At first, I took Smell Bent for a joke. Who wouldn't? Those pun-laden perfume names; those cartoonish graphics, as puerile as ballpoint scrawlings on a bathroom wall... what else could it be but a juvenile prank?
It's not as though I lack a sense of humor. And I won't pretend the fragrance descriptions never aroused my interest. But like some hellish hybrid between BPAL, État Libre d'Orange, and the Jerky Boys, Smell Bent (as evidenced by its manner of merchandising) seems bent on one thing: making folks uncomfortable.
Consider the mission a success. Whenever a new Smell Bent collection appeared on NowSmellThis (every ten minutes, what?) I'd grit my teeth and inch that much further away. If Colleen (she of the wonderful blog Too Young to Know Better) hadn't sent me a passel of assorted SB samples, I honestly doubt I'd ever have pursued them myself.
Am I eating crow at this moment? Not precisely. But I might end up eating my hat.
The nine samples Colleen winged my way range from eyebrow-raising in the best possible sense to one so sickening I almost threw it against the wall. (I'll tell you which was which later this week.) Sunshine falls about in the middle of those two poles, so it seems like a good fragrance to kick off this week's scent explorations.
At first encounter, Sunshine smells exactly like Tang -- that strange multivitamin concoction that is supposed to taste like orange juice but carries a queasy, metallic... well, tang. Still, it's sweet (think Sunny D!) and vaguely healthy (think Flintstones Chewables!) and definitely designed for childlike appeal. Just when you think it's going to out-candy Anné Pliska, a meaty marjoram-like note sneaks in, followed by a bizarre (but incidentally quite successful) butterscotch accord. I think the latter may be the outer edge of the wall of sandalwood which dominates Sunshine's drydown. By the time it appears, I'm persuaded that I might -- MIGHT! -- be able to ignore those awful jokey names and crude clumsy doodles.
To be entirely free of them, I guess I could "untitle" these nine Smell Bent sample vials Chandler Burr-style-- to wit, strip them of their names, relabel them ('1', '2', etc.) and then confront them purely as SMELLS liberated from conceptual-marketing ballast. That might prove disappointing to SB's Brent Leonesio, who seems to sincerely want us to get the joke, even when the joke gets in the way of his own product. He's no comedian, that's for sure.
But if what I'm smelling is accurate, there might be a damned decent perfumer inside that clown costume.
Scent Elements: Blood orange, sandalwood, vanilla, incense, musk