Wednesday, July 31, 2019

7 Alkemia Reviews: Hex + Caveau des Innocents+ Pleasure in the Flowers + 1891 + Ambre d'Automne + Smoke and Mirrors + Paradisiaca

So in case anyone has missed the news: Alkemia prices increase significantly tomorrow. By about 50%. I know this is kind of last minute but I placed my last Alkemia order for a while today and figured some of y'all might be doing the same. So here's 7 Alkemia reviews to say goodbye to Alkemia's current pricing (thanks, tariffs).
The perfumes covered in today's review are:
All perfumes in this review were allowed to rest for several days (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. They are always applied to skin that has either been washed or hasn’t had perfume on it that day. Sometimes I will run one scent on one wrist/hand/arm and the other on the other wrist/hand/arm. When I wash my hands for review purposes I wash with a scented soap (it’s all I have available - shea butter Dove soap or almond Doc Bronner’s). Before doing test periods I often wear or play with other scents in my collection (that I wash off), or scented lotion (primarily on my feet and ankles - I don't wash it 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
Bottle Review
See [ here ] for my review of their 1mls. I will note that again we have a mixed bag regarding the fonts on the label - some like Hex and 1891 are easy to read, while others - notably Smoke & Mirrors and Paradisiaca - are kind of difficult to read.
A reminder: Each nose is different and each skin’s chemistry is different. Your mileage may vary.
In the bottle: First note is patchouli, followed by a kind of light creamy smell - perhaps a white musk or white floral. A little powdery, slightly tangy. Floral in there that might be honeysuckle. Slightly smoky. A contrast in a fresh, floral scent with a resinous smoky base.
Wet on my skin: A wave of golden sweetness - honeysuckle I think, perhaps an amber. The wave hits in a solid throw and then quickly pulls back. Smoky patchouli - something reminiscent of a citrus. Spice in the midnotes. I think this has some sort of musk in there - perhaps a skin musk? Something in there reminds me peculiarly of savory food. It’s almost an umami smell like freshly boiled pasta or grilled meat… but also how skin sometimes smells, or my husband’s hair. I think it’s pinging me as particularly organic. For some people this might be a skin-but-better smell.
Drydown: This is reminding me strongly of a BPAL scent. Goblin maybe? Does this have benzoin in it?
Anyway, it still has a strong note to it I’ll call ‘skin’ because ‘my significant other’s scalp’ is a wee bit long. But it does kinda smell like freshly washed hair… if the shampoo the person used were patchouli based.Resinous, a little smoky, kinda floral (pretty sure it’s two florals - honeysuckle and a white floral maybe?). Also definitely something citrus or citrus-adjacent in here.
After 30 mins: Clean, freshly washed, slightly musky skin and/or hair (though, less so than before). White florals. Patchouli. Touch of smoke.
Official Notes: frangipani and night-blooming Moroccan flowers, all-spice, black tea, Madagascar vanilla, Tonka, sweet benzoin resin, black amber, frankincense, vetiver, and a caress of patchouli
So, the floral I was reading as honeysuckle is frangipani. Whoops! The night blooming flowers are the other ‘floral’ I was getting - I’m guessing a bouquet of similar white florals.The spice I got was all spice. I think black tea, tonka and VETIVER - of all things - I am pretty sure are blending to create the ‘clean skin’ smell (I think this is also what kind of smelled like savory food to me). This DOES have benzoin - which I am pretty sure is part of what was giving me ‘citrus’ vibes because it gave me citrus vibes in ‘Goblin’ too. The black amber is the amber that was part of that initial ‘golden wave’. I think the frankincense was what was reading as smoke.
I wanna note that the vanilla in this is an edge. I’ve smelled a variety of vanillas in my time and I completely missed this one because I assumed that the sweetness in this was floral in nature.
Verdict: Swap. I’ve already got a sample of Goblin from BPAL and I like that better for this kind of scent profile. If you want a kind of skin-but-better version of BPAL’s Goblin, or you want to smell like freshly washed hair with patchouli and smoke… then this is your jam.
Pleasure in the Flowers
Fair warning, I recall this is basically a straight floral. I will do my damndest to describe what it smells like beyond ‘a lot of flowers’. I’ll probably misidentify a bunch of flowers in the blind sniff part, but that’s OK I figure. Anyway, let’s go.
In the bottle: Purple flowers - not violets, I don’t think, but very purple - hit me at first. They’re followed by a very piquant flower with an odor reminiscent of citrus - might be a magnolia. There’s a kind of deep, musky flower that I think might be some variety of rose...and then I think the base of this is some kind of resin - maybe a pale amber or a sandalwood. It’s mostly there to ground the wide variety of just… flowers everywhere. Delicate, tiny flowers in cool colors. (Well, unless it has magnolia - those flowers are bigger than my fist).
Wet on my skin: I think the purple flower might be hyacinth. It isn’t as strongly, in-your-face hyacinth as Blue Ridge Skyline. It’s more balanced with the other flowers. The base on this is kind of bitter and almost smoky. It’s hard to place. Kind of herbal. I’m suspecting some sort of sandalwood, but it could be another woody resin. Maybe even a pale patchouli.
Drydown: The florals are blending nicely - what I’m mostly getting is that purple flower mixed with the piquant-citrus-style white flower. Beneath that is definitely something musky - but I think it’s a plant with musky quality. Finally there’s the base which I’m pretty sure is a resin with just the tiniest bit of smokiness to it. It’s a really well balanced floral for what feels effectively like a pure floral. Something about it is really nostalgic for me. Good throw - I’ve been getting whiffs of it at arm’s length.
After 30 mins: About the same as the drydown. Playing Guess The Flower I think there might be a well behaved jasmine in here (Alkemia does great jasmines). So to recap, what I’m getting is some sort of purple flower, jasmine, some sort of citrus-adjacent flower, something kind of musky - maybe a deep rose - and a resinous base with smoky nuances. The whole blend - all the way through - has been juuust indolic enough to give it a ‘glassy’ quality.
Official Notes: peonies, bluebells, and lemon verbena, with orris root, pimento, lime leaves, cassia pods, nutmeg, vetiver, and water musk
Well, well, well. It looks like I encountered most of the elements but misidentified them. So, the citrus-adjacent smell is lemon verbena! The lime leaves might be contributing to that citrus-but-not-really smell as well. I think the peonies are what struck me as a kind of ‘purple’ smell and the bluebells were what kind of pinged me as white/like jasmine - though I could have that backwards. The orris root and pimento are what’s adding that kind of earthy smokiness. I think the vetiver is what I was reading as resin. The water musk is what reminded me of a deep, musky flower. If there’s nutmeg and cassia pods they’re just tiny trace elements.
Verdict: So, I’m going to have to do an all out battle-to-remain-in-the-collection between Blue Ridge Skyline and this. This is a really good, really well balanced floral bouquet… but so is Blue Ridge Skyline and I wear straight-florals-that-aren’t-tree-florals so rarely that I only really need one of them. PITF might win out though simply because I can still F/S it while BRS is retired.
Caveau des Innocents
I recall this one having tabac as a note - but that’s about it! Let’s see what else is here.
In the bottle: Nutty, creamy alcohol layered over sweet, aged patchouli with swirls of tobacco and spices. Maybe the alcohol is a bourbon vanilla? It’s really nice, warm golds and reds and browns abound. Very silky and smooth.
Wet on my skin: Instantly - strong heliotrope - smells kind of powdery like flour is with some of those golden-brown tones heliotrope brings. A little less boozy. Still getting what might be bourbon vanilla. Getting a kind of herbal spiciness I think might be coming from the tabac. There might be some sarsaparilla in there - something that reminds me of root beer minus the sweetness. Getting some earthiness that reminds me of patchouli. At the base there’s a wood note but I can’t ID it beyond ‘Mmmm yeah that’s wood’. Pretty much gender neutral - might be considered slightly masculine of center by some.
Kinda TL;DR - sweet, creamy slightly gourmand topnotes mixed with heliotrope - edges of caramel. Herbal-spicy midnotes of tabac, sarsaparilla. Basenotes of an earthy note (possibly patchouli) and a woody note.
Drydown: Very stable - perhaps blending a bit more but wearing about the same as that TL;DR right there. It’s a scent that combines dry, dusty, earthy-woodsy elements with lush, plush sweet and herbal elements. The contrast is really intriguing.
After 30 mins: Wearing the tiniest smidge fainter - but mostly just blending more. This wears close to the skin in the first place on me. All the notes are still present - I’d say the main thing that’s faded is the heliotrope has moved from the very front of the scent to more of the middle.
Official Notes: Tabac, dark coffee, piquant cloves, rum soaked pears, candied citron, dark caramel, and star anise bathed in intoxicating swirls of opoponax, labdanum, hashish, benzoin resinoid, vanilla incense, and guaiac wood.
So the gourmand topnotes I’m getting are the rum-soaked-pears, the caramel, and the resinous vanilla. I don’t really get anything in here that reads strongly as coffee to me - so if there’s a coffee note it’s tiny and blending heavily. I can see the itsiest bitsiest hint of citrus in there but it’s very small, very smooth, and very blended - nothing really piquant from it. The sarsaparilla smelling note must be the anise. Along with the anise, the herbal midnotes are probably the cloves and the hashish. I’m guessing some accord in here uses heliotrope - possible the hashish because, man I smelled heliotrope strongly at first. The opoponax and benzoin combining is probably that earthy smell that reminded me of an aged patchouli. The guaiac wood is the wood note I was getting - it might also be contributing slightly to the kind of herbal qualities since guaiac is often the same thing as palo santo.
Verdict: Alkemia prices go up tomorrow and I’m currently trying my best to stay on low buy - so this is not an immediate upsize. It’s a very nice scent but it doesn’t push my buttons in terms of what I’m trying to evoke what I’m trying to invoke with my personal scents. This would be a great room scent in some luxurious victorian era hotel. I’m keeping my sample for now but it’s probably going to eventually end up in swaps.
I recall this one having lime leaf, lavender, and being a twist on a Victorian cologne from the description and the name.
In the bottle: Yup! Definitely a cologne. Getting lime - maybe bergamot - and lavender over a wood (cedar maybe?) in the bottle. Bright spicy-resinous and clean smelling. Basically a fruity-floral taken resinous by a strong wooden base.
Wet on my skin: Tart green citrus and dry lavender still in the topnotes. Midnotes of a soft musk. Woodsy basenotes - I think I’m getting some oakmoss. Huh. I wonder if there’s some labdanum in the midnotes? I could see that. Along with the musk there’s some herbal spiciness in the middle and an edge of something a little salty. If that’s the case then this is a masculine, floral chypre! It’s certainly reminiscent of a chypre.
Drydown: Whoops - was putting together an Alkemia order and saw the notes for this briefly. I noted carnation and spiced bay. Regardless it’s morphed hard on me. It’s gone almost gourmand sweet - there’s a floral - I think the carnation that just… dominated. Only getting hints of that lovely dry tart resinousness in the first part. Mostly it’s just musk, carnation, sweetness, and a hint of that initial set of notes. Really sad for me because I loved it so much I was setting up to upsize based on how it was wet (that’ I saw the notes because I have the brains of a hardboiled egg).
After 30 mins: Mostly just sugary carnation/super sweet floral musk. Only the tiniest hints of citrus or woodsy base notes or even the lavender. I think my skin chemistry just betrayed me hard on this one y’all.
Official Notes: French lavender buds, mandarin peel, lime leaves, bergamot, bay leaves, coriander, clove, nutmeg, ginger flower, pink pepper, elegant white carnations, heirloom tree rose, opium tar accord, and woody amber resin nestled in an embrace of precious oriental incense woods.
In the opening I get the lavender, the mandarin peel, the lime leaves, and the bergamot. Some of the spices and the various woods. I can even sort of see the rose, ginger flower, bay leaves, and coriander being blended in there. As it dries on my skin it goes all carnation plus what I assume is opium tar accord (I think that’s the sticky sweet musk) and some of the amber. That’s it. It’s basically a carnation sweet-bordering-on-gourmand perfume on me.
Verdict: I am so sad. I was all set to upsize this from how it goes on wet. I even added it to my cart so I could check out once I was done with these reviews! But it morphed so hard. In the early stages it was a sweet fruity-floral masculine perfume marching firmly towards a chypre. That version get my full approval, thumbs up, 100/100 etc. The morphed version is just kind of two-note and unbalanced on me. So this will be a scent locket experiment and I will probably pass the sample on unless it wows me in the scent locket.
Ambre d’Automne
In the bottle: Earthy, patchouli-style resin combined with a pale golden amber with swirls of spices. There might, theoretically, be a dried leaves note somewhere in here - I can’t tell if that’s just part of the resin or something separate. There’s something kinda cold in here that I associate with myrrh but no clue if that’s a separate note or part of the amber accord.
Wet on my skin: Creamy and golden. The amber, appropriately, is at the forefront. The other resin has moved to the base and smells less strongly patchouli. Still getting the spices and the cold note - and something sweet. Definitely guessing myrrh at this point. But, I think there’s a possibility of a musk or a pumpkin in here - I’m finding the midnotes in this hard to place.
Drydown: So topnotes here are the amber and the spices. It’s a nice amber, but, for an amber centered scent I expected it to be a little more prominent. Resinous-sweet-cold-and-the-tiniest-bit-powder midnotes that remind me really strongly of Alkemia’s myrrh note that they’ve used in like, Haunted and Bewitched. Also in the midnotes is something plant-organic. Could be pumpkin, could be fallen leaves - but honestly it kind of smells like squash to me. There’s something a touch salty too - kinda… musky salty? Basenotes of that woodsy-earthy resin that I think is a patchouli. The basenotes are back to dominating the scent which I feel kinda ‘eh’ about. Call me a traditionalist, but I think basenotes need to stay in the base.
After 30 mins: I feel like the amber is mostly gone and what I’m getting is a kind of inarticulate resinous sweetness with a tiny, tiny bit of powderiness in the top and midnotes. I guess I could see some citrus in here. Again, dominated by the woodsy-earthy basenotes and the kinda salty musky smell.
Official Notes: A rich woodsmoked amber infused for thirteen lunar cycles with tobacco leaf, cinnamon vine, green bayberries, chaga, birch tar, maple sap
So, the topnotes are the amber - though it didn’t smell smoky on its own. I think the smoke might have settled into the base resins (depending on what resins were used to make the amber accord). The cinnamon vine - and maybe the tobacco leaf - are that kind of spiciness I’m getting. The green bayberries and chaga are probably where the kind of organic-musk smell is coming from (and the bayberries are where the hint of tartness is coming from). I think the birch tar combining with the earthy elements of the chaga and the smoke is what’s giving me that woodsy-resin vibe.
Verdict: This failed to wow me. I expected a sparkling golden amber with smoke and foresty nuances. Which, wet, this was getting almost there. As it dried down it basically became a birch tar perfume. It didn’t smell bad or anything - it just kind of smelled boring to me. This’ll be a pass from me. It could probably work as a layering note for some folks.
Smoke and Mirrors
In the bottle: So, I know this one was designed as a layering note made up of… smoke and several vanillas. With that in mind let’s see how this plays out: Smoke, ultra realistic charred wood smoke of the sort that gets used in bar-b-que pits (without smelling like bar-b-que potato chips). I’m not really getting any vanilla at this stage - just something that kind of reminds me of the smell of candles or candlewax.
Wet on my skin: Embers, ozone, sweet smoke - the first hints of a vanilla coming out. Spices. A kind of saltiness. A kind of waxiness.
This smell is actually invoking a really specific scent memory - so bear with me. There’s a town called Gatlinburg in East Tennessee that is like if Las Vegas were much smaller, built in the mountains, and had the aesthetic sense of the folks of East Tennessee. Tiny stores where you can buy swords are next to ones that sell crude t-shirts. A few buildings down is an emporium that sells jewelry made of bone. Somewhere in the lineup is a hippie store run by folks who claimed to be of native origins and did a tarot reading for me. There’s year-round haunted houses, bars, cabins, and tourist traps galore. You can buy the best jerky of your life there. One town over (basically the same town) is Pigeon Forge where Dollywood is.
Anyway this smells like Gatlinburg. The wood, the smoke, the spices, the sweetness. It’s kinda reminiscent of a bar-b-que but not in a way I don’t want to wear. This is actually really comforting for me.
Drydown: The scent has gone fainter - and I’m getting more vanilla from it. One of the vanillas used in this in particular is kinda musky. The effect overall is less smoky, but still incredibly nostalgic for me. I feel conflicted over it because on the one hand it’s so nostalgic, but on the other it does still kinda evoke a bar-b-que and isn’t something I can see putting on. I can see sniffing it to flash me back to Gatlinburg and Dollywood trips...but I can’t see wearing it out.
After 30 mins: About the same as the drydown, but with even less smoke. The smoke is more of a suggestion at this point. On the one hand this makes it not smell like a bar-b-que at all. On the other smoke is one of the main selling points for this scent. There’s still enough that this maintains a kind of nostalgic character for me, but not as much as I’d like.
Official Notes: burning wood, Madagascar Vanilla, and Tonka
It’s smoke! It’s vanilla! It’s tonka! The official Alkemia page mentions this being very sensitive to skin chemistries and that which note is forward will shift. I see some of that now - even as I noted the smoke was going away in my last bit of the scent description I just took a sniff and heeey it’s back. I think some of the kind of ‘candlewax’ I’m getting here is from one of the two vanillas (I know, I know - tonka isn’t a vanilla, technically. But it’s so similar I’m like, eh, screw it). If I had to guess I’d say it’s the tonka.
Verdict: I don’t do much layering - and it isn’t a scent I’d really just wear out on its own. I’ll probably keep my sample for the sheer nostalgia value. I’ll admit a certain amount of FOMO knowing that Alkemia’s prices will be going up in August, but I don’t think I can justify this as an upsize based solely on “I’d take it out sometimes and sniff it for the nostalgia factor”.
In the bottle: Topnotes of creamy coconut mingle with slightly tart fruity undertones. Below that is something warm and golden (perhaps a sand accord?). There is maybe a hint of sea spray. This is a very gourmand/candied smelling oceanic, I believe.
Wet on my skin: Very sweet, creamy coconut (It kinda reminds me of coconut dum dum pops). There’s a touch of a slightly tart fruit - but nothing ‘sharp’ - maybe a mango? The sweetness is so sticky I wonder if there’s a honey or a cane sugar note in here. Tiny, tiny bit of a glassy white floral coming through - might be frangipani at a wild guess. It’s very sweet and mingles with the coconut and fruit. Definitely a very mild oceanic aping a sea breeze. Something in there that reminds me of leaves without going too harshly green (maybe bamboo or aloe). Thick, creamy musky base.
Drydown: That floral has taken center stage. There’s still swirls of coconut but it no longer smells candied. It’s a creamy, white floral wreathed in silky coconut and musk. The whole scent is the smell equivalent of cuddling a cool down comforter. This is such a good floral note - it’s like I’ve got a flower right on the back of my hand.
After 30 mins: A little fainter, still creamy - I think the ocean spray note is coming forward more. But otherwise the same as the drydown.
Official Notes: sultry jasmine, plumeria flowers, vanilla orchid, sweet coconut musk, with an audacious flirtation of green banana
Okay, I think the jasmine here is what I was reading as ‘ocean spray’. It has that kind of tanginess of an idealized ocean spray. The plumeria/frangipani is the flower that went front and center and just… wow. Fantastic note. The vanilla orchid I think is adding to the sweet, white creaminess. The sweet coconut musk is the coconut candy. The green banana is both the tarter-than-coconut fruit and that little bit of a green note I was getting
Verdict: Upsize because that plumeria is dazzling. I think this’ll be good for layering with other oceanics/tropical scents.

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