I've been itching to try The Strange South since I dove head first back into indie perfumes a couple of months ago - but their long TAT turned me off. I get it - it's rough when you're small and swarmed. But with samples I tend to prefer a swifter TAT because I know that there's a good chance what I'm gonna get isn't gonna work and I want to try my luck again ASAP.
But then it occurred to me that... mayhap... I could buy... The Strange South samples... second hand... hmmmm.
So I did that and circumnavigated a long TAT for samples. Once I find enough of their scents that work I intend to take a crack at ordering full size... but that's a conversation for a different day. Let's get down to business
The perfumes being reviewed today are:
- Fire in A Bottle [store link]
- Fox's Wedding [store link]
- Dear Bones [store link]
All perfumes in this review were allowed to rest six days after arrival. The perfumes were kept in the dark in a plastic box. I did crack them open to sniff them directly after arrival, and with a couple to do an initial test. The reviews are not based off of these initial impressions - though if a rest did change the smell I’ll note that.
I’m doing a half-hour skin test with each perfume. If the perfume is applied to skin that has had perfume on it, or skin that has had perfume near it it is washed before the next test (sometimes I will do one scent on my left wrist or hand and one on my right wrist/hand). Before beginning the first test I did a wash with a scented soap (it’s all I have available - shea butter Dove soap or almond Doc Bronners). Before doing test periods I often wear or play with other scents in my collection (that I wash off), so theoretically there could be cross-contamination.
Each sample was gently swirled before application.Each review is written without looking at the notes (in that moment… I obviously looked at them when I bought). At the end of the review I will list what the notes listed in the shop are and comment on how I think they interacted
TSS sample bottles are 1ml wand bottles with the name of the scent printed legibly in a large, easy to read font. They didn't seem like particularly 'splashy' 1mls or leaky ones. I found them easy to open and close. I'm not the biggest fan of the tags that stick out like that (I find them hard to store) but in general the wand bottles served their purpose well.
Now, on to the reviews proper!
A reminder: Each nose is different and each skin’s chemistry is different. Your mileage may vary.
Fire in a Bottle
In the bottle: Hyper-realistic citronella candle right down to the faint trail of smoke coming off of it.
Wet on my skin: If someone across the table from you were eating vanilla cake while a big ole citronella candle burned down it would smell like this. Mostly citronella but the vanilla is a little bit more forward.
Drydown: That cake-y vanilla is a lil more forward but there’s still glorious citronella there. Like many of the TSS scents I tried this one goes a lot less strong as it dries, but the throw is certainly better than the other TSS scents I’ve sampled. I can smell this one a good 6 inches away from the application site.
30 mins one hour: Still cake and citronella candle. The citronella is still there and is a little stronger than it was before. I ate a meal so I wonder if I reset my nasal palate? Who knows.
Notes on the site: Lemon balm, amber, vanilla, and distant campfire smoke
Look, TSS, you and I both know this is a really nice way of saying ‘It’s citronella candle and cake’. There is no shame in it being this. It’s a nice scent. Admittedly your description is not inaccurate. But there is no need to put lipstick on a citronella candle. It may not sound fancy, but it keeps mosquitoes away and smells really nice. Or, at least to me it does.
Verdict: If I do a fullsize order from TSS this’ll be in there (if they’re still offering it? IDK how their seasonal collections work?). I fuckin love citronella candles. I don’t mind that it’s a little less citronella in the drydown. I’m fine with the cake-y nuances. To me citronella candles are evenings spent on the back porch as the stars come out. It’s a comfort smell.
In the bottle: Sweet florals and something spicy-woody (and a little herbal). The herbal note is something like tomato leaf or tobacco. A kind of dry… berry note? Reminds me of juniper berries a lil. A little masculine of center. Something kind of lemony-citrusy (but not floor cleaner). The woody note dominates.
Wet on my skin: Something sweet coming through along with the florals - vanilla? I think the ‘citrusy’ might be ylang-ylang (dang it’s a good ylang if I confused it with a citrus). The ylang (?) is framed by that herbal note. Still a little masculine. But the woods have gone to the background and sweet slightly-smokey florals are near the forefront.
Drydown: Very similar to the wet phase - but a little more powdery and sweet. Oh no, I’ll be heartbroken if that lovely ylang goes to powder or baby wipes on me. I’m still getting some of that citrusy floral but I feel like I’m losing that herbal framing and some of the wood notes. It’s kind of wandering off into jasmine territory more than ylang. Gosh, I hope this is just me going sort of anosmic this was deeply up my alley when it was wet.
After 30 mins: Powdery, mild, a little baby-wipe-y. Like a ghost of the beautiful scent that was on me when it was wet. RIP me with this drydown. Very little throw, very little strength to the scent which is probably for the best because what this morphed to was at best a little dull and at worst too "personal hygiene product" smelling.
Notes on the site: Summer rain, orange blossom, sunflower, juniper berry, white tea, and ylang-ylang.
Well, I didn’t get anything wet from this. The orange blossom must have been part of the initial florals and was probably where the sweetness has come from.
Ah-ha I caught the juniper berries. I guess that leaves the white tea for that herbal-woody note along with the sunflower (though it’s more like a sunflower’s stem than the bloom itself). The ylang was beautiful initially and there’s a ghost of that left but I wish there was more and that it was more balanced and that basically I had anything resembling what was in the bottle.
Verdict: Swap. Freaking tragic because it was great in the bottle and wet it was a beautiful slightly masc floral (with a hint of slyness).
In the bottle: Cinnamon . Something dry and sweet and reminiscent of Christmas. A little smokey (tobacco?). Something bright - makes me think of lemons (might be a white floral?). Maybe a leather note? Gosh, this one’s got me stumped.
Wet on my skin: SMOKE, pretty sure it’s tobacco smoke. Pretty sure there’s a leather in there and some sweet florals. Gosh, this is a cool scent. There’s that hint of something… cinnamon or spiced I’m not sure how to describe it.
Drydown: Sweet tobacco smoke, leather, lemony smell (might be floral), spice. Okay so, one of my exes smoked, and while it was like kissing an ashtray, his jacket (of course it was leather) smelled amazing and this reminds me of it. It’s gone less strong in the dry down and uhg I love this one so much please TSS don’t fade or morph on me. I want to be the sexy ne’re-do-well. Or at least… I want to smell like one.
After 30 mins: (note, during the 30 mins I had to wash my hands and water rinsed over where the perfume was. I reapplied the perfume then restarted the clock) It didn’t morph! My biggest complaint about this is I wish it were stronger - had more of a throw. As it is I have to get very close to where it’s applied to smell it. I always wonder if I’m less sensitive to it because I’m wearing it - but I’ve definitely worn perfumes that throw more than this. I feel a little like I have to work to smell it. I wish I didn’t. For me it’s a sexy scent all spiced tobacco smoke and leather with those edge florals.
Notes on the site: Three musks, plum incense, amber, Indian sandalwood, and fuzzy tonka bean.
What. The. Fuck. So far my hit rate for accurately guessing intended notes for TSS scents is all over the place. The smoke has to be the plum incense - and I can see the musk + amber + sandalwood accounting for the leather esp if one of them is a skin musk… but… where does the tonka bean come in? Because I get nothing remotely vanilla in this.
Verdict: I kind of love this scent but I’ll be damned if I think it matches the description. To me it smells like a gentleman you meet at the crossroads at midnight. He thought you were there for a deal, but you’re there to ask him out. You found his tinder profile. Somehow. It’s smokey and sensual and a little bit sweet and, dangit, it smells like sweet tobacco smoke on a leather jacket and you can’t convince me otherwise TSS website.
Anyway, I can see myself getting a bigger bottle of this one if I ever do an order of full sizes from TSS.
Overall my initial impression of TSS is that they're trying and have a good nose for blending and balancing their perfumes... But, gee whiz I don't think I've ever been further off from notes than I was from Dear Bones. Not that the scent was bad - just very different from expected. I can see someone looking for a resinous or a resin-vanilla scent and being surprised when they get sweet tobacco smoke on a leather jacket. For me, it was just surprising.
Also of the scents I've sampled to review (I have a total of 7 samples) a lot go light on me fast - they just don't seem to have as much staying power as I'd like... and in the wet stages there's a bit of a lemony smell to them I don't dislike but definitely isn't listed in many of the notes... I wonder if it's the carrier oil these scents came in?
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