28: arcana murder ballad blues

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In the tradition of murder ballads, the essence of an old-time jailhouse lament (on fiddle): wild Appalachian blackberries and sugared mountain violets with hints of dark earth and guilty secrets. No mice were harmed in the making of this perfume.

In the bottle, I smell dark, earthy berries and a hint of powdery violet.

Wet on skin, the berries are the most prominent thing, sweet, dark, and a little dirty. The violet gives it a powdery edge, but it’s sweet enough that I can deal with it.

As it dries down, the violet gets stronger. A lot stronger. It actually turns into a mostly violet scent, with just a touch of earthy berries. This is unfortunate.

BLEH. Okay. I’ve literally never had violet NOT smell powdery or soapy on me. I don’t like it. There is one singular violet scent I enjoy, and that is Solstice Scents Violet Mallow, and I like it because even though it smells powdery, it’s also heavy on the sweet, delicious marshmallow and the powderiness kind of works with that. Either that or I was drunk when I bought it and have just convinced myself that I like it. But in pretty much every other case, violet smells like powdery grandma perfume or soapy, purple French candies. No bueno.

So yeah, what I’m getting at is that I’m not a big fan of Murder Ballad Blues. Which is a bummer, because I really like the earthy berry scent while it lasted. But the violet takes over and it turns all powdery and soapy (both at once, bonus!) and just, no. Sadly, this one is destined for the destash pile. A rare miss for me and Arcana.

Elevator Pitch: A powdery/soapy violet scent with a touch of earthy berries. The dark berries are stronger at the start, but the violets took over quickly on my skin.

27: arcana breakfast in hollywood

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Juicy pink grapefruit shimmies up against a bevy of California citrus fruits, sparkling champagne and ripe strawberries. The indulgent essence of breakfast with a screen goddess.

In the bottle, Breakfast in Hollywood smells like sweet grapefruit and orange – a little sparkling, like a mimosa.

Wet on skin, I get a lot of orange and strawberry. It’s fresh and sweet at first, but the grapefruit and champagne come out quickly and things get bubblier and a little bitter, like grapefruit rind with some of the white pith still attached.

As it dries, it stays a zesty, slightly bitter citrus and champagne scent. A little further on, the sweeter elements, especially the strawberry, come out a bit more. It’s not sweet, and there’s still an edge of bitterness, but I like this stage the best. The more bitter/bubbly stages don’t really appeal to me, but the dry down is light and fruity and pretty. It fits the name and description very well.

This one has some cards stacked against it – I’m not super fond of either bitter citrus-heavy scents or bubbly champagne scents. And accordingly, Breakfast in Hollywood isn’t a favorite of mine. I don’t dislike it, though – especially the sweeter dry down – and I’ll probably keep it around to wear occasionally in warm weather, or possibly layer with something sweeter.

Elevator Pitch: Grapefruit, orange, champagne, and strawberries. Heavier on the bitter grapefruit and champagne at first, it softens as it dries and the sweet strawberry becomes a bit more apparent.

26: arcana the sunflower’s lament

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Today’s scent has been on my “to review” list since the beginning of Arcana Month, but when my fellow perfume-o-phile and recent Arcana convert Alison from Scents and Sea Spray posted a review of the Sunflower and Moonflower duo, I took it as a sign that The Sunflower’s Lament’s time had finally come.

Tears on the warmest, brightest day: apricot, chamomile, opoponax resin, petitgrain, peach, lavender, green cognac, heather, heliotrope, sweet clove, sticky benzoin, and iron-distilled patchouli.

In the bottle, The Sunflower’s Lament smells golden, fruity, and herbal. Peach for sure, and lavender and sappy green things.

Wet on skin, the peach is a bit fainter and I get a lot of herby florals. Like, it’s a little floral, but the scrubby wildflower kind of floral, lavender and heather and tall feathery grasses. It’s not exactly sweet here, but this scent in general has a golden feel to it – like sunlight through honey, a warm golden amber color.

As it dries, it becomes more about peach and resins, with just a bit of that herby floral scent in the background. It’s deeper and very slightly spicy, with a sharp greenish edge. While the peach is more prominent here, I don’t know that I’d ever classify this scent as particularly fruity. It is, however, gorgeous. I’ve had this one kicking around for at least a year, probably more, and doing this review reminded me that I don’t give it nearly enough love.

Elevator Pitch: A bit of peach and a lot of scrubby herbs and flowers at first, it does down into a slightly spicy resinous peach scent over a faintly herbal/floral backdrop. A warm, golden scent, but not sweet.


In unrelated but also related news, I’ve been thinking about how Arcana Month is coming to an end and what I want to do going forward. I’ve really been enjoying doing these reviews, because it’s forcing me to actually comb through my collection and test out things that I’ve had sitting, unloved, for months or years. I’ve found a few scents to destash, but mostly I’ve just gained a greater appreciation for what I have. So I don’t really want to stop once January ends, you know?

I’m thinking about maybe just keeping this train rolling as a general scent-a-day project, and either continuing to work through my Arcana collection or switching it up and featuring other scents as well. I’m leaning toward the former, because reviewing everything from one company in an orderly fashion really appeals to me, and then afterward I’d just pick another company and lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m not really sure yet, to be honest, but that’s where my brain is right now, anyway.

25: arcana prosperity

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It’s always good to keep one’s coffers filled. Golden pumpkin, lime, amber, almond, a pinch of cardamom, and a pastiche of herbs which combine to bear a strange olfactory resemblance to rich cheesecake.

In the bottle, Prosperity smells like rich amber and lime, sweet and a little spicy.

Wet on skin, there’s sweet baked pumpkin and lime. It smells delicious. I want to eat something that tastes like this smells.

After a few minutes, sharp cardamom comes out to play, but also tangy, creamy cheesecake. The tang of the cheesecake pairs really nicely with the lime and pumpkin. I’m less fond of the cardamom, though. I was hoping it would be more subtle (just a pinch!), but I should know by now that my skin doesn’t do subtle when it comes to spices.

Unfortunately the cardamom really takes over once it’s dry. I can pick out the lime and cheesecake underneath, but they’re very quiet in the face of all that cardamom. STUPID SKIN CHEMISTRY.

Sadly this is a miss for me, but as always, your mileage may vary. If your skin doesn’t turn every spice note up to 11, this one would probably be much nicer.

Elevator Pitch: Amber-y pumpkin lime cheesecake with lots of cardamom. LOTS of cardamom. Especially once it’s dry. Like… it’s mostly cardamom.

solstice scents woodlands collection

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On January 17th, Solstice Scents released a small collection of brand new scents called the Woodland Collection. It’s perfume only and consists of six scents, all of which I picked up to try out. As usual, Solstice Scents’ TAT was incredible – I ordered on Saturday the 17th, got a shipping notice on Sunday the 18th, and had it in my mailbox on Friday the 23rd. That’s actually a little longer for delivery than usual for SS, but since Monday the 19th was a holiday, nothing actually moved through USPS until the 20th.

So yeah – incredibly speedy, especially considering that SS is a two-person operation. I really don’t know how they manage it, but they’re pretty much the gold standard of customer service and TAT in my eyes, the high water mark against which all others are judged.

Anyway – on to the scents!

White Fox: Vanilla Musk, White Fur, Wood Blend, Frozen Dirt, Snow

In the bottle, White Fox is all woody vanilla musk.

Wet on skin, the vanilla musk is most prominent, laid over a base of cold woods. It’s got a fuzzy vibe – I definitely see what Angela was going for with the “white fur” description. The vanilla isn’t a warm bakery vanilla, and it’s not overly sweet – it’s cool and velvety. I can’t really pick out the dirt, but there’s a sort of earthy groundedness that it’s probably responsible for.

This one doesn’t really morph much as it dries, and wears fairly close to the skin. It reminds me a bit of Spellbound Woods, but softer and less wood-heavy.

I picked up a full size of this one unsniffed, and I have no regrets.

Elevator Pitch: A cool, fuzzy vanilla musk over a base of pale woods. A soft, velvety skin scent.

Winter Dove: Vanilla Crystals, Spicy Carnation, Nutmeg, Cream

In the vial, Winter Dove smells almost like eggnog – nutmeg and creamy vanilla, with a bit of spice.

Wet on skin, it’s a spicy carnation party. The creamy vanilla and nutmeg are there, but they’re buried under one hundred million carnation. Every single carnation on Earth.

The carnation stays prominent note as it dries, but it does mellow out, and the vanilla gets stronger the longer it wears. It’s creamy and girly, and really quite pretty. I’m surprised to be saying that, because I really didn’t like it when I first put it on. The carnation was just too much. But I have to say that I actually like the dry down. The carnation is there, but it loses most of that waxy, mushy quality that I really dislike about it when it’s center stage. Because things can smell mushy, obviously.

The carnation in this is the reason I ordered a sample instead of a bottle. I just wasn’t sure. And when I first put it on, I was like, NOPE, NOT GONNA NEED THIS ONE. But I’m rethinking that. I like it.

Elevator Pitch: A million carnations drizzled with eggnog to start, this one softens into a creamy vanilla with just a hint of spicy carnation. Very pretty and girly.

Night Watcher: Forest Floor, Tree Tops, Bark, Mountain Air, Fir Balsam, Juniper, Moss, Oud, Dried Herbs, Cedar Tips

In the vial, Night Watcher smells like the woods, amped up to 11. Fir needles and wood and moss, cool and green and clear.

Wet on skin, it’s intensely green, all leaves and moss and needles and herbs and dirt and wood. It’s like Angela scooped up an entire lush forest floor and distilled it into a bottle.

As it dries, the earthy herbal notes come out more, sweet and dry and airy. The whole scent has a coolness to it. Further into dry down, the woods become more prominent.

I was thisclose to getting a bottle of this one, but stopped myself… well, that was stupid. I’ll almost definitely end up with a bottle of this one. And fun fact: it’s wonderful layered with White Fox. It cuts the green and adds a fuzzy softness.

Elevator Pitch: Intensely green at first, Night Watcher is like the distilled essence of a forest floor. Heavy on the woods and greenery, with just a hint of cool dirt.

Monarch: Rich Red Musk, Fir, Juniper, Cedar, Frankincense, Labdanum, Moss

In the vial, Monarch is all rich resins and cedar wood.

Wet on skin, it’s musky and resiny, with lots of fir and cedar. It’s much more mellow than I expected from the cold sniff.

It dries down into a surprisingly subtle scent, mostly rich musk and cedar with a bit of incense-y resin floating around. It’s warm and the resins are tiny bit smoky, which is why my brain goes “incense!”

I didn’t have much interest in this one, but I actually like it. It’s not something I need a full bottle of, but I’ll keep my sample around.

Elevator Pitch: Rich, resinous musk with fir and cedar. The fir is more prominent at the start, the cedar and slightly smoky resins on dry down.

Grey’s Cabin: Smoked Cocoa, Cedar, Embers, Black Musk, Copal Bark, Tobacco, Spice

In the vial, Grey’s Cabin smells like smoky hot chocolate. Dry cocoa, woods, and smoke.

Wet on skin, the cocoa is the most prominent note, with smoke and wood notes following close behind. There’s a bit of spice that mingles nicely with the smoky woods.

It stays pretty linear throughout the dry down, cocoa and spice and smoky woods. The smoke isn’t overpowering, even on my skin. Further into wear, the sweetness and smoke both fade a bit and the woods are the most prominent aspect.

I’m surprisingly fond of this one. I expected it to be a smoke monster, but it’s not at all. It’s very cozy.

Elevator Pitch: Cocoa and smoky woods, like drinking hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire. The smoke is mild, and the cocoa is more prominent at first. The woods get stronger once it’s dry.

Hidden Lodge: Dry Wood Blend, Oud, Woodsmoke, Spices, Castoreum (Botanical Interpretation)

In the vial, Hidden Lodge smells intensely woody and spicy.

Wet on skin it’s more subdued, but the primary scent is still dry woods. After a few minutes, a warm, musky sort of sweetness comes out. I’m guessing that’s the botanical castoreum, because it’s got almost an animalic vibe to it? It could be the oud, or something in the wood blend, though. In any case, it’s really nice, and side note, I’m super glad this is just a botanical interpretation of castoreum, because real castoreum is a) exceedingly not vegan, and b) ew, gross.

As it dries, it maintains that warm, musky-sweet woodiness. It’s deep and warm and a tiny bit spicy, and really surprisingly lovely. Not surprisingly in general, I guess, because Solstice Scents makes incredible perfumes – but personally surprising, because I had about zero interest in this scent and now I’m contemplating whether I want a bottle of it. A pleasant surprise, for sure.

Elevator Pitch: Warm and musky-sweet, with lots of wood and a touch of spice.

Overall Thoughts: This collection took me by surprise. I knew I’d love White Fox, and I was on the fence about Winter Dove and Night Watcher, but I pretty much assumed I wouldn’t like any of the others. FALSE. I do indeed love White Fox, and I like Winter Dove and Night Watcher, but I’m also surprisingly into Grey’s Cabin and Hidden Lodge. Monarch is nice, but not particularly compelling to me personally. The others, however… there will definitely be a few new additions to my collection.

White Fox is still my favorite of the bunch, though. Vanilla musk 4EVA.

Find the Woodland Collection here. Solstice Scents usually keeps their collections available for several months at least, which is really nice for those of us who don’t enjoy high-intensity shopping that leaves us breathing into paper bags.

24: arcana caffeinated death

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By request of the lovely Noon from Peachy Noon, we have the ominously/deliciously-named Caffeinated Death.

A fatally wired combination of cocoa absolute, coffee, chai spices, Bourbon vanilla and white cognac. You can sleep when you’re dead.

In the bottle, Caffeinated Death smells like huffing a bottle of Kahlua. It’s intensely syrupy coffee with a boozy edge, and also some chocolate. It smells positively drinkable.

Wet on skin, there’s much less coffee and chocolate, and more spice and cognac. It smells like a spiked mocha chai. Is that a thing? It should be. The coffee and cocoa are definitely there, but much less in your face.

On dry down, it’s boozy and spicy and mocha-y. The spices aren’t heavy (for once in my entire life), they just keep the scent from being too sweet. It’s like dry Mexican hot chocolate with a few shots of strong espresso and a generous hit of booze. The spice get a little stronger as it wears.

In the bottle, I thought this might be similar to Ooomph, but it’s not at all. Ooomph is all milky coffee all the time, while Caffeinated Death is coffee + spicy chocolate + booze. I think Ooomph is still my favorite, but I like Caffeinated Death a lot. I think “fatally wired” is an apt description.

Elevator Pitch: Spicy coffee and cocoa with a boozy edge. Dry and not terribly sweet. Like Mexican hot chocolate with a few shots of strong espresso. And booze.

23: arcana relapse

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Succumb to your addiction with this intoxicating, distractingly pleasurable pastiche of caramel amber, vanilla oleoresin, coffee CO2 extract, French cognac, a touch of warm hazelnut, and a drop of sweet bay rum.

In the bottle, Relapse smells like strong, syrupy coffee with something a little herbal and cologne-y underneath.

Wet on skin, the coffee is strong. It’s a little sweet and amber-y, still with that touch of cologne underneath. I think that’s the bay rum, possibly the cognac.

After a few minutes, nutty vanilla and caramel come out, sweetening everything a little and grounding it nicely.

Dried down, it’s dark, syrupy coffee over a base of amber-y vanilla caramel. There’s a hint of bay rum underneath that adds a little something unusual and keeps it from being a straight-up sweet coffee scent. It’s not actually very sweet at all, in fact.

The bay rum gets stronger as it wears. A little stronger than I’d like, alas.

I have sort of a contentious relationship with coffee scents. I used to hate them. I didn’t even bother trying blends with coffee in them. But at some point, I started to come around. I think most of it was Arcana’s doing. Ooomph, and then Pumpkins Crave Cappuccino, and then I venture to pick up Relapse and Caffeinated Death. I have a few other coffee Arcanas kicking around, too – Small Cottage in a Clearing and Skipping Vespers. Of the ones I’ve tried, I like Ooomph and Pumpkins Crave Cappuccino better than Relapse, but I don’t dislike Relapse. The coffee works unexpectedly well with the herbal bay rum, but it’s a little much for me – unfortunately it was slightly headache-inducing.

Elevator Pitch: Dark, syrupy coffee and nutty vanilla caramel over a base of spicy, herbal bay rum and amber. The coffee and sweeter elements are stronger at the start, while the bay rum and amber really come out once it’s dry.

22: arcana pretty lollies

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Today’s scent is the Pretty Indulgent exclusive Pretty Lollies. There are/were a number of “Lollies” scents from different retailers – SBC has/had Derby Lollies, and Magical Omaha has/had Magical Lollies. I haven’t tried either of the others, but since I was ordering from Pretty Indulgent I took the opportunity to pick this one up.

Pomegranate, sparkling citron, pearl musk, pink musk, sweet milk, ylang ylang, vanilla, and a hint of peppermint.

In the bottle, Pretty Lollies smells very pink. Sweet and fruity and a little fizzy, definitely citrusy. Smells a bit like upscale fruit punch.

Wet on skin, it’s sparkling citrus and red fruit over an unexpectedly minty, musky base. The mint isn’t strong, just enough to make the scent a bit “cool.” The fruit and citrus (which is also a fruit, obviously, but when it comes to perfume, citrus and other fruits are two totally different beasts in my opinion) combo is really nice, sweet and zesty and very girly.

As it dries, some milky vanilla joins the party, and it pairs really nicely with the minty-musky base. That part actually reminds me a bit of yesterday’s scent, Frozen Heart, but Pretty Lollies is a million times fruitier. The mint is also less pronounced, and the vanilla is milkier. The citrus takes a backseat to the red fruits here as well.

Further into dry down, it’s a pink vanilla musk with a touch of mint. There’s a bit of fruity sweetness floating over it, but it just sort of blends together into the general “pink” feeling. It’s very soft and pretty.

I really like this one. I’m glad I caved into my whim and picked it up, because it’s a welcome addition to my collection. It’s very pretty and girly without being overly sweet.

Elevator Pitch: Fruity punch-y sparkling citrus and red fruits at the start, it mellows into a soft, pretty, lightly fruity pink vanilla musk with a touch of mint.

21: arcana frozen heart

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Today’s scent was chosen because it’s snowing AGAIN and I hate it. Frozen heart, indeed.

The essence of a snow queen’s glacial affections. An enchanted concoction of spiky black pepper, cold peppermint, icy watermelon, pale vanilla and pearl musk. Beware of glittering women in sleighs who promise you the world.

In the bottle, Frozen Heart smells like watermelon bubblegum. Sniffing at some more, it’s definitely not just that, but that’s how it strikes me at first.

Wet on skin it’s much less sweet and fruity. There’s mint and musk and a little bit of a peppery bite. It reminds me a little of Puppy Kisses, only way, way, way less sweet and creamy. The minty musk smells quite cold, which is appropriate.

A little bit of watermelon wafts over everything, just a hint of pink sweetness. It’s still a bit bubblegummy.

The watermelon fades as it dries, making the whole scent a little less sweet. At the same time, though, I start to get a mild vanilla that’s very pretty. The end result is a cool minty-vanilla musk with a very slight edge of pepper. All the “frozen” and “icy” adjectives are fitting.

I was a little afraid of this one – Arcana’s pepper can sometimes blow up on my skin – but it’s really nice. Less fruity and much more understated than I expected from a watermelon scent.

Elevator Pitch: Watermelon bubblegum in the bottle, on skin it’s a minty-vanilla musk with a hint of pepper. The mint is most prominent at the start, the vanilla on dry down.

 

20: arcana lady lamb

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Caroline Lamb, Lord Byron’s eccentric mistress, was brilliant, beautiful, and infamously obsessed with him. Rich yellow gateau, strawberries, dark clove, vanilla, champagne, and a mad little dash of mint.

In the bottle, Lady Lamb smells like mint bubblegum at first, and then I get some clove and fruity sweetness.

Wet on skin, mint bubblegum! Minty and sweet with a pink sort of fruitiness. The spicy clove is mercifully mellow, and I can smell a hint of cakey richness underneath it all.

As it dries, the clove gets a bit stronger, but never overpoweringly so. The bubblegum starts to read more as strawberry, too. Further along, the cake and creamy vanilla become a little more noticeable. It’s lovely.

Lady Lamb is an odd bird. It’s not at all what I was expecting from the notes – it’s definitely more spicy and less cakey. Plus the strawberry reading as bubblegum at first is just weird. I think it’s the combination of strawberry and mint. But I do really like it, especially the dry down.

Elevator Pitch: Mint bubblegum and clove that dries into a spiced strawberry shortcake. Sweet, fruity, creamy, spicy.