Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Zealot Crusader

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Total Reviews: 490

New York for Gentlemen by Brooks Brothers

Brooks Brothers is America's oldest ready-to-wear designer brand, formed in 1818 by Henry Sands Brooks and then entering the field of ready-made suits in 1854, which was a revolutionary concept at the time since most suits were bespoke. The house grew into a designer brand with its own boutiques, featuring a logo that stems back to the Knights of the Golden Fleece of the 15th century. Brooks Brothers has always been centered around conservative men's fashion, often being the brunt of jokes as the sweaters and socks of choice for doctors and lawyers all up and down the Eastern seaboard, which is where their market is strongest. They've only dabbled in fragrance a handful of times prior to 1998, with an earier bay rum-based wet shaving cologne dating from their formative years being re-orchestrated as Brooks Brothers 1818 (2010), but Brooks Brothers overall has maintained a painfully classic vibe for most of their olfactive efforts since entering the market in earnest. Brooks Brothers New York for Gentlemen (2008) is no different, and was a brand new (at the time), honest-to-goodness aromatic citrus chypre seeing release twenty years past the genre's prime, going up against modern aquatics, gourmands, sweet woody ambers, and other freshies. Seasoned hobbyists and vintage guys were probably both elated that something like this was seeing release in 2008, but likely also scratching their heads as to why Brooks Brothers would be so obstinately old-fashioned with their fragrance designs in the face of almost certain failure, but that's not to say New York for Gentlemen isn't entirely without its modern touches. With that having been said, it takes a special kind of person to fully embrace what is on display here, since New York for Gentlemen exists in a strange neutral zone between niche, vintage and designer, with a price point meant to be reasonable when bought new, but with the presumed prestige of the Brooks Brothers name behind it, and a certain level of niche-like rarity combined with its throwback design, making this something you can't just buy anywhere.

Virtually unknown perfumer Richard Herpin composed this for Brooks Brothers, and he seems to know what their mostly middle-aged haute bourgeois clientele likes. The opening is the usual chypre salvo of bergamot, with sharp pangs of petitgrain balanced out by lush verbena, and a sweet mandarin tone to bring the opening away from being overly-compared to 50's, 60's, and 70's greats from the genre. New York for Gentlemen doesn't try to step on the toes of something like Christian Dior Eau Sauvage (1966), even if it does borrow some of its hedione in the transition to the heart. Carnation and orris root phase in next, the former being an unusual choice given the genre type, but it works well when flanked with that soapy orris and the dirty cumin which counterbalances said orris. That cumin note isn't strong enough to impart a severe sweat funk like Cartier Déclaration (1998) or Eau d'Hermès (1951), but it does add a stroke of virile manliness to an otherwise clean scent. Clary sage adds a bit of barbershop recollection to the dry down of New York for Gentlemen, while fresh and non-smoky green vetiver, musk, dry sandalwood, and a slight but convincing oakmoss base note anchor the composition to skin. The mandarin maintains the lightest touch of modern sweetness to make this not feel like a total anachronism but still clearly an aromatic citrus chypre, while the vetiver dances with the cumin to make the scent feel a tad more earthy alongside the light oakmoss application. Wear time will be decent at eight hours plus, and this is too serious with it's near-lack of florals (save that carnation) to be anything but a formal or office scent, although maybe it can pull some casual usage for guys into such a mature vibe. Sillage is not wild with New York for Gentlemen, showing that discretion is the greater part of valor with an understated but persistent glow of scent around the wearer. Spring through early fall are the best seasons to use New York for Gentlemen, unless you spend most of your time in climate-controlled spaces, in which case anything goes.

New York for Gentlemen proved that the well hadn't yet run dry with fresh ideas for a what was a nearly-dead genre at the time, and although almost no one has really heard of this stuff, a lot of East Coast "old money" guys would have bought this love letter to classic male perfumery in 2008 over any thing Yves Saint Laurent or Calvin Klein was putting out at the time in lieu of knowing about prestige houses like Creed. Vintage colognoisseurs believing an equation of "bergamot + sandalwood + oakmoss = masterpiece" is the prime directive of male perfumery still might find New York for Gentlemen lacking because the scent is not made on the same budget as the mid 20th century greats it emulates, but tries to hide that fact with impeccable blending. New York for Gentlemen sits in the lighter side of the chypre spectrum, and is comparable to 1881 Pour Homme by Nino Cerruti (1990), Monsieur de Givenchy (1959), and Armanu Eau Pour Homme (1984), so another potential snafu may arise for guys with wardrobes loaded down with scents of this ilk, since this Brooks Brothers entry may be lost in the mix. Furthermore, that one touch of modern mandarin sweetness may just be a touch too much for the dyed-in-the-wool purist wanting a traditional bone-dry chypre experience. Lastly, availability seems sporadic at best, with the original argyle-patterned blue bottle being discontinued, then a new version using Brooks Brothers' current rectangular bottles periodically going out of stock on their website, meaning eBay sellers are constantly between tripling prices after a drought and lowering or ending listings when more stock arrives at Brooks Brothers, placing an annoying "yo-yo effect" on the scent. Thumbs up from me for this underrated "modern classic" gem, but with the caveat that as an old-school citrus chypre with a touch of new-school sensibility made on a modern designer budget to be sold only at boutiques, New York for Gentlemen may be hard to like for some, and even harder to find for testing.
18th February, 2019

Dior Homme Sport (2017) by Christian Dior

Dior Homme (2005) is a line that has undergone more reinvention and reboots over it's life than even the infamous Gucci Pour Homme (1976) with it's reboots and sequels, but to Dior's credit, they have never eliminated nor replaced the original pillar like Gucci have. Instead, this reinvention is confined to the flankers, with the likes of Dior Homme Cologne (2007) seeing a reboot in 2013 as an entirely different fragrance, Dior Homme Intense (2007) being reorchestrated into Dior Homme Parfum (2014), and Dior Homme itself being reinterpreted without the gourmand notes as Dior Homme Eau (2014), but none of them have seen the sheer amount of revision that Dior Homme Sport (2008) has received. This is the review for the third version from 2017, but a previous revision also exists from 2012. Dior Homme Sport (2017) in this state is only a slight tweaking of the 2012 version to include a brighter fruit top so it better fits the sport theme, which is something this line's iris-lead composition is really ill-equipped to handle. The first version was lead with citron, ginger, lavender and red pepper with a sandalwood base, then the red pepper and lavender were removed in the 2012 version while the sandalwood was replaced with cedar. In addition to the fruitier opening, this version sees the sandalwood returning to the base, and pink pepper taking the place red pepper once inhabited in the heart, along with the addition of vetiver. Fans who mourn the smoother and piquant approach to the original will probably be best with this 2017 edition, while fans of the drier and sharper 2012 edition will be unhappy with the changes here.

Regardless of all the musical chairs perfumer François Demachy has forced Dior Homme Sport to undertake, it still does not quite feel like a sport fragrance, but we can squarely blame that on the ever-present iris across all variants of Dior Homme, since it's playful androgyny and formality are the hallmarks of the line and the very things keeping any version of this from feeling athletic. Granted, this is a lighter, brighter, and fresher take on Dior Homme, but so is Dior Homme Eau for that matter, so where this fits is really just wherever you want it to in my opinion. The scent opens with grapefruit, blood orange, and lemon, which is three times the citrus of previous versions, and accounting for the fruitiness. Outside that, it develops as one might expect from a Dior Homme flanker, by going into that lovely iris. Nutmeg and the aforementioned pink pepper flank the iris, making it a bit warmer here than it will be in all other variants save the original or it's more-intense variants, but the citrus fruits keep it vibrant, making Dior Homme Sport feel like the most youthful of the line. Sandalwood and sharp vetiver come in the base, with a touch of the original's leather, but Iso E Super does most of the talking and diffusion in the end, giving Dior Homme Sport a bit of an annoying woody aromatic chemical burn vibe that feels raw and less-sophisticated than its siblings. I guess this is the intended way to achieve the "sport" feeling, and it's not enough to make me dislike the stuff, but worth pointing out. I still think Dior Homme Cologne is the best for sport or hot weather use, but this is a close second with the bright citrus that stays throughout the wear, with Dior Homme Eau following up the rear as semi-aquatic take. Dior Homme Sport will serve well in summer and spring, or for casual get-togethers. I find this a bit too bouncy for the office, but to each their own. Wear time is decent at 8+ hours, and sillage is average.

As mentioned above, where Dior Homme Sport fits in a wardrobe is up to the wearer, since it does not really pass muster as a gym or running companion in my books, but does find favor in warmer conditions much like Dior Homme Eau, whereas the original Dior Homme would suffocate due to the gourmand and oriental characteristics. It all comes down to how many iris-lead masculines one guy needs in his wardrobe, since iris itself is a very challenging note for CIS heterosexual guys used to smelling it in their girlfriend's foundation makeup as is, so wrapping their heads around smelling like it themselves is a toughie. Still, if you're a huge iris fan of any gender that doesn't mind having a bit of an ozonic top and aromatic base mixed in, nor have the gumption to just wear Guerlain Shalimar (1925) out of the house, Dior Homme Sport is for you. In fact, if you are simply in love with the Dior Homme line, collecting the sport flanker might be in order, as it is the brightest and spiciest version of Dior Homme that still manages to keep a strong tie to the original, but without feeling redundant. In some ways Dior Homme Sport reminds me of what merging Creed Millésime Impérial (1995) with Dior Homme could be like, with a bit of surgical alterations. Guys who don't really like sport scents have nothing to fear here, but guys who don't like a ton of flankers and just want the core experience should probably skip this little redressing by François Demachy and stick to Olivier Polge's original landmark work from 2005. Thumbs up from me because I love iris, but don't dive in without testing first, even if you've smelled others in this serious. If anything, this should just be called "Dior Homme Summer" because that's where this seems fit for use the most.
17th February, 2019

Bulgari Man Wood Essence by Bulgari

Bvlgari has been somewhat exhaustive with their male fragrance flankers, making sure every line has an entry that cashes in on some fad or trend, or contains the magic ambroxan note somewhere in the base. Bvlgari Man Wood Essence (2018) is another such exhaustive flanker, that tries to tick all the boxes and fails at most of them, but it isn't a horrible scent overall. We get the "ambergris" base line that carries the scent, piled on top by an array of old-school goodies like cedar, vetiver, benzoin, and citrus, with an honest attempt of merging the "ambroxan bomb" trope that has monopolized male fragrance counters for much of the 2010's with artistic values borrowed from the brief resurgence of late 90's and early 2000's green aromatics. Bvlgari Man Wood Essence doesn't entirely succeed at melding these concepts together because an ambergris accord, whether natural or synthetic, is a warm animalic/mineralic accord that mixes better with floral, oriental, or aquatic tones than with anything herbacious, aromatic, or woodsy. We used to have oakmoss to anchor our green and woodsy things but that has been done away with, so I understand the idea of "making it work" since we all know ambroxan has wiggled its way into every other genre of masculine perfume, but in green aromatic setting like Bvlgari Man Wood Essence tried to provide, the sweet/salty/warm accord of the "ambergris" note clashes.

If we set out misgivings aside for just a second, and focus on the rest of the fragrance, Bvlgari Man Wood Essence isn't half bad, starting off as most things in years past have with some citrus and coriander spice. They didn't use the obvious choice of bergamot here, but I believe that is mostly an attempt to stray away from the old-school dry nature that note usually puts forth in scents like these, mixing in something more akin to a slightly-sweeter grapefruit and tangerine mix to go with that coriander. The heart notes of Haitian vetiver and cypriol continue the green theme, adding a bit of grassy nuttiness from the particular strain of vetiver used here mixing with the spice. The cypriol moves us into benzoin, which thickens things up and allows the cedar accord of the base to form, but the ambroxan will not go quietly amidst such aromatic bedfellows, sticking out like a sore thumb and dragging the rest of Bvlgari Man Wood Essence into some weird sort of "fresh sweet" designer finish that is very much at odds with the other 90% of the fragrance. The way the ambergris accord shows up to dominate and cast the rest of the composition in an entirely different light is the biggest failure of Bvlgari Man Wood Essence, and the biggest reason I can't go above a neutral on it in rating; it really is like shoehorning something such as Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme (1999) on top of the base of Bleu de Chanel (2010) and calling it a day because it's what the house asks of the perfumer, and by extension, what "the people" want according to the marketing team. Wear time is somewhat low for an eau de parfum, although sillage is about what is expected: denser and less projecting. This has office use written all over it.

Alberto Morillas of all people was assigned to this, and although he is quite capable of genius when left to his own devices, it's clear he also knows how to bang 'em out to order faster than a fry cook Five Guys Burger and Fries. It's kind of sad, because I'm sure he probably saw this as being a mistake when making it, but also probably excepted the challenge of trying to merge the ubiquitous "bro juice" dry down of all the big commercial players with a composition that is otherwise against the grain. If graded by merit of sheer experimentalism, Bvlgari Man Wood Essence is a resounding success, but it really isn't the risk taker I make it out to be because regardless of how this opens or develops, it dries to the same chemical thud of everything else made in the wake of Bleu de Chanel or Dior Sauvage (2015). Bvlgari themselves have been striking misses left and right anyway, with nothing really of much interest since the last Bvlgari Pour Homme (1995) flanker dropped under the name Bvlgari Pour Homme Soir (2006). Still, taste is subjective and for those who like the Bvlgari Man (2010) line thus far, this one is worth a sniff. For everyone else, don't expect to be wowed, and if you dig the awkward mesh of tones on display here, you're probably a tad more eclectic than the average fellow anyway, which can only be a good thing in a day and age of homogenity. Odd, interesting, but not really enjoyable for me, but don't take my word for it, Bvlgari Man Wood Essence gets a solid E for effort.
17th February, 2019
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Armani Eau pour Homme by Giorgio Armani

Giorgio Armani was just finding his stride as fashion mogul by the early 1980's, having done his time as a designer for Nino Cerruti in the 1960's before launching his eponymous house in 1975. From this launch, came a diverse line by the 1980's, consisting of Emporio Armani (higher-end trend-conscious fashion and fragrance), Giorgio Armani (more conventional Italian fashion and fragrance), Armani Collezioni (more value-conscious clothing-only brand), and Armani Privé (haute couture and eventually parfumerie). Armani by Giorgio Armani (1982) kicked off the perfume venture, and was followed by this two years later as a men's companion scent. Armani Eau Pour Homme (1984) was composed by Roger Pellegrino, a fellow who also created the seminal One Man Show by Jacques Bogart (1980), but went against the 80's grain of loud juice with this creation. Armani Eau Pour Homme recalls a great number of French and Italian citrus chypres from the 50's through 70's, and just like those, is a soft-spoken aromatic experience meant to exude a quiet aura of class and maturity. Those versed in classic chypres will identify Armani Eau Pour Homme as nearly academic in composition, much like Capucci Pour Homme by Roberto Capucci (1967), but coming across lighter, rounder, and less tart. Roger Pellegrino was not without his tricks, and a bit of French influence creeps into the heart and base of Armani Eau Pour Homme, correlating it to classics like Dior Eau Sauvage (1966) or Monsieur de Givenchy (1959) every bit as much as the debut Capucci masculine. Smelling vintage Armani Eau Pour Homme also lends insight into why Armani would desire Acqua di Giò pour Homme (1996) to be so citrus-charged (and distinctly not blue) for an aquatic, showing some continuity. Citrus chypres themselves were an "evergreen" genre into the 80's much like fougères continue to be, and likely the choice of older men who refused to reek of animal gland like the young cats sporting Yves Saint Laurent Kouros (1981) at the time, but somehow this Armani example has remained popular enough beyond the final curtain-call for genre in the early 90's as to actually spawn flankers 30 years after launch, which is puzzling.

What is perhaps more puzzling, is why this particular example of chypre has remained while other superior ones in the field have gone the way of the dinosaur, but perhaps that has more to do with the strength of the Armani name as a brand over many of its competitors. In any case, Armani Eau Pour Homme opens like one versed in men's citrus chypres might expect, with a salvo of bergamot and lemon, but Armani adds a twist of petitgrain as a callback to the French style, recalling the opening of Chanel Pour Monsieur (1955) ever-so-slightly. This is a similar trick that the debut Versace masculine Versace L'Homme (1984) would also perform, but Armani Eau Pour Homme doesn't go in the same powdery "gentleman's night out" direction that the Versace scent takes, keeping it from being a link to later powdery oakmoss semi-oriental chypres like Guerlain Héritage (1992). The heart sneaks in a bit of jasmine hedione with the expectant lavender, and a slightly-nutty arrangement of spices also kick in, with cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander and clove blending so seamlessly, that only the clove really sticks its head out. I also get hints of rosemary, neroli, and sage connecting the top to the heart and smoothing everything out until the chypre base appears. Dry cedar and grassy vetiver accompany the telltale oakmoss bite of Armani Eau Pour Homme's finish, while sandalwood and patchouli act in the base much like the herbs and neroli do in the heart, smoothing out the rough edges. The final effect of the dry down is one that glows to a lesser extent as Eau Sauvage, but with herbs, oakmoss, and aromatic spice doing all the talking in place of any proper florals once the citrus and lavender burn off in the first few hours. The style Armani Eau Pour Homme represents might be downright antediluvian to guys who didn't come of age until after the year 2000, but that hasn't stopped this stuff from persisting as mentioned above, and I find it perfectly pleasant if not a bit formal. Suggested use is office or casual spring and summer outdoors, since something this bright and mild-mannered would take a beating and go invisible in the cold air, with wear time is adequate for an eau de toilette at about 7 hours max.

Armani Eau Pour Homme alongside Versace L'Homme, Aramis Tuscany Per Uomo (1984) and the previous year's Yves Saint Laurent Pour Homme Haute Concentration (1983), would be a vanguard for a final generation of designer citrus chypres for men, being followed by Penhaligon's Douro Eau de Portugal/Lords (1985), Gianfranco Ferré for Man (1986), and R de Capucci by Roberto Capucci (1986) until the genre was subverted with semi-oriental tones before disappearing altogether into the 90's. Fans of the aforementioned should approach Armani Eau Pour Homme positively, but with curbed enthusiasm because this stuff is the antithesis of a powerhouse. There's not a lot more that can be said about such a controlled exercise in chypre craft, outside the fact that it avoids being a total oakmoss bomb due to it's "eau" lightness in the sillage department. On that note, if you actually want your bottle to contain oakmoss, you need to look for the old design with the black surround on the bottom, as the newer silver-clad stuff is a reformulation without the oakmoss and reduced clove to meet IFRA regulation, plus is also missing the sandalwood because perfumers over-harvested all the Mysore trees and nobody can afford it in their perfumes anymore outside niche houses. Modern Armani Eau Pour Homme feels more like a chypre/fougère hybrid because the hedione shines brighter in absence of the oakmoss bite and complexity afforded by the spice or sandalwood, coming closer to an eau de cologne to boot. Modern production is still a mature scent, but without its key ingredients to balance it out, becomes very nondescript, which the original was already in danger of becoming by virtue of its formulaic design. I'm not usually one to say go chase down vintage and pay what is likely an unfair price, but if you want to play with this Armani in current form, you may actually miss the point since removing base notes from an already-light scent makes it almost die of atrophy. Thumbs up for a solid if staid first effort from Giorgio Armani, and worth a sniff for anyone who loves their other men's fresh scents.
16th February, 2019

Burberry London for Men by Burberry

Burberry as a fashion brand sticks painfully close to their conservative pastiche of all things British to the point that you just feel the "Proper English" rolling off the brand's clothing without even knowing the name. Likewise, one sniff of most masculine perfumes made by the house up until the release of Burberry London for Men (2006) communicated the same stiff feeling. Antoine Maisondieu had slowly been pushing boundaries within the this context when he made the violet-led Burberry Touch for Men (2000), then snuck in a little bit of rose to the otherwise prim Burberry Brit for Men (2004), but when Maisondieu composed Burberry London for Men, all dandyish or structured posturing was tossed aside for an earthly and fundamental kind of masculinity that Burberry wasn't exactly known for and still really isn't. Burberry London for Men is a tobacco fragrance at its core, a flavored pipe tobacco one with hints of Earl Grey tea to be exact, and brings home the feeling of old smoking rooms where Victorian men of importance blustered and rumbled their way through overgrown mustaches and woolly eyebrows discussing business. Burberry London is an altogether burlier and less-refined vibe than all the pale-skinned Y2K "dour and gray" Neo-Traditionalism-Chic hubbub that was getting the green light from Burberry before it came long, and is probably my favorite masculine of the house. Tobacco scents were all the rage in the 2000's as the darker, richer alternative to all the clean aquatic blue and fresh fougère things clogging up the shelves since the 90's. Tobacco really got a good revival in the 90's with scents from Italian houses like Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme (1994) and Versace the Dreamer (1996), but had a slow uptick in interest just like gourmands as other 90's genres like the ozonic died away before the mid-2000's. By the time Burberry London for Men rolled along, tobacco was in full-swing and would carry on to a lesser extent through into the 2010's as well, meaning Burberry London was just the right scent at just the right time.

Burberry London for Men opens with a really rich Earl Grey tea vibe right off the bat, carried out by bergamot, black tea, and English lavender. There is some cinnamon here and black pepper to make it appropriately gourmand in style (as per the fashion of the decade), but merging with the Earl Grey opening is the main tobacco accord, giving Burberry London for Men a countenance that puts it right at home around a fireplace in mid-winter, or a Christmas gathering with family. Many guys with experience using Burberry London for Men often call it "Christmas in a Bottle" and for good reason, but I feel this aesthetic works well in fall or cool early spring as well. The heart of chypre-like leather is flanked by mimosa flower and all its honeyed sweetness, mixing with a port wine note that is the cause of the "cherry" effect on the tobacco. By this middle phase, I am getting big recollections of Révillon French Line (1984) with it's "cherry leather" accord afforded by rose and coconut, but here created with the port wine, leather, and mimosa flower instead. The tobacco is there from start to finish, and by the time we actually reach it loud and clear in the base, the rest of Burberry London for Men has simmered down leaving just that "cherry tobacco" feeling. Opoponax adds an incense-like sharpness in the base alongside guaiac wood, but the smooth tobacco and oakmoss assisted by a slight hint of tonka keep Burberry London for Men from ever being harsh. The overall effect is hours of that rich and sweet spicy tobacco leaf and wood, warmed over a soft leather that remains utterly masculine and inviting. Yeah, there is a bit of stodginess in the mix, but it wouldn't be a Burberry if there wasn't, and the feeling one gets when wearing Burberry London for Men is a feeling of comfort. Burberry London can get suffocating in hot or humid conditions, so this is strictly for cold or dry weather, and casual use since it has no seriousness outside it's recollection of olden days. Wear time is easily over 8 hours but sillage is not wide, with Burberry London for Men behaving more like an eau de parfum with a tight concentrated envelope of smell mostly for the wearer to enjoy.

Mature men will likely love Burberry London for Men, and that very well may be the market Burberry was after with it, considering the bottle is even adorned with a tartan pattern sweater. It doesn't get much more cozy than this folks. Fans of either Earl Grey tea or flavored pipe tobacco will love Burberry London, and getting to have them both mingle on skin simultaneously is an even bigger treat. Burberry tried playing the Calvin Klein game of seasonal special editions for several of its lines in the 2000's, with Burberry London for Men receiving two such limited variants on the original theme, but neither are worth pursuing, considering how expensive tracking down limited editions years after their release can be. Burberry London for Men itself is so good, that anyone digging other tobacco fragrances like Calvin Klein cK One Shock for Him (2011), Jacomo Aura Men (2000), Vera Wang for Men (2004), or anything in this relative ballpark can almost blind buy Burberry London for Men and expect greatness. I normally don't recommend such leaps of faith, but only under the pretense that one is well-versed in the genre at the designer price point, would I say that Burberry London for Men is a safe blind purchase. Easily the best of Antoine Maisondieu's masculine work for the house, and maybe the best masculine from the house period, Burberry for Men is an essential for winter time and must-smell otherwise. This was instantly likeable for me, and my only bit of caution here is for people either on the fence about gourmands or tobacco scents, as this is literally both genres fused together, and not for people who don't like sweetness, food notes, or heavy tobacco in their perfume. After the release of Burberry London for Men, Burberry masculines more or less fell back into the same boring trap they were in beforehand. Oh, and just for the record, some older variants of Burberry for Men (1995) also carried the title "Burberry London" before this scent debuted, but that's another story. Two Thumbs straight up!
15th February, 2019

Voyageur by Jean Patou

It's not hyperbole to say that perfumer Jean Kerleo of house Jean Patou is worshiped as a God by the circles of vintage perfume enthusiasts found in most online forums, not just by the overly-zealous "cologne guys" quick to deify their favorites either, but a fair number of perfumistas too, and it's no stretch of the imagination as to why. Before he was curating l’Osmothèque, scents like Lacoste Eau de Sport (1968), Patou 1000 (1972), Eau de Patou (1976), Patou Pour Homme (1980), Lacoste (1984) Patou Ma Liberté (1987), Lacoste Land (1991), and Patou Sublime (1992) all came rolling out under his hand from the 60's through early 90's, and all of them were invariably of chypre composition. Jean Kerleo seemed to love the chypre, and moreover the base note of evernia prunastri or oakmoss, to the point that one might argue the unquenchable thirst vintage fans have for the now-restricted material may be heavily influenced by their love of Patou perfumes penned by Kerleo, since most older fragrance hobbyists I've met that don't have a ton of experience with the perfumer's work seem to have a favorable opinion of oakmoss, but not the obsessed love affair. What then, was the Willy Wonka of oakmoss to do when tasked with the job of creating a then-modern aquatic fragrance that was likely painfully ascetic by his own standards? Why, what else would he do? He put a ton of oakmoss in it!! This is the story of Voyageur (1994). Staunch fans of the perfumer almost refuse to acknowledge this as even being in the same canon as other perfumes made by him, as it is more a commercial effort riding a very well-worn aquatic angle than a "masterpiece of perfume art", but house Patou demanded it at the time, as did nearly every house in the perfume business at the time. Kerleo seemingly put his pride aside and gave Patou what they asked for, yet also didn't entirely comply by the very virtue of the scent's warm mossy dry down, but more on that later.

Voyageur seems very much an example of a stubborn perfumer doing as he is told but on his own terms, with Jean Kerleo marching to the beat of his own drum in much the same way Jacques Polge offered up Chanel a "blue" freshie that really wasn't the expected aquatic at all, creating a new genre as his swan song before retiring from the business. But while Bleu de Chanel (2010) lit a woody faux-ambergris fire that burned a hole through the 2010's with endless copycats, Kerleo's Voyageur did nothing of the sort in setting trends throughout the 90's by merging aquatic top notes with its near-chypre oakmoss base, and instead just made a blip then quickly died. The opening of Voyageur has that aquatic dihydromyrcenol smell you come to expect from anything riffing off of Creed Green Irish Tweed (1985) or Davidoff Cool Water (1988), but it feels cynically overdosed here, delivering an almost off-putting marine sourness that communicates disdain from the perfumer who made it directly to the wearer. The top thankfully fades down into dry grapefruit and orange quickly enough, following through into mint before the heart shows up. Lavender makes its presence felt here as it does in Cool Water, but rosemary is replaced by the barbershop staple of sage, since Kerleo seemed to be a traditionalist from what of his I've smelled, but that is where all comparisons end. The base takes a deep, dark, warm woodsy aromatic turn as that oakmoss comes to the front, heating up then dragging sharp cedar and smooth sandalwood alongside it; Bleu de Chanel played a similar trick decades later, but with synthetics. There is no tonka here to make this a fougère nor any labdanum, which is why I say this is a near-chypre as it just has the woods and oakmoss bite of the chypre genre but not the rest. Overall, Voyageur starts off smelling fresh and oceanic like most aquatics from the 90's generation, but pulls a bait-and-switch back into more-familiar aromatic territory, being an odd bridge of sorts between schools of thought. Wear time is fair for the genre at over 7 hours with mild sillage, but this stuff is too bizarre for the aquatic fan to appreciate at face value, while too chemical for the dyed-in-the-wool classic perfume fan. I'd say Voyageur is an office-safe casual scent for warm or mildly cool weather as intended, if nothing else.

Voyageur is no "unicorn" like many of the others penned by Kerleo, even if some greedy eBayers try to price gouge it on virtue of the long-shuttered status of Patou's masculine fragrance catalog alone, even after a few saw a brief reboot to little fanfare in the 2010's. Why Voyageur is not allowed to ascend into the over-priced heavens its brothers inhabit probably has to do with how misunderstood it is, and how much of a compromise it represents in the way perfumes were composed. Kerleo is like the Colossus of Rhodes with one foot standing in the aromatic oakmoss mindset he himself helped to reach a crescendo during his tenure, and the other foot in the aromachemical-led future of demographic-driven homologated bases made from the same half-dozen patent molecules, all the while holding a bottle of Voyageur overhead to represent a meeting of the two schools. Sad to say, nobody was really buying it, and by the looks of things, nobody still is really buying it. I like Patou Voyageur as a freshie, but like Edmond Roudnitska's more-likeable final act of mixing the calone 1951 molecule in his otherwise trademark fruity chypre style with Mario Valentino Ocean Rain (1990), the mixing of the dihydromyrcenol aquatic molecule with an otherwise classic barbershop vibe feels like a spliced monster from the island of Doctor Moreau: a marriage of disparate parts that makes people bearing witness flinch. If you collect Patou, Kerleo, or just odd vintages overall, you've probably got a bottle of this. Otherwise, I'd listen to the old mossheads saying this isn't all that special, because they're actually right, just maybe not for the reasons they give you. I'll say it deserves a neutral rating for being a unique missing link in masculine perfume, but Voyageur might as well have been named Titanic, since the very nature of its oakmoss-heavy aquatic design would have rendered it victim to the iceberg that is IFRA regulations, had it not been discontinued beforehand for being a sales flop. A neat but still sadly forgettable 90's fresh fragrance, just with a Patou pedigree on its shiny little head.
13th February, 2019 (last edited: 14th February, 2019)

Alien Man by Thierry Mugler

Thierry Mugler Alien Man (2018) was a long time coming, with the original Alien (2005) having been released more than a decade prior. In the years between, there was a lot of hype and whispering about what the scent would be, since A*Men (1996) was still carrying the brand as the flagship for men for more than twenty years with a host of flankers before this first major pillar successor finally showed up. Was Alien Man to be as daring and challenging as the original A*Men was decades before it? Well... sorta yes and sorta no. I don't think perfumer Jean-Christophe Herault was trying to replicate the same vibe as A*Men with Alien Man, or even the same vibe as the original feminine Alien perfume had, but definitely borrowed DNA from both for this novel composition. Alien Man is part daring, part comfort, part genderbend, part safety through conventional design, but all good in the end. Alien Man is a chimera to wear, as there are a few gourmand notes in Alien Man, but this is no pure gourmand, and likewise some classic 90's "fresh fougère" notes run through Alien Man as well, drawing some comparison to Montblanc Legend (2011). There is even a bit of floral oriental "floriental" play here, making this similar in ever-so-slight ways to Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb (2005). Whatever is going on in Alien Man, it is nothing like what anyone else is doing in the men's sector, giving me hope that designers haven't fully resigned themselves to aromachemical cocktails with no real distinction after the creative rut of the 2010's. The construction of Alien Man is based around three "vibrations", which are really just the top, heart, and base under new names to give the stuff the usual "Mugler weirdness" effect, but it works.

The "electric vibrations" top is anise, dill, and smoked beach wood. Nothing about that top sounds even remotely conventional, and while I can't confirm what that "smoked beach wood" is made of, I get some birch tar, slight vetiver smoke, and mandarin that burns off pretty quick. The dill note is detectable, and very interesting but not off-putting. No, the opening of Alien Man does not smell like pickles, since there is no vinegar next to that dill, but the very unique smell of this herb is softened some by the anise to make an unorthodox but befitting aromatic introduction. Cashmeran comes in a like a body pillow in the heart, flanked by a sweet osmanthus that could destroy the composition in a ball of apricot-like sweetness if not for cedar and leather that follow. The osmanthus combines with this suede-like leather to produce a toned-down version of the main vibe found in Auphorie Miyako (2015), which is a niche artisinal perfume connection I would never dream of making with a designer masculine. The genderbending here is a ballet of trading soft blows, and the "sensual vibrations" of the heart is aptly named. Base notes or "magnetic vibrations", consist of deftly-handled orcanox, which is a softer/finer shade of the ambroxide molecule usually abused to great degree in other 2010's masculines, but plays only a background role alongside patchouli, tonka, and synthetic oakmoss smell in the form of evernyl to complete a late-stage fougère-like accord thanks to the anise in the top. Smooth, complex, blended, and very hard to grasp, Alien Man is less confrontational than the classic A*Men, but no less disorienting upon first sniff. Wear time is adequate and sillage is more moderate than you might expect, but the problem is where this fits in a wardrobe. Part of me wants to call the smell of Alien Man office safe, but part of me doesn't since that osmanthus and leather is still very lurid despite having some counterbalances like the cashmeran and cedar. Curiouser and curiouser...

Likewise, the familiar fougère finish is just that, and not the bulk of the wear, which transforms from smokey-sweet gourmand to "fruity floriental" in the heart, before finally settling on that very 90's "fresh fougère" end point, making an appropriately "alien" experience for you and anyone around you smelling what you're wearing. I guess this is a sleeper romantic scent with some office-safe aspects but too much flirt in its step to be taken around strangers. The rich nature of Alien Man makes it a cooler weather scent, as it sits in a nexus between the gourmand/oriental/floral/fougère categories, feeling abstractly fresh but a warm scent at the same time, insufficient for hot weather. Alien Man is not for folks who hate sweetness, or any form of ambroxide/ambroxan/orcanox/ambrox super, since the stuff is still here even if handled deftly. Alien Man took a year to hit US stores after being released in Europe and I can see why: this is a very risky scent and risky scents don't usually make it into designer realms anymore outside of maybe Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Homme (2017) or Dunhill Icon (2015), which were risky only because they're both stylistic throwbacks. Whatever you want to make of Alien Man, you can't deny its creativity (even if it tries a little too hard), and I rather enjoy the scent so I give it a thumbs up, but it will require some time from you before drawing any conclusions. One thing's for sure: Alien Man is proof positive why the house of Thierry Mugler gets so much talk in perfume circles, regardless of gender or age, and why they are seen more by enthusiasts as perfume art rather than just another "symbol of refinement" luxury good like so many other brands out there in the world. Weird but good stuff!
10th February, 2019

Aqua pour Homme Marine by Bulgari

Gee Wilber, what should we do for our first Aqva Pour Homme (2005) flanker? Well I don't know Jeb, maybe stick close to the original and maybe mix up a few notes? People really seem to like aquatics an awful lot, even though it has been twenty years to the day since Davidoff Cool Water (1988) first showed up, so I guess we better not mess with a good thing, since it makes the bean counters happy! Well, I guess you're right Wilber, and we ought to bring back Jacques Cavallier too, since he'll know best how to pump out another shiny juice-filled glass pebble that'll monopolize everyone's dresser space so they pick our stuff over Brand X. If you've stayed tuned in to the "Bvlgari Comedy Hovr" thus far, you're probably realizing by now that Aqva Pour Homme Marine (2008) is yet another mass-market manufactured aquatic android from the "second generation" aquatics that snatched the spotlight away from gourmands and ozonics in the mid-2000's, not letting men go until the ambroxan craze hit us in 2010's thanks to Bleu de Chanel (2010). If the early 90's was a nadir of apologetic masculines, the late 2000's was certainly the same for aquatics, which in all their narrow field of creativity, had been beaten like a dead horse. The original Aqva Pour Homme was nothing really to write home about, and a sort of drier, less-personable take on the seaweed theme of Ralph Lauren Polo Sport (1992) from a decade before it. Aqva Pour Homme Marine in all of its redundant theming is as you might expect: a marine-tinged aquatic (no way)!! I'm not sure why this exists, and I'm not even sure if Bvlgari knows why this exists, but ever since falling off the tea-themed hobby horse that helped them make a name for themselves in the perfume world, it's been a truly ugly creative downward spiral for their masculine scents, but the bottom line guys in headquarters are happy, so who cares?

The opening of Aqva Pour Homme Marine is barely different from the original Aqva Pour Homme, with neroli and grapefruit switched out for the mandarin and petitgrain. I feel there is a bit of sharp aldehyde here too, and it pushes the usual sweetness of neroli away and focuses on the floral aspects of the orange blossom itself. The opening is nothing special, but at least it is thoughtfully balanced. Posidonia seaweed makes a return to the mix, because it was the star of the show in the original Bvlgari Aqva Pour Homme, but the santonlina lavender has been replaced with "sap", which to my nose is rosemary, but don't tell Bvlgari I debunked their fantasy notes. The base comes on fast like most aquatics, but you get to enjoy the seaweed longer and in a more-isolated format than in the original Aqva Pour Homme, meaning this version feels more focused and more like what the original scent should have been, but it still isn't enough to get an approval. Cedar, vetiver, and a much toned-down amber are present in thie base, which is drier and less-rounded than the original, likely again to let that seaweed note shine. There is some form of Iso E Super here, as this has that sort of radiant spitshine perfumes heavy on the chemical seem to have, and that about wraps it up for the experience. Medium sillage and medium longevity of about eight hours, best experienced in hot weather, but you already knew that I'm sure. I don't think anything called Aqva Pour Homme Marine has even a shred of implication that it can be used cold weather. This scent is also as casual as they come, perfect for an attendant at a McDonald's drive-thru window or cart pusher at Walmart. Guys who pick this up better be super fans of the original with a great nose for detail, because outside the drier finish and greater focus on the marine aspects, there is nothing here for the uninitiated to tell this apart from the original.

I don't hate this stuff and will never be offended by encountering it in the wild, but Aqva Pour Homme Marine is mediocre and average to the point of rendering its own existence questionable, as I've pointed out above, and feels like a cash-in of the nth degree. I know a lot of modern crowd-pleasers get accused of being shallow cash grabs, but at least there is a modicum of individuality in them which allows the house marketing each one a way to pitch their hot take as better than the next guy's, but in this instance, Aqva Pour Homme Marine feels like choice for the sake of it, with no added value to the line outside collectors of these shiny glass pebbles. I'd play skipping rocks with this before wearing it, and buying a bottle is the furthest thing from my interest, but if somebody really needs an aquatic that does a competent job of actually capturing an oceanic vibe without copious amounts of challenging sea salt, they can't really go wrong choosing Aqva Pour Homme Marine. Jacques Cavallier seems to have phoned this one in on a lunch break and if the pay was good, I don't blame him, but I'm not going any higher than a neutral here. Bvlgari would make the dreaded flanker-of-a-flanker with a "Toniq" version of both regular and marine-flavored Aqva Pour Homme pebbles, but as before all you get are some rearranged base notes and different top notes with the posidonia seaweed at the core, making them rather unessential as well outside neurotic collectors of the line. This house seems to really be into small variations on a major theme, which sort of reinforces their roots as a jewelry with uniformity of design, it just sadly translates into really boring fragrances for men, since they don't take as many risks in that segment. Nothing to really see here! Move along to the next!
10th February, 2019

Burberry Brit for Men by Burberry

Burberry Brit for Men (2004) was a much-needed step in the right direction but still a terribly conservative scent for a design house that was known - for better or worse - for conservative fragrances, particularly in the male segment. With Burberry Brit for Men, it feels like the house went further into a more classical dandy direction to achieve the "metrosexual" vibe they had set up with Burberry Touch for Men (2000), trading out the violet focus of that erstwhile scent for one that puts powdery rose and dusty spice on display. Burberry Brit for Men must have been somewhat daring in its day, since rose had not come back into vogue for men quite like it would in mostly the niche segment in the 2010's, but looking back on Burberry Brit as unwittingly being something of an early trendsetter might be reason why it hung around and received flankers. Additionally, Burberry Brit for Men sets up a bit of the "gray Londoner" vibe that would be out in full force with the following Burberry London for Men (2006), using a bit of tea and musk in places to soften the powdery rose heart. I wouldn't call this miracle juice, but it is far quirkier and interesting than past masculines from the house.

Burberry Brit opens with cardamom and citrus, and the cardamom almost beats the bergamot and mandarin to the punch. There is a bit of ginger here, but it isn't a big player in this opening. Once the semi-sweet spice and citrus settle in, the dry and powdery rose comes to the fore, with that sort of "rose soap" vibe like an old bar of Caress, Dove pink, or Camay tend to have. The vibe here isn't at all like the greenish tea rose or dark Turkish rose usually found in masculine roses made in the 21st century, but rather that dainty synthetic "perfumery" rose, and it's easy to see why guys with experience wearing something like Cartier Déclaration d'Un Soir (2012) might not even know the rose when they smell it in Burberry Brit for Men. Dusty nutmeg and cedar transition us away from the quaint drugstore rose note into a base of tonka bean, musk, black tea, amber, and patchouli. The faintest hints of the Earl Grey bomb that is the later Burberry London for Men can be felt here, and it casts a sufficient "London fog" over the final dry down, which is still rather conservative despite the oddly flirtatious development. Burberry Brit for Men is for the mature dandy is who long past his years of wild frivolity, but doesn't mind letting it come across that he's experienced things others only dare dream. Wear time is over the 8 hour mark but sillage is not impolite, which is also expected from a Burberry.

I'd say overall, this makes a great office or casual date night scent for a guy that wants something a little left of center in the gender department, but doesn't want a full genderbend experience the likes of which the previous Burberry Touch for Men provides. Antoine Maisondieu composed this alongside Armani Code/Black Code (2004) in the same year, and both have a similar powdery feeling, although I don't favor the Armani. He later composed Burberry London for Men as well, which may explain the DNA between that scent and this one, plus also created Comme une Evidence Homme by Yves Rocher (2008), which revisits the soapy rose theme, albeit under a different brand and with a lower production budget. Several limited editions appeared for the original women's version of this, but the first proper flanker for men wouldn't appear until Burberry Brit Rhythm for Men (2013), which featured a diagonal tartan pattern that newer productions of this would eventually adopt as well. I think the old plaid design was cooler, but I don't recommend tracking down the vintage just for a cooler bottle since the scent remains unchanged to my nose, as this never relied on lots of restricted base ingredients anyway. Thumbs up from me, but if any complaint could be lobbied, it's the shaky non-committal nature of the rose here, but considering 2004 was not a time for an obvious rose masculine to hit the market, I give Burberry Brit a slide. Good stuff but sample first!
10th February, 2019

Aqua pour Homme Atlantique by Bulgari

Aqva Pour Homme Atlantiqve (2017) is literally just "Aqva Pour Homme Ambroxan". I could honestly end the review right here, but I won't. Bvlgari truly joined the Dark Side of the Fragrance Force with the original Aqva Pour Homme (2005), chaining Jacques Cavallier to a desk for the greater part of the next decade plus to continue hammering out inane flankers and flankers of flankers for this line. Each shiny glass pebble was barely different from the last, all focusing in posidonia seaweed as the star note, which was just a hair's breadth away from being plagiarism on the old Ralph Lauren Polo Sport (1992) anyway. Aqva Pour Homme Marine (2008), Aqva Pour Homme Toniq (2011), and Aqva Pour Homme Marine Toniq (2011) all were slight remixes of the original "second generation" aquatic accord, pushing past when these kind of dry, middling aquatic fragrances were popular. Aqva Amara (2014) was the first true ray of sunshine on the series, being a neroli-lead incense and patchouli scent that wasn't really even an aquatic at all, and a revelation in an innocuous pebble bottle, even if it was a bit too similar to Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008) for its own good. Aqva Pour Homme Atlantiqve banks on the "woody amber" and "marine ambergris" craze simultaneously, and is also decidedly not an aquatic, but still falls short of attaining any distinction, just like all the older entries in the line.

Aqva Pour Homme Atlantiqve opens much like Versace Eros (2013) minus the mint, with a dihydromyrcenol "aquatic" top note stapled on to re-affirm itself in the Aqva line (whereas the older entries didn't have a blatantly-obvious aquatic accord), and then goes through sweet lemon and dry bergamot in equal measure. The opening is rather round and juicy like Versace Pour Homme Dylan Blue (2016) from the previous year, but without the landlocked fruit choice of fig to help it out. The heart consists entirely of the ambroxan "marine ambergris" accord, which is usually found in the base of such compositions, but due to its placement here, means it doesn't hit like a ton of bricks as it does in some ambroxan bombs such as Y by Yves Saint Laurent (2017), but it does form the basis for the primary experience nonetheless. The base is a tiny bit more clever with vetiver, patchouli, and a synthetic wood compound comprised of norlimbanol that Bvlgari shamelessly labels as "sandalwood", veering a bit into semi-oriental territory for thickness, topped with the rounder side of benzoin. The ambroxan and norlimbanol form that dynamic duo which is a no-no for most trying to avoid the 2010'a "mall accord", but are mainly responsible for propulsion and longevity of this, which is above average in both regards. I'd call Aqva Pour Homme Atlantiqve an office casual scent, and definitely more of a year-rounder than the other Aqva Pour Homme entries, but that isn't saying much.

Overall, Aqva Pour Homme Atlantiqve will appeal most to the "Broletariat" parvenu ladder-climber types that unironically use the term "alpha" and consider their fragrance choices as part of "The Game", demanding everything have voluminous sillage and eternal performance at the cost of personality. Unlike Versace Pour Homme Dylan Blue or even Y Eau de Parfum by Yves Saint Laurent (2018), there is very little about Aqva Pour Homme Atlantiqve for it to stand out on its own amongst an ocean of competitors in this overcrowded field. True, this sticks out like a sore thumb in comparison to other Aqva Pour Homme entries which have little distinction of their own to begin with, but big picture thinking has this being condemned as yet more corporate money-grab filler which Bvlgari seemed committed to doing for their masculine catalog. If you're looking for decent "bro sauce", there are so many better choices than this, but like most of the Aqva Pour Homme series, I find nothing particularly offensive about this either, so I give it a neutral in fairness. There just isn't much beyond the pebble bottle or the smell of the rather novel Aqva Amara to dig into with this series, and Aqva Pour Homme Atlantiqve is yet another example of why. Sample before taking my word for it, but Jacques Cavallier does little more here than deliver another paint-by-numbers composition for mass consumption.
10th February, 2019

Racquets Formula by Penhaligon's

Penhaligon's Racquets Formula (1989) was an early men's revival scent attempt from one of the house's many owners during the "hot potato" period from when Sheila Pickles - who had resurrected the brand - divested herself of the operation, until it was later picked up by Puig to be taken upmarket as a niche luxury brand. Unlike competitor Geo F Trumper, who kept Penhaligon's on life support throughout the mid 20th century just so they could make and sell the ever-popular Blenheim Bouquet (1902), Sheila Pickles was interested in using the house as a vehicle for her own dabbling in perfume, which resulted in mostly new feminine-market creations throughout the 70's outside of reissued barbershop classics and once-bespoke original formulas. However, once she handed the reigns to Laura Ashley, it was decided to make an entirely new masculine for the house but to also keep it in line with the traditional aesthetic of their masculine barbershop vibe. Francis Pickthall, founder and CEO of CPL Aromas, was a business partner to Laura Ashley and huge fan of Penhaligon's, so he composed Racquet's Formula in a rare turn as perfumer (and his only documented one). The theme of the scent is Racquetball, a popular upper middle-class sport at the time in the UK, and the style is squarely in the dry traditional Victoria barbershop genre but with a mossy mid-century fougère foundation more typical of the American barbershop, since racquetball was invented by the American Joseph Sobek in 1950. The powdery and classic "sport" vibe of Racquets Formula is entirely intentional, albeit very anachronistic being released at the very tail end of the powerhouse era, but since this is Penhaligon's, nobody was really surprised and the scent enjoyed some moderate popularity with gents who still dug the aesthetic of wet shaving.

The opening of Racquets Formula is pure American neighborhood barber-on-the-corner with a bright bergamot, lemon, smooth lavender, and the surprise addition of linden blossom. Linden is the "x factor" that really keeps Racquets Formula from being too much of a Fabergé Brut (1964) clone despite in those opening phases, and a healthy dose of geraniol courtesy of a rose/geranium blend awaits in the heart to further that separation when the ylang-ylang which also recalls Brut starts to appear. Clove enters the fray after a few more minutes, adding that spicy "brown" tone American bay rums and the evergreen Shulton Old Spice (1937) are known to have, but Racquet's Formula leaves America behind by the time the base comes on to stop by France on its way back to the UK. The use of vanilla and oakmoss to establish that proper French fougère accord a la vintage Dana Canoe (1936) or Caron Pour Un Homme (1934) is to blame for this. There isn't very much tonka here like one might expect - because again - the final destination of Racquets Formula is in the sharp dry down typical of a UK barbershop fragrance but dry amber and olibanum help achieve an incense-like warmth in the partial absence of tonka. Touches of vetiver add that green element which helps keep Racquets Formula in its fougère lane, and that's a wrap. Wear time is the typical Penhaligon's standard 8 or so hours with mild to moderate sillage. Warm weather is actually a friend to this in spite of the vanilla thanks to the sharp incense accord in the base, but overall I'd call Racquets Formula something better enjoyed indoors, much like the sport after which it is named. This could be a good daily office scent or casual use affair after a good shave, but there is a slight problem with frequent use for Racquets Formula, and that problem is a total lack of availability. This scent is very, very, very discontinued, and nobody even talks about it anymore, much like the sport of racquetball itself, so perhaps there is a bit of irony present.

When I say discontinued, I don't mean "search eBay for a moderatly-plentiful number of overly price-gouged listings and bite the bullet to own it" kind of discontinued, but rather the "this scent is so far gone from circulation that you'll have to know a friend who hoarded it when it got cleared out and beg them for a bottle" kind of discontinued. You won't see this stuff on eBay, Etsy, or any backwater seller site that stumbles upon unsold stock of perfume, and if by chance you do, it's gone in 60 seconds worse than Nicholas Cage's acting career after he remade The Wicker Man. Seriously, this is one of those few scents that I classify as "extinct in the wild", and my review comes from a OEM sample given to me by a kind friend who wanted me to experience and write about it, but be not sad. Racquets Formula is nice as a neat little "bridging of the barbershops" kind of shindig, but a 1990's (or newer) bottle of the re-orchestrated Dana Canoe has about the same vibe, since the tweaks to the formula involved mainly sharpening up the top, and drying down the base, removing the blob-like qualities of the richer original Canoe formula. So if you miss Racquets Formula, just plunk down a few peanuts on modern Canoe, and I know it's not the same (nothing ever is), but it will scratch the same itch this once did. Penhaligon's Sartorial (2010) as composed by Bertrand Duchaufour seems to use much the same formula as this, but with some of the top notes smashed down into heart to make room for his aldehydes and synthetics to create that "hot ironed fabric" effect; Racquets Formula was in essence the same scent minus all that wizardry. Thumbs up, and hats off to this long-gone love affair with classic gentleman's grooming.
08th February, 2019

Invasion Barbare / SB by MDCI

Marchal Design & Créations Indépendantes - or Parfums MDCI - is another perfume brand born of the 21st century "prestige brand boom", which is unofficially the period from roughly the year 2000 onward where growing wealth inequality in Western society has caused an increasing desire among the swelling upper classes to spend their money more conspicuously on luxury, like they once did in the "Gilded Age" just prior to the original London and New York stock market crashes of 1929. With demand higher than ever for "cut above" brands that dwarf even long-established couture houses in exorbitance, brands like MDCI have replaced once-premium designer fragrances as top of the food chain, while they inadvertently slide downmarket due to inflation, rising ingredient costs, plus their perception as aspirational accessories placed at "entry-level" to a couture house's larger catalog of wares, making them sit status-wise where perfumes by the large cosmetic companies such as Coty once sat. The brainchild of Claude Marchal was formed to be a "perfumes as art" concept like so many others in this price tier, including Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, and was later absorbed into the umbrella of Jovoy Paris in the same manner that Frédéric Malle was absorbed into The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. Originally, the house was launched with 5 perfumes each bearing the initials of their perfumer as their name, with Francis Kurkdijan having FK1, FK2, and FK3 for the feminine selections, and Pierre Bourdon making PB for the house alongside Stéphanie Bakouche making SB for the masculine selections all in 2006. Patricia de Nicholai also created PdN for the house in 2009. Invasion Barbare is really just a renamed SB, since MDCI switched to actual perfume names some time after 2010, and Invasion Barbare represents a classic barbershop fougère style if the play on words which represents its post-2010 name didn't give that away. Hype from the "Broletariat" of upper-middle class overachievers hooked on YouTube fragrance reviewers and dissatisfied with the "plebian" nature of designer juices have led many to wander MDCI's way looking to "level up their game" with a bottle of Invasion Barbare, and while the stuff is genuinely nice, it is truly nothing special since barbershop fougères don't cost a ton to make and have been done to death.

The opening of Invasion Barbare is a bit of the old and a bit of the new, with tried-but-true bergamot merging with sharp aldehydes and a slightly softer grapefruit note that tends to start off many things calling themselves fougères in the 21st century. Violet leaf also finds its way into the equation early on, but it's nothing on the level of Burberry Touch for Men (2000) or even Creed Green Irish Tweed (1985), yet it adds that dandy flair iris, rose, or carnation would otherwise add in older examples of the genre. Thyme, cardamom, and ginger all add a bit of earthy and nutty spice which also comes across a bit dusty to my nose, until the lavender shows up to complete a traditional fougère accord even if it takes a bit of a backseat to that violet. The overall feeling of the scent is rather sharp and acidic thanks to the aldehydes, which usually don't find their way into these kind of fougères, but perhaps keep this from becoming too vanillic and nondescript like a classic bottle of Caron Pour Un Homme (1934) or Canoe (1936). The spice and lavender have it feeling a bit more familiar but the rather opaque violet leaf in the top of Invasion Barbare keeps its flamboyant thumb down on most of the otherwise conservative barbershop action of the heart. Base notes for Invasion Barbare are rather par for the course with patchouli, vanilla, cedar, musk, and just a tiny sliver of oakmoss to "keep it real" but not real enough to satisfy lovers of vintage masculine barbershops previously loaded down with it. I get mostly a dry cedar out of this base next to a powdery vanilla and musk, so if there is patchouli here, it must be that chemical "white patchouli" which just adds thickness without flavor, similar to having a thin line of mayonnaise on a sandwich. The aldehydes and violet are the only things really separating Invasion Barbare from its lower-priced peers, and I see nothing about that which is particularly premium nor exciting. Wear time is over 10 hours and projection is not monstrous thanks to the typical tight sillage of an eau de parfum concentration, but Invasion Barbare is very noticeable to the wearer and a fairly pleasant experience. I'd make this an office fragrance if I was going to wear it regularly, or one for formal occasions if it was relegated to special use only, which for the price it sells is the likely fate of most bottles out there.

This one is very much for the mature crowd, making me scratch my head even more at all the young go-getters blowing up forums about this stuff, since none of them would be caught dead wearing the fragrances that do what Invasion Barbare does but better, because they're all either too old or too "cheap" in their eyes. If you're a guy into fragrances for "The Game", then I probably can't dissuade you from thinking this juice is pure liquid greatness, but I still strongly urge a sampling first. For somebody morbidly curious about what such a ubiquitous category as the barbershop fougère can smell like in the realms of prestige luxury perfume, Invasion Barbare is an interesting excursion if you can stomach the price point. If you sample Invasion Barbare, then decide it isn't worth the cash but wish to stay within the realms of niche, you might want to check out Penhaligon's Sartorial (2010) or Replica At the Barber's by Martin Margiela (2014), which do similar things with fougère accords and sharp openings, switching out the dry aldehydic anise tone Invasion Barbare carries for a metallic or peppery one respectively. For me personally, the original Houbigant Fougère Royale (1882) that started it all is still the one to beat for somebody wanting this style all dressed up in "hoity-toity" fashion, but if you're of the "hoi polloi" as I am, then I'd stick to good old Fabergé Brut (1964) or Avon Wild Country (1967). Hell, even Yves Saint Laurent Jazz (1988) or Pasha de Cartier (1992) will give you a similar, albeit richer version of same desired effect as Invasion Barbare, but for much less coin. However, style or performance at a good value isn't the reason perfume brands like this exist, is it? I give Invasion Barbare a thumbs up for being a solid and slightly novel take on "dad's cologne", but otherwise its dime store style with a deluxe price tag prevents my recommendation, since at least other prestige brands like Creed strive to have mostly unique perfumes. As a bit of an aside, MDCI love to create ridiculously fancy packaging to go with their perfumes, so outside the usual Greco-Roman busts that adorn their bottles, MDCI have also released Invasion Barbare in Middle-Eastern "Silk Road" editions and a host of coffret sets since they pitch their lineup at wealthy collectors.
07th February, 2019

Touch for Men by Burberry

Burberry Touch for Men (2000) must have seemed downright mellifluous to the nose after the rather plain-spoken pure 90's freshness that was Burberry Weekend for Men (1997), which along with Ted Baker Skinwear (1998) and Penhaligon's Quercus (1996), more or less encapsulated the popular lemon-powered "sons of Blenheim" neo-barbershop style British masculines were going through in the latter half of the decade. It was time for a change, and although not everyone was on the same page for what that change should be come the year 2000, Burberry thought it should be more in line with the new vibe straight men were borrowing from portions of the gay community with their "metrosexual" style: an urbane and bookish vibe with a touch of feminine flair that made it safe to play with things like perfume notes perceived as "for girls". Part of this trend continued into the mid-2000's, which is where we get several overbearingly sweet gourmands for men, and the exceptionally good iris-heavy classic Dior Homme (2005), but for Burberry's part of the trend, we get what is basically a light men's ambery musk. Burberry wasn't the first to this theme, and the underrated house of Moschino arguably did it better with Uomo? Moschimo (1997), which didn't utilize a violet note as the dominant accord like Burberry has on display here, but the Burberry name attached to this juice ultimately made their take on the style more popular. Compared to Weekend for Men or even the previous (second reboot and third overall) eponymous masculine Burberry for Men (1995), Burberry Touch for Men has a bit more individuality, feeling less like an inclusion on a common trope like those other two, and more like something signature to the house itself, if you ignore the close comparison to the aforementioned Moschino scent.

Burberry Touch for Men has the same sweet citrus opening of Uomo? Moschino, but swaps out that nice iced lemon cake hedione vibe of the Moschino for a richer mandarin opening, but the real star of the show is violet. The violet note on display in Burberry Touch for Men sits somewhere between the dryness of Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel (1975), and the voluptuousness of Dior Fahrenheit (1988), sans the gasoline "barrel note" that makes the Dior feel scandalous. Ozonics were also reaching a headache-inducing crescendo so this wasn't even close to the loudest thing on the planet at the turn of the millennium, but compared to the previous decade's glut of fresh this and aquatic that, a violet note in a masculine felt almost like a relapse into the wild 1980's. From this violet jump-off point, Touch takes us on a piquant roundabout with black pepper and cedar, which makes this semi-powdery and appropriately masculine enough for the ascetic "down the nose" classic British interpretation of the upright gentleman, but the feminine violet never fully lets go. There is also supposedly an oakmoss note in the middle, which is an unusual place for it, and my experience smelling many oakmoss-heavy chypres from days gone by tells me that there is indeed a peck of it here, but I guess it is just for diffusion of the cedar, since oakmoss is good at projecting flanking wood notes (surprise). Vetiver, tonka, and what smells to me like an unlisted ghost note of fresh tobacco leaf greet the nose last, on a bed of ambery musk, which is where Touch becomes almost like an amalgam of the twice mentioned Uomo? Moschino and Versace The Dreamer (1996). Wear time is just within tolerances for an eau de toilette at about 7 hours total time with modest sillage, but Burberry doesn't really make screamers anyway, so this is expected from the onset of the first spray.

I'd use Burberry Touch for Men as an office scent, as it has somewhere between a dress casual work vibe and a casual romantic "second date" kind of feel, meaning somebody might find this romantic because of the amber and musk, but the stiff violet or starker elements in the base steer it away from being a night prowler just enough to keep it safe for the cubicle. I like Touch for Men, but I have so many things that could scratch this same itch more effectively that I can only recommend it as a semi-unisex violet experience for the man that wants to walk into an Ulta or Macy's and buy his fragrance without shopping around. Anyone a little more invested in "The Game" as the dudebros call it, can do much better in their hunt for something more distinctive and attention-getting, because for as challenging as this might have been in the apologetic fragrance mindset of the 90's, it feels very staid several decades removed from launch. This lack of daring in the long term is a larger problem of house Burberry itself in the masculine fragrance arena, since they didn't start taking marginally larger but still-calculated risks until Burberry Brit (2003) and Brit for Men (2004) came along, followed by the excellent Burberry London (2006) and London for Men (2006). Since then the house has mostly fallen back into its safe ways, which is unsurprising considering the motif of their apparel, so perhaps the key to truly enjoying Touch for Men or any of Burberry's offerings is to have a desire for conservative style that only flirts with the bold. Such is the way of the "tamed violet" in Touch for Men, which while interesting in premise, isn't enjoyable enough in execution to get higher than a neutral rating from me, but go see for yourself since it's easy to test the stuff in stores.
06th February, 2019
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Macho by Fabergé

The 1970's was a decade filled with economic downturn, the fuel embargo, and malaise sweeping much of the coastal cities in America. The hippie counterculture was fading, along with its hopeful romanticism, so guys had to do something (besides cocaine) to take the harsh edge off, and indulgence in sexuality once considered taboo was one such outlet. Masculinity at that time was more than just a show of strength, virility, or dominance like many deluded 21st century gym rats believe, but rather a core aesthetic lifestyle in and of itself. Big overblown arena rock bands, wailing soul artists, and tromping hedonistic discotheques dominated the era musically, as everyone either wanted to dance the woes of uncertainty away, or just get high and sway to the music, especially after the end of the Vietnam War, the long-overdue enactment of civil rights, and all the associated social unrest. Different from modern "alpha dudebros" who want to just smear their insecurity all over anyone unlucky enough to be caught in their path, the overcompensating masculinity of the 70's was really more about shedding society's conservative constraints, and women equally enjoyed wild expressions of femininity during the era, with everyone enjoying a little more of mother nature. Fabergé Macho (1976) was a response from Fabergé to the blossoming men's sector of perfume in the wake of ever-increasingly burlesque masculine styles. Macho was for guys who wanted to "strut their stuff" collars popped, chest hair exposed, gold jewelry dangling, and naughty bits less than modestly contoured through bell-bottom jeans tight enough around the hips to be mistaken for women's apparel, but generously proportioned from the kneecaps down. It's almost formal in tone now, but Macho was serious business back then and even spawned a musk flanker the following year. Fabergé in this period were swimming in success from Brut and wanted to reproduce that success, so much like many entry to mid-level houses with a major entry in the men's sector under their belts, they tested any number of gimmicks to land that "next big thing" to keep the money train rolling, since exclusive men's fragrance was still uncharted territory when compared to the rest of perfume history.

At it's core, Fabergé Macho is really just a retooled semi-oriental take on Brut (1964), with the top bolstered by clary sage, some of the white florals replaced with richer, warmer red ones and the base focused down to amber and musk alongside the tonka and oakmoss, with vanilla replacing the sandalwood to fatten it up. The result of this focus makes a semi-oriental fougère that echos some of the faux tonkin musk vibe from Avon Wild Country (1967) but without the dandy aspects, since what florals remain in Macho are blended way down so they barely register a peep. Bergamot, anise, lemon, and basil open Macho just like Brut, but with the added clary sage to create a more rugged aromatic exterior. Rose and geranium combine mostly for the brightness of geraniol, and very little rose on its own shines through this blend. The heart is otherwise surprisingly soft heliotrope and carnation mixed with cedar, but the total amount of heart presence here is minuscule compared to the huge ylang-ylang and jasmine accords of Brut, which has less heart notes than Macho but does more with what it has. The base is just strait-up rounded nitromusk and hay-like tonka, with a dollop of oakmoss for skin retention and the aforementioned vanilla which pushes Macho into oriental territory near the end. The overall effect of wearing Macho in modern times isn't really "macho" in the stereotypical sense of the word, but just a heavy and remarkably cozy fougère that comes across like Brut's outback cousin visiting for the holidays, full of brawn and flannel shirts with biceps risking to tear sleeves, maybe making this more like "lumberjack" I guess. Wear time is long for a self-proclaimed eau de cologne at about 8 hours, and Macho wears more like a modern eau de toilette with larger-than-usual sillage, larger than even deep vintage Brut on a good day, making up for a lack of actual "macho" prowess with sheer performance power instead.

Production of Macho didn't escape the 70's unfortunately, but if you own it, I'd say wear your vintage stock of Macho wherever you see fit, since the personality of the fragrance is nowhere near as intimidating as the marketing would like you to believe. If you can get past the inverse penis-shaped bottle, and gangsta-bling style lettering on the bottle that could be a medallion itself, what you are greeted with is a richer 70's predecessor to something like Penhaligon's Sartorial (2010) but with more vanilla or even Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Pour Homme (2003) with more musk replacing the cloves. Put another way, Macho could be a primordial Lapidus Pour Homme (1987) or Kouros (1981) without the pineapple of the former or bitter artemisia of the latter, nor the animalic contingent of either. Macho is incidentally good for cold weather because of those oriental touches, and was probably considered mega-manly since it was such a basic fougère stripped of all the green or floral aspects and doubled down on base notes, but when looked back upon with the knowledge of another almost half-century of fougère history in its wake, is really just a plain old barbershop fougère made at "extra strength". I really like Macho, but it is pretty difficult to come by in the wild as not a ton of it survives, since most of these drugstore-level "men's colognes" didn't sit around to be cherished for special occasions like a pricey bottle of Chanel or decorative Avon decanter, but were used up by the guys who bought them. I wouldn't run out and grab this nor pay any considerable sum unless you specifically collect old Fabergé, because there are just tons more interesting things from the 1970's you could and should smell first, but a chance meeting with Fabergé Macho will prove anything but scary. If you get Macho anyway, just do us all a favor and don't say it's "Ba-a-a-a-ad", because we all know better. Thumbs Up!
05th February, 2019

Ag by Ted Baker

Ted Baker Ag (2016) is one of three elemental men's fragrances to hit the market in 2016 as a Nordstrom exclusive, with the others being Au and Cu respectively. You don't really hear much about this house but they're a relatively small luxury label that works mostly out of boutiques found on high streets or shopping malls globally, being based first in the UK and then spreading all over thenceforth. Formed by Ray Kelvin in 1988, the Ted Baker name established itself with men's apparel first, them women's apparel in 1995. The house has dabbled with masculine perfume before, starting with Skinwear (1998), which was followed by a long line including XO Extraordinary for Men (2007), but never have they launched a three-piece set and made it exclusive to another chain's inventory. The neat thing about Ted Baker Ag in particular, is it represents a sort of throwback to the old powdery barbershop fougères of the 1960's, where heavier spices and musk came into the fold of the typical fougère structure, but replaces the starring role of lavender in such accords with violet leaf instead. As one might guess, putting the violet leaf in the center of a fougère automatically has thoughts of this being a more barbershop-themed take on Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel (1975), but it's nothing really like that at all thanks to a leather note which makes this feel like a domesticated Dior Fahrenheit (1988) sans the gasoline note, if anything. I'd just safely say that Ted Baker Ag is mostly incomparable to anything, since most associations of that kind are a stretch.

Ted Baker Ag opens with perky bergamot and pink pepper. There is some lavender here in the opening, because what fougère could really exist without it, but it doesn't hold down the meat and potatoes of the scent like it normally would in other such fougères. The violet note comes next, with it's characteristic "heated pink" tone that straight guys either love or hate thanks to that masculinity-challenging feminine association, but the dandy qualities it imparts here in Ted Baker Ag are yet another wonderful throwback touch I love about the stuff. Cedar and eucalyptus also make an appearance, bringing in that Proraso-like barbershop tone which re-asserts any conservative masculinity thought lost with the presence of violet, with the interplay between violet, eucalyptus, and the bright top setting up the main personality of Ag. The base consists of that 1960's-vibe powdery, musky fougère foundation I eluded to in the beginning, with patchouli, amber, musk, oakmoss, and a touch of leather finishing it off. Victorian-era Fahrenheit perhaps? Or maybe this is just a nod to the old-schoolers who pour over eBay looking for vintages, giving them something "new" to purchase in the 21st century. Either way, good performance with moderate sillage for about 10 hours in the mode of operation for Ag. I'd suggest using this at the office or a casual outing in cooler month, but maybe not the dead of winter. Ted Baker Ag also has some formal use potential too thanks to its powdery tone overall, but once again, the make-or-break facet of Ted Baker Ag comes down to the prominent violet on display throughout the length of the wear.

I applaud Ted Baker for making such an anachronism of a scent in an era of heavy ambroxan, scratchy norlimbanol woods, and mind-numbing aromachemical sillage that can't be escaped. Ted Baker Ag is a proper gent's juice full of all the good stuff IFRA restrictions will still allow, and although it might pall in comparison to a vintage bottle of Brut (1962) or Paco Rabanne Pour Homme (1973), there is an opportunity here for younger people as well wanting to smell "classic" while having a contemporary fragrance. For me, the use of violet is very judicious, and nothing about this seems racy or overwrought, even if it isn't the most exciting stuff on the planet. Ted Baker Ag also comes in a neat little 25ml metal refillable flask for travel purposes (as do the other 2), making this spicy, floral, and oddly leathery fougère even more special. Stuff like this is about as niche as it gets in the designer realm anymore, and beyond this point, you'll have to pay upwards of $200+ to get anything quite this unique without seeking vintage. Ted Baker isn't exactly a household name, and they sure do have a good slew of them that nobody is heard of to boot, so there is a little bit of hipster cred in there for the guys who care about all that. Thumbs up from me, but try before you buy unless you're already well-aware of the powers violet can have in an otherwise standard masculine style. You'll have to wander into a Nordstrom if you're in the US to test this due to the exclusivity deal, but original Ted Baker shops in the UK will have this available to sample if big department store prowling isn't your thing.
03rd February, 2019

Uomo Signature by Salvatore Ferragamo

The original Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo (2016) was an ambroxan-fueled aromachemical take on the gourmand theme introduced in earnest through Thierry Mugler A*Men (1996), and was composed by Alberto Morillas and Aurelian Guichard. That original scent has its fans but is clearly dialed towards capitalizing on the "ambroxan bomb" category which has been a runaway success for designer perfumery in the male segment. For Uomo Signature (2018), Alberto Morillas returns alone for something more personal, more special, and less-reliant on vulgar chemical overdoses, even though they are still there, just dialed back to become part of the composition instead of the focus. In the place of such a huge ambroxan sledgehammer comes a coffee note, bringing the Morillas-penned Uomo Signature even closer to that of A*Men, but this is no pure homage, and manages to stand on its own two legs just fine. Uomo Signature isn't exciting, and it isn't revolutionary, but as a modern designer still using ambroxan as a slight crutch, it is more respectable than many in its category. Guys who already have gourmands in their wardrobe may feel something like Uomo Signature is redundant, but I don't think the scent seeks the attention of the hardcore Colognoisseur anyway.

Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo Signature opens with mandarin orange, pink pepper, and some dusty nutmeg. It doesn't take long at all for the cardamom to follow up, and it is a pretty thick application of the stuff too, so you had better like spicy if you are to like this. Uomo Signature is so much thicker in this regard to the original Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo that if there was any doubt the older one was a winter scent, there is no shred of uncertainty about what kind of weather in which you should wear signature, especially when the cinnamon comes in to kick ass alongside the cardamom. This is a spicy as gourmands tend to get here, but the coffee and patchouli tandem playing the biggest respect to A*Men shows up in a few minutes after the top and middle unfold, with a gentler application of both than the older Thierry Mugler scent, bolstered by the warm glow of a dialed-back ambroxan and musk. If Uomo Signature is any kind of bomb at all, it is a tonka bomb, for the sheer overdose of coumarin in the base of this takes over for the coffee, patchouli, and ambroxan during the final skin scent phase, merging with the musk to radiate on skin for hours. Supposedly a leather note is here, but I don't get much of that myself, even though I admit being something of a leather stickler so if it doesn't hit me in the face, I'm not satisfied with it. Wear time is a full day being an eau de parfum, but sillage is not as intense, so you won't have to worry about suffocating anyone in your winter commute to the office in a subway car or carpool, but I would still suggest moderating sprays anyway.

Salvatore Ferragamo isn't exactly my cup of tea, and its hodgepodge of modern chemistry with 90's gourmand revival aesthetics more than makes up for the craven monster that is the original Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo, since Siganture shows better blending and some restraint, trading ambroxan for more tonka and some clever use of classic gourmand notes. Once again, this is no breakthrough for the brand, and certainly holds no candle to the original Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme (1999) or even F by Ferragamo Pour Homme (2007), which were worked on by Jacques and son Olivier Polge respectively, and do things in finer filigrees than usually manageable by mainstream darling Morillas. Still, this is a safe thing to explore for a younger guy that wants to try his hand with some gourmand tones, but doesn't wish to stray too far "from the light" of convention just yet, so the artistic merging of what he already knows with what he has yet to try works out pretty well. Thumbs up from me, but as with most things readily available in department stores, I encourage a test before committing any cash to the purchase. A kinder gentler, more modern A*Men this is in spirit, but that may not be enough for the seasoned hobbyist.
03rd February, 2019

Made to Measure by Gucci

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Gucci Made to Measure (2013) is in no uncertain terms made to be anything but trite and ineffectual as a fragrance sold only on the basis of its top notes, which aren't even really all that good. Coming from a house that has been bought, sold, and bought again, with the perfume lines rebooted twice in their entirety save maybe 2 or 3 fragrances, I should have expected this much. Good thing the ship is being steered by Alessandro Michelle away from this by-the-numbers corporate autobot composition style, or else Gucci might end up like Dolce & Gabbana: unable to truly move forward beyond their most-recent modern successes. All histrionics aside, Made to Measure is no abomination, but it is just so dialed-in boring and plain as to be almost offensive to the nose. I'd really rather somebody go wear Y Eau de Toilette by Yves Saint Laurent (2017) in my presence than this, and I hate that one with a passion, but at least it elicits some form of passion from me! In essence, we have a "fresh sweet spicy leathery soft warm clean sexy something or other" masculine that tries its hardest to be the dead-center of a masculine perfume Venn Diagram. Well guess what? It succeeds and the results are narcolepsy-inducing. I wonder how much James Franco was paid to play in the ads for this, since I'd be embarrassed from the association knowing how this smells. The mega-successful Dior Sauvage (2015) might get a lot of flack for having Johnny Depp in its ads, but at least that scent has some gumption, however controversial among the perfume community outside the mainstream lanes it may be.

I don't really know who is on board with this one, but I can't blame the perfumer remaining anonymous considering the results of their work. We have something with citrus and anise in the beginning, rolling through neroli and lavender into a blah that then fades further into a juniper berry middle flanked by plum, spices, and the aquatic note. There is so much "sweet and fresh har har" going on in this top and middle that anyone valuing oakmoss (real or fake) or even a simple fougère accord would be sent screaming in the other direction, clawing at their own eyes and asking why God has forsaken them, so maybe as colognoisseur repellent this might be effective. The base is just a huge sigh of bleached lifeless patchouli roundness, ambroxan, the modern "dry suede" accord that fills in for leather in the 2010's, plus a heavily-processed labdanum vibe. The total finish is a mishmash of that citrus, juniper, lavender, spice, and ambroxan in a cloying ball of modern pleasantness that grants olfactory fatique at any application. I had to seriously sit out a few minutes and smell some coffee beans after reviewing my sample. I can't imagine having this on skin longer than an hour tops, but I feel it will last a work day for the brave or tortured souls talked into buying it. Ever encounter something so staid, bland, and boring, yet resolute in it's intensity that it makes you angry? Smell Gucci Made to Measure if you want to know what that is like.

I guess this is suitable as a generalist, as Gucci Made to Measure feels just so "general" that I can't find a good context for it. Once again, there is no hate found here, but this is the masculine perfume equivalent of a child in the backseat during a road trip screaming "are we there yet? are we there yet?" ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Gucci Made to Measure is literally olfactive torture to my nose because I can't process it as good or bad, since it is just so perfectly dialed-in to pleasant, overbearingly present, and overwhelmingly devoid of character, like a giant android following you wherever you go just to let you know you've got mail, despite nobody even using AOL anymore. This stuff is just madness, and maddeningly bad. The absolute lowest point of Gucci's perfume career on the men's side, and not recommendable to anyone by me no matter what your taste or budget is. In fact, if you tell me you like this, I'll give you a recommendation of something more focused that does what this tries to do better, and maybe even for less, because Gucci still carries a premium price tag in many shops. As they have since proven, Gucci can only go up from here in Men's fragrance, and it astounds me that something like Gucci Pour Homme (2003) has been discontinued, to become such an over-hyped unicorn of a fragrance commanding Creed prices, yet something this completely lifeless is allowed to fill the lineup in its stead. Tagged as "tailor-made like an expensive suit; inspired by the look and feel of a handmade suit", I couldn't possibly disagree more. I just don't know, I really don't. Hard thumbs down.
03rd February, 2019

Dior Homme Eau for Men by Christian Dior

Dior Homme Eau (2014) is basically the warm weather version of Dior Homme (2005) that hardcore fans always wanted, and takes the iris-prominent dry leather of the original Olivier Polge masterpiece, and cuts it loose from the cacao and oriental notes, but keeping the vetiver and amber in place. The point of Dior Homme Eau is obviously to make a fresher take on the classic mid-2000's dark horse champion, and house perfumer François Demachy mostly succeeds, with only the smallest loss of original's character lost in translation, which is acceptable considering all the other "fresh" flankers we get that amount to having diddly in common with the pillar they flank. What's even more amazing about Dior Homme Eau is that it manages to avoid heavy and obvious usage of ambroxan or norlimbanol, which anything made in the post-2010 wake of Bleu de Chanel (2010) that isn't niche, artisinal, or Avon seems saddled with these two base notes if made for men. François Demachy wasn't kidding when he said the stuff "avoids every masculine cliche" in his blurb on the stuff, which amounts to bonus points for house Dior, although I'm not sure how much those points amount to now since François Demachy created and Dior released Sauvage (2015) literally a year after the release of Dior Homme Eau, almost reneging any mention of avoiding cliches in the process.

The opening of Dior Homme Eau is pretty expected to be honest, with bergamot, grapefruit, and a light dusting of coriander. The spice is dialed back hugely compared to the coriander levels in the original Dior Homme, but that iris rings loud and clear, coming to the fore from the heart right away. Vetiver joins it as it did in the original, but without any cacao or patchouli to thicken up the formula into its usual gourmand self, Dior Homme Eau becomes sharper, almost arguably more femme-flirting than the original, which is a quality I like. I think more masculines should flirt with a naked iris like Dior Homme Eau does, because it's only a feminine note by social programming, since the stuff is crammed into most lipstick or compact foundation. The base is amber and leather like the original but with the new player of Virginia cedar joining the party, adding a dry, crisp, and woodsy tone without the need for Mr. Norm B Limbanol crashing the party. Without norlimbanol, there is still a bit of Iso E Super spit shine and a smidgen of ambroxan to give Dior Homme Eau that aquatic glow, but it works.
Wear time is a respectable Eau de Toilette length of eight hours with moderate sillage. This isn't a screamer anymore than the original Dior Homme, and feels more casual, or suitable for strange company.

Overall I feel this teeters on redundant to somebody that focuses on variety and just wants the main pillars in his collection, but for somebody fully invested in a specific line like Dior Homme, and all it's many variants, Dior Homme Eau will shine as one of the better adaptations. François Demachy has his moments of utter cash-in cheese (see Sauvage Very Cool Spray from 2016), but overall he tends shop pretty well, all hobbyist misgivings about Sauvage aside. Dior Homme Eau might also be the perfect answer for guys who think the iris and cacao of the original is a bit much but does actually like iris in their perfumes, sort of like a "less is more" since the note is toned down a tad even if it still reigns as the star of the show beyond the citrus. Dior Homme Eau fills a specific niche in the Dior Homme lineup that only it can fill, having a pretty legitimate place in my eyes unlike the constantly-remade sport flanker that has had no less than 3 editions now, plus the various intensifications of the original which have come and gone. Definitely a thumbs up from me, but as always, try before you buy! Outside of the previous year's Dior Homme Cologne (2013), the entire character of the line is defined by it's desire to go against the conventional masculine fragrance DNA. Dior Homme Eau does bring the line closer to the norm, but by no means close enough to itself be considered a safe blind-buy.
03rd February, 2019

Mr. Burberry by Burberry

Our buddy Mr. Francis Kurkdijan, who not only burst onto the scent with Jean-Paul Gaultier's legendary homoerotic clubber Le Mâle (1995), but since 2009 has had his own prestige-priced perfume house (Maison Francis Kurkdijan or MFK), is seemingly never too good to help compose a mid-tier workhorse scent, or even compose for value brands like Oriflame and Yves Rocher. Apparently Burberry London is well aware of this, and has had a working relationship with the perfumer for a number of years, having him crank out half as many scents for them as he does for his own label. Such a good sport that Mr. Kurkdijan is, and although a lot of his mainstream compositions are about as hit or miss as any other perfumer (I don't care much for Le Mâle for example), I do have to say he put in some decent effort here with Mr. Burberry (2016). I seem to be of the unpopular opinion that this is a fair scent, and I admit it really does nothing to inspire whatsoever, but I think Burberry in particular has a knack for "git r' done" masculines that don't scary or scintillate anyone, so rather brow beat the house for doing what it always does, I'll applaud them for consistency with yet another dependable, but not amazing masculine fragrance. It feels like Kurkdijan pulled from the past but added a modern twist, as he did originally with Le Mâle and again with Narciso Rodriguez (2007), but shooting for for that mid-century English wet shaving vibe throughout. I think the house has accidentally landed on something which feels very turn-of-the-21st-century to my nose, especially the way fresh synthetics and balsamic notes merge.

Mr. Burberry opens simply enough, and it's an accord most of us with experience have smelled time and time again amongst other semi-fresh aromatic business/casual masculines. Grapefruit, bergamot, and cardamom merge to form a citrus, semi-sweet rounded savory spice accord, with a touch of meaty tarragon to connect Mr. Burberry with a British barbershop fougère-style opening, with exception that there really is nothing else very "fougère" about the opening. The grapefruit is the new X factor not really present in many older versions of this accord, making Mr. Burberry feel more youthful despite the traditional approach. There is a tiny inflection of a "grape drink" accord that is hard to place accurately with notes, but it isn't the full-on obvious grape leaf of Versace Man (2003), so it can be forgiven. The heart of nutmeg and cedar is joined by an oily birch note. This isn't the smoky birch tar of olden days, but rather the sort of rooty aspect birch as a flavor takes, but in scent form. Again, a small culinary aspect is linked here but it is brief. The overall woody/zesty "groomed gentleman" tone of Mr. Burberry carries on finally to a base of vetiver, balsam fir, and sandalwood, or what stands for the latter these days in absence of Mysore. Unfortunately, you're reminded that this is a 2010's designer intent upon cashing in on the trends of the day when that ambroxan base shows up, but it is much slighter than most of its kind, and manages to complete the composition rather than overtake it, much like the one that started it all: Bleu de Chanel (2010). To be honest, Mr. Burberry almost feels like the conservative English cousin of Bleu de Chanel, and the kind of scent for guys who like to romanticize about that kind of austerity but don't want to actually live it day-to-day. Wear time is eight hours and this is so safe it hurts, so keeping Mr. Burberry in the office is a good bet.

The best way to adequately summarize Mr. Burberry is by calling it a 2010's trendy ambroxan synth-woods psuedo-freshie by way of the 1970's British barbershop, full of aromatics, spice, and citrus zing. There is much more sweetness here than your dad's vintage bottle of Dunhill Blend 30 (1978) or even a bottle of Azzaro Pour Homme (1978) with it's considerable lemon and anise. Certainly this is no morose bottle of Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet (1902) or English Fern (1911), and the ambroxan here throws this right out the window for any hardcore vintage guy unwilling to wear a perfume without oakmoss in it or made after the year 2000 in general, but I don't think Kurkdijan nor Burberry are really going after people who interpret nostalgia as a life code anyway. Most of the derision and disappointment with Mr. Burberry I feel is expecting more from both the perfumer and the house, since both have proved capable of creating really artistic standout masculines, but the latter seemingly only does it by mistake, which is how I temper my opinion. Burberry have played it safe yet again, but thankfully they are good at it, so they've done no wrong and earn a thumbs up from me, but with the caveat that Mr. Burberry could just as easily be substituted with something like Calvin Klein Contradiction for Men (1999) or Truth for Men (2002) without batting an eye. For something with a little more soul, check out the Mr. Burberry Eau de Parfum (2017), which works some pretty interesting magic that represents the "after work" version of this fragrance, and is also composed by Francis Kurkdijan. Good show old bean!
01st February, 2019

Dior Homme Cologne (2013) by Christian Dior

Dior Homme (2005) became a very unlikely hero for the label that had weathered no real success in the men's segment since Fahrenheit (1988). The leather accord over petrol violet made that venerable scent a controversial staple for daring men, while those wishing to cast a shorter shadow stuck with their bottles of Dior Eau Sauvage (1966). Scents like Jules (1980) and Dune Pour Homme (1997) had an impact with die-hard Dior guys, but the majority of the male market lay mostly unconvinced of their value, and Dior Higher (2002) failed as a pillar since it was a youth-marketed scent the youth couldn't afford, while more mature guys who had passed on most of the above were still waiting for their next Fahrenheit. Dior Homme with it's iris and cocoa over leather was that successor, thanks to a young Olivier Polge not yet absorbed into Chanel like his now-retired father, and was controversial in its own right just like Fahrenheit before it. A richer intense version coupled with a lighter cologne version were both released in 2007, and by that time François Demachy had taken over as house perfumer for Dior, ridding them of the need to search out talent on a per-release basis. These iterations have their fans (especially the intense version), but didn't stray far from the iris/cocoa/leather theme, making them increasingly inadequate as the gourmand style slinked into the background whilee synthetic woods fragrances became the new norm. Dior quietly began updating the scent profile with flankers, including Dior Homme Sport, which was released 3 times with 3 different formulations in 2008, 2012, and 2017, containing less and less of what tied it to the original Dior Homme with each revision. Likewise, Dior Homme Cologne was re-orchestrated in 2013 into what I am reviewing now, while Dior Homme Eau (2014) and Dior Homme Parfum (2014) represent a schism of sorts: two fragrances made from the combined profile of Dior Homme, with no gourmand tones in either and leather elements saved just for the parfum but a hint of the trademark Iris in the Eau to tie it into the main Dior Homme line.

Dior Homme Cologne (2013) is likely the best of the technically unrelated flankers to the original Dior Homme. This stuff doesn't have a single lick of what made the original Dior Homme so good but doesn't need to, since it waltzes onto the scene as a modern take on the eau de cologne sans neroli in an effort to offer an alternative to aquatics. The opening is bergamot, pure and simple. There isn't much going on here besides citrus and a few trace aromatic herbs to keep it on skin, so outside little peek-a-boos of sage, all you get in the opening is lovely lush and dry bergamot until the slightly-sweeter grapefruit arrives in the heart. From there, I get a tiny looksie of basil too, but like with the top, all this is just for skin retention and barely detectable, as the white musk molecule and minuscule puff of cedar do the rest for the scent. It's a bare-minimum eau de cologne experience with Dior Homme Cologne 2013, but the skin retention is miraculous with hours of longevity even if sillage isn't amazing. Fresh as fresh can be in an appreciable way for fans of traditional fragrances not obviously stuffed full of ambroxan, norlimbanol, or Iso E Super, although I'm sure all the usual suspects like linalool are here because if they weren't, this stuff would fade faster than 4711 (1799). Dior Homme cologne is at its core a citrus over musk with sparse aromatics, and feels both modern and timeless at the same time, but strictly meant for athletic, after-shower, or warm weather use as a naturalist option for a fresh masculine scent, so I'd use it accordingly. Wear time is about 8 hours but sillage is naturally on the low side, although it is such an enjoyable fundamentalist vibe that I not only don't mind over-applying or reapplying, but also don't really miss the "Dior Homme Lite" that was the original version of this juice back in 2007.

Dior Homme Cologne 2013 falls in line as an early entry in what appears to be a new segment for the 2010's emerging in the men's fragrance market of "back to basics" eau de cologne-inspired fresh fragrances. These scents have the fundamental style of a traditional cologne splash, updated just enough to be palatable to a younger male nose not well-acclimated to tons of neroli or florals present in older iterations, and lasting long enough to really be considered an eau de toilette in strength rather than a cologne. This whole designer "nouveau cologne" movement was presaged in a manner of speaking by Versace Man Eau Fraîche (2006), but that creation still clung to some aquatic elements in its top, although Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche (2014), L'Eau d'Issey pour Homme Fraîche (2016), and Chanel Allure Homme Sport Cologne (2016) go full-bore in this direction even harder than Dior Homme Cologne does with it's simple citrus and musk pairing. Perhaps the proliferation of scents like these is a good sign that guys are finally tired of the same dihydromyrcenol-powered crap that has been dished out without change or reprieve since Davidoff Cool Water (1988) first hit the scene decades earlier. In any case, if you are a huge die-hard fan of the Dior Homme line as had originated, this may not interest you, since it bears no resemblance whatsoever to neither Dior Homme nor any other flanker in the line. However, guys looking for a really honest-to-goodness alternative to massive neroli bombs like Penhaligon's Castile (1998) or vintage cologne-style EdT's like Eau de Guerlain (1974) or Cerruti 1881 Pour Homme (1990) will find a lot to love in Dior Homme Cologne 2013. Dior Homme itself is in no danger of going away, because like the ever-divisive Fahrenheit, it draws attention to itself merely by existing as a scent challenging to mainstream sensibilities for contrast against the by-the-numbers mega-hit Dior Sauvage (2015), but Dior Homme Cologne 2013 offers a nice contrasting summertime alternative in familiar sexy bottle as the original. Thumbs up!
28th January, 2019

Bulgari pour Homme Soir by Bulgari

Bvlgari pour Homme Extrême would be the last hurrah of this style for the house on the men's side of their perfume fence, taking one more stab at the tea and musk/aromatics combo that set Bvlgari apart from the crowd. Bvlgari Pour Homme (1995) was the debut masculine outing for the house of Bvlgari, and featured the what was once considered the house note of darjeeling tea, carried over from Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert (1993), and composed into a soft, transparent, complex white musk for men. Bvlgari Black (1998) was the culmination of their tea theme, so experimentation followed. Bvlgari Pour Homme Extrême (1999) saw a drier, sharper, and more masculine take on the theme with woods and spice as the main focus over the musk of the predecessor, and that version sat better with the "meat and potatoes" segment of the masculine fragrance community, plus let Bvlgari step out of its usual lane of restrained tea fragrances at the time. A change in a the guard was occuring, and has Bvlgari became more successful, they started to really branch out with their composition styles, moving away from tea and into standard categories starting with Blv (2000) and Blv Pour Homme (2001) respectively. Women started receiving more standardized feminine fare while men got Bvlgari Aqva (2005), which was as big a mission statement as any that Bvlgari had joined the rest of Designerland with their creations. Bvlgari Pour Homme Soir (2006) feels like a final goodbye to the 90's era of Bvlgari for this reason, at least so far as masculine perfumes go, and returns the original men's pillar line to its soft musk roots.

Bvlgari Pour Homme Soir is very similar to the original in tone, but cuts out many of the superfluous notes that barely registered in that original scent's gray structure, and building up from the core of what is left. In essence, this makes Bvlgari Pour Homme Soir like a "light" version of the original, and a touch more focused on the tea, as little gets in the way of it. The musk of Bvlgari Pour Homme Soir still provides the background for this tea like the original, but with less amber or spice to muddle it up. The tea note opens Bvlgari Pour Homme Soir crystal clear, dark, and a tad more romantic. A woodsy balmy papyrus note wafts in with some dry bergamot, but without the sweet orange blossom or white florals of the original. The tea shines almost by itself like an iteration of Bvlgari Black stripped of it's thick rubbery essence, but retaining a touch of vetiver to keep Bvlgari Pour Homme Soir a tad earthy. White musk and a dialed-back amber finish off the relatively simple scent, and the whole thing feels like its name implies: a relaxed evening version of Bvlgari Pour Homme. Wear time is about on par with the original, but sillage is a bit more slight, even if the scent itself wears darker and more aromatic. Bvlgari Pour Homme Soir can be seen as something of a compromise between the sharp aromatics of Bvlgari pour Homme Extrême and the rounded pillowy plushness of Bvlgari Pour Homme, since it borrows the dryness of the former and the richness of the latter to make a scent that layers well with either. Bvlgari Pour Homme Soir feels particularly more romantic to my nose than the other two, so that's where I would use it.

Fans of Bvlgari pour Homme Extrême won't like the direction this flanker takes the series on its final ride, and users of the original might even find Bvlgari pour Homme Soir a tiny bit redundant in their collection, so I feel the real target for this scent was for folks who didn't own either because there were bits about them they didn't like. Bvlgari pour Homme Soir really gets down to the core of the accord made by perfumer Jacques Cavallier, and although no perfumer is signed onto this (meaning nobody knows if he returned for this or if it's somebody else's work), I feel like all attempts were made to tie Bvlgari pour Homme Soir into the legacy established by the previous entries. You don't hear much talk of this anymore in men's circles, and the soft musk is unisex enough for women or people generally preferring feminine musky fragrances to take a stab at it, making Bvlgari pour Homme Soir feel most like a good flanking choice for owners of Calvin Klein cK One (1994) than anything, since that too has a tea note buried in its mix. I give Bvlgari pour Homme Soir a thumbs up, but the simplicity of the scent also translates to linearity, and I find it has less character in spite of itself when compared to the original Bvlgari pour Homme, but is at least for a sniff for fans of the style. After this, there would be no going back for Bvlgari, who would commit to their aquatics and synthetic woods masculines going forward, leaving what many consider their best era of perfume behind to be more like competitors Dolce & Gabbana or Versace. You can still sometimes find Bvlgari pour Homme Soir in a mall store or as unsold stock in a department store like Dillard's, but outside of that, you'll have to get it on them interwebz.
28th January, 2019

Platinum Collection : Orris by Commodity

Commodity is a fragrance house that likes to name its creations after either single notes, items, colors, or substances. This is a quirk they no doubt have in common with niche operations like Le Labo, but unlike the latter, they don't really bank on the science gimmick with packaging and presentation which resembles test samples from a laboratory. The kind of super-minimalist perfume in both packaging and olfactory theme Commodity employs clearly has an audience, as Commodity has been doing well since their formation in 2013 by entrepreneurs Konstantin Glasmacher and Ash Huzenlaub through a Kickstarter campaign. Now distributed brick and mortar through LVMH or online by their own eCommerce operation, Commodity try to make boring seem interesting, and how the fragrance community which mostly consumes these kind of high-concept niche goodies perceives this goal has been mixed to say the least. Orris (2017) is themed after the tuber itself, but soapiness usually associated with orris root is actually quite restrained here, since this is built up quite differently than one might expect a fragrance sporting orris as its main note. Commodity in general doesn't seem to get a whole lot of talk outside your local Sephora sales reps, who always try to push the stuff because it is an exclusive brand in their stores, and I can sort of see why. The enforced drab aesthetic of the grand might appeal to hipsters looking to be as intentionally misunderstood and unapproachable as possible, but anyone with a more balanced outlook will shake their head at a brand that deliberately reduces themselves to a "commodity".

Commodity Orris comes out the gate quietly when sprayed, and presents itself as a very dry, citric and sharp scent thanks to bergamot, coriander, and pink peppercorn. One might almost mistake this for Tom Ford Grey Vetiver (2009), until one realizes that the vetiver is but a distant recollection here compared to the Tom Ford fragrance, making Orris feel more like a niche precursor to Dolce & Gabbana The One Grey (2018), which I was not too fond of myself. Commodity makes mention of carrot seed being in this, but God only knows what that smells like in this greyed-out opening, so I'm going to assume it's there. The middle of cedar and dry patchouli is quite clear after the citrus and dry spy settle down, with wisps of the orris already starting to appear. There is something a black tea note here which reminds me of Bvlgari Black (1998) without the rubbery aspects, but it is pretty brief and flanked by some nondescript white florals that act as connective tissues to the orris in the base. vanilla and vetiver act as both angel and devil on the shoulder for the orris base, since one smooths and sweetens Commodity Orris into something approachable, while the other keeps the overall feel very erudite and stoic, like a perfume made for a librarian or wise sage from times lost to history. Combined, the effect is a bit ambiguous and depending on the way the air catches Orris, you might get the amiable side, or the standoffish side, with a straight face either way. Wear time is mediocre as is sillage, which is the one big let down for Commodity scents in general, but with Orris being relatively stiff and business-like anyway, it might make the perfect in-the-background work fragrance for any gender.

Orris is part of the Platinum Collection, which consists entirely of commonly-used top or base notes in traditional perfume, whilst other series focus on mood or impressions of things instead of going for soliflore-like interpretations. Commodity encourages their scents being "wardrobed" by customers, which is their fancy way of saying layered with each other, so perhaps Orris might go well with something that has a bit more pep in its step from within the Commodity lines or elsewhere. On it's own, Orris isn't really the greatest example of a scent built around the note, not that many are in the first place since Orris never got the kind of oakmoss did before restriction (which got its own homage scent from Commodity in 2013), nor popularity of something like oud or amber, neither of which have any shortage of perfumes themed after them. Semi-clean, semi-dry, and relatively simple in development despite its many ingredients, Commodity Orris won't impress, and as the olfactive equivalent of MTV's Daria, it's no wonder that nobody really talks about it. Still, I do like orris as it is often featured in aromatic fougères and traditional colognes, so I can't find fault per se in Orris but neither do I find any favor, since Commodity has proved with their execution that orris root is not really interesting enough on its own to have a scent built around it like sandalwood or even lavender. This is an easy neutral for me, and since neutral tones are what the brand seems to be all about, it's an appropriate reaction. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to take a nap.
27th January, 2019

Nirvana Rose by Elizabeth and James

Most of us growing up in the 1980's watched the sitcom Full House, with the cute Olsen Twins playing Michelle Tanner, never realizing that some day those two would grow up into paparazzi drama magnets, let alone founders of a perfume house. Well here we are, with Elizabeth & James, named after their two remaining siblings. Founded in 2013, Elizabeth & James came onto the scene with Nirvana Black (2013), and Nirvana White (2013), both meant to symbolize the contrasting personalities of those siblings. With Nirvana Rose (2016), we see a more conceptual piece, presenting a rich, dark, gothic rose experience that is surprisingly not sold at a niche price point. Fans of Portrait of a Lady by Editions de Pardums Frédéric Malle (2010), Amouage Lyric Man (2008), Montale Black Aoud (2006), or Tom Ford Noir de Noir (2007) should see Elizabeth & James Nirvana Rose as a downright steal, since it brings to the table a similar dark rose vibe at a designer price point, with no visible seams of quality inequity. The basic idea of Nirvana Rose is to lay Rose de Mai over geranium and vetiver, as the box graphics show. Rose de Mai is a hybrid often referred to as the cabbage rose, and it's parentage includes the Damask rose, which is often (but not always) richer and sweeter than most others found in perfume. Rose de Mai is a good choice of species for perfume, as it has a sort of "inbetweener" kind of smell that touches on the best facets of most preferred rose types.

There is a lot more going on in Nirvana Rose than Rose de Mai, geranium, and vetiver, but that's just the oversimplification present in most modern niche transposed into a designer tier fragrance, which much like the style this exhibits, shows that the Olsen twins really were trying to copy tit-for-tat the vibe of much higher-end perfumes but make them available for the average mall walker. Nirvana Rose opens with a thick rose nose grafted to sweet lemon oil, offering a jammy effect similar to the Lush staple Rose Jam (2011), furthering that comparison by utilizing the greening effect of geranium in the heart. There is clove and nutmeg in the heart alongside the geranium, with a leathery note showing up in the base that might be something synthetic, but it pairs well with the listed vetiver, and a huge hit of saffron. the base is mostly sandalwood and musk beyond that, with the rose parting long before the saffron does, imparting some oriental sensibilities in the end which help reassert the gothic theme of the fragrance. Nirvana Rose has good longevity and close sillage as an eau de parfum, with no context provided for wearing this because it is a love or shove kind of accord, which is the norm for most serious rose fragrances out there. The fact that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen were the main creative minds behind this scent, regardless of who the unknown perfumer is, just blows my mind. I guess it just goes to show that judging by outwards appearances or publicly-held knowledge is a mistake.

Nirvana Rose is listed as a feminine fragrance, but this is 100% unisex to my nose, especially considering how dark and rich this is compared to many others of its ilk. I can see how most of your general CISHET male population might be afraid of this, but for the modern dandy not afraid to wander out of the men's section of Nordstrom to discover untold goodies in the realms beyond what is assigned to him, this is an appropriately heavy, almost morose rose that would serve well in fall though spring climates. Since there is no bergamot, galbanum, or any other real verdant accords throughout Nirvana Rose, this simply won't do in the dead of summer, with something like Lauder for Men (1985) or Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose (1972) being a better bet in those situations. The flat magenta version of the standard Elizabeth & James bottle with its gilded sides goes perfect with the smell within, and helps encapsulate what this perfume is really all about: a quality decadent rose without the decadent price tag. My hat is definitely off to Mary Kate and Ashley, even if I think whatever they call that Full House reboot on Netflix (Fuller House?) is a total disaster. At this rate, we're likely to see Steve Urkel from Family Matters producing his own line of oud perfumes. Anything is possible! Looks like this one is only available in Sephora outside the internet, so if you want to sample in person, you'll have to drag yourself into one. Fans of niche rose perfumes owe it to themselves to investigate this one, even if the rest of what the rest of this pseudo-celebrity house has to offer may potentially not stack up. Thumbs up from me!
27th January, 2019

Rose Anonyme by Atelier Cologne

Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme (2012) is one of the best Western rose and oud combos I have smelled, and not because it is authentic to the origin of the species, because it merely isn't just a rose oud made to a Western palette, but a total Westernization of the accord, as if the French-based Atelier Cologne did what any good cover band does and actually own the source material they're covering to make it their own. There really isn't any other rose perfume this complex or sophisticated in the same price segment as Rose Anonyme, and the only grievance I levy against it is the lack of sillage, even if longevity is more than sufficient. It is a hallmark of the house I suppose, to make "Cologne Absolue" fragrances that are little more than subdued eau de toilettes that favor longevity over radiance, and the same holds true for Rose Anonyme, but at very least what is presented comes across memorable and enjoyable for fans of the almighty rose. For starters, the general feeling is very close to Noir de Noir by Tom Ford (2007), and although Rose Anonyme will cost half as much, the same richness is brought to bear, just without the weapons-grade projection. Perfumer Jerome Epinette was on board for Rose Anonyme as with several other Atelier Cologne scents, assisting Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel with creation.

Rose Anonyme starts off with bergamot and ginger, but that lusciously dark Turkish rose is quick to follow up from the heart, setting the stage for the rest of the play that is this fragrance. Thick, dark, and semi-sweet rose come forth and envelop the wearer, flanked by olibanum and a soft medicinal oud. Think of Montale Black Aoud (2006) at one third strength, with more supporting players and a sweet ginger to smooth over the industrial edge the Montale has. People who haven't experienced a rose oud should definitely start here if budget isn't a concern, otherwise Jovan Intense Oud (2012) is the entry level of choice, because Rose Anonyme presents the best rose and oud balance with enough "cushion" afforded by the citrus and spice to make it accessible. The patchouli of the base adds a bit of rich green to the overall composition, helping the scent maintain its unisex appeal, while benzoin puts back the animalic touch lost by having a synthetic oud in place of a barnyard-worthy natural one. There is a "papyrus" note here, but I don't know what it really is, so likely we have a synthetic like Iso E Super doing the talking, but it helps add a bit of late-game vavoom that keeps Rose Anonyme from becoming a skin scent too early. Longevity is about eight hours with moderate sillage, and there is a limited extrait version for the folks who need more power from this scent. I usually take issue with the meekness of Atelier Cologne creations, but here I think the subtlety actually works in Rose Anonyme's favor since the composition is rather thick and rich compared to the house's usual vibe.

I admit being a bit partial to rose, so this Atelier Cologne selection among all others might just be my favorite, but for fans of brutally dry or green roses, this is not for you. People into things like the aforementioned Tom Ford or Portrait of a Lady by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle (2010) will appreciate what Rose Anonyme has to offer, and may even find it to be a steal since it conjures a similar vibe for half or one fourth the price of those ultra-luxe "Nouveau Riche" bruisers. The added twist of a very subtle oud mixed with the standard patchouli and benzoin offers the best all-around oriental rose oud via Western perfume experience money can buy, since there is zero pretense of this trying to pass itself off as genuine like the Aramis Perfume Calligraphy (2012) line, nor any kid gloves placed on the rose like John Varvatos Oud (2014). Rose fans owe themselves a trip to a department store to check this out, and if nothing else, Rose Anonyme will serve as a good casual rose when the less-compromising ones simply won't serve appropriately. There's no real good context in which to wear this, but I feel fall or spring provide the best climate for it to shine. Outside of that, I give Rose Anonyme a huge thumbs up as a being a rather opaque surprise from a house known for its airy, transparent composition style. Maybe not the best rose on the planet, but one of best merging of Middle East meets West on the market, and relatively affordable in the greater spectrum of high-quality rose offerings overall.
27th January, 2019

Musc Impérial by Atelier Cologne

Atelier Cologne is the unlikeliest of houses to intentionally make an "Aventus Clone" to capitalize on the social Darwinist hysteria that is the rabid online fan base the stuff carries, since it isn't even a house that supports gender in fragrance let alone status or pedigree. In fact, if not for Atelier's above-the-norm prices, one might not even suspect them of being a niche house at all, since the heart of their operation is to make simple colognes that last like a perfume. I'm not entirely on board with the Atelier Cologne corporate message, because to me it feels like they're really just making standard eau de toilettes (or what used to pass for them decades ago), then renaming and charging more for them, but I understand rising production costs for quality ingredients and all that, so maybe it just costs upwards of $150 for what used to be a third of that in ages past. What I do like is the general transparency of scents in the Atelier Cologne brand, and Musc Impérial (2015) is no exception. Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel cite inspiration from Barcelona and it's grand suites “impériales” within the Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona as inspiration for this fragrance, and I can see it. There is zero pineapple in this but what I think leads the "Jacobite" sect within the male side of the fragrance community to charge at Musc Impérial in defense of its appointed king Aventus is the black currant and bergamot head notes they both share, which combine in a very distinctive way that's hard not to associate with arguably the most popular niche in existence. Musc Impérial won't knock anyone's socks off, which is the one area Aventus actually bests it, since that most indomitable of Creeds does have a wow factor which love or hate is ever present.

The opening of Musc Impérial is indeed similar to that of Aventus if it had no pineapple "shine" in its top notes, so what we get is a flatter, more aromatic smell that otherwise has the same dry citrus and dark fruit note but mixed with sage instead of more fruit. The smell of Musc Impérial quickly changes from there into something earthier than Aventus thanks to musty fig and a leather accord in the middle. Round French lavender dances throughout the whole thing at this stage, coming and going as lavender often does when it isn't playing a starring role in a fragrance, but as suspected, the root of Musc Impérial is indeed musk, but not a white musk molecule or any kind of "direct" musk as one might think with such a name on the bottle. Instead, Musc Impérial uses a naturally-derived version of musk ambrette coming from ambrette seed, rather than the stronger isolated molecule of old pulled from nitromusk creation. Scents like Chanel No. 18 (2007) or even Jacomo Silences (1978) made use of ambrette in this fashion, sometimes listed as "musk mallow" in note pyramids, and it is the prominent feature of Musc Impérial. A light dusting of cedar finishes this off, and a pleasant if somewhat forgettable glow is created which will last up to eight hours with the mild sillage for which Atelier Creation are known. If Musc Impérial does smell like Aventus by any appreciable degree, I'd say it's more of the "Hot Tub" version, since it really shines in humid environs or strait out of a steaming bath, making Musc Impérial live up to its namesake as a fragrance meant for enjoyment in the wee hours when unwinding with a good soak before bed. I also see this getting some day wear use in warmer months as well, since humidity is Musc Impérial's best friend.

Musc Impérial is something of a misnomer, and it most certainly won't satisfy a hankering for any kind of real or substantial musk, like somebody after a tonkin musk type like Kiehl's Original Musk (1963) or a fatty vegetal type like Musc Ravageur (2000), or even an aromatic white musk like Jovan Musk Oil (1972), but who this will satisfy is somebody looking for a slightly-fruity aromatic leather and woods scent with a soft ambrette touch which imparts a tiny bit of pillowy sweetness to the mix. Naturally, this description is the furthest thing from what Aventus "dudebros" want out of a fragrance, since Musc Impérial doesn't scream "I bench 300lbs, drive a Maserati, run my own company and sneak into your house while your away to help you're wife cheat on you simultaneously" when a guy wears it. Instead, it just has the misfortune of having a semi-familiar top note accord then then goes somewhere COMPLETELY different within about ten minutes or so. Talk about a tease huh? Guess these alpha types aren't used to being teased are they? In any case, I like Musc Impérial so it gets a thumbs up, but wearing this invokes that spa atmosphere more than anything, living up to promises of conjuring exotic locals using a rarely-seen mixture of laid back perfumery staples and comforting ambrette, which is something most folks who compare it to other things seem to miss. If you are a guy who happens to enjoy Aventus but isn't afraid to experiment, this actually might be a smart bathroom spritz companion because they'd layer well together. For everyone else regardless of gender, this is nice, but just nice, so sample before paying the going prices Atelier fetches. There are a lot of Atelier Cologne options out there, and this sits squarely in the middle of them, but if the price is right, Musc Impérial might be a solid option for somebody needing a fragrance that comes across like relaxation in a bottle.
27th January, 2019

Eros Flame by Versace

Eros Flame (2018) seems to be part of a late 2010's "fire themed" flanker rollout taking place among designers, coming full-circle from the fire-themed gourmands that started rolling out mid-to-late 2000's. It's almost like we're stuck in this endless loop of aquatic, airy, earthy, and firey synthetic themes that skirt completely over traditional genres like chypres, fougères, and orientals, even if sometimes those categories are used as adjectives to describe things otherwise far more abstract. Maybe I'm just not "fired up" for the style Eros Flame represents. I see no real fire in it at all, just another orange-themed clubber that feels like a seventh son of the seventh son of Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008). The original Versace Eros (2013) was penned by Aurélien Guichard and represented an interesting merger of rich clubber oriental tones and a fresh minty semi-fougère accord that was versatile enough to pull double duty as a work and play scent. Eros Flame is penned by Olivier Pescheux, who is literally ONE OF THE GUYS who created Paco Rabanne 1 Million, and feels like the result of him being asked to recreate 1 Million as a Versace fragrance. I can imagine being asked to more or less plagiarize your own work (rather than do it surreptitiously by desire like Pierre Bourdon has done once or twice), it must feel like being typecast, and the results are likely to become less and less endearing each time. Maybe it's time designers like Versace break out of these silly elemental cycles and extreme/sport/intense/nuit/blue nonsense and do something novel? Considering Olivier Pescheux's track record with Diptyque, I know he can do way better than this.

Eros Flame does indeed open as one might expect a parroting of Paco Rabanne 1 Million by one of its own perfumers to open: with heaps of tart orange and spice. Tangerine, orange, and black pepper all swirl together to offer a more piquant and less sweet take on the theme, but the smooth lemon and bright geranium notes let you know before long that original Eros is still underneath it all, if being held prisoner by the embellishments. non-existent rose my nose doesn't detect is listed in the heart, alongside a healthy ambroxan dose that is the only heat to Eros Flame, with an aromatic dry rosemary joining hay-like tonka also returning to its previous role in the heart, just like the original Eros but a tad more herbal. Eros Flame is surprisingly irritating in its dry down stages compared to the older Eros, ditching much of the sugar and mulled spice for a more-prominent cedar and vetiver note than the original, likely meant to imply a hearth-like woodsiness but just feeding the "fire" of the aromachemical base. The rest of the development in Eros Flame bares no resemblance to the pillar after which it is named, with a bleached synthetic patchouli, and something like a red bell pepper mixed with scratchy norlimbanol called "pepperwood" (likely a custom or captive) doing the talking. There's a bit of vanilla here too but it isn't on the same level as the original blue bottle. Eros Flame has weaker sillage despite being spicier and harsher, but maybe that was on purpose, like Versace was doing everyone else in the club around the asshole wearing this a favor by making it harder for him to over-apply. Outside this bit of mercy, Eros Flame is by no means weak. Longevity is about as impressive as the original Eros too, so no need to worry about carrying the bottle around, but this is also nowhere near as versatile either, so I don't suggest wearing it work unless you're planning on making a "statement" to coworkers or clients unawares.

I went on a long diatribe about the original Eros because it was just so different and dynamic compared to what else was out at the time, and what else Versace themselves had released, being the first really creative masculine perfume from the house since Versace The Dreamer (1996), but Eros Flame just feels like a chore to wear, a chore to smell, and ultimately a chore to write about, so I have much less to say on it. There isn't a bit of originality here, and this is "phoned-in oriental spice and scratchy synthwoods galore" like countless other clubbers still trying to be "the next 1 Million" a decade later, which is really sad since it's in a pretty cool red version of the Versace Eros bottle crested with a gold cap. The packaging here is more than on point, but the juice inside deflates me faster than Aunt May unwittingly sitting on a whoopie cushion placed by one of the brat nephews on Thanksgiving. Anyone looking for a really different and distinctive youth-friendly juice made for the club but equally at-home in a work or college environment should explore the original Versace Eros, which is probably the best of the breed. Fans of 1 Million that want to fill a wardrobe with smell-alikes might find a bit of redemption here as a slightly drier (but scratchier) take, while most others not as enamored with that ubiquitous and sometimes cloying style will take one sniff of this and go "oh no, not another one". This isn't the first time Versace has been guilty of going through the motions (see 2008's Versace Pour Homme), and surely won't be the last, and I guess I should be grateful this idea is presented as a flanker of Eros rather than a new pillar. Thumbs down.
27th January, 2019

Coach Platinum by Coach

Let's get one thing straight: this is not a designer attempt at Creed Aventus (2010), and the opening pineapple in this is way more direct like opening a can of Dole pineapples, than the erstwhile Creed. Now that we have that myth dispelled, what Coach Platinum (2018) represents to me is a take on the primary accord of the original Coach for Men (2017) without the suede leather element, burying what leather remains in a barbershop accord that is a bit more versatile but not as interesting. Make no mistake, Coach Platinum definitely is reminiscent to a minute degree of Creed Aventus, and perfumer Bruno Jovanovic may have had some desire to emulate a bit of that scent's overall aura, but it doesn't really translate into anything even close to the same style, and the cheapo clones available are still way closer to Aventus than this. Fans of Aventus that love the pineapple accord and want to experience it used differently without plunking down for an old bottle of Lapdius Pour Homme (1987) are actually in for a treat with Coach Platinum, as the pineapple here stays around during the entire wear and is the focus alongside juniper. The rest of the scent is simply a matter personal interpretation really, although the gaudy chrome-plated bottle may suggest an obsession with bling that most people who name drop Coach have anyway, so perhaps there is a bit of self-aware humor in this as well.

The opening of Coach Platinum is obviously that bright and juicy pineapple. The note stays and stays after this opening, with a bit of piquant black pepper keeping it from being juvenile until the juniper heart shows its face. The progression through the middle is very similar to Armani Code/Black Code (2004) with its dry sage and geranium usage, but this stays away from becoming too powdery by the small poof of leather in the base alongside the rest of the barbershop notes. Sandalwood and vanilla play a huge role in the development of the dry down, and impart Coach Platinum an oriental flair an hour into the wear, which compliments the sharp pineapple and juniper tandem accord. Unfortunately, the vanilla used in Coach Platinum is also of the hugely sweet and thick culinary kind (unlike Aventus), feeling like vanilla extract from the bottle before going into Grandma's pound cake, so this stuff can get cloying quick. This is especially true when the patchouli and musky cashmeran molecule kicks into overdrive near the final stages. If Aventus is smoky pineapples, then Coach Platinum is musky pineapples. Overall tone for Cocah Platinum is semi-casual and semi-romantic thanks to that fat bottom base, so I'd keep this way from austere office cubicle environments, but in more casual settings like the open floor plans of tech firms where jeans and t-shirt can be worn to work, this is totally fine. Wear time is literally all day and sillage is right in the medium zone thanks to the eau de parfum formulation, unless you wear this in summer or over-apply.

I like Coach Platinum but will admit not caring for it nearly as much as Coach for Men, but the like is strong enough that I'd give this a thumbs up for fans of pineapple, juniper, and rich vanillic bases. Unlike Coach for Men, there is no obvious ambroxan molecule or scratchy norlimbanol a la Dior Sauvage (2015), but that doesn't mean the aromachemicals aren't there, just blended too deeply down into the oriental stew anchoring the soaring pineapple to the ground. Rich, semi-sharp, bright, and well-rounded are the best adjectives I can conjure for Coach Platinum, but being a perfume coming from the hands that crafted the notorious Ambercrombie & Fitch Fierce (2002), I'd expect no less than something attention-getting like this. The saving grace for Coach Platinum is the fact that it reconciles loud and youthful volume with a mature execution and sense of tradition. Coach Platinum is almost the "office safe clubber" in the sense that it has the presence but not the vulgar bombast outside of that potentially cloying vanilla. Thumbs up from me, but only under the condition that this is not applied in the same mass quantities that I catch the few well-off cats using Aventus in my local environs, since this stuff has the potential to be even stronger and more noticeable. Another solid, if not particularly groundbreaking composition that pulls from many stylistic directions at once but feels more conventional for it, from the thrice-rebooted Coach parfums division. Coach Platinum is worthy of at least a sniff from a tester if maybe not a full bottle purchase for the guy well-stocked with modern fragrances. Also, once more for the people in the back: this does NOT smell like Aventus!!
27th January, 2019

Bulgari Man by Bulgari

Alberto Morillas is a master perfumer that has the uncanny knack for delivering both daring artistic wonderment like Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Homme (2017), mass-market game changers like Givenchy Pi (1999), and totally uninspired phoned-in casual-interest sauce like Bvlgari Man (2010). My first impression of Bvlgari Man is a weaker, sweeter, "casual dining" version of Terre d'Hermès (2006), with the trademark flinty mineralic note of that scent removed in favor of the norlimbanol "karmawood" note which had just started to surface then but wasn't yet abused to huge degrees like later on in scents such as Dior Sauvage (2015). Bvlgari as a house had started to drift away from their tea-themed offerings stemming from the original Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert (1993), and moving into a more-commercial direction as a sustainable business model for a house of their size probably demanded by that point. This meant boring stuff like Aqva Pour Homme (2005) became the standard among men over the mild but far more interesting Bvlgari Pour Homme (1995), while Bvlgari Man (2010) would would tentatively become the aromatic standard over the past Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert (1999). Jacques Cavallier had his hand all over those past masculine pillars, so it almost makes sense to bring in Morillas, who not only was the go-to guy for big commercial scents, but also collaborated a lot with Cavallier, being something of a creative brother from another mother to him.

What this means for Bvlgari Man (2010), is the scent feels like exceptional quality, just extremely vanilla quality, since Cavallier does have something of an X factor that Morillas does not in the creative department, but Morillas is just a master manipulator of modern chemistry, capable of making something wearable out of quite literally nothing. In the case of Bvlgari Man, we get an opening of pear, bergamot, and violet leaf, which play tug-of-war between 90's and 2000's styles with fruity modernity and classic citrus, with a touch of 80's dandy floral thanks to that violet. Bvlgari Man has a really pleasant opening, and like so many 2010's perfumes, seeks to win you over with those top notes alone, only to collapse into chemistry later on. This descent is slow at first, as the vetiver and geranium recall the aforementioned Terre d'Hermès just long enough for earthy cypriol and dewy lotus blossom to stand in for the flint of the Hermès, changing the dynamic into a milder one that allows the chemlab base to pull its bait and switch. "White woods", "Vegetal amber", cashmeran, "White Honey", and musk round out the blah blah base of Bvlgari Man with a whimper. The overall effect is something that starts off fruity, then herbaceous, slightly adventurous, then gets defunded faster than a social program under president Trump to die a sad quiet death. Longevity is about 6 hours tops and sillage is mild unless you drown in this, so I'd advise getting the jumbo 200ml bottle if you like it after sampling. Appropriate use is casual office-safe wear under the cold unfeeling light of of 4ft fluorescent fixtures and ivy cubicle walls, which sums up where this scent takes me when I sniff it.

Bvlgari Man has that lowest-common-denominator composition style that Bvlgari needed to push units into the 2010's, offering a blank slate fragrance for a blank slate person who found the competing Bleu de Chanel (2010) too adventurous at the time. Looking back, I'd say Bleu de Chanel is about as safe comparatively, but infinitely more personable because it used the then-novel ambroxan molecule to revive the long-dead ambergris floral genre, putting a clean citrus spin on it to appeal to guys who grew up with Acqua di Giò Pour Homme (1996) or Ralph Lauren Polo Sport (1992), and were ready to move beyond aquatics but not the "blue" smell. On the other hand, Bvlgari Man just feels like a fragrance that pretends to be daring, modern, and sophisticated in the opening phases, only to falter at the end like a summer special effects film that blew all the budget on CGI but couldn't find a decent writer to work out the script, leaving you impressed but ultimately disappointed as there is no closure to the experience. Maybe that's what all the myriad flankers which piggybacked off this are for, finding that conclusion denied us by the original Bvlgari Man, in which case I'd recommend just skipping this main pillar and going over to them as they seem a much more varied and interesting lot than this. Some things like punk rock can be toned down and still be made appealing, as the entirety of Green Day's career has proved, but others things, like the kind of woody aromatic fragrance Bvlgari Man tries to plasticize, cannot. I give this a solid neutral without any ambivalence on the matter.
27th January, 2019

Mandom by Mandom

Man oh man... that's Mandom (1970). This is the stuff of legend. This is the aftershave to wear for when you need to electrocute the thug who murdered your daughter, or reenact The Seven Samurai with cowboy tropes. When you need to send that 5000lb 27 foot-long Cadillac with a 500 cubic-inch V-8 engine down the freeway 80mph at 9mpg average fuel economy just to smoke your pipe at the end of a work day, you need to smell like MANDOM while doing it. What is Mandom? It's an aftershave made in Japan and based on the Western idea of masculinity at the time, with the late action star Charles Bronson as its most-prominent spokesperson. The company who makes Mandom started as The Kintsuru Perfume Corporation, founded in 1927 but changing it's name to Tancho Corporation after 1959 thanks to the success of its "Tancho Stick" pomade. The company focused on men's perfume and haircare thenceforth, introducing Mandom in 1969, then releasing it worldwide the following year thanks to successful marketing with Charles Bronson. Within weeks of the commerical starring Bronson, Mandom became the best-selling aftershave in Japan, instigating a name change yet again for the company to Mandom Corporation in 1971. In 1976, Mandom Co. tried to create a direct-selling flagship arm called Gatsby which almost tanked the company by 1980, and forced them to roll the Gatsby line into wholesale distribution like Mandom, which gained them enough success in 1988 to become publicly-traded in the Japanese stock market.

Mandom's success was cemented thanks to the late Mr. Bronson, and other Hollywood stars would jump on board to advertise both Mandom and Gatsby products (plus eventually the Lucido line of women's products too), but in the US where Charles Bronson was arguably most famous, the aftershave he became linked with elsewhere never registered more than a blip as a novelty import, probably due to the indomitable strength of brands like Revlon, Mennen, Avon, Shulton, MEM, and Williams in that segment at the time. Mandom itself is a rather conventional smell for the day, effectively being a near-academic citrus chypre like Monsieur de Givenchy (1959), Yves Saint Laurent Pour Homme (1971), or Douro Eau de Portugal/Lords (1985). Bergamot and a tiny peck of grapefruit make the opening of Mandom, followed by clary sage, sandalwood, and a slight puff of oakmoss on a powdery base. Vintage batches don't matter much with Mandom since it is to the chypre accord what Proraso (1908) is to the fougère accord: a light composition intended to be worn intermittently between shaving and application of actual fragrance or just temporarily. Wear time of Mandom is brief and won't go much past two hours, nor will go much past being skin scent unless you dump it on like Charles Bronson does in the commerical. In reality, such olfactive brevity is perfect for vintage masculine chypre lovers, as they can layer on their favorite bottle of Moustache by Rochas (1949) or Armani Eau Pour Homme (1984).

I'm not sure if Mandom was intentionally designed to be layered with another fragrance since Western perfume practices and Eastern grooming habits are not always in alignment even if Mandom was patterned in the Western style of the day, but it gives old "mossheads" and younger guys thirsty for nostalgia alike something to replace their tube of Nivea with during shave time. I'm honestly pretty impressed with what Mandom sets itself up to be versus what it actually is when you wear it, and was fully expecting some mega-musky aromatic bomb but instead got a gentleman's chypre in after shave form. Although I'd like to smell Mandom a little longer, I won't complain because using it just gives me an excuse to layer a vintage masterpiece on top. Mandom may also scratch that itch for a traditional aftershave that is enjoyable to use but doesn't overstay its welcome for the guy who don't necessarily want to wear a scent every day but happen to shave daily. All in all, you'll need to import Mandom or find an online seller through Amazon or eBay that ships internationally if you live in a country where Mandom isn't directly exported wholesale to retailers, and want in on the goofy kitsch fun. All the world indeed loves a lover, even if all the world doesn't necessarily love nor even know about MANDOM. Try not to toss too many shirts off or fire too many pistols after using Mandom, and if you wear as much as Charles Bronson does, you better get yourself registered as a weapon just in case.
26th January, 2019

Eau de Cade by L'Occitane

L'Occitane Eau de Cade (2014) is a masculine fragrance based around the entirety of the Juniperus oxycedrus, or Cade tree. Juniper berries and the associated perfume note often come from this tree, but with Eau de Cade, all of the tree is represented, from the berries, to the coniferous needles, and cade oil coming from the wood itself, which is also described in some perfumes as "juniper" instead of juniper berries. Like all non-freshie masculines from the house, Eau de Cade has an element of pepper in it, but unlike the black or red pepper found in L'Occitan (2005) or Eaux des Baux (2006) respectively, the pink pepper that shows up in Eau de Cade has more of an emboldening effect without adding any piquant sharpness to the mix. If the "lavender one" and the "tobacco one" don't suit you (also respectively), then the "woody one" should do the trick. It's very simple A = A or 1 + 1 = 2 logic here, but I find something missing from the execution. Eau de Cade feels a bit phoned-in to the "typical L'Occitane smell" more than usual, whereas the others to which it has been compared have a common thread, but stand on their own two feet rather than slink into the background. Maybe it's just my observation, but when sampling all three of these initially (before I started making any L'Occitane purchases), this was the one I remembered the least, which speaks volumes to me in and of itself.

The opening of Eau de Cade is bergamot and petitgrain, nice and sharp. There is instantly a bit of sweetness from the juniper berries in the heart that pokes through early, but it's nothing like Calvin Klein Obsessed for Men (2017) or even Penhaligon's Juniper Sling (2011) in terms of presence, since the note made from the berries is not the focus. Cedarwood and pink pepper join the juniper berries according to the official tree, but all I really get here is the roundish warmth of the pink pepper without much cedar to be found, but it's a nice if somewhat commercial accord found in most of your mainstream Chanel, YSL, and other big masculine releases. Now, I'm not insinuating Eau de Cade is anything like Bleu de Chanel (2010), as L'Occitane released Eau de Cedrat (2015) for that market demographic, and the pink pepper folds into the cade oil in the base anyway. Labdanum and a tiny puff of punctuated iris come out in the end to form the finish alongside some tonka and amber, which is where most of the "like every other L'Occitane" feeling sinks in, but without anything truly memorable on top of it all to make Eau de Cade shine above that house vibe. Wear time is about 8 hours with moderate sillage, as this is a bit quietier than other things L'Occitane has released. I'd use Eau de Cade in fall or spring, where the wood and aromatic themes feel strongest to my nose, and strictly in a casual sense.

Eau de Cade isn't a bad impulse grab for somebody looking for a mostly uncomplicated aromatic with a few modern-ish touches, but there is neither anything really good nor bad about the dry citrus, juniper, wood, and middling fougère-like base of this to scream "gotta have it". Now I'm not usually an oakmoss obsessive, because I've come to love modern perfumes which make do without it, and entire genres where oakmoss isn't even a key to the recipe (like ouds or ambers), but I'm going to concede that if Eau de Cade had been made in 1974 instead of 2014, and had a huge hit of oakmoss in the base, that buttery smooth diffusion might actually make the top and middle fan out a bit more, and just feel more interesting and substantial overall. I'm not suggesting to go drop a milliliter of oakmoss absolute into your bottle of Eau de Cade, but the top does screw off, just saying... In any case, this is another solid neutral that I can both live with and without, but find no harm in smelling on somebody else, or catching a spray of when cruising past the L'Occitane store in the mall. Eau de Cade isn't the label's finest hour, but I'd hardly call it a failed fragrance, just not my cup of tea. If you're a hardcore L'Occitane fan, you might want to wrap your nose around some Eau de Cade, but if you're not, there are better juniper and generally coniferous scents on the market that sell for even less than this does at retail.
21st January, 2019