alkemia review-a-thon, part 3

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alkemia3

Round 3 of 3! The end is nigh! Once more into the breach, we few, we happy few, etc, etc.

Gaea: Forest loam under warm spring sunshine, new ferns poking up through decaying leaves, maple sap flowing over lichens, mosses and wet stones at the edge of a vernal pool.

Damp soil and wet leaves. There’s a sense of decay to it, but not in a bad way. It smells like a dense forest floor after a hard rain. On skin it’s mostly the same, maybe a tiny bit fresher. It’s all dark, loamy soil and wet moss and foliage. It’s extremely true to life. I like earthy dirt scents, so I really like this.

The Dude says “I don’t know what that’s supposed to smell like, but I don’t like it much. It smells like the gross, moldy basements that I go into for work. Like a damp basement full of cave crickets.” So that’s a no from him, then.

The Mist Becoming Rain: Rainwater, mist drenched hazel wood, meadow grasses, sage blooms, orris root, ozone, grey amber.

This one is weird. It’s wet and a little spicy and herbal. It reminds me of really strong cologne. On skin it’s mostly the same – herbal and spicy, very strong. I get much less of the cool wetness that I got in the vial. It almost smells dry to me, actually. Desert-like. Not what I expected from the name, exactly. I’m also getting a bit of that woody, powdery, catch in my throat thing again – hello, Alkemia amber. I’m not really a fan of this. It’s a bit headache-inducing.

The Dude says “mm – something minty? It smells like a jungle. It’s like, herbs and wet jungle-y-ness.”

Mesnée d’Hellequin: An uncivilized tangle of balsam pine, cypress needles, cedar bark, teakwood, vetiver root, galbanum, lichen, moss, dried leaves, damp earth, and forest fungi.

In the vial it smells like basil, but not necessarily in a nice, fresh way. It’s spicy. Like a large quantity of dried basil. Spicy and a little dusty. It’s strong. On skin it’s better – it smells like pine trees. That’s where the spicy, woody thing was coming from, I guess. It’s strong pine needles and spicy woods. After a few minutes I get something almost cold from it – like a dense pine forest on a winter night. I like it, though I don’t think I’d wear it enough to need more than a sample of it.

The Dude says “it smell like a strawberry shortcake.” Here again I laughed very loudly, because what? I showed him the notes and he said “yeah, I don’t get ANY of that. I wish I got that. This is some straight up sweet berry shit.” You guys, his nose is a mystery.

Antares: Queen of the Night, Dried Wild Roses, Mandarin, Nicotania, Oakmosses, Cactus, Juniper, Acacia buds, Fir Resin, Clary Sage, Cedar Needles, Labdanum, Guaiac Wood, Germander, and White Patchouli lightly bathed in dewy Water Musk.

Cologne. Nice cologne – a little bit sweet. On skin it’s a bit sweet, a bit spicy, a bit herbal – it’s nice. I’m still getting a strong “fancy men’s cologne” vibe, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. As it dries it gets a little sweeter, and I start to be able to pick out some florals and a bit of fruit. The base of this one is very musky and a bit powdery, like a white powderiness – it’s not the amber note I’ve been encountering with a lot of Alkemias, but I still don’t love it. In general I would say that this one smells good, especially after dry down, but it’s not quite for me. I will probably hang onto my sample, but I don’t need more. (This is also another one that’s a bit headachey.)

The Dude, who is at this point very self-conscious again, says “I don’t want to get this one wrong! I can’t tell you more than just citrusy. Generally fruity. Maybe some berries.”

Moss Maiden: A delicately feral blend of luxuriant mosses, crushed wet ferns, earthy calamus root, piquant cedar tips, galbanum, balsam pine, lichen, disturbed autumnal leaves, and aromatic incense woods.

Another very green scent. It smells like the woods, heavy on the woods. Most scents that smell like the woods smell like dirt and leaves but this one is very woody and a little spicy. It’s also one of the most perfumey-smelling woodsy scents I’ve tried. On skin it’s very spicy and powdery – like cheap incense. Bleh. I wish Alkemias would stop going to chalky powder on my skin. I get some hints of green also, deciduous and sweet, and they intensify a bit as it dries, but they’re still mostly drowned out by the incense-y notes. I’m not a fan.

The Dude says “the best word I can use to describe that is ‘old,’ but not in a bad way. It smells like a good scotch. Old, peaty, woody.”

Blackberry Noir: A delicious, dark trinity – black berries, black tea, black musk.

An initial blast of dark, juicy berries and then a a deep, dark musky base. Sweet and resiny. On skin it’s sweet, dark berries, and then a deep, resinous quality comes out. This one is interesting. It’s sweet, but not candy sweet, and it’s dark, but not overly so. It reminds me a bit of Solstice Scents’ Thornwood Thicket, but a little less woody. I am getting a bit of that same powderiness at the base of it – (What is that? I though it was amber, but it appears there’s no amber in this. The musk?) – but it’s not terrible here. I kind of like this one. I’ll have to give it a few more tries and see where I stand.

The Dude say “it almost smells like grape juice. Am I crazy?” You are not, sir.

All of these are currently available from Alkemia on Etsy.

alkemia review-a-thon, part 2

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alkemia2Round 2 of 3! Onward and upward!

As always, reviews were done without looking at the scent notes. Descriptions were added after the fact. I’ve been testing these out in the evenings, and since my fiance (so weird) is usually nearby, I’ve been having him weigh in with his own completely unbiased and often wildly differing opinions.

Repartee: A flirtatious zing of mandarin, a bon mot of yuzu, and a unisexy double entendre of lemon and grapefruit blossoms are followed by a zesty riposte of bitter orange, verbena, ginger root tea, sasparilla, oak moss, and wormwood.

Sweet citrus and ginger. It’s very zesty, and a little bubbly. On skin it’s strongly orange, bitter peel and all, and then some grapefruit and other citrus notes. After a few minutes the ginger comes out again, the citrus has lost some of its sweetness, and I get a slightly floral tone in the background. Further into the dry down I get tea, something light and clear. This reminds me a little bit of what I wanted Firebird’s Grapefruit Ginger to smell like (that one goes very astringent and cleaner-esque on my skin). I really like it.

I asked The Dude to smell this, and he said “Leather?” And I laughed really hard. I showed him the scent notes and he said, “I get absolutely none of this, but I love it. It smells like sitting in someone’s study in 1890 with a snifter of brandy and a cigar.” What.

Calliope: A beguiling divertissement of piquant clementine, orange blossoms, white orchid, sugared currants, tonka, and vanilla musk whirled with flirtatious teases of billowy cotton candy floss and kisses of saltwater taffy. 

Very sweet – cotton candy and citrus over a musky base. On skin it’s all cotton candy and musk, sticky and sweet with an airy, crystalline kind of feeling to it. After a few minutes it starts to smell more floral, though I couldn’t pinpoint what kind of floral – something white, but not The Dread Jasmine. It’s not overpowering, but still not something I’m super into. A while later, a nice fruitiness comes out – orange and berries, maybe. I like it a lot more at this point. It reminds me of Firebird’s Sugar, but with more flowers. I do like it after it dries down completely, but since I’m not much a floral fan I think I still prefer Sugar. I will say that this one is pretty potent, though. One of the most potent Alkemia scents I’ve tried so far. I’ll give it another shot before I make a final call.

The Dude said “I like it, but I don’t want to guess what’s in it.” But I made him anyway and he said “it definitely smells flowery, like jasmine? I’m probably not even close.”

Sandscape: Sun warmed beach sand, Atlantic ocean breezes, the saline-aquatic scent of drying sea water on skin, and the faintest hints of tanning oil and seaweed.

Oof. A very blue, ozone-y scent. Not what I expected. On skin it’s still very blue but it’s a tiny bit sweeter. It smells like a candle you’d find in a rental beach house. I’m not a fan.

The Dude said it smelled “sandalwood-y and herbaceous.” And then “kind of like shampoo, but in a good way.” Also he’s getting self-conscious about giving his opinion, the poor dear.

Carmen 7: An indecent proposal of succulently spiced pear, exotic lychees, decadent french pralines, bourbon vanilla, and crushed almond blossoms leads to a ménage à trois of gardenia, star jasmine, and magnolia illuminated by the afterglow of a sensuously musky amber.

Fruity-floral and musky. Pear? On skin it’s more fruity than floral. I’m definitely getting pear. There’s a little spice as well, on a sweet, musky base. However there’s something in there that I really am not fond of – it’s kind of woody in an unappealing powdery way that almost catches in my throat somehow. I’m guessing amber. In the past I’ve not been fond of amber-based scents because it sometimes goes very off on my skin. Whatever it is, combined with the floral elements, is just really not doing it for me.

The Dude says “all I can give you is the nebulous ‘dark fruits.’ Raisins and dates and things. That’s such a cop-out when people say it about beer.” (My man friend is a big craft beer nerd. He’s into beer like I’m into perfume. We joke a lot about our matching hobbies of collecting and trading small, dark bottles of expensive liquids that are best stored away from heat and light.)

Lux Aeternum: Red, ripe pomegranates and roses warmed on a bed of solar amber.

This smells like a less fruity version of Firebird’s Pomegranate Rose. There’s something at the base of it I don’t care for, though. On skin it’s strongly rose with a bit of fruitiness and a touch of that same woody, powdery thing I got from Carmen 7. It’s got to be amber. Apparently Alkemia’s amber does not agree with me, if that it’s case. It’s not nearly as strong as in Carmen 7, thankfully, but I’m still not sure about it. Which is a shame, because the rose is nice, and it plays well with the fruity pomegranate. I have such mixed feelings. I like it quite a bit until I catch a whiff of that one thing and think, “eh… maybe not.” I’ll have to give this one another shot before I make a decision.

The Dude says “it kind of smells like apricots. Apricot flowers? Almost like apple blossoms.”

Affaire de Coeur: A flirtatiously feminine enchantment of sugared white musk, creamy Madagascar vanilla, white sandalwood, tonka bean, white amber, and pale sugar cane.

This smells very white. It’s sweet and sugary, but in a delicate, milky, musky kind of way. On skin it’s much the same – sugary, milky vanilla musk. I’m getting a bit of something soft and incense-y – sandalwood, maybe – and a touch of that powdery thing that’s plagued the last few scents. It’s not so bad here, though, because the whole scent has a kind of powderiness to it. It fits. It’s a very soft scent. It smells perfectly pleasant, but I don’t love it.

The Dude says “that’s straight-up baby powder.” And you know, he’s right.

All of these scents are currently available from Alkemia on Etsy.

alkemia review-a-thon, part 1

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alkemia1Round 1 of 3 (for now) of Alkemia reviews! I have a total of 18 scents to review, a handful of which I swapped for and the rest I ordered.

A general note about my ordering experience – it was perfect. I placed my order on Friday May 23rd, it was shipped on Saturday May 24th, and I received it on Tuesday May 27th. Four days from placing the order to having it in hand,with a postal holiday (Memorial Day) AND a weekend in the middle? That’s some next-level TAT. I ordered two sample packs (10 total) and received two free samples, which is very generous considering how reasonably priced the samples are ($10 for 5 samples, with free shipping).

Alkemia’s honey scents are not vegan (alas!), but everything else is, and I left a note asking that any free samples be vegan scents, which was honored.

Anyway! Let’s get to it.

(As always, reviews were done without looking at the scent notes. Descriptions were added after the fact.)

Irrésistible: An irresistibly sweet temptation of french macaroon accord, bourbon vanilla beans, piquant nutmeg, sweet almonds, golden caramel, dulce de leche, blended with a sexy confection of intoxicatingly sugared ambers. 

UGH SO GOOD. It smells like buttery vanilla and almond and caramel. It’s delicious. On skin it’s the same – very sweet, very foodie. There’s a bit more of a milkiness to the vanilla but otherwise it’s very close to the bottle sniff. It’s amazing. Definite bottle purchase.

I will say that this dries down a bit differently – it loses that intense sweetness and becomes a soft, milky vanilla amber kind of scent. Still good but quite different.

Trick or Treat: A grownup confection of black licorice, mandarin orange peel, caramelized brown sugar, bourbon vanilla, candied ginger, tonka bean, blonde patchouli, cedar tips, oakmoss, and sandalwood. 

Sweet vanilla and licorice. It smells like Halloween. On skin the licorice is the strongest note, with some sweetness in the background, but it does get a bit sweeter as it wears. I had The Dude smell it and he said it smelled “orange-y” and “like fall.” I do smell a tiny bit of orange, but to me it’s mostly sweet licorice. I like licorice and anise scents, and I like this, but not enough to need more. It’s a bit one-note on my skin.

Vanille Tropicale: As seductive as a tropical breeze through a bedroom window. A sexy elixir of Tahitian vanilla, frangipani, vanilla orchid, freshly split green coconut, white ginger blossoms, an effervescent splash of pineapple.

A very summery vanilla. Vanilla, coconut, pineapple, and some strong tropical floral tones. On skin it’s a little less sweet, with the fruit and floral notes being strongest. I like it – it’s a non-foodie vanilla, a non-heady floral. I initially thought I didn’t need a bottle of this, but I kept coming back to sniff it, so I think I actually might.

When I had The Dude sniff the sample, he said it smelled like sticking your face in a bag of gummy bears.

Corsair: An aromatic fougère based on an 18th century men’s cologne – a blend of spiced bay rum, amber, tonka, and french lavender with a splash of fresh oceanic breeze.

The sexiest man smell ever. It smells like Old Spice with some sweet lavender. On skin it’s different, deeper – it’s got a salty, oceanic quality that I didn’t smell in the vial. The lavender is still there, and that spicy bay rum cologne scent, but the ocean smell is very prominent on me, and I like it somewhat less for it. Something about it – whatever is making it smell salty – kind of makes me think of sweat and it’s not working for me. That salty ocean aspect does fade as it wears, but it never goes away completely. The Dude likes it more than I do on skin, which I guess is appropriate. It gave me a bit of a headache.

Paradise: An heavenly blend of fresh young coconut and Madagascar vanilla with hints of Monoi Tiare. 

Soft vanilla and coconut. A little plasticky and candle-esque. On skin it’s even softer – it’s very much a sweet skin scent, if that makes sense. Like warm skin with a bit of coconut suntan oil on it. It doesn’t have that plasticky candle note anymore. It’s nice. A very “cuddly” scent, close to the skin. Alkemia notes that this scent is designed to be worn in temps above 80 degrees, and it’s been warm here lately, but not quite 80 at night yet so I’ll have to pull it out again in a month or so and see how it fares.

As it stands I do like it, it smells really good, but it’s very subtle. Not much in the way of sillage here. So I’m kind of torn of whether I’d like a bottle of it or not. I don’t need to knock people over with my perfume, but I do want to be able to smell it on myself without having to shove my wrist directly under my nose.

Summer Dandelion: An exuberant exultation of sun warmed dandelions and meadow grasses lightly dampened by fleeting summer rain showers. 

In the vial it’s all sweet grass, fresh and very green. There’s a slight floral tone to it but it’s not heady. On skin it’s very similar. It reminds me quite a bit of OHWTO’s Dandelion Wine, but less sweet. It’s a more straightforward grass scent. It’s a little sharp for the first few minutes, but it softens as it dries down. It’s quite nice. I have similar scents that I like better, though (see above re: Dandelion Wine), so I’m not sure I need a bottle.

All of these scents are available from Alkemia on Etsy.

alkemia county fair

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countyfair
The nostalgic scent of an old-fashioned American carnival midway — pink cotton candy, hot kettle corn, freshly fried dough, candied apples, and saltwater taffy.

County Fair was a limited edition release in 2012. I received it as a freebie with my sample order last year.

In the imp it smells like popcorn and funnel cakes and, though it’s not in the notes, chocolate. On skin the pink cotton candy really comes to the front, all bright spun sugar, and I get the salty, buttery sweet popcorn, and yep, still chocolate.

It’s really sweet. Like, really, really sweet. This is not a negative for me – I love sweet, foody scents – but it’s something to be aware of. It’s borderline diabetes-inducing. It’s also very true to concept – it really is just a riot of sweets and candy and crunchy fried, sugar-dusted goodness.

Would I buy it again? Probably, but it’s not available anymore, so I can’t! Alas.

Available from: Alkemia Perfumes

alkemia vanille vert

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vanillevert

The innocence of fresh ferns, sweet green grass, and tender new leaves juxtaposed against seduction of white amber, Madagascar vanilla orchids, and vanilla musk.

In the imp, Vanille Vert smells like vanilla and fresh, sweet grass. Wet on skin the vanilla is somewhat less prominent – it’s mostly just sweet grass with a hint of sweetness. It’s very fresh and springy. As it dries the white amber and a whiff of something floral come out, and something about it doesn’t agree with my head. The smell itself is really nice, but something about it – I’d blame the amber – makes me headachey.

I love the way this one smells in the vial, and I love the fresh, sweet green scent when I first but it on, but unfortunately this one doesn’t work for me once it gets past that stage. And it’s funny, I recall sniffing this sample when I first got it (at least a year ago, probably) and thinking it smelled insanely strong and green. It’s aged into a very soft, mellow scent. If you like fresh, green scents you’d probably love this. It brings to mind a bright green field of grass in the spring, wet with dew and slightly sweet-smelling. It’s really lovely… I wish it worked for me. Alas.

Would I buy it again? Unfortunately not. It’s a lovely scent but it gives me a headache. Wah wah.

Available from: Alkemia Perfumes

alkemia grasslands

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grasslands

A fresh, summery blend of Osmanthus, Hay, Chamomile flowers, Clover tops, Linden blossom, Kentucky Bluegrass, Olive blossoms, White moss, Galbanum, Helichrysum, and Virginia Snakeroot.

This one sounded so good. I’m a sucker for “smells like a wildflower meadow in the spring” or “smells like the woods in november” or “smells like a sunny summer day on the prairie” kind of scents. I want to smell like a pretty place in the middle of nowhere, basically. Plus it has some notes I love in it: chamomile, hay, clover. I am forever searching for a perfume that smells like clover flowers. So it had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, at least for me, it did not live up to any of it.

In the imp it smells very strongly floral. I was holding out hope that it would change once I put it on, but no – on skin it’s the same. I put this on my wrist, brought it up to nose, and actually went “GUGH.” I don’t smell anything that brings to mine a warm, soft, grassy landscape – I just smell “floral.” Very strong, generic floral. The kind of scents that I hate, because they smell like being assaulted by perfume sprayers in department stores and they give me a headache. Which this one did.

I don’t often have to wash a perfume off, but this one drove me to the sink.

Would I buy it again: Very much no.

Available from: Alkemia Perfumes

alkemia pumpkin strumpet

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pumpkinstrumpet

A decadent blend of rich pumpkin, caramelized sugar, Madagascar vanilla, precisely balanced with a swirl of cinnamon, ginger, & clove and a tiny drop of amber musk.

Pumpkin Strumpet is the cutest name.

In the imp it smells sweet and spicy, like pumpkin, caramel, ginger, and clove. On skin it’s actually a bit less spicy, and I smell the pumpkin, vanilla, and a bit of ginger most prominently. It’s quite mild, and definitely not overly sweet.

I don’t have all that much to say about this one – it’s a perfectly nice pumpkin scent, but it doesn’t knock my socks off in any way.

Would I buy it again? No. There are so many sweet pumpkin scents out there that if I’m going to buy one, I want one that wows me.

Available from: Alkemia Perfumes

alkemia apple tart

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appletart

A temptation of candied fall apples swirled with a playful tease of fall spices and sexy aphrodisiac resins.

In the interest of getting through some of the approximately 475 perfume samples I have in a box in my bedroom, I’ve been scooping a handful out into a little bowl and keeping it next to my computer. Every day I reach in, pull one out, and review it. It’s been fun and I’m re-sniffing things I wouldn’t have chosen on my own or that didn’t work out for me the first time around. Today I pulled out Apple Tart from Alkemia. Apple Tart is actually the reason I ordered some samples from Alkemia ages ago – I am a sucker for apple scents, and the name is adorable.

In the imp it’s spicy and resiny with just a bit of juicy apple underneath. On skin it’s pretty much the same. The apple is supporting player in this – it’s definitely a spice-heavy scent on me. But I do tend to amp cinnamon and the like, so skin chemistry could be mucking this one up for me. Either way, I don’t like it much. I prefer my apple scents to be on the fresh, tart end of the spectrum, or if they’re spicy, of the buttery apple pie oeuvre  This reminds me more of an apple-cinnamon candle.

Would I buy it again? No. I remember not loving it when I first got the samples, and that remains true today.

Available from: Alkemia Perfumes