All perfumes in this review were allowed to rest for over a week 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 then washing them off before testing the next one. 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
Just going to restate my prior bottle review here for any that missed it: Alkemia’s sample bottles are clear with a black-and-white printed label that sticks out in a ‘tag’. The samples labels are clearly and legibly labeled. They’re printed using an ink that runs with water - so be careful handling with damp hands or with oil splashing out. The vials need to be opened carefully or are prone to splashing.
A reminder before we begin: Each nose is different and each skin’s chemistry is different. Your mileage may vary.
In the bottle: Blackberry candy with a hint of something dark - an edge of a very dark green.
Wet on my skin: The dark musk comes forward but the blackberry continues to define the scent. There is almost something floral or aquatic about the blackberry. Almost like it’s a blackberry accord made of florals.
Drydown: It mellows slightly - there’s this barest hint of a green scent (almost on the verge of being soapy). The musk grounds the scent, keeping the green or the floral-blackberry from feeling overwhelming. Without that musk element this would be an overwhelming perfume but with the musk to wrangle in the floral-blackberry and green element it’s a quite charming scent. Evocative of a blackberry grove at night with just the slightest sliver of a moon in the sky.
After 30 mins: It’s become a very mellow subtle scent. A very faint green adding a pleasant hint of bitterness to the sweet, smooth dark musk and the floral-blackberry. It’s not botanical blackberry, nor a foody blackberry. It is blackberry as a concept. I like it a lot as a scent. It captures what’s enthralling about the night.
Notes on the site: black berries, black tea, and sweet black musk
Yep! I get all the notes. When they say ‘sweet’ black musk they aren’t kidding and I love it. The black tea is pleasantly reserved and exists just to provide a hint of leafiness to the blackberry. The musk, for me, is the breakout hit of this scent. Without it the floral-blackberry would be unpleasant but instead it adds interest and complexity without being obnoxious. A clever formulation.
Verdict: This one is probably a scent I'll eventually pick up a full size of when I work through the sample vial! Love it!
The Center of the Universe
In the bottle: Raspberry candy, booze, ozonic-heat-smoke notes? Hard to describe. The ‘cooking steak’ metaphor works some but there’s nothing meaty about it. Kind of a gunsmoke thing?
Wet on my skin: Still fruity. The booze is dialing back. The hot-metal-smoke notes are coming forward.
Drydown: Realistic ozonic tang - it smells like electricity and hot metal and kind of smokey. Not like campfire smoke, but if you’ve ever smelled computer components that have overheated and fried it smells like that. Swirls of raspberry candy and a faint booziness.
After 30 mins: The perfume has either faded dramatically or I’ve gone scent blind. I can pick up a hint of raspberry candy, a whisper of booziness, and mostly that peculiar hot-metal-ozone smell. Even that though, is greatly reduced.
Notes on the site: ethyl formate, a simple aliphatic ester found in the smell of rum and raspberries. To these elements, we've added notes from astronauts' descriptions of the smell of their suits when they return from space walks - freshly welded metal, gun powder, seared steak in an iron pan, burnt almond cookies, charcoal, and ozone
What a peculiar scent! I got the hot metal, ozone and I can even see the burnt almond cookies, gun powder and charcoal in there. Obviously the raspberries and rum are there - they’re what’s most easily identifiable of any notes in there.
Verdict: It’s a cool concept, but a little hard to wear for me. It doesn’t smell bad, it just doesn’t smell like I want to smell. Even if I don’t wanna wear it a lot I’m keeping this one as a curiosity. I’m a big ole science dweeb and having an approximation of what the center of the universe might smell like is baller.
Love is Nearer Death
In the bottle: Sweet, kind of aquatic musk - florals that might be white but it’s hard to tell. Some faint spices.
Wet on my skin: Similar to the bottle but something earthy-nutty-golden-brown coming through. Florals are near the edges of the smell but are strong. It’s like a hit of that golden-brown scent followed by strong, kind of indolic florals.
Drydown: Indolic, kind of aquatic, a little musky. The florals are going sweeter but that golden-brown-nutty scent is going more indolic. Spices throughout it.
After 30 mins: It’s hard to describe this scent. The first hit is something golden-brown-nutty-woody (but not sharp woody), followed by a whiff of spice (cinnamon-y), followed by sweet white florals, followed by… a kind of soapy indolic scent that lingers in the back of my mouth with a chemical-y taste. It’s not a terribly strong perfume - at this point the strongest part might be the spices. But that bit of indolic-soapy is unpleasant for me.
Notes on the site: Sambac jasmine, Spicy carnation, Dark orchids, Cananga flower, Lotus blossoms, Tuberose, Vanilla orchid, and Neroli woven with an aphrodisiac spell of spiced amber and cacao dusted labdanum
I think I get the jasmine - that might be that kind of… soapy note. I think the orchids might be the indolic bit. The spicy carnation/spiced amber is obviously where I’m getting that spices - and I wonder if the carnation is the golden-brown note (perhaps combined with a hint of cacao). I think the tuberose and neroli are the sweet florals. I have no idea what the labdanum is adding to it. There might be a hint of resin to it but it’s hard to tell past the other scents.
(Note: This scent was not part of my order - it was passed on to me since I like white florals. It had a far longer rest than the other scents in this batch).
Verdict: Swap it off. It just doesn’t work on me.
In the bottle: POTTING SOIL (overwhelmingly), sharp chemicals, leather, fur.
Wet on my skin: POTTING SOIL, an acrid nose-burning note, and a stink that reminds me of when my husband’s BO smells like testosterone.
Drydown: Some milder leathers come out and the potting soil dies back… a little. It is a very stinky smell with a little fur present. I’ve smelled a lot of dogs. I’ve smelled my share of pelts. This smells like neither.
After 30 mins: A little more leather and fur coming through. Maybe a hint of skin musk. But it’s hard for me to enjoy with the kind of chemical-BO smell and the ever present note of potting soil (the potting soil dominates the scent if you haven't heard).
Notes on the site: skin musks and deliciously sinister leathers
Verdict: Swap. There’s a possibility this might work for someone who doesn’t get the same chemical, acrid note… or someone who really, really likes the smell of potting soil.
All in all I really liked my first outing with Alkemia. Their TAT was stellar, their prices are great, and a couple of the scents in my order worked really well. Their scents seem to lean toward the conceptual - and to me that makes them an interesting house that's fun to explore.