Test Fest: Blackbird Ballard

It’s been a bit since the last test fest, but finally the perfect opportunity came up. My friend Alice recently bought a set of eight testers from Blackbird Ballard. Based out of Seattle, Blackbird’s line of perfumes, incense and other apothecary-type items are an offshoot of their (now defunct) menswear shop. Their scents are nontraditional, unique and often unisex, which is right up my alley. I decided to take a break from Byredo's Mojave Ghost for the day and test them out with Alice to see what they conjured up. Aside from Moto Oud, which was the first to pique her interest and how she found Blackbird, we didn’t read any of the descriptions until after we’d tested them out. From a rich hippie's house to juniper and money, read on for our impressions and hop over to their site where they are having a factory seconds sale (word has it these sell out fast).


A: Oh! Smells good. Kinda dude-y.

J: Mmhmmm. Musky but syrupy.

(sprayed on A’s arm)

A: Oh, this smells like really nice incense that doesn’t smell like patchouli. Like an extraordinarily rich hippie’s house.

J: Deeply flowery in a way. Like that Chakra perfume I gave you. There’s something kind of honey-y about it, like cologne for women.

Pipe Bomb

J: Smells like metal. Metal with a flower growing near it.

A: Agree. Flowery metal.

J: Perfect for someone really girly who likes heavy metal.

A: It’s perfectly androgynous. I could see a dude who doesn’t mind smelling like flowers or a girl who doesn’t mind smelling like metal wearing it. I don’t believe in room freshener, but this could be a good room freshener.

(sprayed on J’s arm)

J: Whoa, it’s a lot stronger. Smells like something I remember, like something from my childhood. It smells like the inside of a cedar box I had as a child!

A: Yes. It smells like cedar shavings, like in a hamster cage.


A: This is smoky without being heavy. It’s a little more like lighter fluid than actual smoke.

J: I can barely smell it. Let’s come back to this one. I just painted my nails and I think I’m smelling that more.

(sprayed on A’s arm)

A: I’m still getting lighter fluid.

J: It’s a woody scent like Pipe Bomb but much warmer. Like a tree mixed with an older woman’s perfume, in a good way.


A: This smells really strongly like something I can’t put my finger on. Redwood trees? Cedar? Some kind of evergreen.

J: Possibly Juniper. Definitely tree-y.

(sprayed on back of A’s hand)

J: This one smells woody too! They all smell woody, but they have totally different characters.

A: They’re all very Pacific Northwest. Like this one is a higher, sharper evergreen than Pipe Bomb [Ed. note: A spent childhood summers on Whidbey Island, knows what she's talking about].


A: Straight up Juniper. Juniper and money. Like when you get a really fresh bill, and you smell it and you’re like “Ahh, money.”

J: Dusty juniper. Yeah, it smells like you’ve been outside. You can smell dirt in it. Really earthy.

A: I would totally also enjoy a house that smelled like this.

A: This is the sweetest smelling one so far. Fruitier than anything else.

J: It smells like pears.

A: Fruit that’s super clean. Like, there’s no syrupiness, it’s a clean sweetness. 

(sprayed on J’s wrist)

J: It smells like alcohol! It smells like a stiff drink. Like an eau de vie. Calvados? Brandy?

A: Straight-up pear eau de vie.

J: This one smells almost minty. It smells like a tree like the other ones. Like a tree that’s been infused with peppermint.

A: Oh yeah, definitely herbal. Like a weird German lotion that’s therapeutic on some level. 

J: Like something they’d apply to you at a public European bath?

A: Yes, medicinal almost, in a Swiss German way. Ricola??

A: It smells like metal and a fire, so they nailed what they were shooting for. It’s one of the strongest smells. 

J: Oh yeah. You smell this one right away. It’s very masculine.

A: Maybe a little leather? 

J: Yes.

(sprayed on J’s hand)

J: The most interesting because it doesn’t smell like a tree. It smells like something else altogether. It’s not a natural, botanical smell.

Final Verdicts

A: I actually quite like all of them. They’re very Pacific Northwest. If I were to buy one, Moto Oud is the most distinctive, and I feel like Iroko is one of the most approachable and just a nice smell. I can really see buying one and using it like a different scent if you wanted to change it up one evening.

J: I’m really surprised at how they can all smell like trees but smell totally different. They’re all very strong at first and I’m interested to see how they’ll mellow out. I think it will really change their character. I don’t know if any would be my signature scent, but like you said, good for when you want to try on a different scent from time to time.