darling clandestine ballyhoo, step right up, fire eater, & pestañas



As I’m sure you can tell from the lack of posts, things are still crazy around here! My new job is awesome, but I have way less down time, and house-hunting is so stressful and miserable, I can’t even accurately describe it. We’ve only been looking for a few weeks and I’ve already had like four panic attacks. Everything about it makes me want to hurl a couch through the wall and light something on fire. Ugh. Seriously, HGTV is a network of LIES.

Anyway. I had hoped to be back in the swing of swatching/reviewing/posting regularly by now, but clearly that hasn’t been in the cards. Sorry dudes. I’m working on it! In the meantime, here are a few Darling Clandestine reviews.

As always, reviews were done as blindly as possible, with notes and descriptions added after the fact.

Ballyhoo: A surprising melange of amber and sage and fig and spice with notes of creamy coffee and lime and dozens of other fascinating notes. Thoroughly appropriate for bold ladies and gents. (The solid version is pictured here, but I have since acquired a bottle as well.)

In the bitsy: deep and musky and sweet, rich, with an unexpected hit of lime. On skin I get a whiff of coffee, which sounds like it should be gross with lime, but it’s not at all. It actually smells amazing. And I don’t usually really like coffee scents! But this one isn’t all coffee, and it really works. After drying down for a while, it gets more ambery.

Ballyhoo reminds me slightly of Harpy – it’s the lime. I wonder what they’d be like as a FrankenBitsy? BallyHarp? HarpyHoo?

Fire Eater: This version lights up with hot mesquite wood and bluegrass, bursts of wild grape and apricot and lilac, and that blaze of blood orange and gasoline.

In the bitsy: a fruity, berry-ish scent with a strong background of something plasticky or gasoline-y. Or like rubbing alcohol? On skin that gas/alcohol scent is STRONG. The fruitiness is in the background, but it’s tainted. Something about this combination smells exactly like cat pee to me. I don’t know what it is, but it smells like a litter box that hasn’t been cleaned in way too long. It’s really disgusting. My nostrils flare involuntarily every time I sniff at it.

If I push past the eau de cat pee, I can pull it apart and say that I guess what I’m getting is the combination of grape, lilac, wood, and gasoline… it’s strongly astringent and abrasive like gas or rubbing alcohol, and there is fruitiness and something floral around the edges. After a while it gets a little better… but just a little. I still recoil from it, and if I sniff at it for longer than a second, lord, it still smells like cat pee. Like ammonia. Ugh. No. This is a very rare complete miss from DC. Do not pass go, do not collect a solid or a bottle. I actually scrubbed this one off.

I should note that I had The Dude smell this, and he didn’t get the cat pee thing. He just said it was “kind of floral.” So YMMV wildly here.

Step Right Up: A clean, oceanic, very unisex fragrance with notes of tea and vanilla and wood and spice.

In the bitsy: seriously blue. It’s ozone-y, but also a little hot and a little sweet. Mint? On skin it’s whoa, spicy! It’s still got a blue kind of background, but it’s very spicy and woody. There’s a bit of sweetness too, smooth and vanilla-y. It smells like men’s cologne and a fancy old-school library with dark wood and a roaring fire and scholarly men sitting around drinking tea and whiskey and eating scones.

After a little while I almost start to smell a little bit of the cat pee thing from Fire Eater… what? What is this? I thought it might’ve been leftover from what I scrubbed off, but I tried it on the other arm and got shades of the same thing. Not nearly as bad as Fire Eater, but still not awesome. I’m really confused, because I don’t feel like these two scents have much in common. Maybe it’s the wood? In any case, I definitely like Step Right Up BETTER, but I’m still not sure how I feel about it once all is said and done. More testing is required.

After yet more time, on the non-Fire-Eater-tainted hand, that smell starts to smell tea-like and less like cat pee. I think it might be that, plus the wood? Who even knows. I don’t dislike it, but I need to try it again another day.

Pestañas: A whirlwind of memories, from my grandparents’ courtship to the home they nurtured together in Illinois, including notes of cotton, tobacco leaf, rose, marigold, leather, machine oil, amber, lilac, pepper, copal, chocolate, wine and pimento.

In the bitsy: leather and a little wine. Mostly leather. On skin: it starts out sweet, and then deepens into something a little floral and a little spicy. The leather is there, and it gets stronger as it dries, and there’s something sharp and metallic. (looking at the notes – machine oil?) This is a weird scent. It’s clean but dark, a little floral, sweet and sharp and spicy. Every time I think I don’t like it, I get a hit of sweetness and I rethink my stance.

I wouldn’t say I love this. I’m not even sure I really like it. But it’s interesting.


I love the little shark stamps on DC packages. YES I AM A TIME LORD.

Overall, this batch was far more miss than hit, which is rare for me and DC blends. I love Ballyhoo, am on the fence about Step Right Up and Pestañas, and want to strap Fire Eater to a rocket and shoot it into space. I had a very strong initial run with DC, liking or loving nearly everything I’ve tried so far, but they can’t all be winners! Still, of course, the customer service and general shopping experience were fantastic. And as always, you can check out all the goods available from Darling Clandestine on Etsy.

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