Holy Grail Hunt: Dirt Perfume

4 Apr

Dirt probably sounds like a very strange note to include in a perfume. In fact, it’s not one I ever would have chosen originally–I stumbled upon it accidentally, and then fell head-over-heels in love. Something about the smell of earth on skin is like magic to me. And apparently to a lot of other people, because it pops up a lot in indie perfumes. Not as much as, say, rose or grass, and you have to do a little research to find the full range of dirt blends, but let me tell you–it’s worth the work! However, I’ve decided to share the fruits of my hunt with everyone to hopefully make it a bit easier for others on the same quest. Are you even a little bit interested in dirt notes? Well, there’s probably something in this post for you!

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Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

BPAL was my first encounter with dirt–and accidentally, with both Gingerbread Zombi and Death Cap. To this day they still have my favorite dirt note.

Shanghai Tunnel: (C13 exclusive, no listed notes) This is the smell of damp, green earth. Mud, moss, creeping vines. It’s very atmospheric and hard to pin down. The dirt here is wet wet wet, saturated with aquatic notes. Beth was going for “a wet puddle” with this blend and, yeah, it’s a wet puddle–if a wet puddle smelled really good. Hard to describe, also hard to hunt down, but well worth buying if you find a bottle for sale!

Death Cap: (A warm, soft, ruddy scent, earthy and mild) I impulse-bought this in an eBay auction because it was $5 and no one had placed a bid. While dirt might seem like it would be an earthy base note it’s actually a top note, and that comes through SO clearly here. The first whiff is pure dirt and it stays that way through the wet stage. It dries down to earth and incense, and then hours later it’s… vanilla! This is a totally weird and whacky dirt blend, and a great “beginner” dirt fragrance.

Gingerbread Zombi: (Gingerbread with dried roses, rose leaf, Spanish moss, oakmoss and deep brown earth) What can I even say about this one? Gingerbread Zombi is my life. I would bathe in this stuff. I’m so sad I only have one bottle. It’s like the most buttery, delicious gingerbread cookie tainted with dirt and moss. A cookie picked off the floor of an evil witch’s house. I can’t even with this scent I love it so much ugh I’d sell my firstborn child for a lifetime supply. It’s also proof that dirt notes go with everything, even gourmand blends.

Zombi: (dried roses, rose leaf, Spanish moss, oakmoss and deep brown earth) Zombi, sans the gingerbread! I have an imp and a decant of this because I am cheap and don’t want to spring for a bottle yet, but I probably will. Zombi is the quintessential “forest dirt” blend: leaves, moss, bark, dirt. Don’t be scared by the rose, it’s barely prominent! This is almost an “after the rain” blend, it’s strong and atmospheric and very wearer-friendly. Another good starting fragrance if you are scared of dirt notes.

Yorick (Grave dirt, bone, decay, angel’s trumpet, and moldering scraps of shroud: the essence of finality): Like dirt, but a little sad that the top-note power doesn’t last all day? Slap this bad boy on. Yorick is all dirt all the time. It’s very close to a dirt single note and fantastic for layering! Want to add some doom and gloom to your other scents? Layer some Yorick on top and you will be the best-smelling goth princess and/or prince in town.

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Fabled Fragrances

Zombie: (rain, linen, black musk, chypre, dirt, basement) This might be the “cleanest” dirt perfume I have. Soft sheets and rain darkened by a bit of dirt and that wet-concrete smell. It’s so unusual and very strange but addictive. Dirty and clean at the same time!

Grim Reaper: (fresh grass, galbanum, hyssop, black pepper, black musk, dirt): The opposite of Zombie, this is a down and dirty dirt perfume. No holding back here, this blend goes all out! Hints of pepper and musk back a VERY strong dirt topnote, and the grass really gives it an outdoorsy sense. Grim Reaper and Zombie really make excellent companion fragrances: if you’re super on the fence about dirt notes, I’d suggest getting the $5 sample size solids of both and seeing what side you fall on.

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Solstice Scents

Covered Bridge: (Woods, Moss, Leaves, Wood Smoke, Dirt, Ozone, Fir Absolute) Wood and dirt! This really does have a “covered bridge” kind of vibe going on. Old cedar planks, fresh dirt, a hint of smoke in the air. My aunt has a house in the mountains and this smell reminds me SO strongly of the land up there. It brings back wonderful memories for me and is one of my absolute favorite Solstice Scent blends. The dirt here is very tame, more of an undercurrent than a strong topnote: it’s the wood and fir that come to the forefront.

Cellar: (Damp Earth and Stone, Wooden Casks, Cool Fall Air, Crisp Apple, Pear and Broom Corn) I do not like fruit scents. At all. Yet somehow, dirt and fruit work really well together for me! Cellar smells like, well, a dirt and stone storage cellar: dirt is at the forefront, with notes of wet stone (how do you even get that in a perfume), apple and pear peels, and damp air. Even with the fruit this isn’t a “girlie” blend though, it’s very unisex. I find most dirt scents lean towards masculine, though (with the exception of gourmand and floral creations), so this could be a good choice if you don’t like cologne-type fragrances.

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Sideshow Soap Co.

Deadly Nightshade: (Lush tomato leaf, crushed basil and rich pepper vine rest on a bed of strangled cyclamen and loamy mulch) I love this blend SO MUCH. The tomato leaf is incredibly strong and fresh, with the dirt playing a backing note of earthy corruption. This is a super fresh, super natural-smelling blend. If you ran outside and rubbed a dirty tomato leaf on your wrist, it’d probably smell just like this. It’s fantastic.

Dreams in the Witch-House: (feral pumpkin, wild musks and smoky patchouli bubbles over thrice-turned earth and freshly-plucked herbs) Pumpkin and dirt! The patchouli and musk make this earthy even without the dirt, and this is a very dark and sinister fall scent. You get whiffs of the traditional “pumpkin pie” vibe but the dirt changes this from a kind of hippie-pumpkin vibe to something feral and magical. It’s based on a Lovecraft story, and I think that comes through loud and clear.

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Haus of Gloi

Ploughman: (Well worn leather, dirt n’ dandelions, carrot, a pinch of tobacco and a light sheen of feral skin musk) I reviewed this recently, so you probably know my thoughts on it. I LOVE IT. This is the most masculine-leaning of all my dirt blends, but dirt and leather is pretty much my dream combo. It’s funny, I went into indie perfume thinking I loved florals and sweet scents. Turns out I do like them, but I also love leather and dirt and musk and scents that smell like a day working on a hot field.

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VApothecary

Cemetery Snow: (Cemetary Dirt, White Patchouli lite, Sandalwood Musk and White Cedar Vanilla) This blend is magic. It’s dirt and… vanilla. Weird, and I thought it probably wouldn’t work, but it had dirt so my impulses overrode my brain and I am SO GLAD they did. This is a soft, sweet, ethereal dirt blend. Warm and cozy. It’s unlike any of the other ones in my collection, even Death Cap (which shares the vanilla quality, though VA’s vanilla is very different).

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Black Baccara

Boneyard: (Cloves, cedar, damp soil, and a whispered offering of violets and wildflowers make way for deep earth, oak moss, and an extinguished candle flame carried on the wind) This is not at all what I expected. It’s a super complex blend that does indeed smell like… well, it reminds me of a church during a funeral. Strong cloves and cedar with soft floral in the background, and only hints of dirt. I was really hoping for a clove + dirt blend straight up (which, thankfully, I can get by layering Yorick with Conjure’s Narcissus) but this is something entirely different. I don’t know if it’s even fair to classify it as a dirt scent because it’s not at all prominent, but that’s why I bought it so here it is! A not-quite-dirt dirt blend.

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One Hand Washes The Other

Se7en: (Damp, almost peppery, freshly-dug soil, rolls of sod, floral arrangements, Ferns, Woods, and an uninvited guest, watching from the outskirts) The soil is so, so wonderfully strong in this blend. OHWTO has a unique dirt note and it works perfectly with the pepper and green in this blend. It’s a fresh but sinister blend, perfect for its movie namesake.

Note on OHWTO: They have two other dirt blends I want to try, Dirty and Pumpkin Eater, but they’d overlap in tone with other blends on the list (Dirty with Yorick, Pumpkin Eater with Dreams in the Witch-House) so I left them out… for now. This post will need updating in the future, perhaps!

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Deep Midgnight

Gardens & Graves: (rose petals, vetiver, and a handful of fresh dirt) This is a wonderfully simple blend: roses and dirt. That’s pretty much it. Dirt and rose are both very strong notes and here they are in harmony, not competition. Vetiver makes for a smokey background, and overall I think this is a pretty feminine dirt blend–certainly the most girlie one on the list! It’s a great going-out blend: the rose catches people’s attention, the dirt and vetiver keep them sniffing. I need a full bottle asap, my little sample isn’t enough of this beauty.

So, that’s what I have found on my dirt perfume adventures… so far! I’m now on the hunt for a citrus dirt blend.

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11 Responses to “Holy Grail Hunt: Dirt Perfume”

  1. Michelle April 4, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    Lovely post! Your reviews are making me reconsider trying that dirt note again. ;)

    I’ve only ever had one perfume with dirt in it, and it was called “Earthworm” by Blooddrop. The description of it was “a very lush blend of sandalwood, earth, vanilla oleoresin, coffee beans, Arabian musk, labdanum, peru balsam, osmanthus, a tiny leaf of thyme and a wee sprig of coriander.”

    For some reason, when I tried it on my skin, it bloomed into the tremendous scent of… fertilizer. Poopy, stinky fertilizer. I had to sell it because I couldn’t stand it. :/ Hahaha

    • Leah Bayer April 4, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

      It’s definitely a dominant note, and I think it depends on the company a lot too… some of them seem more prominent and earthy (BPAL) while others have a “sweet” tone. I definitely think Cemetery Snow, Zombie, Zombi, and Gardens & Graves are the best “starter” ones since they’re so well balanced. Wood + dirt + musk = super earthy powerhouse. Though now I want to hunt down Earthworm, it sounds so good…

  2. Molly April 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    The Gardens & Graves, would that be DeepMidnightPerfumes on Etsy?

    • Leah Bayer April 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

      Yup, they’re on Etsy! The sampler packs are very cheap, and the owner always throws in an extra so it’s a good option if you’re not set on a full size ^^

  3. Christine April 17, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    Love the blog! For something a quite a bit more expensive, check out CB I Hate Perfume, which skews much more towards indie perfume and much less towards mainstream fragrance (the owner was the main nose for Demeter!).

    For dirt, they have Black March (http://cbihateperfume.com/shop/perfumes-a-to-z/402). Notes are as follows: A fresh clean scent composed of Rain Drops, Leaf Buds, Wet Twigs, Tree Sap, Bark, Mossy Earth and the faintest hint of Spring. Flower Bulbs as pretty and bright as rain drops on black twigs in March.

    To me, it smells completely like wet dirt after it rains, and it’s pretty melancholic! You can get samples at decant websites like Surrender to Chance. They’re quite fun. :)

    • Leah Bayer April 18, 2014 at 3:03 am #

      I have been DYING to try CB I Hate Perfume, he has a gallery in my city that I plan on visiting eventually. Quite a few of the blends have dirt notes, so I plan on saving up before I make a trip so I can buy to my heart’s content!

  4. ray davis October 1, 2017 at 11:26 pm #

    I would like to purchase some od your diet perfume. Please contact me thru email.

  5. Winford Nassar January 11, 2019 at 5:02 am #

    Would you be desirous about exchanging links?

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