I’ve been dipping my toes into the mysterious and frankly pretty intimidating world of Nocturne Alchemy/VApothecary (otherwise known as NAVA) lately, to somewhat mixed results. I’ve found a few things I love, a few things I hate, and a lot that fall somewhere in between. It’s been interesting because when you’re familiar with a perfume house you already have a sense of how things will work on you – I’m comfortable blind-buying full sizes from Arcana and Solstice Scents because nine times out of ten, I can tell if I’m going to like something just from the notes list. But NAVA is a mystery to me, with their esoteric Egyptian theme, extensive catalog, elaborate but not always terribly helpful scent write-ups, and specific yet confusing names for particular notes or blends (Crystal vs Crystalline vs Kobalt vs Moonstone vs Diamond vs Crimson vs N2 vs N4???). I have virtually no idea, at first glance, whether I’ll like something, and am still compiling my mental database of how their scents work with my skin chemistry. It’s an adventure… one that I was trying to avoid because the last thing I need is to get into another perfume house, but what can I say, all the raves intrigued me.
Which brings me to this review! These are not the first things from NAVA that I’ve acquired, but they are the first ones that I’ve gotten around to photographing, and since this collection is still currently available it seems like a good place to start. I picked up a handful of decants from Ajevie, and blind-bought one full size direct from NAVA because I was 99.9% sure I’d love it and I like to live on the financially irresponsible edge.
Ariadne: Somnambulist Almond-Cherry-Heliotrope infusion, Blue Sugar, Crimson Musk, Black Cherry Peel and White Coconut-sugar.
Ariadne is sweet cherry or amaretto in the vial. On skin it’s all amaretto, strong boozy cherry/almond. That’s really all there is to this one on me, first to last.
The Roses of Heliogabalus: Apricot seed essence, Roman Desert Rose accord, Bastet’s Rose Red Accord, Pyramid Sand accord, Crystalline, Rosewood eo infused with Cherry Skin, Nutmeg eo, Blue & White & Limestone Amber with a touch of Santalum.
In the vial: sweet honeyed rose. Very similar on skin, rich honey and roses, not too perfumey. It reminds me a bit of HoG Come Hither, but with more rose. After a few minutes it does get a bit perfumey and more floral on my skin, which I’m not as fond of. I like my rose scents to be quite sweet. A little while later I get some green that tempers the floral bits nicely.
It’s actually quite pretty, but I don’t think I need more than a decant.
Miranda the Tempest: Blueberry-infused-Lemongrass Water, Alexandrian Sea Salt, Blackberry Wine, Crystalline-Amber with Salted Caramel and Egyptian Blue Sugar crystals.
Musky berries and citrus in the vial, a little sweet. On skin it’s berry lemonade with a similar skin musk feel to Adele. Sweet but not too sweet, musky, soft, not too tart. The berries are a touch artificial smelling, but berry scents often are to my nose. I like it, though. This would be a great summer scent, because it’s got that warm, salty-sweet skin musk going on.
Later on the artificial tang fades and the salty-sweet musk is stronger. There’s a sort of spicy wine thing going on too. I think it’s the wine that gives this a slight sour tang that I don’t really care for. That plus the lemongrass, which skews a bit citric acid-y (think powdered lemonade mix) on my skin. I like it but don’t love it… I’m a bit torn. Further testing is required.
This is one I nearly blind-bought, because I love pretty much everything in the notes list, but I’m glad I didn’t in the end… something about it doesn’t work as well as I’d like.
Ophelia: Japanese Plum, Cranberry Absolute, Crystalline Essence (softer version of SL Crystalline), Crimson Musk, Sweet Musk, Pink Sugar Cube, Kobalt Blue and SL N4 Musk.
In the vial Ophelia is all juicy red fruits. On skin it’s sweet and juicy but also a tiny bit soapy? Not sure what’s doing that. It’s a musky-soapy-fruity-smelling thing. I’m not a fan.
Mariamne: Greek Honeysuckle, Japanese Vanilla Milk, White Sandalwood, Apricot Essence, N2 Musk, Crystalline Vanilla Water and soft Japanese Umber Incense.
Strong honeysuckle in the bottle, very floral. Wet on skin it’s softer and a bit milky, but still predominantly floral honeysuckle. It doesn’t smell like real honeysuckle to me at all. It smells like a honeysuckle candle or air freshener. There’s a sharp, powdery sort of incense thing going on as well.
After a while it takes on an almost soapy tone? It smells like strong honeysuckle soap with a little vanilla. Eech. I really don’t like this. Scrubber.
The Lady of Shalott: Lightly scented Clover infused with Kobalt Vanilla, Alyssum Flower, Santalum White, Spun Sugar and White Musk.
Beautiful sweet vanilla and greenery in the vial. Soft. Pretty. On skin it’s soft vanilla musk with hints of fresh green. It reminds me a little bit of sixteen92 Talia, but turned up to 11. After a few minutes the green and some clean floral notes do come out more, but they never overpower the vanilla musk.
I almost blind-bought a bottle of this one but held off because I read a review describing it as a sort of clean laundry scent – it’s not that on my skin, though I can see it reading that way because there’s definitely a cleanness to it. But I really like it! It’s soft and pretty and feminine without being a typical heady floral. I’ve already purchased a bottle.
This is the bottle I blind-bought (obviously). I’d heard nothing but raves and there isn’t a single thing in the scent list that I wasn’t drawn to, so I just went for it. It’s stunning in the bottle, peaches and cream but not too sweet. On skin it’s a subtle peachy skin musk scent. It’s a tiny, tiny bit perfumey for a little while, but that fades quickly enough and I’m left with a very pretty, not too sweet musky peach with a bit of soft vanilla. It’s a “skin scent” to me, because for some reason it seems to almost meld with my skin and it’s like I just smell like this naturally and not because I’m wearing perfume. It’s an odd thing that’s hard to describe, but you know it when it happens.
Obviously I love this one. Good buy, no regrets, highly recommend.
Overall Thoughts: Mixed! I love Adele and went back for a bottle of Lady of Shalott, so those are the clear winners. Most of the rest fall in the middle of the pack, with the exception of Mariamne and Ophelia, both of which have an odd soapy quality that I really dislike. I’m finding that NAVA is definitely more hit-or-miss for me, but when something works it’s really lovely. I’ll keep feeling out the brand but I’m definitely inclined to stick to samples or decants when I can. (She says, having blind-bought several full size bottles in the last few weeks. Do as I say, not as I do.)