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ZOMG smell this

I’m not a huge fan of all-synthetic perfumes. I’m not a huge fan of all-naturals either – they always smell, frankly, bad upon application, and need a few minutes to get their act and their structure together, and they fade too quickly for my general pleasure (though they’re a godsend on those days when I want something that doesn’t much last and there are a few, such as my beloved Bois du Chocolat from DSH, that last quite well and stay with me like a happy cloud of beauty for hours.)

Synthetics have the opposite problems – sometimes they stay too LONG, and in too simplistic or even unpleasant a fashion. Some of them can be beautiful, though – I’m thinking of some of Bond No. 9’s formulations – so when a friend turned me on to ZOMG Smells I decided to give them a try not in spite of but almost because of their unabashed devotion to synthetic materials.

However, I can no longer find anything on their site talking about how they use synthetic materials. Buh? I bought a bunch of things from them around Christmastime, and the site has been redone, and now nothing is the same and I’m lost and confused. Maybe I was wrong? Maybe it’s a mix of synthetics and naturals, like most other perfumes? I really cannot tell from their site. Maybe they don’t want us to know.

These chicks are geeks and their poetic perfume names reflect that, with names like Candy Mechanic and Anti-Hydrogen in a Pear Tree. I like that in a manufacturer, being a chick geek myself (perhaps a chic geek, or at least I aspire to be). If you’re looking for a perfume named for the Higgs-Boson particle or the large hadron collider, baby, you came to the right place. At the same time they have fragrances called Hatshepsut’s Beard and various types of Ice Cream Soda and even something called Baby Unicorn Party. They are all over the map, but the brand identity is consistent if the brand identity is “nerd”.

(Please also to note the perfume names Oort and Kuiper Belt Objects.)

The scents are not overpowering – though they can come on strong and sometimes they take a minute or two to “set up”. (Makes you appreciate just what an art it is to make the average commercial perfume smell good the second you spray it on your skin.) They are oil formulations, so the sillage, as with most oils, tends to be a bit lower than a commercial perfume that can precede you into the room. They aren’t thin – I’m testing Xocolatl right now, and it’s a rich cinnamon chocolate with something resinous in the drydown, and you can imagine enjoying the different levels of this as much as any other brand-name perfume.

The cutesiness of the graphics and of the names may make you think that these perfumes are just meant for little girls, but I can assure you that they are, as the website says, “SRS BZNS” (serious business). (And yes, comics fans, if those graphics seem cute in a very familiar way to you, it does look like someone at Phil Foglio’s studio did the graphics, as Studio Foglio is credited at the bottom, and why isn’t there a scent for the brothel from Buck Godot?). Camping in a Vanilla Forest, for instance, is a very grown-up scent, as smoke and vanilla are not really for very little girls. I want to try almost everything, if only to smell their cerebral impressions of science translated into perfume. (Under Coronal Mass Ejection they quote one of my husband’s favorite kids’ science songs, “The sun is a mass of incandescent gas”, and conclude with the notes: “Pink grapefruit, Tunguska pine, two ambers and the distilled fear of everyone working in telecommunications…by which we mean tolu balsam.”)

I like the idea of encouraging girls to be science nerds, and I like the idea of rewarding grown women who have become science nerds, too. And their sets of 1 ml samples (which they call “squees” – because they are NERDS) make it easy to try a little of almost everything. Not everything is available in a squee – limited-edition 5 ml bottles come out regularly, presumably for regular fans. Call it a BPAL for science loving women, without the catalog cruft of actual BPAL. I also just enjoy the text of the site. For a set of Girl Genius squees, the creators say “We’ll pack them up nice and tight and try to make sure they don’t collaborate on a death ray before they get to you.” See, I appreciate that. Very thoughtful of them.

But none of that would matter if I didn’t like the scents – and I do. None of them have made it into my regular rotation yet, but I very much enjoy testing them, and I have a feeling that if I did it in a more rigorous fashion, one of them would make it into my regular rotation. For one thing, I actually love florals, but none of the scents that I tend to choose (based on their names) from the site really has any floral mixes in it. There’s a lot of woods, a lot of spice, a lot of fruit and sugar and other gourmand notes. So some of the things I like most aren’t really happening in these scents. I like many different flowers, and flower mixes, especially with tea and wood and vanilla, but not necessarily ONLY wood and vanilla (and occasionally tea). So I don’t think there’s necessarily anything lacking in these perfumes; I think they’re just for the scent-hound who isn’t me, who loves to smell things that are beautiful and interesting but not at all like a classic perfume, especially not at all like flowers.

This is a position – there’s a famous position that “Women shouldn’t smell like flowers” – but it’s not my position. Doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the occasional squee, or even a larger bottle. For all the idiosyncrasies of the descriptions, they are really spot-on. And if you want a perfume called “Wrestling Tigers While Calling Your Mum Long-Distance”, well, ZOMG Smells is really the only place to which you can turn.

They say up-front that it will take a while for your order to be processed and mailed; I found this to be true, but unlike some vendors (*cough*SweetAnthem*cough*) whose order will arrive long after you forgot you placed it, their process was business-like enough, and they kept me informed about its dispatch, which I appreciated. I’m really enjoying this Xocolatl. I may need some more squees.

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