Oversized sweaters, drapey scarves, leather jackets, pumpkin-spiced everything–these are just a few of my favourite things about Fall. When October hits, I can count on cheesy horror movies every night, spicy lattes, and going flat broke on spooky clothing, dark makeup, and limited seasonal perfumes. When I look back on Autumns past, I remember flashes of orange and red beneath my Docs, the scent of pumpkins and pie spice wafting through the sleeves of my faux jacket as I lug my portfolio out of my car. I remember thick, ambered chocolate and sticky-sweet Halloween candies drifting up as I fill pages in my sketchbook at the cafe.
But this Autumn has been different. It’s been mossy forest trails and dusky rose gardens, cold darkroom chemistry and silver emulsions. This autumn needed a new olfactory soundtrack. Enter the Darling Clandestine Halloween Four-Scent Suite. There’s a reason DarlingClandestine is one of my favourite perfumeries: nothing can be expected, except quality and creativity. Presented in dropper-topped glass bottles, they appear every bit the mad alchemical product that perfume really is. The sleek, clean lines add an elegance to them, and they have an air of quack medical serums and elixirs when displayed together with my other DarlingClandestine bottles. But rather than claiming to soothe a colicky child or cure a woman’s ills, the labels are a series of breathtaking, beautifully-composed photographs by Leif Johnson. Each image depicts an almost eerily-calm landscape inhabited by a lone figure, like a snapshot from a long-ago memory, or a glimpse into a dream where the beach is our rational mind and the water is our emotional state. From the outside, it seems these were made for a season of darkroom sorcery and adventures behind the lens.
Like any scent, though, the real magic comes out on the skin. I was immediately drawn to Squander, with its crisp apple and creamy sandalwood, the ghost of cloves and spices like trails of exotic cigarillo smoke in brisk evening air. It’s everything I ever really look for in a Fall scent, replete with memories but hungry for more. Wither, too, pulled me in at first sniff: immediately leather boots and cool mists, it springs to life as a juicy berry and foliage scent when it hits my skin. It’s blue and green, purple and black, algid and zoetic. Spurn, by contrast, is a warm, tart red, like pomegranate wine aged in sweet oak barrels. It has a distinctly dry, leafy quality underneath the initial spike of fruit that makes it a distinctly cold-weather scent, to be paired with fire-lit gatherings and brisk evening excursions. It was Falter that shocked me, totally unlike anything I would have expected from a Fall seasonal perfume. All sweet grasses and green herbs, it’s a swirling, misty haze of a scent. It’s the foggy Reservation trails I’ve followed, the small, tender greens that spring up between layers of leaves fallen years before. There’s something rich and buttery like squash or smashed white pumpkin beneath it all, giving it a hint of not-unpleasant decay–life returning to its base elements in order to feed the new generation.
When I wear a Darling Clandestine perfume, I’m not just wearing a series of notes, I’m wearing a mood. It sets the pace for the moments I will live and the memories I will create that day, it helps to set my frame of mind. Safe to say, these are not saccharine moods set by sweet, hard candies or pumpkin pie–there’s a time and a place for those things, but this Fall hasn’t seen many of them. My Fall has been rich with adventure, the intoxicating burn of creativity, and I need moods that will turn my days into works of art. There is no doubt in my mind that these perfumes will be a unique part of the memories I create this season, tinging them with a sweetness all their own.