Perfume Review: Nine Sixteen92 Scents

The past few weeks have been filled with 90% thesis writing, 5% panic, and 0% blogging. But I’ve just gotten a new chapter submitted, so I can take a break for some reviews! This will be a review of Sixteen92’s Cloven, Grimm, Hellebore, Goody Proctor, Mellifera, Penny Dreadful, Southern Gothic, The Sound and the Fury, and Wise Blood perfume oils.

I’ve already did some quick reviews of Sixteen92 scents (Salem, Huntsman, and Grimm [lotion]) on IMAM reddit and an in-depth review of Sacre Coeur here. (Those are links, if the blog formatting isn’t showing it clearly) I have to say, I adore this company. Complex and unique scents that rarely go awry on my skin, which is unusual for me because my skin is very picky! I’ve had issues with a few fading quickly, especially Southern Gothic, but since acquiring these samples they have updated their carrier oil to improve longevity.

Summaries are at the end of each review. Without further ado – here they are!

Cloven

Balsam, Fossilized Amber Resin, Vanilla Absolute, German Blue Chamomile, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Clove, Damascus Rose, Neroli.

In vial: Sweet soft clove exclusively.

On skin: Immediately upon putting this on the clove starts to get a little growly. Very strong, even burnt-smelling, and accompanied by a trace of cinnamon. My skin amps spice, so I expect it to take over, but it’s pretty quickly put in its place by some sweet chamomile. There’s also a faint, almost ambery resin scent, but drier than amber usually is, and not powdery at all.

1.5 hours: Sweet chamomile tea with a spicy twist. I think there’s some neroli and vanilla in there. It actually has an almost lightly sugared quality at times. It’s herbal, but not in the bitter green way that I expect from herbal scents. It’s more like golden herb-flowers like chamomile and marigold. It’s soft and cozy. Remains true for several hours and leaves a sweet soft spiciness on my skin. I expected it to be much spicier, but it’s still nice.

Summary: Spices and sweet chamomile tea, spicy but soft and cozy.

Grimm

Cocao absolute, Tonka bean, tobacco, immortelle, wet forest moss & leaves.

I reviewed the lotion in my reddit post, so this is pretty brief.

In vial: I can smell dry cocoa and some general earthiness.

Wet: Goes mossier than the lotion, which means it’s a bit bitter and sour on my skin. Very earthy, very dark. A bit of dry tobacco.

Dry: The immortelle jumps out and that’s quite nice, a sweet hay-like quality. But still mostly mossy earth. The slight bitterness means this is not my most people-friendly scent, but I like the earthiness nevertheless. It makes me think of dark mossy forest. I wear this on days when I feel like a forest-dwelling hermit.

Summary: Dark, mossy earthiness and golden immortelle.

Hellebore

Tuberose absolute, Sambac Jasmine, oakmoss, tobacco, chilled earth, cocao, black musk. (Winter 2014, recently added to the General Catalogue)

On skin: Starts with cocoa that borders on dark chocolate, but after a couple minutes that fades into damp dark earth. Then the jasmine really starts to shine. I love this jasmine. It’s not too sweet or cloying, it’s fresh and fragrant. The tuberose seems to anchor it with an added rich creamy depth. It’s a silky, creamy white floral. A bit heady, and fleshy. The floral blends with the earth, so it’s not just flowers + dirt, the earthiness is really well integrated. Just the slightest tingle of cacao.

2 hours: The floral is still present, but it’s much earthier now. It’s definitely the “chilled earth” of the description – it’s not dusty or damp, it’s dark and cold. It makes the floral really unique. There’s a slight bitterness from the oakmoss, but a lot less moss than in Grimm so it’s not really a problem. The moss does make me think of classic scents, chypres and such. This also gets a tone that’s almost smoky at times, no clue what that is.

4 hrs: Earthy and strangely comforting. A touch of sharpness from the moss, warmth from the cacao, and a very slight floral edge. There’s a resemblance to Grimm, but this is sweeter. As a bonus, it has good sillage (one stripe will do for me) and longevity, and after 12 hours my wrist still smells of cocoa-warmed earth and a slight creaminess.

I’m a big fan of this one. When I first got it and wore it in cold weather, I thought it was perfectly suited to winter, a cold earthy floral that makes a nice change from spicy warm winter scents. But wearing it in warm and slightly humid weather, I realized this will just bloom in the summer. The floral gets more rich and lush and even sultry.

Summary: Gorgeous jasmine and creamy tuberose melded with chilled mossy earth and a touch of cocoa.

Bonus: Hellebore is great layered with Grimm. It dirties up Hellebore’s floral more with extra earthy depth, but gives a sweet feminine lift to Grimm that makes it less bitter and more wearable for me.

I Saw Goody Proctor with the Devil

Smoky dragon’s blood, Champaka flower, exotic spices, ancient spellbooks, and a smouldering cauldron.

In vial: Serious hippie juice. Sweet incense and woodiness.

Wet: Dragon’s blood and woody patchouli. The dragon’s blood is mildly sweet, but rich, resinous, and smoky. Softly spicy and very warm. Sweet in a very deep and smoky way. It’s very headshop/new age store, but it also kind of makes me think of romanticized opium dens. I don’t smell an “opium” note, but it has a very subtle, not-floral-but-floral vibe.

Dry: Gets slightly powdery, then it just turns into a dark, chewy resinous scent featuring what I strongly suspect is opoponax. Also something that’s oddly boozy. It does this by 2-3 hours and stays that way forever because opoponax is determined to be my BFF.

Alternative narrative: Notes from my mother’s test. She desperately wanted to try my “hippie headshop” scent, because she’s awesome like that.

Wet: Less sweet, more dry and incensey. The smoke note veers pretty sharp, even acrid. My mom expresses disappointment that she does not smell as much like a headshop as I do.

Dry: At the exact time that my test has gone dark, chewy, and sweet, hers has this complex dry spicy incense smoke thing going on that is really very nice. I’m envious. It’s more Chinatown on her than headshop, but she still likes it, so she gets the sample because it’s honestly much more interesting on her.

Summary: Either sweet incense-filled headshop featuring something like opoponax, or spicy dry incense smoke, depending on who wears it.

Mellifera

Wildflower Honey Accord, Violet, Jasmine Sambac, Vanilla Infused Sugar, Sandalwood.

In vial: Surprisingly, not very sweet at all. It’s filled with a sparkly set of powdery high notes that I assume is the violet, above a very mild dry honey scent.

Wet: A little less sparkly, with a tiny bit of jasmine. The fresher breezier kind. It makes me think of white grape juice for some reason. Fizzy white grape juice. Mildly fruity. Light, pretty, and feminine.

Dry: Fresh light honey, a touch of light vanilla, and a delicate floral. The sparkliness mostly fades into a fresh mild powderiness. Not baby powder at all though, which is good, because baby powder inspires violent scrubbing-off of any scents it contaminates. Not very sweet. Fades into a light, airy, wildflower-kissed vanilla skin-scent after 3-4 hours.

This is not my style at all, but it’s very nice. It’s fresh and feminine, and it’s perfect for the spring and summer. I expected the honey and vanilla sugar to make it syrupy sweet, but it’s really not. The quote in the scent’s description is perfect: “Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” This actually does make me think of bee feet. Very cute!

Summary: Starts fizzy white grape juice and dries breezy, delicate floral-touched honey and vanilla.

Penny Dreadful

Ambergris accord, labdanum, oakmoss, immortelle, Bulgarian rose absolute, black orchid, wormwood. (discontinued)

In vial: Green and old-smelling. A bit herbal and mossy.

Wet: Starts out a sharp green floral. There’s sharp rose, orchid, moss, and a little woodiness. It’s almost grassy, and veers a bit sour. There’s a powderiness which doesn’t quite sit right on my skin. It seems a bit too old for my taste, as it’s something I can imagine a grandmother wearing.

Dry: A bit of immortelle emerges in drydown, which makes me sniff desperately at my wrist because I swear that stuff is catnip to me. It lends a kind of golden herbal quality, with the curry facets of immortelle showing through here moreso than in Grimm. I kind of like it. But overall the scent is still too old for me, and there is so much oakmoss. Which is pretty bitter on my skin. Basically: it’s a very old, deep, moss-covered forest, and in the depths of it there’s a mossy old shack with dried flowers and herbs in the windows and an old woman staring at you unnervingly from the doorframe. It also lasts forever and a day on me.

Summary: Moss, moss, moss, green florals, herbs, and moss.

Southern Gothic

Mandarin, apple, natural coconut pulp, magnolia grandiflora, sambac jasmine, sweet balsam, white sandalwood.

In vial: Gorgeous coconut and fruity sweetness.

Wet: Goes on strong, with magnolia and sweet coconut and a hint of apple. In my somewhat limited experience with magnolia as a perfume note, it seems to go kind of spicy and even sweaty on my skin – not sure how it’s actually supposed to smell. And it does off and on go a bit pungent here. This is also oddly boozy, like champagne or even chardonnay. Mom smells whiskey. No fruit, no flowers. Just whiskey. Then she accused me of day-drinking.

30 minutes: Jasmine appears, whoosh. This is so heady. In a good way. Like, I’m drinking some coconut milk while my head is stuck in a jasmine bush and I don’t even care about bees, because I’m surrounded by jasmine and coconut milk and what more do you need in life? And it is a good coconut scent, not like sunscreen “coconut” at all. I get a tiny bit of apple, too, which is sharp like a Granny Smith, and I’m eying it as a potential culprit for the alcohol-like sharpness. Sniffing a short while later, it’s rich fruity-floral with a white wine edge.

2 hours: Whiskey (goddamnit, mom was right) and fruity coconut that gets increasingly dry until it disappears entirely at 4 hours. I mean, completely, not a trace. It was nice while it lasted. This is a good summer morning pick for when I’m too sleepy to be able to make hard decisions about life and perfume and need something with brightness that won’t last too long and fill me with regret by noon.

Summary: Coconut, heady humid floral, sharp apple, and whiskey for some reason.

The Sound and the Fury

Southern sweet tea, Carolina jessamine, balsam, fern, warm skin musk, loam. (Spring 2015)

In vial: Fruity tingling and something dark green.

Wet: Sweet iced tea and leather. Why leather, I don’t know. I suspect that’s the balsam. But my nose 100% reads it as leather, intense leather, kind of smoky and pungent. Strangely, I really like this. It eventually settles down into smoky earthiness with dark loam. There’s also a mild high-pitched floral-ish thing that I think is the jessamine. It’s odd, but strangely wearable.

Dry: Earthy, and a little green, but kind of perfumey, with lot of iced tea hanging around. The iced tea brings an almost fruity quality. The floral weaves through all the notes, it’s sweet and narcotic and possibly what is giving the perfumey impression. Though the perfumey thing could also be the skin musk. There’s also almost something that could be herbal, or mossy, but fresh. This ends as dry dirt and that slightly high-pitched floral, and a bit of tea. 8-9 hours wear.

This is so odd. I really don’t even know when I’ll wear this except on occasions that I wake up and I want to smell like earth and iced tea (which … actually happened recently, don’t judge). It’s not unwearable, just unconventional.

Summary: Fresh sweet iced tea melding with a sweet heady floral and an almost smoky earthiness.

Wise Blood

Champaca absolute, tuberose, white pepper, Orris root, guaiacwood, cardamom. (Spring 2015)

In vial: Cardamom and bit of splintery wood.

Wet: Pungent at first, cardamom and pepper, then something a bit musky and a kind of dusty wood. A white floral type thing starts to creep out. It doesn’t smell FLORAL like floral perfume, it’s just like, oh yeah, there are some fallen petals in here warmed by the sun. Just manages to be unisex with the balancing spices.

Dry: The floral gets much creamier. Definitely tuberose, and maybe champaca? Not sure what that’s supposed to smell like. The floral would probably be “heady” if there was more of it, but it’s balanced with a musty, almost smoky wood – guaiac, which I always love – and spiciness, but not as much individual spices anymore. Which also means, while there’s a floral sweetness, it’s not a sweet fragrance. Leans feminine, though. As time goes on it starts to smell more musty and old, but not in a bad way. Low sillage, though.

This seemed an odd choice to me for spring, at first, but now it makes me think of rainy days walking to church in the early spring – not as a literal translation at all, but this fits that general mood. I’ll wear it on rainy spring days with a bit of chill in the air. It’s not your everyday floral, and I appreciate that.

Summary: Starts spicy with a musky floral, ends creamy floral with musty woodiness.

Overall

Of these scents, my favorites are Hellebore (because that JASMINE omg), Southern Gothic (lush evocative summer scent), and Wise Blood (creamy floral and interesting mustiness). The only failure for me was Penny Dreadful, and even that wasn’t, you know, dreadful. It just wasn’t my kind of scent.

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