I debated whether this remotely qualified as postable, but given that I haven’t got any other ideas today, content only a small handful of people will be interested by is superior to no content. And damned if I feel like even glancing at politics again today, especially given as the Chickfildämmerung still seems to be in full swing.
I’m kind of a scent geek. It’s one of my few concessions to girliness; I’m roaringly uninterested in clothes or makeup and my hair care regimen is centered around laziness and pragmatism, but I’ve been fascinated by perfumes and essential oils since I was little. For a long time I made my own- I can’t even remember why I stopped doing that, probably because it’s a really damn inconvenient hobby to have if you’re limited in space and don’t live in a city big enough to support a local store that sells essential oils.
When I’m psyching myself up for something (test, interview, event, planning on jumping Stingray’s bones extra spectacularly, whatever), picking a scent for the occasion is as important if not moreso to me than picking an outfit. I have a small collection of favorites for every occasion, things that work for very specific purposes or moods, and a much larger one of stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time but… just… didn’t… work.
For those that don’t spend their time mucking about with perfume, there’s a caveat; everyone’s skin chemistry is different, and lots of scents, especially more complex ones with ingredients that aren’t blunt as a hammer, will smell very different on people whose skin chemistry is sufficiently different. No one knows what exact conditions produce what exact effects, but hormone profile, skin pH, skin oiliness or dryness, and diet all have definite influences. Some are more or less constant over a person’s lifetime and are as unique as they themselves are, some will change with age, stress levels, pregnancy or menopause, and significant diet shifts.
I have learned over time that, for whatever reason, my own skin chemistry, at utter odds with the rest of my personality, will aggressively feminize any scent or oil that touches my skin. Sweet scents tend to get dialed up and dominate other notes in the blend; floral notes will rampage out of control; rougher, sharper scents will be de-emphasized or erased altogether. Occasionally some act of alchemy will pull floral or delicately spicy notes out of scents that aren’t supposed to have anything like that in them. Because the changes my skin chemistry may make to a dried scent in comparison to how something smells in the bottle or wet on the skin are sometimes so dramatic and so opposed to the rest of my personality, and because I am completely psychotic, I have come to visualize this force of my nature as a small, prim woman in Victorian clothing. Her name is Miss Bonnet. Miss Bonnet’s chief joys in life are flowering gardens and tea parties with sticky baked goods served. My chief concern with any new scent is what Miss Bonnet is going to do to it by the time it’s finished drying and warming.
In any case, one of the traditions of roller derby is creating a persona to go with your name and performance on the track. Roller girls can get quite elaborate with extra uniform accesories, facepaint, and other “boutfit” touches. Me being me, the first thing that occurred to me when I realized I should do this was to go looking for a scent to go with. Something that smelled like flashy, fast-moving violence. And, ideally, wouldn’t break down into something hideous when subjected to a few hours of sweat and stress*. This may, in fact, be completely impossible to accomplish, but at the very least I’ll end up with a bunch of things that may smell fantastic on me on more ordinary days when I could stand to feel confident and energized.
Lately, I’ve been a big fan of ZOMG Smells, largely because they make it very easy/cheap for me to order lots very small samples to see what it’s actually going to smell like on me, partly because they’ve got a big sense of creativity and fun and seem to be able to follow through in the quality of the actual product, and partly because they seem to add quite a lot of personal touch to client orders. Every time we get something, we see evidence someone is paying close attention to what the client asks for and throwing in one or two extra samples of something they might like. So, for this particular project, I’ve stuck with ordering from them. (I feel I should probably caveat that the nature of our relationship is strictly me giving them money in exchange for smells; writing this was entirely my idea based on being hard up for content and this having consumed a portion of my week.)
Here are the results so far, for those that didn’t bail out 700 words ago.
Coronal Mass Ejection
The sun is a mass of incandescent gas and sometimes, just sometimes, it sends a big ol’ glob of those fun times hurtling out into space propelled by solar wind.
When these coronal mass ejections are pointed Earthward, they do neat junk like freaking out radios, the entire power grid of Quebec, and the Earth’s magnetic field in general. The Carrington Event, a super-major CME in 1859, was especially exciting, causing aurorae borealis as far south as Rome. Certain telegraph operators at the time–possibly crazed on patent medicines–also claimed that they could operate their telegraphs without an external power source due to the current running through the lines. A coronal mass ejection of this majesty happens, on average, every 500 years or so. Ready?
Notes: Pink grapefruit, Tunguska pine, two ambers and the distilled fear of everyone working in telecommunications…by which we mean tolu balsam.
In the bottle, this smells just about as described. Mostly grapefruity, with something warm and a little woodsy underneath, and something difficult to pin down or define lurking about the edges. Wet on my skin, the pine and amber came forward a lot and the tolu balsam asserted itself a bit more.
Unfortunately, as I learned when I later looked up what exactly tolu balsam is, it smells like vanilla and cinnamon to most people. Miss Bonnet loves these things in a way that’s sort of inappropriate. By the time it finished drying on my skin and warming to my body temperature I smelled like I’d spent my day working in a Cinnabon outlet. No trace of any of the other elements remained. I wound up having to actually wash it off my wrist to stop smelling like a tray of baked goods. I will probably give the rest of the sample bottle away to a friend whose skin is more reasonable on the subject of sweet, vanilla-y smells. I wish her joy of it, because this smelled amazing in the bottle and I’m really disappointed it doesn’t work for me.
French for “a glowing cloud”; Volcano for “I must have you right now, darling”. An incandescent current of superheated caustic gases and glittering shards of volcanic glass that rushes downhill ahead of an eruption’s rocky components, the nuee ardente is a volcano’s most potent distillation of its twin capacities for beauty and hot death.
The former cities of Pompeii and Saint-Pierre were blown a kiss, thus, by Mounts Vesuvius and Pelee respectively. And now….well, you know. Our take: rosewood and dark rose blooms, black tea, and flecks of cinnamon.
In the bottle it smells exactly as described, somehow hot in the way a smell shouldn’t be able to present. The cinnamony smell isn’t sweet at all, but more like the raw bark off a cinnamon tree. Wet on the skin the rose and tea assert themselves a lot more strongly. By the time Miss Bonnet was done with it, it smelled less like a pyroclastic flow and more like having black tea with cinnamon sticks sitting in the cups, in a rose garden on a hot day. Not unpleasant in the least, and I’ll probably use the rest of the sample, just not remotely what I was going for.
As a strange footnote to this test run, Tank loved this one. He sniffed and nuzzled me like I smelled of finest deer poop, and I had to shoo him off when he started drooling on my chair. The other two dogs didn’t care. As of the other two one is neutered and one is female, I worry a bit this makes me smell of bitch in heat on some level.
Wrestling Tigers While Calling Your Mum Long-Distance
There are days when you are doing absolutely everything, and somehow you manage to balance it all with aplomb. This scent is for those days, both to reward you for coping well and to encourage it to continue: earth to ground you, incense to soothe the scattered mind and help you collect your thoughts, beloved frankincense for a touch of ancient luxury in your everyday life, two steady woods, and a sweet cola drink to help keep you perky and alert.
Incense, cola, frankincense, woods both sharp and creamy, and a hint of rich, grounding earth.
In the bottle it smells potent and aggressive. Heady stuff. As it was drying it acquired a bizarrely strong floral note, which thankfully faded once it was finished settling on what it was going to be, which was slightly sweet, woody, spicy, feminine (as usual for me) and very well blended. Stingray characterized the end result as “I feel pretty, and also I am going to kill you”. Winner. Will put this one through a stress test to see how it stands up to sweat, and even if it falls apart I’ll be ordering a full bottle because this worked fantastically for me. It lasts for ages without breaking down into simpler components, too.
Rich and proud and glinting with everything precious your neighbors had until you rode up and took it away from them. A heady blend of plunder notes and the pleasure of inflicting your will on the populace! Golden amber, sandalwood, patchouli and earth churned by the hooves of your richly-caparisoned steed. Isn’t ‘caparisoned’ a great word?
Exactly as described in the bottle. Someone sweaty and ready to beat your head in, who also happens to be oiled up with something faintly exotic. Unfortunately, once applied, Miss Bonnet chased the barbarians away with her broom, leaving only a faint residue of sandalwood and patchouli, though that residue lasted a day and an age. Stingray liked it a lot more than I did, which means he can have the rest of the sample. It will probably work better on his skin anyway.
Camping In A Vanilla Forest
Holly says this scent is like going camping in a vanilla forest, and so we went with that. Imagine, if you will: your campfire sends up thick vanilla smoke as night falls upon your little party deep in the woods. The fire heats a chunk of old tree sap– young amber in the making– until it adds its golden essence to the sweet aroma. The night air from the ancient vanilla forest smells of rich earth and herbal secrets under fragrant fallen logs. In the morning, you will hunt black vanilla truffles.
Young amber, smoky vanilla, earthy patchouli and a hint of vetiver-green shadows in the underbrush.
This one was the ZOMG crew’s bonus extra in the package, and apparently they know better than I do. In the bottle it smells, bizarrely enough, EXACTLY as it’s named: like you are sitting next to a smoky campfire in a dark forest primeval that for some reason happens to smell of vanilla. As it started to dry it seemed like Miss Bonnet was pulling her usual inappropriate mojo and making it smell entirely like sweet vanilla and coconut, but after it settled down the results were surprisingly nice. The smoke and char came back, along with something faintly floral that Stingray characterized as what would happen if Susan Sto Helit took over Miss Bonnet’s flowerbeds**. Against all expectation I’ll run this one through the sweat test and see what happens. At the very least it’s the first vanilla-smelling anything I’ve ever tried that doesn’t make me smell like a six year old eating a sugar cookie.
*I should probably note before the nightmares start that I am *not* one of those people that likes to marinate in perfume. My sense of smell is pretty sharp, and if mine is good Stingray’s is supernatural. I pick one pulse point, singular, and give it a quick, light swipe or spray and done. Generally no one but the two of us notices I smell of anything in particular.
**Possibly the single geekiest description I have ever written of anything.