Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Zealot Crusader

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Total Reviews: 616

Le Parfum de Thérèse by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

The tale of Le Parfum de Thérèse (2000) is quite fascinating. The legendary Edmond Roudnitska composed this on his own, and originally offered it to Dior in the 1950's, where it was rejected for being too different from current market concepts, then Edmond continued working on it through to the 1960's where it was submitted to Guy LaRoche for release as Fidji (1966). The creative director for Guy Laroche felt it was also too futuristic and not in tune with the island theme of the scent, and the idea submitted by Josephine Catapano (later to work for Estée Lauder) was chosen. Thereafter, the composition which would later be named Le Parfum de Thérèse would be used exclusively by (you guessed it), Edmond's wife Thérèse Roudnitska. It was she who released the formula into Frédéric Malle's hands for a launch perfume in his then-new Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, and so here we are. Smelling Le Parfum de Thérèse now is like smelling what could have been, knowing this was offered to not one but two houses and rejected both times for being too different. As a member of the Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle collection, it is the only perfume the existence of which predates the collection and wasn't specifically made for the collection or with Malle's direct involvement. Frédéric merely curates this creation, albeit admittedly also profiting off of fans longing for a piece of former Roudnitska unobtanium.

You can see aspects of Le Parfum de Thérèse cannibalized by Roudnitska for releases, but most notably the jasmine hedione later used in Dior Eau Sauvage (1966) and the molecule calone 1951, which has a melon-like scent on its own that was abused by perfumers in the 90's, but was used extensively by Roudnitska way back in the 1950's with Le Parfum de Thérèse. In fact, he reworked much of the top and heart of this perfume for the masculine market Mario Valentino Ocean Rain (1990), which would be his final composition. Calone and hedione open Le Parfum de Thérèse, smelling almost like a mix between Ocean Rain and Sauvage, with none of the green aspects of the latter and added pepper. Some mandarin orange sweetness moves into violet and rose with the novel plum accord he fashioned for Dior. From there, the dry down gets much more period-correct with oakmoss, vetiver, cedar, and isobutyl quinoline leather in typical chypre fashion for the time. This is a beautiful window into an alternate reality where modern aromachemicals merge with traditional bases and unconventional thinking, but for hardcore long-in-the-tooth vintage purists, Le Parfum de Thérèse won't do, which is ironic because it is not a new design, just one several decades ahead of its time. Le Parfum de Thérèse is relatively light considering its ingredients, but long-lasting, and unisex enough by accident due to the fresh fruity top, floral heart, and woody base, that anyone open-minded can pull it off. Some may call this the ultimate quintessential Roudnitska kept hidden from us all, but I don't see it that way because it also lacks his penchant for sensual, fleshy, virile animalic accords.

This was and still is mostly an experiment in pushing creative boundaries, and was/is pretty extreme even compared to some of his other far out-there works (most of which are discontinued), and thus never really "had a home". Christian Dior let him more or less get away with whatever he wanted in that golden era, which is how something like this even happened, because outside that, Roudnitska was still beholden to making money no matter how irreverent to all that he may have seemed. In the hands of Malle, it exists as it probably should have in the 50's or 60's: as a limited niche perfume with a price tag which separates the serious from the casual fans. You've got to test, then save up, and make a point out of visiting a Malle counter to get this perfume, and somebody who has will likely cherish it all the more knowing how special it was to him, his wife, and the fans of his artistic legacy. I won't say this perfume is specifically "worth it" for the price performance-wise, and stylistically it's a strange retro-futurism piece that contains elements both popular in the 1950's and 1990's, but since we're decades removed from the latter, may just feel "old" now to some people. Whether owning this fresh, fruity, floral, aromatic blip in history is worth the luxury-tier price is up to you, but I still suggest giving it a sniff if only for the experience, as there's really little else like it in the world, which also holds true for many Roudnitska perfumes. Thumbs up.
17th July, 2019 (last edited: 16th July, 2019)

Bigarade Concentrée by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Bigarade Concentrée (2002) is so Jean-Claude Ellena that it honestly hurts. For those unaware, this is a perfumer pretty much obsessed with transparent citrus and floral notes, almost a lean and mean cyberpunk Edmond Roudnitska if you will, stripping that perfumer of his risque leanings to focus on purity. Never more clear was this than on Cartier Déclaration (1998), an ode to Roudnitska's Eau d'Hermès (1951), with Bigarade Concentrée being something of a continuation. Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle doesn't let their starring perfumers run entirely free however, so any significant changes in direction from Déclaration are likely at Malle's behest. The smell of Bigarade Concentrée seems to ditch most of the cumin, florals, and leather from Déclaration, excising the parts of that formula which were most comparable to the Roudnitska style to leave behind more of Ellena's personal vibe.

There is still plenty of bergamot and bitter orange up front, but the initial cumin blast is subdued, quickly shifting into dry rose much like the later Cartier Déclaration d'un Soir (2012) by Mathilde Laurent, which may have been likely inspired in part by this. The dry rose core seems to posses a minty ghost note which works with the spiced citrus top on a base of cedar, Iso E Super, coumarin, and Haitian vetiver, giving this a mown grass feel in the end. Despite the name, Bigarade Concentrée is not massively strong, and will fade in mere hours, much like many of the various eaux Jean-Claude worked on for Hermés. Wear time is maybe six hours max and sillage is booming for the first 30 minutes, then a whimper thereafter, which is also a hallmark of the most recent iterations of Ellena style. Keep this to casual summer use. I like what is presented, but the quality and performance does not leap out at me like many Creed and Xerjoff citrus florals in this price range.

I'm left wanting and questioning the price point, which is honestly something that seems to happen often when I test the Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle lines. Not to house-bash, but a great many of the creations coming from the brand seem to be mostly of the standard quality and performance that the designers who employ these same perfumers display, so I'm left scratching my head and ultimately conclude it's another silly Veblen goods pride of ownership head trip that sells this stuff. Although I'll admit Malle isn't without its spectacular marquee creations which tempt the coinpurse. You can certainly buy something under the Hermés label and get a similar experience, or even roll back to Cartier Déclaration if you don't mind the sweaty aspect, but otherwise Bigarade Concentrée is an expensive hat trick from Ellena that leaves me feeling indifferent. Try for yourself if you're unsure, as my opinion here goes counter to popular consensus. Solid neutral.
16th July, 2019

Eau de Paco Rabanne pour Homme by Paco Rabanne

The year is 2002, and fresh fougères are winding down after dominating the 90's (although a few more would squeak by into the 2000's), gourmands are taking off, and the bizarrely bright fruity ozonics (mostly sitting on bases of Iso E Super) are also being met with mixed success. Paco Rabanne had been trying super hard to stay relevant with men in this time. Ténéré (1988) was their big short-lived powerhouse follow-up pillar to Paco Rabanne Pour Homme (1973) and it's 80's sport flanker, but it was too late to catch the musky floral fougère wave since aquatics and freshies were inbound. Rabanne jumped on that bandwagon too with XS Pour Homme (1993), but it was quickly overshadowed by Chanel Platinum Égoïste (1993), which did geranium barbershop vibe just a pinch better and had more brand cachet. Ultraviolet Man (2001) was dynamic, futuristic, and divisive, sinking much like Ténéré had, so the house was getting desperate. Enter: Eau de Paco Rabanne Pour Homme (2002), the seemingly perfect marriage of old and new. Oliver Cresp was brought in seemingly for his affinity for fresh airy compositions, to reimagine the venerable original Paco Rabanne Pour Homme as an ozonic/aquatic hybrid. Well, opinions vary wildly on this, but the consensus is that it worked.

Eau de Paco Rabanne Pour Homme combined the best elements of watershed ozonics like L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme by Issey Miyake (1994) with the best calabrian bergamot and salty marine elements of Acqua di Giò Pour Homme by Giorgio Armani (1996), tacking on some recurring themes from the eponymous masculine from Paco Rabanne. That aforementioned bergamot mixes with metallic ozone and dihydromyrcenol to make an opening similar to Acqua di Giò but greener and without the persimmon. There is dry lavender, orris, and green herbs in the heart, recalling the original Paco Rabanne Pour Homme but smothered in pepper to keep it from being soapy. A sharp grassy vetiver also joins the herbs and the whole thing rests on a cedar-heavy base with oakmoss sharing the stage with Iso E Super, olibanum, musk, and an interesting leather note which surfaces only near the end. Fresh, vibrant, if a bit stinging of the nostrils, Eau de Paco Rabanne Pour Homme merges the peppery dry barbershop accord of something like Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet (1902) with the soapy mossy French style, then "modernizes" it with a whole bunch of burning citrus. Wear time is about eight hours of pretty good sillage, so be careful not to overdo it, since this one is pretty front-loaded.

As a fan of stuff like both Pino Silvestri (1955) and Versace Man Eau Frâiche (2006), I can appreciate the hybridization going on in Eau de Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, even if I admit owners of the aforementioned major aquatics don't really need this. The idea was to make something appealing to fans of the classic Paco Rabanne Pour Homme but wanting a modern update, or people looking for a unique freshie at the time which wasn't one of the then-ubiquitos major players of the genre. In that sense, this worked as a perfectly adequate stopgap release until they figured out their next step, which ended up being the brand-saving Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008). Sadly, this flanker was discontinued after it served its purpose, and isn't worth the hunt or spending the big bucks considering it's just a few clicks left of stuff that is still available, but is an enjoyable "eau fougère" aquatic (as Paco Rabanne puts it) that gives interested collectors a window into a time when the brand was trying anything to stay relevant with its audience. For everyone else, if you come across this by chance give it a try, but the scent's revisionist nature may prove too much for die hard fans and too redundant for casual interest types. Thumbs up.
16th July, 2019
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Elysium pour Homme Cologne by Roja Dove

There is something inescapably ironic about a mass-appeal fragrance from a house that sings the praises of being the most exclusive and luxurious one on the planet, but let's not kid ourselves, so do a half-dozen others at the price point within where Roja Dove dwells. Seeing a scent like this is also something of a surprise, since typical Mr. Dove himself eschews modernity for the density and redolence of antique forms, making a great many of his perfumes as homages of sorts to classic styles. Obviously, there is a bit of detected cynicism in the decision to make something modern young upper-class professionals would seek out when his previous mode d'emploi was effectively to sell perfume to the CEOs, oil magnates, and celebrities of the world, so consider Elysium Pour Homme Cologne (2017) as his "downmarket" entry. Now, that isn't to say this is cheap, although it is cheaper than a bottle of Creed Aventus (2010) and covers much of the same ground, even drawing comparisons to Bleu de Chanel (2010) by most. I don't much get the latter, and feel a scent like Elysium wouldn't be redundant for people who own the Chanel, but it is triple the price for roughly the same performance. What exactly does $300 in Roja Dove's pocket get you with Elysium Pour Homme Cologne? Well, turns out the answer is a fairly complex modern fresh generalist with only average performance even compared to designers, but it's all in the execution that will decide how you feel.

There are far too many notes listed as with most Roja Dove perfumes, and "Roger" shows yet again that he learned how to make perfumes by reading documentaries on Jacques Guerlain and playing mad scientist with ingredients until he gets it just the way he likes it. The opening is very Aventus-like with the bergamot and many citrus floral notes. Artemisia and musk also come into view, but the comparisons to Bleu de Chanel are only briefly justified in the heart. Here, we see pink pepper and another half-dozen fruity floral notes like blackcurrant and jasmine hedione executed with great balance against drier notes like vetiver, with no smoke or pineapple like Aventus but a similar sharply-fresh vibe otherwise. The base is an aromachemical kitchen sink of the usual ambrox and norlimbanol, but blended to perfection alongside the more natural essences to hide the seams better than any designer. A dry woody/leathery/sage kind of thing like the later Montblanc Explorer (2019) also inhabits Elysium, but everything is more transparent and diffuse rather than beating you into anosmia, which I can appreciate. This stuff is full, yet light, and the ultimate mixtape of designer masculine tropes selling for obviously much more than a designer. This could be a great daily driver for those with the cash, and you'll smell a cut above the Dior Sauvage (2015) guys that flood the office spaces where Elysium Pour Homme Cologne is most at home. Sillage is a bit short but this is a "cologne" (closer to an eau de toilette) with uncommonly long wear time to make up for a brief projection before becoming a personal scent. Roja Dove also makes this in parfum concentration if you want it to perform like his usual fare.

If one applies Roja Dove's love of "overdoing it" to the modern masculine landscape like he has traditionally applied it to his exercises in reimagining perfumes from Gilded Age and 1970's/80's/90's, then it's only logical to reach a conclusion like Elysium Pour Homme Cologne, but I'm not 100% sure a market exists for this. The kind of guys this targets are dead-set on brands like Creed, MFK, or Parfums de Marly for their fix of olfactive confidence sauce, and the extremely hoity-toity set of hardcore Roja Dove fans out there who gush about his exclusives might see this as a sellout. As for me, I'm more or less "general hobbyist" which encompasses niche, designer, vintage, and all the various shades of the market, so I view this as another high-end modern generalist in a crowded field, albeit one made with a pedantic obsession for blending and complexity as is Roja Dove's trademark. Considering I already have plenty of petite bourgeois freshies from this category for my work needs, I might not necessarily reach for it, and Roja Dove's "Emperor's New Clothes" vibe tends to make me roll my eyes, but my hat's off to the amusingly ostentatious and melodramatic UK perfumer for getting his hands "dirty" with the clean modern style. If you're in the market for an expensive modern freshie that's more multi-faceted than its peers and won't drive you noseblind, give this a sniff. Who knows? It might be your gateway drug to waxed foreheads and embroidered smoker's jackets too? Thumbs up.
16th July, 2019

Original Vetiver by Creed

Creed Original Vetiver (2004) is indeed an original take on vetiver, but unfortunately not really that much of an original fragrance. What you effectively get here is a fresh, soapy, eau de cologne style bolstered with the green grassy demeanor of Haitian vetiver, rather than a vetiver-focused scent. As noted by myself and likely others, stronger eau de toilette and eau de parfum interpretations of the classic neroli eau de cologne style seemed to have been all the rage among perfume houses in the late 90's through mid 2000's, most of such examples being niche or luxury in nature. Original Vetiver received most of its intial negative press as a replacement for the well-loved Creed Vétiver (1948?), which itself was a more-direct vetiver scent, but over time Original Vetiver has proven its merits.

The opening of Original Vetiver is a hit of dry bergamot and orange with that vetiver note right out front, grassy and fresh. The vetiver soon steps behind the curtain after this initial showing, letting a clean soapy iris and light orange blossom set up the heart. The vetiver comes and goes through an exceptional French-milled savon accord that will appeal greatly to fans of soapy fragrances or iris/orris lovers in general, meaning wearers of Paco Rabanne Pour Homme (1973) or Penhaligon's Castile (1998) should take note. There is a bit of dirtiness in the base thanks to ginger, musk, and that salty/earthy warmth of ambergris Creed loves, but this interplay is slight. I don't get any sandalwood like some breakdowns suggest, but there is a touch of oakmoss and some kind of woody aroma which is probably synthetic but works well in the overall mix. Sillage is moderate but longevity is appreciable, as I've come to expect from Creed. Wear this anytime, as something this clean and versatile is to me a true generalist scent for nearly anyone.

This stuff won't turn heads like Aventus (2010) and doesn't scream masculinity like Bois du Portugal (1987), but for fans of Creed's fresher offerings like Green Irish Tweed (1985) or Royal Water (1997), this is a good addition. Of course, a bottle of Mugler Cologne (2001) will get you in roughly the same shape minus the vetiver for a whole lot less, but you won't find this specific combination of values anywhere else without really digging, so it's worth seeking out if the price happens to be right. One thing's for sure, Original Vetiver actually delivers what it promises, unlike Original Santal (2005) and all of its unrepentant cynicism. MSRP is of course nuts, but as one of the lesser-hyped and least-discussed modern Creeds out there, Original Vetiver comes up at good discount prices more than some of their heavier hitters in the market. Thumbs up!
16th July, 2019

Original Santal by Creed

Well I mean, if you really want to pay $500 for a bottle of prestige Joop! Homme (1989), go ahead, but you're not doing so on my recommendation. Oh wait, I'm supposed to say more than that. Where were we? Oh yes, Creed Original Santal (2005) is an unmitigated disaster of a fragrance that suggests a novel presentation of sandalwood with the relatively high quality Creed is known for (even if the prices at the counter are beyond stupid), but instead gets confused with Montblanc Individuel (2003) more than is fair to the latter, and really smells most like the aforementioned Joop! Homme. On that same token, one could argue Creed Himalaya (2002) smells like a cross between Chanel Platinum Égoïste (1993) and the later Cabaret de Grés Pour Homme (2004), but fresh fougères always have intertexuality because the style is narrowly defined. Original Santal is supposed to be an "original" fragrance, so what's the excuse Creed? Here we have another example of "selling your dad's cologne back to you for five times the price and calling it exclusive", and shooting themselves in the foot with naming to boot.

For starters, I get no discernible sandalwood at all; none, zero, zilch sandalwood in this puppy. Sorry guys, but if you're lying out the gate this bad, you're gonna have a bad time with people's reactions to your fragrances. Cinnamon like a truck load of red hots hits your face with some juniper and bergamot, making the whole thing smell like candy for the first few minutes on skin. Original Santal doesn't have the nuclear sweet mushroom cloud of Joop! Homme thanks to a lack of neroli and honeysuckle, but the similarities are undeniable once the heart emerges. Lavender, mandarin orange, jasmine, all the key players of Joop! Homme are also in the core of Original Santal. Rosemary helps keep the Creed a bit drier and more aromatic, but that's it. The supposed sandalwood is likely the pasty polysantal that fills designers whjch once relied on Mysore, but it isn't here enough to ring true as sandalwood, instead just feeling thick and aromatic in a generic way. There's a sort of ginger vanilla tonka soup in the base, accompanied by Creed's magic ambergris note which may be partially genuine and blended with ambroxan or just pure ambrox, although it doesn't matter since it too registers little.

Wear time is sufficient for an EdP and thankfully this doesn't have the notorious sillage of Joop! Homme, but is it better? Not for $500 it isn't. The kind of accord Original Santal utilizes was a love or hate thing back in 1989 when it first appeared in Joop! Homme, and this kind of spicy-sweet floriental thing will never not be polarizing. I barely like this vibe more so for nostalgia when encountered in Joop! Homme, but I could never conceive shelling out so much more for a slightly drier and toned-down take on it like Creed has delivered here. All I can say is Olivier Creed must have secretly been a Joop! Homme fan. As for the ties to Montblanc Individuel, they're there, and perhaps that's why Montblanc struck back with Explorer (2019), but Original Santal sits between the two designers in my opinion. If this is your thing, go for it, but I'm not okay with a prestige sandalwood perfume that doesn't smell like sandalwood, and perturb even when one tries to obviously steal the thunder of an infamous powerhouse masculine in the name of "luxury". I like Creed's general house style, but this one is a hard pass. Thumbs down.
15th July, 2019

Royal Mayfair by Creed

Creed introduced a limited fragrance called Windsor (2009) that was semi-bespoke as it was only available in large flacons from the boutiques and meant to commemorate the life of Edward VIII, better known as the Duke of Windsor. Naturally, Creed quickly backpedaled on that story and replaced it with the grander one of the Duke himself having commissioned this scent in 1936 (the year he abdicated as King for marrying Wallace Simpson) with 2009 being an un-vaulting to commemorate that event. In any case, this was revived to be a permanent member of the lineup as Royal Mayfair (2015) with little perceived change from the original formula on display under the old name of Windsor. Let me start by saying that I rather like Royal Mayfair, as it is the first properly British scent in modern times from a house that claims British heritage, whilst everything else Creed produces is an upscale adaptation of a popular trope a la Himalaya (2002) or Bois du Portugal (1987), with the occasional innovative blip like Green Irish Tweed (1985) or Aventus (2010) that tends to be copied ad infinitum ad nauseum downmarket by everyone under the sun. Whether you love or hate their extreme price gouging at the counters or boutiques and their penchant for rewriting history to ever increase their own pedigree in the industry, the father and son team of Olivier and Erwin do know their way around citrus and florals, which is mostly what comprises Royal Mayfair. Like other phenomenal fresh scents such as Millésime Impérial (1995) and Royal Water (1997), Royal Mayfair shows the house right in their element, doing what they do best.

Royal Mayfair has some things in common with Pure White Cologne/Original Cologne (2011) in that it relies predominantly on orange blossom at its core, but around this neroli center is built a rather dandy fragrance of dry rose, cedar, lime, and musk. In a way, this is a better Burberry Brit for Men (2004), which also had a properly British rose and cedar combination over musk, but Royal Mayfair removes the spices and tonka to clarify and sweeten the accord with the neroli for something closer to what the Burberry was trying to achieve. The opening is bergamot, lime, eucalyptus, and some aromatics which I imagine are what Creed calls the "gin" note. I don't get any significant pine in this, but I also read that batch fluctuations are wilder with this than with Aventus, but being as I haven't sniffed 20 different bottles of either scent, I just take it on faith that people far more invested in the house than me are telling the truth. The heart of neroli comes in shortly thereafter, flanked by the rose and cedar to make a grey skies and tweed jackets kind of vibe, with lorries driving past on cobblestone roads and a damp breeze in the air. Lovely stuff even if just a tad plaintive, Royal Mayfair then moves through some phases where the eucalyptus returns a bit and is sandwiched nice with the floral heart and the musk. Creed's patented ambergris shows up, which seemingly feels more and more like a higher cut of ambroxan based on what I've read and not the real thing (if it ever was), but the same semi-mineralic and earthy warmth is there next to that pillowy white musk to finish out the wear. Longevity is pretty substantial but I don't find Royal Mayfair to be much of a screamer in projection. This feels formal to me, so I'd avoid day trips or romantic use with this unless your idea of romance is a picnic in the most windswept parts of Dartmoor just after a rainfall. A little also goes a long way with this, even though it isn't a sillage beast, it can get cloying to the wearer because of the musk profile if oversprayed.

Once again, the big kick in the pants with this will be price, but you can mostly overcome that at discounters online who will sell this to you for roughly the price of a Tom Ford signature line item at retail, versus the absolutely insane $550+ price Creed expects you to shell out at their counters or boutiques. People in France pay about half that because they've had Creed too long for the house to really pull that nouveau-riche pride of ownership aspirational crap with the pricing, but even something like $275 is still a lot for something like this, when the less-refined but still-serviceable Burberry Brit for Men can be had for a song and get you to that same beautifully gray melancholic headspace. Considering I liked that but found it a bit unexciting and better suited for an office, I'd deal if this stuff ever returned to the vault or proved to otherwise be unobtanium, but would still gladly pay the discounter rates for a bottle (which still isn't cheap but is manageable). Royal Mayfair is definitely one of the most unique of the modern Creed scents I've encountered, and has a good bit of genderbend potential with that rose and neroli laid across a fairly neutral base, so don't let the marketing fool you. Sample first if possible, as with anything in this luxury prestige category takes some weighted consideration unless you're pulling in six figures, but if the price is right, you won't find much more evocative of the stereotypical pale beauty of the UK without taking a vacation. Creed has a lot of gall sometimes, but when they get something right, they really get it right, you just have to be able to stomach the rest of their shenanigans and move outside official distribution channels to enjoy it when they do, which is troublesome. Thumbs up!
14th July, 2019

XJ 1861 Renaissance by Xerjoff

Sergio Momo launched Xerjoff in 2003 directly to capitalize on the growing wealth gap in world ecomomics, with celebrities, tech barons, oil magnates, and financial oligarchs rising to the ranks of millionaires and billionaires across the globe, seeking to serve what must undoubtedly be tastes in luxury goods too decadent for the department stores of yore. Just as niche perfume offered a more artistic albeit pricier alternative to department store lines, "Haute" luxury perfume brands like Xerjoff were taking over for perfume lines from haute couture designers like Chanel or Dior as the new high-end option, with focus on supernatural performance, materials expense and resplendent packaging over displays of superior style or taste like older high-end perfume establishments such as Guerlain and Houbigant. Xerjoff would be at the forefront of this emerging "upper class" of perfume alongside brands like Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle and category forerunners Creed, predating Roja Dove's predilection for puffery in presentation by nearly a decade by offering Xerjoff bottles adorned with precious metals or jewels. The real question is, are the fragrances worth the price and pretentiousness? Well, sort of, if performance and execution are what makes the house worth the plunge. With 1861 Renaissance/XJ 1861 Renaissance (2011/2015), you get a relatively natural-smelling citric white floral chypre that lasts nearly forever, but it isn't the sort of thing you couldn't also find from niche houses or in vintage, so there's that to consider.

The opening of Xerjoff 1861 Renaissance/XJ 1861 Renaissance is a fairly soft and classic semi-oriental push of bergamot, mandarin, and petitgrain. A lime and galbanum twang adds a bit of interesting green zest, but the composition becomes quickly "perfumey" and almost reminds me of a less-leafy Ninféo Mio by Annick Goutal (2009) especially with the white musks coming in halfway through. These pillowy musks are joined by rose, muguet, and an odd peppermint, giving the heart a gentle tug-of-war feeling between masculine and feminine, which combatively retains the intended unisex vibe. The base is mega mossy, but this is more of a "nü-chypre" than something descended from the brainchild of Francois Coty, so we get ambrox, vetiver, a surprisingly natural cedar, and patchouli to bring back that semi-oriental feeling of the opening. 1861 Renaissance/XJ 1861 Renaissance runs between plush and airy, with nice paradoxically long-lasting citrus tones mixed with pillowy musks, florals, and dry woods. It all smells refined with excellent note separation and an almost classic tone if not for the evident chemical wizardry (however well-executed) under it all. This will last until you scrub it off with lots of diffusion and crazy projection; anyone can really wear it, but there is an air of formality that forbids me from seeing it outside dressed-up events or outdoor weddings. If you're the kind of person that loves citrus and classic floral arrangements, with no real budgetary restraint on perfume, this is something I'd recommend as it wears quite nice in warm weather if a bit cloying and prudish from the musks.

Although, I can't say I didn't expect an air of eltism with a fragrance literally composed and marketed so it appeals to the financial elite of the world, people who burn through more cash at a business lunch than some of us spend on a month's groceries, but at least there is sufficient artistry here to lure in hobbyists too. Also to be clear, 1861 Renaissance and XJ 1861 Renaissance are the same thing, but Xerjoff decided to repackage this a few years after initial launch to include it in a new "trilogy" XJ line. Different bottles, different coffrets, same scent. I personally don't see the value of this at MSRP but it's very well done and lasts forever, so if you catch a good deal, I'd recommend a try. You'll definitely make an entrance with the way this envelopes a space (once again, this is a citrus floral, yet impossibly does this), so I'd be cautious if you're not a fan of "statement perfumes" or the kind of pomp and circumstance houses like this tend to broadcast, but there's nothing offensive about it either. 1861 Renaissance/ XJ 1861 Renaissance comes across as an ultra-luxe perfume might be expected to, but it at least avoids the pitfalls of cynical upscale rehash of past glory or front-loaded note focusing like other perfumes in this rather affected tier of the market. I'm typically not a fan of the price gouging and fallacious marketing found in brands from this level of the industry, but at least here Xerjoff puts your money to good use with something both beautiful and eerily undying on skin. Thumbs up.
13th July, 2019

1861 Renaissance / 1861 by Xerjoff

Sergio Momo launched Xerjoff in 2003 directly to capitalize on the growing wealth gap in world ecomomics, with celebrities, tech barons, oil magnates, and financial oligarchs rising to the ranks of millionaires and billionaires across the globe, seeking to serve what must undoubtedly be tastes in luxury goods too decadent for the department stores of yore. Just as niche perfume offered a more artistic albeit pricier alternative to department store lines, "Haute" luxury perfume brands like Xerjoff were taking over for perfume lines from haute couture designers like Chanel or Dior as the new high-end option, with focus on supernatural performance, materials expense and resplendent packaging over displays of superior style or taste like older high-end perfume establishments such as Guerlain and Houbigant. Xerjoff would be at the forefront of this emerging "upper class" of perfume alongside brands like Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle and category forerunners Creed, predating Roja Dove's predilection for puffery in presentation by nearly a decade by offering Xerjoff bottles adorned with precious metals or jewels. The real question is, are the fragrances worth the price and pretentiousness? Well, sort of, if performance and execution are what makes the house worth the plunge. With 1861 Renaissance/XJ 1861 Renaissance (2011/2015), you get a relatively natural-smelling citric white floral chypre that lasts nearly forever, but it isn't the sort of thing you couldn't also find from niche houses or in vintage, so there's that to consider.

The opening of Xerjoff 1861 Renaissance/XJ 1861 Renaissance is a fairly soft and classic semi-oriental push of bergamot, mandarin, and petitgrain. A lime and galbanum twang adds a bit of interesting green zest, but the composition becomes quickly "perfumey" and almost reminds me of a less-leafy Ninféo Mio by Annick Goutal (2009) especially with the white musks coming in halfway through. These pillowy musks are joined by rose, muguet, and an odd peppermint, giving the heart a gentle tug-of-war feeling between masculine and feminine, which combatively retains the intended unisex vibe. The base is mega mossy, but this is more of a "nü-chypre" than something descended from the brainchild of Francois Coty, so we get ambrox, vetiver, a surprisingly natural cedar, and patchouli to bring back that semi-oriental feeling of the opening. 1861 Renaissance/XJ 1861 Renaissance runs between plush and airy, with nice paradoxically long-lasting citrus tones mixed with pillowy musks, florals, and dry woods. It all smells refined with excellent note separation and an almost classic tone if not for the evident chemical wizardry (however well-executed) under it all. This will last until you scrub it off with lots of diffusion and crazy projection; anyone can really wear it, but there is an air of formality that forbids me from seeing it outside dressed-up events or outdoor weddings. If you're the kind of person that loves citrus and classic floral arrangements, with no real budgetary restraint on perfume, this is something I'd recommend as it wears quite nice in warm weather if a bit cloying and prudish from the musks.

Although, I can't say I didn't expect an air of eltism with a fragrance literally composed and marketed so it appeals to the financial elite of the world, people who burn through more cash at a business lunch than some of us spend on a month's groceries, but at least there is sufficient artistry here to lure in hobbyists too. Also to be clear, 1861 Renaissance and XJ 1861 Renaissance are the same thing, but Xerjoff decided to repackage this a few years after initial launch to include it in a new "trilogy" XJ line. Different bottles, different coffrets, same scent. I personally don't see the value of this at MSRP but it's very well done and lasts forever, so if you catch a good deal, I'd recommend a try. You'll definitely make an entrance with the way this envelopes a space (once again, this is a citrus floral, yet impossibly does this), so I'd be cautious if you're not a fan of "statement perfumes" or the kind of pomp and circumstance houses like this tend to broadcast, but there's nothing offensive about it either. 1861 Renaissance/ XJ 1861 Renaissance comes across as an ultra-luxe perfume might be expected to, but it at least avoids the pitfalls of cynical upscale rehash of past glory or front-loaded note focusing like other perfumes in this rather affected tier of the market. I'm typically not a fan of the price gouging and fallacious marketing found in brands from this level of the industry, but at least here Xerjoff puts your money to good use with something both beautiful and eerily undying on skin. Thumbs up.
13th July, 2019

Eau d'Ikar by Sisley

Sisley bugs me a bit as a house, because they play the same niche-by-virtue pricing game as many smaller European perfumers simply by doubling their prices in foreign markets like the US. It's very tedious for local shops that have to sell a fragrance for $180 dollars when it can be had online for half that at MSRP from global shops, or even less from discounters. Similar to a lesser extent as houses like Creed that sell for triple what they go for in the home market, Sisley has the mindset that blowing smoke rings up the keisters of the tech nouveau-niche and adding a zero to the tag will snow them into thinking their fragrances are a cut above the Diors and YSLs being peddled at the local Macy's when they really aren't. With that mindset in hand, I went into testing Eau d'Ikar (2011), the first proper masculine fragrance from the house. The gorgeous bottle is offset by a designeresque plastic sprayer-in-cap format, belying the niche prestige whateveryoucallit the house wants to communicate. Supposedly, this took 20 years to develop and is based mostly around the tears of the mastic trees (lentisus) near the home of Sisley's founding family. Perfumer Larent Bruyere is listed here, but I doubt he devoted twenty years of his life developing Eau d'Ikar considering he's done a ton of work for Thierry Mugler and Costume National among other assorted houses since the 90's. Once you separate fiction from fact, what you get isn't a bad scent, but basically just in line with other dry green citric grassy scents that can be found in department stores or perfume shops for less.

Eau d'Ikar opens with a strong mastic over dry bergamot and orange peel, almost registering like old MEM English Leather (1949) without the aldehydes and isobutyl quinoline sourness. This is a very old-fashioned dryness right in line with mid-century chypre thinking and I like it a lot; this is serious, resolute, and reminds me a bit of the waxier aspects of castoreum without the crotch funk of the real deal. Dry lemon and the odd chojce of carrot seeds add an earthy vegetal feel which transitions into a stiff iris note joined with a bit of violet, continuing the grassy and semi-powdery feeling into the heart with the listed tea note not found, still serious and still interesting. It is the base where things are revealed to not be what is claimed, when mastic (which supposedly exists in all three tiers) merges with vetiver, sandalwood, oakmoss, and labdanum to reassert itself in a green chypre finish but instead waylaid in ambroxan, evernyl, and Iso E Super rather than built up with the real stuff to make the expected chypre effect. I know IFRA had something to do with this and the cost of real sandalwood is prohibitive outside artisinal houses, but no attempt was even made to simulate the stuff, like the perfumer just went home after the top and heart notes were finished. The stuff is still pleasant but the collapse on skin relegates this to little more than a mastic-flavored modern vetiver scent in the end. Something like this feels as if it would pass muster most in warmer weather, but has enough fake woods to push into early fall as well, but is a bit too formal for day to day use.

The longevity and sillage are what really seal the deal on this from being a positive to an ambivalent experience for me, as this "English Vetiver" with the lentiscus semi-animal tone and strange carrot note poofs from being detectable after only a few hours, with the skin scent lingering longer but not much. Likely due to the nose-blinding Iso E and ambrox notes, at $20 this would be a cheap thrill worth reapplying, and at $50 worth some serious thinking, but even at European MSRP is a bit of a letdown and at what Sisley wants for US customers, rather insulting. Nabbing a bottle of Lalique Encre Noir (2006) from a discounter is a much better value for an admittedly less-complex but better-performing take on the style, while something like Terre d'Hermès Eau Intense Vétiver by Hermès (2018) smacks this poor petulant child of a fragrance up and down the schoolyard and still costs a bit less. I don't know, maybe this has its fans and I tried really hard to get excited about this because I love the idea of a mastic-forward scent, plus carrot in the note pyramid just sounded so interesting, but it really is all about the base when it comes to perfumes in this price range since that's what you will smell the longest. An interesting concept on paper, with interesting packaging and a mostly-traditional dry masculine composition, Sisley Eau d'Ikar just feels like a show cancelled after ending the season on a cliffhanger, and I'm not okay with that for what they expect to charge me. Neutral
12th July, 2019

Imari by Avon

This is quite a gem of a perfume, although it took me a lifetime to finally understand why. Avon may not get much love in the men's segment, but they never really tried to most of the time outside the huge pushes in the 60's and 2000's, but they always knew how to crank out quality women's perfumes, and Imari (1985) is the perfect example of that. The year is 1985, and Avon cosmetics have long since dwarfed the perfumes in sales. The company slowly transitioned from it's origins as The California Perfume Company into a beauty giant by mid-century, giving Revlon and Arden some trouble because lower operating costs from not having retail distribution or employees meant better perfumes could be sold for less right to the customer through their network of freelance "Avon Ladies". Cosmetics proved more desirable ultimately in this door-to-door format, and by the end of the 1970's shopping malls and suburban sprawl meant everyone's teenage daughter was out sniffing the newest Lauder perfumes, not letting Nana sell her Avon. Avon seemed to realize this, and stylistically stuck to their guns for the perfume audience they already had for women's releases throughout the 80's, meaning Imari smells much older than it really is compared to other perfumes from the era. In a similar fashion as Guerlain, Avon had cultivated something of a traditional house style over the generations, and Imari exemplifies that.

We have an aldehydic chypre of the ilk Avon had been making since time immemorial, with green bits over dry woody bits, a touch of powder, some oakmoss bite, and Avon's patent amber accord, but in decidedly 80's packaging to fool the eye. The opening is fairly academic for a chypre of this type, with aldehydes out front and bitter galbanum providing the green accord set next to dry bergamot. There is just a small speck of something lactonic here, but nowhere on the level of older mid-century chypres. No peach, raspberry, or blackcurrant affects the tone here, and Imari is a purely floral affair as the imagery on the red plastic enclosed spray bottle suggests. Orris and muguet provide a stark white floral soap heart, inflected with a bit of tuberose but not enough to make Imari feel sensual. Ylang-ylang hangs out with a bit of talc powder smell until a very parched cedar and pencil shavings musk mallow aura fill in the spaces. There are touches of vanilla and ambrette seed here too, and that smooth processed Cheez-Whiz amber makes a late showing for skin retention, but if you want a better or more prominent showing of Avon amber, look into one of their orientals. This is green like a 70's chypre, but has white florals like a 50's chypre, with soft-spoken femininity straight out of Avon's earliest days in the Victorian era. Back to the Future for Women in an iconic bottle sure to please fans of the genre, Imari has good performance to boot which belies its labelling as a "cologne spray".

My mother simply loved this stuff and always had it on hand when she dealt with Avon. Imari made her feel gorgeous and now that I have smelled it as an adult I understand why. Truth be told, bitter floral chypres like this are unisex for the most part in an age where houses like Diptyque package tuberose scents like Do Son (2005) as gender neutral, but I still have a feeling the average woman will like this more than the average man. Imari continues in a long line excellent chypres Avon cranked out for decades, joining the ranks of scents like Topaze (1959), Emprise (1976) and Tasha (1979) in this particular variety amongst a larger chypre selection of literally dozens more from the house. This stuff is obviously no Patou or Chanel, and will not suit someone used to fruity florals, fruitchoulis, or the newest wave of floral ambrox mass consumption mall juice, nor will it satisfy the followers of nouveau-riche brands like Lutens or Malle, but somebody who appreciates vintage chypre style without a care of what name adorns the bottle should give Imari a try. This is a perennial best-seller with oodles of flankers and tons of vintage stock in the wild for people suspicious of reformulation, so finding one to try should be very inexpensive. Imari is among the finest examples of its style out there, and although staid for 1985 standards and excruciatingly conservative for the 21st century, it has the kind of effortless balance between airy and powerful you just don't see anymore at any price. Thumbs up.
11th July, 2019

Verveine Agrumes / Citrus Verbena Summer by L'Occitane

L'Occitane Verveine Agrumes (2015) is just the kind of flanker the original L'Occitane Verveine (2003) line needed in my opinion, as the original and rather direct version of the scent was just too sweet and too much like a room spray than a personal fragrance. With Verveine Agrumes, the verbena note isn't swaddled in syrupy fruitiness and left to hang its ass out like with the original, but instead becomes a player in a larger composition that plays off the zest of the note. Verveine Agrumes is a citrus woody verbena scent as the name implies, and although not as direct of a verbena experience like something such as Geoffrey Beene Bowling Green (1986), it does have a greater chypre-like personality thanks to its dryness and complexity. Long story short, Verveine Agrumes feels more like a fully-realized perfume than the original L'Occitane Verveine, and won't beat you over the head with the verbena accord either.

The scent of Verveine Agrumes opens with a tart lemon, grapefruit, and orange peel cocktail that can be quite shrill if over-applied. This bright trifecta slowly transitions the verbena note into view, paired with a nice green and slight Haitian vetiver note to give Verveine Agrumes a very summery grassy feel which really stands out among generic aquatics and Ambrox-powered freshies saturating the market at the time it was released. Considering this goes under the name of "Citrus Verbena Summer" in some markets, it makes sense. The base of cedar and Iso E Super is rather expected, and the cedar itself doesn't 100% feel real so it's probably some clearwood compound, but at this price who's counting? Longevity will go past the 8 hour market with the citrus opening reappearing then fading throughout the wear, but sillage stays moderate then mild, with the dry woody vetiver finish under the verbena heartbeat giving Verveine Agrumes some legs in fall too if needed.

Recommended wearing is of course casual, as a simple pleasure like Verveine Agrumes communicates nothing besides that the wearer shops at the mall and likes basic fare, but cookouts or other activities outdoors seem ideal for the stuff. Verveine Agrumes is unisex but veers a bit masculine due to the dry woods base, although anyone with a sporty style can pull this off. Straight and to point, this is one of the better and more memorable verbena perfumes I've smelled at the pricepoint, rivaled in my mind only by discontinued varieties from Penhaligon's, or the old faithful Bowling Green. Swing on by a L'Occitane store to sample this, as they usually stick the stuff right out in front by the door to test anyway. Verveine Agrumes won't change the world or blow minds, but is a really satisfying citrus verbena scent great for when you want freshness at a good price without all the obvious chemical magic. Thumbs up!
09th July, 2019

Séxual Fresh pour Homme by Michel Germain

French perfume houses don't really surprise anyone, but French-Canadian ones do. Michel Germain has been quietly and contently plugging away at his main line of Séxual (1994) for years now, with particular success in the men's iteration of Séxual Pour Homme (1996). The house may not be niche by modern expectations, but as an independent perfumer with a small loyal fan base and no ties to larger cosmetics distributors or fashion houses, Michel Germain does fit the definition of niche even if his scents are far more accessible to those of more moderate means than many houses which want a car payment for a single bottle of their juice. So it goes that Michel chose to expand the line with flankers, something that seems more apt for designers to do than self-styled niche houses, but I guess he knows his audience all too well since they are often the types looking for sexy but also mass-appeal compliment-getting fare which comes in homogeneous easy-to-identify bottles. In any case, this all leads us to the creation of Séxual Fresh pour Homme (2007), a bounce-back of sorts since Germain's attempt to make a classier and more conservative line in the form of Deauville Pour Homme (1999) and Deauville (2000) both fell flat on their asses. Séxual Fresh pour Homme seems pretty obviously something dialed in to be a fresher and more casual alternative to the Calvin Klein Eternity for Men (1989) meets Opium Pour Homme (1995) mix that was the original. This of course could end up one of many disastrous ways, but actually lands on its feet rather nimbly here, being a dry citric scent in the opening not altogether dissimilar to L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme by Issey Miysakr (1994) or Giorgio Armani Acqua di Giò pour Homme (1996), but with a floral middle and muskier base like Calvin Klein cK One (1994) or HM Hanae Mori (1997).

The opening is fresh mandarin and grapefruit paired with dry bergamot. It's very crisp and nice, with an aquatic riff courtesy our old friend dihydromyrcenol, but spices like coriander and cardamom adding sensuality even at this early stage to keep Séxual Fresh pour Homme in the pocket. Jasmine hedione and ginger take up the middle, with a clean juniper berry note that was very popular in mid-2000's fragrances, showing that Germain also was doing his homework. Michel is no Jacques Guerlain or even Pierre Bourdon, and as what I am assuming is a self-trained perfumer, wields his ingredients with a basic efficiency like a chemist that knows how to achieve the desired effect he wants, but without imparting any personal touches, which is the only complaint I have with the line. Experiencing Séxual Fresh pour Homme unfold into its musky clean and admittedly pretty attractive base feels almost like experiencing a well-done pop tune, with catchy hooks and pitch-corrected melodies coated in a slick over-production style that delivers directly what it means to without any nuance whatsoever. There is quality here, and exacting precision and delivering a scent without any obvious chemical seams or rough edges beyond what is expected at the designer price point in the mid-2000's, but you just have to like this kind of citric white floral musk style to appreciate the tune Séxual Fresh pour Homme plays. In this case, it is a tune that ends in white musk, oakmoss, Iso E Super, polysantal, amber, and a barbershop-clean clary sage which holds Séxual Fresh pour Homme firmly in the masculine realm in spite of the unisex-leaning mid-phase development. Séxual Fresh pour Homme lasts forever on skin just like Séxual pour Homme, and you will need to launder your clothes to get it out, so performance is unquestionable, as is the tremendous sillage. Seriously, you'll get 24 hours out of this if you don't wash your shirt, although it still is no powerhouse if only due to style. Wear Séxual Fresh pour Homme wherever you'd use a generalist, as it seems made for all seasons and occasions like the original.

Guys living in that YouTube reviewer-worshiping compliments-obsessed and perpetually upward-mobile world of "FragBro Culture" will undoubtedly love Séxual Fresh pour Homme, as this stuff is clean in all the right ways but also sexy in all the ways that won't get you hosed down in a back alley for smelling like a cat in heat. I found this scent stunning on my boyfriend, although I admittedly would feel a bit silly wearing it myself, since it does pretty much scream "notice me" with its "everything a dude wants in a fragrance" composition, even if it is still a bit old-school as it predates the Creed Aventus (2010) phenomenon and the subsequent glut of bergamot and smoky vanilla ambrox clones by instead going with a more-conventional mix of oakmoss, musk, and amber to build up its people-pleaser potion. Still, this will likely get more miles in the 21st century than the original Séxual pour Homme because it doesn't rely on semi-oriental fougère tropes, but instead goes in with a clean citrus that is still pretty much considered chic these days, then enriches it with a nice warm floral musk glow. Fans of original Séxual pour Homme may see this as a keen summer alternative, and folks who think that one is too heavy might also want to check this out, but people expecting something on the same level of quality as the aforementioned Creed or even something like Mancera may want to sample first, as this is very much designer in the grade of components it uses, with little else smelling natural besides the citrus and spice. Another pleasant surprise from the cheeky Canadian underdog house of Michel Germain that may not be exactly what you're looking for, but sometimes what you need in a fragrance, if what you're looking for is conventional style with unconventional performance and a slightly lusty undercurrent. Thumbs up
01st July, 2019
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Séxual pour Homme by Michel Germain

The story of Michel Germain is an interesting one: a man who entered perfumery because his wife couldn't find one that made her feel sexy and attractive. It's a rather quaint story compared to what houses like Creed or Eight & Bob try to pass on, but nonetheless filled with at least a bit of embellishment. Sophia Grojsman assisted Michel Germain on Séxual (1994) and later he tackled Séxual Pour Homme (1996) on his own, while both have been the marquee lines for the house since its inception, and obviously designed to make their wearers feel desirable in bed. Another bit about only using the most natural fragrance oils also is mentioned, but seeing what these retail for at MSRP (About $90 USD) and what they often go for in the gray market (at least half that), I am a bit suspicious. Don't take my introductory ramblings the wrong way however, as a self-identified niche perfume house from Canada doing all its own composition, manufacturing, and distribution but still selling at department store prices and staying around for a quarter-century seems rather miraculous when you think about it, since the trend seems to dictate a house like this should be sliding ever up-market until only found in boutiques. Séxual Pour Homme is a semi-oriental fougère, but it does not rely on heavy wallops of oakmoss and vanilla like many from this category, even though it contains them both.

Instead, Michel saw fit to merge a fresher fougère accord of the likes you'd find in something such as Calvin Klein Eternity for Men (1989), Paco Rabanne XS Pour Homme (1993) or Chanel Platinum Égoïste (1993), just with a richer semi-oriental base. As such, a lot of comparisons to the above happen, but what Séxual Pour Homme does is entirely unique to itself. Basil, sweet citrus from clementine, a dab of calone 1951, and bergamot establish the opening, going "full-90's" on the intro as expected with a slightly green fruity bloom. From there, a rich French lavender comes in with geranium and clary sage to form that basic fougère accord, but the sweetness and richness cranks up as petitgrain segues the nose into the semi-oriental base of sandalwood, vanilla, patchouli, and of course tonka, without which this couldn't be a fougère. Oakmoss is there but there is no sharpness from it, just the buttery base riff that holds it all together, and this stays on skin for a very long time, seemingly growing louder over the course of the wear rather than fading, until it collapses on skin. Séxual Pour Homme is clearly synthetic in the most precious of its materials, so don't expect Mysore in the base, but the overall effect is one that seems a bit more mature than the concurrently-released Curve for Men (1996) but with that same affable sweetness and roundness. Wear time of 10 hours can be expected, which is pretty great for an eau de toilette all things considered.

Séxual Pour Homme takes the cozy and inviting elements of something like Chanel Pour Monsieur Concentrée (1989) but doesn't keep the more mature powdery bits, replacing them instead with trendier sweet fruit notes and more lavender, rounding out the edges until the smell is smooth like the bottle in which it comes. While I won't say this doesn't resemble Eternity for Men in some fashion, it also goes way deeper in the dry down. This stuff was a breakout success in Canada, which isn't exactly known as a land of perfumers, and has since spawned a litany of flankers in addition to companion lines like Deauville Pour Homme (1999), so I figured it must at least be good enough to try if an entire name plate was built around it. Séxual Pour Homme has a pretty cringe-worthy name and a bottle that feels like plagiarism of the Halston "pinch" bottle, but the smell is nice for what it is, although I'd certainly look for a deal as I wouldn't pay MSRP for a style that was redundant even by 1996 when it launched. Still, on the whole I like this, and if you're not the kind of guy to own a few dozen different overlapping options, but wanting one good generally-appealing fragrance that could go year-round, you could do far worse than Séxual Pour Homme at any price. Thumbs up
30th June, 2019

Vetyver Lanvin (new) by Lanvin

So as the story goes, this was originally intended as a relaunch of Vetyver Lanvin (1964) after being discontinued in the 90's, but was ultimately re-orchestrated by François Robert on behalf of Lavin because it was deemed the old formula was not in line with contemporary tastes. As a result, rather than getting a direct vetiver experience like many had come to expect from the discontinued vintage version, fans returning to the fold and buying a bottle of Vetyver Lanvin [New](2003) were treated with a "fresh" interpretation and a scent with a very heavy ambroxan base, which was uncommon in the early 2000's. Something like what is presented here would sell like crazy in the 2010's, but when this rolled out onto shelves in 2003, nobody really knew what to make of it, and soon the name Vetyver Lanvin was retired once again. If the original version is a prized unicorn among "FragBro" collectors of vintage masculines, this version is soon to head that way too as it wasn't produced for very long, but it doesn't really speak to me personally even as a "modern" vetiver take since there is so little actual vetiver in the composition. What we get here is a green freshy woody ambroxan scent with a thin veneer of vetiver to justify the title, and that is a great disservice to the legacy of the previous well-loved iteration.

The opening of Vetyver Lanvin [New] is pretty clean and front-loaded with citrus and juniper. A pleasant lemon lime accord flits about but there isn't any grassy goodness approaching the nose at this point so I can't really say it even opens like a vetiver scent is expected to at all. Some time later, a bit of the grassy semi-smoky note surfaces, swaddled in spices like nutmeg and pimento, while hedione and orange peel keep the clean zesty opening alive. What vetiver that is there feels akin to something like what one might find in Vétiver Extraordinaire by Editons de Parfums Frédéric Malle (2002), which may have actually inspired this with its cynical "claims to contain the most vetiver oil" style that entirely misses the mark of resembling vetiver, which amounts to little more than a tease to fans of the root. Cedar and musk bolstered by Iso E Super and that aforementioned thick swaddling of ambroxan finish out the stuff, and had this released in 2013 instead of 2003, it would have danced to the tune of the most common denominator, but was just too early to capitalize on the ambroxan bomb trend. The sillage is moderate with normal application but the scent lasts and lasts on skin for me, almost to the point of being a bit grating with all the citrus and hedione swirling around the sharp chemical woods and faux ambergris.

If this kind of thing is your bag, I could see it being used in spring through early fall, mostly as a casual or outdoor scent, but the chemical trail this gives off is just so awful, and I'm not one to normally pick on the use of synthetics if they are handled correctly. Here is feels like François Robert was trying to make a downmarket Vétiver Extraordinaire, which is already a scent I don't like and think is a total waste because of it's interpretation of the subject, but would still recommend to fans of that more-expensive perfume as a cheaper alternative if it wasn't discontinued. For me personally, I don't necessarily need my vetiver earthy or smoky, but it has to at least resemble the plant enough to not just leave an impression of it. When one labels a scent as a vetiver scent, the buyer doesn't expect an abstract concept on it, but rather getting what they think the name suggests in the bottle. In either case, I can understand why this failed, and although it might have more love if re-released, I'd still rather see Lavin reintroduce the 1964 version if I had to choose between the two. I really am not sure what Lanvin was thinking when they allowed this to carry the Vetyver badge knowing full well what kind of cachet their classic fragrances carry, and had this been named something else I might at least be able to eke out a neutral stance on it, but as it is am forced to give it a thumbs down.
30th June, 2019

Do Son Eau de Toilette by Diptyque

Do Son Eau de Toilette (2005) is a lovely white floral that is subtle but ever-present, lacking the stiffness or powdery feeling traditional white florals have thanks to a plush benzoin and musk base with a marine twist replacing the usual chypre or dry woods base typically used. Fabrice Pellegrin was on board with Diptyque for this one, and he brought a nice balance to a style usually derided as a scent of austerity or overt maturity. There isn't much more to it than that, as Do Son is another example of fundamental perfumery from a house that made its name on basic, diffuse perfumes with lots of note separation and transparency. My only bit of criticism is Do Son feels a bit too mainstream for Diptyque.

The opening of Do Son is a rather nice jasmine sambac over neroli, rose, and iris. The scent comes out the gate fairly prim but the jasmine softens the iris while the neroli sweetens it. Tuberose lives in the heart but neroli keeps it from getting too lurid as it sometimes can, maintaining the white floral standard while adding just enough sensual color. Pink pepper adds a modern warmth and was admittedly everywhere during this time, but it thankfully stays low-key so the benzoin and musk base do the talking. The dihydromyrcenol marine accord is a bit controversial but maintains the cleanliness of the neroli. Jasmine and tuberose are the main players keeping Do Son as not your average white floral, helping make an almost faux-gardenia accord with the iris. This is spring in a bottle, with wide appeal for casual floral fans willing to spend a bit more for something distinctive.

Wear time is average and sillage the same, with the best time to wear Do Son being anytime a happy soft floral is desired. Do Son is sold as unisex but this one feels like it leans feminine, but any lover of jasmine, tuberose, or neroli can pull off Do Son. The eau de parfum is denser but doesn't necessarily smell different to my nose, and also doesn't radiate any louder to me either. Simply put, Do Son is just plain pretty and a bit relaxing to boot, being devoid of any sharp edges white florals can have, while not seeming so plush as to be cloying. The aquatic finish will alienate purists but so will any obvious aromachems, but Do Son is otherwise fairly natural. Test for yourself because your mileage may vary from mine. Thumbs up.
28th June, 2019

Flowerhead by Byredo

This smells like shampoo, which is not normally something I dislike, since I am a rather huge fan of things which ring true a vintage shampoo accord, like Samba for Men by The Perfumer's Workshop (1990). However, if we're going for drugstore comfort smells, it had better be within a drugstore price range, which unfortunately Byredo is not. So in essence, you're getting a quirky $20 smell for nearly $300 instead, which shoots Flowerhead (2014) right in the foot. Byredo is already annoyingly dipping into "hipster tastemaker" territory with its painfully droll minimalism and gimmicks like limited unnamed scents, so Flowerhead doesn't do them any favors. I like what's here, I really do, but in no way does this style of chemical floral cleanliness even come close to representing the kind of niche elegance house Byredo claims to offer. Tsk tsk tsk...

Flowerhead opens with dry lemon and a rather loud jasmine with some chemical floral musky notes in vein of something like galaxolide super. Supposedly lingonberry exists here but I get none of that personally; it's akin to cranberry, so if lingonberry was present in Flowerhead, I'd have it adding body to the lemon, which instead just evaporates once the florals emerge. A tuberose note dominates the heart, and the floral "Salon Selects/TRESemmé" shampoo main accord emerges, joined with galbanum. A late-stage ambroxide base emerges to hold Flowerhead to skin alongside the galaxolide musk, but what you sniff in the beginning is basically what you get for the whole trip until you scrub it off. This is a very light yet tenacious perfume, so expect all-day presence but without much sillage. I think clean scents like this serve best after shower or before bed, but I see Flowerhead serving well as spring daywear too.

If you like something such as this and money is no object, go ahead and grab a bottle, but if smelling like late 80's/early 90's shampoo brands is your schtick and you don't want to pay much more than the bottle of the actual shampoo, get the Samba for Men instead (regardless of your gender), trust me on this. Byredo is sort of hit or miss as a luxury niche house anyway, but with the upscale floral genre, you have to either go all-in with expensive absolutes and impeccable note separation, or just go home. Anything that smells even remotely artificial at this price point, regardless of how charming, will get picked apart and laughed off stage by the "connoisseurs" who spend as much time waxing about their knowledge of how flowers smell as they do perfume. This is saved from a thumbs down because I love shampoo accords, but I can't really get a lather from Flowerhead. Neutral.
27th June, 2019

Oud 27 by Le Labo

Le Labo Oud 27 (2009) is not often discussed in conversations concerning Western takes on oud. Part of it may be Le Labo's penchant for crying wolf with titles that promise a theme but deliver something else, making folks suspicious of the authenticity of the oud accord within, but most of it may just be that the house's heavy-hitters like the ever-popular Santal 33 (2011) have overshadowed it. In any case, Oud 27 uses much of the same Firmenich-provided compound as the later Dior Leather Oud (2010), and therefore has a considerable animalic presence in the opening, but doesn't amplify this with leather like the Dior to send the barnyard skank into the stratosphere. Paired with some basic aromatics of the same theme, Le Labo Oud 27 is a fairly balanced take on Agar that rests between challenging and attractive. This won't blow the doors off for oud lovers, but has a place in the wardobe of casual fans with enough coin to splurge on a brand like Le Labo. I'd consider it at a good sale price, which makes it only one of a small number from the house I would.

The opening of Oud 27 is as one might expect: agarwood skank and little else. This isn't the real deal so there is little of the borderline-offensive fecal quality or murky depth of actual oud tincture, but the crotch smell so many Westerners complain about is in full swing (pun intended), and is followed by a bit of saffron. There isn't much progression here, making me believe only a 2-tier structure was used, with the oud and saffron on top of everything else. Patchouli, cedar, olibanum, and guaiac wood round this out, resulting in a late-wear dryness that most commercial synthetic ouds sold in the west tend to employ. Ah well, starts off reasonably authentic-smelling then eventually grows safer into the wear, but wisps of that animalic top of course do linger. Performance is moderate as is longevity. Wear this where you dare, as Le Labo Oud 27 does not play nice whatsoever, even if it falls shy of smelling like a mating call or laundry hamper full of used gym shorts. I like this but teeter on how much.

Someone who is on the fence about oud and is trying to graduate from something safer like Tom Ford Oud Wood (2007) might find Le Labo Oud 27 an appropriate step up, but someone well-versed in artisanal fare or attars will probably laugh this off (especially after the dry down) as expected, so Oud 27 is another "inbetweener" just like Louis Vuitton Nouveau Monde (2018), albeit less artistic and coming closer in virility to something like Diptyque Oud Palao (2015) but minus the rose and drier. When you take into consideration that Le Labo beat all these upscale creations to the punch (including Dior) and still managed to make something believable, Oud 27 feels worthwhile until you realize stuff like the comparable Bogart One Man Show Oud Edition (2014) now exists at a fraction of the price. This may be another overpriced synth oud, but Oud 27 at least smells like the label suggests, unlike most Le Labo scents which like to play a tongue-in-cheek game of bait-and-switch with their names. Thumbs up.
26th June, 2019 (last edited: 27th June, 2019)

Sumare by Crown Perfumery

It's easy to speak in hyperbole about lost perfume houses and discontinued fragrances, because it's like unearthing artifacts and having the pleasure of enjoying something the world may never see again, imparting a feeling of being special to those who possess such treasures; but the fact is doing so can distort the value or importance of what is lost, leading to disappointment for those following in the wake of such exaltation, and that does more harm than good to the memory of the perfume. In this case, Crown Perfumery is the house in question, and it's former line of humble yet elegant compositions are what has been lost. Most know the story of the American William Thomson, his overly-tight corsets, endorsement by Queen Victoria, the creation of smelling salts that lead to Thomson making perfume, and the mass-market decline of the business after Lever Brothers acquired it upon his death. The brief revival of the full perfume line in 1993 was a godsend to perfumistas and colognoisseurs, but cruelly snatched away when millionaire Clive Christian bought the house just to gut its catalogs and use its legacy as a platform for a vanity brand of "haute-luxe" perfumes under his own name. Sumare (1925) was one of the last perfumes composed by William Thomson in his lifetime, and consists of a chypre accord made bone-dry and masculine at a time when such a thing had not yet become fashionable.

Sumare opens with dry citrus and kitchen herb melange, nothing at all like the lactonic peach and floral tones of chypres like Mitsouko (1919), almost presaging mid-century men's chypres like Moustache by Rochas (1949) or late-century efforts like Gianfranco Ferré for Man (1986) by leaps and bounds. The tartness is very brief compared to its more-modern counterparts because Sumare is dominated by armoise in the beginning, like a less-rich and less-fatty Paul Sebastian Fine Cologne (1979) without all the vanilla. Soon, a barbershop spiced lavender and geranium take up the heart where rose and jasmine would usually exist in other chypres of the period, putting an oddly fougère-like accord at Sumare's heart. However, there is no tonka or other fern-like impressions here as the base goes with stark dried leather, rich oakmoss, and Mystore sandalwood to bring it home that this is a 1st generation chypre. The effect of this "barbershop chypre" hybrid is one that imparts a rounded sort of body but without the soapy clean or sweet aspects of a fougère, going instead with woody aromatics and mossy tones. The leather here is not of the powdery or animalic kind, but rather more of a bootstrap variety, so the whole thing still wears rather dapper. Performance on Sumare will vary, but my sample seems to go quickly into base notes for a day's worth of close but noticeable sillage. The question to be asked however is how much one could enjoy something that smells like a missing link between Houbigant Fougère Royale (1882) and Arden for Men Sandalwood (1957)?

I don't think Sumare was ever meant to be a stunner as it seemed against Crown's reserved British aesthetic, something mirrored in many Penhaligon's, Geo F Trumper's, and Yardley's of London scents of the period. Sumare is a nice window through time into the nascent and still-developing styles of masculine perfumery, as most upper-class dandies of the day still wore whatever was coming out from Guerlain, Caron, or Houbigant if they weren't indulging in the local UK barbershop culture. If Sumare was any indication, Crown was a rather novel if still-conservative option for men, not unlike Caswell-Massey in the United States, just with royal endorsement. Crown has been extinct for decades thanks to Clive Christian, so anything not reproduced by Anglia Perfumes (this one is not) is a certified unicorn by now, fit only for museum display or resale investment, so seeking a bottle may require a lasso and fedora, if not a six-figure salary. Still, being able to smell quality naturals like bergamot, oakmoss, and real sandalwood in a holy trifecta of vintage olfactive bliss does have its perks, although little else about Sumare honestly excites me. I think part of it is how "plain" Sumare reads to the nose, undoubtedly the 1920's equivalent of "safe" by merging accords men were accustomed to at the time with a then-novel chypre base, while the rest of it is that this style has just been done better. Thumbs up for the history lesson, and worth a sniff for the curious.
25th June, 2019

Parfum de Peau by Montana

Perfumer Jean Guichard was surely on a roll in the mid-80's with big, bold, and brash feminine fragrances that often less-than-discretely blurred the gender lines in the perfume world. Composing the debut Montana Parfum de Peau (1986) fresh on the heels of both Paco Rabanne La Nuit (1985) and Poison Christian Dior (1985), Jean eased off on the throttle just a tad to make a rose chypre which had all the vigor of his past works but a more subtle animal attraction with the interplay of leather and musks in the base. The result of this approach is a perfume that feels every bit in line with the niche rose perfumes of the 21st century (particularly from the Middle East), but with a decidedly Western execution of balancing virility with approachability. This was just the kind of balance Claude Montana would need to get his perfume acclaimed and in stores at a time when everyone wanted to make a loud statement with their perfumes without necessarily knowing what they wanted to actually say with that statement, which would be Parfum de Peau's key for surviving the era; this glows and smoulders without scorching unlike its rivals of the day.

Like most huge red rose chypres from the 80's, Parfum de Peau barrels in with aldehydes and fruity notes swirled with sharp bergamot, plus a jammy Turkish rose. Peach lactone and bergamot are here alongside blackcurrant and plum, with a bit of ginger and pink pepper to spice up and dull the sweetness. The Turkish rose plays as expected with jasmine indole, tuberose, and carnation, making Parfum de Peau fleshy as the name suggests and full of lust. There's some ylang-ylang here too, but it is buried in the sex moans of the fruity rose indolic glow, allowing a leathery trifecta of isobutyl quinoline tannic notes, civet, and castoreum to stink up the base. Amber and patchouli keep the affair warm, a bit green, and soft-spoken as sillage begins to surprisingly recede after the loud top and middle. Olibanum, sandalwood, vetiver, and oakmoss provide the incense-like chypre base, but the animalics are what command this perfume. Wear time is immortal like most big perfumes from the 80's, but Montana's debut scent won't get you kicked out of any restaurants like the Dior. I'd save this for romantic fall or winter gatherings though, unless you fancy yourself a bizarrely hot mess if used any other time, and the stuff is simply divine when caught on skin from up close.

Parfum de Peau is luscious, heady, flirtatious, and not in the least bit casual, but unlike something such as Estée Lauder Knowing (1988), doesn't jump your bones immediately with a huge singular rose/patchouli sledgehammer. Instead, rose and patchouli are merely unwitting guests in a brothel of leather and slightly-sweaty bodies, hand clasped over mouth as they watch unspeakable things commence, rather than shouting to the world that they mean business like in something such as La Nuit. Chypre lovers looking for a chewy oakmoss base won't really find it with the blending of Parfum de Peau, but lovers of things like Aramis Perfume Calligraphy (2012) or Lady Vengeance by Juliette Has a Gun (2009) are in good hands if they don't mind a bit of sweltering leather stirred into their rose and patchouli soirée. I rather like Montana Parfum de Peau and Jean Guichard's efforts to add some surreptitious masculine stink to toy with what was otherwise a feminine power chord of a perfume, and it's the restrained but satisfying sillage that keeps this from becoming a joke. Just like Momma used to always say, it's the quiet ones you got to worry about, and nothing holds truer when it comes to Montana Parfum de Peau. Thumbs up!
25th June, 2019

Windsor pour Homme by English Laundry

Christopher Wicks is something of a behind-the-scenes fashion designer whose self-professed "child of the 60's" vibe sort of places him in a real-life Austin Powers sort of role, especially with the shoulder-length hair, campy pin stripes, big-rim glasses, pearl buttons, and poet sleeves he sports on coats that go down past the thigh. However, whether or not you've heard of him or his contributions to fashion bear little impact on his English Laundry venture, which has putted around almost in the background of the perfume world since 2010. English Laundry has been quietly releasing well-crafted and well-performing fragrances with an affinity for English pomp and circumstance, delivering styles both classic and contemporary, but seemingly focusing more on men, which is a tactic they learned from the French-but-once-English house of Creed. Indeed, English Laundry sets itself up like a luxury prestige house aimed predominantly at white collar upper middle-class men that want something a cut above the department store din, packaging most of its scents in monolithic bottles adorned with crests and labelled with hyperbole like "Elegant, Arrogant, English", and delivering most things as an eau de parfum. Density and performance seem to be favored by the house as with many luxury brands over the $300 mark but there is just one problem: English Laundry retails directly from the house at $60US and often ends up in discounters for $20. Hmm.. quite the conundrum eh? Windsor Pour Homme (2016) leans more towards the classic end of the style spectrum for the house, and delivers a nice mature vibe for guys looking to smell like something other than clean citrus and synthetic ambergris, presenting an astonishing value for what it is.

Windsor Pour Homme is set up almost like a cross between something like Pasha de Cartier (1992), L'Occitane Eau des Baux (2006) and Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb (2012), competing in the same heavy olfactive space as Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille (2007), the concurrently-released Parfums de Marly Layton (2016) and future Creed Viking (2017) but costing pennies in comparison. Windsor Pour Homme comes in with apple, grapefruit, and bergamot, treading familiar semi-oriental fruity fougère territory like the aforementioned Pasha and Layton, but adds in some peppercorn mid-stride to recall comparisons to both Eau des Baux and Spicebomb. The lavender, cardamom, cinnamon, and clove keep Windsor Pour Homme squarely in the spiced barbershop fougère sector the future Viking would also visit in the heart notes, so if this kind of "classic dad smell" isn't your thing, you might want to skip out on Windsor Pour Homme. The base takes a left turn at what would normally be a traditional oakmoss, vanilla and tonka foundation by adding in tobacco and vetiver, sharpening up the finish to be more along the lines of Tobacco Vanille but without all the cloying richness and tonka overload that scent contains. In the end, we get a restrained and balanced cross between a modern "tonkabacco" tobacco-style and an 80's/90's semi-oriental barbershop fougère similar to Jazz by Yves Saint Laurent (1988) or Avon Mesmerize for Men (1992). Mulled and spiced fruit, lavender, oakmoss, and tobacco thoroughly convey the traditional masculinity a name like "Windsor" conjures, perhaps even better than any other house which has borrowed the name for a masculine perfume, with outstanding all-day performance and tight eau de parfum sillage that won't part the Red Sea on your morning commutes. I'd keep this to cool or cold weather due to the spiciness, but otherwise Windsor Pour Homme is a pretty generalized kind of shindig.

What's interesting is the sheer number of comparisons it gets to scents it smells nothing like all over the internet, including everything from Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent (1981) to Bvlgari Man in Black (2014), but Windsor Pour Homme does seem to net in a lot of people who don't have much experience nosing fragrances due to most finding it in discounters and casually scooping it up for the attractive packaging. The same can really hold true to other members of the English Laundry line, and I have read thoughts of X English Laundry smelling like Y designer, only to conclude that they likely sit too snugly in the middle of several popular styles to really stand out on their own for the general public, which may be the only point of fault here for the house. So too is the same criticism I lob at Windsor Pour Homme: if you own pretty much anything I've named above, you really don't need this scent at all since it just crosses between them and straddles cheekily. But, if you don't own anything I have named above, and especially don't like the idea of paying $300-$500 to smell like some of the same ground this English Laundry covers (particularly with the Creed or Tom Ford), then snapping up a bottle of Windsor Pour Homme can save you a boat of cash. I wouldn't say Windsor Pour Homme is necessarily a clone of anything, but it does ride in a well-worn groove within masculine fragrance tropes, but just adds a dash of this or that to distinguish itself, but lack of originality aside, it punches way above its weight and earns its keep in my book. If Christopher Wicks manages to bring this kind of quality at this price, plus can somehow pull off something semi-novel, his English Laundry line may yet sneak out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Thumbs up.
23rd June, 2019 (last edited: 24th June, 2019)

Scandal pour Homme by Roja Dove

I've been rather kind to Roger "Roja" Dove's Roja Parfums operation on other selections I've reviewed, because I know the intended purpose isn't to offer anything new or particularly creative within the luxury segment like a higher-end niche house, nor offer an aspirational "step up" from designers like Parfums de Marly or Creed, but rather just deliver that "smells like money" aesthetic which really dense and florid perfumes from eras past used to do. In essence, Roja has tried to take up the mantle of "haute parfum" left behind by traditional perfume houses like Guerlain or Houbigant when they gradually widened their customer base over time by doing more than just serving nobles or captains of industry. With the spiritual return of the "gilded age" almost 100 years to the day in the 2010's by means of a globally-widening income gap created through decades of unchecked exploitation, there seem to be more millionaires than ever before and the priciest perfumes in Selfridge's or Nordstrom simply aren't "good" enough when you're dealing with people who can drop $100 on lunch like the average Joe does $10 at a burger joint, so the existence of the house makes sense from that perspective. However, the problem here is that the existence of Scandal Pour Homme (2011) doesn't make sense from any perspective, especially in light of what Roja Parfums as a house tries to do, which is put an extra-redolent spin of "luxury" on classic genres to exude a sense of timeless class. Instead, what we get is an almost play-for-play repackaging of Guerlain Héritage (1992) but with a price tag exponentially higher for literally no good reason other than brand cachet, and a few extra notes to fatten it up. Roja Dove himself is a rather campy and fun sort of character with a lot of respect for perfume from all walks of life, so I give him the benefit of the doubt more than I otherwise would, but I can't abide this "emperor's new clothes" of a perfume which smells cheaper than what it tries to copy.

Scandal opens up like several formerly-popular semi-oriental "gentlemanly" barbershop scents of years past that exist in the same universe, albeit a shrinking one since this style is effectively "going away" as more specimens from it get discontinued. So, if stuff like Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Parfum (2014), Tiffany for Men (1989), or Lalique Pour Homme (1997), are your jam, you already know what's up with Scandal Pour Homme. From that familiar sharp lavender, bergamot, petitgrain, and lemon opening comes a bit of basil and then a descent into Roja's personal "Decadence Hell" of two dozen filigreed notes all blended into a blob of ostentatious splendor. the only problem here is Dove tries to sneak in synthetics like cashmeran and clearwood behind the wall of indolic jasmine, rose, muguet, and a half-dozen other florals and spices, but is too heavy-handed to get away with it. This means the scent goes on beautifully, then slowly morphs into modern mall interpretation of Héritage. This would be fine if we're talking a $100 bottle of Eau de Brand, because artful use of synthetics can be nice in that context, but we're talking "Roja Frickin' Dove" man. A good burger is a good burger, but when you expect Filet Mignon for the price you paid and get Filet McDonald's instead, it's insulting. The base sorta saves this a little bit, as you get that nice oakmoss treatment with a subdued tonka, some vetiver, vanilla, but two other heavy-handed synthetics appear in the form of ambroxan to mimic ambergris and polysantal to mimic sandalwood. The ambroxan is a given as it really does serve the same purpose when blended into a perfume as natural ambergris does, but those who've smelled polysantal in a perfume know that while it can be used to stretch Australian sandalwood into something similar to the old Indian Mysore, by itself it just has an overly-thick "two sticks of butter" kind of vibe that smells fake. At the end of the day, this ends up like a heavier indolic Guerlain Héritage with relatively the same performance but eternal longevity as a skin scent.

Then again, I don't suspect Roja Dove expects many connoisseurs of vintage or artisanal perfume to go near his wares, just dumb heirs of family fortunes who buy something because it's expensive, or white collar "bros" who play the "Frag Game" and want to one-up their online buddies, having convinced themselves that you get what you pay for in the hobby. All's fair in love and Capitalism right? Sure, but regardless of how redolent or dense one crafts a perfume to give it that sheen of being "expensive", one still must bring something to the table that a potential luxury buyer just can't get anywhere else for any price in order to claim such exclusivity, which is where many artisanal perfumes in this price range (like Bortnikoff) succeed without trying. Such was also the case with the concurrently-released Danger Pour Homme (2011), which pulls off "nouveau-riche juice inspired by the classics", yet still stood on its own two feet artistically by being a bit different and memorable. With Scandal Pour Homme (2011) it seems Mr. Dove didn't even try to pretend he wasn't ripping off classic perfumes, as he clearly remade one in every way except that the targeted Guerlain Héritage ironically smells more natural and "expensive" because it doesn't have any cashmeran or ambroxan in it (although new batches may contain polysantal because Mysore is all but gone from commercial perfume). My point is if you like this, just buy Héritage, and if you need better performance, you're in luck because Guerlain makes it in an eau de parfum as well! The parfum/extrait upgrade of Scandal Pour Homme does nothing to the scent besides somehow justify an even higher price for half the juice, so don't bother. All I can say here is Roja Parfums has some pretty neat stuff if your checkbook agrees with your nose, but Scandal Pour Homme surpasses even Tom Ford levels of cynicism with the way it fleeces the rich by reselling them their dad's cologne in a fancier bottle. Thumbs down.
23rd June, 2019

Lord Molyneux by Molyneux

Les Parfums Molyneux has existed as an entity outside the main fashion house of Molyneux for decades, since this house was something of a stop/start entity from its inception in 1919 until the retirement of Edward Molyneux in 1950. The house was revived as Studio Molyneux in 1964, but Edward died in 1974 before any masculine fragrances were made, although the cult classic Captain Molyneux (1975) was released the following year. Therefore, it's difficult to ascertain if any of the few Molyneux masculines were made with the style of the late namesake designer in mind, but outside the original Captain Molyneux, most have dwelt in the shadows of independent perfume shops for years even after discontinuation in some cases. Lord Molyneux (1988) was a long-awaited follow-up to the pioneering moss bomb that is the Captain, itself having presaged much of the early 80's style, while the Lord goes more into the Victorian revival style which had been gaining ground since the mid-80's. Lord Molyneux presents itself as an animalic floriental chypre/fougère hybrid, a powerhouse of considerable color but laid upon a darker palette, standing between the vivid nature of something like Lapidus Pour Homme (1987) and the gothic tones of Salvador Dali Pour Homme (1987). These values are married to the honeyed civet and patchouli of Boss/Boss Number One by Hugo Boss (1985) and the musky qualities of Balenciaga Ho Hang Club/Le Club de Balenciaga (1987) to make quite a character. I hate comparing this to so many other perfumes, but Lord Molyneux is such a Venn diagram of them that to describe it otherwise is impossible.

Lord Molyneux takes an approach to perfumery similar to some niche or prestige houses in the 21st century, being massively referential to a half-dozen influences to produce a chimera that either smells totally resplendent to the nose, or a gawd-awful cacophony of values. The top here shows a bergamot, lavender, and citron that seems inspired much by Guerlain Jicky (1889) and Mouchoir de Monsieur (1904), with mandarin sweetness and coriander spice added for a then-modern oriental touch. Clary sage and the souring effect of civet let you know where Lord Molyneux is headed, with a lactonic peach effect that recalls classic chypres like Guerlain Mitsouko (1919), but it doesn't stay in Guerlain worship land for long as the middle emerges. An indolic jasmine/rose core appears, dried by the clary sage some and similar in tone to Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet (1872) but crossed with the green geranium/rose tones of Aramis 900 (1973), is flanked with pimento and cardamom just a touch to keep it dark and dirty. A sandalwood, patchouli, and oakmoss base do most of the talking after this, with a honeyed skank reminiscent of the aforementioned Hugo Boss and Balenciaga masculines merging with musky labadnum and painted more seriously like the Dali, offering up a "dad's cologne" vibe of masculine aromatics next to the dandy florals and animalics, but with the machismo and flamboyance both kept on a tight leash by some late-stage vetiver and tonka. It's quite a ride from start to finish but performance is controlled rather than sporadic like some 80's powerhouses, with a moderate sillage throb that lasts 10+ hours. I imagine this was likely meant for romantic or formal use, so let's go with that.

Bottom line here is Lord Molyneux is an extremely blended example of what is otherwise a fairly clear-cut style of turn-of-the-century perfumery brought into 80' vogue. Fans of animalic floral masculines such as Monsieur Jovan (1977), Zino Davidoff (1986), Joint by Roccobarocco (1991) or even Tom Ford Noir (2012) will probably also like Lord Molyneux to some degree, and the stuff was made from 1988 (where it first appeared in a 4.2oz/125ml bottle identical to Captain Molyneux), until original distributor Sanolfi Beauté was acquired by Gucci and renamed YSL Beauté (from which point Parfums Berdoues picked up Molyneux and discontinued the Lord). Every different size variation had a different bottle shape, but I don't think Lord Molyneux underwent any significant changes because it was only made by Sanolfi and didn't survive Les Parfums Molyneux changing hands. This kind of scent was semi-niche even back in the 80's, and clearly lost to the rise of aquatics and fresh fougères, meaning this genre is by and large extinct or at least in the realm of high-end niche or artisanal perfumers only. Not many folks want cat butt rubbed in mossy florals and patchouli anymore, but if this kind of challenging eloquence and top hat-adorned gentleman on the bottle speak to you favorably, Lord Molyneux may be worth seeking out while enough of it survives in the wild. I'm crazy about "stinky" stuff like this, and it's honestly tame compared to some higher-end ouds out there, so Lord Molyneux has me written all over it and gets a thumbs up, but for everyone else looking into vintage styles without such animalic or extremely anachronistic quirks, this scent is probably best left in the eighties.
20th June, 2019 (last edited: 21st June, 2019)

Verveine / Verbena by L'Occitane

Verveine by L'Occitane (2003) is a pretty straightforward and sweet interpretation of verbena for the most part, so there won't be much to this review. Verbena can be processed a number of ways, but L'Occitane chose to present it with a sweet lemony top with a heavy geraniol and musk base, making it feel on par with many of the sweet 90's and early 2000's designers making the rounds at the time. I'm guessing this accounts for the stuff's enduring mainstream popularity in the shops, but it just doesn't do the job of being a refreshing scent as most verbena perfumes tend to be, at least in my humble opinion. Many limited edition flankers have also spawned off of this one, with several of them being better than this original take, but Verveine is certainly not the worst verbena scent in the world either.

Lemon oil and a slight mandarin orange open Verveine with a very dominant "lemon drops" accord which is in line with the gourmand craze of the period. Anyone who's had sugar-coated lemon drops as a kid already knows where I am with this assessment, but for those who don't, imagine a candied lemon furniture polish and you're getting close. The green verbena is paired to sharp petitgrain but the leafy feeling isn't enough to counteract the corner drugstore candy feeling, and the claimed rose/gernium (just straight geraniol to my nose) base amplifies the sweetness of the top, with the white musk holding it to skin. Wear time is a modest 6 hours but the scent can be a bit cloying in that time, so be careful. Usage by L'Occitane is in summer, but honestly I'd recommend the aptly-named Verveine Agrumes (2015) as a far superior option for a summer lemony verbena fragrance.

I'd normally say L'Occitane is good at communicating quality at their price point, especially in light of creations like Eau des Baux (2006) and Terre de Lumiere (2017), but some of their simpler compositions like Verveine feel rushed with cut corners or dialed in to capitalize on marketing an array of cosmetic products rather than be fragrances on their own that have accessories accompanying them. When they do this, L'Occitane remind us that despite their penchant for really tasteful perfumes, they're still ultimately a mall store on par with Aveda or The Body Shop. Of course, if you love lemon drops, you may love this as a daily showering companion or just as a cheap thrill, so test before taking my word for it. I wouldn't find Verveine offensive, but this is also an accord I'd never intentionally seek out, since I prefer my lemon verbena zesty. Solid neutral.
18th June, 2019

Intoxication by D'Orsay

Intoxication by D'Orsay (1938) is not a chypre which makes the rounds often, even in vintage enthusiast circles, and part of that reason is the house of D'Orsay overall doesn't get the same loving attention as other classic French perfume houses such as Guerlain or Houbigant. Part of this is because D'Orsay wasn't really an authentic French perfume house, since it was formed in 1908 by investors banking on the name of the long-dead Alfred Guillame Gabriel, a famous French Bonapartist dandy holding the title of Count D'Orsay, and the other part is that the majority of the perfumes made by the house were arguably also-rans living in the shadow of landmark releases from houses like Coty or Chanel. Truth be told, D'Orsay did technically become a legitimate French house when it was bought by perfumer Jeanne-Louise Guérin, who helped D'Orsay gain some credibility in the first few decades by making it a true family operation composing perfumes himself, then later getting cousin Jacques Guérin to design bottles while he too studied chemistry to compose perfumes for D'Orsay as well. Ultimately, they resorted to outsourcing perfumers like the esteemed Henri Robert and eventually bottle makers like Baccarat, making D'Orsay no different than the other big names in the perfume world in the early to mid 20th century, and then eventually fading into the background when they failed to truly stand out. Intoxication was launched in the eve of WWII, and was a powdery white floral chypre of the usual order with a chewy oakmoss base, undeniably classic but not cutting-edge enough to stand out, nor altogether different enough from a lot of things existing at the time to become an icon like Chypre de Coty (1917), Guerlain Mitsouko (1919), or Chanel No. 5 (1921). To me, this feels like a precursor to the later Eyvan White Shoulders (1945) and Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps (1948) with its focus on a clean white floral heart with a bitter base, but with everyone crazy about orientals and animalic perfumes by this point, the kind of conservatism Intoxication ironically represented wouldn't really come into vogue until after WWII had concluded.

Intoxication is a rather soapy and conservative perfume for something carrying such a name, but with a slightly-animalic undercurrent tacked onto a dry base as was the convention of the day, meaning it may still seem somewhat challenging to modern noses thoroughly unaccustomed to a stern perfume without sugar and fruit, but is comparatively casual for its day. The opening of Intoxication is pretty straightforward sour bergamot and mandarin with lemon, and a few zingy aldehydes but no fleshy golden florals to get in the way of the citrus, just a muted citrus that leads right into indolic rose and jasmine paired up with the contradiction of soapy neroli and a cocktail of muguet and ylang-ylang. Nutmeg sits right on the edge to keep things piquant, before the whole thing dries down to a powdery French savon accord with sandalwood, amber, smooth nitro musks, dry vetiver, buttery oakmoss, and a hint of skin growl with styrax. Intoxication has the kind of smell you've likely encountered before with old-fashioned luxury soaps, cremes, and powders, but here in direct perfume format, with tenacity and a dark density not found in any bath products laced with similar fragrance thanks to the chewy base Intoxication rests upon. It's all very nice, but sort of conventional, and probably a bit prim for fans of the aldehydic or leathery chypres making the rounds during this era, or even the grandiose "kitchen sink" orientals that preceded them. I tested a vintage eau de toilette, which really wears like an eau de parfum in terms of longevity, with sharp but not overbearing sillage for 3 hours then reducing to a powdery skin feel after 7 or so hours. This is painfully classic perfumery that goes on a little funky with crossed arms, then settles into something with hands folded in lap, so no suggested context for use in a modern setting unless you're around people who appreciate vintage style. I imagine something like this would have made the perfect office fragrance for a secretary or receptionist in a film noir. Intoxication is really anything but, and I've smelled something in this vein as recent as Avon Unspoken (1975), although Unspoken was much more severe in tone.

By the time perfumes like Intoxication became more accessible due to growing department store chains and strip malls, this style had been democratized so much in the beauty industry that is was no longer novel like it must have seemed in 1938 when D'Orsay bottled it, but I bet this stuff was a lot more popular in the 1960's with American "baby boomers" than anyone swinging into perfume shops during the 1930's when this launched. Intoxication just has that quiet "Suzie Homemaker" vibe to it and feels like something everyone's grandmother would have worn to church or family picnics, saving the wild stuff like Shocking by Elsa Schiaparelli (1938) for fun weekends with the hubby after the kids went to sleep. This isn't the golden floral glow of Patou Joy (1930) or the soap-meets-civet dance of something like Coty L'Aiment (1927), but just a chypre accord made "safe" by dialing up the powdery elements and white florals to Victorian levels of proper, and just a comfortable familiar-smelling perfume that was likely worn for that very reason by those who knew. I'd say this was one of the more-popular creations D'Orsay made in the early years, as evidenced by how long it was on the market and how much survives long after discontinuation, but Intoxication falls by the wayside in regards to hobbyist interest for being unremarkable outside of quality, like all but a few landmark D'Orsay perfumes. It's a shame really, as this house seemed to have tried so hard at becoming one of the big French greats, from its choice of historical namesake to the talent that has passed through its doors in the century-plus existence of the company (although Intoxication's nose is unknown), but still just manages to cling to the fringes of perception due to the curious association with the famous count. Granted, obscurity is still a more respectable fate than being farmed out into an umbrella holdings company, with all it's legacy perfumes watered down or killed off like with Coty. Thumbs up, but with admonition that this one is only for die-hard oakmoss chypre lovers.
17th June, 2019

Hypnotic Poison Eau de Toilette by Christian Dior

Hypnotic Poison (1998) was almost like an omen with the way it was released 13 years after the original controversial Dior Poison (1985), and sufficiently "cleaned up" the primary accord of the original to be something mass-appealing. Hypnotic Poison isn't the first flanker of the iconic original, as that honor goes to Tendre Poison (1994), but that green-focused variant didn't survive the changing times quite like the first version or this iteration, so a lot of people don't remember it. If the Jean Guichard-penned original seemed way too aggressive and out of place in a late 90's perfume market full of beige masculine freshies and sweet gourmand feminines, this new Annick Menardo-composed creation was just the fix Dior needed to keep relevant, furthered by the fact that the animalics and indolic florals in the recent new pillar Dune (1991) were almost seen like dinosaurs in an emerging synthetic era of perfumery. I'm not particularly a fan of what's going on under the hood of Hypnotic Poison, but I can understand why this equaled, then surpassed the popularity of its namesake pillar. Hypnotic Poison presents itself as a sort of bready gourmand floral with sweet bakery elements on top of a scrubbed and pared-down version of the original Poison's core.

Hypnotic Poison is nowhere near as complex of a perfume compared to the original, but it neither does it try to be as serious. A smell almost like almond flour opens Hypnotic Poison, joined by caraway and lemon, creating an accord similar to the Dutch sugar cookies we sometimes get around Christmas time. From this very confectionery-like introduction comes sweet jasmine sambac mostly scrubbed of the indole, and a hit of an oakmoss/tonka tandem, giving Hypnotic Poison almost a Fougère-like interpretation of the signature Poison aesthetic, freed from the dark macerated fruit elements. There is something of an inferred cherry accord thanks to the almond, but once the rich base comes into the picture, the fougère comparisons fade while vanilla, white patchouli. musk, amber, and rosewood form an oriental base. Hypnotic Poison stays mostly in its gourmand lane from there on out, with the oriental riff underneath preventing the final skin scent from being too sickeningly sweet but still a bit too warm and wholesome for my comfort. I see why Hypnotic Poison was a breakout hit in the 90's, as it tapped perfectly into that bubbly "valley girl" feigned naivety that was popular at the time, and parodied by films like Clueless. Wear time is all day and although this doesn't have the frighteningly never-ending sillage of "OG" Poison, it can actually get cloying more quickly if you're within its field of effect.

If you like almond fragrances, sweet creamy gourmands, or anything that is generally pleasant and inviting, Hypnotic Poison is your perfume. Almost at the opposite end of the spectrum from Poison, this flanker seems to be more of the deceptively disarming type of succubus versus the dark, terrifying-yet-beautiful she-demon that is the original. The person who wears Poison wants you to know they mean business, but someone using Hypnotic Poison would rather sneak up on you after setting you at ease. It's just not a vibe I like because if you had given me a sample of this without showing me the bottle or the name, I'd just assume I was smelling another late 90's or early 2000's gourmand and would just wave it on, but this thing carries the Poison mantle for crying out loud! Still, Hypnotic Poison can obviously go places that regular Poison cannot, like to work or to casual events, but I'd still avoid warmer weather, even more with this one than the first due to the baked cookie opening. Give this a test if the old grande dame that is Poison just comes across as too much to take, although you're not getting a whole lot of what made that scent so unique here, but rather just a slightly-spicy toasted almond gourmand riding on the back of something else's reputation. It's not bad, but once again, I can't really get behind it. Solid neutral.
16th June, 2019

Sikkim Girls by Gorilla Perfume

Well well well! This is quite an amusing little indolic blast in a bottle! Sikkim Girls by Gorilla Perfumes [Lush] (2012) is another example of the classic Lush style of simple, rough-hewn "hippy chic" artisanal style with equal parts counter-culture cred and commercial accessibility. Granted, the 100ml sizes from this house enter the niche realm, but the parfum/extrait concentration used for most makes the 30ml more than adequate. In this case, the lovely tongue-in-cheek wordplay of "Sikkim Girls" translates perfectly to the attitude of the fragrance, which represents a floriental style pared down from the usual "kitchen sink" note pyramids of the classic French examples, focusing on what makes the genre so good. Still, Sikkim Girls clocks in with eight listed notes so I guess this one really isn't too much of a fundamentalist wonder after all.

Frangipani and a very indolic jasmine open Sikkim Girls, with a breath of sexy skin smell coming in soon behind as tuberose slips in through the back door. For those familiar with frangipani, it used to be the name of a synthetic single-note perfume created by a man of the same name in Italy, to resemble plumeria. Real plumeria smells altogether dissimilar, but folks do refer to the muskier forms of the flower as "frangipani" regardless. Sikkim Girls is as close to a women's Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent (1981) as it gets in that regard, but doesn't have the sharp fougère elements. The heart of tuberose mixes with some clove and a bit of geranium to pull this into a musky unisex direction as the base of coumarin, sandalwood, and vanilla finish things off. If you love frangipani and all things indolic, this is for you. Wear time is stellar as usual, and sillage adequate. I find Sikkim Girls best for the evening or colder months, but what you do is up to you. My only complaint if any would be that this accord is rather linear with little change after 30 minutes, but what it settles into is perfectly seductive.

People who liked the raunch of Lust by Gorilla Perfumes [Lush] (2010) but not the utter simplicity, can look to Sikkim Girls as the answer, and the stuff has this really naughty vibe without the outright skank of an animalic note such as civet or hyraceum. Who said you can't conjure up an animalic virility with only vegetal ingredients? Lush certainly made sure that argument holds no water. In any case, there really isn't much else to tell with Sikkim Girls other than it's source inspiration involving a musician being seduced by a pair of them in Darjeeling, as this is a rather simple perfume outside of the marketing. Lush will always be frowned upon by tastemakers for being the "L'Occitane of artisanal of perfume" since the Constantines craft these by hand with no formal training but then semi-mass produce them for their organic cosmetics chain, but for those without a monocle and top hat shoved up their arse, these are just sheer fun in a bottle. Get on down to a Lush and test you some! Thumbs up!

14th June, 2019

Poison by Christian Dior

Dior Poison (1985) is a perfume for ladies who needed to absolutely blow the doors off when they made an entrance, and for some guys who wanted to leave a scandalous trail too. While not explicitly unisex, Poison has both intimidation and allure that defies gender, to the point where it was infamously banned from some restaurants in the 1980's when launched. Previously, only Giorgio Beverly Hills (1981) had received that notoriety, but moreso for volume than tone. Poison is an altogether different beast; this perfume envelops a space, subverts the atmosphere, and changes the mood of everyone present, and like actual poison, can corrupt or destroy those unable to withstand it. Dior Poison is technically an oriental, but has so many dark, fruity, floral, and green aspects that it is truly abstract. The perfume became quite ubiquitous in its heyday despite its controversial nature, and although nowadays it's still rather recognizable, Poison has becoming something of a rare bird of prey among the pigeons that are both the current market and its many flankers.

Poison opens with a spicy dark melange of orange blossom, plum, and rosewood. Mace, coriander, anise and pimento give this dark fruity floral a fathomless rounded feel for which Poison would become known, while the woody tones in the top prevent sweetness from overtaking. The heart is a dense kitchen sink of indole, honey, and cinnamon, with jasmine and rose performing their usual duties alongside muguet and a well-concealed tuberose, adding a dirty skin feel accentuated by blackberry and pasty labdanum. Each tier of this perfume could almost be a whole perfume unto itself, such is the complexity here, but the final woody and animalic resting place of amber, opoponax, sandalwood, cedar, and musk is what keeps Poison pulsing all night. The plum and blackberries in particular give a sort of wilted fruit accord that flits and flickers through the florals, spice, and woods, which make the "poison apple" design of the bottle all the more appropriate. Sillage and longevity are incalculable, so don't try to wear Poison casually, because perfumer Jean Guichard made sure it won't let you. This stuff always has been and always shall be divisive, so no context for appropriate use is given. If you have to ask if you should wear Poison, then you shouldn't.

Poison to me feels like oneupmanship against Coco Chanel (1984), which itself was a reaction to perfumes in general becoming more virile into the 80's after an early period of mega-mossy fougères or stiff leathers for guys, plus extremely dense tuberose florals and sharp green chypres for women leading out of the 70's. Perfume overall was increasingly daring and rising in a fever pitch towards utter pandemonium of excess by decade's end, which makes the "fresh" olfactive reset button into the 90's all the more disappointing to enthusiasts who lived it. Poison however, seemed to whether this change gracefully at first, earning flankers that have extended its stay. One such flanker, Hypnotic Poison (1998), has proved more popular than the original, albeit not more challenging or iconic. I really like Poison for its "forbidden fruit" vibe, and although it lays heavier than a drum of lead, I could see anyone who is genderfluid pull this off with the same ease, just not in an office space, a casual setting, or as history has shown, a restaurant. Test if feeling tempted, and wear if you dare... Thumbs up.
14th June, 2019

Gucci Guilty Cologne by Gucci

Gucci has been taking some creative risks under new leadership to steer itself away from the samey corporate nadir it was starting to suffer after leaving the LVMH umbrella, in an attempt to avoid the fate it would otherwise share with Parfums Yves Saint Laurent, another former LVMH house brand that moved on under new ownership. The creative director responsible for Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Homme (2017) is also responsible for this flanker, Gucci Guilty Cologne Pour Homme (2019), bringing back Alberto Morillas as well to have more creative control with the brief than he is usually allowed by other design houses whom hire him. Naturally, Alberto Morillas has become known as quite a prolific perfumer, but with half of that profile earned due to his whipping boy status within the industry, delivering exactly what clients ask for to the letter (in recent years doing so with the assistance of AI), he is not so trusted of a choice among enthusiasts anymore. Computer help or not, Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Homme showed Morillas can still be creatively provocative if allowed, and I feel the same intent is present with the creation of Gucci Guilty Cologne Pour Homme. As the name suggests, this is a lightweight fresh fragrance meant for appropriate use where something like this would perform better than a heavier ambroxan clubber or woody amber perfume like the kind this house has issued throughout the years prior.

Gucci Guilty Cologne Pour Homme doesn't rely on traditional neroli accords, aquatic aromachemicals, or dry herbal citrus compositions like most modern freshies, although it does contain a hit of bergamot in the opening, but instead leads into a sweet-ish juniper-focused white floral bouquet that will not be of mass appeal. The juniper is rather dominant despite being a top note, and will carry all the way into the final dry down, so people not fond of the note should take heed when testing. A softened violet heart rounded by heliotrope comprise this bouquet, dried by only a bit of rosemary and what appears to be the "clearwood" captive from Firmenich. Similar to other synthetic wood notes but not dark or scratchy, it provides the carrier wave for the florals without adding weight, being listed as a "cypress" note. I suppose in an interpretive way this does feel rather like a chypre of sorts (from the "cypress"), but then the white musk, denatured white patchouli, and Iso E Super come in to cream up then polish this into a "men's Apres L'Ondée (1906)" white floral vibe before becoming something which lingers when the sun goes down. Sillage is not powerful but longevity is sufficient enough for daytime casual use. Gucci Guilty Cologne Pour Homme is too dandy for the office with its unisex-leaning powdery floral composition, but I also feel it is too synthetic for the kinds of people who in theory root for these creative experiments within the designer realm.

Let's face it: the kind of perfume buyers wishing designers took more risks like this also wish real sandalwood, oakmoss, and other absolutes were still used, and they can meet all of their requirements either in pricey vintages or even pricier niche, with no respect given to use of captives like "clearwood" or "timbersilk" no matter how clever. Likewise, the "dudebros" who are okay with synthetics but too concerned with compliments and towing the line with popular style wouldn't appreciate the artistic exercise here, and unlike Gucci Guilty Absolute Pour Homme, this cologne flanker isn't challenging enough to attract the "bold statement" guys either. The people who will appreciate this most are the inbetweeners that don't choose to align with either the "Hatfields" or "McCoys" of the fragrance community, but are still better-versed than the general buying public. These are guys who wear feminine perfumes when agreeable, modern bottles of vintage scents where adequate, niche scents where a good deal is had, and designer fare where the experience outweighs whatever clout losses they may face admitting they like a populist perfume to their "fraghead" pals. If that's you, and you want a fresh fragrance that won't smell like a million bucks but also won't smell like anything else, Gucci Guilty Cologne Pour Homme has you covered. My approval will likely be a minority voice, but I still give it a thumbs up.
12th June, 2019

Light Blue Eau Intense pour Homme by Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme (2017) smells every bit as I expected considering it is: A) Yet another flanker of a popular line the house seems intent on milking to death rather than put out something new; B) Yet another phoned-in composition from one of the most-talented yet seemingly over-booked and under-utilized perfumers in the industry; C) Yet another by-the-numbers aquatic in an ocean of such scents stretching all the way back to when Davidoff Cool Water (1988) set the standard. This isn't to say Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme isn't competent, since if nothing else, Alberto Morillas is a master of delivering exactly what is asked of his clients, but competence in the field of fresh masculine aquatics isn't a high mark since they're so narrowly-defined. In other words: This kind of fragrance is really hard to screw up so the challenge is to bring something unique to the table, but asking a designer to take risks with a staple line in a staple genre is like asking McDonald's to take risks with their Big Mac. Suffice it to say I find this flanker acceptable, but not in the least bit interesting, which is slightly more than what I thought of the original Light Blue Pour Homme (2007), but not enough for me to wear or recommend.

Morillas seemingly did the least bit possible to intensify the original Light Blue Pour Homme he composed into something only a bit stronger. Considering how "light" the original was, this "Eau Intense" is more like "Eau Normale" or what the original should have been. I'm not the biggest fan of "frozen" citrus notes, and it's a trick designers seemingly lifted from Avon of all places, as they started putting menthol and/or camphor in several of their early 2000's aquatics like Peak Zone (2002) to be a little different from the Nautica (1992) and Polo Sport (1992) clones that littered the market up until that point. Alberto Morillas does so here, placing a chilled grapefruit with tart mandarin front and center, then leads into a simple heart of "salted" dihydromyrcenol and juniper. This marine accord existed in the original Light Blue Pour Homme, but it was never the focus, and here it rules with an iron fist without any herbal accompaniment. An "amberwood" accord which is definitely that scratchy ambroxide/norlimbanol combo made famous by Dior Sauvage (2015) comprises the base, but rounded with white laundry musk and shined with Iso E Super into a less-jarring warmth. Clinical oceanic freshness that lasts all day but surprisingly doesn't boom from skin is what you get here, making Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme the safe choice for the boyfriend who doesn't like "wearing cologne".

This is meant for summer, but unlike the extremely interesting and well-made Light Blue Pour Homme Sun (2019), doesn't explicitly scream "summertime" and really doesn't communicate anything, nor will really stand out anymore. The brutal honesty is there are so many fragrances (including Cool Water) spread across 30+ years of history for the aquatic genre littering every shelf from Neiman Marcus down to Ross and even the Dollar Tree that there is absolutely no reason anyone would buy this at sticker price. A more-intense version of Light Blue Pour Homme could be had by simply spraying more, plus the accords in Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme are so dreadfully tired and generic that only a 16-year-old would find this exciting (and probably from brand cachet alone), so I'm really not sure who the marketing team thought wanted this. Yet another reason why I think D&G's creative director is asleep at the wheel, or so conservative that they think spicy mayonnaise on a sandwich will cause a scandal, Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme is the kind of gym locker Kool-Aid drivel that drives more guys away from the designer counters and into the arms of niche/prestige houses than towards, and who'd gladly pay triple for a re-creation of their dad's aftershave if it meant escape from the mundane options set before them. Neutral
11th June, 2019