Whenever I start to talk about indie perfumes, I mention that my exploration began because so many mainstream perfumes give me migraines. I attribute this almost entirely to two things. First, almost all mainstream perfumes are alcohol-based, which tend to be more volatile. This allows the top, middle and bottom notes to really shine, but it also means there’s more stank comin’ right at my lil’ nose holes. Because these perfumes are built around the top, middle and bottom note structure, almost all of them contain at least some floral notes, which tend to come alive there in the top and middle. Aaaaaand… floral notes tend to bother my snorfer quite a bit.
That said, I’ve slowly come around to trying mainstream perfumes here and there. The absolutely absurd number of online reviews available at a moment’s notice really help me feel more comfortable trying out more perfumes. As you’ll see below, a scent list isn’t always how a perfume presents. And what you might expect to be overwhelming can disappear into the background – and vice versa.
Dolce & Gabbana The Only One – violets, bergamot, coffee, iris, vanilla, patchouli
If a year ago, you had told me that a D&G scent was going to be one of my faves, I would’ve laughed in your face. Especially if you had read me that note list – I kinda hate patchouli fragrances. But the overall result here is warm, sweet and alluring. A lot of perfume hounds find it a little one-note, which is probably fair. But I love the way this comes together like coffee, pralines, powdery violets and a warm breeze. It feels like leaving a candlelit dinner and getting cheap ice cream cones.
by Kilian Angels’ Share x French Montana – cognac, hazelnut, cinnamon, oak wood, tonka bean
This is another case where the notes would otherwise be a “no” from me. Most woody and alcohol-inspired scents smell abysmal to me, and hazelnut often reads quite fake to my nose. But this? It’s absolutely yummy! Warm, lightly spiced and gourmand without being too cloying. The “angels’ share” is the portion of a whiskey or bourbon that evaporates – a gift for the angels. Isn’t that nice? Also, I love that the bottle looks like it belongs on a bar. (That’s Kilian Hennesey, darling.)
Moschino Toy Boy – Italy bergamot, pink berries, elemi buds, Indonesia nutmeg, pear green, cloves, Neoabsolut Orpur rose, flax flowers, cashmeran, magnolia, vetiver Haiti Orpur, ambermax, sylkolide
Most people read Toy Boy as a men’s fragrance. Well, first of all, gender is a construct, so jot that down. This is the scent I throw on with a leather jacket – so yes, I’ll concede that it’s possibly maybe androgynous. There’s a little sweetness, a little amber and some cozy woodiness. I originally bought this because it listed nutmeg as a note, and I definitely get that kind of warm spice. The inclusion of those wild perfume chemistry notes gives this a little edge. I might catch a little bit of the rose, but it comes across as fairly realistic – like smelling an actual rose, not rose water.
Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Crush Cheirosa 62 – Pistachio, almond, heliotrope, jasmine petals, vanilla, salted caramel, sandalwood
I freakin’ love Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. This body spray perfectly captures the scent of the lotion, which many product line expansions somehow fail to do. It smells like sunscreen, but simultaneously somehow not at all like sunscreen. It smells like the boardwalk, yet it also smells like being all alone on the beach, basking in the sun. It’s FUN! If teenage me had access to this back in the day, I would’ve smelled like this all summer.
Lolita Lempicka Sweet – Sour cherry, sugar, cocoa absolute, cashmere wood, angelica, iris, musk
Listen, healing my inner child means occasionally wearing a perfume that was clearly intended for teenagers. I wore Body Fantasies Cotton Candy all through high school. You can’t talk to me about perfumes that are “too sweet.” The sour cherry in this is definitely tart – occasionally, jaw-achingly so while I was sniffing for this review – but everything else is warm and sweet. It’s not cloying, but it’s very obviously intended to be cutesy. I love the way that tart, mouth-watering note plays with the warmer heart. I find that it wears surprisingly close. It’s a pixie hiding in a cherry tree.
Bottles I’m a little shaky on:
Gucci Memoire – Roman chamomile, Indian coral jasmine “Nature Print®,” musks, vanilla, sandalwood, cedarwood
This is one I wanted to love desperately. The bottle, the packaging and the concept were just lovely. This is supposedly the first time Roman chamomile has been used in a perfume and the Indian coral jasmine note is exclusive to Gucci. The Fragrantica crowd insists that they detect bitter almond, and I’m inclined to agree; there’s something odd that the official notes just don’t cover. It’s herbal, yes, but leaning medicinal and sharp on the opening in a way that will stick with you. It relaxes a bit as it wears, venturing more into dried grasses and warm chamomile, but it remains ever so slightly bitter in an unpleasant way. But I still want to like it so much! People who smell it get a very different impression of this than I do. They think woodland fairy in a
Carolina Herrera Good Girl – Almond, jasmine sambac, tuberose, tonka bean, cocoa
I like this a lot. I think. I get less of the white floral notes than most other reviewers. Again, the Fragrantica crowd is detecting more notes than the official description, and I’m with them; this is way more complex than the brand is letting on. It’s the sort of perfume that a woman in her mid-to-late 20s would think of as her “going out” perfume; it’s sexy, flirty and mysterious, but sophisticated? She would think so, but her elders would shake their heads at the folly of youth.