Just Call Her Scary Spice: Black Widow Perfume
If I had to choose just one family/type of perfume to wear, it would probably be florals. Until relatively recently I did not own anything that was entirely free of floral essences. I have always associated spice-based perfumes with Oriental blends that are far too sweet, or Old Spice for men, which is enough to put anyone off spicy scents for life. However, after reading a couple of favorable reviews of this 2004 release, I decided I wanted to try it. I was debating as to whether to purchase it or not (it is very affordable) when I happened to run across a contest on a perfume blog to win a full bottle of Black Widow Perfume! I got lucky and my name was drawn, and shortly thereafter it arrived. Now I had two ounces of the stuff whether I liked it or not.
I was intrigued even before I opened the bottle itself, for as I folded back the wrappings in the box a lovely aroma greeted me, one of my very favorite smells in the world: nutmeg. This accord is most often found in men’s fragrances, where strong woods and hefty musks usually overwhelm it, but here it was coming out of a feminine fragrance bottle. At last, a nutmeg scent for girls!
Encouraged by this development, I opened the bottle and applied a little spray. A burst of clove and a little spurt of citrus punched into the air emphatically, followed by a somewhat dry cinnamon note. Underlying these and waiting to be warmed up by contact with skin was the gentler heart of delicious nutmeg. Before it begins to soften a bit there is a somewhat bracing feel to the scent due to the generous clove content, but it’s never overwhelming. The marketing copy for this fragrance claims that it resembles YSL Opium. It does, up to a point, but there is no discernible wood in this one, and certainly no floral notes or the insistent animalic musks found in Opium, though there is a warm musky heart note as it develops. This baby is all about the spice and there is not a blossom to be found. It lacks the refinement of the iconic classic as well, as it is quite a simple composition. This is not necessarily a criticism. For one thing, it is not too sweet, which is what I most feared. It is really nothing but spices and musk, but the notes smell very natural to me. According to the Web site, the ingredients are all natural, though the full details of what it is actually made of are not given. The site is scanty on information but it’s worth it if only to check out the Slogans page, where people have sent in their ideas for catchphrases with a spider theme. My personal favorite: “What you do with your prey is your business.”
When Opium was first released I liked it a lot but I did not feel that I could wear it as it was very grown-up and sultry. I was very young then, I had had an older sister who latched onto it and wore it for a few years, so I did not want to be a copycat, and the bold scent was much better suited to her personality anyway. Well, now we are both old enough to wear whatever we want, and I decided that she could not, after all, keep Habanita by Molinard and Jean Patou’s Colony to herself either if I could help it. I find that Black Widow does have the somewhat dizzying spices of Opium but in a more approachable way. It is not at all heavy-handed once the opening notes have subsided.
This “perfume” is actually cologne strength, but that’s plenty. It lasts me all day and stays true the entire time. After the initial high notes the scent is very consistent. There is a moment near the beginning when those who do not like clove might have a flashback of eating a holiday dinner featuring a clove-studded ham with a sweet glaze and accidentally biting into one of the whole cloves, resulting in a full-on head rush, but it passes quickly. It did not remind me of Old Spice, as it is not nearly as sweet and does not possess that oddly rummy character that clings to wearers of this mystifyingly popular men’s standby. I always suspected that Old Spice was something men splashed on when they wanted to cover up the fact that they had been drinking, but later I found out that the weird booziness is built right into it. (Of course, if you put on enough of that stuff you could disguise having drunk absinthe with an anisette chaser, but I digress.)
Bottom line: I really like this fragrance, as simple and humble as it is. It only costs $25 for a 2-ounce bottle and it is available at Henri Bendel as well as from its own site. I never thought I would fall for something that has not a single petal or blossom in it, but I have found a few others like that recently and I am learning of more all the time. Maybe it’s that the nutmeg reminds me of the fabulous fried doughnuts my great-aunt used to make for us – to this day I maintain that no better doughnut has ever been made by anyone. That said, it’s not really a “foody” scent and does not smell like a bottle of baking extract. It’s sexy and comforting at the same time and very easy to wear. Now that winter is at hand I can look forward to wearing it a lot, and certainly for any holiday parties and other special occasions of the season. It would be hard to think of another scent that retails for such a reasonable price yet does not smell cheap or artificial. That alone endears it to my thrifty Yankee heart.
Image credits: Black Widow Barbie from artonyou.com’s Demonic Dolls Series. (No, really.)
Black Widow Perfume bottle from black-widow.net.