Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Product Review: Demeter Cologne in Lilac, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Pink Grapefruit, Thunderstorm, Salt Air, Saltwater Taffy, Almond, and Piña Colada

Demeter Fragrance Library is, to put it mildly, an overwhelming extravaganza of olfactory experiences. Billed as offering "simple, subtle, singular scents," Demeter's library encompasses hundreds of fragrances designed to evoke specific, individual scent associations rather than the complex blends found in typical perfumes. Really love an individual flower, food, or have fond memories of your grandpa's pipe or the smell of church incense? Demeter's got you covered. What really sets Demeter apart, however, is a bold willingness to make damn near anything into a perfume; some of the more, shall we say, "exotic" offerings include Wet Garden, Crayon, Turpentine, Funeral Home, and even Earthworm. No lie. (Not being particularly brave, I only ventured as far as Thunderstorm, but maybe one day I'll go rogue and find out how I smell wearing Dirt.) Demeter's fragrances are all available in a variety of forms, ranging from half-ounce "mini splashes" to full-size cologne sprays and home fragrance products.

I discovered Demeter via my Ipsy subscription; Demeter's Jasmine rollerball perfume was one of a variety of options available to Ipsy subscribers in April, and although I actually wound up not receiving one in my bag, I decided to avail myself of the 20% discount code offered to all Ipsy subscribers. Because I had an impossible time winnowing my choices down to a reasonable amount, I decided to go with the "mini splashes" at $6 apiece (pre-discount) in order to try a healthy variety of scents without breaking the bank. I was also buoyed by Demeter's user-friendly return policy; any scent you don't like, you can send back for return, exchange, or refund (you pay shipping on returned items, but I think that's fair). I'll be sending back a few of my mini splashes in exchange for larger sizes of the scents I ended up adoring... or maybe for some of the scents that didn't quite make the cut the first time around (I'm looking at you, Condensed Milk).

Without further ado, on to the smelly-goods!

Left to right: J/K, I'm not listing them here. If you can't read the labels, we've got problems.
  • Honeysuckle: I. LOVE. THIS. FRAGRANCE. I cannot say enough good things about it. It is the exact scent of honeysuckle warming in the summer sun, more purely and simply reminiscent of the actual flower than I could have expected from a cologne. Seriously, one spritz and I'm a kid again, biking past a honeysuckle bush on my way to the swimming pool and stopping to suck that one sweet drop of deliciousness out of a blossom. If every Demeter cologne hit the nail on the head this perfectly, I'd go broke buying their entire line, and if I wore this to work, my patients would probably wonder why the nurse kept surreptitiously sniffing herself.
  • Jasmine: While I'm not quite as passionately enamored of this fragrance as I am of Honeysuckle, it's a pretty damn close second. Demeter can DO some flowers, y'all. To me, this is beautifully evocative of sitting in my best friend's South Carolina backyard, with the scent of the Confederate jasmine on her fence wafting on a balmy evening breeze. I wore it to work and one of my colleagues said I smelled like freshly cut grass and flowers, which also sounds like a good thing to me! It's just fresh, lovely, and relaxing.
  • Pink Grapefruit: I'm not entirely sure what I think of this interpretation. It starts off with the specific bright, tangy, juicy notes you'd expect from grapefruit in particular, but it dries down into something more... generic, I guess, is the only way to put it. Like, pick up any citrus-scented lotion or spray you've got, and this cologne probably smells sort of like that once the initial burst of scent wears off. I will be hanging onto this one to try layering it with some of the others, though, because I think I'll be able to come up with some tropical-leaning combinations that will make me happy.
  • Lilac: This is a sweet, clean, fresh scent... my only complaint is that it doesn't smell close enough to the specific variety of lilac that grows in my mother's garden, which is the scent association I was really hoping to trigger with this fragrance. I won't be keeping this one, only because I love the other two florals so much more that I'm not sure I'd ever get around to using this one!
Part Deux. Again, I really hope you can figure these out on your own.
  • Thunderstorm: So I wanted to try one of Demeter's more unique offerings, and since I adore that particular smell that permeates the air right before a good storm, I opted to check out this one. Unfortunately, I found it pretty disappointing... to me it's more of a generic "masculine" sort of scent than anything rain-related. This one will be getting exchanged.
  • Piña Colada: The name says it all... fruity, syrupy-sweet, a hint of rum, a little bit of an umbrella-drinky vacation in a bottle. On the downside, it's not particularly unique in the realm of tropical scents, and it doesn't have much lasting power, so I'll be sending it back even though I like piña coladas (and getting caught in the rain... yeah, yeah, I know you were thinking it).  
  • Almond: Admittedly, I should have trusted that Demeter can distinguish between almond and amaretto, but I still ordered this in the hopes that it would be more of an amaretto scent. Wrong on that one! This is a very "foodie" scent, redolent with nutty fragrance... it really smells like some baked deliciousness that, of course, contains almonds. It's a lovely scent, but not one that I can see myself wearing regularly. I'd say that I would love my house to smell like this, but Demeter's home fragrance products are priced a wee bit higher than I think is necessary (and I prefer candles to diffusers and whatnot anyway).
  • Salt Air: This was my most eagerly anticipated scent, and tragically, it's one that I'll be sending back. As with Thunderstorm, I was expecting something very different than this fragrance, which honestly reminds me of any candle with "Ocean" or "Beach" in the name. It's what fragrance makers think the ocean *should* smell like, not what it actually smells like, with the sharp brine of salty air, maybe just a hint of suntan lotion in the breeze, and even a little undercurrent of seaweed. If someone could master THAT scent, I would buy ALL the smelly-goods. As it is, this is a perfectly serviceable fragrance, but not the one I was shooting for, and not one that really suits me to wear. Sending back.
In addition to the eight scents I ordered, I received a bottle of Demeter's Saltwater Taffy cologne spray as a gift with $25 purchase. I doubt I'd have ever chosen this one on my own, and I'm not terribly enamored with it. Honestly, it reminds me very much of the Bath and Body Works vanilla spray in which I pretty much marinated throughout my high school years. Perfectly pleasant and serviceable, but just nothing special for me. I wouldn't keep it if it hadn't been a free gift to begin with.

So, overall, my order was pretty hit-or-miss, but the hits were HITS. Honeysuckle and Jasmine make me super-happy, and those alone were worth the price of admission. I will be returning Lilac, Thunderstorm, Piña Colada, and Salt Air, and getting spray bottles of my two favorite florals and a rollerball of Honeysuckle for my purse. A relatively trivial bother: I wish Demeter's labels were more stylish. As is, they're terribly boring, and I hate the Comic Sans-ish font on the mini splashes. I can see how label design would be an issue with as many fragrances as Demeter is juggling, but still. I like my pretty packaging.

You'll have to excuse me now... I'm off to go douse myself with Honeysuckle and sniff my wrist until I fall asleep.

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