Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Black Widow: fragrance review (in time for Halloween) & draw!

"Bob Rafelson's Black Widow with its good, flashy star-performances by Debra Winger and Theresa Russell, comes on with the seductiveness of an expensive perfume that inevitably evaporates before the night is over". When the New York Times critic gives you the opening line on a perfume review, you know it's one that has baggage attached. Black Widow ,the fragrance, has a name that might induce mirth, sarcasm or slight apprehension and would fit Halloween's fragrance choice to a T.
A while ago I was contacted by a small brand, Small Wolrd LLC who generously provided a bottle of the fragrance for me to test. (Which was a first!) I assume they went the same route with other bloggers as well, regardless of whether it was inferred or not. I don't flatter myself that I was the only one; decency dictates mentioning it.

Black Widow came with zero expectations, exactly because I was oblivious to its existence. A look at their site revealed a playful page full of catchy slogans, such as "What You Do With Your Prey is Your Business" or "At Least He Went With a Smile On His Face", which really made my evening.
To me nevertheless it is Bob Rafelson's 80s neo-noir that came to mind in a Nescafe-dissolving-in-a-styrofoam-cup kind of way: that is, instantly!

In the homonymous film
"The villain [...] is Catherine (Theresa Russell), beautiful, charming and intelligent woman that seduces and marries a whole bunch of wealthy men only to have them mysteriously die few months later. After collecting inheritance money, she disappears, takes new identity and begins her deadly scheme all over again. Her modus operandi, however, brings the attention of Alexandra Barnes (Debra Winger), workaholic Justice Department investigator. After obsessively tracking down Catherine all over the country, Alexandra finally reaches her at Hawaii. Catherine there wants to pull the same stunt on Paul (Sami Frey), local tycoon. Knowing that she would have to catch Catherine red handed, Alexandra meets her and tries to strike a friendship, not knowing that Catherine has some suspicions too."
(synopsis by Dragan Antulov (1988))

Forget the big shoulder-pads on bright-coloured garments and the at-times-bouffant hair, this was a seriously entertaining neo-noir with a slightly hinted-at lesbian flair which differentiated it from most of the run of the mill productions. It even featured cult cameos by Dennis Hopper, Diane Ladd and Nicol Wiliamson! And if it missed by a shot, sumbitting to the mania for ethical endings, what the heck, it was a fun evening watch.
In one memorable scene, Alex offers a wedding gift to Catherine: a black widow jeweled brooch. And we see Theresa Russell's face smirk both seductively and diabolically as she slowly says: "Black Widow; she mates and she kills. The question is: does she love? It's impossible to answer that unless you live in her world. {she pauses}. Such an intriguing gift..." And then, bang! all the homoeroticism that was latent manifests itself as she grabs Alex by the back of her neck and kisses her violently on the mouth.

Black Widow is a fragrance that could have been chosen by Catherine to prey on her wealthy victims as well as charm women who are on her pursuit. Saturated with spice, it opens up on an intense peppery accent that catches your attention like a razor blade touching your throat. It stays there poised for a while, mixed with a little hesperidic touch, until a cascade of rich, smoky clove weaves itself into the trap laid for the unsuspecting victim: you!
Clove is such an underappreciated note, mostly because of associations with medical appointments involving root canals. But moi, who has never had the need for one, can appreciate it for its qualities beyond: those embryo seeds of Eugenia caryophyllata , full of natural eugenol and caryophylenne, that grows abundantly in Zanzibar are unctuous and lustful for moisture, with a tinge of the sweet in them. In food products, such as biscuits, the aroma is replicated by 1-Acetoxy-2-methoxy-4-propenyl benzene.
Here, in Black Widow, you can appreciate the natural clove essence, as the fragrance is purpotedly made up by naturals, which comes nifty if one considers the aromatheurapeutical benefits of such aphrodisiac essences.
It is this phenolic scent that dominates the heart of the perfume, alternating the sweet with the dry accents throughout as it marries with rich amber, sucking on it vampirically. Other spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg also surface, albeit less prominently, on hair that shines like spiderwebs; and they weave a sexy spell from which the soft, slightly powdery silk of the trully lasting drydown cannot escape unscathed.

The official information provided on the site runs thus:

Black Widow is made from all natural essential oils.
Black Widow is a sweet and spicy oriental
with a rich amber scent, top notes of citrus,
and middle notes of musk and spice, including
cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.
We realize it is hard to describe a perfume with words so we hope it helpsto say that Black Widow resembles a fresher updated version of Opium.

I believe that the comparison with Opium is perhaps unjust, as it places Black Widow on the shadow, not appreciated for what it is; especially given the fact that it lacks the orange-mandarin aspect of the former and its intense floral-woody accord, concentrating instead on the natural spices and the ambery base. However, if you like spicy orientals such as Black Widow is not a bad scent to start your seduction ploys with. And "Oh! what a tangled web you will weave". Until a Federal Investigator catches you, that is...

Black Widow comes as a lasting Cologne Spray in simple, round black bottles of 60ml/2oz in a black box nand can be ordered directly from the Black Widow site here and also from Henri Bendel NYC, Heebee Jeebees in Colorado Springs and the Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood (so you know it has something going on for it! *wink*)

Please note that shipping costs to Europe or overseas might be a little different than those stated for the US.

Since we have such an abundance of the fragrance at our disposal, I am offering samples to readers who comment and a lucky draw for a decant of it to one lucky winner!

Poster of the film through impawards.com


  1. Anonymous12:10

    Dear Helg,
    as everytime you have provided a select example of your cinematic and perfume-related knowledge! :-)
    Black widow sounds perfect for not only an 'eerie eve' but also for a romantic autumn's walk! As i am a decided lover of clove i would love to take part in the lucky draw. And i HAVE to rent the film!!

  2. Oooh !
    The movie was on, just last week..
    Lots of fun.

    I'd love to try this...
    I'm not askeerd of no clove, ma'am !

  3. Dear Nina,

    thank you for your kind words :-)
    I think you might like this one, it's quite likeable and of course you're in for the lucky draw!

    The film is very fun too, in an 80s sort of way.
    I am a dedicated Theresa Russell fan, in case I haven't mentioned it.

  4. Dear I,

    how could I leave you without a dosage of this seductive clove-y potion? I will send a sample for sure and you're in for the draw on the decant too!

    Uncanny that I mention the film when in fact it had been on so recently! *eerie music at the background*
    Glad you enjoyed the film as well. Lots of little things to dissect there, weren't there?

  5. Anonymous15:03

    wow - when i began to read this post, i thought for sure the perfume would be a big tacky mess. but it sounds like it smells great! i even like the odd bottle! hope i get a sample...for dark nights!

  6. I completely forgot about this movie even though I loved it. I'm a huge Theresa Russell fan also. Going off to rent it.

    Would love a sample! Thanks.

  7. Anonymous15:58

    I have not seen the movie yet,but it's going on my list,I'm always looking for good movies to share with my girls(three grown daughters).
    I do LOVE that bottle.

  8. Dear hausvonstone,

    welcome! please mail me (perfumeshrine at yahoo dot com) with an addy so I can send a sample!

  9. Iris, you will have fun with both film and scent! I am sending a sample along. :-)

  10. Judith, it's precious to share with one's kids.
    Please mail me with an addy so I can send one your way. Thanks!

  11. Anonymous19:20

    sounds interesting - Opium is one of my all time favourites so I just might like this. But the bottle gives me a jolt - as a child, we used to summer in a desert climate where we were warned to watch out for the red hourglass spiders! We did see a few and there was a certain macabre fascination to watching one.

  12. sounds interestingly creepy(the Movie)
    sounds rather interesting as a scent too . . .G

  13. I remember the movie and have been curious about the scent for a while now, despite the name. The weather is making spice and clove very appealing.

  14. Kim,
    of course this is not Opium, so please don't feel cheated if you try it out and find it different.
    It's quite good, though.

    I haven't seen such spiders, so no bad associations for me with arachnoids :-)

  15. Dear G,
    I think both are worth a look!
    Hope you enjoy and sending you a sample pronto.

  16. G, dear, that goes to show that you had been more au courant than I had been! I had never ever heard of the scent before.
    But it was nice discovering it and just in time for the colder weather which brings its warming qualities out admirably.

  17. Anonymous10:55

    First I must say that I found your blog just recently, and I'm very impressed by al the time you must spend, and all research do, to be able to write such interesting and "learned" reviews. It is impressive how you show judgement s of taste is also possible when it comes to smell, the "lowest" of senses; but so important!
    You inspirered by both to rent the film, and to try this perfume. The bottle in itself is very tempting! :-) Would be very nice to receive a sample

  18. Anonymous14:18

    Sounds interesting, but unfortunately, I'll have to pass - clove smells great per se, but like a hundred years of dust and dirt once it hits my skin....

  19. Dear Stella,
    welcome to Perfume Shrine! I am honoured that you find it worthwhile and it has pleased you so much. You flatter me! :-)

    Please mail me (perfumeshrine at yahoo dot com) with an address so I can send a sample. Hope you enjoy it!

  20. Dear Z,
    too bad....but never mind, there are so many, myriads, millions of other things out. One less to worry about.

  21. Anonymous12:27

    As an amateur perfumer I know how hard it is to successfully work with clove oil. Eugenol is easier.
    If this fragrance is all naturals, I'd love to experience how they did it.
    I love the bottle... we have a pile of red-back spiders in the shed that have the same red marking (I'm in Australia).

    Thanks for the great blog,

    Mark mark42@tpg.com.au

  22. Mark, you're very welcome and thanks for the compliments. It's always great to see readership from all around the world, Perfume Shrine is very cosmopolitan.

    I am mailing you.

  23. Anonymous17:41

    Sweet & Spicy - your discription is hard to resist!! Love Clove and I loved that movie. Just found your blog a few weeks ago and read it every day. Thank you for the wonderful reviews. I would love a sample of black widow.

  24. Dear Joan E,

    it's never too late, I guess! :-))
    Seriously, thank you for your most kind words and hope I won't disappoint.
    Please mail me at perfumeshrine at yahoo dot com with an address.

  25. Anonymous00:54


    1. Hope someone replies with an offer for some, then.

  26. Anonymous21:50

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  27. Please, I would be forever grateful if you still have a bottle left. I would be happy to pay for it. I have been searching for years, to find this again. I was heart broken when the site went down. Please feel free to contact me at Gypsyxwild@Gmail.com

    1. Wish I still had some!! Hope someone contacts you with an offer though!

  28. Anonymous14:03

    Sounds like a fabulous scent for the autumn and winter. I love spices in my parfum.


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