HI GUYS. It’s been a while. I’m a terrible blogger, please forgive me. As a mea culpa, I return to your screens with a review of Arcana’s 2016 Valentine’s Day collection, which is all about the saucy ladies of ill-repute who sent starched-collar puritans into fits of sputtering indignation and angry boners.
I picked up most of the collection from The Rhinestone Housewife when it was released, with the exception of Jezebel and Quedesha, which I went with half bottles of from a decant circle, and Fille de Joie, which went up at Pretty Indulgent and then immediately sold out during the 40 minutes that I was commuting home yesterday. GRRR. Thankfully there will be a restock in a few weeks, so I’ll be waiting (impatiently) for that and then ordering ASAP. So I only have 7 out of 10 scents to review at the moment – I’ll post the rest when I receive them. (I’m not too confident about liking Jezebel and Qedesha, but I’m really excited for Fille de Joie!)
Anyway – reviews!
“It hath evermore been the notorious badge of prostituted Strumpets and the lewdest Harlots, to ramble abroad to Plays, to Playhouses; whither no honest, chaste or sober Girls or Women, but only branded Whores and infamous Adulteresses, did usually resort in ancient times.” –William Prynne, Militant Puritan
“That girl, she holds her head up so high!” –Bikini Kill
Demimondaine: Sugary milk, Venezuelan coffee CO2 extract, espresso, and rich gateau.
Milk? Coffee? DID SOMEBODY SAY CAKE? This one was a no-brainer. In the bottle it smells like sweet, syrupy coffee with a bit of milky cakiness. Wet on skin the coffee is a little less intense, more milky, and I get more cake. The cake is buttery and not overly sweet (as far as cake goes). It smells like tiramisu! Oh my god, I love it.
It dries down to a sweet, milky coffee with a bit of buttery cake. It reminds me a little of Ooomph, if you layered Yellow Cake LN on top – though that would probably be significantly sweeter. In any case, it’s a winner. I’ve really grown to love coffee scents. Sillage is a bit above average, noticeable but not crazy strong, and it lasted 12+ hours on my skin.
Short & Sweet: Sweet, milky coffee with buttery cake. The coffee is stronger to start, but gets milkier as it dries. Tiramisu!
Harlot: Three bittersweet chocolates, French cocoa absolute, and caramelized vanilla bean.
Harlot smells like the most delicious, rich, grown-up brownies. It’s intense chocolate, but not too sweet, and there’s an almost fruity liqueur note to it. Like if someone told me that there was a bit of apricot in there, I’d believe it. (I don’t think there is, though.) It’s not powdery or artificial like chocolate can sometimes be. Honestly the best way I can describe it is to repeat myself: super rich, bittersweet grown-up brownies. The kind of brownie or flourless chocolate cake you’d get at a fancy restaurant, drizzled with dark, dark chocolate ganache.
It smells really goddamn amazing, is what I’m saying. After about 20-30 minutes, the caramelized vanilla comes out more, thick and smooth. Yum. Sillage is good but not crazy strong, and it lasted 10+ hours on my skin.
Short & Sweet: Super rich, bittersweet grown-up brownies, drizzled with dark, dark chocolate ganache. A bit more vanilla on dry down.
Strumpet: Plush, rich vanilla, tart cassis, brown sugar, and green cognac absolute.
In the bottle, Strumpet smells like blackcurrant creme brulee. Rich, creamy vanilla, caramelized sugar, and berries. Wet on skin it’s a bit less sweet, with the tart cassis taking center stage. It stays that way for the first 20-30 minutes or so, and the cognac makes an appearance, a shot of sharp green over creamy vanilla and tart berries.
After a while, the sharp green element fades back, but the scent remains much more tart than I expected from the bottle sniff. It’s not a bad thing – it’s really quite beautiful, tart and creamy at the same time, like a sour berry smoothie or milkshake. Sillage is good, I could easily smell it wafting around, and it lasted 12+ hours on my skin.
Short & Sweet: Tart blackcurrant and creamy vanilla with a little shot of sharp green cognac. More sweet in the bottle and more tart on first application, the two extremes equalize as it wears. Smells like a sour berry smoothie or milkshake.
Tart: Sweet lemon cakes, fluffy coconut frosting, and a dash of bergamot.
In the bottle Tart is, well, tart – all zesty sugared lemon cake. On skin the cake bit isn’t as strong, but the coconut asserts itself more, not too tropical or overly sweet, more just a smooth base for the tart lemon. There’s a little bite of bergamot to balance out the sweetness.
Later on it’s a little less tart, warmer and a bit sweeter, but never overly so and definitely always a citrus-heavy scent. It’s not nearly as cakey or foodie as I expected, but I really like it. Sillage is average, but lasting power is stellar, especially for a citrus scent – I could still smell it on my wrist after more than 13 hours.
Somebody asked me on IMAM how this compares to Ambrosia, and in my opinion they are very different. Ambrosia is SO sweet, almost cloyingly so; Tart is much, much less sweet, more balanced, and warmer, and obviously there is no peach or honey involved. I’m a little biased since Ambrosia isn’t a favorite of mine, but between the two I much prefer Tart.
Short & Sweet: Sweet/tart sugared lemon, warm, smooth coconut, and a little bite of bergamot that balances out the sweetness. Definitely on the tart side, not too foodie or sweet.
Bawd: Bright red cherry, brassy tobacco, Anjou pear, and white amber.
In the bottle Bawd smells like a Luden’s cherry cough drop, aka candy they couldn’t stop you from eating during class in elementary school. Wet on skin I get a BLAST of cherry, holy shit. It’s intense. Definitely candy cherry, red and shiny like a cherry lollipop, with a bit of sweet, wet tobacco. I think that fresh tobacco smells a little like cherry anyway (my dad smoked a pipe when I was a kid and I loved the smell of the tobacco), so it’s a combination that seems surprisingly natural. After a few minutes I start to pick up the pear, a crisp, wet fruitiness around the edges of the bold cherry candy that’s center stage.
During dry down the tobacco gets stronger, vying with cherry for top billing, and it develops a touch of soft fuzziness, which I tend to associate with white amber. The pear is there, but it’s an accent – this remains unmistakably a cherry scent.
I like cherry scents more in theory than in practice, since they often end up just smelling like cherry candy on me – which this one does, but it’s got more depth and grounding from the tobacco. It’s interesting, if not my favorite out of the bunch, and a great blend if you’re a cherry lover. It’s also incredibly potent! I didn’t do a full day test of this one so I can’t say how long it wears, but sillage was high while I had it on for testing.
Short & Sweet: Strong, STRONG cherry candy wrapped up with wet tobacco, fuzzed around the edges and accented with crisp pear.
Odalisque: Thick vanilla syrup, golden musk, black musk, kyphi, and spikenard.
This scent is a bit tricksy. When it’s wafting around me – which it does, heavily, the sillage is great – it smells like a root beer float drizzled with thick honey. Spicy and syrupy, a little creamy, with a golden honey sweetness (though it’s really not that sweet overall). It’s deep and rich and unexpected. When I sniff closer to my skin, it’s a little smoky and the root beer bite is much less sweet, almost a little like dry tobacco, and bordering on medicinal.
Thankfully I don’t spend a ton of time with my nose pressed to my wrist (though still probably more than normies who aren’t obsessed with smelling things), so my experience of Odalisque is mostly the odd and lovely spicy honey root beer cloud that surrounds me when I’m wearing it. Which I really like. Sillage is, as I said, fantastic, and it lasted 12+ hours on my skin.
Someone on IMAM posited that this might be a softer, friendlier version of Honey and Venom – I do have a decant of Honey and Venom, but I hate it a lot. Honey and Venom smells like smoky burning plastic cat pee on my skin, so while I can intellectually recognize some similarities between the two scents, I’m not sure I’m the best person to make a direct comparison. Odalisque would win by default, because I want to shoot Honey and Venom into space.
Short & Sweet: A spicy root beer float drizzled with honey. Not overly sweet, especially close to the skin, where it’s a little smokier and borderline medicinal.
Trollop: Vintage patchouli, resinous amber, boozy apple rum, and vodka.
In the bottle Trollop smells wet and earthy, a little sweet, with a distinct booziness. Wet on skin it takes me a moment to smell anything, which is odd – it’s surprisingly subdued. It’s warm and earthy, a little dirty, with a bit of boozy fruitiness. It’s definitely not as strong as I expected from bottle sniff. The amber is nice and rich, the apple rum lends a touch of sweetness. I actually don’t hate it? The patchouli isn’t my favorite element, and it is center stage, but it’s not nearly as “stinky hippie” as strong patch can often be. It’s a softer, warmer scent than I expected, with an almost honeyed tone to it. It’s not particularly sweet, though – it’s just got a warm reddish-gold quality. (Because that’s a smell, right?) Especially after a while, when it dries down and mellows a bit. The apple rum comes out a bit more then, with almost a hint of smokiness.
Still my least favorite of the bunch – strong patchouli just isn’t quite in my wheelhouse – but I might actually keep it, which I didn’t think would be the outcome here. So that’s a pleasant surprise. I didn’t give this one a full day wear test, so I can’t comment on lasting power, but when I had it on for testing sillage was average. I only dabbed a bit on to test, though, so I’m thinking if you load it on you might get stronger throw.
Short & Sweet: Patchouli – warm, earthy, and a little dirty – with rich amber and a bit of boozy apple rum. If Trollop were a color, it’d be a warm reddish-gold.
Overall Thoughts: Positive! Which is shocking to pretty much no one. The only one I can’t see myself wearing is Trollop, though it went over better than I expected. Bawd is kind of middle of the pack, just because I’m not always big on cherry scents and I’m not sure how much regular wear it will get, but I still like it objectively. The rest are definite winners, with my particular favorites probably being Odalisque (I don’t have anything else like this), Strumpet, Harlot, and Demimondaine.