I’m continuing my review of Sixteen92’s fall collections, this time with the limited edition Halloween collection, which will be released later this month. Inspired by five haunted locations, they showcase Claire’s talent in creating evocative atmospheric perfumes and range from semi-gourmand to floral.
The Bell Witch
Sweet cider barrels, orchard wood, blond tobacco leaf, cave and forest moss, glowing pumpkin, dry leaves, turned earth
In the vial: Sweet apple, rich pumpkin, and a warm earthy undercurrent.
On my skin, it starts very appley, similar to the apple note in Last Exit for the Lost, but with more spiciness, like cinnamon or mulling spices. After a few minutes the apple settles back a bit and weaves between buttery pumpkin, dry leaves, earth, and tobacco leaf scents. This is so incredibly autumnal that it inevitably veers towards seasonal candle territory, but it doesn’t have the same cloying heaviness.
After an hour, the underlying earthiness becomes very prominent, with a real dirt note detectable under pumpkin and apple. The apple stops smelling like distinct apples and more like a soft drizzle of apple cider, and the pumpkin stays warm and foody. After 3 hours, it’s earthy with sweet creamy pumpkin and an occasional glimpse of cider and tobacco leaf. The moss has crept out, bringing a dusty, even slightly powdery earthiness that makes it feel appropriately spooky. There’s an even balance of sweet and earthy components, and it’s extremely evocative of fall. It continues to develop with increasing earthiness and the sweetness gradually fading to pumpkiny mossy earth.
Verdict: This isn’t the most unique autumn scent, but I do really like it and I’ve gotten multiple compliments on it. I enjoy the earthiness that grounds the whole thing and makes it more atmospheric. It’s certainly a good scent for people who like to go completely overboard with Halloween everything (like me!) and I think it would be stunning as a room scent.
Sillage and longevity: Very strong throw, if I use a big stripe I feel like I’m walking around in a giant Halloween-themed hamster ball. Longevity is also good, active wafting for 5+ hours and a skin scent past 12.
Summary: Earthy and mossy but sweet and seasonal, with apple cider and creamy rich pumpkin.
Italian bergamot, cocao pod, smoked black tea, decayed woods, faded parchment, shadowy musk
In the vial: Fairly musty and a bit smoky, with chocolatey sweetness.
On my skin, I get lightly sweetened tea and something smoky and musty in the background. The cacao becomes more distinct after a few minutes. The decayed woods are very strong, really conveying the spooky old building scent. It might help that black tea can lean towards smelling like soggy cardboard on my skin – it’s hard to tell where that mustiness is coming from, exactly. It basically smells like having English tea in an old rotting wooden shack. The smoke is still there, almost acrid, but it gradually smooths out.
By an hour, it smells like Earl Grey tea, cacao, and dusty old paper over the same background of old wood. The parchment becomes more and more prominent, and is softly sweet but distinctly dusty. By 3 hours, I smell parchment with a little cocoa stain, dry old woods in the background, and a soft muskiness covering it like a fog. It’s odd at this point because there’s a somewhat honeyed sweetness about it but also a very distinct parched dryness. It definitely feels spooky and mysterious.
After 6 hours, all the notes have gotten fuzzy, like cocoa musk, parchment musk, and creepy ghost musk. That sweet and slightly dusty musk scent sticks around until it finally fades away another six hours later.
Verdict: The strong rotting wood scent makes wearability a bit tricky. I like it, but the occasions that come to mind for wearing it are limited to playing with a ouija board in an old mansion or dressing as a murderous butler for Halloween. However, I have had several scents that aged from being weird to wearable, so it’s very possible this could age into something still atmospheric, but less discordant between the sweetness and decay.
Sillage/Longevity: Sillage is never very high, but the longevity is tenacious. I’d say I get a decent amount of throw for maybe 3-4 hours, after that it’s low. But if I sniff my wrists I can still smell it clearly over 12 hours later.
Summary: Starts as lightly sweetened Earl Grey, a touch of cacao, and a lot of decaying wood, turns into musky cocoa-stained dusty parchment.
The Island of the Dolls
Mexican vanilla, dry bergamot, somber rose, dark chocolate, black plum, dense woods, porcelain musk (premium)
In the vial: Dark chocolate, orange, and dusty rose.
First on, this is true to cold sniff. I get a very dark chocolate sweetened with a touch of orangey bergamot and a good dose of musky dry rose. After a few minutes the porcelain musk makes itself known as a dry powdery musk that reminds me of the powder note in Bruise Violet. For a while this is like a mysterious antiqued take on chocolate, but the powder overwhelms the scent by 30 minutes, leaving just a bit of a chocolate undertone.
By an hour, it all balances out. Still powdery, but more centered around the chocolate and with a tiny bit of dark fruity plum. The rose is still very strong. It unexpectedly reads almost like a chocolatey Bruise Violet, but this is oddly less sweet on my skin than Bruise Violet is, as that has more vanilla-y character and candied violet/rose. By 3 hours, it’s about equal parts dark chocolate, old-fashioned rose, and powdery musk. A few more hours and it’s mostly a dusty cocoa-rose musk.
Verdict: I kind of like this, but I dislike heavy powderiness so it isn’t a new love for me. I wish it stayed more like the first few minutes when it has that great balance of unsweetened bergamot-touched chocolate and musky rose, because I loved that. Still, I respect its vintage charm and it is 100% appropriate for creepy dolls.
Sillage and longevity: Low throw after the first hour or two, and a skin scent by 5, fading out completely a few hours later. That’s fairly low for me.
Summary: Dark chocolate, old-fashioned dry rose, and a lot of powdery musk reminiscent of the powder in Bruise Violet.
Oleander leaf and bloom, labdanum, white sage, fig leaf, blood orange, suede musk
In the vial: Hard to describe, papery white with suede musk and gentle orange.
On my skin, I get strong, slightly powdery orange, a pale floral, and a bit of green from the oleander leaf. A touch of honey-like sweetness comes out, probably labdanum. If I put on a big swipe, it gets a bit abrasive at 15 minutes with sharp citrus and floral, but a smaller drop results in a softer, more papery scent. This one definitely needs to rest, as my first test resulted in a lot of harsh bitterness (probably the sage) for the first hour that was not present when I retried it a month later.
At an hour, this is a dry, slightly resinous musky floral that reads as fuzzy greenish off-white to me. The labdanum becomes more prominent and there’s still a tinge of orange. The oleander is hard for me to describe – it smells white, but isn’t creamy or indolic like white florals are. I can smell the white sage blending into it. The suede musk is very strong and textural, but not very heavy, and not powdery or sweet. This is the kind of scent that doesn’t smell very complex at first whiff, but has a lot of layers building up the whole. It’s fairly bright yet not cheerful, it’s more haunting. After 3 hours, any bitterness has smoothed out, the suede musk is softer, and it has more resinous depth from the labdanum. It continues to get more resinous, but maintains a kind of spooky sagey vibe.
Verdict: During my first test, I really struggled with wearing this, because I was getting a very bitter/musky/heady/dry floral, a combination that I don’t personally like much. After letting it rest a month, those qualities have all turned down a notch, and I actually kind of like it. I don’t have any other florals I can compare it to, and it definitely has a ghostly, haunted, yet somewhat elegant feel.
Sillage and longevity: I have had widely varying experiences with its throw, possibly due to large ambient temperature differences. It’s either low-average sillage that fades to quite low sillage after 4 hours, or average sillage that wafts past 7 hours. Longevity is pretty good in either case, it is still slightly detectable on my wrist 12 hrs later.
Summary: A fuzzy, dry, sagey off-white floral with a touch of orange and sweet resin.
Dense fern, frost, wild moss, raw honey & propolis (vegan), black labdanum, overgrown vines, late-blooming Southern florals, spectral musk
In the vial: Sharp greenery and crystallized honey.
First on, I’m getting green, honey, something a little icy, and a very heady floral. I strongly suspect there’s jasmine or star jasmine in the mix. The honey veers a little grapey at times, reminding me of white wine, or maybe ice wine, but that passes. By 30 minutes, the honey is reminding me of chestnut honey (a darker, more bitter variety of honey), and is balanced with strong greenness and heady florals with a somewhat powdery edge.
After an hour, it’s dark greenery and honey touched with indistinct florals. There’s a very light foggy musk at play and a slight chill. Despite honey being a primary note, this isn’t a super sweet scent, because the honey is dark and woodsy and begins to resemble beeswax a little. There’s enough moss to add a slight bitterness that also cuts the sweetness a bit. Still a very subtle powderiness. By 2 hours, it’s the perfect balance of honey and dark mossy green notes, which sounds weird but smells great. There’s still a very slight cool crispness. After that, the greenness lingers for a while as everything blends together into a somewhat masculine dark honey scent, so well-blended that no specific notes jump out at me anymore.
Verdict: I actually really like this, despite a few odd moments. It’s unique and mysterious but not unapproachable. The only scent I could compare it to is BPAL’s Entangled, which dries as dusty green honey, but I remember that being sweeter with a sharper green note and a bit of ginger, and none of the complexity of the florals, musk, frost, and moss.
Sillage and longevity: Strong sillage that turns to low-moderate sillage by 3-4 hours. Longevity is good, low sillage after 7-ish hours, still detectable on wrist past 12.
Summary: Mossy greenery and dark chestnut honey touched with heady florals and a mild chill.
Overall, I mostly preferred the Fall collection to the Halloween collection (Tituba, Cotton Mather, and Mercy Lewis raised the bar really high), but I still enjoyed most of these, with The Bell Witch and Waverly Hills being my favorites. The rest were still interesting and well-constructed even if I wouldn’t wear them often. This collection will definitely appeal to people looking for mysterious or unusual scents that are still wearable.