A reader recommended that I check out Sixteen92.com if I loved Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfume oils, so I did - and I ended up purchasing quite a number of items from them. And I'm not disappointed!
The collection is not huge.
They have a General Catalogue of 15 permanent scents, all of which can be purchased in 4 sizes - 2ml sample vials, 6ml vials, 10ml roll-ons in the oil form, and 30ml parfum sprays in alcohol base. And then they have seasonal limited edition collections, which are online while stocks last. They also sell body products and wax melts which I have not tried.
|Summer 2016 scents inspired by the 90s Riot Grrrl movement and rock chicks|
Prices are also very reasonable despite the fact that these are mostly, if not all, made with - as far as I can tell - natural essences and absolutes instead of cheaper synthetics. US$20-22 for 10ml roll-ons which, if you are used to paying $17.50-30 for BPALs which are half the size, is very good.
I buy most of these in 10ml roll-ons even though I actually like the look of the 6ml vials more - just because I am excessive and I don't like to worry about running out too soon. And 10ml will last a long time since you don't need a whole lot to get good scent at all. The fact that they come in black roll-on tubes also means your scents are better protected from light, which can degrade scent molecules.
I've tried quite a number of scents - all in the oil form because I just love those so much better than sprays in general.
- They sit closer to the skin,
- have a more consistent scent strength throughout the day, and
- last longer than many alcohol-based scents, which are either too strong in the beginning, or fade too quickly over the day.
I will say if you are used to BPALs (and the 600+ strong catalogue with as many scent ingredients as the day is long), you might find Sixteen92's smaller range lacks variety. There are recurring notes in many scents, which is completely understandable. Natural absolutes can be shockingly expensive if you've ever studied natural perfumery or purchased ingredients, so it seems reasonable that a new business not start with an inventory of hundreds of different essences.
To their credit, the scents don't smell alike. I think they are all unique and different from one another, and run the gamut from likeably-pretty sweet or floral scents, to more quirky green, woody, smoky, or dark ones.
From the General Catalogue, here are the scents I've tried, which I will review briefly below since they are available permanently.
BLACK SUGAR - Spun brown sugar, red berries, vanilla and tonka bean absolute dance with a sprinkle of dirt, a swirl of cauldron smoke, and a drop of bittersweet cocao absolute.
My thoughts: One of my favorites; try this if you love sweet foody scents or the idea of Aquolina's Pink Sugar. This is Pink Sugar's caramel cotton candy with a sexy, dark, soft smokiness, and without that burnt chemical undertone (I can smell that licorice note in PS and I don't like it). I admit that because I am crazy, I adulterate my vial of Black Sugar with a few extra drops of cacao absolute for an extra bitter chocolate kick. Lasts hours and hours.
GRIMM - Cocao absolute, Tonka bean, tobacco, immortelle, wet forest moss & leaves
My thoughts: Tobacco, tobacco, tobacco with lots of earthy wet vegetation, and a back-note of bitter cocoa. Very masculine, pungent, and dark on first sniff, but this warms up and rounds out on the skin, and the creamier, sweeter cocoa and tonka aspect comes out a little more. Not for the faint of heart. I disliked this at first but found myself going back again and again to sniff it. This is like that abrasive, intriguing bad boy you can't get along with, who ends up charming you in spite of yourself.
HELLEBORE - Tuberose absolute, Sambac Jasmine, oakmoss, tobacco, chilled earth, cocao, black musk
My thoughts: Strange earthy floral. When I saw the name I thought this would be a rose scent. Turns out it is tuberose. With jasmine. Both indolic florals with a pungent, dirty, almost decayed undertone. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I love tuberose and jasmine. I'm just not always sure about tobacco notes. I think it overpowers most blends, and with Grimm, it works with the dark earthy cocoa, immortelle and oakmoss. Here, the whole composition reminds me of flower petals decaying on damp forest floor. That might actually be pretty interesting, but it's not immediately appealing to me, and I need to test it further to see how it develops.
LA LLORONA - Bulgarian and Egyptian rose absolute, pink and white pepper, pink grapefruit, wisteria, cashmere wood, pale amber
My thoughts: I could almost swear I smelt neroli or orange blossom in here, but it's probably just the bright pink grapefruit blended with soft clean flower. This is one of the lighter, "whiter" scents in the Sixteen92 catalogue and one I do reach for once in awhile when I crave something clean but not detergent-like. Very classy but not a heavy, shoulder-pads and Chanel bag floral. Not the longest-lasting scent, which is expected of a soft floral.
LOLITA - Crisp apple skins, tart peach candies, rose absolute, sugared violet
My thoughts: This is Sixteen92's bestseller, and I was extremely excited, but it turned out to not be one of my favorites, simply because peach and rose always tend to blend into a note that makes me think of bubblegum. (How two natural notes can combine and turn into artificially flavoring I'll never know.) But that's just me. On it's own, this is a sweet, girly scent that is neither overtly floral nor overtly fruity. Everything meshes into - bright candy. Not for me, but probably fun and yummy for a lot of people.
MELLIFERA - Wildflower honey accord (not vegan), violet, sambac jasmine, vanilla infused sugar, sandalwood
My thoughts: One of my favorites. I don't like eating honey, but I LOVE honey and beeswax notes in perfumery. Mellifera has the linear simplicity you'd expect of a honey scent, but it's also got the complexity of wildflower honey. It is sweet, but also a hint of leathery animalic tones, and beautiful woodland notes of flowers and trees. If you don't like the smell of honey you might not like this one. If you are a BPAL fan and you like O but wish it was less musky or syrupy, try Mellifera.
PAPER MOON - Soft vanilla musk, benzoin, oakmoss, trailing ivy, peach blossom, rose
My thoughts: Vegetal, green, with an underpinning of sweetness that peeps out from beneath the carpet of green vines. This is very unique, and was previously a limited edition scent which was so popular that it made it into the permanent catalogue. Not one I reach for all the time, but definitely one that is very unique and that I go back to once in while.
SOUTHERN GOTHIC - Mandarin, apple, natural coconut pulp, magnolia grandiflora, sambac jasmine, sweet balsam, white sandalwood
My thoughts: Languid, sleepy, sunny white florals with a tropical bend. It's not a sticky piña colada scent; more a hot-weather bloom which is quite refined and non-sugary. Interesting play-off between clean florals and fruits with a gamey thick coconut pulp. This coconut note is not like refreshing coconut water. It's creamier and heavier, like thick coconut milk used often in Asian cooking. Despite this, the scent doesn't go over into foody territory.
WICKED - Three vanillas, aged patchouli, almond buttercream
My thoughts: Another one I disliked at first, but slowly started to crave in no time. Just because they say three vanillas does not mean there is three times the amount of vanilla as patchouli. If you expect a creamy, gourmand scent, you will be very surprised. And if you are not used to patchouli, this aged stuff might be shocking to your nose. It is deep, earthy, musky and pungent. The almond buttercream is not noticeable on its own, and just adds some body to the vanilla, which is also quite dark. More like smoky resinous vanilla absolute than ice-cream vanilla.
Overall, I'm pretty impressed with what I have. If you want generic scents, there are not that many. Most of these have a lot of personality and may appeal more to adventurous noses. Often, despite the listing of common notes like vanilla, jasmine, cocoa, they do not smell anything like mainstream fragrances containing those notes. This is mainly because natural essences are a LOT more complex than synthetics, and there is also variation between batches depending on harvest. But that's part of the fun for me. You never know exactly what you're going to get.
Service is relatively quick and Claire the owner is very responsive. I've requested to combine multiple orders to save on shipping and she's done it and refunded me the excess money without questions asked. If I have to have a complaint, it would be that the black paper labels on the 10ml roll on vials have a tendency to lift up at the edges, and presentation-wise, it just does not look as great as the 6ml sticker labels.
To see more, have a look at their scent catalogue. I am waiting for an order of a few more of their Summer 2016 scents and will try to review those soon!