Perfume Reviews

Reviews by freewheelingvagabond

Total Reviews: 193

Tsar by Van Cleef & Arpels

Tsar is an honest, good fougere, the likes of which are disappearing one by one these days. There's the traditional bergamot-lavender-oakmoss structure, but Tsar distinguishes itself with an array of fresh, green notes that are slightly grassy-coniferous than herbal. The bright, vivid opening of bergamot and lavender, tinged with neroli, leads to an aromatic phase that persists over a few hours. It is fresh, delightfully reminiscent of soap, yet retains a surprising crisp dryness. The oakmoss is discernible, though somewhat toned down, and together with patchouli and woods comprise an abstract accord that concludes the final transformation, where the fresh green aspects are still retained. It seems to have very little leathery aspect, if any. Tsar has an appreciable duration of about seven hours and a persistent gentlemanly sillage.

Tsar's neighbours could be Jazz (less green, more abstract and complex), Duc de Vervins (less fresh, more leathery) and Esencia (more woody and coniferous). Tsar could be a classic white shirt fragrance, though personally its charms are best experienced at leisure. I tend to think of Tsar as uplifting, uncomplicated, handsome, authentic, wholesome, more traditional than conservative, and a wardrobe staple for the discerning noses.

17th August, 2017

Vetiver des Sables by Montale

Let’s get one thing out of the way: this is not a vetiver fragrance. Sure, it perhaps does contain a smidgen of vetiver, but so does at least 40% of fragrances, as vetiver is often used as a fixative in compositions according to perfumers. Now, coming to Vetiver des Sables: this is primarily a fresh-woody composition with a generous dose of spices - precisely the basic spice marinade used in a chicken curry preparation, including Kashmiri red chili powder, turmeric, and ground coriander and cumin. This spice blend forms the counterpoint to the fresh-marine notes, and they together rest on a bed of nondescript woody notes (that may include vetiver). Over time the freshness subsides as the spiciness becomes more prominent, and later on the woody dry down prevails, which does roughly approximate the smell of mahogany furniture.

Vetiver des Sables posseses good village and longevity. It also never smells agreeable, is too unbalanced with spices in the middle, and exhibits a grating synthetic demeanour from start to finish.

03rd August, 2017

Aoud Shiny by Montale

Aoud Shiny is sort of a lowest common denominator among Montales, though definitely not the worst. This is supposedly a rose-oud-patchouli concoction, though I get very little of each. Instead, what largely dominates is sort of a fruity-spicy-woody ‘aoud’ accord, the sort of accord that is bread and butter for Montale. It lacks the exoticism of Black Aoud, and has less depth, and is eventually a little crude and cheap-smelling. I detect a hint of violets and saffron, but mostly very subdued. The dry down becomes less fruity, as more woods come to the fore. It exhibits average sillage and acceptable duration, though slightly below par for Montales.

Aoud Shiny is far from a total disaster, however it brings nothing new to a crowded niche, where it is outshone by many others, including several from Montale. This is more suited towards casual buyers and blind completists.

03rd August, 2017
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Mandragore by Annick Goutal

Mandragore is a disappointingly thin citrus-woods concoction with a touch of herbal elements. There is a nice initial accord of bergamot with ginger, which is quickly joined by some green, woody aspects, and the show is over within an hour.

31st July, 2017

Le Vetiver by Carven

I hardly get any vetiver in this. It primarily comes across as a fresh-green masculine, soapy and a somewhat synthetic vibe. The synthetic element disappears completely at around three hours, which is the same time when the cash runs out. Stylistically it is somewhere between Creed's Original Vetiver and Lubin's Itasca.

Mugler Cologne, Guerlain Vetiver and Lubin's Itasca would be much more compelling alternatives.

23rd July, 2017

Aqua pour Homme Atlantique by Bulgari

If you thought Aqua Amara was underwhelming, try this ....

Atlantique has very little of the Bvlgari Aqva DNA, and instead is yet another vile chemical disaster. It is not an aquatic, rather yet another fresh woody amber, and is a complete abomination when compared to the original, which was innovative. It's only been seven months in 2017, but this is a strong contender for being the worst release of the year.

Stick to the original or the Marine flanker.

23rd July, 2017

Versace pour Homme by Versace

Versace pour Homme would be an abomination compared to other notable mainstream releases of its time, including Dior Homme, Grey Vetiver and Infusion d'Homme. Curiously enough, now it is above average in a mainstream store crowded with Sauvage, Invictus, Dylan Blue, Aqua Atlantique and the likes - it will almost smell like a sophisticated Italian cologne for all of two minutes. Reconciling the two drastic experiences would reveal that this eschews meritocracy and idiocracy, and firmly embraces mediocracy. It is a run of the mill concoction on the overplayed fresh woody-amber theme, marginally inferior to and substantially cheaper than Chanel's Allure Homme Sport, which is itself a banal offering. Acqua di Gio Profumo, while somewhat different, would be recommended as a more respectable and competent offering that can be worn as an alternative.

23rd July, 2017

Versace pour Homme Dylan Blue by Versace

Take Versace pour Homme, add the latest focus-group tested and approved aromachemicals in generous doses, and voilà! We have Versace Pour Homme Dylan Blue, a spicy-woody-aquatic featuring the dullest of spices, woods and aquatic elements but somehow managing to smell less dull and more jarring. Firmly belonging to the Sauvage-Invictus chemical factory, its olfactory assault is far less nuclear than those of its more illustrious peers. This favourable news is to be admitted with the perhaps unfavourable feature that Dylan Blue tries more to fit in, be a member of the pack, and be a ubiquitous offering of the post-modern, post-industrial, post-disinfectant world that is in perfect harmony with the concurrent heteronormative social hegemony. There is, indeed, an identity crisis at large.

Fortunately, any reference to Dylan Thomas or Bob Dylan is restricted to matters of nomenclature.

22nd July, 2017

Patchouli Intense / Patchouli Homme by Nicolaï

Parfums de Nicolai has at its helm Patricia Nicolai, one of the most skilled perfumers of her generation. Her creations are rich, traditional, and complex. This doesn't seem to click with many, while many also find them too conventional or stereotyped. I, on the contrary, love this house. The compositions are complete, polished, exhibit the craft of the perfumer, the quality of ingredients, and, while there surely are some that do not make the mark, there is not a single release that can be considered bad, vulgar, or of low quality.

Patchouli Homme apparently has had a mixed reception, particularly because it's very different from most other niche patchouli fragrances. This is not a hardcore patchouli fragrance, even though patchouli is the most prominent member in the cast. Anyone looking for a 'patchouli' fragrance is likely to be disappointed. Here, it's not about patchouli. It's about the blend. Patchouli Homme firmly belongs to the 'patchouli and more' camp.

Patchouli Homme is an aromatic, and, at times, vaguely soapy interpretation of patchouli, where patchouli is somewhat in the shadows. I get notes of lavender, rose, mild spices and woods in an incredible accord that's hard to describe. The individuals notes are a little hard to discern, yet they manage to create many subtle nuances and dimensions that make the fragrance feel layered, rich and complex. There is a long and slow transition from the initial bright aromatics and touches of herbal elements to the comforting patchouli laden late dry down. It is assured, suave, sophisticated and simply smells divine. I'm sure it employs a fair degree of synthetics, however, there is a rich presence on skin, as it gives off impressions of a seamless blend of high quality essential oils. I have run through half of my 1 oz bottle, and now I can mention this in no uncertain terms: Patchouli Homme is, at least to me, right up there with the best Guerlains. While some might find it too conservative, this screams to me classic traditional French perfumery, rich and opulent - at least in the 21st century.

Lastly, for a perfume lover always crying about thin sillage and duration, Patchouli Homme is fantastic. François Hénin, founder of Jovoy, has apparently mentioned about Psychédélique: "Even the rain and mud of Woodstock won’t wash it away." Born in '86, if I could time travel to any one music festival, that would be Woodstock. In reality, unfortunately I cannot perform that experiment, irrespective of how much I wish I could. Now here comes the connection: I just wore Patchouli Homme all day last Friday in Chicago, including a day and afternoon out in the city with lunch and drink intervals, a mind bending four hour evening concert by Phish, followed by late night rounds at the good old blues bars on Halsted. Patchouli Homme was still discernible in the wee hours when I finally crashed.

19th July, 2017

Néroli Outrenoir by Guerlain

Guerlain's Neroli Outrenoir is a release that's a part of their 'luxe' (never mind whatever that's actually named) line. Neroli Outrenoir delivers an initial brisk bergamot show that lasts all of seconds. The plot moves over to an accord of neroli with smoky black tea, with some ambrette seeds that impart some dark musky nuances. Fairly linear, there is a slow transformation as the orange blossom subsides a little gradually, and the accord of ambrette seeds and myrrh becomes prominent, though the myrrh plays a supporting cast to the neroli-tea-ambrette seed triad. Neroli Outrenoir has close but perceptible projection, and lasts reasonably well on skin.

While Neroli Outrenoir brings something a little new to the canon of neroli fragrances, it is seriously compromised by what appears as the handling of the composition. The elements are too densely blended, lacking enough separation. The resulting neroli-tea-ambrette accord is dull, murky, and doesn’t flatter on the Guy Robert test. As neroli compositions, Seville A L'Aube or Fleurs d'Oranger are far more convincing, whereas one would suggest Philtre Ceylan as an example of a smoky black tea done right.

19th July, 2017

Green by Byredo

Green has an initial zing, that is a bit sharp and citrusy involving sage and galbanum. The opening zing subsides quickly to lead into a mid phase where the white florals are more prominent. I perceive a good amount of violets, and a vague nuttiness. The dry down is more musky with a hint of sweetness and traces of the floral elements, and similar in structure to the base of many of the Le Jardin series fragrances by Hermes.

Personally one finds Green somewhat ho-hum, and not much distinctive. I consider Chanel 19 and 19 Poudre to be more interesting alternatives in roughly similar categories. Anyone contemplating Green should also try those Chanels, Misia, and some of the Le Jardin releases.

Average sillage and longevity on skin.

19th July, 2017

Vétiver by Christian Dior

Dior's take on Vetiver is modern, crisp and has a couple of interesting nuances. It is a relatively straightforward vetiver with a twist of a note of roasted coffee beans. There is an initial hint of grapefruit as the vetiver is introduced; the vetiver is fresh, has the slightest hint of smoke. It is joined by a faint aroma of roasted coffee beans. This coffee note brings out more the rooty and earthy qualities of the vetiver; however, such nuances are very much kept to a minimum. At times there are allusions to nutty and blond tobacco notes. Dior's Vetiver has appreciable soft sillage and a moderate duration of about six to seven hours, which is on or above par for vetiver fragrances.

Dior's Vetiver is a quality vetiver fragrance that is recommended to anyone exploring fresher takes on vetiver. The neutral rating is mostly reflective of personal taste. While I admire the composition, the note of coffee, and the resulting vetiver accord is not as engaging to one's tastes.

10th July, 2017

Clean Reserve : Citron Fig by Clean

Citron Fig starts off with a mishmash accord of citrus that is sour. I detect mandarin, lemon and mint - in that order of presence. This is soon joined by a fig note, which thereafter takes centrestage. Very soon all that is left behind is a nondescript woody-musky accord, with brief hints of that unpleasant sour aspect.

Citron Fig comes across as a bog standard citrus-woody-musky concoction with sub par quality and at a strength somewhere between an eau de cologne and an eau de toilette (even though it is labelled as an eau de parfum).

05th July, 2017
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Agaressence by Brécourt

Another fruity-floral 'oud' fragrance with lots of plum, rose, a smidgen of 'oud', but a melange that smells close to a shampoo, without any distinction or merit and very insubstantial, and eventually dull.

04th July, 2017

Le Vainqueur by Rancé

This is the quintessential early 2000s fresh-synthetic masculine designer viewed through the lens of so-called niche perfumery. However, it is by no means any improvement. It starts off reasonably well with a blast, which is a melange fresh-green fruity-floral-aquatic notes; thereafter it grows more crude, more annoying, and more grating with each hour. At about the three hour mark this is nothing but Burberry Weekend for Men with a facelift. Sillage is adequate, and so seems to be duration - which might not actually be a good thing in this case.

03rd July, 2017

Feuilles de Tabac by Miller Harris

Feuilles de Tabac by Miller Harris is an interpretation of uncured tobacco leaves within the aromatic green genre. The initial phase is citric, slightly peppery and slightly smoky, and paired with some tobacco notes that impart a humidity to the fragrance. Things go south soon, as the composition somewhat comes apart: any spicy aspect vanishes, and the tobacco disappears as well to leave behind a woody-sweet dry down that is only slightly aromatic. The fragrance is also rather meek with soft sillage, and duration is quite fleeting.

Feuilles de Tabac comes across as a missed opportunity because of its shortcomings. A greater focus on tobacco together with a considerable increase in potency would have been much more interesting. The vintage version of Dolce & Gabbana pour Homme can be thought of as a much improved Feuilles de Tabac: unfortunately, it is almost impossible to come by now. Or, just get Havana.

03rd July, 2017

Lapidus pour Homme by Ted Lapidus

Lapidus pour Homme comes across as a conventional 80s masculine built on a sandalwood-patchouli core, augmented by honey, and embellished with florals (rose) with one key difference: there's a big slap of a fruity pineapple note. The pineapple persists well into the base and only stops being discernible right at the end.

I'm not a fan of fruity sweetness within a traditional classic masculine structure. Hence, Lapidus pour Homme is not for me. Otherwise, it's a decent composition with obvious virility and old school machismo.

Think of it as Aventus, but worn by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. There you have the complete picture. Now, that would actually be some much-needed redemption for the Creed.

01st July, 2017 (last edited: 02nd July, 2017)

Frankincense & Myrrh by Czech & Speake

Frankincense and Myrrh will be a disappointment for anyone looking for either frankincense or myrrh. It doesn't have much of either, very little in fact. It is rather a gentle, soapy aromatic masculine fragrance accentuated by these two notes. There is a fleeting and subtle citrus opening along with lavender. The lavender is soon paired with light frankincense. This is followed by the fragrance getting woodier and ever so slightly creamy from the woods. The soapy freshness is present throughout. Unfortunately, it perfoms a disappearing act very quickly - low sillage and low to average longevity on skin.

I would have loved a more substantial rendition of the same theme - a soapy traditional aromatic masculine accentuated by incense. It has pitfalls similar to a few other Czech and Speake fragrances I have sampled - not bad, but thinness of body and absence of any compelling factor in the scent profile.

01st July, 2017

Vétiver Vert by Czech & Speake

Vetiver Vert is not particularly green. The opening is a somewhat misleading citrus pairing of mandarin and bergamot. Very soon the citrus paves way for vetiver and some herbal notes. I detect a strong bay leaf, which makes this fragrance a bit herbal and imparts a barbershop aspect. However, the bay is the only note adding spiciness. The vetiver is dry, and a little smoky. The dry down is mostly this pairing of bay leaf and vetiver, with some faint woods.

Overall this is a decent composition, though it could have been better in certain aspects. The use of bay leaf is very nice and innovative, but the composition feels a bit lacking in notes and somewhat underdone. I'm not appreciative of the citric opening in this fragrance, but thankfully that phase is really fleeting. The dry down, while persistent, feels a bit thin. The fragrance could have been more nuanced in the heart and in the base.

Low key projection and fair longevity on skin - as with most vetiver fragrances.

01st July, 2017

No. 19 Poudré by Chanel

It takes only a single spray of No. 19 Poudre on one's wrist and studying it over the next ten hours to understand why Chanel has been the darling of so many women over so many decades. No. 19 Poudre is a brilliantly crafted floral centred around iris. There is intially a hint of citrus, followed by an accord of iris and galbanum. The long dry down is a gorgeous musk. Not dirty musk, not laundry musk - just a fresh, slightly sweet musk that smells like clean human skin.

It's hard to believe how the same company pumps out inane masculine 'colognes' (Allure, Bleu, Platinum Egoiste) year after year.

No. 19 Poudre is elegant, sophisticated but also very modern and approachable, and not too elaborate. It's unmistakably Chanel. Unlike some other Chanels, it also has adequate sillage and excellent longevity.

01st July, 2017

Lipstick Rose by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

"You wash and brush up
You want to dress up
You want to kiss her
But she's busy with her makeup"

- E.C.

29th June, 2017

Seyrig by Bruno Fazzolari

Aldehydes, florals, musk.

Seyrig starts with a heady blast of aldehydes that is at once soapy and refined. There soon comes to the fore an assorted bouquet of flowers where it is difficult to discern individual contributors, though there is a hint of rose. This floral accord persists for a significant period, with a soapy, clean, green temperament, and an attractive cool elegance. The late dry down reveals a slight warmth, and is soft, musky, and slightly mossy.

While Seyrig is undoubtedly well crafted, it seems to replicate a common style of perfumes - notably vintage aldehydic soapy florals. This is a modern take characterised by lack of animalics, absence of spices, and a typical refinement that one experiences in Fazzolari's creations. However, Seyrig is also somewhat straightforward and not as innovative or compelling as the majority of Fazzolari's range. The end result comes across as a simple makeover of a pretty, but a little tired (and, sadly, somewhat forgotten) genre.

Recommended for lovers of aldehydic florals.

28th June, 2017

Driftwood by Mirus

Mirus is a San Francisco based artisanal perfumery. Driftwood is classified as a woody oriental: "Driftwood evokes the smell of a dry piece of driftwood on a warm, sandy beach kissed by a cool sea breeze. "

Driftwood on my skin has two phases. The first phase is salty, vaguely ozonic, and is evocative of driftwood but more with marine olfactory stereotypes than those of a beach. There are passing similarities to Acqua di Sale, Aquilissima (Hilde Soliani), and even a bit of Sel Marin. However, Driftwood firmly stays in its own realm with the focus being on the woody aspects of the accord. One finds this accord to be quite novel and distinctive. This phase lingers on for a couple of hours before there is a slow transformation to its second phase: the salty, ozonic aspects disappear as a very restrained sweetness creeps in to complement the wood note. At this stage one discovers an uncanny similarity with several aspects of the dry down of Sycomore EdT. Sadly, around the time of this transformation, the fragrance also seems to unravel quite a bit.

Driftwood has its quirks, and is a novel composition, but eventually reveals a few shortcomings. While the first phase of the composition is quite innovative and interesting, it is not assertive or persistent enough. The second phase is not as engaging after the first. However, Driftwood unfortunately comes across as not robust enough for an extrait, and wears more like somewhere between an EdT and an EdP. A more potent concentration with a greater emphasis on its first phase of development would have been much more compelling.

24th June, 2017

Philtre Ceylan by Atelier Cologne

Philtre Ceylan is a part of Atelier Cologne's Collection Orient which also includes Mimosa Indigo, Poivre Electrique, Tobacco Nuit and Encens Jinhae. Philtre Ceylan comes across as one of the most authentic renditions of black tea one has encountered in a while. It begins with an ethereal cardamom laced citrus that immediately transforms into an accord of black Ceylon tea. This is different from other black teas including Darjeeling, Assam and other flavoured black teas such as Earl Grey. The aroma is robust, slightly smoky, slightly sweet, dewy, and closer to that of brewed tea than dried tea leaves. The cardamom and a hint of cumin support this tea accord; however, spices are kept to an absolute minimum so that the tea is the focus, and the composition never veers into masala tea territory. This phase is long lasting and linear, till eventually the tea and spice notes diminish a bit as an enveloping, semi-sweet guaiac wood joins the other elements to add a nuance, and to form the final dry down of tea and woods.

Philtre Ceylan possesses good longevity on skin of about eight hours, and is discernible throughout before fading away towards the end. However, the sillage is also soft to moderate, though perceptible, and forms a soft cloud around the wearer. Philtre Ceylan is easily the standout among Atelier Cologne's Collection Orient, and a general highlight in its catalogue. While it is somewhat pricy for what it is, it also fills a gap given the relative dearth of quality fragrances focussing on black tea. Anyone missing Coeur de Vetiver Sacre's brilliant interpretation of tea will be advised to consider Philtre Ceylan. However, personally one finds Coeur de Vetiver Sacre to be best reserved for summers, while Philtre Ceylan is an attractive proposition for an autumnal scent.

23rd June, 2017 (last edited: 02nd July, 2017)

Le Vetyver by Lubin

A sublime vetiver .....

A wonderful fresh, spicy vetiver. The touch of cloves brings warmth to the composition and provides an interesting contrast to its cooler aspects. It's similar to the Guerlain, but is spicier, drier and more masculine. There is a little less emphasis on smokiness. Instead it rich, green and deep. Once the aromatic aspects subside, the dry down is very lush and comforting. Good sillage for a vetiver fragrance and admirable tenacity on skin.

While it doesn't present much compositional novelty, it is also one of the rare cases of flawless execution of a classic style. Easily one of the best vetivers out on the market within the traditional masculine realm. Excellent stuff. Criminally underrated.

02nd June, 2017

masculin Pluriel by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Dull, pedestrian and flat.

Masculin Pluriel reveals itself as a sweet lavender composition supported by vetiver and woody notes. It is very generic after the first thirty minutes or so.

This is not it if you are looking for a fougere. There are many great fougeres still around, starting with Azzaro pour Homme. You want to pay MFK prices? Go for Invasion Barbare.

This is not the barbershop fragrance that one yearns for. It lacks the brilliant, crisp radiance of Rive Gauche pour Homme or the warm comforting aura of Antico Caruso.

This is not the woody lavender fragrance to search for. That niche is accounted for by Bois du Portugal, Heritage and New York.

This is not by any means the first pairing of lavender with sweet notes. There's a long list starting with Caron Pour Un Homme, Le Male, Casanova 1725, Caron Third Man, Gris Clair and Fourrea Noir for such expressions of lavender.

It borrows quite a bit from Gris Clair, but is nowhere near as distinctive or engaging as Gris Clair. It doesn't have the burnt sugar sprinkled with incense aspect, which makes Gris Clair so addictive. Nor does it go anywhere else with its exploration of lavender.

By now you perhaps have an idea of how it is.

Such a shame it shares shelf space with a masterpiece like Absolue Pour Le Soir.

Did I mention thin sillage and below par duration?

02nd June, 2017

Monocle Scent One: Hinoki by Comme des Garçons

A very frustrating experience.

Hinoki has some dusty green top notes where one can barely pick out the pine and the cypress. The green elements are supported by cedar-like woods. The fragrance smells simplistic, linear and is hardly engaging. Very soon the green elements subside to leave behind a humdrum woody skin scent. Overall it's very lacklustre - a vanishing mid phase, an absent base, very short duration and zero sillage.

Disappointing to say the least.

02nd June, 2017

parfums*PARFUMS Series 3 Incense: Jaisalmer by Comme des Garçons

Jaisalmer has an Indian masala chai accord over the incense skeleton of the Incense series. This accord has notes of cardamom, cinnamon and pepper, besides other spices. This structure is present throughout its life on skin, with little to no transformation. Only in the dry down the spices soften and the fragrance becomes a little ambery.

Personally I'm ambivalent about this composition. I'm not a fan of barebone incense; but while it's more substantial than something ethereal like Kyoto, I cannot claim to be a fan of this particular interpretation of incense. In its favour is the fact that this is indeed quite a unique take on incense. Nothing great, but definitely worth checking out - particularly if one is a fan of incense.

Average projection and tenacity of 4-5 hours on skin from 4 sprays.

02nd June, 2017

Allure Homme Edition Blanche Eau de Toilette by Chanel

The good news is that it smells quite good, especially after the initial 5 minutes or so.

It opens with a lemon-pink pepper pairing that is neither invigorating nor zesty but is rather restrained. On bad days this can be mistaken for a furniture varnish. The opening leads to a very linear creamy (vanilla) lemon fragrance with hint of some woods. It's not cheaply made, the 'Chanel quality' is discernible.

However, it is also rather boring. There is no development, no dynamism, and the prolonged accord that sits on the skin is not that compelling either.

Additionally it is extremely shy, and tenacity on skin is quite insubstantial.

02nd June, 2017

Fat Electrician by Etat Libre d'Orange

A sweet vetiver.

The emphasis is more on the supporting sweet notes, than the vetiver itself. The myrrh makes the fragrance a little creamy, and there is a little bit of vanilla. The sweetness is comforting rather than cloying.

Overall this is quite a subtle fragrance. It has very low sillage and not the greatest longevity. It does not particularly explore vetiver or the sweet notes, nor is there any compelling accord. It comes across as insubstantial because of its scent profile and lack of tenacity.

Poor to okayish, and quite easily forgotten.

02nd June, 2017