Perfume Reviews

Reviews by gimmegreen

Total Reviews: 650

Fruitchouli Flash by Tauerville

Och, the burden of expectation.
I love Andy Tauer’s way with a fruit note – how the apricot is so frisky within the poise of Phi before finally settling down on a powdery bed, how the raspberry has such an enormous smile on its face in the otherwise rather stately Une Rose Vermeille. I was nigh salivating at the thought of cheery fruit excess.
But Fruitchouli Flash turns out to be an altogether different perfume – for one, the note differentiation one expects from a Tauer creation is pretty much absent. Instead it comes across as a hugely lactonic white floral with some peachy tones to it, with more than a passing resemblance to Gucci Rush. Don’t get me wrong, I love the disco-babe attitude of Rush and own a bottle, but Fruitchouli Flash feels a bit too much like re-inventing that particular wheel.
16th April, 2016

Chimaera by Tiziana Terenzi

No fire breather this Chimaera, but a thoroughly blended perfume that begins with coniferous greens mixed with light spices, before letting in a honeyed sweetness. It’s expansive and buffed to a high shine – individual notes cease to matter. But one must mention the balsamic base – half marzipan, half healing unguent – that lurks just beneath this dark green swirl and completes it. The oud? It’s there, but one must look for it – suffice it to say this isn’t an oud perfume in any traditional sense, Eastern or Western.
More nice work from this house.

16th April, 2016

Aoud Velvet by Montale

Overindulgently honeyed floral backed by sandalwood and some dry wood notes posing as oud. I thought I spotted a bit of vanilla lurking in the background, but now I’m convinced it was my mind playing tricks.
The emphatic sweetness of the floral notes is the main feature of Aoud Velvet, which is another blaster from Montale, nothing velvety about it. White floral notes are declared but the concentration is so syrupy that they could just as easily be rose – the sugar kick warps everything.
I would recommend this to lovers of excess – but alas there are far more accomplished perfumes available in that category. This is all a bit too auto-tuned to truly satisfy.

16th April, 2016
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Amorosa by Ruth Mastenbroek

Maybe I’m turning into a cynic as I get older but I feared this would be a bit Dolorosa. Not so! A va-va-voom white floral that is classy and well-rounded, I think Mastenbroek pulled something rather special out of the hat with this one – well, for the first half at any rate.
Amorosa’s core pairing to my nose is tiare and tuberose – all the creamy, buttery, coconutty embellishments of those blooms are evident, but without overpowering. It’s sensual, heavy-lidded, dozy in a ‘come stroke me’ way. Around it lurk a sprightly green-tinged jasmine and a refreshing hint of watermelon at the start – of this latter I would have loved a bit more.
A rich floral it may be, but it has a soft and gracious step, and it throws open a window on a garden of heady blooms rather than locking you in a stuffy room with a huge bouquet (which tends to be the usual failing of white florals). Flattens out a bit in the second half, but just one spritz refreshes it again.

16th April, 2016

Rose Flash by Tauerville

Tauer’s Rose Flash gets straight to the point, and I like it for that. Opening with a jammy, raspberry-and-glue coated profusion of roses, Rose Flash announces its main theme soon after. The fruitiness dissipates within seconds and we’re left with a concentrated and deep rose bolstered with vanillic accents and a subtle bass woods backing. It’s quite a lively perfume as different aspects of the composition rise and fall continuously in the perception during the first hour or so – sometimes displaying a mild spiciness, sometimes almost a green freshness, at other times a syrupy gourmand quality coming to the fore.
All woody associations disappear over time making me wonder whether they were ever there and this is finally a quality uber-rose of great depth and generosity, front, back and centre.
Much as I enjoy it, I miss some of the complexity of the grand roses that Tauer has offered us before. I can see why it was a sell-out success upon launch – it’s a rich, luxurious, maximal but easy-going rose at an appealing price.
01st April, 2016

Un Air D'Arabie Musk by Maison Dorin

Un Air d’Arabie Musc’s first phase is as a proper Arabic musk. What I mean by that is that there is an assured complexity to the blend, it’s rich but not overbearingly so and it carries with it the suggestion of secret depths. This is a rosy musk – the rose lush, sexy but not crude, the musk bringing with it the suggestion of warm, aroused skin that is the domain of decent animalic musks.
The rose is shaded by the cooling aspect of chamomile (a note that blends well with woody notes, too) at the start, but the true bond is with a judicious dose of a smooth patchouli that gives a further sense of dimension and strength. And there is the backup of resins and woods that offer yet more intensity and a different twist to the main musk theme. It has a choral quality to it – working as an ensemble rather than as individual voices.
About three hours in, the musk pretty much takes over and muscles the other notes out of the way. It is still quite a vigorous beast but somewhat one-dimensional and – dare I say it – much cruder and cheaper than the impression it gave at first. I tired of it during the course of the day, though musk-heads may disagree.
01st April, 2016

Ruth Mastenbroek by Ruth Mastenbroek

A bit Eau de Aunty this one, reminiscent of mixed florals that were worn by most middle-aged women in my social circle when I was a child (1970s).
There’s a brief mossy punch at the start, an attempt maybe to lay down a chypric marker, but within seconds what unfurls seems like a pouring together of several mixed floral perfumes rather than just the one. There’s quite a solar, breezy feel about it and it wouldn’t surprise me if aldehydes were involved.
A few minutes in quite a juicy pineapple note emerges driving it further in the tropical direction, and it works well with the huge but thoroughly mashed up floral bouquet.
Not really my thing as I prefer perfumes this bold to have a bit more definition, but I am sure there’ll be a significant number of people for whom this will be just what they were always looking for – a fresh-smelling (though oh-so-retro) mixed floral with a dab of ripe fruit to wear in the warm weather.
01st April, 2016

Voyage en Arabie : Black Intensive Aoud by Mancera

Lovely restrained honeyed floral start (mainly rose but with some traces of violet) which reminded me of Al Harmain’s Attar Al Kaaba but delivered as a perfectly diffusive EdP instead of an oil. There’s the same milkiness about it, a creamy feel, with a polished sandalwood backing. Black Intensive Aoud wears smooth, smooth, smooth on my skin – the oud not really intensive at all, but a gentle backing player rounding things off. Similarly the spices are not really evident to me – whereas quite a lively amber in the base is and it fits right in.
Black Intensive Aoud gives an impression of great sleekness despite its soft and ample bosom of roses, cream and sandalwood. It may be a bit too derivative for some but it’s an absolute silky pleasure to wear.
01st April, 2016

French Lover / Bois d'Orage by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

At long last, a perfume with sharp and edgy herbal quality without added sugar. How rare a beast that is becoming these days, where the obligatory touch of sweetness is added to almost everything to cater to what is perceived as mainstream taste. Message to the brands: Perfume isn’t medicine (even though it can be deeply therapeutic) and doesn’t really need that spoonful of sugar to go down.
For me French Lover is an accomplished poisonous green woody. The angelica note makes me sit up and give praise, intensely herbal, peppery, and bracing, like plant sap that could burn skin on contact, and pairing it with the bitter green of galbanum is inspired. The backing is muted – a touch of something musty coupled with clean woods. The whole thing is lifted effortlessly with unobtrusive musks, giving it a light and nimble aura. A perfume of classical proportions with no joins showing.
Goes a bit barbershop in the end, but I forgive it.
24th March, 2016

Pichola by Neela Vermeire

The Neela Vermeire range has a very specific marker – these perfumes refuse to let you impose your taste on the rest of the world. They project just fine in terms of the wearer being able to smell them throughout the day. But take over a room? Never. They’re too well-bred. However, in terms of their pricing they positively scream: ‘Too posh for thou!’ Many is the time I have almost buckled for Mohur, but then decided to carry on being stingy with my decant instead.
Pichola is no exception to the refusing-to-be-loud rule despite being a white floral. From a sparkling green neroli and orange blossom accented opening, Pichola dons a somewhat milky veil (this milkiness is becoming a Duchaufour signature), but it’s supremely comforting. There’s a bunch of lovely notes nuzzling under it, understated citruses from the opening, a tiny pinch of cardamom, other floral notes, jasmine and tuberose chief among them, but oh-so-fresh and polite, and a base of cloud-like softness. Pichola puts me in a mellow mood notwithstanding its overall sprightly character. It gets a bit thin later on when one gets the feeling that the main orange blossom-tuberose theme is left standing on an empty stage.
Some will think Pichola misses the point of a white floral – where’s the seeping carnality or immense throw? Look elsewhere. But to feel like a just-opened blossom shaking in an April breeze, look no further.

24th March, 2016

Blue Amber by Montale

I’m wary of ambers – they can be too warm, too monolithic (sitting like a migraine-triggering lump on one’s skin), too familiar. Many wear out their welcome as far as I’m concerned, smelling the same for hours on end and too rich by half. The ambers I do go for tend to have the sweets severely cut down – like Olympic Orchid’s quirky Olympic Amber that is dark, dry and smells of boot polish. Or they are not the principal theme of the perfume, revealing their hand only in the later stages.
Blue Amber is hugely sweet but in the baby powder rather than the treacly mode that so many ambers adopt. Here it reminded me of certain characterless vintages of a bygone era – yup, not all discontinued vintage perfumes were masterpieces of chypric archness, many just smelled of talc and flavourless boiled sweets. It also has a whopping dose of synthetic vanilla, equal in power to the resinous ambery base.
But its main flaw is that it is trying to do something interesting (a pink-clad bawling baby amber, I’ll try some of that) with ingredients that my nose perceives as el cheapo. A kind of eau-de-pesticide feel hangs around its edges – maybe a side effect of all that powder mixing with resins? It does get increasingly resinous in the drydown but it’s just not for me.

24th March, 2016

Rose Opulente by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

Recently I’ve had a run of testing guns blazing, headlights flaring, wham bam roses – and have enjoyed every minute of it. This is not one of them. Opulent is also not the first term that comes to mind when wearing this. It’s a soft, yet present, comfort scent for me.
It has echoes of Ormonde Jayne’s superb Ta’if in the opening but without its definition and depth. This is cushiony and a bit of a cloud. After a peppery rose start, it quickly gets enveloped in gentle, musky, powdery tones. It’s the Vaseline-on-the-lens effect which makes the rose quite bleary but also has a kinder aspect of making the world feel safer, without sharp edges. And that is the main charm of Rose Opulente; it feels like one’s own space or that reassuring layer of makeup that some people can’t leave home without.

Notes according to MPG website
Top Notes : Fruity Aldehydes, Leaf Green, Rose Essence
Heart Notes : Rose Absolute, Jasmine, Cascarilla
Base Notes : Musks, Grey Amber, Sandal Wood
24th March, 2016

The Sands of Aqaba by Miriam Mirani - Aqaba

Strikingly odd and just right. The Sands of Aqaba is profoundly medicinal with a bittersweet heart – but it is also medicinal in a healing sense and I cannot get enough of it. The soothing, calming qualities of chamomile are the unusual main event here – chamomile is used so infrequently as a lead note in perfumery. The Sands of Aqaba shows us what we’ve been missing. Here the vegetal custard aura of this blossom is expertly supported by a lipsticky iris – one of those combinations that just works don’t ask why (like fried eggs with marmalade – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!).
And underneath is a core of something chewy, bittersweet, now coming across as a strange red wine, and then again as some balmy kind of medicine, with the lightest accents of salty spice. Again it is just right.
The Sands of Aqaba is a polished creation; it feels fresh through most of the wear (the late drydown is powder compact territory) and is never overbearing. A class apart.

Top: Iris, Camomile, Geranium
Heart: Coriander, Cardamom
Base: Vetiver, Frankincense, Tuberose

18th March, 2016
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Red Aoud by Montale

Late in my visit to the Montale shop, when I had already greedily pounced on a few cans and was subsequently attempting to be an angel of restraint, I was introduced to Red Aoud. The charming shop assistant sprayed some on a strip and said that she loved the feel of roasted tonka about it. And I could see where she was going with that – that striking gourmand accord which wears on the skin like toasted brioche or even crumbly almondy cake is the most remarkable thing about it. It’s a real caresser and I almost bought it then, but I was suffering from perfume relativism after having smelled so much, and so desisted.
Now, nearly a year later, I’ve got around to sampling it and that lovely toasted accord is still the most striking thing about it. We are so used to tonka as a dab of something indistinctly sweet in our perfumes that it is useful to remember the smell of the real thing which has depths and a dark halva-like richness – the difference is like that between vanilla sugar and a cloven pod of the real thing. I know tonka isn’t in the declared notes but roast tonka is what seems to surge up from Red Aoud’s base and I likes it.
The rest of Red Aoud I like less – the rose smells cheapo and screechy and is quite discordant at the opening until it settles somewhat, the oud is non-descript and somewhat shy, the other woody notes are generic and the spicing – particularly saffron which I adore – just refuses to make itself known on my skin. So we’ve got the phenomenal voice of the central gourmand accord surrounded by a band of rather untalented musicians. I can’t make my peace with that.
18th March, 2016

Ostara by Penhaligon's

Duchaufour puts to good use every trick at his disposal to whisk us off to a green field with buttery daffodils shaking in the breeze. That image is perhaps more important to this perfume than the recreation of a real narcissus scent – although this gets shockingly close. Ostara attempts to go one better and improve on nature.
First off it seems to dispense with much of the fatty and unctuous qualities of real narcissus blooms, instead pushing its recreation skyward on a surge of green notes – it’s a fragrant meadow of an opening. It’s perhaps due to this fantasy setting that Ostara tricks the nose into believing this is how narcissi should always smell.
A few things need observing. The first is a vegetal green that smells curiously of flesh; it will be disconcerting to some although I felt it didn’t particularly stick out in compositional terms. Bear with it, it subsides in about 15 minutes. The second is that as the perfume evolves it becomes evident that two other heavyweight blooms are responsible for bolstering the star of the show – hyacinth and ylang. The natural spiciness of hyacinth and, to a lesser extent, the narcissus itself reveals itself as the perfume settles. At this stage, Ostara becomes quite heady, despite wearing light.
But that is to pay too close attention to Ostara. Its main tricks of bringing a rush of spring to the wearer and its completely convincing narcissus are to be applauded.
It’s an impression that isn’t sustained, however, and Ostara gets milky and vague after the three hour mark, whereupon it’s time to reapply.

18th March, 2016

Elephant & Roses by Maria Candida Gentile

One to confound expectations – I was expecting an animalic rose (rowrr grunt meow) but got more of a lipstick rose (purr mini-meow). The animalic notes here are subtle – there’s the brushed hair quality of costus and a touch of something a bit waxy and warm like ambergris.
Even the thyme that has got some reviewers up in arms is just a trace – on my skin it vanishes almost immediately, hurrah!
But what we have instead is a melange of notes that simulate lipstick, powder compacts, body milks, make-up removing lotions; gentle, somewhat elusive odours that may not charm everyone. There are tones of iris and vanilla sugar in the mix although there is no mention of them in the notes. It’s interesting what these accents do to the rose – let’s call it the Tocade effect, although E&R does not blare like Tocade. They enclose it completely and turn it into a baby powder rose; this is a world away from the deep, natural rose of Gentile’s Sideris.
Slowly the fragrance begins to turn, as the salty vetiver and woods begin to reveal themselves, and perhaps we are getting a bit closer to the zoo now (the hay rather than the animals themselves). They work with the powdery rose not against it – strange but not too stage.
I enjoy Elephant & Roses quite a bit, it’s playful and soft, but I can see that it is only likely to be adopted by those with ‘special tastes’.
18th March, 2016

Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Soft-in-the-head woody that could have done with a bit of slapping into shape. The premise is of a soft, sweet, creamy wood scent – and Dries van Noten delivers on that account. But proper sandalwood was also promised and if there’s any in here it is smothered under a big dump of tonka and vanilla, and those gusts of woody musks that keep going woo-woo around this composition.
Otherwise, it is on one’s first impressions quite an appealing mix of light spicing (nutmeg mainly), a rich boozy tonka and gourmand vanilla, and woods. It has the feel of a CDG woody put through a soft-focus filter. Somehow its attempted cosiness seems more appropriate for a stuffed toy than for me.
But when it has settled into its dense sweet base where those woody musks seem to be all the action to be had, it gets intensely monotonous.
18th March, 2016

Noctem Arabs by Dr. Gritti

I am drawn to oud perfumes in the manner of an addict – I know that most won’t really satisfy when all is said and done and are often lacking in originality, but I’m promiscuously kissing them all hoping for that rare encounter with a prince. Some of the not-quite-princes I’ve kissed along the way have turned into lifelong friends. And to my surprise some of the best Western ouds I’ve come across don’t actually turn out to have the unusual pairings of notes that sound so intriguing and that might take the oud theme in a different direction. No, it’s the perfumes that focus on the star that win out time after time. Does this say more about my tastes than about the perfumes themselves – who knows?
At any rate, I am pleased to announce the arrival of another near-prince – a maybe. Gritti’s Noctem Arabs has a superbly realized oud construct that is the main attraction – I am reminded of vintage M7. Except this has a dark and chewy bitterness at its core. It’s the kind of oud that is polished, sharply dressed and one you can take anywhere without fear of offending one’s company.
The clever trick in Noctem Arabs is the use of a lovely soft, diffusive musk that propels the perfume’s throw – it gives an aura with no harsh edges, tremendously civilized, yet others will smell it on you. It is well and truly present but without getting up anyone else’s nose. The backing to the oud is well integrated woods – cedar and sandalwood. Again that sounds ho-hum, but the skill of the blend and the decent quality of the materials (none of screechiness of some of the woody aromachemicals) makes this trio truly lift off.
Sadly I have to admit that it is less impressive in the later stages, when it wears close to the skin (unless involved in physical activity) and the central oud accord gets a bit flatter.

11th March, 2016

The Afternoon of a Faun by Etat Libre d'Orange

An opening of pure discordance on my skin – greasy, sweaty, pungent immortelle which made me go ‘Oh no, hope it won’t carry on like this’ backed with cotton candy iris which made me think, ‘This isn’t really helping’. And then strange, earthy, mushroomy tones – goodness, what had this faun been imbibing?
But then it finally laid down upon the grass and things became a bit clearer. Its chypric identity came more clearly into view with the severity of mossy notes and dried-out greens proving a good fit with the immortelle – it has something of the loamy, forest floor feel of Oriza’s Chypre Mousse and much of its oddness as a result. With the immortelle finding its place in the mix, a rich butteriness rises up which puts an interesting gloss on what is essentially a half green-half brown scent which smells of natural organic things.
Eventually, though the chypric elements recede and we are left with hours of sun-baked immortelle permeated with a chokingly honeyed rosy odour. I can’t warm to this later stage at all and a full day’s worth I consider to be punishment.
11th March, 2016

Trance (new) by J.F. Schwarzlose

A huge siren blare of a perfume – one could easily get lost in it. On your own head be it, if you use more than a single spray. It does drop in volume later on, but not for the first few hours.
A concentrated and jammily sweet Turkish rose is cleverly married to earthy, woody tones in such a way that allows the wearer to have their heavily iced cake and eat it, too. There is no attempt to recreate the rose scent as ‘fresh’, instead the opposite tendency is at play – this is a rose that is being aged and dirtied by the other notes and emerging the more mysterious for it.
At the start one gets that rose at full whack but also strong dark, musty woody notes bathed in an aura of terps – it has a solvent-like rush to it. Although impressed by the power and the attempted grab at glory, I did wonder at this early stage how much of this I could take. Would my poor nose give up and call it quits?
But as the notes began to settle, the solvent haze dissolved, and Trance’s true narcotic beauty came somewhat woozily into focus. First to reveal its hand is a truly complex labdanum, drily ambery, with overtones of aged leather. Along with the dark woods it teaches the roseate excess some manners, bringing it into more civilized company. And then comes a dank, wine cellar scent – likely the artemisia but without much by way of the herbal bitterness that I love. (The rose-artemisia pairing needs to be worked much more in perfumery – see MFK’s superlative Lumiere Noir PH for a very different take.) Here it imbues the rose with a liquerish aspect, but also gives it that subterranean feel evoked by the perfume’s name (which surely nods to Berlin’s trance-playing cavernous clubs). There are fleeting accents of fenugreek which blend surprisingly well.
What strikes me the most about Trance, is that it refuses to allow the heavy rose to muscle its way to the front, the woody, herbal, resinous aspects are an equal half, giving this creation a dark aura and a seedy decadence that will be just the thing for a grown-up audience.
It’s only after a full eight hours of wear that the balance shifts and Trance becomes a kissing cousin of Oud Satin Mood with the gourmand rose more evident. Heck, that’s still a great place to be ending up.

11th March, 2016

Salome by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

Ah Salome, you could have danced with a severed head on a platter for as long as you wished, I couldn’t have cared, but did you have to do it wearing such rank underwear?
By now it is firmly established that Salome is riding high in the perfume blogosphere for its animalic daring – and, hey, I like some of that – but I can’t shake off the impression that it’s trying too hard.
It is a perfume with numerous antecedents, not just the pheromonal airs of long lost vintages, but perfumes that are of more recent creation. Beginning with a blast of warm and furry civet it eventually settles into quite an accomplished beasty musk, guaranteed to get my interest, not just for its carnal aspect but because good musks have an endearing warmth and sweetness to them which is supremely comforting, like laying down in a corner with a family pet that loves cuddles. But Salome is overloaded with cumin, particularly in the early phases, and this comes across more as a perfumer’s tantrum rather than the confident statement being aimed for. Successful musks often rely on a white floral element (for example Kiehl’s) and here the support comes from jasmin and possibly orange blossom, but it’s the pairing of these elements with the cumin that is more suspect. A dab of cumin on white florals is a classical idea, but it can go hideously wrong as in Al-Haramain’s Atifa Blanche, the memory of which is enough to make me wince. Here the cumin is like a lover leaving skid marks on your sheets – some folks go for that kind of thing, but me, I’m thinking, ‘Will it come out in the wash?’ and making a mental note of never sharing my bed with the individual in question again.
Now to come to the perfumes Salome reminded me of. In the opening, where the civet is most evident, I got a flash of Laura Tonatto’s beguiling Oropuro, which takes civety-musky notes and works civilized magic on them, giving full play to their sensuality without drowning them in dirt. Then, as the quality of the musk recreation unfolded (and it is a genuinely striking musk), I was reminded of Bruno Acampora’s Musc which takes cheapo bazaar musk oils and magically elevates them to their zenith. And when the cumin hit in Salome, Theo Fennel’s Scent came to mind with its rich mix of florals, musks and cumin. But Scent is a polyphonic creation with dark velvety depths – it took me a while to adjust to the cumin there, I will admit, but it always made sense in the composition and was not deposited like an undesirable on the floor as it is in Salome.
So, in terms of perfume pedigrees, I think Salome has had a good start in life, but it’s her brattish behaviour that lets her down. It could be my antipathy to the cumin overdose that is clouding my judgment, but I feel that all that dancing with a platter has left Salome seriously unbalanced.

05th March, 2016

Peau de Pêche by Keiko Mecheri

I think the whole point of peaches is that they be dripping with goodness, nectarous and fragrant, with that gorgeous gradation of colours worthy of an erogenous zone (which made TS Eliot’s J Alfred Prufrock timorously ask, ‘Do I dare to eat a peach?’).
Not so Peau de Peche, this is all fuzz and tartness and hard-as-rock under-ripeness – like some nouvelle cuisine faddy way of going about a peach rather than succumbing to their sheer indulgent juiciness. There is a noticeable dose of some ambergris construct which smells a bit like vegetable peelings and a much more powerful dose of a somewhat lemony musk providing the backbone. This latter so drowns out everything else and smells so synthetic through and through that it brought to mind some of Jo Malone’s more unforgiving ‘fruit’ renditions. A toxic mimic to my nose.
05th March, 2016

Oud Palao by Diptyque

I expected a smoke bomb seeing the listed notes, but, oh no, this is a captivatingly feral leathery oud. The oud is four-square and bang in the centre with all its unmistakeable rotwood allure. Around it is a hairspray rose to increase the feeling of intoxication, and a prominent and butch weathered leather. It brings to mind a beastie, sleek of fur and sharp of tooth with a bit of a manky bottom. The woody radiance of Oud Palao grows in time, and the rose deepens and grows richer. This is all about the oud, the supporting notes are bit players – it’s intensely woody, complex and deep.
About four hours in Oud Palao loses quite a bit of its brightness and projection. It has now become something of a lap sitting pussycat, the leathery tones pretty much gone, the sweetness more prominent. It’s still a perfectly decent scent to wear but I missed the vividness of the first half.
05th March, 2016

Honey Oud by Floris

After much anticipation on my part wondering what an uber trad English house like Floris would do with oud, the opening of Honey Oud was underwhelming. It seemed a bit of a wallflower, too polite by half. The honey note resembled the clear delicate stuff that has a lightly floral bouquet but omits completely the animalic buzz.
But as the perfume began to bloom, I became more favourably inclined. While Honey Oud remains polite, it slowly begins to reveal the quality of its materials. That honey turns silky smooth with just a hint of vanilla in its depths, similarly there’s a non-showy but ever so slightly boozy rose that merges seamlessly with the other sweet notes. The oud here is a caress and a whisper; the old trick of fortifying it with patchouli is used but the effect remains restrained and mysterious.
Honey Oud is a perfume of quiet distinction rather than the thrust and daring normally associated with oud. It may have seemed subdued to begin with, but its projection was fine once it warmed up.
05th March, 2016

Oyédo by Diptyque

If you thought citruses were fresh and cooling, try Oyedo. This is the first heated-up citrus I’ve ever come across, and here I am wearing it on a day with driving snow drifting past my window and feeling quite snug. And no, there’s not a trace of mulled wine about it either, no gaga spicing to raise the temperature.
Oyedo is a supremely smooth creation marrying a chunky woods base (with a serious dose of sandalwood aromachemicals) to mixed citruses through the intervention of a perfectly integrated thyme note, and camphoraceous and turpy tones. It’s novel, bold, different, not a crowd pleaser – a bit like bonbons from high end chocolatiers with flavours like wasabi or bacon that revolt some and drive others wild. There’s a shimmer and haze about it, a creaminess, and yet the notes are punchy, even rough (in the case of the wood).
The citruses do recede over time, leaving that woody base somewhat exposed, but for most of its life Oyedo is unusual fun.
27th February, 2016

Laudano Nero by Tiziana Terenzi

A perfume to wear when the heating’s malfunctioning – this is seriously warm and will raise the temperature (at least in your mind) by a few degrees. Normally, I would avoid anything that brings with it such a strong suggestion of heat, but this is ravishing and I could offer no resistance.
The notes list is as long as my arm which makes it somewhat futile to talk about all the individual notes; reading about such a throng in other reviews I usually find it difficult to imagine the actual experience of the perfume.
So I will concentrate on the long view. Laudano Nero is a symphonic perfume, where dark chords rise up to the heavens with all the richness and vibrancy of a pipe organ at full tilt. As the overtones overlap numerous scented details emerge and recede providing a delightfully varied experience. The house describes Laudano Nero as ‘one of the most complex and structured perfumes of the collection’ and that is true. But it isn’t a bewildering complexity – Laudano Nero has a unity of mood about it, combining resinous warmth and radiance with indulgent boozy goodness.
Three main themes intertwine seamlessly, the most gorgeous of which is a musty, riddled with fungus, wood accord with accents of artemisia. Another is an aggregation of dark tobacco and vanilla notes around boozy and fruity davana like tones with a dab of sympathetic red rose. And finally, tenacious resinous backup inflected with frankincense smokiness and the sharpness of bay.
While they are all in simultaneous spin, Laudano Nero makes me feel as if I’m falling in love. But after a few hours when it is the resinous theme that predominates, I become fickle. For one, I find bay a difficult note personally, and here it is quite prominent, but also I’m tiring of the ‘dried woods and resins wrapped in incense smoke’ genre. Many will find much to adore in the drydown; I am less keen on it after the glories of the opening hours.

27th February, 2016

Boisé Vanillé by Montale

A sweet (but not too sweet) spicy-woody-ambery base worthy of a drugstore ‘masculine’ from the 1980s gets seriously derailed. Clouds and clouds of custardy vanillic powder envelop it, complete overkill – which means folks who dislike that kind of thing will dismiss Boise Vanille, but this is so me. Also of note is a serious patchouli, starting off darkly boozy, almost medicinal, but then taking on a nutty, almost marzipan aspect with time. That trad base is the least interesting thing about Boise Vanille; it’s the powder-patchouli excess that grabs my attention.
But sadly the evolution is towards a rather more pedestrian ambery powder bomb with little by way of delineation.
27th February, 2016

Aoud Roses Petals by Montale

Watch out world – here comes another Montale rose on jet skis, leaving a vapour trail of hairspray musks. This turbo rosiness seemed quite similar to another Montale I’d tried recently – Deep Roses – both share the thrust and edge of geranium to make the rose blare louder. So I tried them side by side and of course there are differences. Deep Roses is the fresher and livelier of the two, while Aoud Rose Petals accumulates quite a cloud of sawdust as it progresses. Whereas the oud note may be restrained in Deep Roses, here it is mainly dusty, woody tones that emerge during the wear rather than anything one could instantly recognize as oud. Also, there’s a grown up amber setting a steadier pace after the rush of the opening.
And it’s that rush that often gives the impression that many Montale’s are identikit smellalikes.
Aoud Rose Petals is a refined, satisfying rose in the later stages – if one doesn’t overdo it, as it has all the power for which Montale is renowned/notorious. It gets increasingly abstract, opening up from a tooth-decaying attar-like concentration, into a more diffuse and welcoming rosy cloud.

27th February, 2016

Akowa by Micallef

Akowa delivers what many other niche offerings only promise – sheer novelty. The opening chord it strikes is utterly itself, and I can only guess that this is the mystery African root which is supposedly in the composition and whose name isn’t divulged.
Bearing in mind that I have no referents for this odour, my description of what it smells like must bear the weight of greater approximation than usual.
That opening salvo has the focus and concentration of pale green hair pomades from a much earlier age – the scent profile is fresh and green but also with fatty overtones. It is completely pleasing to my nose. As the perfume begins to open up, I am reminded more and more of a green floral of the most original kind – Akowa begins to smell like a mix of linden and lime and those cooling, lilting yet persistent odours of tree blossoms in hot climates, the kinds of pale blossoms that are made up entirely of wiry filament-like petals. It’s an expansive, refreshing odour that makes me want to fill my lungs with it – mentally I’ve ticked the box marked ‘spring’ for this perfume.
Threading in and out of this pale green, almost aquatic but really not, haze is a secondary chord based around cocoa – one gets hints of it rather than a proper dusting. This gives a touch of warmth and a skin-like feel, nothing overtly gourmand. There’s also a bone dry, clean (as in non-earthy) vetiver, not a version of vetiver that I normally go for, but here it provides subtle backing without clouding the main theme’s airy feel. It does grow more prominent in the later stages as the other notes begin to fade a bit.
As the mystery ingredient/chord is present from start to finish, your response to Akowa will rather depend on whether you care for it. I love it wildly in the opening stages but after a few hours I’m not so sure. What I do know is that I hope for two things: that Micallef release other offerings with this ingredient, and that Akowa doesn’t fly under the radar of perfume explorers, it is definitely worth testing.
27th February, 2016

Askew by Humiecki & Graef

Askew flirts with the some of the usual notes of energizing mainstream ‘masculines’, resembling many, yet staying quite a few blocks ahead. There’s a technical skill to it that elevates the familiar elements and makes them zing.
At its heart is a citrus and leather pairing which is backed by familiar elements – a touch of sweet spice, crisp and bracing vetiver and woodsy notes. But the leather is dry, dry, dry (not musty) and oh so restrained, and the citrus is like an impressionistic dab at just the right spot, with none of the cat piss associations of grapefruit. Further accents are a lively ginger (a note I usually avoid but here it is fresh, juicy and not overdone) which is softened by soapy cardamom.
Why is Askew better than many others in the same territory? One, it goes for a specific identity – there is not the slightest fleck of dirt on it, all the notes emerge just-bathed and bright eyed, there’s no hint of tiredness. So it’s just the thing for an early start. Two, at the beginning the notes are sparklingly distinct without coming over all clinical, which gives one the sense that one understands how this perfume works. The restraint is admirable. There’s likely an elusive x factor to it which I can’t quite identify – but that is probably how it should be.
A few hours in, with the merging of the notes, this becomes mainly a sporty citrus-tinged clean vetiver – thus the gap between it and designer offerings doing similar things begins to close. But it remains a pleasure.

12th February, 2016