Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Good Day to Go to the Mailbox

I got a package in the mail today - 3 solid perfumes from OHWTO.  Besides the regular size perfumes I got two more solid perfumes in clamshell samples, a plastic centipede, candy (yay!) and a purple plastic pumpkin ring (say that 10 times fast.)

The samples were three of the Halloween scents, Sugar Skulls, from last years entries and two new scents, Santa Muerte and the cumbersomely named Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things.  The samples are Homecoming and Sugar Leaf.

As I've said before, I love solid perfume because it's pretty much idiot proof. And I am often an idiot, so it's all to the good.

We'll start with Santa Muerte, which was my least favourite. OHWTO describes this as "This is much "darker" than the usual OHWTO scents, and very complex. A Blessed Bounty of Sacred Offerings- Amber, Cinnamon Pastries, Caramel, Carnation, Tuberose, Spices, Chocolate, Tobacco, Labdanum, Church Incense, Dark Patchouli, Vanilla, Musk, Cognac, Fruits, Black Agar, Cardamom, and Lilies."
When I smelled it in the tube it smelled like maple and I was sad because I can't stand the smell of maple. Once I put it on, the maple smell dissipated and turned into something, as the description says, very dark and very complex. It does have a thick, dark, treacly smell to it, which is probably why I thought of maple at first, but as it sits on the skin it turns into something earthier. 
kind of like this

I'd say it smelled like carmelized Patchouli, except there's no such thing. Honestly, I would expect to ooze out of the tube like sugar in the middle of being worked into a toffee or a dark caramel and look like amber-brown molasses. It doesn't, of course, but if I hadn't seen it first, that's what I'd expect. As it dries down it gets softer and some of the floral scents, particularly the carnation get a word in edgewise, but it remains dark. It's sweet in a sticky way, and just a little bit much for me. I don't see myself wearing this as often as some of the other scents. It's not bad, it's just...intense.

Sugar Skulls I had wanted this last year, but ended up not getting it, so it was first on my list this year. It's described as "You'll smell sweet baked goods, vanilla cookies, anise, and roses- all the scents of a stroll through a Mexican neighborhood at that time of the year. " And yes, that is exactly how it smells. It's not too strong, and the anise isn't overwhelming. This is not an absinthe type anise, but a soft, sweet anise with a rush of vanilla and soft rose petal fragrance. It doesn't smell like food, it smells feminine with a kick of spice. I've never been in a Mexican neighborhood, but I can imagine terracotta plastered walls with brilliant cotton curtains and stark white linens drying on a line. The anise gives it an exotic touch while the vanilla and rose make it warm and comforting. Perhaps a vase of roses on a starched lace doily with the sun pouring in the window. It really is lovely and simple without being ordinary.

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things*: Acorns, Oak, Vanilla, Apples, Roasted Spiced Pumpkin, a bit of Musk and a mound of freshly-dug Dirt. Sort of disturbing! Not actually disturbing, in fact, I'd call this a work of genius. Why? It's the apple. I hate apple notes in perfumes, because they never actually smell like apples - at best they smell like apple cider, at worst like spoiled apple juice. Apples themselves have a crisp, light fruity scent and this is the first perfume I've ever smelled that captured exactly the scent you get when you bite into an apple. It's perfect, and that's only a small part of this scent - there's the wonderful nuttiness of the acorn, a slight whiff of spices and dirt. I don't get the musk, but, as I've said before, I can't smell most musks. I do detect a warm slight underlayer, though which is probably musk. This smell is exactly like heading out to the backyard late in the afternoon to rake up some leaves, gather up some nuts, maybe mound over your rosebushes or put in a few late mums. Stop to rest with plump juicy apple to munch on and you've got it. It's fresh and outdoorsy, delicious and airy all at the same time. It seems to retain it's character pretty well as it dries down, the flash of apple is strongest in the tube and softens as it wears on the skin, while the nuts and earth come up a bit, but the overall essence doesn't change. Just smelling it makes me want to step outside and revel in the autumness of the day.

The two samples were Homecoming,  "A fall-inspired blend, Homecoming captures many of the scents of autumn in New England. Tart cranberries, dried figs, mulling spices, dried split firewood, fallen leaves and warm 'Hot Toddies'". Becca's going to kill me for this, but the first thing I thought when I smelled it in the tube was "Hamster Litter!" Bear in mind, of course, that I mean fresh, unused hamster litter, which I quite like the smell of. After a moment I realised that the litter I always used when I kept rodents was primarily cedar with a few other woods mixed in, so it was actually wood I was smelling. No rodents were harmed or even inconvenienced in the making of this scent**. 
**as far as I know

Once it's on my skin, I definitely smell the cranberry, it gives the whole thing a tart effervescence. That fades a bit with the drydown and the other scents float to the surface. Is there a such thing as cranberry wine? Because that's what this ends up smelling like to me.

The other sample is Sugar Leaf which is a funny, bright little scent. "Notes of Vanilla Sugar, Sparkling Citron, Apple Peel, Sheer Floral, Sensual Woods, Creamy Musk It's fresh, sweet and citrusy with a warm undertone. I don't get any apple here, but that may just be because my nose refused to acknowledge it after the perfect apple tone in CSPWDT. No other apple scent is worthy. It's a nice sugared fruit scent. I would never have picked it on my own, but it is quite pleasant.

If you've never shopped at OHWTO, you've been doing yourself a disservice. Go there, now, and browse, because Becca has a fabulous selection of scents and products and they are all quality stuff. Her Black Magic soaps set the bar for awesomeness. You'll thank me later.

P.S. I just looked at my candy and OMG I got a Mango DumDum! Mango! How freakin' cool is that!
photo courtesy Temptation Candies

*When I wear this in public, I really, reeeallly hope someone asks me what I'm wearing.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's not you, it's me.

I had a heartsy voucher for Sweet Anthem, a company I've been meaning to try, and grabbed the pre-order for the Fall sample set. It started shipping at the beginning of October, and mine arrived today.  They arrived packed in a bubble mailer and with a glassine envelope holding little ziplocks of two scents each.

The first thing I noticed was - these are STRONG scents - I could smell them before I opened the envelope and none of them were leaking. And they last, even after thoroughly scrubbing my wrists between scents, I could still get a faint whiff of what I'd used last. The sample sizes are quite generous, 2ml bottles of liquid perfume. Scents and samples are also available in solid scents.

photo courtesy Sweet Anthem Perfumes.

The first one I tried was Nell: A tea fit for any such party: gilded roses, a bouquet of carnations, and a black tea sweetened with milk, spiked with a smattering of cardamom, and a peach slice swimming where a lemon should be. Top Notes: Cardamom, Creamy Milk, Peach • Heart Notes: Damascus Rose • Base Notes: Black Tea(Spice)  Nell started out sophisticated and intriguing. Roses with a hint of spicy bitter citrus. The notes only list peaches but there's a definite air of bitter orange or lime. Sadly, Nell was one of those dates that starts out promising, but ends up disappointing. After about a half hour, the sophisticated, worldy scent dissapated, leaving just a bitter citrus note behind. I didn't get any carnation scent at all, which is a shame, as I love carnation. If she'd kept her initial bloom, I'd have liked Nell, but in the end it smelled less like a fragrance and more like a garnish.

Colin:Thick air of cardamom, incense, and myrrh set the stage for many a-ghostly and storied song, and provides asylum for spice-laden spectors who steal sweet maidens into the dead of night. Top Notes: Benzoin, Cardamom• Heart Notes: Honey • Base Notes: Amber, Frankincense, Myrrh (Incense). Smoky and buttery with a spicy sharp bite to it. The cardamom is quite sharp, as is the myrrh. I liked this one a bit better, I just wish the amber and honey notes had mellowed the bite a bit. Again, after a bit of wearing, this one turns painfully bitter on me. Both Colin and Nell could work as unisex fragrances.

Beatrice One of the main players in the late-shift masquerade, Beatrice is a hearty soul full of all sorts of fragrant warmth. What type of pie, indeed. Top Notes: Rhubarb • Heart Notes: Mahogany • Base Notes: Frankincense, Tonka Bean (Incense) This one is sweet and tangy and a little bit resinous. The pairing of rhubarb with spicy, woody undertones is brilliant - the whole thing smells warm, rich and delicious without smelling foody. The rhubarb notes are strong initially, but over time the whole thing mellows into a warm, wonderful outdoorsy smell, a combination of burning leaves and tangy fruityness.The underlying bitterness these scents all seem to have on me is very subtle here. Beatrice would also make a lovely room spray.

Annabelle: Sweltering jasmine flowers cling to a cloud of osmanthus, and the spray of sea air and salty musk will surely keep you oceanside even though the summer respite has left us. Top Notes: Sea Salt • Heart Notes: Jasmine, Osmanthus • Base Notes: White Amber (Marine) Marine notes and amber! Oh I'm in heaven. It's like the waft of a bouquet of flowers while strolling down the beach in the early morning fog. This is a fresh, wet, slightly sweet, salty fragrance, the pervasive bitterness tempered by the saltiness and the richness of the amber. I think this is what a mermaid would smell like.

Leslie: Old teenage hopes are alive at your door. Citrus notes entwined with smoldering florals concede to a lovely, idyllic foundation of moss, woods, and leather.  Top Notes: Grapefruit, Yuzu • Heart Notes: Lily, Incense • Base Notes: Leather, Sandalwood, Sea Moss. (Musk) Fruity and sharp. This one is also very fresh and bright smelling. This would be a wonderful smell for a teenager who wanted something distinctive and crisp. The yuzu is strong, very strong, on initial application, while the sandalwood and leather notes creep up underneath slowly. This is a wonderful feminine scent without being girly, a tomboy scent, really, very energetic and confident. Grown-ups can wear it too, it just makes me think of a girl with freckles and a baseball cap running out to play after school. The bitter undertone is almost non-existant in this one.

Miranda - We fall, but our souls are flying. A baleful blend of banded peppers and woods, tragically impaled with bloodshot immortelle blossoms. Top Notes: Pink Pepper, White Pepper • Heart Notes: Immortelle • Base Notes: Black Agar, Cocoa, White Agar (Spice) This one is lovely, sweet and haunting. It starts with an odd, mentholy whiff, then graduates to a dark floral, but not too heavy.  The pepper notes make it sharp, while the cocoa gives it a rich, warm bottom note. This is probably the most autumny scent in the bunch, with a hint of spookiness in the undertones. The bitterness here works to the advantage of the blend, giving it a poignancy, like preserved blossoms found between the pages of an old book.

Maureen -  These thousand dreams could wake you; a complicated, seductive "floriental" for any girl child in the dark. • Top Notes: Almond, Fig, Mint • Heart Notes: Moroccan Rose • Base Notes: Chai Tea, Myrrh. (Oriental) Oh, you sexy thing, you! Definitely the most grown up of the bunch, Maureen is luscious, a food blend without being foody - the smell of an exotic Oriental bazaar, spices and incense mixing with bakery scents and a touch of floral as the rose scent, a good deep, old rose scent, wafts up through the blend. The mint brings a final, bright touch. It's sexy, exotic and a little bit risque. I love this one and the bitter undertone is very subtle.

Also included was a sample of Anita: And it's a very special thing -- she makes the people clap and sing. Be happy all the time in this nearly drinkable peppermint mocha perfume. Top Notes: Moroccan Mint, Peppermint • Heart Notes: Coffee • Base Notes: Vanilla.(Gourmand) I love the scent of coffee. Hate the taste, but love the scent. This is less of a minty coffee scent than a coffeish mint. Mint definitely dominates and the coffee and vanilla give it weight and warmth. This would also be a good unisex perfume. It does have that bitterness, which is an odd juxtaposition with the mint but in this case it adds a manly edge to the fragrance.

You'll notice I keep mentioning a bitter undertone. I don't think it's strictly the perfumes. Every scent reacts differently to everybody and every body's chemistry. I think the bitterness is just the way her blends, probably some of the base ingredients, react to my skin. It's not necessarily bad, but with some of the fragrances it was jarring. I doubt it would be as strong on someone else. I have the same problem with Estee Lauder perfumes.  It doesn't matter what the scent is, or how lovely it smells in the bottle or on other people, when it hits my skin it goes from scent to stench. Always and without fail, within half an hour, I can't scrub that stuff off fast enough, it just morphs into something revolting on me. Which is very sad, because some EL scents are wonderful. Just not on me.

Overall I was quite pleased with my Sweet Anthem experience and would recommend them. A nice variety of scents, all well made and well-thought out combinations. I think I might prefer these in a solid scent for daywear, as they are quite potent. Only two of the scents really reached out and grabbed me as something I would want, but that's a matter of preference, not quality. These are excellent perfumes that, in the case of this sampler set, were just mostly not to my taste. Sweet Anthem offers a nice line of perfumes, several of which are still on my 'want to try list', notably Tara and Anastasia. The scents are available in a variety of liquid sizes and formats and in solid.

All products were purchased by me for my own use. My opinions are my own and always will be. Your mileage may vary. Photo from Sweet Anthem's Etsy site.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Last breath of Summer.

As much as I love autumn, I'm always sad to see the summer end. It's been years since my back to school days, but autumn's first blaze reminds me that soon the planting and the gardening will be over, the roses will die back to hips and berries, night will fall earlier each day and soon we'll face the dreaded "s" word*

Once Halloween is done, the party's over, and autumn goes from spooky and harvesty to dead and depressing. Winter is romantic until about mid-January, then it's hell on wheels. Frozen wheels. The snow stops being pretty and pristine and the streets are just a muddy, slushy, churned up mess. The fireplace and hot cocoa stop being charming and become grimly necessary in the long, uphill death march that is February in NE Ohio.

But let's not think about that right now! The trees are turning and it's beautiful here. It was almost 80 degrees today, and if I'm careful about where I look, I could almost pretend it's still August or late September and there's time yet to put in that last bed of late summer annuals. My roses are still blooming and I've got a few tomatoes ripening on the vine - making up for such a crappy growing season earlier. In celebration of mock late summer, or an early preview of Indian Summer, which hasn't happened yet, I bring you three summery scents from Fairly Charmed.

I don't remember how I found the shop, but my need to deny the oncoming cold season led me towards green, outdoorsy scents. They deal in solid scents and lip balms, and I chose to try the scents.  I love solid perfumes because they're great to toss in a purse without having to worry about breakage or spillage. Also, as I've said before, I'm incredibly clumsy, and solid scents in balm sticks or pots bounce on a tile floor rather than shatter like, say, my glass bottle of Crabtree and Evelyn Violets toilet water** did the other day. (sob)

Anyway, I purchased a pick 3 for 12$ and chose The Meadow, Allegheny Moss and Acorns & Oak Leaves.  These three scents are extremely similar, and the shop also carries florals, earthy and other scents.  I'd put these in the sweet green category. They're packaged in oval lip balm tubes, have a nice soft, but not mushy consistency. They do contain beeswax, so they are not vegan. The ingredients (besides fragrance) are Shea Butter, Sweet Almond Oil, Coconut Oil, BeesWax, Avocado Oil and Cocoa Butter.

The Meadow is part of the Twilight series of fragrances based on the books/movies. In spite of my utter loathing for all things Twilight (my vampires*** can kick their sparkly white-boy undead butts)I liked the notes, so I bought it. The Meadow is described as:  "a fantastic fragrance. A bit green, a bit earthy, and a bit electric! While the Twilight movie combines Muse and baseball for an exciting game, we've combined the best odors into this scent. It really doesn't matter if you are Twilight fan or not, this grassy green, melon, rich wood and vanilla scent is sure to please." It's a very pleasant, sweet-grass scent. None of the notes stand out in particular, but the whole, overall aroma is fairly meadowy. It reminds me of tall grasses, grown so long they've tasselled at the top and the rush of green scent and flavor when I'd chew on the stems as a kid. I wouldn't call it a melony or fruity scent, but there is an overlying sweetness reminiscent of a scattering of summer flowers. It's a nice, bright scent, like a sunny morning in a farmer's field left to go fallow for the season. Maybe with a baseball field hidden in the back.

Allegheny Moss was inspired by the Allegheny National Forest, and contains notes of "Iceland moss, quillaja, yucca, olibanum and galbanum. A soothing fragrance with a fresh appeal." This one's probably my favourite of the three. Definitely the greenest and least sweet. If The Meadow is bright green, this is a deep green, very foresty. It smells like wandering off the hiking trail in a park on a summer afternoon, climbing down to a riverbed and listening to the water rushing over the stones. It smells like trees and moss and climbing ivy, with a glimpse of dappled sunlight. There's green and a slight, sharp damp pungency that's very characteristic of wooded areas around the Great Lakes.
stolen from Pennsylvania's Travel Guide web page. Probably full of gorgeous scenery.

Oak Leaves & Acorns is a flowery, spicy green scent. This could be a late summer autumn scent. It's listed as "Rustic pine, wild violets and fall leaves are the center of this intriguing new scent." I'm a sucker for anything with violet notes. Mmmmm...violets. I can definitely smell the violet note, mixed in with a spicy, woodsy smell. This one does make me think of the forest as the first few leaves have started to fall. It's a bit crisper than the other two, and the violet gives it a heady punch. I'd say this one smells like a sundown walk in September, the first fallen leaves mingling with the last of the blossoms and a few lingering berries.  That combination of beauty and sadness as another season nears its end.

Any of these scents would be good for daytime or early evening wear. I wouldn't put them with a slinky black dress, but they're perfect for a dinner date or an afternoon out. They're not excessively complex, and they wear well, even in solid format. While I don't expect to use them up as quickly as some of my other fragrances, I do see myself reaching for them when I want something fresh, green and outdoorsy, like a quick shopping trip or running errands. Or when it's 15 degrees and snowing bloody murder outside. I was very pleased with my overall purchase and will be trying other some of the other scent and balm offerings in the future.

*snow. Also sleet and slush
**which, of course they don't make any more.
***The Hunger, for example.

All products were purchased by me for my own use. My opinions are my own and always will be. Your mileage may vary. The book, which I don't own, but I'd love to check it out, is by Ed Bernik (photographer), Lisa Gensheimer (Author), Jonathan Tourtellot (Author).