A deep golden coloured oil which reveals the perfume of an old cedar casket filled with spices and eastern ambery mixes. If that sounds too full on, it is worth remembering that the feel of Safwa is creamy and smooth, so none of its rich players actually overpower; its projection doesn’t broadcast you to the whole wide world either, settling instead at a well-judged middle distance.
Heavy spices in a perfume usually cause me discomfort, so the first thing I note is that though Safwa has a good dose (clove, cardamom, cinnamon, in that order of strength) they are contained in the brightest of ambers, translucent and gently sweet, backed by triple-milled vanilla, a dab of earthy but also greasy patchouli and weathered aromatic woods. This is a comfort scent and would provide a nice warming glow on a cool evening.
It has a tantalizing bit at the opening section, where fresh herbal notes give it quite a lively feel. Alas, they recede quite quickly into the background where, mixing with the sweeter elements, they contribute a curious old school ‘man cologne’ touch. It doesn’t quite jar but it doesn’t seem entirely at home in the mix either, and finally departs after about four hours.
Safwa has a long evolution and the later stages are marked by a fascinating ebb and flow effect where sometimes the vanilla and amber aspect is more upfront, and sometimes the spicy woody one. There is plenty here to keep the nose interested for the entire day that one application will last.
One of the essential qualities of a successful perfume is its ability to disarm. One could pick little things to praise or blame about it, but when one feels, ‘why bother, it’s lovely’, then it’s a winner. From the moment Oud for Love landed on my skin, it said only one thing: ‘You must have me.’
One could look at the roster of listed notes – and yes, there are rather a lot of them – and try to place them in their order of prominence and appearance but that would be a fruitless task, capturing little of the mature and balanced nature of this perfume. It is nothing but elegant. Its centre of gravity is a deep green chord (at once herbal and somewhat medicinal in the vein of eucalyptus) married with an oud construct which seems to be a combination of a smoky wood note (like cypriol) and vetiver. (Here there is a faint echo of Ormonde Man which works magic with a similar marriage.) Behind this lurk malty and sweet flavours, a touch of vintage booze, a crumb of toffee, and spices to give just a hint of carnality and plenty of warmth. But the whole panoply of effects is blending harmoniously to provide an overall deeply satisfying rich woody experience. This seems to be living wood, breathing with the wearer’s breath, sending generative green shoots out in the early stages, yet carrying the ancient memory of its years in its olfactory pleasures.
Oud for Love is completely present but never excessively so, a quality that Duchaufour has said in interviews he aims for in his compositions (but doesn’t always achieve).
Reading the breathless publicity material to this one I just knew there was no way it could live up to it. Here’s a snippet: ‘This “aerodynamic leather”, electrified by animalic, sensuous musks, conjures a blond, bearded, tattoed biker smiling behind his Ray-Bans… Born to be wild!’
So it’s a bit of an adjustment to realize just how polite this one is – clean, with sweet breath, and softly spoken. To my nose it’s an almost completely abstract somewhat musky composition whose chief quality is to convey a sense of airiness, openness and space. There’s a hint of fresh paint at the opening but the perfume soon settles to a soft, fluffy sweetness which the nose registers as floral even though it may not be, an airbrushed (rather than ‘aerodynamic’), scrubbed, gentle leather and a lingering sense of something cleansing like anise, all rendered in that wide open and full of air style that has its charms.
Ultimately, however, Metal Hurlant is one of those perfumes I file under ‘pleasant’ and then forget. I can appreciate light perfumes as much (or little) as the next person, but when they border on ineffectual, there’s a bit of a problem. Maybe more sensitive noses will rate it much higher.
One of those ‘Oh please, not again’ versions of a slightly spicy and fresh woody ‘masculine’. The sickly sweet wood’n’spice aromachemicals that form the backdrop are now so common in budget masculines they should be listed as bulking agents. They provide a recognizable filler, shading in the vast blank spaces of the perfumers’ imagination when asked to bring a product to market that will cost pennies and sync with the unwavering mediocrity demanded by market testing. Up front is a peppy lavender that sadly instantly conjoins with the syrup in the base. There’s a hint of ginger, something vaguely resembling fruit on the turn, and some irritating aromatics that are like garish copies of herbal accents à la Cool Water. There’s nothing of the vaguest interest here.
A stealth amber decked up in freshening pine sap and cloaked in plumes of incense, but, make no mistake, this is amber front, back and centre, with a good shot of cookie vanilla to boot. This could have been a tragic mess, but it’s pitched well, with projection that is decent but not honking, and the amber, though undoubtedly sweet, not treacly. I’m not a fan of vanilla sugar notes but here it plays peekaboo with the piney, resinous elements to quite charming effect. May not change your life but good work nonetheless.
A shudder ran through me at the opening of Arethusa – it seemed a dead ringer for those gassy fruity-woody jobs currently aimed at young men (Diesel Fuel for Life, I’m looking at you). On me they inevitably bring on a strong headache. Terenzi’s take on the fruity genre sadly succumbs to the synthetic excess that pervades it in the designer segment where it is most popular – that, combined with aquatic notes is not a promising proposition. This is fruit that has been completely denatured, something tart and sweet, but not signifying a real plum or pomegranate by any stretch of the imagination.
There is a bit of a rescue effort in the underlying notes, especially the broom, leather and subtle spicing which give it a bit of a golden glow from within, but, all said and done, I’m walking away from this and won’t stop until it stops following.
A decent orange note, halfway between the peel of the fruit and candy, married to an accord that smells like vinyl sheeting warping under heat, most likely the rose struggling to express itself. Has a certain car crash attraction about it, I’ll admit. Bewilderingly, anything oud-y is buried way deep – it’s almost as if Montale didn’t have the heart to hit us baby one more time.
With time, as the citrus meets its ‘You-will-die-young!’ destiny, this becomes more about the rose with a hairspray halo and a hint of clove on its breath. Easy-wearing, but the abiding impression is that there are other Montale roses that do very similar things.
A top-heavy scent that basks in some reflected glory from Xerjoff’s superb Fars, the touchstone of lavender-ouds (not a crowded field, admittedly). The fun of this is in the opening hour or two where a turbo-charged lavender and lime combo fuse with a somewhat peppery oud construct, to create an energizing, hypnotic buzz. The East meets West fusion of the main notes shows no signs of awkwardness, this is a perfume equally at home in a souk as in a chain-store riddled shopping mall.
The lavender has a synthetic sharpness at the edges which actually improves over time, but time is not so kind to the overall scent profile with a wee touch of staleness creeping in and an overall drop in volume.
Lively ‘wake up, wake up’ citrus at the start – mainly lemon to my nose with a bit of something mandarine-like as well – a good burst that includes citrus leaf accents among the peel. Faint cologne-like spicing; the coconut is just a hint of something creamy and foamy; discreet woods in the backdrop. I can see how this ticks the ‘refreshing’ box for summer. But it is also all much of a muchness, settling minutes into the wear into its pretty boring and somewhat soapy citrus and light woods statement.
A billowing, cushioning musk, all powder, soap and heliotrope, this is perfumed fog. While I get gentle spice tones and even hints of sandal, Musc is mainly about that formless, clean, flower-infused musk. How much you like it will depend on how much you can appreciate that diffusive quality. Some will find it sumptuous and enveloping, even symphonic; me I miss a bit of bite and would have liked a bit more definition.
Having said that, I appreciate how this composition rolls out, persuasively filling out the space around the wearer with its gentle but quite insistent presence. The musks used seem to be quite layered and have depth, even if lacking definition, and the tonka in the base adds a nice dry vanillic touch. As a rose lover I don’t get the prominent rose some others seem to get from this and the neroli is pretty much absent, it’s the pale mauve of the heliotrope that rules. But even that departs in the deep drydown when all that is left is a sweetish drugstore musk with a vaguely floral aspect.
Probably the kind of perfume I would wear when I might want it as background mood music rather than for active interaction – which is to say hardly ever.
A cool, dark green shade. I think perfumes like Eau de Lierre speak to me because I hate hot weather. The one true escape (apart from the industrial solution of air conditioning) is to find a dense patch of green and creep into its shade – the temperature drops or seems to (which is perhaps as important).
Eau de Lierre combines notes of bitter inedible vegetation with a sprinkle of dusty cyclamen and an overall cooling aquatic sheen – and that’s about it. But it’s enough to lie back and laze in.
It reminds me of another simple aquatic green – Les Néréides’ now discontinued Vert d’Eau – which used to be my go-to high summer scent. With such things personal preference plays a strong role and I can understand how offerings like Eau de Lierre are too single-minded or unimpressive for some. To me they are a sometimes needed respite.
Unfortunately fades back quite drastically after a few hours, losing the green edge, with just a bit of hazy sweetness and that aquatic shiver still remaining.
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.)