Sixteen92 Circle Reviews: Summer 2016

Summer isn’t usually my favorite perfume season. I’m not a fan of fresh clean scents, I’m fussy about florals, and I always worry fruits will smell artificial. As a result, I wasn’t expecting Sixteen92’s summer collection to be a winner for me. I was pleasantly surprised!

This summer, Sixteen92 featured scents “inspired by Riot Grrrl & 90s girl rock.” I was expecting the theme to translate to scents that feel a bit more rough around the edges, but instead most of these feel very sophisticated, while still being unique and relating to their respective songs. I tested these once the week I got them, and a second time a full week later.



BELLS FOR HER
(Tori Amos)
Sweet basil, dandelion, star jasmine, green vines, mandarin, ozone, green tea, crushed mint

In the vial: Very green and herbal but not sharp or medicinal. Like an herb garden, maybe after the rain when the scents really rise up to surround you.

On my skin: Herbal, weedy, fresh. Basil and dandelion greens are the strongest, but I get some more green that could be vines. The green notes lean a little sharp and soapy, but not overly. I get some minty green tea that adds a spa-like touch. By a half hour, the soapiness fades and the star jasmine makes strong appearance. It’s soft, pretty, not indolic, and gives a more perfumed and feminine feel to an otherwise very unisex green scent.

By 1 hour, mandarin and a very slight touch of ozone have emerged. The mandarin brings a bit of juicy sweetness and softens the herbal qualities. The ozone lifts it up without being so piercing that I get a headache. The jasmine is still there, but it’s fused with the other notes so it doesn’t stand out so strongly. The mint really comes out in the sillage – soft and velvety, like fresh leaves rubbed between your fingers. It’s almost too minty for me, but I like it. The overall effect is fresh and just a touch sweet. Fairly clean, but not soapy, and there’s still plenty of character here. After 5 hours, I’ll occasionally get a whiff that reminds me of a very fancy soap, but it’s mostly just a more mellow version of its earlier self.

Bells for Her feels refreshing and elegant, and is one of the only green/herbal scents I can wear that doesn’t go bitter or astringent on me. It doesn’t feel too clean or soapy for me, which was a concern. The herbaceous basil and dandelion is unexpected, yet the scent is approachable and office-appropriate. It cheers me up to have it wafting around me all day, and is going to be perfect for muggy summer days.

Sillage/Longevity: Moderately soft sillage – if I put a large stripe of this on my wrist, the scent carries well enough, but a small dab only gets me occasional whiffs when I move my arms around. Longevity is about average for me: it’s more of a skin scent after about 6-8 hours of wear, and by 10 hours there’s just a faint green smell.

SUMMARY: Opens very green and herbal with basil and dandelion, dries fresh and green but softened with star jasmine, mandarin, and velvety mint.

BRUISE VIOLET (Babes In Toyland)
Red lipstick accord, dusting powder, white iris, violet leaf, Damascus & Bulgarian rose, red grapefruit zest (premium)

In the vial:  There’s an underlying softly powdery lipstick and iris note, but it’s not as heavy or powdery as I expected. There’s a good amount of grapefruit and sweet rosiness which lifts it up and makes it fresher and punchier.

On my skin: This opens with something like candied violet on top of the red lipstick accord, fairly sweet. The lipstick is interesting, very creamy and rosy. The last scent I tried that smelled like lipstick (Atelier Cologne’s Silver Iris) went poorly for me, because it reminded me of my grandma’s lipsticks, which were waxier, heavy on the violet/iris, almost musty and never appealing. But here, the rose makes it more appealing and very red indeed. A lipstick that is as much about youthful rebellion as it is about classic glamour. The effect is so creamy and just rosy-sweet enough that the soft powderiness doesn’t bother me. The sillage is sweet rose that smells of powder, but isn’t texturally powdery. The rose is big and dramatic, not at all green or dewy. Not super-realistic, but definitely rose.

It settles into sweet, softly powdery rose and creamy red lipstick by an hour. By 2 hours, it actually isn’t very powdery at all on my skin. Maybe as if the creamy lipstick was dusted with some sheer powder. Just enough that you can detect it around the edges, making the scent feel soft and plush. I also get something very much like vanilla in later drydown, along with sheer iris. Past 5 hours, I get somewhat metallic iris and violet over a sweet rose-vanilla base.

I expected Bruise Violet to be powdery and old-fashioned, something that many people would appreciate as being classic and nostalgic but I just couldn’t wear. I usually hate violet, iris, and powdery anything and would never have tried this under normal circumstances. Instead, Sixteen92 handed me a beautiful glamorous scent that balances boldness with careful restraint. It’s just so intriguing and oddly addictive that I feel compelled to keep returning to it to sniff, even though it’s not my style.

Sillage and longevity: Sillage is about average. It’s a strong smell and could be powerful if you apply a lot, but if you just put on a dab it will behave and stick close to your skin. Longevity is on the low side. By 5 hours it fades significantly and it is just barely detectable on the skin after 7 hours.

SUMMARY: Sweet rose and a touch of violet over creamy red lipstick, accented with very soft powder that makes it feel plush.

DOLL PARTS (Hole)

Rhubarb, white cake, white peach, cassis, osmanthus, ginger flower

In the vial: Candy-sweet and fruity with a definite tart edge. Like globs of rhubarb-peach jelly baked between very thin layers of cake. And some kind of fruit candy that I can’t place.

On my skin: This turns into gummy bears very quickly. At first, it’s so fruity that I just read them as vaguely orange, but in a few minutes I can sniff out peach-apricot (the apricot would be the osmanthus). Dusted with Sweetarts for extra tart and powdery sweetness, and with the smallest hint of dry cake mix – but the cake vanishes completely before 10 minutes have passed.

This one is pretty linear – no significant changes over time. It remains very fruity, very candy sweet, and a little tart. The notes are all fused together into one big fruit candy, with the exception of those tart high notes (the rhubarb, maybe?). It’s not very specifically gummy bears – not in the same way Lolita is specifically peach rings candy to me – and could easily be some other kind of peachy candy. On and off, it begins to smell like crushed Sweetarts more than gummy bears, which I find a bit cloying. Or maybe a crushed candy necklace. Once in a while I get something that’s almost musty, but it’s overwhelmed by candy. At 10 hours, it’s sugary peach and osmanthus, giving the impression of jammy candy.

If you want something very girly, young, and sweet, Doll Parts is it. I picture a girl in her teens wearing this. Personally, candy-sweet fruity scents aren’t my jam, and I wish I got more cake, or maybe something floral to make it less literal candy, but I can see why this would be appealing to many.

Sillage and longevity: Average sillage with some nice soft wafts drifting around me. Long-lasting, especially for a fruity scent. It doesn’t fade to just a skin scent until 9 or 10 hours, and probably vanishes a few hours later.

SUMMARY: Tart fruit candy: think peach-apricot gummy bears with a heavy dusting of crushed Sweetarts.

NEW RADIO (Bikini Kill)
Vanilla milkshake accord, maraschino cherry, pink lemonade, grass clippings, waffle cone

In the vial: Yummy dessert. An ice cream parlor, or just outside one. The vanilla milkshake is lovely and I smell the cherry bleeding into it, the waffle cone, just a touch of green to lift it up and make it more atmospheric.

On my skin: Smooth vanilla milkshake with realistic maraschino cherry – not cough-drop cherry at all, just sweet and juicy. I smell a little fruity pink lemonade along with the breadiness of a waffle cone. After the initial blast of vanilla and cherry, I start to smell green grass, which really tones down the sweetness and makes it feel a lot more atmospheric.

The scent changes slowly as the grass fades out and the sweet vanilla and cherry take back center stage. I can smell all the elements if I sniff deeply, and they all seem to peek out more at different times. Once in a while I can detect something bright and fruity, almost fizzy, that I think is the pink lemonade. The waffle cone in particular gets strong in the drydown. At times it veers a little close to vanilla-cupcake-candle for my taste, but not enough to be an issue.

After 3 hours, the vanilla is even more dominant, with just a touch of cherry, but the waffle cone is almost as strong, making this feel almost like a woody vanilla. A few hours later, it starts to smell just like melty vanilla ice cream in a waffle cone, and stays that way through 10 hours.

New Radio is definitely gourmand, but with the prominent waffle cone and the hint of green grass, I’m really reminded of an ice cream parlor more than just the ice cream. That atmosphere combined with the fruity notes makes this seem more appropriate for summer than similarly sweet and creamy gourmands. This kind of gourmand is out of my comfort zone, and it’s a bit too sweet for me to reach for often, but I enjoy it when I do and I can’t deny it’s beautifully done.

Sillage and longevity: Average sillage. Good longevity, more of a skin scent past 9-10 hours but still a hint of vanilla the next day.

SUMMARY: A sweet, creamy vanilla milkshake with some real maraschino cherry, a lot of waffle cone, and a tiny hint of pink lemonade and grass.

RID OF ME (PJ Harvey)
Magnolia, Sambac jasmine, ylang, white pepper, grapefruit blossom, ambrette, satin musk, Oudh (premium)

In the vial: Sweet florals, but with something a sharp and pungent, even a bit urine-like. Maybe the ylang turning a bit ripe. Underneath, a bit of oudh and spiciness.

On my skin: It starts sharply floral and almost cloying, but settles quickly. After a few minutes a beautiful jasmine blooms, soft and very realistic, and then the magnolia. Very silky and soft. The pepper and oud are very faint. I smell something reminiscent of grapefruit, but much softer and more floral – presumably grapefruit blossom. As it dries, I can tell that note is brightening this up and stopping the jasmine/magnolia/ylang from being too heavy and heady.

After 1 hour, it’s still primarily floral, with an emphasis on jasmine, but the oudh gets very prominent, enough that I’m marking this as “floral/woody” on my spreadsheet. As oudhs go, this one is light and dry, not rotting, with a bit of the band-aid quality that oudh can get – not in a bad way. It’s seamless, just infusing the florals and giving them backbone.

By 3 hours, it gets very perfumey. The flowers all meld together into a general “floral” impression, which isn’t usually to my taste, but I can appreciate it here. The satin musk makes it lightly musky but still smooth and silky, and it’s freshened by the subtle tinge of grapefruit blossom.

Rid of Me manages to be summery without being a cliche, and as someone not much inclined towards summery scents, I appreciate that. It definitely reads as “perfume” to me in later drydown, more so than many indies do. In the sense that I can picture this coming from a pricey niche line that’s still trying to appeal to consumers whose point of reference for perfume is very classic. The effect is classy, feminine, and fairly mature, but not dull.

Sillage and longevity: About average, wafting sillage. Longevity is low-average, as it fades to a skin scent by 5 or 6 hours and is completely gone in about 9.

SUMMARY: A perfumey, silky white floral infused with oudh and brightened with subtle grapefruit flower.

SHADOWBOXER (Fiona Apple)
Jasmine fleur, May rose, blond sandalwood, mango flower, praline (premium)

In the vial: This strongly reminds me of a conservatory that I used to go to – one of the tropical rooms with humid florals and fruit trees. But there’s also warm, even honeyed praline.

On my skin: The same humid florals are at the forefront, but they seem even fresher. The May rose is like a rose from a florist’s fridge, crisp and damp with cold water, and it is loud and clear and makes this all VERY fresh and green, maybe a bit too sharp for my liking. The jasmine is strong, and I’m assuming the mango flower is what adds a certain juiciness to the scent. As it dries the florals mellow, and the green rose practically vanishes by 20 minutes.

By 1 hour, the sandalwood and praline are almost as prominent as the florals. It’s an exceptionally soft, snuggly sandalwood, almost fluffy, and it is especially strong in the sillage, with lush sultry florals lying beneath it. The praline brings some warmth and sweetness, but it’s not cloying. At 5 hours, I get a lot of mango flower, a lush white floral, a good dose of praline, and a sandalwood base. There’s something a bit spicy here, almost like sarsaparilla. By 10 hours, the individual flowers are indistinguishable and just present as a general heady floral with a tropical tinge, and are woven into the sandalwood and praline.

The warmth and heaviness here make Shadowboxer seem almost more appropriate for cold weather, but the mango flower makes it feel tropical enough that it should work well enough for summer. It feels very luxurious. The overall impression is slightly perfumey, even though the individual components are pretty realistic. My mom doesn’t usually love florals, but she’s a fan of this one because it’s also spicy and sweet.

Sillage and longevity: Strong sillage that seems to increase with time. A dab on my wrist didn’t seem like it was enough at first, but by an hour I was in a cloud and it was almost overwhelming. Great longevity: it wears closer to the skin by 10 hours but 24 hours later I can still smell a touch of mango flower and sandalwood on my wrist.

SUMMARY:  Lush, slightly tropical florals surrounded by soft sandalwood and warm, sweet praline.


My favorites in this collection are Shadowboxer, Rid of Me, and Bells for Her, with Bruise Violet and New Radio following not far behind. Doll Parts was just too much fruit candy for my taste.

Ultimately, this collection made me very glad to have a Circle subscription. I knew I wanted to try all the scents, even though most were a bit out of my comfort zone, and from the descriptions alone, I might have only risked buying a couple individually.

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