5 Signature Scents for that Graverobber Rizz: Perfumes to Die For

Written By Meg Elison

Meg Elison is a Philip K. Dick and Locus award winning author, as well as a Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Otherwise awards finalist. A prolific short story writer and essayist, Elison has been published in Slate, McSweeney’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fangoria, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley.

Bootheels clacking on the sidewalk. Cloak or duster flying behind. Eyes shaded by the brim of a black hat or a pair of dark glasses…or maybe by the darkness of your own visage. Not a hair out of place, and all color and manner of jewels winking in the folds of black clothes like stars in a night sky. Flawless, primed for the evening to drop its beat so you can dance.

What did you forget?

Some apple-cheeked orphans might tell you you’re never fully dressed without a smile, but surely we know better than that. What’s missing is a signature scent. Florals are only the beginning a funeral; fruit is too simple a feast. What we have here are six complex, symphonic arrangements of scent suited to be worn to a vampire ball, a summit for graverobbers, or just the drudgery of the day that you must face. Take a whiff of each of these.

Empty Wishes Well, by Toskovat’ 

This fragrance is described as being for men or women, but the last time I checked my nose knew no gender. A new fragrance for an old world, this 2022 offering has a top note like a copper coin fished from a moonlit fountain. Beneath that the forest floor spreads in damp profusion: fallen leaves, petrichor, myrrh, and sage. Walk a little deeper and find the abandoned headstones carved from white marble and the life coming forth anew in the old cemetery: amyris, galbanum, and carrot seeds. This light yellow extrait de mémoire is served up in a simple round, clear bottle that preserves the mystery of what it’s about. Just like you when you visit your parents.

Blood Kiss, by BPAL

If you’re new to the wondrous witcheries of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, I’m pleased as poison punch to initiate you. None of the rides in this midnight carnival will fail to thrill you connoisseurs of dark decadence, but the one I must suggest is Blood Kiss. If obscenity herself were to gather your collar in her fists and spit into your mouth, this is what it would taste like. Opening with seductive sweets, this oil rolls the dessert cart by your senses: vanilla, honey, ripe cherries. Once she’s got your attention, she gets a little weirder: vetiver, poppies to make you sleep, and an animalistic musk. When the bewilderment deepens, she finishes you off with a glass of red wine— it was wine, wasn’t it? She brought it to you in that crystal glass, and it was a trifle warm. But so sweet. Sweet as a kiss.

 There’s a strange family who live in the woods, in the part where canopy grows so thick that it’s dark at noon. People say they grow misshapen fruits on ancient trees. The family name Chypre, and it refers to fragrances like that fabled orchard: citrus fruits on top, oakmoss on bottom. This Oakmoss Outremer holds only the barest waft of citrus. Once you get into that part of the woods, you know it’s a mirage. The fruit was only a promise to bring you there, to the place where the oakmoss spreads all around. It is the moss that remembers everything the forest has seen; invisible to the axe and impervious to burning, the moss creeps on and on. This eau de toilette one is for you, you quiet creeper. This is for the ones who only speak up when they’re sure they can be devastating, who move in secret and silence until it is time to appear. The art nouveau bottle is a fine ornament for your vanity; it, too, is more complex than it seems.

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    Replica By the Fireplace, by Maison Margiela

    You were told to meet the professor in their study. You have the faintest impression that you’re in trouble, but you can’t imagine why when you’ve done nothing wrong. The office is empty, but its richness surrounds you: the leather and the velvet. The ashes in the fireplace, still hot at their heart. The whisper of manuscripts all around, including your own work. But what’s there on the desk. That curious book, worked all over with symbols that seem to change even as you stare. Your professor’s voice sends a shock through you. The rest becomes clear all at once: holiday clove, dangerous pink peppercorn and orange blossoms like a memory of spring rising in the veins of someone in sexy middle age. Chestnut and juniper for those notes of maturity, grounded with balsam and cashmeran. Rub your face against all that tweed and allow yourself to be taught a new art.

    Black Widow, by TokyoMilk

    A flare of scarlet sage seduces you, and ylang ylang makes promises like the food-and-drink-laden table in the realm of the fae. It is too late to turn back. Oakmoss again, implacable as the grave, it’s got its tiny tendrils in you and its pulling, pulling. You showed up dressed for a funeral, and so did this darling black bottle of eau de parfum. What did you expect? What dance could you two have done besides the macabre?