New Strange Invisible Perfumes



Strange Invisible Perfumes and their offerings tend to fall off my radar.  They´re not sold in many brick-and-mortar stores (in NYC I think they’re at Barneys and nowhere else); their website´s a little groovy and not especially detail-oriented regarding the notes in their fragrances.  I didn´t realize the name was taken from Shakespeare but it is nonetheless apt because I find many of their fragrances … well, a little strange.  Like the scents from Aftelier they can take some getting used to.  They don´t lend themselves to a quick sniff at the counter at Barneys because they can spend up to half an hour unfolding themselves on the skin like a tea flower dropped in water.  Finally, I might as well mention to the uninitiated that they are expensive in the parfum version — $185 – $210 for 7.5 ml, which doesn´t lend itself to bottle splits.

They have three new releases in time for spring, and let´s start with my favorite:

Epic Gardenia.  The bad news: no, it´s not a reissue of the late, lamented, discontinued Lady Day, so shed a couple of quiet tears and get that out of the way so you can smell Epic on its own terms.  Like lily and tuberose, gardenia is not a friend to all.  Apparently gardenia can´t be easily distilled from the plant, so it´s simulated in other ways, and you tend to get plastic, or too much kitchen spice, or something really green (like a side-dish of muguet).  Epic is substantially less cheesy-smelling than JARdenia or the Tom Ford; it doesn´t have a big LOTV hit, although it´s both a wee bit green and slightly indolic.  It´s probably the closest thing to the smell of an actual gardenia flower besides Yves Rocher´s ridiculously cheap and effective gardenia, but I like it better – it´s richer, a little grassy, and the drydown is quite long lasting.  Lovely.

Urban Lily wins the SIP Award for epic strangeness.  A startlingly peculiar combination of peppery florals and wet pavement at the open, Urban Lily is the sort of not-for-beginners scent I´d have loathed as a nascent perfumista.  The really cool part is, an hour or two later it morphs into an utterly different scent, a honey-hay-beeswax smell with a hint of something peat/leather like narcissus.  It’s such a holy-crap-what-is-that?!? about-face that twice I went back over every inch of my body and the other scents I had on, trying to identify the correct source.  Tom at Perfume-Smellin´ Things says this features a big dose of their house musk.  Which has me thinking Patty and I really need to stop by SIP next week when we´re in LA, because I need me some of that base.  I found the lasting power on this one extraordinary.

Aquarian Roses‘ notes are rose, sandalwood and marjoram.  (FYI – this is the only list of notes the company provided me, the others being “impressionistic renderings.”)  I left it till last and was pleasantly surprised.  It´s quite sharp at the top, medicinal/herbal like a poultice, and rather soapy, with a dry tang that makes me think of creosote way off in the distance.  It goes through a phase of smelling rather like the Weleda calendula balm I used to use on my kids’ chapped skin.  Tom uses the word stemmy, which is perfect. The rose is subdued on my skin.  Has anyone else tried this yet?

Since we may go by the shop, and since a lot of our readers may not have sampled much (if any) of the line, I´d love to know what your favorite SIP is and why.

PS, for anyone who cares: here are links to Posse reviews of other SIPs including Lady Day and to my original gardenia bender post for other recommendations, and a link to Tom’s rather different take on these three.  Also, if you’re pining for Lady Day — they’ll make it for you custom, but it’ll set you back $250. 

PPS I just clicked through Tom’s review to his original review of Musc Botanique, and hey — look — I started off my review with almost exactly the same sentence.  I think that’s so funny I’m leaving it.  Tom, be sure to rag me for shamelessly plagiarizing you next week.

  • Tara says:

    I liked L’Invisible and Magazine Street best as well, although L’Invisible was gone within and hour, and Magazine Street would have been FBW if they could just remove the initial lavender oil blast that ruined it for me.

  • surely-shirley says:

    God, in our counry we have never even HEARED about such perfumes!

  • Christopher says:

    Woodley + Bunny in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has a few of the Strange Invisible scents.

  • Robin says:

    Late as always! But you convinced me to finally try the AR & UL.

    AR — wow, stemmy is an understatement. And think Tom is right that the Musc Botanique is the base. Kevin will HATE this one, I’ll need to think about it.

    UL — arguably easier to wear than AR, but still very odd. There’s something almost meaty about the opening?

    Don’t know why I thought I’d put these on & then comment…going to take hours and/or days to figure them out.

    These are making me happy though — I was sort of afraid they were edging towards a more commercial approach.

    • March says:

      I can’t wait to try the Musc if that’s the base, I think it’s wonderful. And what is UP with that Urban Lily? Tell me that’s not one of the oddest things you’ve smelled recently. I was thinking more earthy/ozone, but I could see meaty.

      I think I owe you credit for retrying these at some point. I never gave them enough time. Really, trying them on in a blur at Barneys is pointless. Aren’t you fascinated by Tom’s comment that *at their actual store* they don’t have testers in parfum strength for things they sell in parfum?

      • Robin says:

        UL — made the husband smell it, probably about 15 minutes in. He said it smelled like food, but could not get him to say WHICH food. It made me nuts, I do think it’s oddly foody but I can’t say which food either.

        I like the Rose after about an hour. Yeah, these aren’t scents that are worth trying in a store at all. You need to take samples home, and you need to be patient.

        SIP’s business practices baffle me in general. The website was for a long time absolutely the WORST perfume house website ever, and that’s saying a great deal since most of them are oddly bad. It’s better now but still bad. And in their defense, Hermes sells things in extrait but does not provide extrait testers to most of their boutiques. Same w/ Guerlain — you rarely see extrait tester outside of big cities, even if they sell the extrait.

        • March says:

          At least I could get ON their website. My bar for perfume websites is so low that my new definition of “bad” includes all the ones I can’t even make work in my browser, and it’s not like I have some ancient computer, either. Wouldn’t people getting on the site seem like a reasonable goal? Perhaps not.

          The extrait tester thing is interesting and clearly varies by store. For instance, in Montgomery Mall everything’s locked down like Sing-Sing. At Tysons Nordstrom, they had two (!) testers of the EL Tuberose Gardenia parfum bottle on the counter (weren’t those $300?) And they not infrequently had extrait of things like Vol de Nuit, which even our Saks doesn’t have.

  • Patty says:

    I adore the SIPs, most of them, or at least find them interesting. Lady Day is just perfection. so I can’t wait to sniff these next weekend!

  • Trish/Pikake says:

    What? Work? Come on now:-@

    Did you try Fleur Blanche? Other Ajne’s come and go in a blip, but FB has great staying power on me. If you’ve not tried it…drop me a PM and I’ll send you some.

    • March says:

      I need to dig around in my samps… for some reason I am thinking someone sent me FB thinking I’d like it. I have a sample backlog as well. :”> I’ll let you know.

  • Trish/Pikake says:

    As you might have guessed I love, love, love SIPs. I find them intriguing and mesmerizing. I adore Epic Gardenia and agree that it is quite an accurate rendering of the gardenia, but Ajne’s Fleur Blanche is pretty amazing as well.

    My favorite SIP at the moment might be Magazine St. Such an interesting blend of vanilla and vetiver. I can’t get enough of the drydown. It’s heaven. I reviewed it recently on Scent Hive if you really want to get the full deets of why I love it so much.

    • March says:

      I couldn’t get those darned Ajnes to stick to me. Although it was at Sniffa, so what’s going to get traction? Black Orchid?

      And another vote for Magazine Street! I have to go read your review, did you just do it? I’m behind on my blog reading. My actual work is getting in the way. Sigh…

  • Disteza says:

    I really, really like Magazine Street: perfect ‘southern’ white florals with that rice accord everyone seems to be after nowadays. I fell hard for Tosca, and would have gotten a bottle of Arunima too if it hadn’t smelled exactly like PG Un Crime Exotique with some extra cloves thrown in. I feel like I should try more of their new items though.

    • March says:

      Okay, that’s it. Clearly I need to pay more attention to Magazine Street, since several people on here love it. You got my attention with “rice accord.” 🙂

  • Nava says:

    I’m admittedly not a fan of SIP, but I can definitely sense the connection to Aftelier. They’re all big in-your-face-florals to my nose and thus, not my cup of tea.

    By the way, “impressionistic renderings”? What sort of malarky is that? Why such a big secret when it comes to the notes? Is Parfums de Coeur lurking in the shadows planning to do a designer imposter body spray? /:)

    • March says:

      I have some sympathy with their vagueness (and if you really want vague, check out Serge Lutens’ blather. They’re like their own kingdom of obfuscation.) Given how they make fragrance maybe they get tired of giving specific lists of notes for us to pick apart. And sometimes the names and notes don’t make sense anyway, like a lot of the Le Labos.

      • Nava says:

        Ha! I like that – “kingdom of obfuscation”. Sounds like a political thriller. Serge is definitely at the top of the “blather” heap, but inquiring minds need to know. At least mine does. :d

        • March says:

          I’m not sure I could suss out most of the notes without help from the perfumer. I wonder if someone from SIP is reading this right now, shaking his or her head in bafflement.

  • Eileen says:

    We’re counting on you and Patty to give us a detailed report of the store! You know I live vicariously through you. b-):d

    I’ve only sampled a couple, but Black Rosette really struck me. It is such a bizarre combination of the familiar and the odd, with rose and mint running through leather. Definitely on my wish list, but it will be awhile given the price.

    • March says:

      Black Rosette is another weird one with a huge fan base. Really, I think buying their samples online and trying them at home is the way to go… trying them in a store with a bunch of other things with giant sillage does the SIPs no favors, you know?

      Okay, we’ll go to Venice just for you.

    • Musette says:

      take pictures! bring waffles!


  • Millicent says:

    I had a really nice experience at the Venice store last summer when I snuck away for a sniff break during a family visit to LA. I love the weird headiness of them. My favorites — that I bought in the sample EdP size — were Persica, Tropical Vine, Narcotic, Arunima, Black Rosette and Untitled, which was how they were labeling the perfume formerly known as Lady Day. Has that loveliness been completely discontinued? I still love them, but now it’s all about scarcity. I’m living in a hot climate, so I keep the vials in the fridge, the amounts I have here are very small and worst of all, the fragrance disappears so quickly! I save them for special nights out, because none of them last more than two hours on me.

    • March says:

      Lady Day became Untitled (I don’t know why but assume it was some sort of legal kerfuffle) and then was d/c’d. I think the issue was expense and sourcing rather than popularity, but don’t know for sure. I’ll ask when we visit the store. I may as well fess up here that I got a bottle. I, the sample whore with very, very few expensive bottles. I worked through my sample and decided I couldn’t live without it.

      We’ll definitely visit the store then, it sounds like fun.

  • Louise says:

    This is a line I know of very little, I am ashamed to say. I do like Black Rosette, and feel that the Aquarian might be my cuppa.

    I must give them a full, fair trial during Sniffa-time :d/

    • March says:

      If they got around to blooming on your skin you’d probably like them. I’ll look, I may have my samps from that first go-round still sitting here, and obviously I have these. The problem (I smelled them at Sniffa too) is, at least on me, they take awhile to get going. So I sniff the top, think hm, weird, and move on…

  • Elle says:

    Ugh! Just did damage to my shin kicking myself since Urban Lily is the only one of these I didn’t get unsniffed and now I read your mention of a honey/hay/beeswax accord. Clarion call! However, it was only available in edp and if it’s the base that thrills, I have to say I prefer the oils of these scents – in general, I far, far prefer the oils for this line. The Aquarian Rose, however, is making me very happy in just the edp form. It’s what I wanted the Prima Ballerina edp (yawn!) to be – a nicely interesting rose. It’s certainly quite wearable, though – not at all an eleven on a one to ten challenging scale like Black Rosette is (but I do adore BR). As you know, I’m a big fan of this line (I don’t love all of them, but she *never* leaves me bored) – and Heroine, L’Invisible, Tosca, Black Rosette and Vine are probably my faves. I wanted to love Musc Botanique, but am anosmic to the musk she used in it. SOB!

    • March says:

      Hm. I need to look at my samples. I’m not sure WHAT it is. It seemed so strong I assumed it was parfum, but maybe not? A very unusual transformation on Lily.

      If you’re anosmic to the Musc, that doesn’t bode well for me. 🙁

  • Lee says:

    Sigh. I find the music on their website a little menacing, but anyone who quotes Antony and Cleopatra is alright in my book.

    Now, will I ever revisit Venice CA? Just found out that an old college buddy now lives there, so it is possible, in theory at least… Even if the pound dollar situation says ‘Dude, you are totally unlikely to visit the States in the next four years, mimnimum. Get the frak over it.’

    • March says:

      That’s so funny! I always have the sound off on my computer because I startle easily :”> so I’d not even turned the volume on. Well, I hope you’ll visit us sometime, we’ll show you a good time! 😡

  • tmp00 says:

    Uh yeah, pumpkin, You’re going. C’mon, are you kidding? :d

    The thing that I don’t like about them is that the testers are all in the EDP/C while a lot of the scents are only sold in the highest concentration. For a while I would try something, like it, but have it gone too fast and think “not worth the money”. I’ve suggested that at least in the store they carry testers of the actual concentration of the sold product so when you’ve whittled it down to say three you could dab the stronger concentration and get the full effect.

    • March says:

      You could have just typed DUH.

      That’s interesting about the testers. That seems odd. I know the parfums are uber-expensive. But it’s their own store, not Saks. I’d want to try the parfum before I shelled out the dough.

  • violetnoir says:

    Definitely worth a visit when you get into LA. The staff is lovely and there are a few nice shops and places to eat in the neighborhood.


    • March says:

      Okay … okay … I guess somebody’s got to do it. 😉 The hours I put in on perfumery, I deserve a medal…