darling clandestine falloween pt. 1


Electricity So Fine, What Mandy Makes, The Moon is Leaving for The Wheels, Tiny Ice Bees, Don’tGoPleaseStay, and Vardogr

Part 1 of my Darling Clandestine Falloween review is upon us! After almost all of the Falloween stuff has already sold out! Because I am the worst! Moving right along…

Today I have three of the new scents that DC released for Falloween, plus two returning fall/winter scents and one new scent that was released in August but that I’m just getting to trying out now. In October. This is how you know you have too much perfume, friends.

Electricty So Fine: A night-black canvas of artemisia absinthum and mosses and blackest tea and port wine, splashed with an electric sizzle of sparkling violets.

Not a Falloween scent, per se, but I got it when it was released and still need to review it, so here it is. In the bottle I get mostly violets, sharp and almost abrasive. Yikes. On skin it starts out the same, but I can pick out darker, deeper things underneath if I sniff hard. Honestly, though, I don’t like this one. At all. It’s sharp and bitter and hits me over the head with awful soapy violets. After about 5-10 minutes, it does mellow out – it’s not as sharp, not as loud, and much more tolerable – but the main scent is still soapy violets, more reminiscent of fancy grandma hand soap than something I want to wear as a perfume.

A very rare complete miss from DC – I’m not even sure I’ll keep the bottle, because I can’t imagine ever wearing it again.

What Mandy Makes: Mandy requested a scent that evokes “loneliness.” Very smoky. Ozoney. Faintest hint of “Oriental” musk. Topnote of cucumber, though there’s no commercial “cucumber” fragrance ingredient. Smoky drydown, sweet musky finish.

I should not have ordered this perfume. There’s almost nothing about the description that sounds like anything I want to put on my person. But DC inspires a Pokemon-esque collector’s mentality in me, and also it’s kind of got my name in the title (though the only allowed people who call me Mandy are blood relatives, on threat of painful death). So here we are.

In the bottle I smell mostly cucumber – deep, musky, smoky but still watery cucumber. It’s odd. On skin the cucumber is slightly less prominent, but still provides a distinctly cucumber-y wateriness to the scent. It’s light but deep, and I have a very hard time picking out any kind of individual notes. There is a smokiness to it, but not in the usual sense. As it dries it gets warmer and a little sweeter. It smells at once kind of like a traditional perfume but also nothing at all like a traditional perfume. I find this scent confusing.

I’m also mystified as to where this overwhelming cucumber-ness is coming from, since the description notes that there’s no actual cucumber in the mix. Evonne’s wizardry in action, I guess.

I like it more than I expected to, but I don’t think it’s a “me” scent. Cucumber has never done much for me, either as a food or a fragrance. (The Dude said it smelled like a watermelon Jolly Rancher, because his nose is broken.)

The Moon is Leaving for the Wheels: The tang of tawny dead grasses, parched by sunset, dampened by first frost. Brooding vetiver, ripe blackberries, sweet Melissa, shy mosses, pettigrain twist.

In the bottle, I smell berries and something herbal and grassy. The combination smells just a tiny bit like Flintstones vitamins. The purple kind. On skin – whoa, very different. Dry and grassy and herbal, like an overgrown field in late fall, just before it all turns to frost and dirt. The berry is there, in the background, but it’s not really sweet. There’s something deep and woody and a tiny bit citrusy in the base. There’s also a mustiness to it that I don’t really care for. It does soften with wear, but it never completely goes away.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one, to be honest – looking at the description, I should love it. Blackberries, check, sweet Melissa, check, moss, check. The petitgrain is what’s giving it the woody, citrusy thing. I’m guessing the vetiver is responsible for most of what I don’t like  – the harsh musty smell. In any case, I don’t love the overall effect. I don’t dislike it, necessarily – especially after about 20-30 minutes when the mustiness softens – but I’ll need to test it out some more before I can say for certain whether I actually like it. However it definitely did give me a headache, so there’s a strike against it.

Tiny Ice Bees: I wove a wisp of damp silk—crisp, delicate, ozoney, watery—with a subtle splash of pineapple and tart green orange and grapefruit. No honey. Come on; that’s predictable. This is a thing that happened in the dead of terrible winter.

This is the Falloween scent I was most excited for. In the bottle it’s tart and fruity – sweet pineapple and grapefruit? Definitely citrus. On skin it’s very light and crisp, with grapefruit being the most prominent note to my nose. There’s something faintly floral about it as well. It’s sweet – much sweeter and simpler than most DC scents. It’s very much in the same category as Tilt-a-Whirl that way.

I like this one. It’s a very clean scent – I read a review at Hello There, Blondie! that said it was reminiscent of wet laundry, and I think that’s very accurate. I think most people would probably enjoy this one, unless you have an extreme hatred of grapefruit. (When I shoved my wrist under The Dude’s nose, he said it smelled “herbaceous but also like the beach.”)


Super-sized vegan solid action.

Don’tGoPleaseStay: My very favorite new little sliver of rock’n’roll, available ONLY in solid format because the ingredients need to “toast” to come alive. This is a true “natural” perfume, a slow infusion made with a fantastic cacao absolute, the very finest oakmoss, crushed juniper berries, cardamom pods, just a tiny bit of ylang-ylang, a pinch of chipotle pepper, and dark vanilla. Think deep, smoky, mossy chocolate gin.

In the tin, DGPS is chocolatey and herbal and a little cool-smelling. It’s like chocolate gin. (I don’t like gin. I think it tastes like a sad christmas.) On skin it’s sweeter, more chocolatey, but not foodie-smelling – the herbal/green elements keep it from venturing into that territory. It’s mellow and soft, sweet, a tiny bit spicy, but with a juniper edge. The overall effect is very comforting and snuggly.

This one wears very close to the skin, and sillage and lasting power are both quite low – Evonne does note this possibility on the listing page for the scent, since it’s an all-natural perfume, and it’s definitely true in my case. After about 10 minutes I could barely smell it anymore, even when I put my nose right up to my wrist. Which is kind of a bummer since I really like it. At least my solid is super massive for frequent slathering.

Vardogr: This weird little concoction is truly a masterpiece. Oh, it’s gooood. And weird. Dark, damp, herbal—mossy forest floors, sunken alleys, underground spaces—with a dozen unlikely notes including pure essential German chamomile, bitter black coffee, hazy Indian musks, sharp herbs and a whip of leather. It’s not for everyone. It’s strange. But oh my, is it fantastic.

I’m reviewing a solid of this, but I already bought a bottle when DC re-opened. So spoilers: I like it.

Straight out of the tin, I smell coffee and deep, musky green. A little sharp. Strange, in a good way. On skin the green is most pominent, a deep, dark, slightly murky forest green. It is a bit sharp, and quite strong, and the coffee I smell in the tin is pretty undetectable, which is a shame because I feel like it gave it a nice, smooth depth and counterbalanced the sharpness. After a while it does make an appearance, though it’s never as strong as it is in the tin. I’m curious to see how the oil is different, if at all.

After a little more time, the whole thing has softened a bit, and there’s something close and cozy about it. Not “cozy” like fluffy towels and a mug of tea, though – no warm vanilla musks here – but cozy is the word coming to mind nonetheless. Like… being inside by a dying fire while it’s raining buckets in the middle of the night.

Vardogr is kind of a weird scent. That’s a bit redundant, I guess – DC’s thing is weird scents – but I’d call Vardogr weirder than most. DC’s scent discography gives it a “boss level” of 9, which means that Evonne considers it pretty damn strange. It’s definitely not a scent with blanket mass appeal (The Dude didn’t like it). But I’m quite fond of it – obviously, since I already upgraded to a full bottle. It feels very much like a fall scent to me, too.

Overall Thoughts: This was a mixed bag – I like Vardogr, Don’tGoPleaseStay, and Tiny Ice Bees (probably in that order), am on the fence about The Moon is Leaving for The Wheels and What Mandy Makes, and straight-up dislike Electricity So Fine.

Stay tuned for part 2 soon, which will feature the 5-scent Halloween suite of Squander, Wither, Falter, Spurn, and the new-for-2014 Smother.

Darling Clandestine can be found on Etsy here.

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.

free fridays: july favorites



This week’s Free Friday is all about a few of my favorite things! Like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, both of which I would class as very enjoyable things. I mean, kittens. But since I don’t regularly swan around scenic mountaintops, here are some things that are somewhat more relevant to my actual life this month. (Links to reviews where I have them.)

1. Darling Clandestine EVERYTHING.

For the longest time, I had no interest in Darling Clandestine. It was a sort of willful ignorance, the same kind I apply to BPAL, though for different reasons. But after I was gifted some DC a few months back, the floodgates opened and I’ve been having a bit of a torrid love affair with the company since. I’ve liked or loved nearly everything I’ve tried, and the scents are just interesting – even the ones I don’t love, I can appreciate. I’ve been buying up bitsies, solids, and the occasional full bottle at a fairly disturbing clip – I went from having zero DC to having four gifted bottles/bitsies to owning 49 51 products in 35 different scents. In less than 3 months.

Let that sink in for a minute.

I don’t think I’ve out-and-out disliked anything I’ve tried yet (well… I kinda hated Carny Wedding), but my favorites are La La La, All Right (which is in my top 10 favorites scents ever, bar none), Cloudswing, Fisticuffs, Hellbender, Pyrotechnik, Tapadero, and Harpy.

2. Silk Naturals Sea Breeze and Zap.

Two lip products I’ve been using a lot this month are both from Silk Naturals – the Sea Breeze slick stick and Zap lipstick. Sea Breeze is a semi-sheer bright coral, and Zap is an opaque orange-red. The slick stick formula is smooth and a little glossy and doesn’t dry out my lips, and the lipsticks are creamy and pigmented. I also love the slim little tubes that keep me from giving myself Joker face if I try to apply without a mirror.

I do wish there were more shimmer-less colors, but that’s just me being boring and anti-glitter-mouth.

P.S. No review yet, but I’ll have a post about these soon!

3 & 4: Midsummer Dreams Apothecary Mermaid and Darling Girl Mermaid’s Dream.

Mermaid stuff!

The star of MDA’s small lineup for me (so far – I have but haven’t tested out samples of the new cologne oils), Mermaid is a gorgeous, sweet, summery floral that took me completely by surprise. If you’ve read my blog at all, you’ll know that I am not a floral perfume person – but I want to bathe in this. I’ve got a solid to carry around with me, but a bottle of the oil is high on my wish list and will probably find its way into this month’s beauty/perfume budget.

(Edit: MDA is having a flash sale today – 20% off with the code Lammas14 – soooo I just crossed that bottle off my wishlist. Perfect timing!)

And then there is Mermaid’s Dream. One of Darling Girl‘s Soft Focus blushes, Mermaid’s Dream is a beautiful vibrant-but-not-unwieldy strawberry red kind of color that I’ve been loving the hell out of. It actually pairs very well with Silk Naturals Zap, and I’ve been wearing them together a lot lately.

5. Cherries!

Cherry season is winding down now, and I’ve been popping them like candy while I have the chance. Cherries are my favorite fruit and several pounds a week have been making their way into our kitchen. Raniers are my favorite for snacking, but I won’t kick regular old Bings out of bed either – and they’re my choice for one of my favorite smoothies, which is:

Soymilk + a frozen banana + frozen cherries + a scoop of maple almond butter + vanilla protein powder (pea protein is my drug of choice) = delicious cherry pie protein smoothie.

6. Rhett Miller’s “The Instigator.”

This album came out the year after I graduated from high school (2002, what the actual fuck), and I listened to it constantly back then. I’ve enjoyed all of his subsequent releases, and of course his stuff with The Old 97’s (saw them live a few years ago, highly recommend!), but The Instigator remains my favorite. I haven’t listened to it in quite a while, but I came back to it recently when I needed something to help me power through some freelance work, and it’s been in near-constant rotation since.

7. New books!

This month I acquired three new books/graphic novels: “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell, “Seconds” by Byan Lee O’Malley, and “Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll. I read the first two during the 4-ish days I was without my laptop last week (it had to spend some time at the Apple store for repairs), and really enjoyed both.

I’ve loved everything Rainbow Rowell has written – Eleanor & Park and Fangirl most of all. Landline is a bit of a departure – it’s not YA, for one, and it’s a smaller, more focused story. There are light and humorous moments, but the overall tone is fairly bleak and tinged with desperate soul-searching and regret. It lacks the youthful yearning and emotional gut punch of Eleanor & Park, and it’s not as sweet and sad and funny as Fangirl, but it is quite enjoyable in its own right, and Rainbow is an author I’ll follow anywhere.

Seconds is a new graphic novel from Bryan Lee O’Malley (of Scott Pilgrim fame, but I also really liked Lost at Sea), about a chef named Katie who has a bad day… and then gets the ability to undo it. Sounds great, until she keeps undoing it and undoing it and undoing it until she basically undoes herself and everyone else into a terrible life and, oh, kinda breaks the universe. The story is solid and compelling, the art is adorable, there’s a stealth Buffy reference – no complaints here.

I haven’t had the chance to read Through the Woods yet, but I’ve been a fan of Emily Carroll’s work for a long time – it’s beautiful and haunting and terribly creepifying. Flipping through the graphic novel reveals more of the same, so I’m excited to sit down with that… in the middle of the day… so I don’t have nightmares.

8. Pretty Little Liars!

I’m not even ashamed to admit how much I love this hot mess of a show. It’s absolutely, unabashedly cuckoo bananas – it really embraces the cray, and I appreciate that. Every Tuesday night I kick my fiance out of the living room (or sometimes hop on over to my BFF’s house for PLL + chinese food) to enjoy an hour of murderstalking, inapproriate relationship drama, and outfits that had to have been chosen in the dark.

FYI, Hanna is my favorite Liar. She is a magical unicorn. So if you are also a fan you will understand why I find this most recent turn of events very upsetting. Rosewood PA (which is supposed to be located quite close to where I live, actually) has a problem with grown-ass men, and that problem is that they aren’t all currently in jail.

Since I get super obsessed with the shows that I like, I’m always looking for recaps and podcasts about them. My favorites for PLL are the recaps from Forever Young Adult and After Ellen, and the podcasts Bros Watch PLL Too and Pretty Little Recaps.

So there you have it! What were you loving in July?

a few dc reviews + a wild solidzilla


Cloudswing (oil and solid), Kendraberry, Love & Sharks, and a massive mega-solid of Limerence

One of these things is not like the other…

Your eyes do not deceive you – that tin of Limerence is enormous. When the shop re-opened, I ordered three solid perfumes: Limerence, Tilt-a-Whirl, and Hellbender. When my order arrived, I thought the package felt heavier than it should… and when I opened it up, I found that all three solids were giant-sized – twice the size of the (already larger than average) normal solids, to be exact. I believe they’re in the tins Evonne is using for the Field Shark bug repellent balm. There was a note in my order saying that her shipment of regular tins was delayed, so my solids were super-sized!

To be honest I feel a bit bad, because I ended up with 2x the amount of product I paid for, and I really wouldn’t have minded waiting a few more days for the regular tins to come in. That said, obviously it’s pretty cool to have these comically large solids – in addition to the massive amount of product, there’s totally a novelty factor to them. Here’s a gif with Cloudswing for comparison:


Huge! No worries about slathering these babies on. I feel like I could use them as body lotions and they would still last for ages.

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

Cloudswing: A bright, crisp, golden-green scent with notes of warm hay and vanilla and mowed clover and marigolds and lemongrass.

In the bottle, it’s lemongrass, intense and sweet. On skin lemongrass is the dominant note, but it’s joined by sweet vanilla and something a little grassy and green. That latter note amps up a bit more as it dries. I love lemongrass scents, and this is a really lovely one – bright and sweet and fresh, it smells like rolling down a wild, unmown green hill on a hot summer day feels.

Looking at the notes, I’m thinking the “grassy and green” thing is the marigolds, perhaps in combination with the hay.

Kendraberry: A bright, effervescent honeysuckle spritzer, tempered with fresh fruits and juniper and green tea and amber and ozone.

In the tin this smells floral, but also almost musty, like dead flowers? On skin it’s much sweeter and fresher (thank goodness), floral but not heady and a little fruity as well. There’s something at the base of this that I don’t completely love – it’s a bit of that thick, musty green note I get from the cold sniff – but overall I enjoy this much more than I expected.

However, it does seem pretty faint in the throw department in comparison to most other DC scents – perhaps the oil is better for that? I’ll probably grab a bitsy at some point (because I have The Problems) to compare. You know. For Science. I’ve found most of DC’s solids quite potent (with the exception of Tilt-a-Whirl), so this is a bit of an outlier.

Love & Sharks: It’s rich and deep and salty, splashed with apricot and true black cherry and rum and clove and a fantastically fine vanilla oleoresin from Madagascar.

In the tin it’s sweet, salty, and a little peppery. I would eat a snack that smelled like this. On skin I get pepper and spice right away (clove?), with just a touch of sweetness to keep it from being overwhelmingly savory. This one is interesting. I’m not usually a huge fan of pepper-heavy scents, and I do prefer sweeter scents, but inexplicably I kind of dig this. It’s salty and spicy and weird.

I layered a little Hellbender solid over this and I like the combination a lot! I believe I’ve heard tell of a Sharkbender solid appearing before, and I can see why. It lends some much-needed sweetness to the salty, spicy Love & Sharks. (It’s still kinda weird, though.) I may get a FrankenBitsy of this mix, if L&S can be bitsied. Also I will soon own a L&S solid with my very own shark drawing on the label, so this one will be swimming off to a new home at some point.

Limerence: Limerence is a rich floral – not a grandmotherly floral, but a moody blend of bruised Casablanca lilies, bittersweet succulents, full-bodied herbal essentials, a heady crust of sea salt, and a wonderfully fine mitti attar that’s the essence of first rain hitting sun-baked earth. 

In the tin this is intensely floral, heavy on the green parts. It smells damp and almost moldering (DC’s floral notes always seem to smell that way to me on cold sniff). On skin it smells like walking into a flower shop or a greenhouse on a warm day – floral, yes, but not just floral. There’s a wet freshness to it, a humidity, a heavy dose of green leaves and stems – it makes me think of aloe plants, thick and heavy and oozing if you break a leaf.

It’s just barely on the right side of “too floral” for me – a touch less green and I would hate this. But as it is, I have to say I think I like it. It’s not really “my kind of scent,” and I don’t know that it’s one I’ll actually wear very often (which makes the ginormous tin even more hilarious), but it’s so evocative and interesting that I can’t help but appreciate it.

I layered a bit of Cloudswing with this and the combination is beautiful. This is another mix to add to my FrankenBitsy wish list.

That’s it for today – my pile of DC scents “to review” is getting smaller! Slowly but surely. If you want to grab any of these for yourself, head over to Darling Clandestine and see what’s in the shop!

a quartet of darling clandestine reviews


Itsy bitsy bitsies.

More Darling Clandestine today! As always, reviews were done as blindly as possible, with notes and descriptions added after the fact.

Mishigami: Mishigami is inspired by the beautiful Lake Michigan, from Illinois to Wisconsin to Indiana to, well, Michigan, and all its moods, from frantic to placid, and all its colors, from steely black to algae green to misty grey to Caribbean blue, and all its shorelines, from fine beach sands to rocky cliffs to dappled pebbles to soft reedy mud. It’s more than just an “aquatic” scent; it’s got haunting sandy depth that I’m really, really pleased with.

In the bitsy: A deep, sandy aquatic. Not your typical blue, ozone-y water scent. On skin the sandiness seems even stronger – it’s deep, dark, and a bit murky. This is not crystal clear water, it’s the kind of water you wade into and wonder what’s swimming beneath you. I don’t always love aquatics, but I’m on board with this one.

After a few minutes on skin, there is a period where it goes a bit dryer sheet-y, unfortunately – which is the trouble I have with most aquatics. Thankfully that mostly fades before too long and it’s back to sandy, watery loveliness. I’d like to grab at least a solid of this when/if it comes back to the shop.

I wanted a bit more murkiness from this, so I tried layering on a bit of Gram-Negative at one point and it really worked well. Gram-Negative enhanced the deep, murky quality of Mishigami wonderfully, while Mishigami lent Gram-Negative a bit of fresh natural sweetness. I really like this layering combo. It also lasts much better than Gram Negative alone.

Gram-Negative: Gram-Negative is deep, damp, earthy essential moss; sticky green leaf resin; a whisper of black tea; and a rare, rich, mellow, buttery orchid essential oil that is just divine. It’s incredibly smooth, unisex, and one of my new personal favorites.

In the bitsy: DEEP and green. All caps deep. On skin it smells like a thick layer of leaves decaying on the forest floor. Deep, green, damp, and a bit sludgy. It’s intense like that for a few minutes before mellowing into something I can’t even accurately describe – it’s rich, resinous but not incense-y, and almost – oddly – a bit buttery. It’s a very strange scent, but I really like it. It’s a perfect example of how DC scents are heavy morphers – the dry down here smells absolutely nothing like the oil in the bottle or on wet application.

Gram-Negative seems to have somewhat low throw on my skin, so at some point I’ll be getting a solid to try layering this one because I’d love for it to be a bit stronger.

Fisticuffs: Wine and honey and hot blood and concrete, with the green rush of the thrill of the fight. Fisticuffs evolves magnificently on the skin, starting spicy and ending intriguingly cool. Intoxicating and absolutely unisex. 

In the bitsy: Deep and sweet, with a bit of green and the distinct sharp smell of asphalt. On skin the green comes out more and tempers the sweetness at first, but then the honey blooms in a major way and it’s intensely golden and richly sweet. There’s an earthiness in the background, and after a while a light spiciness emerges, but the honey is the real star of this show.

Evonne recommended Fisticuffs to me based on my intense love of La La La, All Right (which I physically and emotionally require a bottle of, please come back La La!), and (of course) she wasn’t wrong. I really, really like this one. As a bonus, it has pretty fantastic throw.

Maudlin & Bedlam: Maudlin & Bedlam is beautifully complex—dark, warm honey and herbals and wood frosted unsettlingly with weeping green leaves. It’s one of my new favorites, with a subtle, sexy drydown, and thoroughly appropriate for ladies and gents.

In the bitsy: Dark and sweet, with a little bit of a minty medicinal quality, like some kind of ointment. (That sounds gross, mostly because the word “ointment” is gross, but it’s not!) On skin it’s a little less sweet, and that minty herbal-ness is more prominent. It stays like that for a few minutes, and then the honeyed sweetness starts to amp up again, reminiscent of the honey note in Fisticuffs, but less intensely thick and golden.

Maudlin & Bedlam smells like honey mashed with mint and herbs in a mortar and pestle. Overall it is slightly medicinal, but not in a bad way – it’s like wild backwoods folk medicine, some kind of herbal salve you’d mash up to press into a mosquito bite or a burn or a tracker jacker sting if you’re Katniss Everdeen and you’ve volunteered as a tribute in the 74th Annual Hunger Games. I like it a lot. This one also seems to have a bit less throw, so I’ll definitely be acquiring a solid for layering and touch-up purposes.

Most of this stuff is currently available from Darling Clandestine, should you wish to rub any of these smells on and around your person. Mishigami is the only exception, but hopefully it’ll reappear soon enough.

darling clandestine pyrotechnik, hellbender, and tilt-a-whirl



In honor of Darling Clandestine officially re-opening today, here are a few more reviews! I’ve been slowwwwly working my way through the order I made before the shop closed, but now that it’s opening up again I’m going to try to step that pace up a bit.

As always, reviews were done without looking at the scent notes (though of course I do have some general knowledge of what they’re supposed to be), and descriptions were added after the fact. DC’s scent descriptions tend toward long and prosaic – I’ve plucked out the most relevant bits to use here, but I recommend heading over to read them if any of the scents catch your fancy. They usually tell an interesting little story.

Pyrotechnik: This fragrance is a sangria-spicy concoction with bold notes of cantaloupe and raw sandalwood darkened with smoke and earth.

In the bitsy: Deep, spicy melon. On skin I get a strong blast of dirt, dark and dry, with a subtle sweetness underneath. The earthy scent stays at the fore the entire time, and as it wears a dry spiciness emerges. I never get anywhere near as much melon as I do in the bottle – it’s just a very subtle background sweetness. I like it, but it’s different than I expected. I wish the melon were stronger.

I’d like to try layering this with Tilt-a-Whirl or maybe Hellbender for added sweetness.

Hellbender: Lovingly brewed in the seismic dark, Hellbender features notes of raw ginger, toasty amber, saffron and deep, deep vanilla. 

In the bitsy: Warm, sweet, deep vanilla and ginger. Yum. On skin it’s a tiny bit less sweet, and the ginger is spicier. This is a very “hot” scent. Really nice. It smells like some kind of deliciously creamy, spiced holiday drink, in the least foodie way possible, if that makes any sense.

Tilt-a-Whirl: This is a bright, citrusy fragrance that begins fruity and ends mellow and herbal and almost grown up.

In the bitsy: Sweet, juicy citrus with an herbal edge. I want to drink it. The citrus isn’t your typical orange or lemon – it’s sweeter, maybe tropical. On skin the herby-ness (sage) is stronger and the citrus is a touch less sweet. It’s very fresh and summery. I really like this one. It does seem to be the weakest of the bunch in terms of throw, but I picked up a solid perfume to layer with it so hopefully that will help.

Two winners here! But no losers, really. I love both Hellbender and Tilt-a-Whirl, and while I’m not 100% in love with Pyrotechnik, I do still like it. I just wish it were a bit sweeter and more akin to the spicy melon-y goodness I get straight out of the bottle.

Everything here should be available sometime today from Darling Clandestine on Etsy!

darling clandestine carny wedding, tapadero, and aragon


carny_tapadero_aragonBefore Darling Clandestine closed up for a little while, I went a bit nuts. I started out with a very modest order of one solid perfume and three bitsies. NBD. Then I added on another solid, a full-size bottle of perfume, and four more bitsies. … And then I added on another solid. And another solid. And another solid. And then (finally) three more bitsies. I made a grand total of 6 order over the span of about a week and a half, because I have serious impulse control issues and should seek therapy (of the non-retail variety).

Mental health implication aside, I had no regrets when my orders arrived, all packed together and bursting at the seams with candy. So many pretties. Such smells. Wow.

So I’ll be working my way through reviewing everything other the next couple of weeks, and first up we have three of the bitsies: Carny Wedding, Tapadero, and Aragon.

Carny Wedding: Opens with butter and sugar, unfolds to a tangy, charred wood resin, ends in a puff of sweet smoke. Some love it for the sweet, some love it for the smoke.

In the vial: smoke with a buttery sweetness behind it. It’s odd. On first sniff, I get lots of smoke and a little sweet. Sniffing again, it’s the other way around. On skin it’s definitely smoky, but there is a lot of sweetness to it as well. Buttery is the best way I can describe it – it’s like caramel corn, or marshmallows roasted to the point of charring. The smoke kind of wafts back and forth between being almost pleasant and being acrid.

After a while, something about the combination of scents really just reminds me of sniffing a fresh pack of cigarettes, or dry tobacco. I’ve never smoked myself, but one or both of my parents did for most of my childhood, so it’s a smell I’m familiar with. It’s not altogether unpleasant – kind of nostalgic, really – but it’s not something I really want to smell like either. This one is kind of a predictable miss – I almost never like smoky scents.

Tapadero: Bold and bright sage and roses, dusky sweet smoke and leather. Unisex. Very clean, very cuddly, fresh but comforting—open spaces and worn saddles.

When I first sniffed this, I got a lot of sage and smoke. It smelled like a smudge stick. But on second first sniff, about a day later, I get a strong rose with a little herbal sage. On skin it’s a fairly even blend of rose and sage, with very little smoke. It’s pretty. The rose isn’t perfumey or old lady-ish and the sage keeps it fresh and interesting. The rose gets a little stronger as it dries, and then further on a light smokiness comes out. It’s not the strong, cigarette-ish smoke of Carny Wedding, though. The best description is really my initial observation – it smells like a smudge stick, like a bundle of sage burning. Combined with the rose, I really dig it.

Looking at the notes, I’m really surprised that I got no leather at all from this. Not disappointed at all, though. I like it just as it is.

I really like this – it’s for sure my favorite of this testing batch. I’m not sure I love it, but it’s a pretty, interesting scent and I’m happy to add the bitsy to my collection. The question of whether or not I need more will require further testing.

Aragon: Bright, crisp lavender deepened with sea salt and wine, a bit of leather and a touch of chocolate and caramel. Divinely fresh, rich but never cloying.

Leather, sharp and sweet. When I sniff again, I get some lavender and sweet caramel. It’s very sharp and tangy. On skin the leather is the strongest note, but it’s not as sharp. It’s a soft, brown leather. The lavender is strong and herbal, and overall the scent isn’t as sweet. It’s got a salty skin musk kind of feel to it. As it dries it does sweeten back up a bit, but mostly it’s a leather scent on me. Leather and lavender. Further on a little more sweetness peeks out and I like it more, but there’s just generally a kind of nose-tickling tang or sharpness to it that I’m not crazy about. It softens as it wears, but never quite goes away.

About 20 minutes into the dry down it’s sweet dark chocolate, lavender and a touch of leather. Much nicer. So I’m a little torn. This one is interesting, and I quite like the dry down, but I think, overall, that it isn’t love for me. I’ll have to test it out a few more times before I decide for sure.

Looking at the notes, I think I expected it to be sweeter. And less leathery. This one makes me even more surprised that I didn’t get any leather from Tapadero. I think the wine might be contributing to the tang/sharpness that I don’t care for.

Darling Clandestine is closed for a month or so while Evonne moves and sets up shop full-time (woo!), but should re-open in mid July.

the gift of smells


Two bitsies + one 5ml + one 7.5ml. The cap is cracked on Vortex, hence the tape.



Perfume is much easier to mail.

Before I ever got my first real Darling Clandestine order, I was very generously gifted these babies by some lovely redditors over at /r/indiemakeupandmore. (Thank you /u/DerpYu and /u/janemorrisgoodall!) They were looking to re-home some unloved perfumes, and I had never tried DC – they were like my awesome-smelling fairy godmothers.

Reviews were done without looking at the scent notes – descriptions were added after the fact. Darling Clandestine’s scent descriptions tend to be lengthy and more like stories than a list of notes, so the most relevant bits were picked out where possible.

Harpy: Harpy is a sailor’s delight, with notes of sea salt and dark bay rum, milk and coconut squeezed with bitter lime.

In the vial I get lime, a lot of it, and a tiny bit of sweetness. On skin there’s a coconut-y sweetness, creamy and tropical, that is set off nicely by the tangy lime. The base is salty and musky and there’s something slightly alcoholic about it – it’s reminiscent of drinking salt-rimmed mojitos at night on a hot, sticky beach.

I really love this and can see myself wearing it a lot during the summer, because it makes the sticky humidity that is summer in Philadelphia feel almost appealing, instead of what it actually feels like, which is being inside of someone’s mouth.

I’m glad I tested this one out before the shop closed, because I was able to grab a solid to layer with my bitsy. A full bottle of the oil is definitely in my future as well, but since my order has already ballooned to epic proportions over the last week or so, I’m trying to show a modicum of restraint. (Also I need to leave some things to buy after she opens up again!)

Serpentina: A crisp, green, ethereal fragrance with a little opium bite.

In the vial this smells green – like green tea, but deeper, and almost a little smoky. On skin it’s the same – a big hit of green tea, with something slightly smoky underneath. Like smoke drifting in the window of a tea house. And it’s not a charred bonfire smoke or an acrid cigarette smoke – it’s sweet, but not like pipe smoke, which is usually what I think of when I think “sweet smoke.” It’s like burning tea leaves? I don’t know.

The base is deep and mellow, and after a minute or two something a tiny bit tangy starts to creep in. This one is really interesting. It’s heady in a way I usually ascribe to white florals, but it’s definitely not floral. It’s just got that kind of feeling. You take a deep breath of it and it fills up your head, like breathing in smoke.

I’m not sure I’ll need more of this, but it is really interesting scent and I’m glad I got to try it.

Dewlap Valentine: “He loved strawberries and bananas and dark leafy greens and usually had them smeared all over his face so he smelled like all of those things together, plus a little something . . . reptilian.” A wonderfully complicated blend, fruity, salty, musky, earthy, at once dark and sweet and green, morphing over and over on the skin.

In the bottle this is deeply, intensely fruity. Very ripe – almost over-ripe – banana and strawberry with a muskiness to it. On skin I’m immediately hit with an odd green tang before the sweetness starts to take over again. It’s very musky and sweet – first the banana is strongest, then the strawberry, then they mix together again before starting all over – but the whole time it has that green tanginess working around the edges. It’s almost salty. This is definitely not your average fruity scent. It’s a bit strange, and very strong. But also very interesting, which is a theme I see emerging with DC’s blends.

I do like this, but as I have a 5ml I don’t anticipate needing more. Also after looking at the description, I really can see it being described as “reptilian.”

Vortex: This winter is not your average winter, and Vortex is not your average “winter” fragrance. There’s no evergreen, no mint, no “holiday” spice—just a vast expanse of cold, white and blue, frigid, soundless. Stark and invigorating, this fragrance is purely unisex.

In the bottle Vortex is very brisk and clean, almost abrasively so. On skin it’s slightly more mellow, but still a cold, white-blue ozone kind of scent. But at the same time it’s almost a little warm – like breathing in through your nose on a below-freezing day, when the air is so cold that it burns going in. It’s an odd scent experience. I keep pinging back and forth between cold and hot.

This one seems a bit less complex than the rest of the DC scents I’ve tried so far – it’s not a morpher, aside from the cold/hot thing – but I like it for what it is and I think it’s appropriate, given the inspiration, which was the endless snow-covered hellscape that was our 2013/14 winter.

All of these save for Vortex are currently available from Darling Clandestine, though Evonne is closing up shop tomorrow (6/12) to move. She should re-open again in a month or so, at which point she will be doing DC full-time, which is so wonderful and really couldn’t happen to a nicer person.