Several perfume bloggers have been impressed by the quality and inventiveness of perfumer Kedra Hart’s concoctions at Opus Oils, and so several months ago I ordered a sample set. I can’t remember whether this was just before the Flapper Collection became available, or whether I was more drawn by the notes lists for the Burlesque Collection, but in any case I have a sample of each Burlesque fragrance, as well as one of Dirty Sexy Wilde and one of Dapper from the Les Bohemes Collection.
A word about oils: I’m not a big-sillage fan. I like there to be a little trail to follow me when I move, but I really suffered in the ’80s from the mushroom clouds of Giorgio and Poison and Obsession. I’ve also got scent-eating skin, so you’d think I’d probably be the ideal customer for the lower-sillage, high-longevity of perfume oils. In reality, I don’t mind oils, but I do find them less appealing than alcohol-based fragrances in general. These are nicely done, but I think a few of them could have benefited from the openness that alcohol allows. Sometimes oils can be somewhat dense and uncommunicative.
The Burlesque Collection might generally be described as unabashedly feminine. Most of these I cannot imagine being worn comfortably by a man, even a man who enjoys the ultra-femme cliché of white florals on his own skin. The tags for my samples have a quirky charm, taken as they are from photographs dating to the burlesque era. You’ll need to go to the website to check them out; the images are often NSFW.
Charm – coconut, blackberry, sage tea, vanilla, star anise. This is, pretty obviously, a gourmand, and your opinion of it will probably tally closely with your general stance on gourmands. My general stance on them is that they can read a little too young and uncomfortably sweet on me, but occasionally I love them. (Tauer Une Rose Vermeille, original Hanae Mori, and Bath & Body Works Dark Kiss are probably the only gourmands I really enjoy, and I will point out that all three of them share a rose-berry-vanilla nexus, and also that URV is the only one I can wear without feeling like I’m twelve years old.) The sage note in Charm keeps it from being too sweet and too Yankee-Candle-like, but unfortunately I do not get on well with perfumery sage.
Gypsy – mandarin, passionflower, Tunisian amber, ylang-ylang. I wasn’t expecting to love this one, either; I like ylang, but am ambivalent about amber. This one doesn’t smell in the least how I was expecting it to smell. I get a strange sort of candy-from-outer-space vibe from it. There’s a fruity sweetness, and also an accord that reminds me of gasoline. (I don’t usually get gasoline from ylang, but gasoline is pretty common as one of the noted weird highlights of white florals, and ylang is of course one of those, so perhaps that’s the source.) Gypsy actually reminds me of Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis, which was an unmitigated disaster on my skin, with the topnote smelling like turpentine rather than citrus. Gypsy doesn’t have the woody notes of BdP, but if BdP works for you, Gypsy is probably great on your skin.
Kitten – pink grapefruit, jasmine, redcurrant, orchid. This is the one that’s recommended to lovers of No. 5, even though the only listed note the two have in common is jasmine. Kitten doesn’t smell like French jasmine to me, nor does it have much in common with No. 5’s white-marble perfection. It is pretty, though, and bangs around between fruity sweetness and (real) floral sweetness. I would also swear that there’s some coconut in this one, too. Maybe peach lactone?
Siren – Asian plum, jasmine, pear, oakmoss. Starts out with citrus and some sweet but unberried fruity notes, then there’s a floral I’m reading as tropical jasmine or tiare. Eventually the oakmoss and a quiet woody background pull up. Not bad.
Starlet – rose, orange blossom, neroli, nutmeg. Pretty, floral, and uncomplicated. It actually smells to me like some body product I used as a teenager or college student – you know, one of those “Oh hey I’ve smelled this before” aromas that you can’t quite place. Shower gel, maybe? There’s an orange-candy effect to it, and I don’t get much spice, but I’d swear there’s some vanilla too.
Tramp – lemon blossom, vanilla sugar, sandalwood, blond tobacco, patchouli. I go back and forth on liking this one – as long as it smells like lemon-vanilla-woods, it reminds me somewhat of Shalimar Light and I like it. When it shifts to the tobacco-patchouli accord, it smells like “chocolate” scratch’n’sniff stickers. Bleargh. I hate cocoa/patchouli in my perfume, unlike some of you. If you’re a cocoa fan, try.
Dirty Sexy Wilde – galbanum, red mandarin, violet, rose, night jasmine, blond tobacco, oakmoss, coumarin, musk, civet, ambergris. This is amazing stuff. I don’t think I could wear it myself, but it’s fascinating. It starts out with galbanum, which I normally love, but sometimes galbanum can have an ashtray slant, as it does here. That’s accompanied by an accord that smells like burnt hydraulic fluid, as if the hot mechanic has just entered the garage after fixing a busted lawnmower and having a cigarette break. It’s wacky. I mean, it’s a gripping sort of smell, very masculine and, yes, dirty and sexy and wild. I don’t pick up on the florals, except the now-you-smell-it-now-you-don’t wisp of violet. I do think the drydown is very nice – the mechanic has now had a shower and shaved his stubble off and smells like clean sweat and the remains of a chypre cologne, perhaps? But that opening… wow. Bizarre.
(from the Les Bohemes Collection) Dapper – violet absolute, orris root, blond tobacco, sandalwood, aged dark patchouli. I already told you about my patchouli aversion, but this “dark” stuff smells very smooth. I don’t like Dapper much, but it might be interesting on a guy, with the light floral notes highlighting a warm woody aroma.
If I may be honest here, I didn’t love any of these. Not a single one. Dirty Sexy Wilde is fascinating stuff, and if I were a guy – or if I loved ashtray galbanum (some people do, and I say more power to them) – I might consider DSW. It is distinctive and strange and is beautifully put-together, with quirky angles but no elements sticking out from the whole. A fumie friend tells me that I may have been testing the “wrong” scents for my tastes from Opus Oils, so I haven’t written off the entire house. But with the exception of DSW, these seemed fairly simple compositions, and while they are pleasant, I haven’t found anything to swoon over.