Complicated Shadows by 4160 Tuesdays

Complicated Shadows, the eighth and final scent in the Clouds series, might just well be 4160 Tuesdays saving the best until last.

Listed notes

Narcissus, orris, oakmoss, vetiver, honeybush, sandalwood, cedar, frankincense.

Top notes

The twists and turns fragrances make to find their way into the 4160 Tuesdays collection are many and varied. Complicated Shadows is the eight fragrance in their Clouds series, but is itself a merging of two formulas first made in 2019: Thunderstorms and Stormy Mondays. Complicated Shadows is described as a slightly darker version than the others and completes this series of their work. You don’t need to know all that though to appreciate the scent for what it is: no less than one of 4160 Tuesdays best releases to date.

Complicated Shadows, which is named after the Elvis Costello and The Attractions song, opens with thin ribbons of a gentle, understated lemony citrus snaking and twisting together with an aromatic almost-green touch, perhaps vetiver, and a gentle floral tone. To take the cloud metaphor and namesake of the line, this would be rays of sunlight appearing from behind a very threatening thunderhead cloud. The darkness is in the form of the promise of rain, not yet released but yet definitely there, and it is conjured by the beautiful, earthy, damp orris. The orris seems to capture the tail of the vetiver which leads us down from the heavenly crepuscular rays of brightness, through the atmosphere and lands us right in the earth just as plump drops of rain start to fall.

Heart notes

This is no end-of-days apocalyptic storm though, just a summer shower. The gorgeous rootiness of the orris is lifted back up by the warmth of a particularly delightful and unctuous vanilla giving that sense of rain evaporating from warm summer earth and stones; rising heat. This specific phase of the scent I find especially gorgeous and the way the composition falls and rises is both satisfying and interesting.

There’s a sneaky aromatic portion to the heart of the fragrance too. The lovely hay-like, grassy vetiver seems to become a little more floral and spicy, perhaps from a touch of lavender, which again helps lead this exalted lift to the composition. We have tumbled down and now we rise again.

Complicated Shadows bottle and packaging

Base notes

Sweet vanilla, sinuous sandalwood and a musky frankincense form the base of Complicated Shadows. It’s pillowy soft but with some body, a memory-foam mattress of a base that you just want to sink into and surrender to. There’s a touch of something almost metallic lingering around like a damp teabag on the side of the sink – something familiar, but charged. It’s not unpleasant at all, but has that metallic tang over warm woodiness that a spent teabag can have. Perhaps it is a touch of electricity remaining from the rumbling storm as it passes over, but it gives a little frisson of excitement and tempers the vanilla, stopping it becoming too sweet or too obvious. The composition becomes slightly more powdery in tone towards the end of a wear, but it manages to walk a line between powdery and more burnished rather beautifully.

This spiking of the composition, and the glorious contrasts of citrus sunlight and orris shade, sandalwood liquidity and oakmossy powderiness, really give Complicated Shadows a lot of interest. Whilst it may be the darkest of the clouds compositions, it isn’t an unfriendly scent at all, instead there is something really hopeful and cheering about it, the rays of sunshine and warmth it contains feel so much brighter for being set against darker facets and in doing so they draw our attention.

I haven’t smelled all the Clouds series of scents, but I have smelled several of them and to my mind at least, Complicated Shadows is the best of what has been a strong collection of scents. If you can only smell one of this line, then do yourself a favour and start with this one. Complicated Shadows is 4160 Tuesdays at their complicated best.

The other stuff

The longevity of Complicated Shadows is great – lasting around eight to ten hours following application. It also trails or projects solidly, with the sillage going to handshake distance or further but it isn’t overbearing or cloying and so isn’t likely to annoy those in close proximity to you.

The perfumer for Complicated Shadows was Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays.

Complicated Shadows comes packaged in the 4160 Tuesdays recyclable cardboard presentation with no cellophane in sight. The bottles are refillable for a discount if you return them to the brand. Complicated Shadows is also vegan and cruelty free.

The brand

4160 Tuesdays are an eccentric and rogue British brand based in London. They do things differently to the norm, as all their fragrances are hand produced and bottled, assembled and packed from their small studio in the capital. 4160 Tuesdays do things in ways which please them (and their legion of fans and followers) so if you are new to the brand expect a sprawling line up, loads of references to other scents you might not have tried previously or which might now be discontinued, and general merriment. That said, you will also be getting a truly artisan, hand made product from a dedicated and passionate team, and in itself, that experience is worth its weight in gold.

If you’d like to know more about the brand you can always check out our interview with their founder, Sarah McCartney. Alternatively, listen to the podcast episode where I talk to Sarah about her fragrant life.

Buy it

Complicated Shadows was originally crowdfunded at half price before it was released in June 2021. Now that it is out, you can still buy bottles ahead of the general release but they are at the full price of £50 for 15ml EdP, £80 for 30ml EdP, £120 for 50ml or £195 for 100ml. More information on the 4160 Tuesdays web boutique.

I purchased a 15ml bottle of Complicated Shadows during the crowdfunding campaign at my own cost.

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