Quickie Perfume Reviews: Smell Bent 2010 Limited Edition Holiday Smellies


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.


40 thoughts on “Quickie Perfume Reviews: Smell Bent 2010 Limited Edition Holiday Smellies”

  1. Nope, I’ll be taking a break from sample purchases for a bit, as I’ve come into a lot of new samples as well as some exciting decants (the latter thanks to the Perfume Posse swap) and I have plenty to keep me occupied until next year! (Right now I’m sampling Dior Dolce Vita.) Best of luck/hang in there with your possible big life changes!

      1. I don’t actually get cumin, per se, in DV. I do get it in Rumba. And I liked it in new Femme – unfortunately, the cuminy part seemed to be the only part I really liked. Has new Femme got, you know… (shh) lactones in it? Because that might be why. I do okay with coconutty lactone, but the rest of them – the milky/buttery ones and the evil peach lactone in Mitsy – just slay me.

  2. Great reviews!
    Dr. Dreidel wore so green on me! It was like a Bauhaus minimalist DK, lots of that strange angelica: herbaceous, woodsy, bitter. A true fougere! I also got lots of alcohol. I wonder if the batches are inconsistent?
    Elf-Fulfilling Prophecy was just terrible on me!
    I liked Reindeer Games, but not enough to buy a bottle.
    Ditto on Sexy Turtleneck.
    I’ve yet to try Bi-Polar Express. I also agree with the name, but it says “for anyone with friends or family” which in a sick way is sensitive, saying “you aren’t alone in loving someone with bi-polar disorder”. But, it is still offensive.

    1. I only got about ten minutes of that strange bitter, herbal stuff – which I don’t like – before it relaxed into spicy wood.

      I think I still disagree pretty strongly on the fougere qualities – there’s no lavender, no oakmoss, no tonka/coumarinic angle to Dr Dreidel at all. It does have spicy-woody stuff, which does reference the “aromatic” part of “aromatic fougere,” but no actual “fougere” part! Aromatic woody, maybe? Fougere is probably the one genre I will absolutely not wear. Shrieks MAN to me.

      So you got on all right with Sexy Turtleneck? Did you get anything other than dirty musk out of it?

  3. Thanks for this post. I’ve been curious about the Smell Bent scents: haven’t tried any yet. I thought I was all “sampled out”, but I’m tempted to order some from the Dawn Spencer Hurwitz site while her sale’s going on. I’d also like to try some of the Mona di Orio fragrances now that Luckyscent has them. The Guide’s derision sparked my curiosity.

    1. I haven’t tried any di Orios, either, though a lot of people do seem to like them. Love DSH, and am going to go and snag a small bottle of Oeillets Rouges, which I adore, while the sale is going.

  4. I actually want to try out the Scrooge Pooch or something from Smell Bent since it says on there after 20 bucks 50% of what they make goes to a non-profit organization that tries to bring clean water to people who need it. But I suppose just buying a sample wouldn’t make the $20 price-cut…?

    1. One sample wouldn’t hit $20, no. The holiday sample pack runs $25, though. The 4-ml sprays run about $6.50 each, I think.

      I like what they do, and I really like a few of their fragrances. I think the musk is doing me in with several things I’d have otherwise enjoyed. Shopping there is really a fun experience, too.

  5. Pimenta dioica is the West Indian tree from which allspice is harvested (it’s unrelated to the pimento pepper stuffed into olives), so the “pimento leaf” is probably responsible for the allspicy note you get in Dr Dreidel. Possibly the herbal opening is from the angelica root.

    Thanks for your generous offer to include these in a draw. Dr Dreidel is the one that sounds most appealing to me; both pimento and angelica are in Bois D’Orage, which I love. I just received samples of four Teo Cabanel scants, and don’t plan on buying any more samples soon. I do plan on trying to make it to a Clinique counter this holiday season to sniff Wrappings, which I’ve been curious about for ages.

    1. Thanks for the info, Liza – I should probably have investigated on my own (I did for templin). I really do like that spicy note. I have smelled angelica growing and found it pleasant, but of course that was leaves/stems, not root. Huh.

      You’re in the draw. I haven’t smelled Wrappings either, and would like to. Might have to go wandering through the mall, which I try to avoid!

      Did you enjoy your Teo Cabanels? And which ones were they? I’m assuming that Early Roses wasn’t in there because that one’s pretty new, but of course I could be wrong. I think they’re all well done, with high percentages of natural stuff, but so far the only one I really love (and I really love it) is Alahine.

      1. Thanks, Muse. (Do you prefer “Muse” or “Mals”?) I am enjoying the Teo Cabanels quite a bit; I got Alahine, Oha, Julia, and Meloe as a group in a second-chance eBay offer.

        I agree with you that they’re all well done (and that Alahine is my fave).

        I was familiar with Alahine (Abigail at the Posh Peasant very kindly slipped a sample into an order at one point), and was very happy to get a second sample. [It’s been on the “possible buy” list for some time.] I also liked Oha quite a bit; Julia was lovely, but not right for me, and I did not particularly care for Meloe.

        Good luck with the possible major life changes! (I somehow missed that post before.) I hope it all works out, if this is something you go forward with. And I hope Nell is home now, and doing well.

      2. Oh, I’ll answer to either one… neither is my real name anyway, wink wink.

        That was how I felt about the Teos, too – loved Alahine, thought Oha was great, Julia would be fantabulous on someone younger than me, and Meloe was well-done but very not me (my 15yo daughter likes that one, and I was happy to hand over my sample).

        Nell goes home today, actually – they would have moved her earlier but for the bad weather. Thanks for asking about her, and thanks for the good wishes!

  6. I won’t be buying myself any samples this year. We have so much going on that I’m focusing my short shopping opportunities on buying gifts for our children and and grandchildren. We lost my mother this summer and I’m struggling to get through settling her affairs and completing major renovations in our house. Has been quite a year.

    Sounds like things could pick up even more for you in the coming weeks!

    1. Hi, T – it does get crazy, doesn’t it? My mother keeps calling me and asking, “Do you think Taz would wear an orange jacket?” or “What does The CEO really want?” Whereas I have not even finished my shopping list, much less crossed anything off of it. (must get on the ball…)

      So this will be your first Christmas without your mom? So sorry to hear that. It can take a long time to disperse belongings – my mother’s mother, who lived with my parents all my life, died almost five years ago, and some of her things are STILL in their house.

      I mean, things that my mother intends to get out of the house, not things she wanted to keep. I keep saying, “You don’t need it or want it, none of the kids need it or want it, none of the neighbors do either – just box it up and send it to Goodwill. You’ve found homes for nearly everything important and for quite a lot of other things. You can let it go now.”

      But she won’t. She feels too guilty. I can’t really help her with that, though I wish I could.

  7. Don’t include me for this giveaway – the Smell Bent smellies (also got a sample of One based on your review) were my November pick.

    For December I chose DSH’s new holiday sampler, which I’m really looking forward to, and I may decide that the OJ sampler set would be a great Christmas present for myself.

    It’s beginning to dawn on me that I’m the exception in the perfumista world: I’m happily smelling away, but I’m doing it in a budgeted, methodical manner. No late-night internet splurges to regret later.

    However, despite my somewhat staid approach, my nose has definitely changed this last year. Friday night while at the drugstore I sprayed some D&G The One on myself to see if I still liked it, and oh my goodness, no! It smelled artificial and cloying. It’s official: I am now a perfume snob. 😉

    1. Well, good for you, Dionne! Budgeted is good. I did start out with exploring the classics and then branching out from there, once I had some idea of what I was likely to enjoy. My Excel file has been sadly neglected of late, but since I’ve been spending the time writing, I can’t complain too much.

      DSH has some really gorgeous stuff (you know about the discount code, right? holiday10 for 20% off). I’m going to get myself the dram of Oeillets Rouges, and Rose Vert is a favorite too. (It’s clear I’m a floral gal.)

      I know, I know… I’ve been spoiled by the natural materials in niche stuff, and am not all that interested in most things you can find at the pharmacy, or even at Macy’s, which is the most extensive perfume source I can get to easily. My mom lives in a town where there’s an Elizabeth Arden warehouse, and they have really great sales a couple of times a year. She’s always asking me, “What can I get you? I know you like perfume.” And I’m all, “Um… well. Uh, nothing.” I even went to check out the EA website to see if there was something, ANYthing I might want. But nope.

      1. Oh yeah, I knew about the sale – it’s why I got her sampler set this month (and if it comes soon I might even order something before the December 16th deadline. Or maybe take a risk and buy her Piment et Chocolat solid unsniffed). I also snagged myself some Palisander for Christmas at the Ava Luxe 20% off sale.

        There are few things I love more than a sale. Except maybe free shipping to Canada, because that’s not offered much. Combine a sale AND free shipping, and I just might indulge in a late-night internet splurge.

  8. Hello Mals! I’m not buying any samples now, although my list does keep on growing. I have a ton of samples I need to get thorugh – I got a lot from the Posse swap as well and I’m just really slow about testing, with the migraine-prone hubby, I try not to have too much going on in terms of fragrance around the house.

    And thanks for all the info on the Smell Bent – I did order some One and a few other things last month and have enjoyed most of them. Thanks for the drawing!

    1. I’m bad about testing lately too, J! I have a small basket just FULL of stuff to sample. Sigh. I’ve really been enjoying wearing things I already know I like, which is good. I was starting to feel horribly guilty about the things I own and don’t wear.

      So now I feel horribly guilty about the unworn samples, but at least the guilt is less. 🙂

  9. I hope to STOP buying samples this holiday season – right after I receive my two most recent orders: OJ discovery set and FM samples from Aedas. I hope.

    1. Hi, Undina! That OJ set is really nice, and you’re bound to find at least one that you love. Malle is so expensive – but it’s at least partly because of the high percentage of natural materials in there. I don’t love them all, but the ones I do love, I REALLY adore (Carnal Flower and Iris Poudre). Noir Epices is nice, too, and En Passant is really beautiful but so fleeting that I couldn’t justify buying any.

      You’re in the draw.

  10. Thanks for this. I’m so curious about the smell bents. I’ve had great fun and good luck with Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab in the winter–love their seasonal special editions–so I keep wondering if I should take a gamble with some of these too.

    1. Brian, I think they’re well done – even the ones I don’t like are at the very least interesting. (Lucy Fur was just hideous on me, but it made me laugh: weasel cupcakes.)

      The SB sample sets are pretty cheap… and maybe you’ll win the draw, who knows?

  11. FUN!!! Would love to try these!!!

    As to buying perfume samples – I don’t think so! I’m so inundated with samples that I have yet to try. I have, however, purchased plenty of bottles and decants in the past couple of months. Two bottles–Cartier Heure XIII and Un Bois Vanille–from samples that I purchased from Perfumed Court last month! I need to STOP!!! At least for this week. 😉

    1. Well, you’re in, Karin.

      I have yet to smell ANY of those Cartiers… I might like some of them if I could sniff for free, but I don’t live anywhere near a place that would have testers, and the notes don’t appeal enough for me to go find samples. Eh. If they come my way, fine. If not, I’ll just go hog-wild at DSH or something.

      And check your mailbox in a coupla days, ‘kay? 🙂

  12. Forgot to Answer:

    I don’t know if I’ll be buying these samples, but I am going to be trying Puredistance and Mata Hari (and the other Outlaws).

    I would try those mentioned if I had the opportunity too, though. 🙂

    1. Puredistance sounds really nice, doesn’t it? I thought about the Outlaws, because they sounded wonderful… and then I decided that I really just wanted a bit of DSH Oeillets Rouges, which I have been lusting after for at least two years now. There’s no time like the present, is there? Especially if the present has a valid discount code?

  13. I don’t know if it’s too late for me to enter in the drawing. I have just read the reminder. I’d love to try this fragrances, especially Reindeer Games.

    I have not thought about buying perfume samples this holiday season buy I’m going to try a lot of niche fragrances in Madrid next week (or at least I hope so!) 🙂

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