First Impressions: Solstice Scents

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This is a strange introduction to my assessment of Solstice Scents but I just have to comment on the irony of this or I'll just burst. I just this very minute tried the most foul-smelling, Bog-of-Eternal-Stench-esque skin cream that I have ever encountered in all of creation or among all the miracles of biochemistry that I have ever slathered on my face. It was a sample of Perricone MD's Cold Plasma that I received in my recent Sephora haul (report forthcoming). How can something that costs 150 dollars a bloody ounce smell so positively nauseating? It's some cruel taunt, like, yeah, we know you can't even afford this stuff, so we're going to make it work great but smell like death incarnate just to kick you while you're down? I expected with a name like "Cold Plasma" it would smell benignly pleasant or neutral in a high-tech sort of way, not literally like some kind of animal by-product or like fish entrails or pale, wobbly, half-dissolved gelatin. You'd think with all the technology at their disposal they could at least add a hint of masking fragrance to cover up all the evil lurking within!

Ok, I know that was not what you were expecting to read in a review of lovely, luxurious, delicious perfumes and bath and body products, but I simply had to write about it so I could appreciate all the goodness I've experienced this week just that much more. And also simply to comment on just how fascinating and varied the world of scent is. For every jasmine blossom and exotic musk there is a rotten egg and broken sewage pipe. We all interpret and explain each smell differently and associate every variation of scent with our own memories and unique perspectives, and when the smells are applied to our skin, our skin chemistry affects and causes scents to evolve in interesting and often unexpected ways.

I once read, in the excellent layperson resource on scent What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life that perfumes are marketed through two different modes of transportation: Ingredient Voice and Imagery Voice. Ingredient Voice is an artistic recitation of the perfume's ingredients and composition, which is often only useful to perfume experts themselves, those who have actually smelled such notes individually and therefore can anticipate how they would interact together, leading to an understanding of the scent. Imagery Voice, on the other hand, creates an impression of the scent and describes what the scent is actually like; it paints a picture through which one can experience the scent through emotional and visual cues. This is how I prefer to describe scents myself. I am no perfume expert, have no idea what vetiver or various rare resins smell like, and even if I am able to pick up on some notes, I find it much more helpful to explain them in terms of an image or an atmosphere rather than try to use more and more adjectives to describe the notes I'm already describing. So, let us commence with another big, fat First Impressions Review, shall we?


I ordered from Solstice Scents, which was on Etsy but has recently moved to their own website, on 9/3. I had had a great experience with Haus of Gloi and was feeling adventurous. I think I saw Solstice Scents mentioned through another blog, and found the site layout and product descriptions really appealing. It has a lovely medieval aesthetic, with artistically arranged, nature-oriented tableaux for each of the product listings. This reflects a lot of effort that goes into presentation. They had just released an Autumn line of products, so I ordered the Autumn Perfume Sampler and a Whipped Soap in the scent Wail of the Banshee, so I could get a feel for the bath side of the company. You are allowed to choose a free perfume sample when you check out, and new customers get an additional free sample for a total of two. I requested Tenebrous Mist (epic name!) and Dellamorte. They also have a rewards program, which is a nice incentive. You get a point for each dollar you spend and once you get 200 points you get a 20 dollar Solstice Scents gift card.

Communication from Solstice Scents was awesome. I got an email confirming the order, plus another email from the owner, Angela, letting me know that my order would ship one day late due to Labor Day, another one letting me know how many rewards points I had and one to let me know that my order was processing. I also got a notice that I received a partial shipping refund, which I was not expecting and was very pleased to get. I ended up only paying around 3 dollars for shipping. Even with the holiday last week, I still received my order in a very timely manner, on 9/9.

When I received my order it was in a tiny box, well-sealed and filled with cute Halloween packing confetti, topped with moss and even a little pumpkin, as well as a business card, hand-written thank-you, and a bookmark. They have the art of presentation mastered!

Now, after that massive wall of text, let me share some pictures of my order and some Maisy cuteness, because she just has to be in the middle of everything.

Here is my order:






The perfume samples were wrapped in bubble wrap and I didn't notice any leakage. Unfortunately my order was missing my extra - extra free sample of Dellamorte, but since those are requested merely through a "new customer" note upon checkout, I'm sure that's something that's easy to miss, so it's not the end of the world.

(Update: Angela very kindly emailed me and instructed me to request 2 extra perfume samples in addition to the standard 1 free sample with my next order. I think this response was extraordinarily generous, considering the omission was just a free sample, not a product I purchased. Since that is how SS responds to an issue as tiny as mine, I am certain any larger concern would be handled with total graciousness and helpfulness. Customer service gets a huge A+ from me!)

The product packaging and labels are just gorgeous, I love the blue jars. The full sized perfume vials also come in frosted blue vials. I think that adds to the medieval -apothecary motif. The only bummer concerning them is that the perfume sample labels have the scent names hand-written on them, and they are not waterproof. Actually, my perfume sample labels started smearing as soon as I really started handling them, and the Whipped Soap label started bleeding ink on my fingers the first time I used it in the shower. It's merely an aesthetic inconvenience, but indeed sad because the labels and the writing is lovely.

And here is Maisy, enjoying the packaging as well. Don't worry, I didn't let her eat any of it!






And here you can see the texture of the Whipped Soap. I've never tried soap in this form before, and I really like it. It has the texture of a fluffy whipped cream or mousse, very decadent!




When I first smelled it I thought I could only smell a clean, pleasant soap smell. Once I used it in the shower though, I started picking up an interesting woodsy, wet, boggy, mossy smell. It was strangely familiar, and I could not figure out where I had smelled this particular smell before. It kept haunting me until my mind flashed onto a singular moment in my life: a woodland swimming hole I visited once when I was 10, on a trip to Kentucky with my cousins to visit relatives. Haven't seen those relatives in about 15 years, so I have no idea where this place was. I only vaguely remember being there and have no way of knowing if it actually smelled like Wail of the Banshee, but as soon as my mind attached that scent to that place, it was impossible to think of it as anything but. 

I went to my parent's apartment yesterday and rooted determinedly through old photo albums, looking for some proof that this place existed. And eureka, I found it! Forgive the quality of these, my scanner is not working, so I had to actually take pictures of the pictures, plus, they are pretty old:



Yep, that's what Wail of the Banshee smells like for me. Water, mossy rocks, sunlight filtering lazily through the trees, damp earth.

And here is little Liber Vix, circa summer 1991, in her totally rad bumble-bee-ish bathing suit:


I loved me some neon

So, moving on to the perfume samples I received:


Foxcroft: 

Ozone, Rustling Leaves, Rich Black Soil, Chimney Smoke & Woods

Sigh. I really expected this one to be my best match out of the bunch, but it just didn't work for me. It certainly isn't bad, but in the vial it smells more like grass and green leaves to me, not quite like dried fall leaves. I could also pick up a hint of smoke. On my skin it smelled nice but faint, but had no dry-down to speak of. After a short while, it simply...disappeared. Sad, but don't feel too sorry for me. Other scents more than make up for any disappointment here.


Devil's Tongue:

Chypre, Brown Leather, Warm Tobacco, Woods & More.

When I smelled this in the vial at first I hated it. My mind was reaching for a name to apply to what I was smelling, and I landed, rather clumsily, on "sun-baked plastic." I think I was looking for a material of some kind, and that it must have been the leather I was smelling, strangely enough. And at first I was certain this would smell awful on my skin.  But I like to give these things a chance...so I put it on, and soon as that initial top note mellowed out I thought that the strong, masculine scent of the leather and tobacco would be something I'd love to smell on a guy. Then, a little more time passed, and I'm thinking, screw it, I want to smell this on me! Oh my goodness, I fell in love with this. It is a total morpher. It is an intense scent, no doubt, but it is sooo sexy and rich. I'm glad I gave this time to develop, will be getting more.


Manor:

Woody-Vanilla Musk, Vanilla Accord, Glorious Black Agarwood & Exquisite Aloeswood


Some of my best memories are family vacations that I took with my cousins. My parents were of the mindset that we should be exposed to culture and history, so often, a part of any trip we took included visiting some sort of historical site, museum, or old house. These places had similar aromas: antiques, ancient wood molding, faded and tattered textiles, a slight sweet sheen of dust. They all had the melancholy, somewhat lonely sense of mysterious hidden corners, closed-off rooms, faint whispers of long-extinguished hearth fires, and ghosts of nameless residents lingering in every hallway and creaking step warped by time.

This is the smell of Manor. It's the smell of Miss Havisham's mansion, frozen in a moment. It's all of the regal beauty and romanticized decadence of those forgotten and their world, with none of the overblown sweetness of the decaying wedding cake.

I went through photo albums and found some more reminders of this. Again, no idea where this is. Only that it's 1989 and the house was much older.


Yep, this is sort of like Manor

And then, because all that commentary above was just the vaguest impression in my 8 year old brain, a little goofiness:


You may not be able to tell, but my cousin J's shirt proclaims he is "bad to the bone." Oh yes, love the 80's.


And outside the mystery house with my dad and aunt:



It should be fairly obvious that I will be getting a full size of this!


Thornwood Thicket:

Sugared Blackberries, Black Agarwood, Aloeswood, Sweet and Smokey Guaiacwood & Amber

I was a little concerned about this one. Berries can be done so badly, and usually all I can anticipate smelling is an artificial, cheap, cloying berry candle from the dollar store. This one was surprisingly not like that at all. The berry note does start off strong, but per the description, it quickly mellows into a berry/incense hybrid, tampering the deep intensity of incense with a little jammy sweetness. This is very nice!

Witch's Cottage:

Warm Baked Goods, Dried Herbs, Sweet Annie, Soft Woods & Fragrant Hearth Smoke

This is a perfect melange of sweet goods and warm hearth. Everything blends so effortlessly together that individual notes are hard to decipher, but then the elements of this "cottage" seem to evolve and change over time as well.  It smells just like those country primitive shops you see around sometimes, all homespun fabric, cinnamon roll candles, bittersweet wreaths and saltbox houses. It's just comforting, a snuggly-blanket scent. I wore it at work today and felt like it was jerky, grumpy patron Kryptonite. I mean, how can you possibly be mean to me while I smell like baked goods, a cozy fire, and a mug of warm mulled cider? Even if someone were to break through my awesome smelly-shield, I smell so stellar I don't even care.

Gehenna:

Red Musk, Dragon's Blood Resin, Burning Wood, Somalian Myrrh & Egyptian Musk

In my sad little corner of Ohio there is a stark and depressing shortage of progressive, artsy, counter-cultural goodness. There is one little village we visit sometimes though, where it seems all the dismal Ohioan same-ness explodes into funky, hippie, technicolor joy. It's full of vintage shops, independent booksellers and record stores, handmade jewelry, dried herbs and crystals, smoking barbecue on the street corners, tie-dye in every window display, and mounds upon mounds of earthy, exotic incense. This is the place I see when I smell Gehenna. To me, the Egyptian musk lends itself better to being a sexy summer night scent than a fall scent. I could wear this down those streets and feel right at home.

Tenebrous Mist:

Soft Musks, White Amber, Sea Spray, Sandalwood, Bay Rum, Tea Leaves & Wood Smoke

This was my free sample, and is one of the most interesting perfumes I've ever smelled, straight up. It's like...a pirate scent. It smells like dark, menacing ocean and somehow it manages to evoke a sense of saltiness and a slight bite of spiciness. Subtle smokiness and a hint of rum. All while being very fresh and drying down to a pleasant muskiness. NOT a smell you traditionally associate with your run-of-the-mill generic "ocean" scents. I think you might have to wait until next summer for it though, I don't see it on the website anymore. Sob.


So, would I buy from Solstice Scents again? I think I have already answered that question! Planning to order Manor, some ganache (their body butter) and I also want to try some more perfume samples. I often wear a new perfume when I go on trips, in order to attach a particular scent to the memory of that trip, a method of memory-manufacturing and reinforcing. These scents managed to recreate the memories for me retroactively, and that is something I will always appreciate and reward with my standard verbose reviews! In conclusion, Solstice Scents gets my seal of approval. Try them out!








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4 comments :

  1. What a great post! Love all the old pics! I am such a huge fan of Solstice Scents! I am on my 3rd order! I LOVE Manor! I already got it in a full size! And Harvest Moon was another one of my faves. I ordered it in the body oil/mist. I also ordered a full size of Foxcroft. It is such a unique fragrance. While I didn't like it at first, it grew on me. I figured it would be great for layering fragrances. I definitely smell the "grassy-ness" in it, along with a bit of smoke. I'm going to have to place another order to pick up some more SS goodies! Thanks for your review!

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  2. @the Peach: Thanks for reading! I figured adding in some silly old pictures would add a little visual interest to break up all my rambling :) I would really like to get Harvest Moon, but the site says it contains cinnamon and clove oil, and I've had slight reactions to cinnamon oil before, so I don't want to risk it. Shame, because it sounds awesome. I'm probably going to put in another order this week :)

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  3. Solstice scents really sounds wonderful! I have not tried any and will surely look into it after reading your post! Love the pictures!

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  4. Thanks Su! I'm plotting my next order right now, I'm really happy I discovered SS. Angela is super nice (we exchanged some emails and she was kind enough to chat with me about her company)and the customer service has been top notch. Plus the perfumes are just heavenly.

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Please leave me comments if anything strikes your fancy or if you have any helpful suggestions. Remember, I'm no expert and am just sharing my truth. Hopefully you will find something useful to take with you!

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