Kyoto

A plate of whole canned beets and sample spray sitting in vermilion liquid, a pink rose, and a Diptyque box in the background.

Opens with nice earthy vodka that definitely makes one think of root vegetables, but then it warms up and the roses bloom on woody stems–sweet, pretty, and strange, with a hint of smoke in the distance.

Intriguingly genderless.
In the daytime it’s cheerful–sun on fresh turned soil and trained florid roses. At night it seems Gothic–a vampire graveyard, and coolly seductive.
Lasts four hours or so in personal space, with faint trails on cuffs.
I like it very much.

(I have no idea what beetroot has to do with Kyoto, but I’ve never been.)

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The Cure’s Kyoto Song probably has as much authentic ties to Japan as this scent, but it has some of the same dark emo vibes.

Novacaine

Opaque black bottle with silver cap, box and slate blue inner liner with Rocky Horror lips, and toothpaste, toothbrush and floss.

TokyoMilk No. 85 lists Crushed Ginger, Thai Pepper, Frankincense and Vanilla Orchid on the box, but it opens with Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
The pepper kicks in immediately and makes the ginger, cardamom and clove mix a bit antiseptic, in a comforting way–like Band-aid adhesive–then it all soaks into the skin, leaving a smear of vanilla frosting and a dusting of head-shop olibanum.
Within two hours, it disappears, gone completely numb.

I really like it. There’s a laid-back medicinal feel to it, with good self-care cuddles.
Good for the guy who’s still too young or shy to pull off Old Spice.

*

My favorite laid-back jam band version–

Incanto Dream

Pink Incanto Dream mini bottle, on a heap of clear Jolly Rancher candy with purple edged wrappers.

Pineapple Jolly Ranchers, and greasy on the skin.
Lasts two hours with no projection and stains the cuffs.

For a sweet fruity floral with a woodsy bottom, Angel Nova is a better investment, with four times the performance and six times the quality.

Or just eat the candy.

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Another dream. This one has angsty kissing with Scott Eastwood.

Midnight Fleur

Mini Nest trio, with black caps, the bottle in front with a black label and blue flower.

The most popular perfume of the brand, and with good reason.

A lovely beginning of spicy jasmine ice cream over powdery patchouli, that gives way to a seductive dark boozy vanilla for more than half the day at arms length, while the usual Nest wet floral base blooms in the shadows.
Gourmandish, but without the chewy praline one finds everywhere lately. There’s a sheerness that keeps it from seeming sticky, and the woods at the heart give it a nice backbone.

For those who’ve grown out of Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar, but aren’t ready for Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille.

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This album is a great tribute to all my favorite rock queens–here’s a celebration of Stevie Nicks.

Coach Poppy

Coach Poppy mini with orange ribbon bow and ball cap, on a gold daisy.

The only poppy to be found here is a possible bit of peppery sandalwood that wishes it were bagel seeds.

Another ubiquitous accessory designer candy floral.
Safe for brunch with the girls on the way to the mall.

*

This one keeps showing up on my suggestions-based-on-your-listening-tastes banner.

Kitten Fur

Miss Lucy Fur of the white coat and pink nose, posing on a beige lambskin throw and a black-capped mini splash bottle from Demeter Fragrance Library.

Our little girl smells faintly of flea drops and raw silk, but I get it.

Demeter Kitten Fur opens with new cat carrier plastics, and a metallic cage clang that is soon overtaken by musky vanilla lactones that should not be smelled up close–like back away from that with your tail puffed up–except that it’s sort of interesting in a weirdly cute way.
Lasts at least two hours, and finishes with powdery Cashmere Mist on the skin.

Not for me, but I understand the appeal.
I’d love to see a Zoologist version of this–some civet or black currant bud would give it claws.

*

Kittens are fun.

Wild Poppy

Mini black capped Nest bottles, Wild Poppy in front with red flower illustrated label.

Whew. The rollerball application might not be the way to sample this one.

One stripe on the wrist and I get Enormous Fruits, in a Carmen Miranda hat so huge it makes my eyes cross.
Scrubbing twice knocks it back to a heavy raspberry rose headache, three feet off the skin, that no amount of dish detergent or aspirin can conquer.
I tried Goo-Gone, and Ajax.
It’s been two days.
I’m contemplating one of those foot peel masks. And acupuncture. Maybe an orbital sander?

*

Xia Xiang

Vintage bottle of rose glass with pressed flower design, ribbed gold shaft cap with pink faux jewel on the tip.

Found this one in a vintage grab bag, with enough drops in the bottom to reminisce about the dorm-mate in college who stole my microwave popcorn, chewed tobacco and had really good taste in drugstore perfume.

Xia Xiang was an iconic late eighties Revlon, a sweet woodsy floral* with cringey marketing that embraced full-on exoticism of Chinese culture.
Good perfume, though–a pretty lemonade splash on a mixed bouquet of everything, with a long lasting spiced peaches and sandalwood base.

Go with Chloe Nomad for a modern take with a similar profile, or try Fragonard Belle de Nuit, with the same rose and ylang-ylang, and plum notes on the bottom.

*(Let’s get rid of the tone-deaf perfume label “oriental” while we’re at it, yeah?
It’s offensive and we don’t need it. We say more with words that describe the scent, than we do using an outdated geographical term that stinks of colonialism.)

*

T’Pau’s big hit, China in Your Hand, came out in 1987, but the debut release from the same album is a much better song.

Bella

Mini Vince Camuto perfume with gold filigree topper, and pink box embossed with an orange flower and gold seal.

Another fruity floral that fits the high school dress code, in designer shoes.

A citrus hard candy and canned peaches opening, that soon gets roughed up by an amber school bus, and eventually maced with hairspray.

One for the gift exchange when you drew the mean girl’s name, and want to come off classy.

*

Another Bella:

Bad Boy

Promo card with a black and gold lightning bolt shaped bottle, and a sample spray.

This “bad boy” just earned a week of detention when he got caught with a blunt at his all-boys private school, along with Axe Dark Temptation and Invictus Victory. He’s got good taste in chocolate, and misses his mom.

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(It’s a shame that The Inner Circle’s Bad Boys is indelibly linked to the show Cops, because it’s a good song.) Here’s a Scandi EDM duo