Saturday, 28 June 2014

Darling Clandestine Floral and Sweet Perfume reviews

Darling Clandestine's floral and sweet scents are as original and unexpected as the rest of their line (except perhaps Tilt-A-Whirl), so if you prefer smelling typically feminine these scents will add more intriguing note than your standard perfume.


Gardenia, lavender, city sidewalks, tobacco leaf
Gardenia, not a sterile, sweet petals-only white floral, but the whole living plant. The etherial fragrance of the flower against the backdrop of leaves and life. Beautifully feminine, innocent but not naive, a fragrance for a unicorn or fairy.

Sadly my local florists didn't have any gardenias in stock so...
Source: northernstarkidd on Photobucket

Bete Noire
Peppers, florals
This is what I'd call a dark floral - definitely feminine but in an adult and mysterious way. It's inspired; the essence a James Bond villainess would leave clinging to the pillowcase. 

Black and white iPhone photo from the florist's - so artsy

Blue Valentine
Hyacinth, violet, poppy, fig, whiskey, bitters, musk and mint
Blue Valentine is another scent I just can't place - it's halfway between a floral and something savoury, it's dark, slightly moody but with a crisp clean edge, tangy and maybe ever so faintly minty? This scent is one that's really grown on me as although it's pretty sweet it's very interesting, to be honest it's probably the blue note that I'm loving. 

Friday Night on Bourbon Street, New Orleans

Mad As Birds
Pear, mint, amber and marigolds
Opens the tiniest bit tart/green and blue but quickly dissipates to a soft clean sweetness like honeyed florals, I love this scent which holds solid for about 15 minutes - the lightness keeps the sweetness from being sickly or the florals overwhelming; this is a very girly yet adult scent. Especially straight from the bottle every whiff of this scent brings out different yet harmonious notes, however the glorious juxtaposition of a multitude of light and sweet scents is lost after the 15 minute mark and all I'm left with a a flat vanilla-like bland sweetness. If only the the 'original' scent stuck around on my skin this would be the first and only sweet floral perfume I've ever loved.

I wanted a bright picture of a gorgeous summer picnic for this scent, but it's equally appropriate to wear for girly cocktails on a roof terrace. Which, when you think about it is like the adult version of an afternoon picnic...

Sage, roses, smoke, leather
I wasn't sure where to categorise this scent - it's sexiest thing I've ever smelt, feminine yet strong. It's warm, sharp, deep, fresh, clean and comforting - it's everything, utterly unique and devastatingly beautiful. Hardly a floral but since Evonne rarely lists floral notes in her scents this seemed the most appropriate place for it.

 I wish I knew what type of flower this is: I probably should've asked


Spiced cantaloupe, bold black sky, sweet woods, earth
Opens initially with cantaloupe - so distinct huge orange melon slices were dancing before my eyes. However a myriad of spices break though within seconds giving the candy sweetness depth and distinction. It appears to be a contradiction: the almost sickly sweetness with the smoke and the spices. However it really works, and almost feels like an instant classic pairing - like oranges and cloves or lemon and honey. Against all odds I actually really like this perfume, despite the fact I don't particularly want to - it smells too delicious for my taste.


Citrus, passionfruit, sage
Opens sweet but tart, fading after a few seconds to tart but sweet and finally settling to equal amounts of sweet and tart. Really, that's all this fragrance is - it has a distinct candy-and-candle thing going on, and is probably DC's least interesting and complex fragrance. This is definitely a little girl scent - sickly sweet with a bit of sass. It's really just nice - nothing more and nothing less.

I had a pretty adorable duckling phase with shark teeth

Dewlap Valentine
Strawberry, banana, greens, reptile
After the initial gagging sweetness of artificial fruit it fades to an almost tolerable sweetness, overpowering something earthy, damp and ever so slightly green.  It's sickly sweet, cloying, and heavy with an air of decomposition. Although this is hands down my least favourite DC scent to date, I have to admire the fact that Evonne really has captured a little fruit and veg loving reptile's terrarium odour.


Ginger, amber, vanilla
Initially Hellbender is all gorgeous warm ginger (not the nose-burning tingly kind) with beautiful deep sweetness conjuring a warm kitchen and baked goods. However the sweetness overpowers the ginger a few seconds out of the bottle and settles to a rather boring sweet scent. It's a lovely scent, but sadly not particularly exciting or interesting, and the final dry down smells almost identical to Mad As Birds' and Carny Wedding's without the smoke.


Carny Wedding
Butter, sugar, wood, smoke
What makes Carny Wedding interesting is the fact the creamy sweetness and the potent smoke intermingle with every sniff - it's not just sweet smoke or smokey sweetness, the two scent elements dance over and around each other with every inhalation like two separate scents carried on the same wind. However after a few seconds the opposing forces settle into something intriguing, unique, reminiscent perhaps of a 1930s circus, the air heavy with the push and pull of life. A strange scent, and not altogether appealing to me.

A fantastic book and entertaining movie

These scents were particularly interesting to review as I don't have a particularly sweet tooth nor like gourmand perfumes, and find most generic and commercial floral scents distinctly boring  - thus it was more of a challenge. However I love all of Darling Clandestine's florals as they are infinitely more original and alive than the usual flat floral, and Tapadero is one of my all time favourite scents. Of the sweet scents Pyrotechnik is definitely my favourite, and Hellbender would be vying for that place if only the warm ginger scent lasted longer than a few minutes out of the bottle. I'm not sure if it's my skin chemistry that transforms a lot of Evonne's carefully blended intoxicating sweet scents to something akin to a flat vanilla after 15 minutes, but it definitely prevents me really falling in love with Mad As Birds.


Saskia X

Friday, 27 June 2014

Darling Clandestine Green and Blue Scent Reviews

Pacific Crest/John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park, California

Patrick Suskind's novel 'Perfume' is one of my all time favourite books, however when reading it I can't help but lament the fact that I will never smell perfumes as complex and alive as the protagonist created, until now. Since my last post I've fallen head over heels in love with Darling Clandestine - trying to decipher their enigmatic scents is so entertaining and satisfying as, unlike other perfumes, it's incredibly difficult to pick out individual notes or even general ingredients. Moreover scent notes cannot even begin to describe DC's perfumes, and frequently do them a huge injustice as they're often irrelevant to the unique harmony they create - it's like trying to describe a work of art purely by the Pantone numbers used to paint it.

Instead of photographing almost identical looking samples and bitsy vials for each review, and to add a personal touch, I've tried to find photos I've taken that express the essence of each scent - I hope it's helpful or at least entertaining!

And finally, as always, I sniff and write my reviews before I look up the perfume descriptions and scent notes so they don't influence me too much, although of course I do remember vaguely what each should smell like from when I bought them. So without further adieu, here is Part 1 of my mega scent review series:


Gram Negative
Orchid, soil, moss, lichens, tea
This scent smells exactly like a greenhouse: musty earth, fresh soil and damp greenery. As a scent I love it, but as a perfume it's pretty weird so I mostly just sniff the jar and smile.

This gorgeous snake's colouring perfectly fits the mood of the perfume, just imagine he's basking on damp earth.
Anyway, terrariums are sort of like greenhouses right?

Maudlin & Bedlam
Honey, herbals, wood, green leaves
Gram Negative's fresher sister - the greenery is brighter, lighter with an edge that isn't sweet like florals but... alive maybe. There's definitely fresh soil but without the mustiness that indicates damp and warmth. If Gram Negative is the ground in autumn/winter Maudlin & Bedlam is the same ground filled with news plants in spring.

A swamp just outside New Orleans, Louisiana

Lilies, succulents, herbs, mitti attar
The "floral for those who don't like florals" - this was the scent I've been most eager to try as I both love and hate florals. It smells like a florist's when you first step in - green, alive, and bright with the sharpness of freshly cut stems without the sweetness of flowers: a pervading sense of bright, clean, green, light, fresh.

Somewhere in the Sierra Nevada, California, about half way through the John Muir Trail

Green tea, opium
Sepentina is a darker, warm green - it doesn't smell like living plants and is a much more comforting scent. It has an incense like backdrop which adds both warmth and depth but smells nothing like actual incense or smoke, this is what Mother Nature would smell like.

Aerial shot of the Okavango Delta, Botswana, from a light aircraft

La La La All Right
Breeze, fields, river and road
Intense fresh cut greenery - the smell of fort building amongst the bushes of your garden during the summers of childhood. Initially very sharp like a shot of wheatgrass but mellows to something warmer before settling to a softly sharp green, warm air and sun baked... something. Evonne is a genius - it's a sumer road-trip in a convertible driving on sunbaked tarmac surrounded by fields and blue skies!

Yosemite National Park, California


Lemongrass, vanilla, wood, marigolds
Lemongrass is one of the most distinctive scents for me having practically bathed in it as a mosquito repellant, Cloudswing however adds a whole new dimension (lemongrass is aptly named - it's citrus-y sharp and green) bringing a golden warmth and depth with what feels like the muted fire of ginger and hay. Imagine you're in a barn warm in your sleeping bag and covered in bugspray - essentailly, Cloudswing = summer camp.

Everyone loves summer camp! Blue Ridge Mountains North Carolina

Step Right Up
Blue-green, spicy, oceanic
The sharp freshness of greens mixed with the moodiness of blues give you a living but not earthy outdoors scent. I can't smell any pine in here but it has the same feeling as pines - green, but cold and sharp too. To me this is a mountain lake surrounded by trees. Cold air and chopping wood in the winter, very sexy.

Kings Canyon National Park, California


Monstre Delicat
Fig, rain, spiced wood, storms
I had no idea a scent could be moody until I smelt this perfume - at first it's aloof and cold, but with a strange underlying comfort that is not warm or sweet but... solid. Almost like despite its indifference to you this scent will always be there for you. Really though this scent is beautiful - it's a rainy day in a bottle, at first cold rain on the window leads to melancholy, but opens up to the possibility of a day spent with an old book and a blanket.

Denali State Park, Alaska

Lakes, sand
Watery, without a shadow of a doubt. For the first second it smells almost green but that disappears almost instantly giving way to the melancholy of Monstre Delicat, but without the solid base. This perfume is in every sense of the word all liquid. Every sniff brings to mind something to do with water - the air before a rain, a breeze across a lake, damp skin on the dock, rain on the road, rain on the grass, rain in your hair. I honestly have no idea how a scent can be 'watery' but this one is - not 'watered down' or damp or moist, but huge and wet and deep. (I'm not sure how to edit that sentence to make it less... anyway). This is one of DC's lightest and subtlest perfumes, I can't sense anything solid to it like earth, leather, smoke or skin, but it's deep. It's a deep lake of blue.

Chobe River, Botswana

Cold, blue, white
Mountain air - empty mountain air - when you've climbed so high every breath is deep due to its thinness. It's snow, it's cold, it's the biting wind. Brutally beautiful. Cold, clean, expansive. White but not sterile, with the clear blue sky beating down on you. I honestly have no idea how Evonnne creates scents like these - I can't pick out a single note of anything, but can understand exactly what the scent is trying to convey. If Mishigami is the blue of water, this is the blue of the air.

Goat Rocks Mountains, Washington

Overall, I adore every single one of these perfumes which is 
completely unsurprising as I love anything and everything outdoorsy, my favourites for myself to wear are Limerence and Serpentina, but I also particularly love the scents of Step Right Up, Monstre Delicat, Mishigami and Vortex. Moreover all of these scents are unisex as they contain no stereotypical gendered notes (like florals or 'Old Spice'-ness) and personally I'd be incredibly impressed to catch a whiff of a man smelling like mountain air instead of A&F's Fierce, unfortunately most of the time I'm in mountain air with men none of us have showered in at least a week...

On that delicious note, love,

Saskia X

Monday, 2 June 2014

Darling Clandestine Perfume Overview and Review

Scent is probably the most underrated sense and is almost always an afterthought, from everyday toiletries to the quintessential Christmas gift of perfume - chosen by the bottle's aesthetics, the brand, and what the sales assistant was pushing that day.

Having both an overactive sense of smell and a distaste for most things generic has left me with a great disinterest in commercial perfumes - who wants to smell like millions of other people when scent is so intimate? Moreover commercial perfume inevitably follows the same recipe: something floral, something sweet, and maybe - if they're really pushing the boundary - something woody or a musk. Commercial perfume is also stupidly expensive, especially considering most are 'eau de toilet's and thus only contain around 10% fragrance: 90% of what you're paying is alcohol, the bottle and the brand. 

The Limbic System

I could wax poetic about the importance of scent on the subconscious mind as it can induce powerful memories and emotions due to the olfactory bulb being part of the brain's limbic system ('emotional brain') along with the amygdala ('lizard brain') and the hippocampus ('memory brain'). Essentially smells can make you remember, feel and react to things without knowing why, or even being conscious of doing so - scent is literally subconscious mind control.

What I'm trying to say is for something so important scent is disproportionately overlooked, and that is why I've fallen in love with indie perfume: amongst the typical florals you can also decide you want to smell like a damp forest floor, a cold rainy day or the metallic ring of ozone. You know what my favourite smells are? Fresh cut grass, mountain air, clean laundry and that warm masculine smell that indicates safety and love. Aside from a 'fresh linen' scented candle, a few laundry detergents and a handful of men's deodorants I've yet to find any commercial scent that smells remotely like any of these things, let alone coming close to actually activating my limbic system and making me happy rather than just "oh, that smells nice."


Although I've only just begun to venture into indie perfumes Darling Clandestine have become a firm favourite - they produce not only unusual scents but scents that are so complex, multifaceted, layered and deep that they're more akin to bottled memories and emotions than perfumes. These perfumes not only activate my limbic system as well as my amygdala and hippocampus - they're the emotional, lizard and memory brain whisperers - most of them also smell so damn good and are all insanely unique. Evonne, the sole owner and creator of Darling Clandestine, even states that some of her perfumes are "downright odd, unsettling, like the stories behind them" - I love this mentality as there is such a narrow range of appropriate or 'good' scents to use in perfumes, and I admire her pushing the boundary of what is acceptable and normal.

As with most indie perfumeries Evonne offers her scents in oil form - a little goes a long way and the scent on your skin will last longer, as well as making the perfume infinitely more portable, which also keeps shipping cost down. Moreover DC's fragrance oils are suspended in sweet almond oil and jojoba oil (amongst others) which are some of the nicest and my favourite skincare oils, as well as being much more expensive than coconut oil which some other brands use.

Scale representation of a bitsy, a solid and a sample vial on my huge hands and scrawny wrists

Unfortunately - unlike other indie perfumeries - you can only purchase three sample vials per order, this can initially be somewhat off putting as it requires a either making multiple small orders or investing heavily. However as each sample vial is less than half the price of other brands, coupled with Darling Clandestine also offering 'bitsy' 4ml/1 dram sized perfumes (which are almost the same size as other brand's full sized 5ml perfumes and are less than a third of their price) alongside her full sized 8-15ml bottles (which again are 50-200% larger than other brand's for the same price or less) means that Darling Clandestine's perfumes are actually much more cost effective. You can also buy solid perfumes from Darling Clandestine which I adore - they're more portable and, due to their beeswax content, tend to last even longer on the skin than oils.

Just two more caveats before I commence actually reviewing the perfumes: figuring out what each perfume is supposed to smell like and differentiating between them on Darling Clandestine's Etsy shop is both frustrating and confusing - I'd recommend using the 'Dicography' on their facebook page for an overview of scents and their seasons (when you can roughly expect them to be sold). Moreover Evonne tends not to list, or at least focus on, specific scent notes, and chooses instead to write wordy prose about what the perfume is inspired by or should evoke. I like this in theory as it shows her priority is to conjure memories and emotions, but in execution it's extremely confusing when shopping, so I created a spreadsheet that simply lists the name and main scent notes of each perfume alongside its season, as well as if I have or want the perfume and how I feel about it - but you can ignore that or copy&pasta everything to a clean document to personalise it for yourself.


Love the lid's artwork - notice how full the jar is

Tapederos are a hooded stirrups for riding - obviously a nod to the leather notes in this perfume.

Main notes: sage, roses, smoke and leather.

This was my first ever DC fragrance and is one of my favourite perfumes of all time - a friend sent me a vial of this in a random grab bag of perfume samples when I expressed an interest in getting into indie perfumes. When I first smelt it I was instantly transported back to a rural Buddhist temple in Chang Mai, Thailand when I was about 5 years old - it smells old, slightly musty like damp wood, with an incense like warmth of something living and perfumed. Of course reading back on the notes the mustiness is leather, the incense is smoke and the 'living' ruralness is the sage and the perfumed air is roses. There's depth, warmth and a slight sweetness, overall it's not a soft or subtle scent but in its boldness there is warmth and comfort. I could bathe in this scent and love applying it after a shower so it's the last thing I smell as I fall asleep.


Love the naked lady - though out of all my solids this was noticeably much less filled

Serpentina is part of the latin name for the plant Indian Snakeroot, and is obviously evokative of serpent, or snake.

Main notes: green tea and opium.

Another all time favourite! Serpentina is clean, green, fresh and cool, like laundry blowing in the wind on a spring morning. I'd like to think I've tasted my fair share of green tea, and have smelt opium resin on the antiques my father likes to collect, but I honestly am not recognising either of those scents in Serpentina. I wish I could naturally smell like Serpentina all day everyday - if I had three wishes one of them would be that my sweat smelt like Serpentina, it's the perfect scent - subtle yet distinct, an extension of clean skin and fresh air without ever smelling perfumed or cloying.


Unfortunately I only bought a sample of this, but isn't that cinema ticket label adorable?

Pistola is spanish for pistol, or gun. Pistolas was inspired by Evonne's grandmother who when young lived in Mexico City and whose hip bones were prominent like "pistolas".

Main notes: Gardenia, lavender, city sidewalks and tobacco leaf

Pistolas is a surprising favourite of mine (ok, you caught me, I'm only reviewing my favourites here) as it seems to be a typical floral, but it's the stunningly accurate gardenia that has stolen my heart. Gardenias grew outside my bedroom in Thailand where I spent a significant portion of my childhood and adolescence, their scent is green and light and fresh as well as being floral - hence why they are one of my favourite flowers. However I've never found a gardenia scent that smelt even remotely like the living plant - all were too sweet, too floral, too flat. Perhaps it's the tobacco leaf that adds depth, or the sidewalk that acts as a backdrop - my theory is I smelt the gardenias as a whole plant - the damp earth, the sun baked concrete and the green leaves - rather than the flower detached from its element, and that's what Darling Clandestine has captured: a living floral rather than the clinically sweet and boring scent of purely petals. I honestly can't smell any lavender but perhaps it ties everything together or amps up the gardenia - either way this scent is perfect. This is a scent I'd wear on a summer day with a sun dress and flip flops, and if I ever have a daughter this will be what her bedroom would smell like.


Those are the three Darling Clandestine scents I am utterly in love with, however there are more that I just love, a few that I like a lot, and many that I like but simply can't make my mind up about - interesting, not what you'd expect from a perfume - so exactly what I love about Darling Clandestine! I hope to get around to reviewing all my DC stash at some point, even including the three perfumes that I have a visceral reaction against!

Darling Clandestine also has the most amazing customer service - I must've changed my order and added to it about half a dozen times, including changing my address which meant I was massively undercharged for shipping (even when I offered to send her the difference Evonne refused) and she also including a bunch of extra samples!


And finally, a completely trivial reason why Darling Clandestine has stolen my heart: Evonne loves sharks as much as I do!


Saskia X

PS "Come closer, I smell amazing" - Darling Clandestine