UPDATE: PRIZE DRAW IS NOW CLOSED.
I recently purchased a bottle of Smell Bent’s delightful anniversary scent, One, which is a lovely-but-strange combination of “aging paperbacks buried under cardamom, dark vanilla, dry wood and sweet musk.” It reminds me somewhat of L’Artisan Dzing!, which is now discontinued and which has similar notes of paper or sawdust, spices, and vanilla. Dzing! (man, I love typing that exclamation point!) also has some strikingly animalic notes that, to me, smell like animal fur and dried dung; it’s difficult for me to wear. One shares, with Bvlgari Black, that overlap between “weird” and “comforting.” Nobody expects you to smell of old books – or new sneakers, in the case of Black – but the other elements are crowd-pleasers, so the overall effect is very wearable. Also, I sometimes find Smell Bent’s musks tiresome, but I don’t notice them here.
My order, however, was lost in cyberspace for some period of time, and when I emailed to inquire about it, Smell Bent founder Brent Leonesio personally emailed me back with the reply that they’d located my order, and as an apology, he’d be happy to add samples of the five new holiday scents. What a wonderful, over-and-above gesture of true customer service that was, and I’m happy to share the story.
When my package from Smell Bent came (priority mail, no less, though I had paid for standard delivery), I was surprised and delighted to see that it contained not 1-ml sample vials, but full 4ml spray samples.
This is the list of the 2010 holiday edition scents, straight from Smell Bent’s website (italics their wording):
Dr. Dreidel “she acted like she’d never seen gelt before” Freshly carved hiba wood, spiced with angelica root and pimento leaf. Go for a spin.
I didn’t expect to like this. For one thing, I have no idea, absolutely none, what hiba wood, angelica root and pimento leaf smell like. But after a strange, borderline-unpleasant herbal opening (pimento leaf?), it relaxes into a quiet, enjoyable spicy-woody fragrance. There’s something that reminds me of cardamom or allspice in there, and I like that. It’s really pleasant, and works well as a skin scent. EauMG’s review mentions Drakkar Noir, but I don’t get that at all: DN was the big trumpety Aromatic Fougere of the Eighties, and there’s no fougere angle in Dr. Dreidel. It is a little more masculine than I usually like, so that means I don’t need to buy it since I never seem to crave anything that isn’t resolutely girly. (You know me and my extreme discomfort with anything even vaguely fougere-ish.)
You know, I say that, but look at what I did actually buy – One isn’t girly at all. In any case, I think I might try to get The CEO to try this one. It’s nice. I still don’t like the opening, but the rest of it is quite wearable.
Elf-Fulfilling Prophecy “Santa isn’t gonna know what hit him” A little velvet pocket full of cinnamon sugar cookies, naughty pipe tobacco and toy shop sawdust. He’s back to make more trouble. (a rerelease of a prior year’s limited edition scent)
Tom at Perfume Posse didn’t like this one, largely because the spices were too foody-spicy and there wasn’t enough tobacco for his taste. Also, he thought it was a little dirty: “like Santa needs to tell the elves to dry-clean.” I got on better with it, although I didn’t get much sawdust. I wanted sawdust, thinking the note would be related to One and Dzing! Didn’t get it. I did get the tobacco, though: it’s definitely sweet, ambery pipe tobacco as in Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille, not the faintly burning, faintly bitter tobacco as in Tabac Aurea. The spices are sweet and kitcheny (cinnamon, maybe some clove), and the whole thing is perhaps more radiant than you might feel comfortable with.
I didn’t notice any musky funk at all in this scent, contrary to Tom’s take – but then, he thought Commando was “the smell of a child’s skin,” and I got “sweaty, hairy man” out of Commando. Musks are involved. And when musks are involved, you also get nose individuality rearing its little, um, head, depending on the particular musks used. I say warm skin, you might say, “Good Lord, go take a shower!” We never know with musks, do we?
Side note here: I do notice that Smell Bent tends to use (at least) a couple of musks, one of which I don’t like in the least because it smells like body odor to me, and not in a good way, and the other musk is inoffensive but lasts through two showers on my scent-eating skin, and which can wear out its welcome pretty fast. Neither one smells like your standard department-store “clean,” “white,” or “laundry” musk.
Reindeer Games “what’s so great about Prancer again?” French incense, bergamot, poplar bud and amber, with templin and Douglas fir. Don’t make him play with himself.
Templin, which I had to look up, is essential oil produced from silver fir needles, twigs and seeds. I can’t figure this one out. I get a delicious citrusy-evergreen combo right away, and it’s delightful, and then the citrus gone and you’ve got an aromatic woody scent that gradually fades away to a pale woody scent. I’m not smelling incense, unless it’s frankincense, and what I’m getting is the lime-and-pine part of it without the smoky part. Reindeer Games smells pretty good, what there is of it, but it’s gone in an hour. If you don’t mind repeated spraying – and because of the price point at Smell Bent, that’s actually a sensible option – this one smells great.
Sexy Turtleneck “bonjour cherie” Soft woods, musk, tonka, resins, butter extract and clean patchouli. Who says turtlenecks aren’t sexy?
This fragrance description sort of ooked me out. Butter? I mean, I know, Uncle Serge has promised us a “buttered toast” fragrance soon, and I might want to smell that, but it’s the “toast” rather than the “buttered” that appeals to me there. Also, me ‘n patch, we don’t get along often. Okay, we do, sometimes, but only if there is a Honkin’ Ton of something like vanilla, or rose, or the entire contents of a florist shop in the fragrance as well.
But on skin, this fragrance mostly smells like musk. There is that odd buttery thing, and a bit of sweetness from tonka. Then Muskmuskmuskmuskmusk. And a little more musk. I never get any patchouli, I don’t smell resins.
I have noticed that the Smell Bent scents I’ve tried tend to share a musky base, and it’s not that laundry-detergent white musk stuff that tends to bore us perfumistas to tears; it’s more like male skin. Which I’m happy to smell on an actual male, but not-so-much on myself, since it’s right on the dividing line between “warm skin” and “urgh, honey, you stink – go take a shower.”
Bi-Polar Express “a soothing tonic to calm holiday mania” A blend of Roman, German, and South African camomile with honeycomb, blue tansy and smooth mahogany. For anyone with friends and/or family.
I have to admit that of all the cute and clever names Smell Bent manages to come up with for its scents, this is the only one that’s bothered me. If you love someone who has bipolar disorder, it’s just Not All That Funny.
Taking the scent on its own terms, it’s a bitter-sour herbal thing that I found deeply unpleasant, whether on paper, on my skin, or on my daughter’s skin. Neither one of us could make it more than 10 minutes without scrubbing. Tom at the Posse liked it, and says it’s all honey and tea, but we never got to that point.
I’ll offer a prize draw for these scents, since Smell Bent was so kind as to send them to me, and I don’t love any of them. Clearly, Tom got on better with them than I did, so your mileage may vary.
To enter the draw: please post a comment below, and answer these questions, “Will you be buying yourself perfume samples this holiday season? If so, which ones?” I will close the draw at 10pm Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Image is from Smell Bent, via Now Smell This, because Smell Bent’s site seems to be down at the moment. We’ll hope that they’re inundated with orders right now, and that their IT guys will have them back online really soon.