Perfume Reviews

Reviews by gimmegreen


Quercus by Penhaligon's

Quercus seems to be aiming to be the scent of the office-going median man (if such a creature still exists) – it is crisp (the starched white shirt), energetic (‘can do’ attitude) and unobtrusive (‘what? you didn’t notice the hours I spent trimming my stubble to an acceptable degree of averageness?’). Not a perfume to really pay attention to but good to have in the background of a busy day.
Aside from that predominant impression of crispness there is little else to bite into – this is a decent lemon-and-lime cologne type offering on a sweet and foamy musk base. I could twist my nose trying to pick out more notes, but hardly see the point if they are not much in evidence.
Maybe they were going for the notion of being ‘sturdy as an oak’ in calling it Quercus, because there’s little here by way of woody notes.
Wears light and bright, with the musks seemingly hanging on for eternity.
19th October, 2015

Blask by Humiecki & Graef

With Blask H&G uncork another keeper. I find it such an enticing scent despite accords that sound unappealing. The opening fanfare is a cross between a polished wood floor and that smell that clothes acquire when they have taken too long to dry and have been put away slightly damp. Should be disgusting, but it’s actually quite stimulating.
With greater familiarity, the components of this perfume reveal themselves. There’s bay, which usually scares me because it can be piercing and stale, but here rendered in a lovely green and herbal manner which marries well with the resins and woody notes. There’s a mouth-watering mouldy, wine cellar smell, a scent that is warm, slightly off, but sweetly persistent, botyritic maybe and with that hypnotic quality that only a few other odours possess (ouds for example) – I’ve always fancied wearing something like it all on its own. There’s even candy and flowers in the mix but so fluffy as not to cause offence. And all these elements are placed in such a good balance that wearing Blask feels like a welcome hug by a sexy devil.
But the hug relaxes as time wears on and Blask becomes a somewhat traditional herbal leather, still pleasant to wear if not quite as arresting.
19th October, 2015

Aqua Vitae Forte by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Francis Kurkdjian is adept at presenting us with polished creations, buffed to a Brancusi shine. A minor problem with this approach is that sometimes it can privilege seamlessness too highly for my taste. Aqua Vitae forte is purportedly ‘the caress of a solar breeze’ – bright, warming, golden are the associations being aimed for, one imagines.
And the notes evoked make perfect sense but somehow the execution remains a touch too smooth for its own good. What is better to evoke sunshine than a battery of citruses (with lemon and bergamot to the fore) paired with the traditional clean, none-too-assertive, ‘supporting role’ vetiver we are used to as a perfumery backup? A bit of gentle cardamom adds a warming accent and florals complete the picture. Among the listed floral notes we have the Kurkdjian favourite, orange blossom, and ylang ylang, and of the two, the former is certainly more in evidence. But more interesting is how they have been calibrated, with a bit of their sweetness bled out of them so they match the citrus aspect without overwhelming it.
It’s all been put together with great attention to proportions but there’s a certain blankness about it that I just can’t bring myself to appreciate.

19th October, 2015
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Bay Rum by Olympic Orchids

One of those perfumes that is so not for everyone – maybe not even for me – but the kind one realizes probably needs to exist and be out there. The first few minutes of wearing it are like being placed before one of those old coil electric heaters, watching its incandescent orange glow, face flushing from the blast of drying heat.
The striking opening accord of a powerful green bay combined with cloves of a solar intensity is something else. That bay is so alive, it feels as if one has been pushed into a bush, a bit like what imagines a freshly distilled botanical extract to smell like. The dosing of these elements is so into the red in the scale of what is expected of perfumery, that it’s easy to see that this would be an immediate scrubber for some. But it’s the daring and vibrancy of that opening that keeps me going.
There is other spicing apart from the cloves (cinnamon mainly) and, as one would expect, a resinous base – it’s hard to see how anything else would have worked with the main players. It’s a shame that the thrilling immediacy of that bay note has to succumb to time and lose some of its verdancy, and when it merges with that resinous base there is more than a suggestion of furniture polish – but an old school one nevertheless, rich with plant extracts not wafting some ridiculous piney aromachemical.
The movement is from great energy to something a lot denser and stolid, the spices subsiding considerably. This later phase is far from compelling and Bay Rum sinks into a heavy, unvarying drone that has all the charm of a persistent mosquito.
It’s a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ kind of perfume – I appreciate its daring, but it would wear me out.
19th October, 2015

Fraîcheur Muskissime by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

There is a danger in marketing light cologne-like creations at niche prices – the customer, perhaps justifiably, expects a little more than the standard. This offering from MPG’s ‘legeres’ range falls into this pit of expectation.
It’s a ‘by numbers’ musked out musk and berry job in a ‘bath products’ style. It also suffers from the use of a real cheapo and strident sandalwood aromachemical which sticks to the citrus like the stalker from hell at the start, providing a piercing but not pleasing accord. The usual blackberry evocation – nothing like the real thing more like the vague flavourings found in confectionary – is a bit of relief, but it is drowned in ‘musks’ whose sole purpose seem to be to prolong the life of the scent rather than bring any kind of joy. The later stages when the mure et musc balance improves are more comfortable. So, sure, it lasts well enough, but the composition is of so little consequence, I just can’t warm to it.
01st October, 2015

Eau Mohéli by Diptyque

I have been known to stop at the doorways of florists and indulge in some pretty heavy breathing. The start of Eau Moheli lets me restrict this weird behaviour to my home – it’s ylang in a florist’s shop, surrounded by zesty greens and light mixed floral notes. What’s not to like? This is an energizing presentation, far from the tropical languor usually evoked by ylang prominent fragrances. It’s an ylang ready to take a brisk walk, if not a sprint round the block.
The red pepper, ginger and resins are included with a light touch and don’t distract from the breezy floral notes. Once the perfume has settled, I find myself thinking, this could just as easily be an evocation of a green jasmine were it not for the fruitiness round the edges which is more typical of ylang ylang.
Eau Moheli is deft, crisp, and would be fine as something to wear while going about one’s work day. While coming across as somewhat linear it does have a gentle evolution, the greens vanish over time and the ylang gets plumper and rounder but without losing the ‘just plucked’ spirit that seems to hang over this creation. I’m quite enamoured of the freshness of the top and have to resist wanting to relive that again and again, thus ending up soaking myself in perfume.
01st October, 2015

Aoud Purple Rose by Montale

Oh Montale… when you are bad, you are terrible. Here we have a loud, braying rose that initially reminds one of Bond’s New York Oud (launched a year earlier and awarded a gong or two), but which ultimately reveals itself to be in a league of crassness all its own. This is a rose stalking some industrial terrain soaking up solvents and machine grease. What passes for oud here is more of a hiss than a smell – the kindest thing I can say about it is that it seems to completely evade definition apart from a certain powderiness.
Wears quite salty and sweaty on my skin before relaxing and softening a bit and going quite dry in a rose potpourri kind of way, but still remaining beyond the bounds of acceptability. It may possibly have had some kind of mileage as a conceptual art prank, but Montale are trying to push this one as a taif rose based perfume – yeah, tell me another.
01st October, 2015

Dolce Riso by Calé

I nearly dismissed Dolce Riso as a nice but unremarkable musky lime. You know the drill, a decent citrus note gathered up in prolonging laundry musks – whoops there’s another perfume ready for launch.
But due to that clean and soft start, I was unprepared for developments. Well, first there was a bit of an herbal flutter (I wouldn’t quite call it artemisia as listed in the notes, but rather something green and flavoursome) which was joined by some dusky notes (probably the cereals suggested) which gave the entire thing a nice roundness, while maintaining its polite nature.
After that quite accomplished heart phase the drydown went all a bit wafty – vague notes in a mist of musk, the citrus had got quite depleted by now and some vanilla sugar had arrived blanding out everything else. Ah well… time to dismiss Dolce Riso after all.
01st October, 2015

Honey Aoud by Montale

The beloved is indifferent to perfume, doesn’t wear the stuff, and smells fine in his own unperfumed skin thank you. His patience, however, is exemplary, as he will often accompany me into perfumeries and supply an extra pair of hands to keep sprayed paper strips apart. He came with me to the Montale shop, where, if I could have, I would have inhaled the entire stock.
Later, when I was inspecting my purchases, I was surprised to see the beloved’s hand reach out and grab the can of Honey Aoud. I was sternly told not to expect that this meant he was going to start wearing perfume, before he spritzed himself. The rest of the day he was wafting such enticing streams of ‘come bite me’ honeyed goodness that it is remarkable an incident of cannibalism didn’t occur.
Moral of the story: try to get someone you know to wear this to know its true captivating power. The composition itself appears quite straightforward. There’s a huge, voluptuous sweet gourmand accord, not exactly honey, but familiar from quite a few daughters of Angel. It’s a curious thing, thick and quite complex, suggesting to my mind a mix of dark cherries, certain orchid notes in perfumery and something almost furry. And although it registers as something mouth-watering and worth biting into, it actually puts one in a carnal frame of mind rather than longing for dessert.
This is combined with a pretty restrained dry woods kind of oud and a hefty dose of cinnamon. Normally such a cloud of cinnamon would put me right off, but here it provides strong contrast to the sweetness, acting almost as a sobering note and works beautifully. Also working in that more grown up direction are mere touches of leather and the favourite Montale depth chord of patchouli. Remarkable stuff – inviting and sexy without crudeness.
As the notes are so warm, I prefer wearing it in cool weather. Also a true Montale in its strength, so a couple of sprays are plenty.
01st October, 2015

As Sawira by Penhaligon's

I’m afraid I’ve only managed to test the EDT version of As Sawira on my skin and it’s a bit of a letdown – poor projection mainly. Maybe the EDP is a marked improvement, but I can't really say.
That being said, I also take issue with the somewhat overblended nature of this beast – yes it is more rounded than its sibling, Levantium, and certainly sweeter, but the notes all seem to merge into one. Strangely, the oud is more subdued, I barely smell something oud-like. Instead there is a pleasing ambery woods and myrrh accord infused with an appealing davana-like fruity booziness and some resinous smokiness. The floral notes are sunk beneath the sweet ambery accord to my nose.
Damp squib territory – I like what I smell, there just isn’t enough of it to truly satisfy.
25th September, 2015

Candour by Humiecki & Graef

Once in a while one needs reminding that the genuinely novel is still possible in perfumery – Candour is a good example. The opening has all the oddity of a herbal mouthwash – the pungency of strange green things coupled with bracing and distorting chemicals to blast those germs, with the underlying sweetness that is a given in these concoctions to make one less inclined to spit out immediately. This odd accord when worn as perfume rather than gargled with, loses some of its astringency and gives the impression of perfumers having fun.
The green notes are predominant to my nose – which is a mercy, as I’ve recently had near traumatic experiences with milky notes which seem much stronger in this creation to other reviewers. But the green is infinitely strange, raw and unripe and yet with an almost fruity sweetness (a touch of muguet among other things) to it, it’s green with a neon light shining on it and a chrome finish. There’s also something resolutely aquatic and sappy about it – perhaps the calamus or sweet flag.
The mood of this is distracted and zig-zaggy – it suits light-heartedness. Don’t take it too seriously and don’t expect some artistic milestone and it will offer up its rewards.
25th September, 2015

Méloé by Téo Cabanel

Reprising the familiar cologne pairing of fresh lemony citruses with light lemon blossom and jasmine floral notes, Méloé is nothing if not safe. It would be easy to dismiss as generic were it not for the naturalness of the citruses and the unmistakeable sparkle of the execution. Méloé immediately triggers the breathe-deep response of a successful composition – I want to fill my lungs. The base is pretty subdued – providing undergirding rather than distraction. The main perceptible element seems to be a talcum powder musk that seems perfectly at home.
In common with other natural citruses this wears light and one needs to apply generously.
My objection to it is not its simplicity – indeed it has made a virtue of that – but that after just a couple of hours the notes get muddled and we are left with a vaguely musky melange that has the feel of eau de fabric conditioner. Acceptable at this price point? I don’t think so.
25th September, 2015

Misk Begum by Tola

After my initial disappointment that this wasn’t a brooding, sweaty musk in some Arabie-of-the-days-of-yore tradition, I felt almost compelled to slap myself for my presumption. Because this is an exquisite rendering of ‘white musk’, clean musk or whatever one chooses to call it, showing how it can be a stellar player in its own right rather than carrying the train of yet another generic floral.
Misk Begum has aldehydic sparkle and the kind of refined freshness of say a classic Lauder or Chanel, but it has the most gorgeous opening aria of light dewy floral and green leafy notes that makes me want to do ballet-style leaps of joy (if only I could). Breath-of-dawn freesia and lily of the valley, soft as a feather, combine with the opening citruses which are handled with such a light touch they seem to be accents of the floral notes. The musk and aldehydic lift gives it a refined shimmer. And the whole thing is earthed by a warm almost mushroomy ambergris note that provides the necessary bit of weight and which shades the lily of the valley successfully.
A thrilling perfume for me apart from its price. Would love to know if there are more affordable smell-alikes out there.
25th September, 2015
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Rosarium by Angela Ciampagna

I’ve had enough of thin, squeaky incense perfumes; pursuing some ideal of stripped back purity perhaps, they instead come across as unnecessarily shrill and denatured. Give me smoke, richness, warmth and vibrancy in an incense rather than the olfactory equivalents of sine tones. The opening of Rosarium where just such an incense rubbed up against an equally thin, squeaky pine in a cut-price Rêve d’Ossian mode was unimpressive.
Some redemption came as the perfume began maturing on my skin – the introduction of carroty and dusty iris notes was quite transformative of the high pitched duet of the beginning, calming things down somewhat, wrong-footing expectations a little and providing an unusual pairing (iris and incense) that definitely needs more exploration in perfumery. Someone is going to get it soooo right one of these days; but it’s not here yet. Here it’s at the level of ‘interesting idea’, executed with a quality of materials that doesn’t really inspire.
25th September, 2015

Satin Doll by YS Uzac

Having almost given up on Ys Uzac, I’m somewhat gobsmacked by this gloriously OTT iris, a winning creation that has jumped onto my ‘to buy’ list. Here we have a melange of iris possibilities – rooty, vegetal, caked-up old powder compacts, suede, gunpowder (no butteriness, however) – all recklessly rolled into one and offering the kind of deep satisfaction that is only afforded by very specific things – like looking at a cherished landscape at the right time of day or tasting a baguette, crusty and chewy, from a corner shop, that insistently tells the mind ‘only from the soil of France’, or some such. It’s that kind of just rightness that has captivated my attention.
There’s a light deployment of pepper at the start which merges seamlessly with the suede aspect, buoyant, airy, rosy florals in the heart that give breath to the iris, and what smells like an ambrette and moss chord deep within that ties beautifully with the old powder. The trail is much more floral than the perfume experienced on one’s person – dainty and refreshing. The late stages – we’re talking hours in – finally reveal deeper elements resins, spiciness, a touch of moss, giving it a more grown up demeanour and quite altering the mood of the perfume.
I find the projection just right – moderate, so that all the nuances dance about – had it been heavier it might have got a bit choking.
25th September, 2015

Hegoa by Téo Cabanel

A perfect perfume to wear to work in summer or after a gym session – it’s light-footed and energizing, and doesn’t scream for attention.
From the opening notes of bracing citrus (which linger right until the perfume settles) via a lively green tea touched by a cool sea breeze we arrive at the pink hedgerow rose that fits like that missing piece of a jigsaw making all the other elements complete. The overall effect seems simple, but it’s cool and refreshing without coming across all synthetic, and it is kind to the wearer, lifting the mood gently, almost unobtrusively.
Perhaps some will dismiss it as a body splash posing as niche; but to my nose this has a quality and integrity that lifts it above such criticisms. Available only as EDT.
16th September, 2015

Rose de Taif by Perris Monte Carlo

A perfume in serious need of reformulation is how Rose de Taif strikes me because it takes wonderful bittersweet open and fresh rose notes and smothers them under something that smells like a citronella candle. The effect is off-puttingly waxy and repellent, and appeals neither to insect nor this human. Such a waste of the rose materials, as what one can smell of them under the pesticidal fug that hangs over this perfume would suggest that they are worth foregrounding.
Any hope I had of Rose de Taif opening up in the later stages were dashed; it seemed to constrict and congeal further, making the back of my throat taste bitter.
16th September, 2015

Aoud Forest by Montale

A foray into pound shop territory for Montale, this release is a generic ‘man cologne’ in the manner of some of the ‘fresher’ Axes with a tiny dab of a not particularly interesting oud construct in the background. So if citrusy herbals masking mentholated mouthwash run over by a tidal wave of aquatics are your thing, then this may be for you. But then again it may not be, as it seems so half-hearted and ham-fisted. The oud note here is about as featureless as it can be, just something piercingly woody rather than the dark, textured constructs come across in other Montales.
I can’t blame the brand for going down this route – most of the mainstream Arabic houses have similar offerings in their ranges. And the overall result is not unpleasant – but when that becomes the criterion for finding something positive to say about a perfume, it’s time to pass and move on.
16th September, 2015

Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens

An acquaintance was complaining the other day that she has got tired of ‘dark’ vanillas – the kinds with Edwardian beards, lolling about in musty libraries full of ancient leather-bound volumes, smoking fat cigars and downing pegs of rum. Too much for her, the poor vanilla gets lost. Un Bois Vanille, on the other hand, is the kind of vanilla she loves.
I can see why - it has the comfort of vanilla sugar (think baked goodies) and yet it is resolutely grown up. For around that rather innocent cookie vanilla are a slick of coconut grease, the sweat and salt of licorice and the feral invitation of beeswax, giving the whole thing a lived-in and experienced feel. To say nothing of the essential warmth of a good vanilla that makes it particularly suited to the chillier months. The coconut morphs so successfully with the vanilla here you’d think this was a particular variety of vanilla in its own right. There is a muted set of notes forming the backdrop, mainly gentle woods and tonka with spicy hints that accent the licorice.
A fantastic comfort scent, if rather less successful as a ‘going out’ kind of perfume.
16th September, 2015

À la Rose by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Transparent rose with the x factor. When I tried this on a card I was struck by a fantasy of the light fragrance of dewy roses carried on a morning breeze; À la rose promised to make it real and I reached for my wallet.
At home, on skin, the experience is inevitably different – one is more aware of the construction of this fragrance which wears like a rosy mist. Cooling citric tones (mainly lemon to my nose) are doing the job of making the entire thing feather light; they suggest ‘Wear this in summer’ to the mind. The roses (from Grasse according to MFK), which have the starring role are completely under the sway of this lemon wash before oh-so-gently opening up as time goes by. The magic is in the cool airiness of this creation; of how it takes an incredibly sweet true rose note and tricks your nose into thinking it is tart and juicy.
Of course there are less pricy contenders in this territory – an excellent one is fabindia’s dirt cheap Wild Rose, but that is greener and comes in an annoying roll-on; one must also consider Acqua di Parma’s Rosa Nobile, but that plays up the transparency to such a pitch it goes a bit limp. For me, this simple seeming offering does it just right. Francis Kurkdjian has also given us the über-sophisticated rose of Luimière Noir, which is a true classic. Here he does something utterly different; but it works for me.
Points of concern are: modest projection and a more traditional powderiness creeping up in the later stages.
16th September, 2015

Violette a Sydney by Laura Tonatto

A ‘voice through a cloud’ kind of perfume which reminds me a bit of the cooler end of Nordic jazz where, say, the trumpet slips in quietly among the shifting forms and it’s a couple of minutes before you realize it’s there.
A soft and measured offering, which presents a distinguished violet – that essential hard-boiled sweet inscrutability married with light peppery and anisic tones. There’s a vegetal rootiness in the mix and delicate powder (the mimosa?). It gives the impression of continually unfolding whereas it is actually quite linear once it settles. Somewhat introspective, a perfume suited to painting a watercolour at home.
02nd September, 2015

Rêverie au Jardin by Tauer

Among the many divergent reviews of Rêverie au Jardin one of the few common strands is: those who don’t particularly care for lavender seem to find that this is a lavender that suits them. Lavender lovers, meanwhile, complain: ‘Where is the lavender?’
Perhaps both views can be addressed by observing that the lavender spike in Rêverie occurs early on, in the opening minute or so where we have a lovely clean lavender paired with some airy coniferous green. Almost immediately the transition begins, with the lavender dying back considerably, and the emergence of a smoky frankincense which imparts resinous warmth and plays up the balsamic aspects of the conifers – but the overall composition stays light. And finally, a vanillic base with some soapy orris and ambergris creaminess grows more prominent marking another successful transition, but now the lavender is set pretty deep in the mix.
Whereas I find that each stage is well-executed, there is no denying that this is a much softer creation than we are used to from Tauer. He once remarked that he felt maybe his sense of smell wasn’t particularly keen which is why he created such powerful perfumes. Clearly his hooter was coming over all sensitive when he composed this one.
02nd September, 2015

Eau du Gantier / Eau Élégante by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

Now renamed Eau Élégante.

A bit thrown by the opening which seemed like a lemony version of the haze effect achieved by a perfume like Tocade – but that musky cloud soon dispersed and this tart, cologne-like, ‘légère’ (according to its makers) perfume stood revealed. It’s a good casual, straightforward, bright and breezy composition mainly reliant on the lemon and verbena combination, and given a creamy and slightly spicy undertow by the sandalwood. I would have liked to have had some evidence of the berry notes, but they evaded my nose in any kind of defined form.
However for what it is, a well-executed and smooth verbena-centred fragrance, it does the trick. Wears light, but that is to be expected. Towards the end, all citruses and verbena have more or less gone and the sweetish inflection of the musk-sandal base could also include the suggestion of berries – but only in a vague marshmallowy way.

A fuller notes list as listed on the MPG site.
Top Notes : Lemon, Bergamot, Grapefruit
Heart Notes : Blackberry, Verbena, Raspberry
Base Notes : Sandal Wood, Musk
02nd September, 2015

Aoud Greedy by Montale

A somewhat poisonous affair combining pan-scrubber lemon with dry licorice – it steadfastly refuses to work until hours into the wear. The backing is mainlysome bitter almond inflected patchouli and a dense amber note. This grows in volume beating the lemon and licorice into submission. A sprinkle of powdery wood is the only nod to ‘aoud’ and it is actually quite decent.
So far so dire; I’m thinking: ‘Would probably keep mosquitoes at bay, but this is ridiculous as a perfume.’ But if one is prepared to clench one’s teeth and wait a good two or three hours, there are rewards. The lemon comes back up but softened and somehow richer (as if it had hitched a ride in an Amouage limo) and suddenly the patchouli backing (which has grown muted over time) makes perfect sense. The licorice is now lost in the mix but there is a wonderful sense of a complex old world base to compensate.
There you have it – quite an accomplished late phase but I’m unprepared to sit through the hours of instability that precede it.
02nd September, 2015

Ylang Ylang Nosy Be by Perris Monte Carlo

A ‘boudoir of calm’ perfume, evocative of a space lit by candlelight and draped in amber-gold velvet, a call to the unburdening of the mind, rest that re-energizes and, ultimately, sensuality. This is a perfume infused with a soft warmth which captures the spirit of floral nectar – sweet for sure but also round and light and lively.
Showcasing a deep ylang ylang note from oil sourced from the Madagascan island of Nosy Be which apparently has supplied it to the world market for a century now, this is a perfume of unaffected complexity. The ylang is rich, yellow-gold and oh-so-caressing, but there’s a backdrop of other notes that provide the kind of contrast that allows it to truly sparkle. First up are some lively citruses (lemon, grapefruit; the latter more in evidence) immediately tempered and warmed by cardamom – they prevent things from getting too honeyed while not distracting from the mood of alert relaxation, like after an expert massage, how one lies on the couch loose-limbed but senses fully awake and body a-tingle. Now hints of a garden jasmine and loukom-like rose begin to reveal themselves, and a vanilla that admittedly is more like vanilla sugar, more alto than bass, but somehow apt in this mix.
The perfume has a burnished quality – the ylang has none of the banana tendency that is sometimes evident, the jasmine isn’t in the least indolic – the whole thing twinkles and invites.
It has the restraint and confidence of a classic.
02nd September, 2015

Craft by Andrea Maack

“You have placed a chill in my heart,’ sang Annie Lennox way back when. Here’s a perfume to fit that song: a semi-frozen piney-incense of such desolation and fakeness that it takes an effort of the will to give it any kind of nostril play.
The pine note is of such a high-pitched variety – à la some CDGs and a couple of Oriza offerings, where it is presented much more sympathetically – that it cannot help but screech. It is joined by some lemony incense, but this lemon would be better off disguising bleach. Industrial, hard, a blow to my poor head, this is craft I refuse to practice.
21st August, 2015

Yapana by Volnay

Volnay is another phoenix-from-the-ashes French house – one of those that had their heyday in a previous era and have been recently resurrected. The original Yapana dates from 1922, but this recreation by Amelie Bourgeois was released in 2013. Well, it seems strikingly of both times, unfurling as a classic smoky-spicy oriental and yet not appearing out of date or fuddy duddy. Apparently all Volnay creations shared a base of powder, vanilla, clove and rose (Base 4092), and this is no exception though the powder and clove are more in evidence here.
I was sceptical of the reliance on heritage, so hadn’t tried out anything from this house, until a sample of Yapana dropped in my lap. The first sniff was enough to dispel doubts – this is perfume that means business. It is an attractive mix of smoked balsamic resins inflected with the gorgeous ambery charm of the rockrose, resting on refined powders (here iris and rice are mentioned in the notes and indeed they are present, with first the iris more in evidence and later the rice powder). Not forgetting a daring dose of clovey spice. The spice may be a touch too high for some – but Yapana’s warmth seems natural and unforced.
I found the late stages (we’re talking about eight hours wear) somewhat too desiccated and the spice then began to annoy.
If you love perfumes like Caron’s Parfum Sacre or Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir, then this is also worth a try, though it’s a somewhat humbler sister to those beauties.

The declared notes are:
Top: Italian bergamot, Pink pepper, Bigarade grapefruit
Heart: Base 4092, Ylang Ylang, Rose, Elemi, Helional
Base: Siam benzoin, Labdanum, Indo patchouli, Rice bran, Iris, Golden Stone, Green vanilla
21st August, 2015

Clemency by Humiecki & Graef

The elements of most-desired modernity from the dawn of the age of electricity – streamlining, speed, crackle and spark – seem embodied in this curious shapeshifting perfume.
The beginning is like being dragged through rosy undergrowth while wrapped in cellophane and tinfoil; natural *and* artificial is Clemency’s mode. Fortunately, this tying together of tech and nature is not an arid intellectual exercise but a living, breathing creation, perhaps one that may have drunk a touch too much milk.
What started as a peppery chypric rose with a metallic sheen, morphs into a honeyed linden accord (stripped off the greasier elements that often load down linden notes) with vegetal greens, that setting-teeth-on-edge metal and a sprinkle of dust. Eventually a film of milk runs over everything – a cross between the real thing and moisturizing body milks – while a backing of synthetic sandalwood reveals itself. The synthetic woods are perfectly at home in the overall mood of this odd but so far wearable perfume, but it’s the fatty milkiness combined with the metallic aspect that I’m less sure of – it won’t bother many I’m sure, but it constricts my throat and brings on an involuntary arching of just one eyebrow.
However, it’s the last nasty twist that got me. The florals recede to sweet slop and up comes a leather, that combined with the sweetness and milkiness had the effect of putting me off my food completely. This stage is reached after about an hour and it is what one is left with for the duration – truly this perfume shows no clemency.
21st August, 2015

Black Musk by Montale

A perfume of glue-sniffing addictiveness for me – combining the dry woods and patchouli accord that signifies ‘the dark’ (ooh-err) in many a Montale with a veritable blizzard of musks and sweet powders circling round a mild and civilized leather note. Black Musk feels at once completely synthetic and completely satisfying. It has richness and depth and that headcharge that comes with a perfume high. It makes me feel like I am the proud owner of a pair of turbojets, and it stimulates me into thinking carnal thoughts. That’s quite enough for me.
Spray it on in the morning and by bedtime it has turned surprisingly tender and soft – just the thing for sweet dreams.
21st August, 2015

Ballerina No.1 by Les Parfums de Rosine

Apparently named after a pink rose with clusters of small flowers of the open, single-layer-of-petals variety, this is a pretty safe fruity floral, not without some charms. After a worrying opening which resembles the done-to-death sugary rose-geranium combo, Ballerina No 1 skips into more appealing territory. The rose accord gets less uptight and more relaxed, coupled with a vague pulpy fruitiness with flashes of living green. This is the phase that most caught my attention because it was the most animated and natural.
Soon enough the lactonic base which is the selling point of this offering wells up, first giving a stupor-inducing body lotion impression but slowly evolving towards the milk mentioned in the notes. Almost but not quite: milky notes in perfumery often suffer from a residual metallic aftertaste and that’s the case here as well. Eventually, this milkiness takes over completely, distorting and subjugating the floral notes.
One gets the expected modest Rosine projection: I’d spritz through 2-4 ml in a day’s wear no problem.
Ballerina No 1 is filed away in the overstuffed category of ‘likeable enough but not memorable’.

Notes according to the Rosine site:
Top: Pear, Peach, Freesia, Bergamot
Heart: Rose, Peony, Violet, Raspberry
Base: Milk, vanilla, Musk, Sandalwood
21st August, 2015