Second Sunday Samples: Out of nothing…


I first encountered Ex Nihilo at Sniffapalooza in 2015. The company provided a travel spray of Fleur Narcotique in a dark blue satin bag. I was intrigued by the perfume name and decided to explore the brand’s offering at Bergdorf Goodman (BG). The one that got me hooked was Sweet Morphine, no pun intended. At over $300 for a 100mL bottle of a perfume with poor longevity, I demurred from forking over the Benjamins; however, a kind and generous perfumista who used to comment on NST saw my perfume wish list comment and gave me a travel spray of Sweet Morphine!

Three years later, at the April 2018 Sniffapalooza event, I once again checked out the nicely appointed Ex Nihilo alcove at BG. The SA was very enthusiastic, knowledgeable and generous. Having received duplicates of a number of atomizer perfume samples, I asked Undina if she wanted to do another joint post, and so here we are!


With the number of new brands and new releases that appear every year, it is surprising when you do know about some niche company. If it weren’t for hajusuuri who offered me samples from Ex Nihilo to test and compare notes, I could have easily missed this brand.

I think for any brand it would be hard to leave up to the claims Ex Nihilo makes on their website: ”An alternative to stereotyped luxury products, an alternative to the mass personalisation.” And, in my opinion, they don’t. But, boy, aren’t they milking it while they can: in four years from the inception they’ve created more than 20 perfumes. And if the official composition is not to your liking, and you think that you can do it better than those more or less famous noses they’ve employed to create their luxury perfumes collection, in their Paris boutique you can “personalize” any of the perfumes by requesting to add some of the notes to it (using some super-complex equipment). And on top of that you can customize the bottle: for modest EUR 50 you can choose one of the three standard caps options, or, if money is no object, you can get jeweled models embellished with diamonds and sapphires or 24 carat gold.

But enough snarks, should we talk about perfumes? As I mentioned, there were four samples (in the alphabetical order): Amber Sky, Citizen X, Rose Hubris and Viper Green. Hajusuuri and I decided to do a double-blind test reporting: each one of us chose the order in which we’d present our impressions. Neither of us knows which impression from another reviewer goes with which perfume. We invite you to try to guess… anything. You can try to identify perfume(s) we described. Or match any two of the description to each other, even if you don’t know for which perfume we wrote those descriptions.


Ex Nihilo Perfumes



I tested these on my forearms and the first wearing was at least 3 hours long. I did not look at the notes during testing so my impressions were based on what I smelled.

Sample H1 – minty bug spray

Two Sea Stars

The top notes reminded me of bug spray but it evolved to soft greenish vetiver. In hindsight, the name of this perfume fits it rather well.

Sample H2 – fruity lipstick

Two Sea Stars

With its name, I was expecting rose to stand out. Instead, it was propped up by what smelled like violets and a sweet fruit.

Sample H3 – spicy amber

Two Sea Stars

Even if I didn’t know the name of this perfume, I immediately recognized amber with a big dose of incense. It was spicy and I detected a hint of cumin when I smelled my arm up close. The dry-down was a soft blur of vanilla and tonka. I would have rated this higher were it not for a persistent bitterness lurking in the background.

Sample H4 – bitter cleanser

One Sea Star

This one offended me. Not only did it start out smelling like some kind of cleaning fluid (like Lemon Pledge without the lemon), it was nearly impossible to scrub off. I gave it its 3-hour life on my skin but when I tried to wash it off with TechNu, a cleanser used to remove poison ivy oil, it stuck despite multiple washing.

Overall, while I would not spring for a full bottle of any of these, I wouldn’t say no to a travel spray of 2 out of 4 of these perfumes. Wouldn’t it be nice if the company gave consumers the option of choosing which perfumes to include in the travel spray set?


Sample U1

Two Sea Stars

This perfume doesn’t smell for me as its name sounds. There is some disturbing note in the opening, but a couple of hours into the development it gets better. It contains both a flower and a fruit that smells like that flower (at least some of its cultivars) – and still for my nose it doesn’t smell much of that flower; maybe if I imagine it as candied petals. On the positive side, it’s a warm scent. And I think it becomes very beautiful in its last phase on skin.

Sample U2

Two and Half Sea Stars

This perfume is true to one of the two words of its name. I like the opening: it reminds me of Tom Ford’s Vert Boheme. But it develops differently – more floral less woody, which I like less. Several hours into drydown I like it again: if I bring my wrist very close to nose, it reminds me a smell in a florist’s fridge: a lot of greenery and some mixed flowers. I wish I would like it more: the color of the juice is beautiful.

Sample U3

One Sea Star

This is the most masculine perfume out of the four I’ve tested. It starts harsh with something that brings to mind citrus – even though there’s nothing to that effect in notes. My vSO who rarely volunteers opinion on any of my perfumes – positive or negative – commented on actively disliking it in the opening the first time I tested it (I didn’t even ask!).

Sample U4

Two Sea Stars

Opens slightly sweet and overall traditional for perfume of this type but then develops dry and woody. It’s not masculine but definitely unisex. Pleasant enough but not spectacular if you already have 10 other perfumes in this genre. As with all samples from this brand that I’ve tried, drydown is probably the best phase for this perfume. Interestingly, it’s marked as Sold Out on the brand’s site.

Overall, none of these four rose even to strong “like” for me. Ex nihilo … nihil fit.


Rusty Sitting

Rusty believes that treats could come from nothing


Would you like to try these to see if your impressions would be different? Leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway for the set of my samples (they are more than half full; and I’ll add a couple more samples of something that I’ve recently tried and liked). The giveaway is open until 23:59 PDT on September 15th to anyone but you know risks with the overseas perfume packages. will be used to determine a winner.


Images: perfumes – from the brand’s site; Rusty – my own


44 thoughts on “Second Sunday Samples: Out of nothing…

  1. Undina,I ADORE your snark because I feel snarky at times myself with many of these high end niche brands. I too received a travel spray (10ml) from a generous NSTer of Sweet Morphine. I liked it enough to THUNK it within a week and a half in the dead of winter but not enough to seek out a full bottle even if the cost was lower.

    hajusuuri, I will guess that sample 1 is Viper Green, sample 2 is Rose Hubris, sample 3 is Amber Sky (the name and the notes make this one sound the most appealing to me) and sample 4 is Citizen X.

    I enjoyed this joint post and hope to see more in the future!


  2. What a fun post! Don’t include me in the draw, but I wanted to play, so here’s my guesses:
    hajusuuri #1 Viper Green; #2 Rose Hubris; #3 Amber Sky; #4 Citizen X
    Undina #1 Rose Hubris; #2 Viper Green; #3 Citizen X; #4 Amber Sky


      • No, never tried any. By your descriptions, I can tell that my feeling about them would be similar to yours and Undina’s, but, nonetheless, I enjoyed reading your reactions to each one and noting how similar your assessments are even though you both sniffed these independently from different sides of the country. (I note the latter, because sometimes weather and atmosphere can account for differences in how we smell things, but your summaries are very similar.) Great post!


        • I really had high hopes for this line, with the whimsical perfume names. My deepest disappointment was with Citizen X, thinking that it would live up to the aesthetics of Citizen Kane. In any case, you are right that weather could influence how one perceives perfume. I will say that I wore this primarily while ensconced in the comfort of my air-conditioned townhouse.


  3. Nihil fit – LOL!

    I think Rusty’s got it right. Despite not being a willing participant to pose for you, he still somehow gets treats when his admirers make a comment about him. In any case, it was a fun post to write. BTW, I was originally going to summarize Sample H3 as generic amber which would more closely match your assessment!

    Oh, and dear readers, there will be at least 2 winners. Did I mention that the SA was generous?


  4. This was fun! I’d love to play another game like this, even without the giveaway. Although I’d love to join this one. :)

    My guesses :
    H1 viper Green
    H2 rose hubris
    H3 amber sky
    H3 citizen x

    U1 rose hubris
    U2 viper green
    U3 citizen x
    U4 amber sky

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fun post to read! DNEM , I have enough samples to try at the moment. Frankly, I don’t think I would ever buy a perfume named Sweet Morphine. Just a feeling, and there’s so much else to buy, so I’ll skip this perfume house.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Getting to try this would involve buying samples and I try to not spend on samples unless it’s a classic or I’m really intrigued and wondering if I miss out on something full bottle worthy. With Amouage I’m still trying even if I’m not a fan of several notes often found in their perfumes, just because I find the perfumes and bottles so well crafted.


  6. DNEM but this was a fun game, and you both did a good job. Reminds me of the time I was asked to sniffed those blue and yellow labelled samples – Suzanne was involved and maybe also someone else? Climat was one of them. I still have those somewhere. Then by coincidence I found myself wearing an unknown sample vial today. I have a tray of unlabelled vials that were mostly attached to Les Senteurs or other cards and have become detached and anonymous. I just dipped my hand in the tray, and fetched one out with an orange-y juice. I couldn’t begin to tell you what this is, or even what it is like(!), except that it is rich and may have rose in it. ;) I am shockingly poor at describing things in a blind sniff


    • Hey Vanessa, it took a bit of self-discipline to look at the notes. Be that as it may, I no longer worry that I’ve identified a note incorrectly. The nose knows what it smells and my descriptions reflect what a I smell.


    • I remember that experiment. It was Climat vs Amouage Gold. The third participant was Natalie (APB). I still love and wear both.
      I feel extremely proud of myself when I recognize any note in perfume without reading it first. Sometimes when I smell something, then check notes for that perfume in my database and do not see it there, I go and re-check what Fragrantica lists now (since they update notes as time goes, and I might have the older set), and after that sometimes check other places – brands’ sites or Luckyscent.


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