I've picked up a handful of scents from Nocturne Alchemy over the past few months, and I'm annoyed that I really like them. While the scents I've tried have all been really lovely, there's a few things that low-level bug me about Nocturne Alchemy/VApothecary (henceforth to be referred to as NAVA): their branding is really not my cup of tea; I really wish that they had a master scent list for their scents, because they use a lot of their accords in other blends and I end up crossreferencing a bunch to figure out what Kobalt plus touches of Crystal and Kashmir is supposed to smell like; they have very high international shipping; and their website leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to design and usability (this is a pretty common indie theme, but still annoying).
These things are really not a huge deal, but they're enough to give me pause and grit my teeth when looking at NAVA's new releases. Because of these things, it took me a really long time to even get into NAVA. I finally dipped my toes in during the fall, with one scent picked up from a destash, and then I picked up a couple in a group order for NAVAlloween (and there's another thing, I hate their names for their releases. Yes, I am actually a crotchety old man), and yet another from a destash. I think the names are nonsensical, I hate trying to parse the scent descriptions, and the website causes my blood pressure to rise, but guys. These are really, really good. The vanillas are what have pulled me in so far - I like vanilla, but I'm not completely crazy for it. I tend to think I like vanilla more that I actually do. But these are incredible. Rich, decadent, creamy vanillas.
The first NAVA I picked up was Buttercream Butterfly (seriously, these names) - I had briefly looked at it when Ajevie posted decants for it, but ended up skipping over it till I read a review that sold me on it, and I ended up grabbing it from a destash - from a summer release. The notes are Buttercream Frosting Accord but softened by the essence of Crystalline and Kobalt vanillas. Vanilla, buttercream, Egyptian Musk with a touch of soft musk and nuances of cream cheese and vanilla sugar. As much I love gourmands, I'm always a little worried about how sweet a frosting scent will smell. I like my frostings to be on the sweeter side, but when it comes to scent, I prefer things to fall on the less sweet side. Buttercream Butterfly is a lovely vanilla frosting, with the tiniest hint of cream cheese in it. In the bottle, it's not an especially attractive scent - it smells a bit sour, kind of like cream cheese but cream cheese that's gone off, and it's got a sugary note mixing with that.
Poor bottle sniff impression aside, on my skin, this is a wonderful scent. It's definitely a bot perfumey, which undercuts the "hello I am a cake" impression it otherwise might give. I'm not opposed to smelling like a cake, as has been well-documented here, but this runs the fine line of being a lovely, sophisticated scent and being a girly, foodie dream. I like that. It's a very clean sort of vanilla as well. I don't know much about the different accords, but I do know that Kobalt is an orchid vanilla, which probably helps add that clean floral note lurking in the back. It's really very lovely. And unavailable. I'll stop talking about it.
The availability of the next three is not so great either. Sorry.
Pink Grapefruit Flamingo is also from a summer release, and I picked up this one from the leftovers list at Ajevie's Circles. The good news is that it's very, very similar to Possets Dance With Me and if you have that, you don't need Pink Grapefruit Flamingo also. The possible bad news is that I like Pink Grapefruit Flamingo better, so I destashed Dance With Me. In the bottle, Pink Grapefruit Flamingo smells like those sugared candy grapefruit slices, and I'm obsessed with those despite my hatred of grapefruit as an actual fruit, so Pink Grapefruit Flamingo won. Dance With Me has more of a tart grapefruit note, similar to the actual fruit. The notes are Essential Oil from the zest of Pink Grapefruit and Caribbean Grapefruit, a touch of white honey, a little pink sugar, a tiny drop of white patchouli all infused into Crystalline Vanilla.
On my skin, it's a burst of grapefruit candy. As it wears, a soft musky vanilla comes out and changes the scent from pure candy to a sweet grapefruit vanilla. Grapefruit and vanilla go so well together. It fades to a slightly tangy vanilla musk. The sillage is moderate, and it lasts about five hours on my skin.
The last two are from the NAVAlloween release: Vanilla Vampire Bat and Black Vanilla Custard. Again, more delicious vanilla. I'm not as crazy about Vanilla Vampire Bat as I thought I might be, but I'm madly in love with Black Vanilla Custard.
Vanilla Vampire Bat is described as Vanilla Bean fleck, Kobalt, Crystalline, Tahitian Vanilla, French Vanilla and a spot of Vanilla-infused Studio created Patchouli. In the bottle, I get mostly patchouli, with the barest hint of creamy vanilla. On my skin, its' rich, heavy vanilla. This one isn't foodie at all, which is maybe why I'm not quite as enamoured. The patchouli is not nearly as dominant, but it's still noticeable. It's a vanilla bean scent, grounded with the patchouli. It's got great sillage, and lasts six hours on my skin.
Black Vanilla Custard is my favourite of the NAVAs I've tried so far. It is magnificent. Just look at this description: Spooky Caramel Creme, Black Vanilla, Carmelized Sugar, a drop of French Maple-Vanilla, a plop of Rum, spooky Brown Sugar Dust, a captured breath from a Vanilla Ghost and a scare of Custard. Doesn't that sound great? It is. It so is.
In the bottle, it smells like caramelized sugar, brown sugar, a dash of spice and rich sweet vanilla cream. On my skin, it starts off with a creme brulee-like scent, likely due to the caramelized sugar, custard and the vanillas. It gets a hint of maple as it starts to dry. Have I mentioned I love this scent yet? It's delicious dessert goodness. It's got a rum undercurrent. It's a warm fall scent too - perhaps it's the maple and caramelized sugar? For some reason I always associate maple with autumn, even though I know full well that it's made in the spring (SOON. Going to have to get myself to a sugar shack this season!). It stays true to the first dab on my skin. It's got moderate sillage, and lasts about eight hours on my skin. And again, it's so good.
And herein lies my firstest of first world problems: I genuinely enjoy these scents - they've survived the. Even Vanilla Vampire Bat, which I don't love as much as the others, is wonderful. But I don't want to like NAVA! I don't like their branding or website or high international shipping! I don't want to add another perfume company to my favourites list! And yet. The proof is in the pudding. Part of buying more thoughtfully, however, is keeping in mind the companies that have a high hit rate, and start avoiding those that don't work quite as well with my skin chemistry.