Not-So First Impressions: Darling Clandestine


We are just going to ignore the fact that I've never done a Darling Clandestine First Impressions review. I could bypass all of it to simply say: Try all the things.
Try them now.

Summed up concisely (not my strong suit, I know), this Etsy shop is definitely at the top of a very short list of my favorite indie etailers. The owner, Evonne, has created an extremely strong and unique brand presence. Sure, the off-kilter carnival theme has been done before, but everything about this company, from the artwork to the admission ticket sample labels, to the scents identified only with an image and the fascinating, poetic stories behind each scent, strike me as very fresh and vivaciously unique. Maybe it shouldn't be so, but a strong brand aesthetic is what draws me to an etailer initially. It tells me they took the time and effort to define what they are about, that they know what they want to convey, that their style is something I see as reflecting my own personal style, and the products are likely to live up to the promise implied within that aesthetic.

OK, maybe that wasn't so concise. Scratch the concise part. Moving on...

I admit when I first tried Darling Clandestine last fall, I was a little skeptical of the claim that these scents are "truly inimitable." Ballsy claim, I must say. I sort of took it as a challenge. Oh yeah? We'll see about that, DC.

Upon trying them I concluded, and though I admittedly have barely begun to delve below the surface of the comprehensive ocean of the indie perfume business, so to speak, that these are pretty damn inimitable. Meaning, she has a very distinctive style and I think in a blind smell test when compared to other companies, I could probably point out a DC scent with ease.

A lot of the companies I've tried seem to base their scents in the natural world, or recreate a real thing, place, food, seasons, etc. Or something tangible in some way. Darling Clandestine incorporates tangible things, it seems, to create microcosms of moments. Or something a bit more mercurial or impressionistic. Whereas a lot of my other scents are very natural feeling, DC seems to have a touch of the mechanical and urban and edgy and gritty. It seems strange, but her scents remind me of green things growing in the middle of a vast metropolis, like Central Park or something similar. Or maybe something a bit more wild, like a forest over time swallowing up something that was once industrialized. Maybe that makes no sense, but that's my impression.

Most of DC full sizes come in extremely generous 15 ML sizes, and the sample vials are also a bit larger than others I've encountered. When she has 1 dram (approx. 3.7 ML) "bitsy" vials samplers available (which hasn't been recently that I've noticed, unfortunately) they are an absolute steal and a great way to have scents on hand that you want more than a sample, less than a full size of. The solid scents, which normally don't appeal to me that much, are potently scented and very creamy and easy to apply. Some people don't care for the label identification, which designate each scent solely by a picture. I find it very interesting though, and the pictures are unique enough that I am able to quickly start associating each scent with its corresponding image.

I won't go over all of the scents I've tried, but some of my favorites are Vardogr, Inked, Curiosities' Ball, Limerence, and Small Saga, which I literally just got as a sample this past weekend. I bought both the full size oil and solid scent as soon as I realized the sample was almost empty. I can't even describe how good this scent is. Evonne lists notes, but they are sometimes sort of vague, as though she would rather you glean most of what the scent is like from the story she writes about its inspiration. It is supposed to contain
"notes of green figs and tea and cream and apricot wine, this scent opens deceptively sweet and creamy but then unfolds its complex layers and settles in a mellow, woody finish".
 I get a scent that is sweet, creamy and slightly fruity..but more. I never thought I would like apricot wine, but this scent just sparkles with freshness and light, and then the drydown is lush, rich, and woodsy. It reminds me of the summer of my junior year of high school. How useful is that? Not very, I know. It doesn't even help me out because I can't pinpoint anything I wore or encountered during that time that would make me associate the two. Maybe it is just one of those microcosms...if a time was a scent, what would it be? Anyway, it's brilliant.

Evonne also does green, earthy, leafy scents magnificently well. Vardogr, she asserts, is "weird", which also sounds like a challenge to weird do I like it? Well, very much so, as it turns out. It is sort of weird, but not excessively so. The combination of dank darkness, leather, and coffee actually works for me. It is required rainy day wearing. Limerence is such a real smelling lily-rich floral mixed with the scent of concrete and rain. I've learned that this note is called mitti attar, and it may be my new favorite note. Really, it's not just rain, but rain and stone
. To me, in this scent it's not refreshing, cool rain, but hot, humid, heavy rain...with steam rising from the earth as it falls. As if it's been waiting to rain all day and then finally relents. It's moody and earthy and so, so authentic it's unnerving.

 Even the scents I don't really care to wear are interesting to me. Rivet smells just like a clean hotel room. Get that? It's extremely sharp and leathery, and makes me think of stark leather armchairs and white, starched bath towels. Carny Wedding seems to be a fan favorite, but for me the buttery sweetness and smokiness smells a little dirty, like kissing a smoky stranger in a derelict pool hall. This is not from memory at all. Cloudswing contains notes of lemongrass, hay, vanilla, among other things, and while lemongrass is usually a no-no for me, it is tempered by a creaminess and sunshiney feel. It reminds me of playing in the barn on my cousins' farm as a child, hiding up in the scratchy bales with a whole day of field exploring stretching out before us. The picture that goes with that scent may have influenced my impression, but it still applies.

So, basically the point I'm trying to convey here is that these scents are definitely worth trying out. Whether you love them or not, they are always a little adventure and a well-produced experience. Join the DC facebook page because she posts coupon codes fairly regularly. If you're curious about any scent I haven't mentioned here, just let me know and I will tell you if I've tried it and share my thoughts.

Thanks for reading, as always!

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  1. I got my first lot of DCs a couple of weeks ago after ordering that Spring trio Evonne had going with a sample of Mad as Birds on a whim - I didn't even know what any of the notes in them were. I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with all of them (Aequitas, Small Saga, Pyrotechnik), although I prefer her 'sample' size to her full size as I am NEVER going to get through a 15ml bottle of anything. The sample size is pretty close to a full size for other companies anyway.

    My only problem is that everything I want to buy is either never listed as a bitsy, or there's only one of the ones I want and it's not worth the shipping. The stocking and restocking seems really random. I guess if it's just a one person company that's bound to happen, but for an international purchase, I really need to be buying several things at once for the shipping to be worthwhile.

    Oh well, I can enjoy the ones I have for now!

    1. The bitsy vials are awesome, the best deal was when she had a set of 3 for maybe 14 dollars, I can't remember exactly, they were up when I ordered first last autumn. Those could satisfy me for most of the scents, but I just put in an order for a full size of Small Saga and Inked, and want to get Vardogr eventually as well. Those I really, reallllly don't want to be without.
      Yeah, the restocking is a little random, it looks like she just restocked a bunch of scents though as well as sample vials (which weren't up when I did my order last week or I would have gotten a set :(. I can see how, especially for international shipping, that is frustrating. Maybe you can review Aequitas and Pyrotechnik, I've been curious about those!

    2. I saw on her Facebook that she had restocked a few perfumes and took the opportunity to grab some I had been interested in. I got a full size of What Mandy Makes (just liked the sound of it), a bitsy of Tapadero, and she had samples listed (!!!), so I picked up 3 - Morderteile Kelah, Carny Wedding, and Limerence.

      Happy to review Aequitas and Pyrotechnik, I'll get on to them this week!

  2. I have only ordered from DC once, but that was anough to get me hooked! Just the amazing customer service would have kept me coming back, add to that the surreal generosity and the fantastic quality of the perfumes themselves and I was sold, totally sold! I ordered two solid perfumes, but because of some delays due to the holiday rush I was told that I would get a little bit of extra stuff... I was expecting the couple of samples, but not two extra full sizes (and they are huge)!

    So in total I have tried six DC scents, solids of Vardogr and Big Top Train 2010 (discontinued), full size oils of Fisticuffs (10 ml) and Step Right Up (15 ml) as well as samples of Gram Negative and Aragon. I agree that these scents are really unique and inimitable!! The concepts are so well thought out, and never cliché! The scents I have tried make me think that no DC scent is ever boring and predictable!

    1. Oh wow, that is really amazing CS! She always includes samples but I would have flipped to get full sizes as consolation for a shipping delay, especially on a first order, that is a guaranteed excellent first impression. I'm counting the days until my most recent order arrives and trying to stretch out the last few drops of Small Saga, but it will be difficult!

    2. I couldn't believe what I was seeing when I opened that particular package!! I couldn't stop smiling like a loon for ages!

      I´m looking forward to some DC decants that Dee is sending me! Small Saga is one of them I believe and I have high hopes!

    3. Anybody but a perfume freak would be like "oh well, that's nice," but we folks...we understand! I would have been over the moon excited!

      Looking forward to what you think of those scents. I have a sample of Fisticuffs, I like it alot but there is a note that I can't figure out, that smells like celery to me. I know it's not celery, and it's not a bad thing, just something really fresh and peppery. I also smell it in La La La All Right, and she mentions in the description they share a similar accord. I wonder what it is? I think her scents are extra mysterious because just because she lists notes of what the scent smells like, that's not necessarily what the scent actually contains. Like What Mandy Makes has a very distinctive cucumber note, but she says it doesn't actually contain any cucumber. So what is it then? It's quite fascinating!

    4. Fisticuffs has that very distinctive green note. I haven't tried La La La All Right (so I can't tell if that is the note you are thinking of) but that green note is in Gram Negative as well. On me it is such a vibrant but still dark green note... A bit fresh (but in a good way) and a bit spicy... It doesn't smell like celery on me though. ;) Yeah, DC scents are a fascinating mystery!

  3. So I have a totally random question - since you sample and review so many products and companies, I was wondering if you would make like a tops list. I am curious about what makes you like a product the most, because I know for me, half the reason I buy something in the first place is from the packaging and description and other people's reviews :)


    1. Thanks for the question Jess! Are there any particular companies or product categories you would like to focus on? Do you want to know my holy grail items or just break down my favorite products from various companies?

      I would say a brand's aesthetic is quite important at least for the initial attraction. If a seller's presentation is generic, cliche, or unprofessional I will probably pass, as ruthless as that sounds. There are a lot of sellers out there and I only want to spend my money on those that seem to have something unique to offer! I definitely read reviews first as well, to get a feel for the actual products and what the customer service experience is like.

  4. Darling Clandestine is definitely on my "to try" list. I plan to try out Mad as Birds, Inked, Fisticuffs, and What Mandy Makes.

    1. I have tried all of those. Inked is my favorite, then What Mandy Makes. I like Mad as Birds, but pear does a weird fruity bubble-gum-ish smell on me which is interesting but not at the top of my list. Try DC though, I've never been disappointed!

  5. Ironically, Carny Wedding is one of my favorites. I was wearing it today and my bank teller had me write down Evonne's etsy store info. Now, Vardogr was illuminating yet a graveyard overgrown with ferns but I found after i put it on and just LET IT SIT that it morphed into a really unique and beautiful fragrance. From all of Evonne's fragrance description one might be a little hesitant to try them, but they always shift into the most amazing smells. When you described them as microcosms of moments you echoed my sentiments. Thanks for the review!

    1. Sorry for the late reply, but thanks for commenting! I continue to be wowed by Evonne's scents and CS (must work on another post about it!) I sound like such a fangirl, but I really have no complaints. It's true though, the descriptions might initially make me think I won't like a scent, but then it turns into something totally unexpected. I've decided I can't totally write off any DC scent until I've actually tried it!


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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