Freetrapper avoids the shrill and whiny tone of many poorly executed cedar-led perfumes. It doesn’t go down the sweet cedar route either which is often used as shorthand for warmth and a cozy feel. Instead we get a properly woody and dry cedar, infused with light incense and fringed with pine-like notes both resinous and green. The whole thing is given lift by a zesty bergamot that makes such an impression at the top that one thinks one still smells it even when it begins to fade. The latent spiciness of the woody notes becomes evident in the drydown, but it feels natural and unforced, not an effort to butch up the perfume. The incense gets a dusty, powdery quality which works well – this is turning into a log cabin where traces of wood smoke remain in the air, an invitation to shed urban trappings.
What is most commendable about Freetrapper is that it smells of real things – real cedar, real citrus, incense of a decent quality. And it maintains a balance between cool and warm, making it a good all-weather scent. At first I felt it could have done with a bit more complexity, but it grew on me and I came to admire its easygoing personality.
A mousse of a perfume where all notes get pulped up, strained, and pumped up with something musky, something a bit lactonic, to be served to general confusion as to what one is getting. The notes don’t help me much – sure it’s vaguely fruity at the start, and then turns sharply towards a kind of cloudy, slightly honeyed, white floral with a dab of patchouli for depth. Has the kind of uncomfortable presence like fur on one’s tongue that I’d rather scrape off. Just too mushed up to really mean anything, apart from coming across as a seriously underpowered homage to Gucci Rush in the late stages.
Gentle, soft-natured rose in Francis Kurkdjian’s more commercial style. A style he commands but is perhaps not always fully appreciative of himself – consider his bemusement at his À La Rose’s success. So, yes, this is as mainstream as it gets and there are probably better priced versions of this idea out there, but it is still a thing of some beauty.
The rose here is not rich and complex, a more modest and even sweetness is preferred. And it is paired with conventional fruity make-up notes (probably the peony and violet combination) and the air of slight unreality and distance that violet often imparts, to say nothing of commonly used synthetic musks. Over time the violet becomes as much of a player as the rose and this is a fairly traditional combination as well, especially when it rests on fluffy musks and hints of clean wood. Rose de Siwa seems to declare ‘ease of wear’ and that makes it a handy travel companion.
Warm, rich, centred somewhere around the loins, Une Fleur de Cassie is a dark animalic floral of considerable complexity. That is not to deny its immediate impact – I rather suspect it is one of those love or hate affairs for most people. It’s bold, it wears its furs like it doesn’t care, and yet the care lavished on its detail is evident.
From the ever shifting gradations of its floral bouquet, to the pungency of cumin and a thyme-like note nurtured in its bosom, to powders drifting in its scent trail, hints of smoke and fine grained woods, Une Fleur de Cassie is warm, warm, warm. It’s the warmth of a carnal embrace and one may not want that all the time, but in the mood it’s just the thing. Opulent without being tricksy or pushy, its chief gift is a lusty sophistication that is quite uncommon.
Projection drops considerably after the first two hours.
A berry floral in the manner of much cheaper celebuscents (ie plenty of clean musks attempting to give it the presence it lacks) which begs the question why anyone would pay what Marly demands for this.
A raspberry and blackcurrant accented rose with a touch of candyfloss in the heart; it isn’t awful, just underwhelming. The musky halo is not unlike the fug that seems to permanently inhabit mainstream perfume shops.
Modest muguet, clean and light, which fails to raise the requisite fuss for this price point (I’m writing about the EDP). Has a touch of something fruity lying underneath that keeps turning to plastic and then back again.
A gauzy woody that wears cool and summery, and requires abundant spraying, the EDP designation notwithstanding. Drier, less sappy than Giacobetti’s other fig – Philosykos – but also sadly with a somewhat more subdued personality. This is so discreet and ‘office friendly’ many will find it timid.
The notes are fine – a fig theme that is more about the tree than the fruit, traces of something grassy and herbal (almost like purslane), coconut foam so light it shouldn’t really bother those who hate the sun tan lotion associations, all wrapped at first in a dryness that cautions you not to light a match. Slowly that parched feel eases and we are in the cool shade of a fig tree, with a coy sweetness playing hide and seek at the heart.
Elfen Spring plays a neat trick taking rich, honeyed, overripe notes (melon, gardenia, tuberose) indicative of the sometimes cloying nature of summer’s plenty and magically cloaks then in a light aquatic veil. The aquatic note is beautifully handled, offering a cooling shimmer to the composition rather than the usual chemical nasal abrasion. And with hints of green from the muguet note, the composition feels remarkably organic. In the later stages when the notes get more uniformly blended, the muguet becomes the dominant impression of the perfume.
It is super sweet and yet not the usual syrupy mess; instead it is cooling and refreshing, fine and smooth. I’m sure many teenagers would love it but the composition has the poise to appeal to all ages.
Elfen Spring offers enchantment for high summer in its opening hours. But the later stages are not so stellar, where the life-prolonging clean musks and the dulling of the floral notes drag it into more familiar designer territory.
Alrighty, the princess was in a mighty vague mood over here, a blurry watercolour daydream of mauves and pinks having left her a bit dopy – so she asked her shadowy attendant to get her a petit portion of something vaguely fruity (like, yeah, whatever) to nibble on.
Sorry if the silliness of the name prompts my sneering, but frankly this half-starved offering deserves it. For this is a misty and pale violet (with some hairspray iris valiantly attempting to give it a bit of body) infused for a while with a bit of berryish fruitiness from below – it vanishes some time in. It is wash after wash of light, barely there, colour amounting to one almighty… erm, pale wash?
My point is that this is a completely inconsequential perfume which makes blankness an art form. Oud? Pfttt! There’s some clean, slightly peppery, wood in the base which does come up somewhat during the course of the wear, but don’t look for much more. What starts off as a fresh and vaporous violet with fruity tones, floats down onto a fluffed up bed of musky wood. It’s all so disorienting and formless, I felt I had been mildly sedated – not a good feeling when you’ve worn the damn thing in the morning. Fortunately it only has an active life of about two hours.
Maremma is a dusky creature smeared in unguents. The main theme, which is a blend of fruity ylang, waxy orris and a dense combo of earthy patchouli and dark chocolate makes clear this is a perfume not to be worn lightly. It’s serious, heavy, one needs to be in the mood. And that mood can be best described as languid and sultry, wearing a silk turban and lolling on a chaise longue, perhaps waiting for a muscular attendant to come up and fan the humid air with a palm frond. OK, maybe that last bit is just me in tacky deep fantasy mode.
All this sounds lovely and lush, but the main problem is in how the blend comes across after a short while of wear – some have described it as ‘creamy’, I’d prefer ‘doughy’, dough that’s risen at the start and then fallen in upon itself. So: intriguing notes, interesting accords, but the feel of it falls short.
Exquisite mixed floral perfection of the kind one thinks doesn’t get made any more. This reminds me of the ever so chic light-yet-rich florals that women of my mother’s generation used to wear – some of which still exist but often in debased, overly synthetic incarnations. The magic word here is aldehydes – and I’ll eat my shirt (seeing as I don’t own a hat) if some haven’t been deployed in Secrète Datura to give it its zesty lift-off.
I couldn’t single out the notes in the mainly white floral bouquet here (apart from the honeysuckle), they’re thoroughly blended to my nose. But the important thing is that the impression is of the airy, natural sweetness of fresh flowers, none of the added syrup of contemporary perfumes. And they come wrapped in dew-laden foliage – not bitter but tender. The base is a mere suggestion on my skin – nothing remotely gourmand emerges – leaving the entire focus on the florals which is how I like it.
Where I grew up, there were datura plants aplenty by the roadside or on waste land (never in people’s gardens) and we were always instructed to avoid them as they are highly poisonous. I can’t recall the trumpets having any scent, probably because they only release them at night. The odour profile is supposed to be rich and narcotic, which leads me to think that we are again in the realms of perfumers’ fantasy with this one. No matter, if the results are so rewarding.
Chilly little incense number that I must admit I can’t warm to, much as I admire Olivia Giacobetti’s delicate palette. This is like the suggestion of the sun through a fog. The fog here being some very sweet musk.
Much of the excitement seems to be in the opening minutes where a limpid lily combines pepper and that cool incense and a suggestion of pine. But soon it narrows to that peppery incense caught in billows of musk. Incense, however faint, is a tenacious note on my skin, so I don’t have any projection or longevity issues, it’s just that Passage d’Enfer bores me – it seems to have very little to say and says it in a little voice. The later stages are more satisfying as the sweetness and pepper subsides and it morphs to mainly a conifers and light incense theme with a creamy, silky aura.
A more transporting and satisfying embodiment of some of the notes present here is to be found in Oriza’s Relique d’Amour where the lily is placed on the altar of a pine-ringed mountain chapel, with the frankincense wafting through the door that’s just been opened.
Surely this offering was created with the purpose of drawing the non-gender-specific fantasy babe of one’s imaginings to purr and nuzzle one’s neck. It is so steeped in signifiers of ‘quality’ mainstream masculines, it verges on cliché. So it is woody and spicy but done in a triple-milled and fresh got-my-crisp-white-shirt-on style; it has a glug of the sweets to appease the bruised child syndrome; and it is so super balanced it refuses to show the slightest wobble.
The ghost of M7 hangs around this one for me, especially with the orangey spice of the former getting an echo here – but Oud Wood is thinner and over-refined. Smells fantastic on a smelling strip, but somewhat lacklustre on skin after the opening minutes.
A kind of wallpaper scent – well-proportioned and with judiciously placed colours, but ultimately a bit too orderly to excite. The later stages, when it becomes even fresher and airier with a plump, almost fruity aspect are more rewarding, except that now the projection takes a dive.
Cool lemony citrus that takes on a warming gingery black pepper and woodsy aspect – this is now the template for many a concoction aimed at chaps. Penhaligon’s may have got there first, but your wallet may be better served by a serviceable dupe.
For what it’s worth, the citrus has a light infusion of summery lavender and the pepper smells joyously good. Why this kind of blend conjures thoughts of boardroom pinstripe suits with a silvery finish or forelock flicking tennis players in whites, I do not know. What I do know is it’s not me in this lifetime. Nonetheless, a briskly executed piece of work.
Oud Shamash’s top spins me – such a barrage of perfectly synchronized notes with the most gorgeous pink pepper I’ve ever smelled (and I say that as someone who can take or leave pepper notes) and rich, fruity, sweet, rummy davana playing the starring roles.
With the pepper quickly fading, the davana and ambery/incensy labdanum with a touch of blackberries heart accord is perhaps borrowed from Jubilation XXV but here the backing mélange of spices, dried herbs and resins is much more complex and would not have found much favour with my nose had it not been handled with the light, sure touch that is at play here.
Oud Shamash wears like a dream – perhaps not powerful enough for some, but certainly not overpowering: just right in my book.
It’s anyone’s guess why the oud is given such prominent billing, it’s a shy partner in the mix and it’s unlikely the composition would have been improved significantly had it been bolder.
Shamash is smashing on its own terms, though if it came to a punch up between it and Jubilation I’d choose the latter which is just far smoother and more comforting.
Opus IX is strange done with great confidence – all but a knowledgeable few will be a bit bewildered by the array of unfamiliar aromachemicals deployed here, not quite knowing what their nose is smelling. Opus IX is to smell what a hall of mirrors is to sight.
The main theme here is jasmine and quite a special one at that, carrying with it the particular fresh, tinged with green, yet syrupy sweet quality of jasmine buds. A supporting player is black pepper which creeps up like a panther – so beware if you go heavy on the sprayer (as I once did), you could be flattened.
But around this duo of naturals is an array of odours that remind me of things that have next to none – lacquered nails, false eyelashes, fake fur. These are things of the body I suppose but without its warmth and familiarity – a denatured muskiness. So there are accents that come across as highly glossy, others that can be described as faux-leather – enough to remind one of the thing but still not quite, not quite. This is a heavy perfume at this stage yet pumped full of air.
Is this how you turn what is essentially a jasmine-led perfume into the aimed-for fantasy camellia? Well, assigning a made up scent to a strikingly beautiful flower that has none may be a worthwhile artistic endeavour but whether your audience will ‘get’ it is another matter entirely. Disregarding that, there’s enough here to intrigue, particularly if you care for novelty, but it doesn’t win me over. Plus it loses all complexity past the 3-4 hour mark, turning into a thin, plasticky jasmine.
Starts off with that burnished and buffed execution of notes often common to aldehydic classics that makes one wonder at the smoothness of it all, but the whole remains ungraspable like a lava lamp blob.
Must de Cartier Gold isn’t particularly aldehydic, it just has that evasive quality to its opening.
The jasmine that is at the centre of this fragrance never really escapes the high gloss – it is a perfumery jasmine, clutching a dainty clasp bag and with immaculate maquillage. But for all that, this is a pleasing perfume which slowly opens up to reveal that sweet and gentle (if somewhat neutered) jasmine touched by something powdery-fruity (presumably the osmanthus of the declared notes), enveloped by musky balsamic gold and vanilla sugar with just a faint hint of spice. The heart phase also has some light green notes, which one would expect at the top but which emerge a little while in. The fruity accent grows more pronounced in the drydown.
It’s a gauzy, polished creation, lightly warm like an air kiss, aimed squarely (in my imagination) at well-dressed socializing.
I think I’m beginning to lose my grouchy attitude to out-and-out gourmand perfumes, because Musc Maori’s opening made me go ‘Oh yeah’. So, I’m putting my hand up to say, ‘I’m gimmegreen, and – in this case – I want to smell like a bar of chocolate.’
Well, not just any old chocolate obviously, this is one of those super-enhanced milk chocolate bars – where all the juvenile sugary fun of milk chocolate is bolstered by a high cocoa level of impeccable quality. Cocoa, milk, sweet vanilla – this could have been a disaster. But as good chocolate is all about the mouth feel, this is about the texture of the scent – creamy and rich and yet whipped to a feathery mousse by the white musks. I’m willing to overlook the plasticky white floral note hanging round the edges.
Musc Maori is pretty straightforward; it has little to reveal on the shrink’s couch. Not a problem for me, but what does count against it turns a bit rubbery when the air goes out of it in the drydown. Plus, disappointingly, after 2-3 hours it turns into a skin scent on me.
Occasionally I come across perfumes that smell vastly different depending on whether one is just going for what is wafting up or whether smelling closer to the skin, and Antonia’s Flowers is one of them. If one sprays it on and doesn’t pay much attention to it, the reward is an enticing freesia, a difficult flower to get right as it has tart accents which are, however, not citrusy, and a light spiciness that is of itself – nothing from the spice box will render it correctly. Here we have an olfactory holograph of a freesia, which gets these things right while not losing sight of the dew-laden freshness that is typical of the freesia’s scent.
But if I try to amp up the perfume (I am an inveterate front of t-shirt flapper) and smell it closer to the skin, I get mostly the pretty off-putting synthetics that are probably there to prolong its life: these smell of plastics, milk on the point of going off, floor cleaning gunk. Gah!
Over time the freesia impression morphs into a more weighty white floral with a magnolia note quite prominent. By now the synthetics are much more a part of the perfume’s personality and it’s time for me to head to the shower.
(Review is for the EDP.)
This rebel wears patchouli as its badge of pride, for no matter how you slice it, this is a patchouli fragrance. And it gets straight to the point, with the top notes all but non-existent except for a touch of heliotrope which lends a certain delicious edible aspect to the sweet woods supporting our star. More curious are the resins in the mix – they come off smelling like a chest rub to shift persistent congestion for a while before settling down. The patchouli itself is a soft and velvety creature, with a rubbed and worn quality to it rather than seriously earthy or vegetal. The deep drydown is reminiscent of car tires – this is strangely appealing.
All the elements in the composition seem to have been placed with deliberation giving it a structural solidity, even if doesn’t quite sweep me away. Its trail is modest and the patchouli won’t bore a hole in your brain with a smoking hot poker as some are wont to do. Has an active life of about four hours after which it is a murmur on the skin.
Cool, aquatic, jasmine at the top combined with Nivea, as creamy and denatured as that might suggest. There’s green freshness at the start with light aquatic notes, suggestive of colognes and the projection is similarly mumblecore. Both the green and aquatic notes subside to be replaced by a rise of body lotion creaminess and clean musks which are the core of White Fire with an absolutely glassy and non-indolic jasmine. This last is so far from the real thing, it is a cryptic clue-like suggestion of jasmine rather anything close to the real thing.
Nice in a fabric softener kind of way, but not for me.
Sheer, old-school white floral (mainly lily) with peachy accents with what appears to my nose to be an aldehydic opening. If you can abandon thoughts of note differentiation – it’s a bit too gauzy for that – then you’ll be able to enjoy it for what it is. And that is a vague and sweet perfume that has an airbrushing effect on the body and is not particularly different from a multitude of designer offerings. In that ball park it’s competently executed.
Turns into syrupy floral nectar after about an hour, which may be just the thing for some.
Utterly synthetic from top to bottom with a thin, somewhat shrill ‘oud’ riding for glory atop turbo-musks. The family resemblance to other Woody offerings from Arabian Oud is there but this is less successful. A halfway decent sweet wood note, a dab of something with a bit of depth that reads like patchouli and a hint of spice are redeeming features.
Radiates far and wide, and is easy enough to wear despite its essentially two-bit formulation.
Not my tuberose at all. I find MPG’s offering sells this flower short on several fronts. By promising liveliness by a bright green note at the top that fades almost as soon as one has perceived it. By drowning the rest in slop that seems equal parts generic cream soap, milk (both bovine and from coconuts), and plasticine. By succumbing to the candy-with-everything tendency in the heart phase. Sure there’s tuberose in there and many of these notes are to be smelled in great tuberose creations and indeed the trumpet-like blossoms themselves but here the overriding tendency seems to be to produce a perfume that mimics a highly scented body lotion rather than render the floral note in an interesting or enticing way.
The one redeeming feature for me is the musky-ambergris accord underlying the whole thing attempting to bring a touch of creature comfort to this sludged over tuberose.
Gluttonously rich and sweet rose in the Arabic tradition, powered up with musks, and with a decent oud, mushrooms and smell-of-skin undertow to give it a carnal demeanour. I can’t fault how it has been put together – it’s intense and fulfilling – but it keeps reminding me of some of Montale’s rose and oud offerings which are less than half the price.
In which Swarovski aim at the girls and young women segment of the market and deliver a time-warped Body Shop scent (I’m thinking in particular of Dewberry). A sugary fruity with ostensibly notes of litchi and grapefruit in the mix, though what the nose smells are the mango flavour variant of those gluey Japanese sweets with gloopy centres. Not unpleasant but the only aura this is likely to project is of daffy superficiality. Has one of the most syrupy rose-patchouli combos I’ve encountered in a while lurking without a scrap of modesty in the base.
L’Heure Bleue is for me a perfume of such grand and structured richness, it astonishes me every time. An abundance of warm, silky floral notes, spices, powder, balsams and a glorious sandalwood that sings right from the start and just keeps going. All perfectly massaged into a harmonious creation like some incredible pastry that requires intense labour and skill to get just right and create that hallelujah moment on the tongue.
It has numerous markers that date it (for it is now over a hundred years old): floral notes of clove-tinged carnation and sweet violet, with an anise and heliotrope back-up, that were much more common in perfumes of yesteryear; an unabashed powderiness coupled with an unctuousness that is rare in modern creations in which the legacy of ‘fresh’ and ‘clean’ is still too prominent; a daring amount of spice and resins. And yet from such serious elements arises something that shimmers like a mirage, gleaming, enticing, yet always just receding a step when you think you have understood it.
I tried L’Heure Bleue at perfume counters, always walking away thinking, ‘This is a bit too much for me.’ This happened about half a dozen times. And then suddenly, one day, its radiance was revealed and then there was no going back. It’s a fugue of a perfume, complex but with each note in the right place.
Much is made of its sensuousness, but it resists the temptation to swooning, full-blown excess (such as, say, the roseate oblivion of Nahema) and also appeals to an intellectual appreciation in its fine calibration. And then there’s that amazing sandalwood – still on song, no matter how long your day.
(Review is for EDP, current formulation.)
Ozonic violet, once one gets past the strong suggestions of hairspray and wet wipes that cloud its opening. It’s the big dose of ‘clean’ musks giving that impression and they need a bit of time to settle. For an unreal, hazy, almost abstract offering it’s a bit unusual to have flashes of natural scents coming through. But there’s clove popping its sweetly medicinal head above the fog, a hint of something coniferous, and a pronounced heliotrope note that pairs easily with the violet.
Dans tes bras is a blur, a smear (cashmeran is famous for greasing the lens of many a sharper creation), one of those noodling tone poems that seem to begin and end without a sense of beginning and end. It sits squarely within what critics call the ‘soulless’ ethos of the Malle line. But for all that I found it curiously beguiling, its softness coupled with what comes across as utter indifference to the wearer has a strange push-pull to it – like clasping a refrigerated teddy bear.
Ultimately, though, I found it too underpowered to take seriously.
At school I had an art teacher who was obsessed with Joan Miró. As a kid I couldn’t quite see what he was on about as the works were all squiggly lines and blocks of colour. Now I get it – it’s the perfect balance of elements in a Miró work that is his signature. Remove or shift one squiggle or dot and the composition deflates.
I was reminded of this when trying Cowboy Grass because it has notes I love, but they somehow fail to sing together. Earthy, smoky vetiver, dry bark, a touch of mould, boot polish and bits of leather, a bouquet of somewhat medicinal herbs with a bright basil (which smells almost pepperminty) sparkling in its midst, sweetish hay-like tones – what’s not to love? And yet the end result refuses to lift off. This would smell perfectly decent scenting a rub for sore muscles, but as a perfume it languishes in the corner marked ‘aromatherapy mix’. Indeed my partner arrived home and began sniffing the air and wondering if I’d spilled a bottle of essential oil somewhere.
After a few hours, many of the herbal colours have faded and the rich and natural vetiver dominates with finally a glimpse of the sweet rose otto mentioned in the declared notes, before it too gets swallowed by the dark vetiver.
Cowboy Grass smells more convincing on a paper strip than on my skin, grassier and the notes blending much better, so maybe there’s a skin chemistry issue at play.
An excellently executed jasmine soliflore that smells just like the real thing. Delicate yet heady, a siren call to summer’s languor.
There’s indoles a go-go at the start balanced by a freshening touch of green, but they subside to an acceptable level while the perfume’s profile remains natural and unaffected. While many jasmine-led perfumes attempt to impress with density and sheer power, here the intention is quite different – to realize a waft of jasmine from an abundantly flowering plant, no more, no less. Gets a bit stale with time but I suspect that’s the effect of the wearer’s body and the activities it gets up to, rather than the perfume itself.
Simple, and near perfect for jasmine lovers who want a straightforward evocation of the flower, with little to no evolution. Steer well clear if you don’t care for the scent of these little white blossoms – this is not the perfume to convert you.
The linearity is a problem for me as this perfume lasts the whole day on my skin, even when it’s hot; so I tire of its determined jasmineness. I’m a bit nonplussed by complaints about its longevity.