If there is a niche market for failed witches, ex-goths, French majors and, unhappy poets, then Alkemia definitely has that front covered. The marketing is a work of genius: the flowery descriptions of the scents are accompanied by carefully curated quotations of mystical poetry and esoteric art, promising to take you to an enchanted land of magic. The scents themselves live up to the expectations created by the marketing: most ones I’ve tried have a magical, meditative quality transporting you to the physical or spiritual place of your choice.
On to more practical details, most Alkemia scents can be bought through their Etsy store. The webpage is well-organised, the oils have been grouped according to olfactory groups, so you don’t have to waste your time browsing stuff you’re not actually interested in. 5 ml oils start at $12 (USD), but there is a ‘3 for 30’ special , and you can get a a sampler pack of 1ml vials for $10. The standard format of scents is perfume oil, so essential oils dissolved in a carrier oil, but you can request perfume sprays.
I’ve been ordering samples from them since 2014, with three orders I got a total of 30 scents. The shipping was pretty fast, and the communication excellent: all my queries had been answered in less than 24 hours. Another important thing I have learned is that you have to let the oils rest for about 2 weeks or even a month, before trying them. The ingredients can become unsettled during transportation, due to the lack of fixative in the oils. I have also discovered that the scents mature pretty quickly, my oils are one year old now, and they have changed quite a bit. Most of them have become smoother, but also weaker, and some of them have aquired a coconutty-melony smell, which I think must be the carrier oil peeking through the now weakened fragrance.
I haven’t ordered anything from Alkemia since fall 2014, however last December I was lucky enough to win another sampler pack (10 more scents) and while I thought I have seen Alkemia’s best, I was in for a wonderful treat. Out of those 10 I have already fallen in love with four… they might be some of the best Alkemias I’ve tried so far.
In this first post I’ll review seven rose-themed fragrances.
“A hypnotic immolation of dark red roses and burning divinatory incenses -smouldering frankincense, champa, labdanum. Mesmerizing, deep, sensual.”*
The roses in this one complement nicely the other notes, they are themselves sweet, oily, geraniumy and dry, thus mixing well with the incense notes, among which Nag Champa is the most prominent (I don’t really get the frankincense in this one). There might also be a bit of dragon’s blood, because the incense is really sweet, but I don’t have this oil anymore, and I can’t really tell from memory only. The labdanum is present, but it’s kind of a mellow, ambery base, not really spicy as it can be sometimes. I also detect a syrupy honey note, which appeared only after a couple of months of maturing – the whole perfume seemed to have become sweeter and stickier with age. It’s a really warm, rich and comforting scent: oily, syrupy roses, made dry smoky and edgy by the nag champa and frankincense. Surprisingly enough, the smokey honey note reminds me of Angel by Thierry Mugler, although there is basically no overlap between the main notes.
Overall, Burning Roses is a nice winter scent, but not a love. I recommend it to those whole like their scents to be soothing and comfortable rather than edgy.
“Voluptuous, midnight-black roses blended with precious black Arabian oud and black Indonesian musk…”
I ordered this scent at the beginning of my perfume obsession, that is before I’ve realized that oud is just not for me. Black Roses is a beautiful, unique and classy scent, but a bit too demure and oriental for my taste.
The opening: Sweet, geraniumy roses with something dark in the background. Upon application, you get something dusty and medicinal as well as some pungent notes. The first couple of times I tried it, the oud was quite pronounced, although it was rather woody than medicinal. I have smelled some really strong ouds in the past in Arabian oils and some Montale scents, and that “oriental disinfectant” smell is certainly not for me. That said oud can also be nice, instead of pungent and that’s pretty much what we have in this scent. Besides the rose, the woody elements and the dust, there’s also a lot of incense going on. Dark and sweet.
It’s a very classic scent too, besides the oriental, Arabic tone. It also has a 40’s, Chanel No.5 vibe. It reminds me of my grandmother and the times she took me to see the Nutcracker at Christmas in the early nineties. She had all these little vials of rose oil that my dad brought her from Bulgaria. They had this geraniumy, woody scent (they were in little wooden cases) and this, mixed, with the musty, dusty smell of her handbag where she kept the rose oil, and the smell of the perfume of the ladies in the opera is very much like the vibe I get from Black Roses.
When I retested this a year after ordering a sample, I noticed that the scent has became much more rounded. There were no jagged oudy edges, just a woody, dry, sweet geraniumy rose, with a lot of dusty incense. It dries down to a woody, powdery dragon blood.
Longevity: 3-4 hours
“An olfactory ode to love and loss. Heirloom roses, memories wrapped in woodsmoke, a scattering of ashes.”
Another simple scent: nothing but smoke and roses. While the roses are the crisp, fresh variety that I like, the smoke accord ruins the whole scent for me. It’s way too strong and reminiscent of smoked meat products. You basically smell as if you sprayed yourself with a fresh rose perfume such as Atlas Mountain Rose or Rose Fraiche after having spent a whole night roasting bacon at a bonfire.
Fetish is a really simple scent: nothing but rose and oily, pliant fresh leather. The roses are geraniumy, which is something I usually don’t like, but in this case the dried, oily, smell complements the soft, fresh leather very nicely. Fetish is a blood-red rose with thorns. The unforgiving simplicity of the scent reminds me of a minimalist Italian leather couch, or a strict, classy, middle aged dominatrix, whose red lips are lined with the same unforgiving precision as her whip bites into her lovers’ skin.
This is one of my favourite Alkemias, unfortunately discontinued, but you can still request it as a custom blend for $15.
“An unorthodox union of earthy patchouli and dark, blood-red roses. Erotically radiant. Intoxicatingly free-spirited.”
This is my least favourite among the rose scents. The patchouli which is the real, nutty, chocolaty-earthy kind not the slightly piquant, tart patch of modern fruitchoulis, is just too much for me and the geraniumy rose does not tame the wild hippy in this scent. I’m sorry but I could not bear with this one.
Scent: 3/5 (because it’s me, not her)
“Red, ripe pomegranates and dark red roses illuminated by a radiant trinity of golden ambers.”
This is really pretty, but the pomegranate ruined it for me. When I asked for this one, I already knew I dislike fruits and pomegranate, but I just had to try it, because this was the last rose scent by Alkemia that I haven’t tried. The roses are tart, but honeyed, their freshness sweetened by translucent the amber base. There is also a bit of pot-pourri going on, dried petals freshened up by a somewhat artificial floral berry fragrance.
Besides the pomegranate, my other complaint is that the amber is a bit to sweet.
*The quotes are from the product description of Alkemia Perfumes.