In late June, Arcana released their summer collection, called Coasts of Cascadia. It consists of seven officially released scents (and one bonus) inspired by the Oregon coast, where Arcana’s lovely creator and scent genius Julia lives.
When the collection was first released, I snapped up bottles of Goofy Foot, Pink Saltwater Taffy, and Nacre (this one was at Julia’s suggestion – I was on the fence, but I asked her if it would appeal to floral-haters, and she said yes). A bottle of Echolocation and a sample of Sand in Your Tail were included as very kind extras, Sea Glass was a purchased decant, and then Yurt and Surfers on Acid came to me as extras from various decant circles. I didn’t plan to end up with the whole collection, but here we are!
As always, reviews were done without looking at the scent notes, and descriptions were added after the fact.
Goofy Foot: An ode to surf culture. Fresh coconut and cardamom with green notes of spearmint, fresh basil, and one drop of vetiver grass.
Basil and mint straight out of the bottle. Very herbal, green, and a little spicy, with just a slight coconut sweetness. On skin it’s intensely herbal and cool (that’d be the mint), with a tickling whiff of green cardamom that gets stronger as it goes. There’s a mellow coconut base, but it’s not overly sweet, just kind of rich and smooth. Between the cardamom and the coconut, it kind of smells like Indian food. Not curry or anything, it’s fresher and lighter than that, but I can’t dissociate cardamom with Indian food in my mind. Between the coconut and the mint giving it a coolness, it smells more like a really refreshing Indian ice cream. I wouldn’t call this foodie or gourmand, but I would totally eat something that smelled like this.
In any case, I like this better on skin than I do in the bottle (which is the ideal order of things). The cardamom and coconut get top billing, with a bit of mint and spicy basil around the edges. It’s really interesting. I expected it to be much sweeter, and at first I was disappointed – I thought for sure I’d be selling this bottle – but I actually quite like it. It’s very unique.
Nacre: The pearlescent sheen found inside certain shells. A mix of the prettiest vanilla with a plenitude of tropical white blossoms, pearl musk, a tiny hint of pineapple, and a quick squeeze of lime.
The idea behind the name of this one is so pretty. In the bottle, it’s a very rich, sweet, pretty summer floral. It smells similar on skin – undeniably floral, but with a good dose of vanilla sweetness thrown in. The flowers here don’t seem to be the heady white florals that usually turn me off of floral perfumes (looking at you, jasmine!) – they smell more tropical. Because my floral palette is so limited, my best comparison is to Midsummer Dreams Apothecary’s Mermaid, which is another sweet summer floral, and the first and only floral I’ve ever really loved.
Nacre isn’t as sweet as Mermaid. The floral notes are much more aggressive. It skirts the line for me – sometimes I really like it, but sometimes I’ll get a whiff and it’s just too floral ugh. It does soften somewhat as it wears, which helps tip the scales more toward “like” than “ugh.”
I think if you like sweeter florals, you’d love this. I have a very tenuous relationship with floral scents, so I’m kind of on the fence. I do like it, but sometimes it’s just a bit much, especially on initial application. However, once it dries down, I’m fully on board. The floral notes soften just enough to let the sweetness shine. It’s very pretty, and very summery, and joins the very distinguished ranks of Florals I Actually Like.
Pink Saltwater Taffy: A candy pink blend of cherry, sugarberry, black and gold raspberry, vanilla fondant, white sugar, and a grounding touch of patchouli.
In the bottle: PINK. Sweet, syrupy cherry and raspberry. Smells like cough syrup, or sticky red lollipops. On skin it smells like straight up cherry hard candy at first, but then something peppery comes out to play. It grounds the scent and adds a spicy edge that’s really interesting. For a scent that started out so ridiculously, artificially candy sweet, it ends up being kind of deep and spicy and intense. It’s still sweet, don’t get me wrong – if you don’t like sweet scents, run away from this one. But it’s not just sweet. It kind of smells like if cherry lollipops, Red Hots, and a tiny bit of black licorice had a baby. (None of those things are in here, minus the cherry, but I stand by my statement.) Sweet, spicy cherry with a rough edge.
I expected this one to be my favorite, but it’s not. I like it well enough, but I like others more.
Echolocation: How whales find one other. Ambergris and amber resin with ruby grapefruit, sweet guava, saltwater, vanilla pods, and the merest hints of patchouli and vetiver.
In the bottle: deep, musky grapefruit. Sweet but thick and a little salty. On skin it’s grapefruit, a little brighter than in the bottle, and the whole scent is sweeter and smoother. It’s fruity and sweet, but also deep and a little tangy and unctuous with a slightly murky undercurrent that gets a little more prominent as it wears. It’s really interesting and kind of weird. I like it.
I know that this scent lists ambergris among the notes, which is why I didn’t buy it despite liking the sound of most of the rest of the rest of it. The last time I encountered ambergris in a blend, it smelled like rotting fish butts. Thankfully, this does not smell like that. It actually smells really good. Kind of strange, but still – really good. So I’m really glad that Julia included a bottle, because I never would’ve given it a chance, and that would’ve been dumb.
As an aside – when I first opened up this package and started huffing everything like a weirdo, I shoved Echolocation under The Dude’s nose, and he was like, “… damn, I’d wear that myself.” And I could totally see it working on a guy, too. It’s got a deep saltiness that would probably smell amazing on a man. (I have not yet resorted to rubbing perfume oil on him in his sleep to test this out.)
Also, this is one that benefits from a little shake before application.
Sand in Your Tail: Summer nights are fun while they last. Musky black vanilla beans and sultry orange blossoms with smoky tree resin, ambergris, pink pepper, tabac, and rich incense.
First reaction: I don’t know what this is, but I don’t like it. After further sniffing, it’s very floral, and musky in an unpleasant way. On skin it’s better – still quite floral, but smoother and very slightly sweeter. It’s a powdery, slightly fruity floral over a strong, musky, incense-y base, plus a little bit of sweetness.
I wouldn’t say I straight-up hate this or anything, but I don’t really like it either. Definitely not for me.
Sea Glass: Gifts from the sea. A delicate blend of violet petals, bee balm, translucent honey, neroli, tuberose, narcissus, and skin musk.
In the vial, this is sweet, fresh, and delicate. On skin it’s the same. It’s floral, a little powdery, but there’s also something fresh and green in there, and a little “natural” sweetness, if that makes sense. The floral elements amp a bit on my skin, so I’m not super into this for myself, but I can appreciate it for what it is. The name is very appropriate – the scent comes across as delicate and translucent. It’s very pretty.
Yurt: The scent of sleeping in a rustic yurt surrounded by old growth forests. Glowing dragonsblood resin and cedarwood with hemlock, fir needle, juniper, and bonfire smoke.
In the vial: a pine or evergreen forest – sharp needles and sticky sap. On skin it’s deep and green, resin-y and almost a bit sweet. (Not in any sort of sugary way, though. That would be weird. Just sweet like plants can be.) I didn’t know if I would like this one, but it’s really interesting. The resins and woods get stronger as it dries, and the whole thing has a kind of “glowing” aspect to it that I can’t really describe. It smells like camping in a deep, dark, pine forest in the summer. Hot and green.
This would smell amazing on a man, but I’m kind of digging it for myself as well. I don’t think it’s a bottle purchase, but I’m very glad to have a sample.
Surfers on Acid: Sweet coconut milk, pineapple, and absinthe.
This is a bonus scent created for the collection, but not officially released with it. I received a sample from a decant circle., but it is available in very limited quantities direct from Julia, either via email or on Ebay.
Cold sniff: a sweet tropical drink with a boozy edge. On skin a sort of licoricey/anise note is immediately the strongest, with the sweet pineapple and coconut lurking underneath. It takes a classic piña colada sort of scent and turns it on its head into something almost medicinal. As it wears the anise does soften a bit and the sweet fruitiness gets more of a chance to shine, but it’s never as sweet as it is in the vial.
I like it, thank god, but I stupidly ordered a bottle after I just sniffed it in the bottle. You’d think that after a million years of hoarding and testing perfume oils, I’d know better, right? But no. “Extremely limited quantities” is a dangerous phrase, my friends.
Overall, this isn’t my favorite Arcana release ever. There were no HUGE hits, but there were still a few winners: Goofy Foot, Nacre (once it dries) and, surprisingly, Echolocation are my favorites. I also like Surfers on Acid, though not quite as much as I do in the bottle. Sand in Your Tail is the only one I would say that I’m really not too fond of – it’s just too floral.
Arcana products can be purchased from The Soapbox Co and The Rhinestone Housewife, among others, or direct from Julia via email (julia at arcanasoaps.com) or on Ebay (select scents).