Perfume Pen Pals: Kerosene / Black Vines


I know nothing about most occupations but here's how I imagine roller coaster architects work: they draw up dozens of plans for coasters that are never built because the designs are so unruly, almost every rider would get sick. Eventually, the plans are meticulously reigned in and, because of this, these architects surely see their finished coasters as a compromise.

I bet they even keep early designs out of sentiment: drawings of rides with grueling turns, nauseating drops, seven...nine...eleven consecutive loops, along with the faces of terrified children sketched into the seats, eyes bulging, mouths agape. The most mischievous designers probably even draw in a little puke.

Kerosene Black Vines is the eleven-loop roller coaster of perfume. It's brilliant. And sickening. It's like the perfumer accidentally sent out his first formula, the one he was supposed to keep in his cabinet as an example of what he'd create if this stupid world were a more daring and courageous place.

At first, it's impossible to get any sense of Black Vines outside of its licoriceness. It's very, very licorice-y. If you can imagine living in a house that's made entirely of rich black licorice, and the house sits in the middle of the desert where the sun bakes down on the licorice roof and the licorice aroma just hangs heavy in the hot air (apparently the licorice house has no windows...who builds a licorice house in the desert with no windows?), forcing you to inhale hot licorice until you're tempted to stop breathing altogether, then you can imagine Black Vines. It's a towering monument to licorice.

Licorice building materials.

The fragrance eventually softens — at last, a window! — though much less and much later than you'd expect. (After fifteen minutes I was so overwhelmed and, frankly, emotional, I wanted to find the perfumer and give him a long, hard hug.) Gradually it turns sweeter, like licorice incense, and lasts for hours on the skin until it starts feeling like a licorice scent tattoo.

Black Vines creator Kerosene braces himself for a long, hard hug.

Black Vines is challenging to wear, especially if you consider the feelings of those around you and recognize that not everyone loves licorice. One spray and, bam, you've oversprayed. Go lightly so only a tiny bit of perfume trickles out and, bam, you've oversprayed again. Just thinking about wearing Black Vines probably constitutes an overspray.

Black Vines is great but it doesn't follow the ordinary perfume parameters. It's a cabinet perfume. Because cabinets have strong stomachs, KP, and they don't get sick.


Roller coaster kids via


  1. Oh Byron, the next time I mess something up in a big way (looks at watch), I want a pep talk from you.

    My reaction to some of the Kerosene fragrances is similar to yours, but Black Vines is different, if only because I have a big bias for licorice. Whatever weaknesses I perceive in Kerosene's style suddenly become strengths when he's working with licorice, which is my weakness.

    If I were art directing a licorice perfume, I'd keep saying, "More licorice. More licorice! MORE LICORICE!" And I'd probably end up with something like Black Vines. So I'm grateful, to Kerosene and also to you, Byron. Seriously, before the week's over, I'm going to need you to mention my "quiet elegance" as well. (Lie if you must.)

  2. Dan, you crack me up!

    1. I should have signed that...

      Jo (Sis o'Katie)

    2. Thanks Jo!

      I hope it doesn't look too obvious when I get one of my sisters to say something nice under Katie's next post.

  3. Hi Dan,

    Sorry, I'm not as eloquent and peppy as Anonymous above, but since you asked for it, here it is:

    There is a definite elegance about your blog entries, even though I would necessarily call it "quiet"... Au contraire, it usually makes me cry out loud with laughter because you are hilarious!

    Thanks for making my day (again). And to tune into the eulogy above once more:
    God MUST have an odd sense of humour, so I bet he can't wait to read YOUR blogs!!!

  4. I love it when Dan posts stuff, Pen Pal letters or just comments. And no, I'm not as eloquent as Lord Byron, either. Dan has made me obsess over licorice stuff. Fortunately, down the street we have not one, but TWO Italian markets. Everything has either fennel or anise, it rocks.

  5. Ms. Bradshaw: I have read your comments for years. They are EXQUISITE!!!~ You and Katie are definitely kindred spirits. Please do not ever stop with your insightful input. It benefits us all. Thank you, dear.


  6. Studly Dan: You are AWESOME!!!!!~ Enough said.



  7. Dan! how does this relate to Undergreen Black or something like MFK Oud Cashmere Mood? The resins in that are vaguely-licorishish.....

    1. Stefush! Apologies for the delayed reply. And also for the useless reply, because I haven't smelled either of the fragrances you mention. (Though I will now.) But I suspect they're more complex than Black Vines, which is basically a powerful perfume replication of the scent of licorice. If you don't like licorice, you'll hate it, and if you do like licorice, you might also hate it because, wow, it's just so much licorice. I, on the other hand, love it.

  8. I am so confused after reading this review and comments... mostly because I see a pattern unravel. My perception of Kerosene perfumes is usually the total opposite of what every body else smells. John sent me a sample of Black Vines warning me that I shouldn't touch it if I don't like licorice. I love licorice so I sprayed with abandon. Well, licorice is there but I can't say that this is the only thing I smell. I smell mostly apple and spices. In fact I haven't reviewed it yet because every time I read a review of this I think I am hallucinating. Nothing like what it smells to me....

    And to make things worse, I think his perfumes are extremely developing. Granted they have weird openings. But then they change so much and the development lasts for hours.. I really don't know why I have such a different reaction to them. My favorite is Creature which ends up smelling like the classic green Jacomo Silences on my skin.

    Help me! Am I smelling dead perfumes?

    1. Sometimes I think that I must have some alien nose, too. A lot of people say that Agent Provocateur smells of roses, but mostly what I smell is apricots and suede, which most people don't mention at all.

  9. Katie, where are you? Missing your reviews and banter with Dan so much. I do hope all is well.