Here’s the fragrance review post you don’t want!
I have been aware of Demeter Fragrance Library for years now. If you’re even mostly unfamiliar, they’re a perfume company that focuses almost entirely on replicating real scent experiences. Their three flagship scents were Dirt, Grass and Tomato. (I’ve sampled Dirt: I find it to be a very wet, wormy potting soil with a strange wet concrete thing happening.) A lot of folks found out about them when they added Play-Doh as a scent.
I’ve known about them for years and single-note perfumes are absolutely my jam, but it took me until now to actually make a purchase. (The Dirt I tried was in an indiemakeupandmore swap!)
See, I have a very exacting standard of what “realistic” means. I expect the smell to actually smell like the thing, not my vague impression of the thing. A realistic rose perfume shouldn’t smell like rose water; it should smell like sticking your nose into a live rosebush, damp with rain. A realistic ocean scent doesn’t smell like watermelon vine or adelhydes or suntan lotion; it smells like salt and funky seashells and sand. A realistic String Bean scent (see below) shouldn’t be vaguely vegetal; it should smell like a lap full of beans you’re snapping and stringing on a kitchen towel one hot August afternoon.
So I’m saying I didn’t buy the hype. Or maybe more accurately, I preferred to preserve the idea that somewhere existed a world of perfect, truly realistic scents that would forever be out of my reach… and thus couldn’t disappoint me.
Back in January, I placed an order for seven of their 1/2 oz. Cologne Mini Splash ($7) bottles. It’s exactly the perfect size for me. Overall, I’d say their fragrances are reasonably priced (the largest size in most scents is the 3.4 oz. Cologne Spray at $40-ish.) It took 20 days for my order to arrive (a CS rep expedited the order for me during COVID, which was so kind.)
Let’s get this out of the way first: Demeter’s scents do not last a long time unless you absolutely do not want them to. If you want an all-day scent, either commit to wearing one you hate or plan on reapplying.
Nutmeg Ice Cream
I had high hopes for Nutmeg Ice Cream. I love nutmeg. I admire Alton Brown’s propensity for keeping a seed in his pocket at all times, just in case. There are few things that nutmeg does not improve.
Demeter’s concept for this was that the sweetness of ice cream would temper the bitterness of nutmeg. Nutmeg Ice Cream absolutely nails the ice cream part. It smells like opening a pint of some autumn-themed flavor. Does it nail the nutmeg part? It’s hard to even say. The ice cream very much overpowers the spice lingering in the background. I like this scent and I will wear this scent. But I was looking for nutmeg first, and not the other way around.
These are my confessions: I was really prompted to make this Demeter purchase because I wanted to mix a cheap alternative to this perfume. I wanted Molasses to be so realistic. I don’t feel like it is. It’s more sugary, more like a molasses cookie than pure molasses. As it fades, it leaves behind a vanilla, almost cream soda scent that stays very close to the skin. It’s still a delicious gourmand scent, but I was hoping for something that was a little more burnt, a little more earthy.
Gin & Tonic
I am your grandmother. Gin is my spirit, and I adore a G&T. This is another that I had high hopes for (I love juniper, and I felt like this wasn’t a big challenge as a fragrance.) But ironically, I found this scent to be a bit powdery… and that’s comin’ from your substitute mamaw. The gin herbs are a little soft, there’s a hint of citrus, but more than anything, it reminded me of a men’s cologne or Irish Spring. I very much like those scents, but my search for the perfect G&T goes on.
I am not a fair or impartial judge to Stringbean: it could only disappoint. And it does. It absolutely smells vegetal, it absolutely smells green, it absolutely smells wet. And yet, it’s not a green bean you’ve just snapped. I can’t quite define what is missing, maybe an earthy element and a little sweetness.
That said? If you’re looking for something that smells like a very vague chopped green vegetable, this smell nails that impression. And to be honest, it’s a nice smell! I wear this a lot on days when I need a little pep, a little impression of spring.
This is another scent that I can’t be fair to. I love Fraser Fir trees. I hate Christmas “pine” candles. This perfume straddles the line between accurate and awful. When I temper this with other notes, I find I like it.
Remember what I said about longevity? This one has it! Any sensible person would want this to be the scent that fades away. But Black Pepper will not go gentle into that good night. I LOVE this scent. I had to scrub this scent out of my flesh.
Real black pepper is a complex thing to smell. So long as you don’t sneeze immediately, you’ll pick up on a whole host of individual notes. A peppercorn’s scent is volatile and resinous and curious. This perfume captures that, with sweetness and warmth, some funkiness and some sharp bite.
I layered this with Molasses and lemme tell you, that’s where this perfume shines. It can definitely overwhelm more delicate scents, but it adds such character to scents that might otherwise be a little flat.
I bought this for my boyfriend, but actually didn’t sample it until this morning. Lo and behold, it’s actually my favorite of the bunch?! Humidor is one I was fully prepared to be disappointed by – so many cigar scents go too sweet and cloying. But this one strikes a really smart balance of sweetness and spice. It has the raisin-like smell of tobacco with a warm, spicy note for the wrapper. There’s also an odd prickliness that reminds me of an ashtray, which actually isn’t unpleasant. Pressing my nose to my wrist after two hours, it’s still there, but obviously very close.
I told you I’m a hard critic of “realistic” and so I’m not surprised that many of these did not live up to my weird nose standards. That said? Most of these are still scents that I will (and do!) wear. I can’t tell you enough how much I love the splash bottle size: it’s perfect for me, someone who can’t wear fragrances many days because I sneeze about it so dang much. I will be buying from them again.
Scents I’m Eyeing
• Holy Water – Memories of sniffing my godson’s head after his Christening…
• Christmas in New York – I’m a Holly Holiday, after all!
• Lobster – I don’t know why, but the idea of this as a perfume intrigues me.
• Pumpkin Pie – duh?
• Lilac – In general, I dislike floral scents, but lilacs are SO LOVELY.
• Honey – A scent note that so many perfumes get wrong.