First Impressions: Sixteen92

Today I have for you a First Impressions review of a brand spanking new company, Sixteen92. Now, I am normally very hesitant to order from new companies without many reviews under their belt, but as soon as I saw the layout and scent list on the not-yet-opened website HERE, I knew I would be giving this one a chance. I mean, look at it! Call me shallow, but it is just beautifully formatted, professional and minimalistic, clean but with small touches of edginess. I've never seen a new company looking that good before even opening, cohesive, their mission and POV well-defined. That centers around their name, Sixteen92, which for those scoring at home was the year the Salem witch trials began. The website states:

Alchemy. Science. Magic. In the seventeenth century we would be outcasts, sorceresses, witches. Today, we are olfactory artisans, authors and curators of the tiny works of aromatic art that you carry on your skin.

Sixteen92 is a conceptual fragrance house that crafts small-batch perfume blends inspired by literature, history, lore...and, yes, a little bit of magic.

Having felt more than a bit misunderstood and longing for something more than the status quo in my time, I immediately gravitated towards this mission statement. And as an aside, if you need some mood music while perusing the site, may I humbly suggest the best (OK, the only) witch trial-inspired song I know, Waking the Witch , by Kate Bush. It likens the hallucinations of a person being stranded at sea and facing the prospect of drowning to a woman being accused of witchcraft, facing a sinister judge that will decide whether she she is guilty or innocent. One of the "tests" for identifying witches was to tie a rock to their ankle, put them in water, and see if they would sink or swim. Floating indicated witchcraft, drowning proved innocence, except, whoops, they still died. It is one of the most disconcerting songs I've ever heard, and also one of the most compelling and brilliant.

Anyway, I know it is unfair to judge on appearances, but first impressions do play a role when deciding what indies to buy from. I know not everyone has the artistic inclination, time, or resources to create such a glossy and stylized image. But I admit if a brand shows attention to detail and a consistent, attractive aesthetic (and even manages to do so without years of trial and error and revamping experience) I am more tempted to trust that they know who they are and what they're doing  and the quality of the product will reflect the outward appearance. There can always be exceptions: for example, say, in baking, an impeccably manicured cake could still be dry, tasteless, and bland, while the more rustic, messy, and homespun cake could be the most delicious thing ever. I try to keep that in mind, but it was hard to look at this company and not feel just plain old excited to try them out.

Now, onto the practicalities. The owner, Claire, offers generous 2ml size samples, sold individually or in packs of 3 or 5. General Catalog full sizes are available both as 5.5 ml vials (open, no dropper or roller ball) for $13.00 and 10 ml roller balls for $20.00. There is also a new fall collection, which you can sample or buy full sizes in a complete collection, or use one of the general sample listings to buy smaller quantities. The seasonal release full sizes are currently only available as 5.5 ml bottles. She recently released a line of shower gels and hand/body lotions, and I'm already eager to try those out too.

I ordered a 3 sample set during a "soft" release, on August 20th. My order shipped on September 1st, which I found reasonable seeing as there were likely a lot of orders and a holiday weekend during that time period. The samples came securely wrapped in a bubble mailer, in a cute plastic bag stamped with the brand's logo, with a business card. I love how the business card has a really modern look but the sample labels have that awesome old fashioned typeface, like something you'd find in an dusty old book in a antique store. To me it evokes the sense of being timeless, aware and appreciative of the past but also moving forward and learning from it.

And finally, the scents!

Shadow Show
A passing carnival caravan, the hustle and howl of hot metal and electric air. Cotton candy and smoke, salty kettle corn and dirty machine oil, crisp autumn apples and sinister eyes piercing the night.

Oh, yum. The first thing I smell with this are apples and salty-sweet kettle corn. It's warm and comforting yet there is a bite of something...a nip of cold air? It's an eerie contrast. As it dries I get an impression of something mechanical; creaky, rusty wheels, the abandoned frames of the carnival rides almost skeletal in the twilight. It's a good gourmand for those that like a tinge of meloncholy, something a little edgier. It's nostalgic, but with a sharp, unyielding coolness under the warm sugar. Spoiler alert, I've already bought a full size of this. I only wish this lasted a little longer on me and had slightly stronger sillage, my skin seems to soak it up really quickly, and I want the whole world to smell it on me. But oh well, I'll just keep slathering, because it's just that good. If you like scents like Alkemia's County Fair or Cellar from Solstice Scents, Shadow Show might be one to try.

 I Saw Goody Proctor With the Devil
Dragon’s Blood, Champaka Flower, Exotic Spices, Ancient Spellbooks, and a Smouldering Cauldron

I kind of got this just for the name. Of course, the scent description sounded right up my alley too, but the name immediately grabbed my attention. This is the perfect rendering of the quintessential New Age shop. Crystals, tarot cards, dream interpretation books, candles, incense..ah, brings back good memories! It's not like the stereotypical hippie/headshop smell, there's no patchouli in this that I can detect. it's just a really solid, assertive but not overpowering incense, lightly sweet and smoky. It makes me think of a cross between Haus of Gloi's Cozy Sweater and Solstice Scents' Gehenna.

Cocao Absolute, Tonka Bean, Tobacco, Immortelle, Wet Forest Moss & Leaves

This one's fun! It's got cocoa absolute in it, so it has that funky lava-lamp effect going on. The cocoa doesn't make this a really sweet blend, but adds depth and an interesting boggy wet earthiness. Even though it's not, my brain keeps telling me...mushrooms? Searching for mushrooms at dusk, digging in the dirt. But that makes no sense, it can't really be mushrooms, because I hate the smell of them, but I like this. Maybe they're magic? It's like a fairytale forest, mossy and mysterious, full of things that bite.

I'm so glad I decided to try Sixteen92 out, as they are quickly turning into one of my favorite indies. All of the scents were well-blended, at times reminiscent of other scents I've tried, but not at all in a derivative way. I was impressed that already the scents are elevated to the levels of complexity and quality I've come to expect of established companies, all the while maintaining their own unique flavor. I'm really excited to see what else Sixteen92 has in store for us!

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  1. I've been meaning to try this company. I'm waiting for their winter items, as they said they'll be a slight overlap between the two LE collection times. I have my eye on the Raven and Salem perfumes.

    1. I posted a review of the Fall Collection today...Salem is one of my favorites :)


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