Perfume Reviews

Reviews by BurgundyMarsh

Total Reviews: 9

McGraw Southern Blend by Tim McGraw

Despite the dreadful marketing and hideous packaging, this is really quite nice. An interesting and sophisticated (in a Country Western way) dominant note of bourbon and sweet tobacco over classic, masculine underpinnings of vetiver, lavender, and amber. The balance is excellent and the materials are of good quality. The net result is pleasing with some distinction and originality and just a bit of an edge. Excellent longevity as well.

Like most celebrity fragrances, McGraw is really a Coty product. It is worth noting that Coty, a huge, well-managed company that still bears the name of the greatest and richest perfumer of all time, is probably unsurpassed in turning out decent product at a reasonable price and can afford to take a few risks now and then (Davidoff is another Coty brand). Coty didn't get successful by accident. Too bad snobbish prejudices cause many to remain ignorant of its better efforts.

02nd August, 2012

Tabac Original by Mäurer & Wirtz

(Review for a recently-purchsed 300 ml. bottle of the EdeC version)

Contrary to what some of the reviews here say, this fragrance has a very prominent tobacco accord, only it isn't the smokey, ashtray note in Guerlain Vetiver and other tobacco scents. Instead it is the warm, slightly sweet smell of an old-fashioned tobacconist's shop, where the smell of pipe tobacco in glass jars, cigars, and turkish cigarettes, blends with old varnished paneling, waxed wooden floors, shoe leather, brass polish, and damp wool. It particularly reminds me of a brand of cherry-flavored tobacco my father smoked years ago.

Aside from the brass polish and wax hints, I find nothing particularly soapy, harsh, or cheap in Tabac Original: just a pleasant, unobtrusive reminder of what men smelled like before the 1960s. These is something like an overcast October afternoon in this.
30th May, 2012

Eau de Iceberg pour Homme by Iceberg

I bought this as a blind buy based on some Basenotes chatter. Had I read the reviews of other Iceberg efforts then, I probably wouldn't have bothered. I don't know of another "house" (actually Iceberg is apparently a trademark of the ominous-sounding "Perfume Holding-Paris" and this fragrance is made in Italy) that has gotten more one-star reviews at outright pans (see Luca Turin's one-liners, for example).

THIS, however, is delightful--- the light, clean feel of a sports scent without the sharp, metallic edges or dumbed down notes. It goes on very light indeed, with a wispy smile of bergamot-citrus. Half an hour later it wafts back with a flourish of vetiver and a touch of tart-sweet over musk in the base. It seems so subtle, impish, and clever that, given the lead hand reputation of Iceberg, you wonder if it wasn't a happy accident. It is soft and modest, not a "statement" fragrance by any means, but oddly persistent. Reminds me of Ariel, Puck, and all those light-footed charmers in Shakespeare.

Both the materials and the composition seem of high quality, which, given the dirt cheapness of the fragrance, is especially remarkable. Great for a summer morning.
07th May, 2012 (last edited: 10th July, 2012)
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parfums*PARFUMS Series 3 Incense: Avignon by Comme des Garçons

Wow, what a knock out this is! This was a blind buy and the previous reviews describe it exactly. It is the perfect evocation of a high mass.

For some Catholics and High Church Episcopalians, the association may be too exact for comfort. It is so exactly the smell of a old paneled vestry or a well-aged sanctuary a hour after a service. But for someone like me, who has a love of the medieval Church and has spent many hours tramping through the ancient churches and cathedrals of Europe, it is an absolute delight. It is also well named: for me, this is not the gloom of a Gothic revival pile in a horror film but the charm of a warm, sunny, brick-built medieval town in the south of France.

As some have mentioned, versatility just might be an issue. I keep thinking people will think I am a priest out of uniform, especially as I tend to wear black. As with Black Orchid and M7, you have to think a bit before putting this one on. But it is very rich, linear, powerful, and all-encompassing, already, I assume, one of the classics.
04th April, 2012

Bois du Portugal by Creed

I really enjoy Bois de Portugal. I find it has a reserved, sublime elegance with just a touch of the Byronic. It makes me think of Beethoven, especially the famous Allegretto movement of the Seventh Symphony.

I do not get any of the mustiness or heaviness others note with this fragrance (no crying babies, no irate girlfriends). In fact, it seems quite light to me, delicate spices over a warm, gentle musk. Not even the opening comes off harsh. I'm tall and well built and have very fair skin that seems to take fragrance lightly so that might have something to do with it. The strongly masculine, old school fragrances seem to work very well for me, better than the lighter ones.

As an experiment, I dosed pretty heavily today, six sprays, before going out. Nothing but smiles and friendliness all over town, not an especially fragrance-friendly place, a reaction similar to what I get with Tom Ford for Men. I also got decent longevity.

As others have noticed, a positive Bois de Portugal experience may be unusually dependent on body chemistry. So definitely wear it on your skin for a day before investing heavily as this is Creed-level pricing. But for those it likes, I think this is one of the greats.
15th March, 2012

Yatagan by Caron

I think this one is wonderful.

I am always charmed by reviews that describe a fragrance as a narrative, although, except in the case of a personal memory, I usually don’t take them very seriously. There seem to be some distinct plot elements lurking around Yatagan, however, perhaps cribbed from a half-finished D.H. Lawrence novel, left behind in New Mexico. There’s definitely a game keeper or a gardner in there, muscles, some kind of hard, physical labor like woodchopping or dry stone masonry, a solitary walk in cold air.

For some reason, I always get a surprising blast of chocolate when I put this on. Is this the wormwood reacting with the alcohol? At any rate, it is gone in a few seconds, to be replaced by a rambling odor of gently rotting vegetation-- forest floor, vegetable stand, or well-kept greenhouse-- not at all unpleasant to my nose. Gradually, the pine creeps in as the aroma of fresh-cut timber in a workshop or mill. You can almost catch the slightly sharp smell a well-aged pine plank gives off when it is cut by a circular saw.

Eventually, all this settles down to a smoky-piney scent, as if you had been sitting for hours in front of an open fire in an otherwise darkened room. Above it all is a sense of cold, clear, dry air.

Where I live in Northern New England, the scent of Eastern White Pine pitch is everywhere. Despite its inherent Frenchness, Yatagan seems right at home here. It makes you smell as if you just came in from a day on the slopes. It may be too wild or countrified for city use, though. (Terre de Hermes is a related scent that strikes me as more urban, or, at least horsey-suburban.) Wear Yatagan, then, when you need a little adventure and have nothing else to tie you down to civilization.

The House of Caron seems to have a typically Parisian off-centeredness that does not fit any of the Anglophone stereotypes of France or things French. This might leave many Americans without a reference point to place this profound, imaginative fragrance-- which would be too bad, as to me Yatagan is a terrific experience every time we meet.
03rd March, 2012

Tom Ford Extreme by Tom Ford

Having tested both Tom Ford for Men and Tom Ford Extreme, I'm going to commit heresy here and say I like TFM better. What's the problem with Extreme? As the Emperor said to Mozart: "Too many notes, my dear Wolfgang, too many notes."

Extreme reminds me of an acquaintance who accosts you at a party, name drops for a few minutes while you can't get a word in edgeways, and wanders off when he spots someone more important. It's just too much about the scent and not about you.

My favorite scents are good companions. They are a dialogue. They comfort, boost confidence, intrigue, amuse, flatter, challenge, argue, introduce me to others, bring out parts of myself I don't always notice, take me places I wouldn't go on my own. They reveal new things over hours, days, weeks, decades. Extreme is interesting but it demands all the attention. To appreciate it, you have to pay close attention and before you really grasp it, it's gone away.

What I like about other Tom Fords is that they open vistas. Hey, take a look at this, they say, you've never seen anything like it, right? What do you think? Extreme is much more claustrophobic. It lives in a posh place but you keep looking at your watch, wondering when you can go home. I'll give it another try at some point but won't be adding it to my list of friends for now.

24th February, 2012

Givenchy Play by Givenchy

The saleswoman in Sephora sold me this when they didn't have what I was looking for (they don't usually). I'm going to give it a thumbs up even though I don't take it all that seriously.

I do find the scent very appealing: modest, fresh, and contemporary without an acrid aquatic feeling. I especially like the vetiver note under the citrus and spice. The problem, as others have said, is that it is very fugitive. It might get you through lunch but not much longer. I plan to use it as a summer casual, though, with the idea that it can be safely applied multiple times during the day and maybe replaced with something else at night. So the lack of staying power could even be seen as an advantage.

The bottle is solid and very well designed. In my opinion, though, they ruin it with the little painted-on "RWD" and "FFWD" buttons, thereby explaining their own joke. It would have been so much better if it had just said "PLAY" with the little red arrow above, letting you figure it out for yourself. Like the bottle, the marketing in general seems to lack a certain finesse and subtlety, but I think the scent itself is actually better made than that.
23rd February, 2012 (last edited: 02nd March, 2012)

Canoé by Dana

Yesterday, I spotted a lonely bottle of this on the edge of the very bottom shelf of the discount scent case of a local chain drug store. I hadn’t seen or heard anything about Canoe in decades. Wow, how the mighty have fallen, I thought.

After lunch, I went back and bought that bottle. I wore it all afternoon.

Back in the late 1960s, when I would guess Canoe peaked in popularity in the U.S., it was a very sophisticated, slightly edgy, expensive French brand with all sorts of class associations. Canoe went with skin-tight Lacoste shirts with the little green alligator over the left nipple, madras patch Bermudas, pink dress shirts, penny loafers with no socks, crew regattas, Playboy, summers in Northeast Harbor. American men (and even American women) didn’t talk much about scents in those days, the way they didn’t really talk about sex. You were just supposed to KNOW, like you knew how to pronounce the name (can-OH-eh, in the French manner).

I couldn’t afford Canoe in those days and anyway had no interest at all in fragrances. Wearing it now, though, I realize it was EVERYWHERE in the preppy, affluent suburban circles I moved in in those days. Back then, it was the ONLY cologne for a certain type of young man. It was very much a part of a time when Bond-like sophistication, taste, and style and all that went with them, were briefly cool for American men. I’m actually surprised that Canoe hasn’t come up on Mad Men.

I did a bit of research on the company, Dana, and there was a long story there, too, in its slow progress from trendy Barcelona to 1930s Paris (probably to escape the Spanish Civil War and Franco) to a warehouse at the end of a street of split levels in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. Along the way, there was a former Harvard professor marketing guru whose idea was to buy up faded scent classics and take them downmarket. He died suddenly in the ‘90s. His company went bust and came back as “Dana Classic Fragrances.”

This explains how Canoe ended up in a small town RiteAid, looking like a rusty ‘60s Mercedes. Nowadays, like so much else, it is assembled in China. When I opened the box, the label wasn’t even on straight. But the bottle was still the familiar old smirky shape.

And, despite the fact that it was apparently reformulated once or twice during its long decline, the basic Canoe scent seemed to ring true. Smelling that old powdery smell, which reminds me somehow of the baby blue of a Brooks Brothers button down Oxford, I suddenly remembered that the classic all-male barber shops of my childhood actually USED powder on you. Canoe has the scent of coming home on a Saturday morning in June from a fresh haircut in the barbershop in the fanciest downtown hotel.

A classic for sure. I hope it sticks around and maybe even makes a little comeback, like those Madras shorts I never wore either

Since I wrote this review, I bought a 250 ml vintage bottle of Canoe on eBay, apparently preserved, like fine French wine, in the cool, dry cellar of a fanatic perfume collector in Ohio. The factory seal was still on the bottle, which was marked "BOTTLE MADE IN FRANCE." No Chinese assembly in this one. Cost was considerably below the retail cost per ounce of the contemporary Canoe.

Comparing the French and the Assembled in China versions, I confirmed that the Chinese scent profile had stayed pretty faithful to the original. The French version was far smoother and more elegant, however. The lavender of the Chinese edition suggested the cheap face power favored by elderly ladies in my childhood; the French juice had a softer touch of elegant 1930s barbershop. The Chinese version's vanilla suggests a sugar cookie from a supermarket; the French vanilla is like walking past one of the best patisseries in Paris on a late August afternoon.

I assume that most of the difference in the quality of materials in the original, but the lighter formulation (EDC vs. the current EDT) and the long bottle aging may have played a role as well. Not unexpectedly, the EDT was stronger and had better longevity.

These is not at all to say that the contemporary Canoe is unwearable. In some ways, it is a more comfortable fragrance, with a warm, comfortable dry down like sitting next to a gas range when a cake is baking. But the old French Canoe is you with a white dinner jacket and a martini, watching the sun set over the Pacific, while Brubeck plays somewhere in the background.

21st February, 2012 (last edited: 02nd March, 2012)