphalt smell of summer. I also have the lotion version so I can layer it, which I rarely do in the summer. This scent is light and fresh enough that I don't get 'nose overload', though. As a bonus "A large portion of SBF handmade bath and body sales provide food, medical care & shelter to homeless cats." So not only do I smell good when I wear it, I feel good, too.

The best part about all these scents is that they are pretty much unisex. None of them are overwhelmingly feminine, and would smell great on just about anybody.

*minus the dead fish that beaches always seem to have.

**If you're me. I understand some people like the heat. Go figure.

As always, all products were purchased by me for my own use. My opinions are my own and always will be. Your mileage may vary.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


The Opium Den. 19thc. Vincent G. Stiepevich.
I have two pet peeves in indie perfumes. One is Haunt. Every time I go to their site, EVERYTHING is sold out, or coming soon. I've been there right after they've announced a new release, and all of them, sold out, not available, nada. I begin to wonder if it is actually possible to order from them or if you need to know the sooper-seekrit handshake or something.

The other is BPAL. Their site makes my head explode. Pages and pages and pages of it. I don't want to sort through eleventy thousand elaborate description to find a couple of scents to order. Some of the descriptions are nice and simple - a few notes, not too hard to figure out, while others are paragraphs long with a metric boatload of notes, flowers and flowers, six essential spices, four atmospheric components, fresh cookie breath and the sweat of an Ethiopian lumberjack. At which point my head explodes again. Too many choices, too much information. My brain goes all BSOD and starts a memory dump. I've gotten a few imps as part of trades, and they've been nice but not what I would expect, given the hype. None of them have made me go OMG. Must. Have.

But...there has been one BPAL scent I have craved. Kathy Effing Jacobs described Red Lanterns in one of her Makeup Heroes videos. This one, I think. I've been stalking ebay for it ever since. BPAL describes it as "A tribute to the opium den cum bawdyhouses of Shanghai in the 1930's. Golden amber, blonde tobacco, Sudanese black coconut, rich caramel, black currant, white opium and delphinium laced with a sensual blend of Asian spice."

As luck would have it, after about a year of looking, I found (and actually won) a bottle of it just in time for my birthday. I was so excited I stalked the package on USPS tracking waiting for it to get here. While I was waiting, I checked out BPAL Madness to read the descriptions of the scent.

Uh-oh. Every description I read emphasized caramel. Not that I dislike caramel, but that's not what I'm looking for. I don't want it to smell like a Russian Tea House, I have Solstice Scents' delightful Russian Caravan from last winter for that. Russian Caravan is listed as a blend of smoked black tea, leather, pomegranate, black currant, amber & pink peppercorn. It's a lovely, spicy-sweet scent that makes me think of drinking hot tea in a horse-drawn sleigh. That's all well and good, but I want Red Lanterns to smell like an opium den* full of lounging odalisques. Smoky haze and a scantily clad Joan Chen.  I began to fear this would be another Haus Amber. Great anticipation followed by a painful letdown.

delicious, but not what I'm hoping for.
When I actually got the bottle, I was almost afraid to open it. But I did, and I was thrilled and relieved to find that the smoke, spice and opium notes were the strongest on me. The caramel comes up later, but it's subtle and dark, almost buried in the amber. After a minute of indistinct spiciness I get a rush of smoky, incense-laden lassitude. As the scent dries down, it becomes a spicy caramel/tobacco/currant blend, very exotic, very deep and darkly inviting. And when I say tobacco, I don't mean cigarette-smell, but the unique, papery smell of drying tobacco leaves. Similar to the smell of tobacco in a tobacco shop or a really good unlit cigar, but not quite the same - there's a definite spicy plant undertone that's hard to describe. After a few hours I'm left with something very like the way the lingering scent of a campfire clings to your clothes and hair long after the fire has burned out.

"A New Vice: Opium Dens in France", cover of Le Petit Journal, 5 July 1903

In short, Red Lanterns is everything I'd hoped it would be; lush, smoky, sinful and delicious. I love it. It reeks of indolence, luxury and decadence.

*not an actual opium den, that would probably smell terrible. The romantic idea of an opium den.

not sexy


As always, all products were purchased by me for my own use. My opinions are my own and always will be. Your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quite the surprise

Some while back, Haus of Gloi introduced a scent, "Haus Amber" as part of their Reverie line. The scent was so popular it was eventually moved to their regular catalogue. It is still available as a perfume oil, bubbling scrub, sugar emulsion and pumpkin butter.

As you probably know by now, amber is one of my favourite notes. Gloi describes this scent as "Rich and sultry amber, our own hand blended accord." I nearly died of joy when I read the description, and, much to my delight, an order I had already placed came with a sample of Haus Amber.

I can't tell you how excited I was. Amber, amber and more amber. Mind you, I'm not crazy about the gemstone amber, just the fragrance note. Some of my favourite scents, including most of my favourite Gloi scents have amber notes in them, so this had to be the ultimate 'smell of awesomeness', right?

Maybe it was too much of a good thing, but I hated it.  Imagine that. I absolutely hated it - which I totally did not see coming. Before I go any further, let me assure you it is not a badly made perfume. Haus Amber is every bit as expertly crafted and blended as all of Britton's fragrances. Clearly I'm in a tiny minority here, since Haus Amber was so popular, it made it into the general catalogue. But, I confess, it was nothing like I thought it would be. To me, amber is a creamy, spicy, warm scent, golden-brown and velvety. This scent was sharp, thick and brackish to my nose. Usually amber smells like it should pour like liquid caramel, whereas this blend should ooze like pitch. Have you ever seen pitch? It's weird stuff, not quite solid, it has give and it's viscous. It's a deep dark black-brown colour and sticky as hell. It smells terrible - nothing like Haus Amber, but the smell of Haus Amber reminds me of the colour and consistency of pitch. If you could fossilize molasses, that would be pretty close to pitch.*
from wikipedia

 Turns out 'amber' as a fragrance accord, usually means a blend including, but not limited to vanilla, Dammara resin, labdanum, benzoin resin, and/or copal, most of which are tree resin products. Naturally derived scents will obviously vary in much the same way honeys and maple syrups vary by year and location of origin. So, obviously, though I never really thought about it, amber, as a fragrance note is as variable as, say, honey as a flavour. I'm guessing this blend is heavy on labdanum, since that note is described by wikipedia and other sites as thick and sticky, 'plastic but not pourable', with a strong, musky scent. Which is what I was trying to describe with the whole 'pitch' analogy.

Haus Amber is also a very masculine scent to me. Again, I'm in the minority here, since it is a fragrance well loved by many women, but I think 'manly' when I smell it. Manly like, 18th c. manly. Tweed, old leather and cracked wood manly. Antlers in all of your decorating manly. This a Teddy Roosevelt climbing Mt. Everest barefoot and fighting off yeti with a salad fork kind of manly. This could be an Annie Oakley scent, or Calamity Jane, but not for me. Regardless of gender, it has a strong air of daguerrotype and antiquity and wild frontier to it. I can imagine Teddy wearing it while posing in one of those impossibly testosterone laden old photos full of large wild animals he's taken down with his bare hands. 
case in point

This scent is not delicate, not floral and not sweet. It's strong, thick and enveloping. If you're looking for a creamy, exotic amber that whispers of sin and silken pillows, try the amber notes in Depravity. For amber dripping with ripe berries, wild brambles and summer sunshine, try The Brier Path. Prefer something lush and sweet with a hint of autumn air? - wait for Hex to come back for Samhain. But, If you like your coffee black and double strong, your chocolate dark and your stilettos steel-tipped, you might want to give Haus Amber a try.

*Take a minute to read about the 'pitch experiment' in Queensland. It's pretty interesting.

As always, all products were purchased by me for my own use. My opinions are my own and always will be. Your mileage may vary.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lassi Come Home

I can't tell you how much I've been looking forwards to using that line.

Anyway, Lassi is one of the spring scents from Haus of Gloi that went live today. This is Lassi's third year in the shop and I'm very excited to see it back. My relationship with Lassi has been a bit odd. I didn't always love her, you see. It's kind of like one of those movies where the hero chases after the high maintainence love interest and then, in the end finally really sees the less flashy one who's been there all along and falls for her.

photo courtesy Haus of Gloi

Lassi debuted originally with Maedwe (no longer available) and Seeress (renamed Selkie) both of which I adored. Lassi was okay but it didn't send me into paroxysms of rapture the way the other two did. Both of them are damp, earthy, wet grass and dandelions smells, the sort of thing that vividly invokes the first fresh, green days of spring. I bought both in every format available. I bought samples of Lassi, because I liked it, but my focus was on her two elegant, dewy sisters.

And yet...both of those smells are so very specific in what they conjure up for me. Selkie is the wetter of the two, "The break of waves, gurgling sea foam, kelp, rain tinged air, sand smoothed driftwood and wild sage" it has an oceanic tinge to it and always makes me think of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,"* where the driftwood marker with Anna's name on it is shown aging to illustrate the passage of time, the ending of winter and the birth of spring, cycling by year after year. Maedwe, on the other hand, was "Pesky dandelions, red clover patches, creeping sweetpea blooms and the dense afternoon haze of blossoming fruit trees." It was the greener scent, a grassy wet spring rain fragrance, like that first day the dandelions start popping up in the grass. Britton only offered it the one year, but elements of the perfume went into both Ploughman and Milkmaid, which she is offering again this year.

And then there's Lassi. "Cool, fresh mango cream, Tunisian orange blossom absolute, black ginger to ground, splash of green tea and a soft squeeze of lime juice." Inspired by that tasty Indian beverage, it smells like an extra-fruity version of exactly that. In the jar, the sugar scrub has the sweetest smell, like a lime SweetTart. Both the lotion and the perfume format have the richest version of the scent, a burst of lime followed by the underlying green tea and creamy ginger scents with just a whiff of mango and orange. It doesn't smell like anything other than what it is, a sweet, delicious, fruity, beverage inspired scent. But somehow, it's turned into my go-to scent.

stock image from somewhere.

It's impossible to feel unhappy when you're wearing Lassi. It's like wearing laughter. It's bright, it's bubbly and it goes with everything. The longer you wear it, the more it grows on you. When I can't decide what to wear, when I'm not looking for anything specific, or when I just want to smell happy, I reach for Lassi. The second year it was available, I bought a large size in everything it came in, scrubs, lotion, perfume, the lot. It's one of the few products I've used up and need to replace, I wear it so often. Much as I like lime and other citrus-scents, I never would have expected this to become the olfactory equivalent of a best friend, and I find myself reaching for it, over and over again. It's not terribly exotic or heady, it doesn't transport me to some far-off place or inspire romantic visions, it just makes me happy. What more could you want from a bottle of perfume?

*The 1947 movie. Go watch it, it's great.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Smell Like Me!

I have donated some of my samples, and a full, unopened bottle of Solstice Scents "Jack and the Devil" to a raffle for a fellow blogger and friend. It's an awesome raffle, and I recommend checking it out.

The raffle is here.

The items I've put in, are the full size perfume and the following samples:
Red Roan
(Fresh strawberry flecked porridge with maple syrup and adulterated with a splash of white cognac)
Brier Path
(Sun drenched trail leading to a day dream of ripe berries and woods’ rose, rich forest loam, ozone, dark amber and cream.)
White Raspberry
(Tart raspberry and a clean cream accord.)
(A welcome respite: Muskmelon, coconut water infused with bergamot flower, kaffir lime, polished ho wood and sticky benzoin)
Peach Mama
Lavender Sugar
Insalata Nocturna


(You’ve been bewitched! Lecherous: brackish amber, aged vanilla bean and three dark fruits, veiled in darkness and otherworldly secrecy )
Narcosa (A thick haze of tonka and black vanilla, three jasmines, tuberose and ylang ylang.)

Lassi (bad label)
(Fresh mango cream, orange blossom water, black ginger to ground, splash of green tea and a soft squeeze of lime juice.)
(Freshly turned earth, wet leaves, and a spectre ridden wind.)
Haus Amber

Sweet Anthem
Nell (Black Tea, Cardamom, Carnation, Creamy Milk, Peach, Rose)
(Amber, Benzoin, Cardamom, Frankincense, Honey, Myrrh)

Solstice Scents
Cherry Vanilla Amberosia


Gulf Breeze

Violet Truffle

Della Morte

Witches Cottage
(Warm Baked Goods, Dried Herbs, Sweet Annie, Soft Woods, Fragrant Hearth Smoke)
Harvest Moon

(sOzone, Rustling Leaves, Rich Black Soil, Chimney Smoke & Woods)
Gingerdead Man

Linen and Ivy (
Fresh sun-washed linens hanging on the clothesline in the spring breeze meets crisp green top notes of English ivy and a touch of new green spring leaves.)

Garden Gate (
Voluptuous Lilac blossoms in the foreground combine with faint traces of cascading wisteria and subtle, fresh, green grass notes.)

The Morbid The Merrier
Dessert Absinthe
75% full
Saucy Jack 50% full 
( Deep, dark, and resinous... redolent of stained and tattered petticoats, damp brick, and spilled blood in a London alleyway....)
Quoth the Raven


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Snow! Sorta. Maybe a little. Or not.

I've heard a lot of people talk about Demeter Fragrances. Apparently they are one of the better midrange commercial perfumes. They're one of those companies I think I'd like to try every now and then, but tend to forget they exist when I'm actually perfume shopping. However, I just happened to see a display of Demeter holiday scents when I was in Rite-Aid picking up Pepsi the other day, and my little brain went "Hey - don't you want to smell that?" Since one of the bottles was 'Snow', which is on my must-try list, and it was only 5 bucks, I tossed one in the cart.

Demeter describes this scent as "the essence of snow in a scent; chilling, cool, clean and fresh, with a touch of dust (necessary to form flakes) and earth (upon which to rest). There is literally nothing like it outside of the Demeter Fragrance Library." Apparently it also won several major perfume awards.

I'd like to state, for the record, that snow doesn't actually have a smell - unless your pollution levels are beyond imagining. There are scents we associate with snow, but snow itself smells like nothing. Even some waters (especially well water) have more smell than snow. Usually snow smells are represented by something to mimic dampness - a melon or ozone-y scent, something we associate with cold - minty scents - to give you that frozen nostril experience, or moist earthy scents. Snow has a hint of dampness from what I suspect is an ozone note, a light earthiness and an overall aroma of white flowers. It's very, very subtle and light, but I wouldn't have thought  'snow!' If I didn't know that was what it was called. Snowdrops, maybe, but not snow. It's definitely got more of a very early spring/late winter feel than a Christmassy, icy, snow-covered ambiance.

It's  a nice, simple scent - pretty, pleasant and unpretentious, but nothing to write home about (though technically, I'm doing just that). I'm fairly stumped why it got so many awards. It's nice, but  not something that jumps out at me and says - keep smelling me! It's also very weak, I had to layer quite a bit to make out the fragrance on my arm. If I'd paid more than five dollars for it, I'd probably have been annoyed.  It reminds me a bit of Haus of Gloi's "Something Hopeful" from Valentine's 2011.* That was an incredible scent, everything Snow wants to be when it grows up. Light, fresh and an absolutely perfect rendition of the first stirrings of spring; damp earth, melting snow, a few hesitant blossoms and the promise of more to come, even though the sky is still grey and ice still rings the lakes and streams. Sadly, Britton didn't bring that one back this year.

I'm not sure I'd try another Demeter fragrance after this one. Well, if it's cheap enough. It's possible that I just hit a particularly underwhelming scent with Snow. It's not amazing, it's not unique and it's not very snowy. It's just...kinda nice.

*Perhaps the first stirrings of the spring to come. Warm sakura blossom green tea with the tiniest droplet of plum juice, red mandarin and crystallized jasmine essence.

 All products were purchased by me for my own use. My opinions are my own and always will be. Your mileage may vary.