4 Sugar and Spite Reviews: The Bee Queen + Agatha + Pod People + Plan 9
Time to get back into the swing of regular reviews! Today I'm doing four Sugar and Spite reviews. One of the things I love about Sugar and Spite is that they're not afraid to take on citruses, unique gourmands, and the occasional white floral. Despite a wide diversity in their scents the catalog has this cohesion in style - it's poppy, a little in your face, strongly scented and for lack of a better term colorful.
Check out my prior Sugar and Spite review [ here ].
All perfumes in this review were allowed to rest for several days ( a few weeks for these scents) after arrival. The perfumes were kept in the dark in a plastic box if small enough. If too large for a box they generally sit on top of a bookcase or bedside table, or inside of a drawer. 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 Dove sensitive skin, or citrus Doc Bronner’s.
Before doing test periods I often wear or play with other scents in my collection (that I wash off). I also am often wearing scented lotion on my feet and ankles (that I do not wash off). Sometimes I wear scented hair products simultaneously. Theoretically there could be cross-contamination.
For oils: Each sample was gently swirled before application. Then applied directly to skin - typically the top of my arm or the back of my hand.
Each review is written without looking at the notes in that moment. Frequently I will glance at a perfume’s notes beforehand. At the end of the review I will list what the official notes are and comment on how I think they interacted.
See here [ link ] for my review of Sugar and Spite's drams
A reminder: Each nose is different and each skin’s chemistry is different. Your mileage may vary.
The Bee Queen
In the bottle: Smoke, honey, and buttery candy. Like, really hard, sticky caramel or toffee based candy - think brittle or caramel coated popcorn. It’s an incredibly sweet scent but the depth of the smoke and honey balance out the sweetness of the candy. I remember this having a ‘horchata’ note but there’s not a strong rice, milk, or spice component in this - it’s there very subtly. It smells more like smoked honey horchata brittle candy.
Wet on my skin: The honey moves to the forefront, followed by an even deeper performance by the smoke. At the base of the scent is the snapping, crackling horchata brittle candy. It almost has a tiny bit of saltiness that contrasts with the sweet. I freaking love this - the ingredients all compliment each other and bring out the complexity in each other. It’s rare for me to like a gourmand - especially one this sweet - this much.
Drydown: Smoke, thick realistic honey, and horchata candy are layered in that order. As the scent wears longer the honey gets more complex taking on almost floral nuances (it reminds me specifically of clover honey). The one downside of this scent is it always makes me want sweets - particularly pancakes. It doesn’t smell particularly like pancakes unless you drench them in syrup but the particular balance of the scent reminds me of the way the scent of pancakes is balanced.
After 30 mins: The honey is now slightly more forward than the smoke. It comes off as a thick, realistic clover honey wreathed in smoke and spread over a bed of horchata brittle candy. I will say at this stage the spices are slightly more prominent than they were initially in the scent.
This wears very, very strongly - with no noticeable decrease in strength over the 30 minutes. The throw is relatively mild - only a couple of arm’s length whiffs over the 30 min test period - but a super strong scent cloud starts 3-4 inches from the skin.
Official Notes: rich honey, horchata, sticky beeswax, and woodsmoke
Definitely get the honey, the horchata comes off as more candy than the drink, the beeswax I can see in here with the word in front of me but honestly it blends with the horchata and honey to a degree where it’s hard to pick ou on its own. The smoke is sweet, smooth, and not acrid and smells nothing like a BBQ (a risk with woodsmoke) - instead it’s a pale wreath around the edges of a scent - more campfire or woodstove than anything else.
Verdict: Love this. Keeping my dram. Will probably pick it up in another product at some point in the future. I can see this making for a great night cream… if it didn’t make me want pancakes every time I sniff it.
In the bottle: Pale, sweet, creamy florals (I think I remember this being lilac?) with what I’m reading as a touch of resin. I think I recall this having a mahogany in it or something? The flowers are coming off as sweeter than florals usually do - so I think this has some sort of sugared component. Delicate and classically feminine - like a lace collar on a dress.
Wet on my skin: Sugared lilacs, a touch of something that reminds me of citrus (might be bergamot?), a kind of… cake smell? And a base kiss of smooth woody resin. Still very sweet and classically feminine but also haunting in a weird way. Reminds me of a pleasant house-ghost of a lady who died 120 years ago… but is only haunting the house because she loved it so damn much and as her ghost floats by she leaves a trail of sugared lilacs and cake.
Drydown: Ghostly sugared lilac with just a whisper of citrus at the edges layered over cake and an ultra smooth resin. I wish I knew what was giving this such a haunting quality. Is the citrus smell actually a white floral? Is there a breath of white musk in there? I’m not sure - but I am finding it very evocative.
After 30 mins: Wearing more delicately/faintly. The sugared aspect has died way back. What I’m mostly getting now is lilac, citrus, cake… maybe a tiny bit of almond? Do I remember this having almond in it? At the base there’s still that smooth resin.
Official Notes: Delicate lilacs, sweet cream and mahogany wood.
Definitely get the lilacs. If you like lilacs, you’re in luck. The sweet cream accord is what was adding the sugary notes - it smells more full, rich and less milky than I’m used to with cream - a lot like cake. Its richness is probably what was reminding me of the nuttiness of almond. I’m also betting if there’s a white musk or something in this scent that its here in the sweet cream accord.
The mahogany wood must be both that smooth resin and what’s reminding me of citrus.
Verdict: Overall this scent is well balanced and for lilac lovers and/or people who want to smell like a 120 year old ghost who benevolently haunts houses it’ll be a big hit. While I will admit to both liking this lilac and kinda wanting to smell like a ghost this scent is a little to feminine for me. My dram of this will be a swap.
In the bottle: Thick, slightly golden vanilla (I think I remember this having Vanilla Bean Noel (VBN) in it?) combined with… a weird lemon. This lemon is harsh, in that acidic-realistic family that’s kind of acerbic, and has an edge to it that’s almost medicinal in quality. It’s a very odd contrast.
Wet on my skin: Warm, caramel-y vanilla with a bit of lemon edge. Undercurrent of that odd, slightly herbal earthy-citrus scent. Maybe its lemon verbena? Not sure. But right now, in this wet stage, I’m getting warm cupcakes with a little bit of lemon rind shaved on top. Very different from how it smelled in the bottle.
Drydown: A little more sharp lemon layered over warm cupcakes. But something about the lemon, the herbal smell, and the particular vanilla here give this a kind of prominent ‘rubber doll’ scent to my nose. The vanilla and lemon aren’t like they were in the bottle - in the bottle it was like two completely separate scents layered together - but they are more separate than they were when I originally put it on.
After 30 mins: So, I get the kind of cupcake-VBN note but how it’s blending with the lemon and that herbal note in particular is going even more ‘rubber doll’. The golden parts of the VBN are still solid - but the particular vanilla used in it is just blending oddly on me. The lemon is nicely sweet - reminds me of lemon candies… but that herbal smell keeps pulling it from candy to medicinal at the end of a sniff.
Official Notes: Lemon cupcakes, VBN and sandalwood
So, yes on the lemon cupcakes - whatever’s being used as a cake accord here is really nice. Yes on remembering the VBN - though honestly it’s blending with the cupcake accord. And finally… sandalwood must be what’s smelling kind of herbal in this.
Note: This one changed very slightly with a rest - right out of the mail the scent stayed much more like it was in the bottle and the rubbery vanilla was even stronger. A rest caused the scent to blend more on my skin and for the rubberiness to mellow some.
Verdict: I have conflicted feelings on this scent. I like the cake part - it smells like actual cake, not overly sweet. I like the lemon part. I like the lemon part and the cake part together.
I do not care for the ‘rubber doll’ smell though - I think part of the VBN stock scent is probably doing this. I’ve had vanillas pull this before on me - and with VBN it’s right there in the title.
Personally I have nothing against using stock scents - though in this particular case I wonder if home blending a VBN dupe might work better because it would give more granular control over the vanillas used.
I also feel weird about the sandalwood. I do think just kind of lemon cupcakes on their own could be kind of boring without a really multi-faceted lemon used. It would require a lemon that does like, triple lemon duty. I do think it’s a good idea to have some other ingredient in here adding a bit of a twist - something to contrast with the mellow sweetness and balance the scent. I don’t know if the sandalwood is the right choice here because citrus can smell medicinal so easily, and it takes a perfectly suitable citrus and makes it smell syrupy and artificial instead of like the beautiful lemon it is on its own. I do wonder what might be a good replacement for the sandalwood - maybe a bright amber and some sort of greenery/fruit note? Some ozone?
These are all just spitballing - I’m not a perfumer, obviously.
Anyway, I’ll be passing on my bottle of this scent. I don’t know if my issues with it are note based or more skin chemistry based - but it’s not something I could see wearing personally. If you want something a lot like Sucreabeille's Sansa but with a more realistic cake and some contrasting edges to it maybe give this one a shot - I had similar issues with the vanilla in Sansa and I know a lot of people love that scent.
In the bottle: Apple! Bright green apples! There’s a floral in this - I remember the first time I tried this I was so dazzled by the floral (spoilers) that I looked up what it was. It’s jasmine! And oh, what a jasmine it is. Jasmine lives in this world where there is a fine line between a good jasmine (which this has) and a jasmine that goes cat-pee highlighter levels of screechy ( I want to be absolutely clear: this does not have that kind of jasmine).
This is, as I have just said, a fantastic jasmine. It’s a jasmine worth writing odes to. It’s wreathed in a kind of aquatic or ozone vibe. So think of… glowing floral apples wrapped in an atmospheric and you’ve got this in the bottle.
Wet on my skin: Water/ozone, apples, maybe some watermelon (it’s kind of a gummi worms smell), glorious jasmine… and amber or something? Not sure how to describe the base - it’s like… resin with a smear of dirt. This is a bright, neon-glowing sweet fruity floral with an atmospheric tang and something earthy at the base and I am here for it y’all.
Drydown: Bubblegum, sour gummi worms, apple jolly ranchers and then that fabulous jasmine. Without the jasmine I’d just be like ‘Oh, another gourmand ho hum’ but Sugar and Spite has sourced an excellent jasmine for this. The floral element really elevates the scent. Still a bit of eathiness and perhaps resin at the base, but it’s more subtle now.
After 30 mins: Stable to the drydown - I actually wrote the drydown portion just a few minutes before this one. However I was sniffing it throughout and it didn’t alter much after it mingled with the skin chemistry. There might be something in here reminiscent of heliotrope (but that could just be the bubble-gumm-y note - bubble gum can sometimes smell like heliotrope).
Wears strong - whiffs throughout at arm’s length. Strong scent cloud 3-4 inches from my arm.
Official Notes: Jasmine, pineapple, green apple, tart grapefruit, and a few drops of musk and sandalwood to round it all out.
Yes on the jasmine, I can see pineapple when combined with the musk reminding me of bubblegum - early on the pineapple was probably adding those aquatic/ozonic elements. The green apple is the green apple. The grapefruit is probably what reminds me of sour gummi worms. The sandalwood brings the earthiness and resin here.
Note: This one also changed slightly with a rest - the first time I tried it the jasmine was even more spectacular and separated out more. I don't think the jasmine reduced in quality per se - but the whole scent blends more and it's harder to pick out the jasmine as the shining star of the show after its aged some. Better for taking in the perfume as a whole but the eensiest bit sad for the part of me that's doing proverbial backflips when I find a good jasmine.
Verdict: Fabulous! A fruity-candy gourmand elevated by the jasmine and the sandalwood. Love this and will eventually be picking it up as a lotion - as well as keeping my dram.
One thing I want to note before signing off - my memory might have been mixing up various S&S scents when doing the blind sniffs - some of the stuff I smelled in Agatha, for instance, are listed notes in Arsenic and Tea Cakes on their website. I have no idea if that impacted anything - but as I try to make a note of any bias I might have I figured I'd mention it.