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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review & Recommendation: Arcana's Ravenous II (4 Scents) + The Terrors (4 Scents)

I bought a bunch of scents from Arcana and finally got around to reviewing them now. For this review, I'm reviewing every scent in the  Ravenous II (except for Apples Crave Cider, the Pretty Indulgent exclusive) and The Terrors collections.

For my previous Arcana reviews, which include a discussion of their longevity and sillage, you can click on the Arcana label on the right or here.

As of publishing date, most of the scents are still available, but Arcana sells out fast. Some of the scents from those two collections are returns from previous years' collections, so if you missed them this time, they may come back!

If you're looking to buy these scents, there are several places where you can buy Arcana scents:


Review Notes

As always, reviews are done blind until the TL;DRs are written. For the Ravenous collection, since I suspect all the Terror notes are the same, I didn't read the scent description until the very end. 

If any of the notes surprise me, I write an overview. I've also started adding a "Final Verdict" section to help me keep track of my perfumes and figure out what to destash, since my perfume collection is starting to get messy. Here are the categories I came up with for my "Final Verdict":

  • Love: Most awesome perfume ever. Need endless supplies of it and will swap my first born child for the last drops of it if it's limited edition. 
  • Like: I like it and may buy a full size of it, but it's not urgent. 
  • Interesting: I don't really like it or I don't think I  can wear it in public, but I appreciate the artistry of the scent. It's like a beautiful but unwearable runway piece you won't buy on your own, but don't mind owning.
  • Ok: It's okay. I like it enough, but may destash for a good price to keep my collection manageable. 
  • Destash: Kill it with fire.
  • Age it: Maybe it will smell good one day. One day. Just wait.

I've reviewed Pumpkins Crave Terror and Apples Crave Cake in Dec 2014, so I'm copy+pasting my past review with an updated review so you can see how the scents have aged after slightly over a year.


Ravenous II Collection


Apples Crave Apples 

"Notes of golden apple, green apple, Winesap, Fuji, fresh apple, baked apple, spiced apple, apple cider, and a hint of apple."

Oh wow. Very fragrant perfumed apples. The kind of apples that are cool, and crisp, and clean. It...kinda makes me apple room sprays. They're definitely the expensive kind of room sprays that aren't sold in drugstores, but still room sprays.

After about 5 min, something in this is giving me a headache the way some room sprays do, so I'm definitely not sniffing myself too much. I smell that typical room spray "red apple" note floating around, and when I get closer, I get that extremely clean, room spray "green apple" note.

I kept thinking it'll get better, but after over an hour, it's still that extremely clean and searing room spray apples. The red apple room spray fades faster than the green apple room spray, so the scent left lingering on your skin is green apple room spray.

TL;DR: Apple room spray.

Final Verdict: Destash


Apples Crave Cake

"Fresh, crisp red apples blended with our Yellow Cake layering note."

Previous Review: 
The apple here starts off as an apple candy sort of apple, but it's not the headache inducing type of artificial scent. After about 10 min, it becomes more of an apple soap sort of apple.  
I was worried the yellow cake portion will smell like those play-doh-ish artificial cake scents but nope. Somehow, the two typically artificial scents combined to become  the most delicious gourmand apple scent. It smells like a wearable apple perfume, with something underneath that's triggers your lust for food, even though you can't identify what you're hungry for. 
TL;DR: Apples & food lust.
...1 year later:

Oh gods, this is delicious! So I'm writing this without reading my previous year's review so I can review this scent as if it's new. I've worn this several times, but now that I'm really paying attention, I feel that the cake bit isn't as strong as I remembered it to be.

This is red apple juice and that hint of satisfying deliciousness in the background. Last time, I couldn't identify what the deliciousness is, except that it hits my stomach straight away and makes me feel happy. Now it smells like a frosted cupcake. But maybe it's because I'm now more familiar with Arcana's cake note and start particularly looking out for it. After about 10 min, both the cupcake and the apple juice melded together, and now it smells like sugarcane juice with hints of cupcake and apple juice. I'm also getting a bit of a dry, dusty sandalwood in the background. Maybe the sandalwood's a quiet note that isn't listed and is only amplified with age? I distinctly don't remember any sandalwood.

After about 20 min in, the scent's more of a cool, perfumed apple pie. I love how complex the apple part is, to the point where I keep thinking of bouquets of apple scents, blooming into one amazing apple perfume...with hints of cake. Oh and just because I've been dying to show everyone this's a rat hoarding a bucket of apples:

I can't believe rats can be so cute!
Awesome pic by Анна Тюрина

TL;DR: Cool, perfumed apple pie.

Final Verdict: Like


Apples Crave Red Musk 

"Candy-red apples and lascivious red musk."

Er. I had to sniff several times to be sure, but this smells like apple-scented toilet cleaner. It even has that super sterile chemicals sort of scent. The apple does get stronger as the scent wears on, but it's still a room freshener sort of apple. It smells like a toilet after it has been cleaned, and sprayed with an apple room freshener. 

After about 20 min, the part that smells like disinfectant and strongly reminds me of toilet cleaners calms down a bit, but not enough. At times, I can pick out the red musk portion, which tends to smell like game-y incense. The apple is still the kind of apples you find in household cleaning products though. Now it smells more like an apple-scented clean toilet rather than a toilet that's being cleaned with apple-scented products at that very moment. 

As it dries down, I'm getting this green, plant-like scent, but I can't get out of the toilet impression. It's still a green-scented toilet cleaner with hints of apple room spray. 

TL;DR: Apple-scented toilet cleaner

Final Verdict: Destash


Apples Crave The Tropics

"Lots of green apple and sweet coconut flesh with sexy tuberose, Tahitian Tiare petals, and a drop of lime."

Oh yes.....this is that summery poolside sort of scent that Arcana does so freaking well. You get this note in Frisk and Marble Flowers too. I know there's apples in this from the name, but to be honest, if I didn't know there were apples in it, I wouldn't have guessed an apple note. The apple note just blends in to create this fragrant, sweet and tart chewy candy sort of scent. It smells like a sweeter and less boozy sort of fruity milky candy cocktail. The kind that looks like this:

Well, this is actually a coconut champagne cocktail, which isn't what the scent smells like...but the scent smells like what you expect this to smell like at first glance. For the recipe, you can head to

I think there's probably that Arcana cognac note here, since it reminds me so much of Frisk and Marble Flowers, but this scent is less boozy, so maybe it's a quieter note here.

The scent keeps getting sweeter on me, and after about an hour, it becomes this cool, vaguely fruity sort of sugary candy that can go great or nauseating, depending on your preference.

TL;DR: Chewy fruity candy cocktail.

Overview: Looks like there's no cognac note in this...still smells a lot like Arcana's perfumes that usually have the cognac note though!

Final Verdict: Like.


The Terrors Collection


Apples Crave Terror

"Holy Terror (burning frankincense, sandalwood, deep myrrh, and dusty beeswax candles), ice-cold apples, and an extra shot of smoky frankincense."

This is beautiful! Ok, this is definitely a scent you either love or hate. I only know there's apple in this because of the name, otherwise, I wouldn't know since it doesn't really smell distinctly of apples. It's more of a soft, slightly sugary sweetness that I can't really identify. It's sugary without smelling like that piercing "sugar" note, vaguely fruity but it's beautiful and complex, there may even be florals in it. 

Now the other part of the scent that you either love or hate...there's this spicy sandalwood that I love, as well as this odd scent that smells kind of like gasoline and a mixture of burning items –like burning clothes, books, photographs, get the drift.

After about 10 min, I can also pick out a scent that smells like tonka beans of vanilla at the base of it, giving it this feminine sort of powderiness. It's the kind of powdery that makes me think of girls who like way too much lace and frills. 

That's it. I know what this smells like. It smells like a Valentine's Day bonfire. It's like someone created a bonfire out of scented love letters, teddy bears, various pink frilly things, a wooden jewelry box, and one of those powdery vanilla perfumes. Basically, the kind of things that would be completely at home in a room that looks like this:

And you kinda expect them to like small dogs or cats.
Image courtesy of

I feel like a girl who likes too much lace and frills can be counted on to make the most epic Valentine's Day bonfires. A girl who keeps getting sent way too much lace and frills would probably enjoy making an epic bonfire too.

This scent has a surprisingly low throw on me, and it makes me a tad paranoid because I'm wondering if I'm anosmic to parts of the scent. I recently tried a scent with Arcana's Terror note (this was before I bought these decants), and it smelled like a Chinese grandma's altar, so now I'm wondering if I'm emitting a strong scent of Chinese grandma altar without knowing it.

When the scent fades, it leaves lingering traces of that perfumed red apple scent.

TL;DR: Frilly, pink bonfire.

Final Verdict: Love.


Peaches Crave Terror

"Yellow and white peaches with Holy Terror (burning frankincense, sandalwood, deep myrrh, and dusty beeswax candles)."

Oh wow. The first thing I got is a burst of juicy peach gummy. It's definitely a tart rather than a sweet peach and it smells like the most delicious peach gummy ever. It doesn't smell like an artificial, bubblegum sort of peach, but it's definitely the kind of peach that you get in gummies or chewy candies. I know comparing it to gummies make people think of artificial scents that usually smell gross, but it's definitely one of those gourmet, all-natural, realistic sort of gummy. I'm just calling it a gummy because I've never encountered peaches that can be this juicy and fragrant, while still being tart and almost unripe. 

Yes, I smell that burnt and sandalwood scent that I've now associated with Arcana's Terror note, but in this scent, it just makes the peach smell more realistic and so very wearable. This is definitely an easy scent to like. 

As the scent wears on, I can definitely smell more of that burnt scent at the base, but it stays close to my skin. It's also more of the "natural" scent of burnt paper or wood, rather than the scent of burning rubber or cloth, and I kind of like that charred paper/wood scent. 

After about 30 min, I smell that vanilla or tonka bean base that the Terror notes seem to come with. It still smells like mostly realistic tart peach gummy, but now it has this adorableness that makes me want to hug myself, without being a kiddy scent. I guess here's a picture that captures this scent best:

This kid is too cute!
Adorable pic by Alena Romanovskaya

When the scent fades, you're left with this faint burnt scent.

TL;DR: Realistic peach gummy.

Final Verdict: Like


Pumpkins Crave Terror

"Our Holy Terror(burning frankincense, sandalwood, deep myrrh, and dusty beeswax candles) blend with glowing pumpkin and a small dash of pie spices."

Previous Review: 
This smells like a really delicious pumpkin pie. There's something that smells like sandalwood, but it could also be a very dry cinnamon note. As it dries down, it becomes that dry, woody potpourri scent with hints of pumpkin pie.
While I hate the dry down, the initial scent was so delicious, I'm getting this in full size. 
TL;DR: Extremely delicious pumpkin pie, turning into woody potpourri.

...1 year later:

It starts off with that typical heavy, oily sort of note that's you may be familiar with if you've gotten perfumes that supposedly feature a waffles/doughnuts/fried dough sort of notes. Luckily, it lightens up pretty fast. It slowly gets taken over by this heavily cinnamon and raspy sandalwood note. There's hints of pumpkins, but it's not the dominant note.

Usually, but about 10 min, this scent is leaning towards woody potpourri, with hints of oily pumpkin and bitterness. I noticed that at certain times of the month, the scent even goes even more bitter and smells medicinal on me. I remember buying a full size of this hoping aging will make it go the way I wanted it to, but unfortunately, it went the other way.

TL;DR: Woody potpourri, with hints of oily pumpkin and bitterness

Overview: Yeah, there's no more pumpkin pie in this scent after aging.

Final Verdict: Destash


Strawberries Crave Terror

"Deep red strawberries and Holy Terror (burning frankincense, sandalwood, deep myrrh, and dusty beeswax candles)."

Oh, my gods.....I love this too. It smells exactly like freshly squeezed strawberry juice, but with hints of sandalwood and something else to make it more wearable as a perfume instead of smelling like you just had an accident in your local cold-pressed juice bar. I can't really put my finger on what that something special is –it smells pink and makes me think of pink bubblegum or cotton candy, but without the nauseating artificialness.

After about 3 min, the strawberry melds into the scent and the scent is less distinctively strawberry. The burnt part of the terror note's also coming out. The resulting scent is is a vaguely pink, sweet cloud of scent, with freshly bitten, tart strawberries, and something burning. 

20 min in, and the pink bubblegum/cotton candy part has been amplified and now the scent is...odd. On one hand there's that really grown up charred sandalwood scent, but then there's that extremely kiddy, sweet pink bubblegum/cotton candy. Throw in the freshly bitten, tart strawberries, and I don't know what to make of it.

I guess it's like kids dressed in high fashion and acting all grown up. Creepy, or cute? It can go both ways. This pic captures the scent the best:

I personally find this pic a bit too creepy...maybe it's the duck hat.
Awesome photography by Alexander Bootsman

The scent it leaves lingering on your skin is strawberry bubblegum.

TL;DR: Vaguely pink, sweet cloud of scent, with freshly bitten, tart strawberries, and something burning.

Final Verdict: Interesting.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Review & Recommendation: Arcana Sunk Lyonesse Collection (7 Scents) + 2 Halloween Scents

Ok, so I finally got my Arcana scents and finally finished reviewing them! For my previous Arcana reviews, which include a discussion of their longevity and sillage, you can click on the Arcana label on the right or here.

For this review, I'm reviewing every scent in the Sunk Lyonesse Collection except for Sabbath Eve. So 7 scents in total. I'm also reviewing 2 additional Halloween scents, Little Ghoulie and Poison Candy.

As of publishing date, most of the scents are still available, but Arcana sells out fast. Some of the scents from those two collections are returns from previous years' collections, so if you missed them this time, they may come back!

If you're looking to buy these scents, there are several places where you can buy Arcana scents:
And if you're interested in getting Arcana decants, definitely check out Ajevie's Circles! I can't recommend Ajevie enough! Her scents are always professionally packaged, her service is amazing, and the items ship fast.


Review Notes

As always, reviews are done blind until the TL;DRs are written. If any of the notes surprise me, I write an overview. I've also started adding a "Final Verdict" section to help me keep track of my perfumes and figure out what to destash, since my perfume collection is starting to get messy. Here are the categories I came up with for my "Final Verdict":

  • Love: Most awesome perfume ever. Need endless supplies of it and will swap my first born child for the last drops of it if it's limited edition. 
  • Like: I like it and may buy a full size of it, but it's not urgent. 
  • Interesting: I don't really like it or I don't think I  can wear it in public, but I appreciate the artistry of the scent. It's like a beautiful but unwearable runway piece you won't buy on your own, but don't mind owning.
  • Ok: It's okay. I like it enough, but may destash for a good price to keep my collection manageable. 
  • Destash: Kill it with fire.
  • Age it: Maybe it will smell good one day. One day. Just wait.


Sunk Lyonesse Collection



"White chocolate, pale almond milk, delicate vanilla, cream, and a touch of sheer musk."

At first I got delicious chocolate but soon, this almond cream scent emerges. At first they were like two separate scents, but then they merged into this one, delicious almond cream with chocolate flakes scent. It's definitely Chinese style almond cream dessert, that's usually the most fragrant, rich almond dessert I've ever encountered. It looks like this:

Check out Christine's Recipes for the SUPER EASY recipe!

I've always been on the hunt for a realistic almond cream scent, since almond notes have the tendency to come out as cherry cordial instead (I'm not the only one, Evonne from DC discussed this and talked about how hard it is to get an actual almond scent in her interview). Arcana totally succeeded in getting this to smell like almonds. It's amazing.

The chocolate also smells super realistic, like freshly shaved chocolate flakes.

Almond cream and shaved chocolates may sound simple, but the scent is so realistic, rich and complex, that I'm pretty sure 20+ different notes went into it to get this amazing scent.  I need this in everything!

The almond cream bit fades faster than the chocolate, so after about 30 min, it slowly morphs into a thick and creamy chocolate drink that's still light and not overly heavy. As the scent fades, there's hints of sandalwood lingering on my skin.

TL;DR: Almond cream and freshly shaved chocolate.

Overview: I'm willing to bet there are way more notes than the 5 listed.

Final Verdict: LOVE.


Marble Flowers

"Opulent tuberose petals, neroli, sheer bergamot, white amber, pearl musk, and white cognac absolute."

Ok, marble flowers is an apt name, because that does describe the scent. This is definitely a floral scent, and there's a coolness in it that's not icy at all, and comparing it to a marble sort of coolness is definitely apt. The florals are slightly sharp and makes me think of pink and purple florals, and at the base of this scent, there's this sort of light, lotion-y musk that makes me think of white marble. The light, lotion-y musk is very familiar and is one of those scents I associate with Arcana. I'm trying to place what it is.

After about 10 min, there's a sort of boozy scent that reminds me of Arcana's Frisk. Now it smells like tropical, lotion-y florals. It's a great summer scent, but still very elegant and demure. It's like the scent for elegant socialite moms on vacation. You know those kind of moms –the kind that can still look elegant, poised and perfectly made up while on vacation and running around after her children, instead of sweating and melting under the sun. Basically a woman who can look poised and pretty, even after having a handful of sand thrown at her like this woman:

How are people this gorgeous? If I attempted this, I'd look like I just got my ass kicked by a mob of kids high on sugar. The model's name is Lera but that's it. No further info. So sad I can't stalk her because she's just stunning!
Stunning photography by Kerry Moore

And yes, it makes me think more of a resort pool rather than a beach. Something in this has a scent that reminds me of pool towels for some reason. I really don't know how Arcana does it. There's none of the typical citrus or pineapples, but somehow, they just evoke summer.

The scent is too floral for me, but I can see this being very popular.

TL;DR: Elegant, lotiony summer florals.

Overview: Oh yes...the pearl musk and the cognac note. The cognac note seem to be in every scent that gives me that summer poolside feeling, and the pearl musk seems to be the one responsible for this distinct, Arcana lotion-y musk. I need to look out for them because they're awesome.

Final Verdict: Ok



"Shimmering water, sweet apples, Tiare, rain, pink jasmine, green musk, and wildflowers."

Ok. I'm getting a room spray blue and that cottony musk that makes you think of baby rooms and baby oil. The cottony musk does make the strongly clean, room spray blue more wearable and I can see people liking this, but I'm not a fan of super clean blues in general. It's definitely one of those room sprays with names like, "Morning Rain", or "Blue Lake", or.....ok. I suck at naming room sprays. You get the drift. You know, the kind of room sprays that would have a picture that looks something like this on the can:

Well...maybe something like this, but cheesier looking and less well shot.
Amazing landscape shot by Michael Thien

After about 15-20 min, the room spray bit calmed down and became less sharp. Now it smells like a cool, almost candied blue room spray, with a cottony musk. It definitely got more bearable for me at this point, but unfortunately, the cottony musk bit fades faster on me than the room spray blue. Towards the end, it smells more like walking into a room where someone just went crazy with a "Morning Rain" (yes, I'm rolling with it) type of room spray, and crashing into an elegant young mother who smells of baby oil turned into a delicate, beautiful perfume. Objectively, it's nice enough, but it's not for me.

TL;DR: Blue room spray and cottony musk.

Final Verdict: Destash


The Kraken

"There's a Kraken in the Celtic Sea? Of course! There's a Kraken in every sea. Gorgeous smoked vanilla, black vanilla, saltwater, China musk, and black musk."

Oh this is gorgeous. It's such a familiar scent, but I can't really place it. It's one of those scents you expect to smell in hotel, spa or country club toiletries. There's this lotiony sort of musk that makes you think of light, milky body lotions, a delicate powderiness that's light enough that it won't turn men off, and a really clean scent that makes you think of fluffy, fresh towels.

I'm surprised by how delicate this scent is. From the name of the scent, I'm expecting something more....dark and stormy, I guess? Instead, this is just so light, delicate, dainty and clean. It's the kind of scent that can only be described as pretty. It's the kind of perfume I see on one of those women who are extremely pretty in a dainty, sweet sort of way. The kind of women you instinctively handle with care because they look like they can shatter to bits. If I'm naming this perfume, it'll be something like Seraphim Feathers Lightly Floating In A Super Duper Gentle Breeze Over A Calm And Not So Salty Ocean, or something. Definitely not The Kraken.

Wearing this scent makes me want to wear flowing skirts, talk softly, giggle more (in my mind, it'll be one of those tinkly sort of giggles instead of a cross between a cackle and a squawk). It's the kind of scent I want to wear and also dab on little kids (of both sexes) to make them smell more adorable. Maybe I'll even dab this on my fiancé when he's in one of those emo moods after I force him to share his dessert. I wish Arcana makes bath products too, because I want this scent in my conditioner, body lotions, cuticle balms, EVERYTHING.

It's not an overly "perfumed" scent, and smells more like you've stepped out of the bath after using some high end toiletry. I can see this scent on men, women and children. Well, it's not a unisex scent, but if a dude's wearing it, it just smells like he just finished showering with the free toiletry from the luxury hotel/spa/country club.

It's basically how you expect this scene to smell like:

After about 30-40 min, I'm getting an almost almond like scent. It's more of the powdery "almond" note rather than actual almonds though. Overall, the scent stayed pretty much stable – pretty, dainty and clean.

TL;DR: Pretty, dainty, clean type of scent that you can find in country club/luxury hotel toiletries.

Final Verdict: Love


The Sullen Courts of Sleep

"A tenebrous blend of amber resin, coconut milk, skin musk, and French cognac."

Mmmmm....there's this boozy coconut that I just love! It's the same boozy coconut as in Arcana's Frisk and it's so uniquely Arcana. Coconut notes are hard to do and often descend into the sunblock territory, but this is just delicious, boozy coconut. If you love Frisk, you'll love this. They're actually really, really close together. The difference is that this has a warm, resinous, almost "dusty", wood, while Frisk has a more cool, sweet, tropical twist to it. If Frisk is the summer version of Arcana's boozy coconut scent, Sullen Courts of Sleep is the winter version.

The warm, woody part is also another familiar Arcana note that I just can't place. If I remember it, I'll definitely update this review! This scent is like the product of two great Arcana scents mated together.

Anyway, even though I own Frisk, I definitely need a pair of these scents. They're so similar yet so distinct.

If Frisk is sitting with a coconut cocktail (not piña's way more unique) by the poolside in summer, The Sullen Courts of Sleep is sitting in a wooden alcove in winter, watching the snow while sipping on a warmed coconut cocktail and buried in cushions and a thick blanket. It's beautiful!

Look at those stockings. They hint at the existence of multiple kids in the household. You definitely want booze.
Gorgeous pic by Alexandra Erofeeva

TL;DR: Sitting in a wooden alcove in winter, watching the snow while sipping on a warmed coconut cocktail and buried in cushions and a thick blanket.

Final Verdict: Love



"Sandalwood, caramel, animalic musk, sweet tree roots, and a hint of Cornish violets."

Overall, the scent is this heavy, musky caramel. Underneath, there's this sweet, red boiled candy scent that I like, and there's some wood too. The heavy, musky caramel and wood makes me think of one of soft, luxurious fur coats. It's a scent I see on posh older women.

Ok...after 5 min, the red candy part gets a bit nauseating actually.  Mixed with everything else, it smells like that sickly sweet odour rotting fruits give off. I keep thinking this smells like puke on a fur coat. I love the boiled candy part, I love the woody, musky caramel part...but together, they smell like puke on a fur coat.

After about 20 min, the sweetness gets less pungent and now it smells like jackfruits that have been out in the sun for too long, waxy almonds and musky wood. I'm still not a fan. Hopefully this ages well after a year?

TL;DR: Puke on a fur coat

Overview: That's so weird...I normally like violets. All those notes sound like notes I like, but maybe they just don't go together.

Final Verdict: Age it.


Unearthly Lovely

"Dusty honey, bee pollen, and vanilla bean."

Oh gods. This smells sooooo good. It's definitely vanilla, but there's something else in it making it so unique. There's definitely that coconut sort of creaminess to it, but there's no scent of coconuts in this.   It's just such a soft, fluffy vanilla that makes me think of how I imagined marshmallows would smell like if I've never smelled marshmallows before.

There's a beautiful sweetness that I just love –it makes me think of golden boiled candies. It's one of those sweetness that make you imagine melodic high notes. The scent pretty much stays balanced and steady as I wear it. The vanilla's a cozy sort of vanilla, but the light sweetness pulls it away from being too heavy. It ends up cozy and cool, comforting and light, at the same time.

I smell like I'm sinking into a cool, fluffy bed made out of a giant marshmallow. It's cozy but not heavy, sweet but not too sugary, powdery but in a light, fluffy sort of way, and absolutely delicious. Here's an old but perfect picture for this scent:

Anyone knows the source of this? It's been around for so long and reposted so often, I don't even know who the original photographer is.

Seriously, this scent is awesome.

TL;DR: Sinking into a cool, fluffy bed made out of a giant marshmallow.

Final Verdict: LOVE.


Other Halloween Scents


Poison Candy

"Ripe pink strawberries are tainted with musky ambrette seed, pure cassia, rich cream, cinnamon sugar, honey, copaiba, and wild oat extract."

This scent turned me off in the bottle but I was hoping it'll smell good on my skin. Wrong. In the bottle, there's a rotten sort of sourness to the scent. On me, it smells like rotting tropical fruits. In Indonesia, there's a lot of uncovered street side trash cans, and it smells like walking past the trash can next to a rojak (a kind of Indonesia fruit salad) or fruit juice stall. It even has that boozy, fermented sort of scent.

For my fellow South East Asians in countries where wet markets still exists, you know that scent when you walk past a fruit stall in a wet market and there's always a trash can that must be full of several day's worth of rotting fruits? That scent.

As the scent wears on, it gets more boozy and sweet, and some people may even like it since it smells like boozy, fermented jackfruits. Unfortunately, to me, it ends up being associated with rotting tropical fruits that have been out for so long, they turn boozy.

I tried giving this away for FREE during the LA meet up I had with other people from /r/IndieMakeupAndMore, and guess what? There were no takers. What the hell is this scent? It's like Arcana's taking the name literally and creating something you'd gift to someone you hate but are obliged to buy a gift for. I've given this to someone who likes sweet scents and seem to have the opposite skin chemistry as me, and I'm dying to know her opinion of this scent. If she hates it too, there's no saving it.

It doesn't get better as it dries down too. It just smells like you've gotten puked on and the puke has all dried up.

TL;DR: Rotting tropical fruits.

Overview: I was wondering why the hell I got this scent until I read the notes. Wtf! They sound amazing! Wtf is this??

Final Verdict: DESTASH.


Little Ghoulie

"All the scents of a small, terribly excited newbie to the trick-or-treat scene. Jack o’ Lanterns, ginger cookies, chocolate candy, and a frisson of overwhelming delight."

Oh gods. Chocolate. It's that nutty, dark chocolate scent that's soooo good. It's not one of those protein bar sort of artificial chocolate, it's actual chocolate. It's the less milky type of dark chocolate though –the kind that's over 90% cocoa, tastes bitter and kinda sour like coffee, but supposedly good for your health. After about 5 min, I'm starting to get a soapy spearmint scent mingling with the nutty chocolate. It's nice and icy and just makes me think of drinking hot chocolate in a café that has that slightly soapy spearmint room fragrance.

By about 20-30 min, the soapy spearmint part has morphed into this sweet, clean and slightly soapy fragrance that reminds me of office buildings. This now smells like drinking a heavy hot chocolate in your office, after it just got cleaned.

I first tried this in the US during winter and it was soooo perfect. Now that I'm back in Indonesia where it's hot and humid, the scent is too heavy for me and gets a bit heady. I definitely want a bath melt in this scent, and sniffing this on my pillow while sleeping in an air-conditioned room sounds perfect. Wearing it out though? Too heavy.

TL;DR: Heavy, heady hot chocolate in a newly cleaned office.

Final Verdict: Like

Monday, January 18, 2016

Review & Recommendation: Deconstructing Eden's Winter Collection (7 scents)

I got Deconstructing Eden's (DE's) entire Winter Collection sample set! I only finished reviewing them now since I love taking my time with DE. Their throw is so great, I can only review 2 scents/day at the most.

Quick warning about this review...turns out this Yule collection is fruit heavy, and I've never really liked DE's fruit notes. That's why a lot of scents end up going haywire on me, but overall, I'll still recommend DE heavily because their quality is superb.

For my other DE reviews, you can click here or on the tag on the right.


Review Notes

As always, reviews are done blind until the TL;DRs are written. If any of the notes surprise me, I write an overview. I've also started adding a "Final Verdict" section to help me keep track of my perfumes and figure out what to destash, since my perfume collection is starting to get messy. Here are the categories I came up with for my "Final Verdict":

  • Love: Most awesome perfume ever. Need endless supplies of it and will swap my first born child for the last drops of it if it's limited edition. 
  • Like: I like it and may buy a full size of it, but it's not urgent. 
  • Interesting: I don't really like it or I don't think I  can wear it in public, but I appreciate the artistry of the scent. It's like a beautiful but unwearable runway piece you won't buy on your own, but don't mind owning.
  • Ok: It's okay. I like it enough, but may destash for a good price to keep my collection manageable. 
  • Destash: Kill it with fire.
  • Age it: Maybe it will smell good one day. One day. Just wait.


All That Remains

"An old growth forest of cedars and redwoods, frozen earth, and dry, dry leaves."

This starts off strongly earthy, with a stony bitterness. There's a dark green note and, depending on what time of the month it is, a balsam-like iciness too. It makes me think of walking in abandoned ruins in a forest in winter.

After about 3-5 min though, there's this vanilla musk that balances out the bitterness perectly. Now, this is where the scent can go both ways. When I'm not on my period, the vanilla must keeps getting stronger and by about 10 min, the scent is a vanilla musk with an opium bite. The vanilla's a really cozy sort of vanilla and makes me think of cashmere instead of old lady décolletages. It's beautiful! Definitely too feminine for men, and more for women who like scents leaning on the masculine side.

When I'm on my period, the scent is wayyy more masculine. It's an icy sort of bitter, masculine green with a light sweetness and hints of vanilla. It's very rugged and masculine, at the same time, it's young and playful at the same time. It's the kind of scent I can see on a guy who's a young boss, the kind of boss who can be a tough hard ass but a fun goofball at the same time. And definitely hot. So hot, you're busy fantasizing about him shirtless even when he's talking about something boring like logistics or supply chain reviews. I'd totally pick this dude to model this scent:

A face that makes getting fired for inappropriate work relations sound worth it...
Image courtesy of Milenko Dilas

Oh, and here's a picture of him shirtless, you're welcome:

If I'm giving a speech and this dude is in the front row, imagining the crowd naked will just make me drool on stage...
Image courtesy of Milenko Dilas

After about 40 min, the scent is pretty much the same, regardless of what time of the month it is. It's snow, metallic water, leather, earth and hints of vanilla musk and balsam. It's just that the balsam is a tad stronger when I'm on my period, and the leather is stronger in other times. It's a totally masculine scent now. The metallic water is that distinct scent some leather notes morph into, but I can still sniff a distinct leather scent in this too.

TL;DR: That hot, playful boss.


Hounds of Winter

"Cashmeran, fresh pines, tonka bean absolute, agarwood absolute, mahogany, palo santo, rosewood, cedars and smoke."

Oud. This is the scent oud dries down to. Sharp wood resin, a kind of truffle (the mushroom kind, not the chocoloate), hints of green....this is the scent you first get when you spray this perfume on and it's awesome!

5 min in, it's still soooo gorgeous. It's now has a lotiony musk that cuts the sharpness of the wood, and now I'm kinda waffling on what sex this perfume is for. The first spray is definitely unisex, now the overall scent's very masculine, but the lotiony musk part is a bit too feminine for men. It's still beautiful though, and a scent I'd personally wear out.

After about 20 min, an earl grey like scent enters and the scent becomes a mostly masculine earl grey tea...if that makes sense at all. There's still the lotiony musk part, and that's why I say mostly. It's definitely a masculine scent, but slightly leaning on feminine.

Kinda makes me think of the sexiest afternoon tea ever with a guy who's gorgeous in the effeminate way, and has old school gentleman mannerisms that'll make every grandma swoon. Basically, imagine tea with this dude:

Suddenly, chess is way more interesting...
Image courtesy of Eric Auffhammer

When it dries down, it just becomes a really, rich realistic wood scent.

TL;DR: Tea with a boy your grandma would want you to marry ASAP.

Overview: I knew there was oud (agarwood) in this! Not sure what's causing the earl grey tea scent. Maybe a combination of those woods?


Snow Queen

"Crystalline musk, wind blowing through trees, winter roses and winter jasmine."

Omg! This smells like winter! Winter berries! Candy-like but not super artificial. Cool but not icy, but still a suggestion of snow. It's gorgeous!

Like most DE scents, it settles on my skin at around 3 minutes and the sweetness becomes a more smooth, lotion-like sweetness instead of the sharper candy-like sweetness. I don't want to call it buttery because it's not a creamy or oily scent, but it does smell buttery smooth. It makes you think of delicate, snow white fur in frost. There's hints of berries too. The berries can get cloying on me on certain times of the month, but usually, they're fine.

As the scent wears on, it turns more and more into this elegant, rounded, lotion-y florals. It's a bit odd, but there's hints of Sugus, an Indonesian fruity chewy candy, floating around. At times, you can even pick out this beautiful, delicate scent that makes me think of icy sugar crystals. It's really a beautiful scent, and I'd pick this picture if I'm doing an ad for this scent:

When it dries down, it turns into Sugus.

TL;DR: Elegant, rounded, lotion-y flowers in winter.


Three Kings

"Frankincense, myrrh, white sandalwood and light and dark ambers."

Before my review starts, I need to let you guys know that I sniffed this scent on my friend and it was sooo beautiful. It's just this beautiful halo of sweet church incense that makes you think of romanticized ancient cathedrals. I say romanticized because it's how you imagine gorgeous grand cathedrals would small like, without the decomposing wood bit that makes you think of haunted houses. Cathedrals like this:

Basically the kind you'll be jumping around in in Assassin's Creed
Image courtesy of Giuseppe Torre

On me, though...

Ok, at first, it starts off as old wood. Kinda incense-y, but not too bad. It's more of a church rather than an old Chinese temple sort of incense. As the scent starts to settle on my skin, there's a bit of stinging, acrid citrus and hints of liquorice. Ok...definitely not the gorgeous halo of incense I expected. Maybe it'll get better.

Nope. 20 min in and it's root beer. Root beer that has gone flat too, and smells way too sweet. Wtf skin??

Pretty much stays like this until the end, leaving behinds hints of old wood on my skin as it fades.

TL;DR: Root beer that has gone flat.

Overview: See? No idea what's happening! Frankincense and myrrh is my death combo since they often smell like whiteboard markers, but looking at the rest of the notes, nothing should be going root beer!



"Mulled wine and cider, (vegan) honey, fresh ginger and mulling spices."

This is a very American mall scent. I swear I smelled this in so many stores this Christmas while shopping in in the US. It's one of those Autumn apple cider-cranberry scents that you expect to come in red candles and probably has a picture of rustic tables, pine cones, cornucopias and stuff. I think the scent may have some orange in it too. Basically, how you expect this to smell like:

Knowing my luck, the entire display will catch fire if I attempt to recreate this...
Image courtesy of

In all fairness, the scent is gorgeous and it would never fail to draw me into a store. My mom and I would often start honing into a store while sniffing around like sniffer dogs just to find the source of this beautiful, berry scent.

Unfortunately, it's now lodged deep in my mind as a "mall scent" and I don't want to smell like a shopping mall. If you don't often go shopping in the US during Christmas, you'll probably like this though. I'm still planning to use it as linen mist because it's a scent you want to envelope yourself in to feel as if the Christmas cheer isn't over yet.

TL;DR: American malls.


Winter Pomander

"Based on a 14th century recipe, ambergris, orange, frankincense, myrrh, beeswax, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves."

This scent opens with a note that's very divisive –that orchid bitterness that smells like skunk to some. Unfortunately for me, it disappeared within 2-3 min and is quickly followed by a sharp, sweet lemon. It smells almost like dishwashing soap crossed with lemon cotton candy. Underneath, there's this chewy candy sort of scent.

It's relatively pretty after about 20 min, smelling more like a gourmet lemon cotton candy with hints of dishwashing soap. Fortunately, as the scent dries down, it stays more gourmet lemon candy than dishwashing soap. It's actually quite pretty, and I can see lots of people liking this scent, but lemon's not for me. Where's that skunk scent I like??

TL;DR: Gourmet lemon cotton candy with hints of dishwashing soap.

Overview: Yeah, I don't know what happened to this scent. Not sure how orange turned into lemon either.



"Juicy currants, cranberries, pomegranates, bayberries and vanilla bean."

Oh crap. Oh crap. Ok, there's berry candies, but along with them comes this purple chewable calcium supplements scent. That particular scent always makes me a tad nauseous so this isn't going well. Around 3 min in, the scent just turns into one of those cheap, purple, floral toilet sprays. I mean, it still smells nice enough since it's one of those scents that are popular in Indonesian bathrooms, but it's a cheap toilet spray scent. Dang, my skin really hates this scent.

Underneath, I can smell what smells like one of those really fancy potpourris, but overall, it's still cheap, purple, floral toilet spray. At least the purple chewable calcium supplement bit is gone.

And the purple chewable calcium supplement bit is back after 40 min. The scent is purple chewable calcium supplements and this really gorgeous purple candy plonked in water scent. I really do love the purple candy part, it smells like a gourmet purple candy that's made up of various berries, florals and teas to add a gourmet spin to a cheap candy. There's a sort of watery scent that makes me think of candies that have been plonked into water. Unfortunately, the calcium supplement bit is just gross.

TL;DR: Cheap, purple floral toilet spray.

Overview: DE's fruit notes just hate me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Interview with Evonne from Darling Clandestine 2016!

It's a new year and I managed to snag another interview with Evonne from Darling Clandestine!

So first of all, how are you doing?

DC: Awww, I’m doing well! :) Lots of spring cleaning here at the little ranch house (yeah, I know it’s January, but to a Northerner like me a Texas January is spring), and I’m feeling excited about new possibilities with the shop and my little flock of free-range chickens---which, if you follow me, you know are pretty much my LIFE. Thank you for asking!

So, I've been getting excited by all the tea previews you post on your Facebook and Instagram pages! Tell us more about the tea collection! What's the inspiration for them? How did you decide to go make teas?

Image courtesy of Darling Clandestine

DC: That’s right; if you haven’t heard, Darling Clandestine is about to release five varieties of loose tea. I’ve always been a tinkerer in the kitchen, and making tea allows me to share those culinary adventures with you in a way that travels well. I bought SO MANY SUPPLIES, you guys. This is a serious undertaking.

What makes these tea uniquely DC?

DC: What makes these teas uniquely DC is their tendency toward the unconventional, and the complexity of the blends. As you’d expect from me, right? And I wanted the flavors to be as true and clean as possible. The blends feature very fine quality tea leaves and very fine quality culinary ingredients. Leaves, seeds, berries, pods, flowers, stems, roots, fruits. I’m as gentle as possible with the leaves and flowers, and the various other ingredients are roasted/ground/broken/gently smashed into my mortar for maximum deliciousness. There is NO “flavoring” additive in any of these tea blends; the flavor comes from the plants themselves.

Shall I unveil the whole collection preview right here? YES, I SHALL:

VERDIGRIS RADIO: Green, green, with a whisper of Asian-fusion flair. Organic, fair-trade China Green and Bai MuDan tea. Thai kaffir lime leaf. Lemongrass. Green cardamom. Chamomile flowers. Greek oregano. Sage leaves. Green peppercorns. Frankincense tears. Cracked ginger. Basil leaves. Verdigris Radio is savory and superb on its own, or tuned for kicks with coconut milk. 

COY BOY: DC’s cheeky take on Chai. Organic, fair-trade Black Ceylon and Darjeeling tea. Green cardamom pods. Madagascar vanilla beans. Telicherry peppercorns. Allspice berries. Hand-picked cloves. Cracked ginger. Toasted organic sesame seeds. Crushed raw nutmeg. Crushed roasted almonds. Crushed dried banana. Black lava sea salt. Be flippant and lavish with your cream and sugar. 

LA MALINCHE: Enjoy Mexican mole dishes? This is a tart dark dessert melange, first sour and fruity and then rich and toasty. Organic, fair-trade certified Assam black tea. Organic hibiscus flowers. Frankincense tears. Mild ancho chile peppers. Roasted organic chicory root. Roasted organic Inca corn. Dried pumpkin and dried plantain, ground very fine. Raw organic cacao powder. Raw white cacao beans. Raw organic cacao nibs. Mexican vanilla beans. Black lava sea salt. And certified organic fair-trade roasted—gasp—coffee. Traitoress! More treacherous with milk or cream and a spoonful of sugar. 

MERAXES: Fiery and smoky and not for the faint. You might sneeze when you sniff it. Firewood-roasted organic Lapsang Souchong smoothed with China Black. Fine-cut rooibos. Crushed habanero and ancho chile peppers. Dried persimmon. Tart-dried pomegranate seeds. Black and red peppercorns. The finest Spanish red saffron. Organic hibiscus flowers. Hawaiian Alaea sea salt. Served without embellishment, Meraxes is savory. Served with honey, it is sweet and hot at once.

RUBYTHROATED: A flurry of blossoms. Superior organic White Peony (Bai MuDan) tea. Organic hibiscus flowers. Rose hips and rose petals. Lavender buds. Chamomile flowers. Jasmine flowers. Basil leaves. Spearmint leaves. A dollop of honey or agave syrup makes for a fine floral nectar.
Many of my customers like to know pricing in advance as well, so here’s the run-down on that. 

Image courtesy of Darling Clandestine

These sound amazing! How much will they cost?

DC: A beautiful twenty-serving tin will be priced at $23 to $28 (Rubythroated to Coy Boy). I imagine some folks will find that a bit on the steep side (haha, “steep”! See what I did there? Nobody steal that for a scathing---ha---review ‘cause I’ll find you), but again, keep in mind the pure and excellent quality of the ingredients, the fact that there are NO “flavoring” additives, and the fact that I totally had to take out a loan to invest in this high-end $$$$ stuff, dudes, no joke. :P My stupid brain keeps trying to make me feel *guilty* for charging high-end prices, but believe me, the prices are very nice.
And YES, of course, I’ll have SAMPLES! The samples come in ADORABLE mini tins, about two servings, for $6 each. AND! AND!! For the first week of the release I’ll have an introductory special offer for the samples---buy 4, get the 5th free.

And ALSO, if you participated in Shark Friday 2015, your package may have arrived with a bit of advice from a certain savvy shark on the back. He may have told you to remember something. Now is an excellent time to remember!

I heard you're actually turning the joke perfumes you mentioned in our past interview into actual perfumes! That's exciting! Can you take us through the creative process of how you came up with these scents?

DC: Haha, yessss! I’ll be releasing Mushyflowers and Bicep of the Parrot #42 at the same time the TEA collection goes live, THURSDAY, JANUARY 14, 10:00 AM CENTRAL STANDARD TIME. I’m calling this release TEA/VD.

For Mushyflowers, I toyed around with my belief that perfume notes you normally “hate” can be tamed and coaxed to reveal their inner beauty, lol. You know how a lot of “almond” fragrances either smell like nuclear cherry cough syrup or like cinnamon-dominated “pralines”? Yeah, I’m tired of that. So I worked on my own interpretation of almond, with a bunch of ingredients that are not almond fragrance oils. And that’s one aspect of Mushyflowers. The other aspect is florals. Floral fragrances are supposed to be heady and sweet and cloying, right? Not this one. For this I was inspired by magnolia. I didn’t use “magnolia” fragrance oil, because I haven’t found one that gets *my* kind of magnolia right. Have you seen and smelled an American magnolia tree in spring? I think they’re so cool because the big, succulent blooms come out before the leaf buds, so you have these striking pale pink flowers on gnarled, spreading silver branches. The flowers are thick and waxy and easily bruised, rather like lilies, and while they do have a heady sweetness to them, they also have a green-ness, a bitterness, a muskiness, almost a fleshiness. That fleshiness is what I wanted. And I used a number of other elements to capture that. So what you get in Mushyflowers is the succulence of magnolia poured over a base of toasted almond.

For Bicep of the Parrot #42, I kept picturing a green jungle bird in a mosaic of a fountain filled with copper pennies. I dunno, man, that’s just what I pictured, okay? So I went for the metallic overtone of copper, splashing water, high breezes, and an elaborate concoction of sun-baked jungle plants and flowers. So there you have it---description wins over “notes” this time again. See question #6, everybody! :D

Oh, and remember the gorgeous bottles I used for last year’s Valentine’s Day release, with the copper minaret caps?

Image courtesy of Darling Clandestine
I’m using the same ones for Mushyflowers and Bicep, so they’ll be a continuation of the collection. Last year’s VD releases (Bouquet of Scorpions, Noose Jewelry, and /r/Hug of Death) will NOT be returning this year, however.

Speaking of your creative process, is there particular notes you hate using? 

DC: There are certainly notes I hate *smelling* when they’re done certain ways in certain fragrances! But man, it’s like you read my mind, ‘cause I just talked up there about how I firmly believe that just about any note can be beautiful if it’s properly blended.

Cinnamon is probably my nemesis in some regards. I enjoy cinnamon, don’t have a problem with cinnamon. But it’s kinda *predictable*, and it can certainly go on a rampage in a blend if not properly managed. Sometimes that’s good, as it is in Falchion. Many of the cinnamon and “Cassia” blends by Lou Lou’s Soaps, Scrubs & Scents are fantastic examples of how bold cinnamon notes can make a gorgeous presentation.  But cinnamon can also be gorgeous as a *subtle* addition, such as in Brasao y Kinolau. If I could use cinnamon *secretly* in blends, I’d probably enjoy using it more, because I know what people think when they hear something has cinnamon in it. But cinnamon is an ingredient I can’t use secretly, because it has the potential to irritate sensitive skin, and I want my customers to be aware if I put it in.

On that subject, I actually stalked the DC Discography and found that your top 3 most commonly used notes are green, wood, and leather. Do you consider those types of scents as DC's strengths? Or are they just your favourite notes to use?

DC: Heh, they probably are my favorites---at least for balancing other notes, because you know I like to have a dichotomy in every blend. But it also may simply be that those are the “notes” I’m willing to disclose for description’s sake. ;) I think you know where I’m going with this, and I’ll elaborate in the response to the next question. I try to shake things up as much as possible, and my greens aren’t always the same green, my woods aren’t always the same wood, and my leathers aren’t always the same leather. And I’m not just talking about single fragrance ingredients here, either. Again, more in the next question.

Scent descriptions for some of your scents like Boss Fight are more of stories than a list of notes. Is there a particular reason you wrote them that way? And on that note, I've encountered several people who are going, "AAAAARGGHH!! But what are the notes???" Any tips for them to help them decide if the scents are for them? Or is the surprise part of the fun?

DC: I swear I’m not trying to keep people from “smelling” my fragrances before they buy! I have a  few reasons for being vague on notes. One, to discourage folks from thinking that “notes” are synonymous with “ingredients”. Two, to keep folks open-minded about notes they think they “hate”. (Lol, “Hate” = the theme of this interview?) And three, because a list of notes does NOT tell you what the fragrance smells like in its completeness.

There are many fragrance manufacturers out there that supply natural and synthetic fragrance supplies to me and my fellow perfumers. Their offerings are vast. I imagine that for some perfumers, making a fragrance that features notes of, say, cucumber, jasmine, and sandalwood involves simply taking “cucumber”, “jasmine”, and “sandalwood” commercial fragrance oils and mixing them together in a pleasing measure . . .  and there you have the fragrance. Often the results are beautiful, and everything’s cool. But that’s not really what I do. To me that seems too easy, and if things are too easy, I tend to be unsatisfied, or worry that it isn’t “art”. (Inb4 overly complicated cucumber/jasmine/sandalwood fragrance next year.)

I like to make things more complicated. I might be inclined to use a “cucumber” fragrance oil, but not to make “cucumber”. (I’ll use *other* stuff to make cucumber, for the PRINCIPLE of the thing, lol.) It’s not haaaaaaard enough, so it doesn’t feel original. So I *make* it original. FOR EXAMPLE. Late last year when I released “Blueberry Fate”—a special-edition of McFate with a fresh blueberry twist—it was not simply a matter of me dumping “blueberry” fragrance oil into McFate. Nooooo. There was a barrage of new ingredients that I combined to not only make my interpretation of juicy blueberry, but also to make it jive well with the original formula. Which is why I had so dang much of it left over, lol. And you know how I talked about the “almond” in Mushyflowers up there? It wasn’t a case of me finding a well-executed commercial interpretation of almond. I made my own, out of other fragrance oils that are totally not “almond”. And I made it taking into consideration how it would blend with my “magnolia” component, because that is equally important in a fragrance that has multiple facets.

Sometimes, when reviewing a fragrance, folks will go down the list of notes and say, “Well, I can definitely smell the W, but I don’t really smell the X. Ah, there is the Y, and I like Y, but I also smell Z and I don’t like Z.” A truly inspired fragrance should unfold its various notes in fascinating and surprising ways, not simply smell like all the things on a list, lined up in a row.

I would encourage people to not think so literally when it comes to my fragrances. They’re not supposed to be a “spot the note in the puzzle” game. Descriptive words like “green”, “woody”, “dark”, “crisp”, “warm”, “sweet”, etc. are not there to deceive you---they’re there to give you a better idea of how the fragrance will begin, continue, and finish on your skin.

If it’s difficult to think of this in “indie terms,” think of the big-name fragrance designers. In their ads, they don’t even bother to give you a *hint* of the “notes”—it’s all about evoking emotion. And let’s be honest: When you research the notes on a big-name designer fragrance, even they don’t really give you a solid picture of the fragrance you’ll get. If only the internet had scratch-and-sniff magazine samples. If only I could be a virtual Clinique counter, ambushing you with a squirt of DarlingClandestine as you stroll by on your way to look at handbags!

So, what can we expect from DC in 2016?

Lol, I don’t know! This is as far as I’ve gotten this year! I’ve been setting up a new workspace with much cooperation from my fantastic husband, Leif (the same fine fellow who did the design for my TEA labels), and between that and introducing all the new stuff I don’t have any definitive announcements for you quite yet. Still looking at new ways to make as many products available to y’all as possible while maintaining my flow as a one-shark show.

Oh, and I want to make one note about solid fragrances and balms---any “cookable” items. They may not appear for a few more weeks, even after the TEA/VD release dies down and the general catalog returns. I’ve had some respiratory issues this winter---nothing too terrible; don’t worry, but it occurred to me that standing over a hot stove cooking fragrance for hours on end probably wasn’t the wisest thing for my recuperating lungs. So if you were hoping to get your hands on a solid perfume, I appreciate your patience while I take a little breather. Literally, I guess. ;)

Kind of a tough question. Some people say that DC perfume oils aren't safe for collection since your carrier oil contains oils (grapeseed, almond, rice brand) with shelf lives of only 1 year. How true is that?

DC: "Safe" is a dangerous word on the internet, isn't it? ;) If you ever, ever, ever feel a product is unsafe, don't use it. A little background: Most readers know that a perfume suspended in carrier oil won't last as long (smell-wise) as one suspended in perfumer's alcohol. But the very reason many people prefer oil-based fragrances is that they don't have the "bite" of alcohol that makes you smell like you sprayed on a bunch of perfume. So we have to come to terms with the fact that our oil-babies won’t last forever, and we make the most of the time we have with them. Like a beloved parakeet, lol.
How long different carrier oils will last is the subject of much debate, and you’re right; it IS a tough question, because it seems to me that different people have vastly different experiences in this regard, and have strong feelings based on those experiences. I’ve had people email me and tell me “I’m so glad you use X oil and not Y oil because (reason)!” and I’ve had people email me and tell me the exact opposite---“I wish you would use Y oil and not X oil because (same reason)!”

A quick Google search turns up sources that compare various carrier oils and list shelf lives as though they’re set in stone, but there are many, many, many factors that influence the longevity of a carrier oil. There’s the age of the oil when it reaches you versus the age of the oil when it was expelled. There’s the *blend* that goes into the oils—some ingredients may hang on tighter to their carriers than others. There are the conditions that the oils have been exposed to during transport and storage (and that applies to every single individual ingredient in the blend within the oils—each ingredient probably had its own journey). There’s the aging process of the blend—some blends become increasingly awesome over the course of a year or two, some tend to simply fade as they age. Oils that are stored in vault-like conditions can smell gorgeous three years later, while oils that are kept on a steamy bathroom sink will probably fare less favorably.

Experienced perfume oil users will know the difference between an oil being “rancid” and one that has properly aged. And inexperienced perfume oil users should simply go with what smells good. :) And that’s really what it boils down to in the end. I do my research, but I’m not a chemist. I follow industry guidelines for safety, and when it comes to quality I trust my nose. I choose oils that are practical and less likely to interfere with the fragrance itself. I buy from a supplier that ships their oils extremely fresh, and the oils get introduced to their blends within a week of me receiving them.

ALSO, here is a little secret: there is almost NO grapeseed oil in any of my blends these days. I used it in some of my early blends when I first started selling perfume, but in my experience I’ve found that grapeseed is an oil that tends to break down and pull back from the perfume with an obvious “stale” odor when it’s past its prime. I’ve allowed grapeseed oil to remain on some of my labels and in some of the online descriptions as an “and/or” in my list of carrier oils, because at some point I may have brewed one of my older blends with grapeseed oil, and it’s not out of the question that grapeseed *could* have come into contact with the blend, so I figure it’s just good practice to disclose that until I make a big shift and revamp every one of my labels. (Which will be VERY time-consuming, so I have to be absolutely sure.) Same with rice bran oil---I haven’t phased it out on the labels until I make a complete shift, so I stick with the “and/or” in my descriptions. Nearly all of my blends use sweet almond oil and jojoba these days, and I am considering phasing those carriers out to fractionated coconut oil, since the consensus seems to be that it has both longevity and an unobtrusive odor. IN FACT, fractionated coconut oil is the carrier for the two new Valentine's Day fragrances, Mushyflowers and Bicep of the Parrot #42---so be on the lookout! :D

I have several international friends who are discouraged from trying out DC because international shipping from DC is higher than a lot of brands. Even if you refund shipping differences, it's still a pain point for international customers. Is there a reason why DC's international shipping is so high? Do you have recommendations on how international customers can save on shipping?

DC: TALK TO ME, BABES. My shipping estimates are not based on what other brands charge. They are based on what Etsy charges *me* for an average-sized package. I have to pay shipping on every package, and I don’t get any breaks. Your actual cost will depend on the weight of the package, and I cannot precisely calculate that in advance, so I’ve priced my shipping based on the average weight of the items I sell.

The image I’ve included is an example of Etsy’s shipping label interface on a package to Canada. (Personal customer information is blocked out.)

Image courtesy of Darling Clandestine

As of this writing, Canadian shipping is $8.51 for a package between 5 and 8 ounces. My packages average between 6 and 13 ounces; they’re almost never under 5. To Canada, I charge $7.00 for the first item and 50 cents for each additional item, so if you only buy one thing from me you’re actually getting a very nice price break. If you buy three items, you’re paying what I’m paying (minus a penny, of course). After the third item, the actual cost versus what you pay up front starts varying widely depending on weight. I automatically REFUND your extra shipping costs at the time I print your shipping label if you overpay by two bucks or more. (But not for a buck or a few cents, because that is a royal pain in the ass.) If for some reason I forget to refund your extra shipping, please give me a nudge!

I use Canada as an example because Canadians are my biggest international customer base. My other common destinations for shipping packages are Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, and Indonesia (thanks, Monolid Make Up!). I have less experience with other destinations, though, and once again I base my shipping charges on what Etsy charges me. I AM BAD AT MATH, THOUGH. IT’S A PROBLEM THAT AFFECTS MY LIFE IN SOME KINDSA WAYS. If you think my estimate is waaaay off, it very well may be! Let me know and I’ll fix it.
As a general rule, if you buy one to three items, you’re getting a better deal on shipping than I am. If those items are heavy, you’re probably getting an *amazing* deal. But if you’re buying, say, ten Bitsies, your up-front costs start to add up. So here’s my tip:

If you find that you’re getting nervous because you’ve got a big pile of items in your cart and your shipping costs are climbing, please get in touch with me. I can give you a better estimate of what your package will actually weigh and cost. I *won’t* make you a special listing for all the items together, because not seeing them in my queue screws with my inventory. But I will either refund you the extra or—if you don’t have the cash to overpay in advance—I’ll send you a discount code to defray the costs. Or something. We’ll work it out. But you’ve got to talk to me. Don’t be secretly mad at me on the internet, TALK TO MEEEEEEE. I won’t bite! Unless you’re into that or whatever! I’m easy!
Also, international customers who have worked with me in the past know I’m extremely flexible about holding and combining orders. If you, for example, want to buy something I’ve got in the shop today, and you also want to grab some things at the upcoming TEA/VD release, message me and I’ll send you a free shipping code that you can use today. Then I’ll combine today’s order with your TEA/VD order.

Image courtesy of Darling Clandestine
What I *won’t* do is hold an order indefinitely for a release that I haven’t announced yet. If I don’t know for sure when the release date will be, I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to hang on to your orders until then. But depending on how my turnaround time overlaps with the not-yet-specified release date, I might! Message me and I’ll be able to give you a more accurate prediction.

By the way, you’ll likely get your shipping refunds faster if you use a credit card when you check out (Etsy’s “Direct Checkout”) rather than PayPal, because I can work directly from your order, see exactly what you paid, and refund you from the same page, whereas with PayPal I have to go fumbling back and forth between systems and work from PayPal’s very literal search function. So that’s another tip, I guess, if you’re in a hurry. :P

I want to thank you again for hosting this interview! :D I know I say lots and lots of words, and I’m still hella impressed that so many people seem to have read all the way through last year’s chatterfest. You have awesome readers! I love you and your community. XOXOXOXOXO

Thank you so much Evonne!