Today I’ve got a collection review for you – Arcana’s Great Expectation collection, which debuted in May 2013. It is, as you may have guessed from being alive, based on Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations, which I’ve never read because I don’t even know why? I managed to miss a lot of the classics somehow. I just read Pride & Prejudice like two months ago. Thanks, 16 years of school. But Great Expectations – I think it was made into a movie at one point, starring Gwyneth Paltrow? Which isn’t really a selling point.
ANYWAY. Since I have no idea how these scents relate to the characters that inspired them, I can’t comment on that (and you’re spared endless gifs, if one can even gifspam a book that was published in 1860) – just the smells. Which is what you’re here for anyway, so let’s get to it.
“She really was a most charming girl, and might have passed for a captive fairy, whom that truculent Ogre, Old Barley, had pressed into his service.”
Clara: Vanilla-infused sugar cookies and tea with tiny hints of banana, apricot, and lavender.
In the bottle, Clara is strong vanilla, very sweet and bakery-ish, slightly fruity, with a hint of herbal lavender. Very very sweet.
Wet on skin the fruit really comes out – primarily banana, but something peachy as well, plus lavender. The banana and lavender is a really interesting pairing that surprisingly gets along like a house on fire. The base is that bakery vanilla, but the other elements are most prominent here.
As it dries, the lavender gets a little stronger. Ultimately it dries down to a soft lavender and vanilla scent with hints of fruity banana and apricot. The fruit notes do get slightly stronger several hours into wear.
This one is lovely, and I really, really love the lavender/banana combination.
“Dear old Pip, old chap, said Joe, you and me was ever friends. And when you’re well enough to go out for a ride — what larks!”
What Larks!: A happy blend of English strawberries and salted milk caramels strewn across polished wood.
In the bottle, What Larks! smells like sweet strawberries and milky caramel. Delicious.
Wet on skin, the strawberry is most prominent, sweet and juicy. The milky caramel swirls underneath and the combination is really nice.
As it dries, a warm woodiness comes out, but it stays primarily a strawberry/caramel scent. The wood just serves to ground it a bit. I really like it, and if you’re into fruity scents, it’s definitely one to look into. It reminds me of those strawberry hard candies with the gooey centers.
M thinks it smells like a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. I can’t really argue with that.
“If she tears your heart to pieces — and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper — love her, love her, love her!”
Love Her, Love Her, Love Her: An inexorable enchantment of 3 honeys in a base of rich, smoky resins.
In the bottle, Love Her x 3 is deep, smoky honey, not too sweet.
Wet on skin, whoa, serious resins and honey. The resins are smoky and a bit churchy, and overpower the honey at first, but after a few minutes the honey is more apparent. It’s still not overly sweet, though – definitely heavier on the smoky resins.
During dry down, the honey fades a bit and it becomes a primarily smoky, resiny scent with a little honeyed sweetness over top. The honey is creamy and a nice compliment to the heavier smoky notes. Great sillage and lasting power.
This one isn’t really in my wheelhouse, but it’s great if you’re a fan of smoky/churchy/resin-heavy scents. And even though it’s not my kind of scent, I do actually like it. The little extra sweetness is a really nice addition. I couldn’t stop going back to sniff at it, which means I’ll be keeping my bottle around, which I didn’t necessarily expect from cold sniff.
Miss Skiffins: A felicitous and seemly blend of blueberries, blackberries, vanilla, sweet mallow, clean musk, sweet pea blossoms, and a small chunk of honeycomb.
In the bottle, Miss Skiffins is sweet, creamy berries, light and clean.
Wet on skin it’s fruity and lightly sweet, with a clean, musky base and soft floral overtones. It’s like a bowl of berries and whipped cream next to a bouquet of small pink flowers.
After a few minutes, something deeper comes out, maybe the honeycomb? Probably, because it’s got a waxy quality to it, but in any case I’m not entirely in love with whatever it is. It overpowers a lot of the other notes, and what remains is mostly musk.
Further into dry down, the creamy berries make a little bit of a comeback. Ultimate dry down is a light, slightly waxy musk with subtle creamy berries and soft florals. The florals are really just a whisper, definitely the least prominent part of the scent. It sweetens up a bit as it dries.
I like this one – it’s soft and pretty, and very girly. I love it in the bottle, but wasn’t quite sold on the initial application… however I do really enjoy the dry down.
Note: Miss Skiffins was a bonus/extra scent released slightly after the rest of this collection. It looks like the only place it’s currently available is at Soapbox Co. Also, there was no quote associated with it like all the rest, and can I tell you how much the mismatched format is bugging me in this post? Because it is so much.
“Am I pretty?
Yes, I think you are very pretty.
Am I insulting?
Not so much as you were last time, said I.”
Estella: Quietly stunning ambre blanc and vanilla bean with a kiss of cognac.
In the bottle, Estella is boozy amber and a little vanilla. It smells a little like whisky or rum.
Wet on skin, I get a burst of something that smells almost like tobacco, but it mellows quickly into an amber/vanilla combo with a boozy edge. As it dries I really do get a whisky vibe from it, sweet and boozy and golden.
The boozy edge blurs further into dry down, and it’s this soft, pretty amber vanilla scent. Simple, but really lovely. I don’t always like amber-heavy scents, but this one is nice.
Serious staying power on this one, too – I put it on shortly before bed one night, wrote down my thoughts, took a shower, and went to sleep. The next day around 5, when I was leaving work, I noticed that I could still smell it on the spot where I was testing it out. One dab! Seventeen hours later. After a shower. That’s damn impressive.
“Hold your noise! cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!”
Magwitch: Rich pipe tobacco, sea water, tobacco flowers, and black roses.
In the bottle, Magwitch is all musky rose and tobacco. A really interesting combination that I like a lot.
Wet on skin, it’s salty and a little ozone-y, but with a deep tobacco sweetness and fresh roses. Very potent sillage.
As it dries, the tobacco is still there, but it moves away from the sweet, fresh kind of tobacco and into… I’m not even sure what. Maybe this is the tobacco flower? I have no idea what those smell like. I didn’t even know they were a thing. In any case, this is an odd scent. It’s salty and a little dirty, and definitely has a little bit of an ocean vibe. The rose is fairly strong, and I keep vacillating about whether it’s crossed the line into perfumey or not. It’s definitely a lot of rose, though. I like rose, but I need sweetness to temper it. I loved the smell of this one in the bottle, but on skin it’s lost a lot of the sweetness and I’m not sure how I feel about it. One sniff and I’m wrinkling my nose; the next and I’m intrigued enough to go back for a third.
I put this on shortly before I went to bed, and when I woke up the next morning it was still present, faded down into a soft, salty tobacco rose scent that I actually quite like. The plot, she thickens.
A salty, seafaring rose and tobacco scent, a little dirty and musky. Not sweet. Very confusing. I have a lot of emotions. I’m not sure if I like it, but I know I don’t have anything else like it.
“I think it was the smallest house I ever saw; with the queerest gothic windows (by far the greater part of them sham), and a gothic door, almost too small to get in at.”
Walworth Castle: The warm, masculine, homey scent of sweet bayberry, chestnut honey, goat milk, treacle, coffee bean, and clove.
In the bottle, Walworth Castle smells warms, spicy, and a little sweet. There’s definitely some coffee and clove in there.
Wet on skin, it’s deep and spicy and a little herbal. It’s hard to pick out any individual notes in this one. It’s a little milky, but not creamy and not very sweet, with a lot of spicy clove. The clove and herbal/spicy bayberry isn’t a combination I really enjoy.
Unfortunately it stays that way through dry down – a rather unpleasant combination of clove and bayberry, with a slightly “off” milky tang. I’m not sure what it is… it’s kind of rough or abrasive somehow. Goat milk? Whatever it is, I’m not a fan.
I smeared some of this on my fiance and it smells much better on him. His skin chemistry brings out the sweet milk, treacle, and honey notes a lot more, where mine amps up the clove and bayberry. Conclusion: put this on a dude.
“We shook hands for the hundredth time at least, and he ordered a carter out of my way with the greatest indignation.”
Pumblechook: An overblown, buffoonish, Pumblechookian mix of oats, wheat, brown sugar, cinnamon, black pepper, apricot, bitter cacao, and a drop of blackseed oil.
In the bottle, Pumblechook smells like warm cinnamon oatmeal, pretty sweet on first sniff, and then WHOA PEPPER.
Wet on skin, it’s cinnamon and pepper over a base of warm brown sugar and oats. Sweetish, but earthy and spicy. It smells like a deep winter breakfast.
As it dries, the cinnamon becomes more prominent. Of course it does. It’s a major player here regardless, but my skin chemistry loves to make cinnamon the only thing I smell, so YMMV on this one. It’s still warm and oaty, though, and a little sweet, like a heavily spiced bowl of oatmeal, or granola warm from the oven. Further into dry down, a very light fruitiness comes out and the cinnamon has toned down, and I find myself liking it much more.
Goes just a little too cinnamon-heavy at first, but I really like the dry down. It’s warm and toasty, great for cold weather. (And now I want oatmeal.)
“Come and fight, said the pale young gentleman. What could I do but follow him?”
A Pale Young Gentleman: Violets, amber, coconut husks, frankincense, and white peach.
In the bottle, A Pale Young Gentleman is all violets and amber, a little resiny. The violets are strong and soapy. Bleh.
Wet on skin, it’s softer than I expected. I get mostly frankincense and violets, with an ambery base. A tiny bit of peach, not too sweet.
As it dries, the violets get stronger and soapier. The other notes are still detectable, especially the frankincense and peach, but the violets… they just take over and I am not into it. Way, way further into wear, it’s actually not half bad – I get more warm frankincense and peach – but I don’t like the rest of it enough to wait for this stage.
Overall Thoughts: I really like this collection! I feel like it doesn’t get much attention, but it contains some real stunners. My personal favorites are Clara and What Larks!, but I also really enjoy Miss Skiffins, Estella, Pumblechook (despite the cinna-bomb beginning), and – surprisingly – Love Her, Love Her, Love Her. I have no idea at all how I feel about Magwitch – this scent legitimately confuses me – and Walworth Castle and A Pale Young Gentleman will be finding new homes, because they don’t work for me at all.
There are a few more scents in this collection that I haven’t tried – Miss Havisham, Gargery’s Forge, and Young Rantipole. If any of these (or those) appeal to you, most can still be found at The Rhinestone Housewife, Pretty Indulgent, Arcana’s Ebay store, or anywhere else Arcana is sold.