Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Zealot Crusader

Total Reviews: 413

Cristalle Eau de Toilette by Chanel

Henri Robert's final act as second house perfumer for Chanel was to merge the green chypre genre he helped sharpen and redefine by making Chanel No. 19 (1971), with the emerging fruity floral genre that would slowly come to dominate women's perfume in the next decade. That's not to say Cristalle (1974) is all that fruity by modern standards, and is actually fairly sharp, dry, with that "pencil shavings" accord so common in feminine chypres anchored by cedar and/or pine in the base, being a sobering evolution of what fruity floral chypres like Fidji by Guy Laroche (1966) started by adding more green and aromatic tones. Jacomo Silences (1978) would push into this bitterness further, while downmarket dreamers like Avon Emprise (1976) would merge ideas present in Cristalle with heavier amounts of oakmoss and white florals, although the next logic leap wouldn't arrive until Calyx by Prescriptives (1987) showed up over a decade later. Cristalle differentiates itself further from most other green floral chypres not just by its fruity opening, but also the seriousness of its presentation, thanks to a cold finish devoid of musk or amber. Chanel No. 19 was more of a personal gift to Coco Chanel anyway, even if it was released publicly upon her death, so Cristalle would really mark the first major feminine perfume created explicitly for public consumption in the 1970's, and something of a swan song for Robert, who passed the torch to Givaudan alum and brief perfumer for YSL, Jacques Polge. Cristalle is also the only Chanel women's perfume still being sold in the iconic metal-rimmed 100ml "column bottle" that many Chanels came in during the 70's and 80's (including masculines).

Cristalle is a very fitting name for this fragrance, which uses juicy citrus and sharp galbanum to introduce hedionic florals on a crisp woods/moss base. Cristalle is a simple and elegant creation, personifying the "liberated women" aesthetic Coco started with her fashion sense before WWII and reignited in the 50's after dubious involvement with German occupiers. Bergamot, Sicilian lemon, and galbanum opens Cristalle, and it's a fruity tart opening which echos the feminine perfume sentiment of the decade: a "tomboyish" mix of mossy greens with floral and/or fruit values to "femininize" them. Cristalle isn't entirely original in this presentation, with Revlon and Lauder beating Chanel to the punch, but Cristalle pairs down the aesthetic with it's minimalism of notes. Jasmine hedione and hyacinth come after the top, with a bit of rosewood to smooth it over, and this is the main feminine character of Cristalle. Oakmoss, cedar, labdanum, and vetiver bring back the crisp masculine green edge of the opening, with the pencil shavings accord mentioned above forever pegging Cristalle as a 70's creation to the trained nose, but it's a stark, lightweight construct without any warming fixatives or oriental notes, faring better in modern company than many of the heavier green chypres from the period, plus seems generalist enough for all seasons outside deep cold, and all occasions outside maybe romantic ones or extremely formal affairs. Cristalle is very commanding in the office space due to its dry personality, so you might want to be easy on the trigger unless you're the boss.

I think the thing which damns Cristalle the most to modern noses is how emotionally "cold" it is, as if Henri Robert was trying to infuse the "happy" fruity floral chypre feeling of something like Revlon Charlie (1973) with the notoriously unfeeling, feisty, judgemental nature of Coco Chanel late in her life. This coldness is also what gives Cristalle some unisex potential in the 21st century, as many intentionally-unisex perfumes marry dry and serious "masculine" notes to generally upbeat fruit and floral notes seen as "feminine" in a chemical-assisted genderfluid olfactive ballet. Here in Cristalle, a man (CIS or trans) may have a bit of difficulty with the "girly" jasmine/hyacinth heart of the scent, but the rest of the paint-by-numbers chypre construction of the stuff is pretty genderless. Modern women with clearly-defined feminine sensibilities will likewise find much difficulty with the galbanum, vetiver, and cedar bitterness in Cristalle, but Jacques Polge came to the rescue of modern ladies twice with Cristalle Parfum (1993) and Cristalle Eau Verte (2009), which added more fruit and florals to the frame of the original, respectively. Cristalle is a fitting transitional fragrance for the house, marrying Coco's serious aesthetic with the more sensual one the house would develop in the coming years, and is in general a great versatile chypre that has survived the times well (although mossier vintages are better), but with a "crystalline" stoicism which keeps a bit of Coco's intimidating spirit alive posthumously. Definitely a test-first fragrance, but particularly enjoyable for fans of sharper scents that don't rely on chemical "freshness". Thumbs up!
10th December, 2018

Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare by Creed

Creed Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare (2000) often gets confused with Fleurs de Bulgarie (1980) because both are centered around rose, but while the latter is more in the Damask vein with green elements like galbanum to sharp it some, Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare is decidely more old-fashioned with a focus on tea rose over ambergris. Creed doesn't produce pre-filled atomizers of this like most of their popular lines, so you'll have to go whole hog and buy a 250ml flacon, which isn't a ton more expensive than what Creed normally retails for, but to those who never usually pay retail for their Creed, poses a considerable investment. The story behind Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare is similar to Fleurs de Bulgarie as well: a rich woman during the Victorian age writes whichever Creed patriarch was supposedly running the boutique at the time, asking for a realization of her experience with roses afer a honeymoon abroad in Europe. The key difference between this and the claimed original 1875 "vintage" version of Fleurs de Bulgarie is that the latter was supposedly commissioned by Queen Victoria herself, while this was commissioned by a former First Lady of the United States, which history does not corroborate since no US president from that era ever took a spouse on a honeymoon in Europe anywhere near the year given for the release of Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare. My opinion is that Creed gets a bit rosy-cheeked (pun intended) about its own in-house floral absolutes, and loves to tinker with them every so many years, which is why there are so many "fleur or fleurs this or that" in their catalog to begin with, and it's this interest in experimenting that gives them their one legitimate connection to the niche perfume world.

Nonetheless, Creed's penchant for historical re-writes don't deride the quality of this scent, even if the 2000 date of "re-release" is really just its actual debut year. Whether historical re-creation or just an homage to the style of the period, Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare is an extremely naked representation of rose, and even more naked than Fleurs de Bulgarie, Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose (1973), or L'Ombre dans L'Eau by Diptyque (1983), which are among some of the most pure treatments of the flower I've smelled. Tea rose is carried over a dry cloud of bergamot, lemon, and mandarin hesperides. This trifecta of unsweetened citrus keeps the rose bouyant without adding too much else to it, although a small puff of Chinese green tea adds a delicate botanical facet which implies a garden more softly than the usual galbanum note would. A touch of jasmine hedione is also present, which further argues the credibility of the 1890 claim as hedione wasn't chemically isolated from jasmine until Edmond Roudnitska started using it widely in the mid 20th century. The base is ambergris, pure and simple. Some doubt Creed still handles and mascerates their own ambergris anymore, and while it is likely cut with high-quality synthetics in more-mainstream releases like Aventus (2010), here ambergris is present in all its harsh, pungent glory. You won't find ambroxan glow or norlimbanol scratchiness here, nor the syrupy composite "amber" note that many confuse for a proxy of ambergris. In fact, the ambergris itself is so strong and unfettered under the rose that it is the most challenging aspect of Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare. If this was worn at the turn of the 20th century, it must have been one Hell of a serious entrance.

A rose this pure, this dry, and this emboldened by the earthy smell of ambergris is not one that will find an appropriate context in the 21st century, yet Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare is Creed's best-selling Private Collection formula undoubtedly for the quality of such a presentation. This is a true rose lover's experience but even as a rose nut myself, I cannot say this is anywhere near a Holy Grail for the genre. People who like rose will be tested by its directness, and people who hate rose will subsequently hate you on days you wear this around them, as Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare is about as unapologetic a rose fragrance as it gets without dipping into rose oud combos from the Middle East. The price this commands, the difficulty in procuring it, and the nuisance of needing to decant it into atomizers yourself (which Creed will be glad to sell you separately for a premium), means that I can only recommended Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare to the hardest of the hardcore among either Creed or rose fans, but it is a wonderfully fundamental rose ambergris perfume all that notwithstanding. Rose is usually unisex to my nose, although conventional men used to their aquatic citrus woods and amber tonka stuff will probably find this girly, but decants are sold online for the exceptionally curious. Phoney history or not, Creed always knows its way around florals, and its representations of rose are always impressive, just not always the friendliest. Thumbs up!
08th December, 2018

Tom Ford Noir Extreme by Tom Ford

Tom Ford Noir Extreme (2015) feels like a direct marketing department response to the critical reaction a lot of us had to Tom Ford Noir (2012), which itself holds generally favorable opinions across the board but was definitely more of a slow burner in sales (although it has slowly gained more acceptance). Most of the Tom Ford Signature line on the male side had been received with unanimous praise and robust sales, while Tom Ford Noir's milder success can be attributed to a mixed level of indifference similar to the more-expensive and niche-level Private Blend line, but without as big of a profit margin to mitigate concern. Much of this had to do with what Tom Ford Noir was: a civeted rose "floriental" chypre for men released to the mainstream that has only been attempted a scant few times in modern history outside maybe the turn of the 20th century, which made it come across boring and dated at best, or jarringly animalic at worst to people who were generally cool with Tom Ford's "old school" vibe but were not expecting that big of a nostalgia trip. Olivier Gillotin did good work on it but when Tom Ford Noir Extreme was created to expand the line, pefumer Sonia Constant was brought in to tinker and modernize the theme. She's worked for everyone from Avon to Zara and like Ann Gottlieb, knows her way around a target market. Sonia transformed the Noir accord from Victorian-nodding floriental chypre to oriental/gourmand hybrid, putting Tom Ford Noir Extreme right in the pocket with scents like Burberry London for Men (2006) or even Avon Intrigue (2001) with it's dark floral tea and spice.

Tom Ford Noir Extreme opens with a huge hit of cardamom, enough to actually tinge the nose at first. This cardamom salvo is soon smoothed down with nutmeg and sweet mandarin, but at first I feel like I'm taking the cardamom version of the "cinnamon challenge" (look it up if you don't know the reference). Neroli and saffron continue to sweeten and smooth this spice attack more, but I feel like it's a bit too much sweetening because when the rose and jasmine show up in the middle, Tom Ford Noir Extreme takes on a faux-cherry cough syrup kind of atmosphere which puts me off. Mastic is a love-or-hate note which can come across like pistachio or the candy shell of a malted milk ball depending on how it's used, and Calvin Klein Reveal Man (2014) was just barely able to pull it off thanks to no less than 3 perfumers. I don't feel the mastic works well here, and gums up an already-syrupy middle phase. A black tea note sits on top a really generic "amberwoods" synthetic cop-out base, and Tom Ford is usually good at avoiding the "mall accord" at its price point, but I guess that's just what research told the firm they needed to make if they wanted to sell tons of bottles. There's vanilla and sandalwood to reassert the core oriental experience, but that mastic gourmand uneasiness continues to flit about, which is staved off from ruining the scent only by the tea note. This only comes in eau de parfum, so expect all-day wear with tight sillage best for winter use and clubbing thanks to the sweetness.

Tom Ford Noir Extreme feels like it's trying to channel the Noir formula through that 2000's sweet ambery gourmand style, loses all of its antique charm (likely on purpose), and aims for the Sir Dude of McBroheim target that will spend over $150 for a fragrance but isn't quite ready to smell like they do (which is also where Parfums de Marly makes bank). I don't think Tom Ford typically makes it a career goal to fleece the rich by selling false confidence, so I won't put the house in league with Parfums de Marly, even if I can't give this a thumbs up because it smells of generic ambroxan and norlimbanol mixed with Earl Grey tea and Robitussin. All meaning of brand value is ironically lost when the base notes of Tom Ford Noir Extreme mix with the Le Mâle (1994), 1 Million (2008), and Eros (2013) clouds wafting off of other drunk paper-pushers in the VIP club nearest you, but every house is bound to concede to trend now and then when they need a quick cash stimulus, with Tom Ford Noir Extreme overshadowing Tom Ford Noir to become a huge staple seller at the counters for just that reason. Everyone at Nordstrom tries to sell me this over Tom Ford for Men (2007), Grey Vetiver (2009) or any of the Private Blend selections, so what does that say? Tom Ford Noir Extreme is certainly no travesty but I've smelled too much in this genre that's done better for less money, and would steer somebody into Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L'Homme (2009) before dropping stacks of cash on this.
04th December, 2018 (last edited: 05th December, 2018)
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Tom Ford Noir by Tom Ford

Tom Ford is the one higher-end designer house that I feel sees the most indifference in the fragrance community from their selections than any other, with most of this indifference coming from male colognoisseurs. I can totally see why, as he brings little innovation to the table making a living by mostly doing personal takes on his own favorite past perfumes for LVMH or mucking with classic styles, and I have been indifferent about a great many of them myself, but I can respect what is trying to be accomplished in most of them. Tom Ford has always been fascinated by older perfumes, something he shares in common with the nostalgic albeit pompous Roger "Roja" Dove. Tom Ford, like Roja Dove, makes some modern things but by and large likes reinventing the wheels first cast by perfumes that came before, but unlike Roja Dove, Ford doesn't fold in a nauseating degree of decorum or adorn bottles with gold-plated crystal-studded caps to justify a price beyond reason (even if his lines are a bit pricey). Tom Ford seems to prefer chypre and oriental compositions for men, but Tom Ford Noir (2012) is a little more complex than that. I'd call this a male floriental, which for those who know what a floriental is, probably sounds fascinatingly anachronistic or a disaster in a bottle. Luckily, I find Tom Ford Noir to be the former, but trying to "man up" a heady and near-extinct genre is going to be divisive in the 21st century. If ever there was an example of "try before you buy" from the house of Tom Ford, this would be it, as the development is long and top notes here do not indicate the majority of the scent's personality in a full wear, which is a trait it shares with the classic perfume genre Tom Ford Noir emulates.

Some folks say Tom Ford Noir is the male Guerlain Shalimar (1925), but there's no tonka or fougère-like structure under Tom Ford Noir, nor any of the glamorous atmosphere. If anything, Tom Ford Noir is closer to Jicky (1889) with its shockingly animalic display of civet and florals, but even then, this is a real stretch. In my opinion, perfumer Olivier Gillotin (a Tom Ford favorite) follows a train of thought last seen in action with the oddball Joint by Roccobarocco (1993), presenting civeted rose on a semi-oriental vanillic chypre bed and trying to make it masculine. The primary difference is the older and much more obscure Joint features the rose and civet prominently, while Tom Ford Noir adds more spices and amber to the equation to make the overall scent more complex. Vintage perfume aficionados who are fans of the rare civeted rose masculine should take note here, as the basic structure is bergamot, verbena, and violet up top, Bulgarian rose, geranium, and soapy iris spiced with nutmeg and black pepper in the middle, then civet, vanilla, amber, and opoponax with an IFRA-compliant sprig of oakmoss garnish in the base. Overall, this is a spicy, soapy civeted rose and vanilla scent that is very "fashionably out of fashion" like a lot of feminine Tom Fords, and pitched to men, which makes it highly unusual for its style. Sillage is more subtle in the EdP, but longevity is better than the subsequent EdT version that saw release a year later, which has a louder top but fades fast. This feels most appropriate in a romantic setting because of the animalics, but if you want a Tom Ford Noir for the office, there are flankers in the line which may suit better. Also, Tom Ford Noir is best in colder climates, due to its thick oriental base lines.

Fans of the long-discontinued Joint by Roccobarocco should really try Tom Ford Noir, and the modern dandies still prancing around will also find favor in Tom Ford Noir, but few others will see value in it. The civet note is very noticeable in Tom Ford Noir, which was of great surprise to me and made me do a double-take on the release year, but sure enough, this is a 2010's designer release with an animalic focus. Whoever said traditional perfumery is completely dead has never smelled this. Tom Ford Noir Extreme (2015) would be a more modern mainstream take on the style, removing half of the florals and the civet to cut out the animalic and dandy elements which probably scared more new buyers than they enticed, and became more popular by being approachable to the average modern nose as a result of the trim. Tom Ford Noir Anthracite (2017) would move in a bizzare early 80's mega-butch powerhouse direction, creating something appropriately dry and harsh like the coal in its title. I feel like Ford may be visiting different decades with each new entry of the Noir series, but I could be wrong. The original Tom Ford Noir is a good seller despite its irreverence for trend, remaining a department store staple at Tom Ford counters; it still feels the most daring too, despite being the quietest of the trio, and reminds me a lot of Avon Charisma (1970), that soapy civeted floral feminine wonder which has practically become transgender in the 21st century thanks to all its now-masculine "clean and green" elements which at the time were fashionable for ladies. I think Tom Ford Noir directly relates as a male take on this door-to-door cheapie classic more than any other feminine perfume, although many Tom Ford fans won't make that connection since they can't be bothered with cheap perfume, let alone vintage cheapies. It's okay Tom, I can keep a secret if you can. Thumbs up!
03rd December, 2018

Y Eau de Parfum by Yves Saint Laurent

I utterly hated Y by Yves Saint Laurent (2017), as it represented everything that was wrong with the state of masculine designer perfumery. Dominique Ropion has seemingly come back to fix what he broke with Y Eau de Parfum (2018), and although I still think the fragrance is a very phoned-in designer juice, I actually like it now. Wowee.. what a difference a few minor tweaks can make. The thing I hated most about Y by Yves Saint Laurent was the scratchy, itchy, powdery semi-marine 90's fougère top emulating Nautica (1992) or Azzaro Chrome (1996), stretched over a laboratory of aromachemicals and the fashionable ambroxan/norlimbanol base. The smell of this combination felt like a perfume composed in a La-Z-Boy recliner at Dominique Ropion's home, as if he was surfing Netflix while scribbling notes on how to make the fastest buck for the house who commissioned him. The end result to me comes across like the embodiment of every adulteration designer perfume has embraced since the beginning of the 1990's; every sin committed, every cheap cop-out, every stylistic boor, every pastiche cliche of consumerist culture and shopping mall blah since the rise of the aquatic and fresh fougère compounded into one Antichrist of a masculine fragrance, signalling Armageddon on the perfume counters of department stores everywhere. Y by Yves Saint Laurent was so trashy and basic that it should have been a guest on Jerry Springer. We're talking not one, but multiple generations of cost-cutting BS crammed into one anathema de toilette for men. Granted, it's perfectly dialed-in for the brainless "my girlfriend likes it" CISHET upper middle-class American code monkey suburbanite you'll likely find these days in California, Washington, Northern Virginia, and New York, since they have to smell respectable while waiting in line for their Tesla Model 3 reservation to be completed, while their vapid significant others take duckface selfies on Instagram and chat about the latest Real Housewives episodes, but I digress. Y Eau de Parfum is the first real competition the Bleu de Chanel dynasty has had since 2010, and this is in light of all the BdC flankers as well, since all the other "me too" compositions from other houses in the wake of the watershed Chanel masculine have been too contrived, boring, or different in tone to be real contenders.

The things that turn around the cultural and olfactory trainwreck that is Y by Yves Saint Laurent and into something palatable are improvements in tone and texture. Most of the note pyramid is otherwise left alone, but the few key things that made the original so irritating are removed, to be replaced by notes which help the rest of the perfume make more sense, or that's how I see it anyway. Y Eau de Parfum doesn't try to be a crappy new-age aquatic-ish candied amber fresh fougère "everyone please like me" all-in-one generational stopgap focus group hot mess like Y by Yves Saint Laurent. Instead, this draws a line in the sand and leand towards nightclub-friendly "fresh oriental" tones, which opens up a whole new can of worms since a lot of people hate clubber scents, but I'd much rather smell Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008), Versace Eros (2013), or Azzaro Wanted by Night (2018) over the midlife crisis jus that is Y by Yves Saint Laurent. At least with Y Eau de Parfum, Dominique Ropion focuses the camera lens on one specific purpose, trading out the phoney aldehydes in the bergamot ginger top for apple, which makes the scent instantly more comoforable and inviting for nightlife. The middle sees the sage and geranium of the original rounded out by juniper instead of the shrill violet leaf of the original. The overall effect by the midpoint of the wear is a modern sweetness which is still an acquired taste, but one that doesn't require selling your soul like the original release. By the base, the blue-hued sweetness of Y Eau de Parfum pulls away from any comparisons to the heavy-handed Eros or Wanted by Night since it takes a dialed-down play from the Bleu de Chanel (2010) playbook, which is perhaps the only use of "amberwoods" that has ever truly been accepted by hobbyists, made all the more amusing because it is the first significant use of the accord anyway. If Ropion was emulating the work of Jacques Polge, he did a good job, as cedar, cashmeran, ambroxan, and olibdanum mix with more-traditional fougère elements like tonka, vetiver, and a pinch of oakmoss. Y Eau de Parfum still may not redeem itself in the eyes of niche or vintage zealots, but it's the new pillar release that Y by Yves Saint Laurent should have been, and stands strong as a unique entry in a popular style, rather than previous Frankenstein's monster of aromachemicals encompassing three decades of boring to the point of offensiveness. Wear time will vary but this is over the 10 hour mark and is softer in sillage than the original EdT as well.

Like with Sauvage Eau de Parfum (2018), Y Eau de Parfum atones for the sins of its opportunistic EdT predecessor, while retaining a familiar personality for fans who enjoyed it, but refined into something that has more artistic merit and validity in the greater scheme of perfume history. Fans of Creed or Xerjoff will still hate this, and fans of long-dead overpriced vintage Patou or Gucci masculines will still call this a lapdog of Satan in a bottle, but Y Eau de Parfum at least takes the "amberwoods powerhouse" trope of the 2010's in a more aromatic and pleasant direction. I don't mind aromachemicals if they're blended skillfully into a fragrance, but I don't like it when they assault my nose with impunity and come across like somebody is trying to cast the widest net to reel in the largest haul of suckers. I have to work with those people, and they fog up the bathrooms and elevators enough as it is with over-application, so they can at least wear something that feels friendly and interesting to the nose. People who weren't convinced with Y by Yves Saint Laurent but who dig modern designer styles should give this a sniff, but people who have long since unplugged from the designer realms probably won't find enough here to warrant a revisit, so I'm only pitching this to people who actually like where perfume in this segment has headed over the last 15 years. For anyone falling outside of that circle, you'll at least find Y Eau de Parfum more tolerable than it's precursor EdT, but still not your cup of tea. As for me, it might be a long while before it ends up in the collection, and if it does by the time you read my review, consider me bored enough to have pulled the trigger on it, since buying Y Eau de Parfum is like adding sour cream to a standard Taco Bell taco in a late night food run: it is a significant upgrade, but only satisfies in lieu of better options. For me personally, Y Eau de Parfum is like drinking RC Cola when tired of Pepsi or Coke, which is about where it sits on the priority of usage too, and is barely above board enough for a thumbs up. Test before diving in, especially if you're on the fence about amberwoods freshies, but at least go forward knowing that this actually has some considerable chops, unlike the original Y by Yves Saint Laurent, which I still hate. Again, small tweaks to a formula can make all the difference between good and bad in perfumery.
03rd December, 2018

Allure Homme Sport by Chanel

Chanel Allure Homme Sport (2004) is another rare example of Chanel coming 'round to give the masses what they want. They've only done it a handful of times in the perfume world, like with Cristalle (1974) or Platinum Égoïste (1993) neatly falling into genre conventions of the day, and again Chanel would offer capitulation to men in the form of Bleu de Chanel (2010), as it seems Chanel takes less risks on this side of the fence than with their feminines. Overall, whether they are usually creating precedent, or rarely following it, they still manage to put an indelible "Chanel stamp" of thoughtful refinement on everything they do, and Chanel Allure Homme Sport (2004) is no different. "Sport Colognes" were reaching their peak by the dawn of the 21st century, having been reinvented from brisker, smoother versions of popular standard selections (i.e. Antaeus Sport from 1982), to altogether different fragrances that serve as unique flankers in a range. The "Sport" concept congealed in the 90's as a usually-aquatic (but not always) fragrance with mint, citrus, neroli, and a peppery note or light floral on a bed of composite amber. Ralph Lauren Polo Sport (1994) set the standard for this style into the 90's, and was followed by scents like Claiborne Sport for Men (1997), although eventually entire houses like Lacoste and Addidas would realign themselves to the style due to brand image. Allure Homme Sport embraces the concept gracefully, and is recognizable as "sporty", but not to the extreme of its peers, being more of a casual briskness than a banal "dude let's hit the gym and get swole" that some of the more-commercial entries in this train of thought invoke.

Jacques Polge was careful to color within the "Sport" lines with Allure Homme Sport, and it shares not a single strand of DNA with the original Allure Homme (1999), just like most sport flankers, but I find it more enjoyable because of the self-awareness on display. Mandarin and bergamot meet with dihydromyrcenol to make the usual citrus aquatic note that has been witnessed time and time again since Davidoff Cool Water (1988) made it "a thing", but Allure Homme Sport blends it with a very "Chanel" kind of aldehyde, making this feel like the "No. 5 (1921) of aquatics" in a weird sort of way. The nose hairs are spared a good burning thanks to a menthol note, mixed with a peppery heart of neroli and cedar. This sweet orange blossom and mint tandem would later be revisited by John Varvatos in Artisan Aqua (2013), so fans of that take notice, but the pepper adds just enough warm capsaicin contrast to make this stand out. The contrast of "hot and cold" moves into the base as well, where vetiver and oakmmoss bring the bitter "chill", but tonka, amber, and white musk make it contradictory in warmth too. a ceremony of opposites is the best way to describe the deceptively complex yet easy-to-wear "sportiness" of Allure Homme Sport, giving the enlightened perfume snob a fragrance he can safely take to the gym and still be "one of the bros" even if only skin deep. Overall wear time is about 8 hours, and sillage isn't extraordinary, so this is a soft-talker just like it's older Allure brother. I actually like this better than the original Allure Homme, as it seems much more focused in purpose, whereas Allure Homme just wanted to be "all things 90's male in a bottle because our shareholders made us do it", and that kind of thing never sits well with me. At least with Allure Homme Sport, Chanel wasn't trying to make a one-size-fits-all kind of juice, which is the single biggest gripe I have for the original Allure, even though I like it.

All told, this is the casual weekend, day with the homies, upper-class but still grounded, designer blue jeans and t-shirt entry into the male canon from Chanel. It's the dressed-down scent for the freewheeling and fun-loving not-so-serious guy who already has a bottle of Antaeus (1981), Égoïste (1990), and maybe even the original Allure Homme, and wants something that doesn't feel like it's trying to impress (which all Chanel masculines invariably feel like they're trying to do), so I can see this garnering high-traffic for the brand, and high-use from owners of it. I am kind of over this style because I wore it so much in the 90's and early 2000's, even though it was actually cheaper brands in the same vein, which makes me kind of wish I knew this existed in 2004, but oh well. If you're going to have one modern "sport" fragrance, you really can't go wrong with something this well-composed, but if you hate the aquatic/citrus genre overall, this won't be any kind of exception to the rule, so I suggest moving on to the next one. The success of Allure Homme Sport also evidently saved the Allure Homme line as well, since sales of the original increased because of this flanker, so every other flanker after this one also carries the "sport" moniker, even though some are really not sporty at all. Allure Homme Sport would have to carry the Chanel banner through the 2000's until Bleu de Chanel came along, and for that I give it additional props, but despite it's qualities, I'd not call this interesting by any stretch of the imagination, although it does barely eke out a thumbs up. Most salespersons will be eager to let you sample this in stores, so try before you buy if this sounds like your bag.
03rd December, 2018

Layton by Parfums de Marly

Parfums de Marly is another consequence of unprecedented income inequality in the Western world (but particularly in the US), where Veblen goods and conspicuous consumption has reached such a crescendo amongst the ever-consolidating wealthy elite of Capitalist society, that you can literally sell an idea of exclusivity with the actual product contained therein being little more than sugar water or cardboard to somebody so long as they can be led to believe the symbolism represented by displaying ownership will incite jealousy among the the throngs of impoverished onlookers to reinforce recognizing and "knowing their betters". Ugh, that was such a filthy thing to type in a fragrance review, but it needs to be the preface for the rest of the scent, because Parfums de Marly Layton (2016) is little more than a designer-grade aromatic fougère which has been made and re-made in the same relative quality again and again over the decades, but never with a price tag nearly three-times its predecessors, justified by brittle connections to centuries-old French aristocracy. At least Creed has a family tree for some validity, even if their stories of glorious past customers are a bit tall, and Penhaligon's has continuously-operating locations from their earliest days to prove their pedigree, but Parfums de Marly delivers a designer fragrance in a relatively-plain designer bottle, with only a heavy chrome-plated cap and crest to make it "prestige", and a phoney-baloney back-story to prove why it's so elite compared to its competition. Frankly, it's disgusting, and even if I was a billionaire with no concern for discretionary spending, I'd still find the concept behind the house too tacky and embarrassing to wear their perfume. Louis the XV and the La Cour Marly be damned. Creed's fragrances might have cheap brittle caps and too much packaging for their own good, but at least the fragrances smell like they're sincerely of (mostly) natural and top-grade materials, and don't fall apart into aromachemical bases after the top and middle give way.

With that having been said, Layton is actually a nice fragrance, if it cost $50, because once you wear it and let it sit on skin, it is nearly a brother-in-arms to many late 80's and early 90's designer fougères that relied on apple spice or vanilla/sandalwood dry downs. The fragrance opens with mandarin orange, apple, and lavender, instantly recalling Yves Saint Laurent Jazz (1988) in the opening, with its smooth mulled cider and lavender accord. Fans of Collection 34: 34 Boulevard Saint Germain by Diptyque (2011) might also appreciate this as a smoother fougère take on that chypre-like scent, with all the rough resinous edges ironed out, but pound for pound, the Diptyque smells better and more unique. Violet here also recalls briefly Dior Fahrenheit (1988) and at times there's a bit of plum tobacco like Michael for Men by Michael Kors (2000), but again, this is all in the realm of designer fare. Layton really shows its "true quality" in the base, where an aromachemical-powered ambroxan/norlimbanol add the sweet scratchy finish which makes all concept of prestige fall apart at the 3 hour mark, reducing the dry down to that of any modern Versace, YSL, Dolce & Gabanna, or Gucci. This wouldn't be so bad if Parfums de Marley wasn't asking for over $240 at retail for a bottle of this stuff, while you can have at least two of anything I've already listed above. Patchouli, Australian sandalwood, vanilla, and cardamom really round this out into a semi-oriental glow, bringing Layton closer to Pasha de Cartier (1992) or the discontinued "unicorn status" Yves Saint Laurent Jazz Prestige (1993), which even at over-inflated eBay gouger prices is STILL CHEAPER than the Parfums de Marly. Performance is the only real saving grace for Layton, as it is parfum strength and will glow all day on skin, even if sillage is rather soft, but the artifice in the base makes it a louder, less-economical alternative to the Cartier, which is by far the best example in the genre. If you really want to go cheapo, you can grab a bottle of Avon Signature (2008) or Herve Leger Homme (2010), which tread the same water for a fraction of the price, even though they are both long-discontinued as well. Simply put, if you are going to make scents at this price point, you need to do a better job with that base, and at least give me some Guerlinade or something to latch onto the lie you're pushing.

Indeed, Layton is a good successor to the style, and I'm actually kind of mad that something of this rarely-seen style is at a level of quality that should place it in mainstream price ranges but is instead delivered at a laughable price point. Sure, I've purchased Creed and Amouage scents, so I can definitely afford a bottle of Layton, but I refuse to pay the price knowing I can back up my Cartier or YSL and be much happier, with pre-IFRA unrestricted goodies like oakmoss and eugenol at that, which are kinda crucial to the style Layton tries to revive. It's a respectable-smelling scent and I'll never complain coming across it in the wild. I dare say that Layton is among the most likeable from the house, but when you try to put a Cartier in Creed's clothing and tell me it's worth it because it revives the traditions of a long-dead monarch known for lavish over-spending and a sociopathic disregard for Human life not his own (but yay Versailles), I'm left a little bereft of credulity, and I'm not sorry. There's prestige that tries to actually put money where it's mouth is, and I have made peace with that, then there are posers like Parfums de Marly. Hate me all you want for a strong opinion, but if you tell me you like Layton, I'm going to tell you to save your money and buy 2 or 3 bottles of Pasha de Cartier or YSL Jazz and be much happier with not only the performance or quality-per-dollar, but the fact that you have a near-lifetime supply of the stuff you can wail on daily and not feel bad when it runs out. This is literally the perfume version of Payless Shoes opening the mock high-end "Palessi" and charging $600 for a $30 pair of kicks, except Parfums de Marly is not joking. In view of the scent itself, I won't give a thumbs down, but knowing how much of a grift this is, I can't give it any better than a neutral. Please sample around before committing to a bottle, and thank me later.
03rd December, 2018

Collection 34 : 34 Boulevard Saint Germain by Diptyque

Collection 34: 34 Boulevard Saint Germanin (2011) is an interesting conceptual fragrance that attempts to capture the smell of the first Diptyque shop into a single bottle for posterity. This is an arduous task to put it mildly, as some of the essences, from the wood of the furniture to the kilims, the candles, and the "melange" of the brand's scents all sprayed together wafting from the shop entrance, somehow seamlessly mixed into an aura that is "Diptyque in a bottle". I think it works, but not without a little aromachemical science, so this breaks from the usual traditionalist/naturalist perfume lean the house normally takes, which may be why it is presented in a signature bottle to separate it from the rest of the line. Collection 34: 34 Boulevard Saint Germain is at it's core a chypre, or at least a chypre-like fragrance, since the content of oakmoss probably doesn't meet hardcore purists or vintage zealot's standards of what a chypre "must be made of" in order to be labelled properly as such. Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. This is good stuff for fans of woody, resinous floral fragrances and I get the sharp chypre "backbone" well enough in the dry down to qualify, so enough with nitpicking labels okay? Olivier Pescheux was also onboard with this like he has been for many Diptyques in recent times, so there is a bit of connective tissue vibe-wise with this and the rest of the line, in spite of being constructed so differently.

Collection 34: 34 Boulevard Saint Germain opens with juicy blackcurrant and pink pepper mixed with clove, cinnamon, and cardamom. This effect creates a "mulled apple cider" effect to my nose, even though no apple is claimed to be present in the official note breakdown, and this is probably just the way the fruit and citrus play with the spices, evoking scent memories which make ghost attachments to notes not there. Ghost notes or not, it's a lovely fall-like opening that moves to florals which are both hedionic and idolic. Rose and violet bring a sensual bordello side while geranium and iris keep a clean, barbershop tone full of soapy sheen. The conflicting emotions of this heart help keep the fragrance unisex overall, but the tuberose nudges this slightly more feminine in the middle, so a CISHET man wearing this better be okay with floral notes or he's barking up the wrong tree. Collection 34: 34 Boulevard Saint Germain goes to the waxed wood floors and candles next, with resinous warmth and polish from patchouli, basalm fir, sandalwood, cedar, eucalyptus, and a teeny smidge of cistus/oakmoss in the very finish. The entire journey from store front to shelves, to counter, and out the door with a bag in hand is complete, and this is the kind of olfactory comfort food made particularly good at family get-togethers in colder months.

The Eau de Toilette is about 8 hours of wear, with moderate sillage, while the Eau de Parfum is more intense, aromatic, and omits much of the floral middle to add a cassis-tinged woodsy resinous edge with also feels bolstered by a bit of cade/juniper. This version of the scent is definitely more paired-down and longer-lasting, with a 12+ hour wear time that might be better for guys uncomfortable with fruit or floral accords, but this still is far from butch even in the more-focused EdP format. The person who likes Collection 34: 34 Boulevard Saint Germain the most is the person who is already a firm believer in the Diptyque brand ethos. If you haven't smelled any of their stock and trade smells like L'Ombre Dans L'Eau (1983), Eau Lente (1986), Philosykos (1996), Tam Dao (2003), Geranium Oderata (2014), or Tempo (2018), you should stop right where you are and explore those first before proceeding to try Collection 34: 34 Boulevard Saint Germain, just because it is really unlike the rest of the house's work, and not indicative of their usual style. For the Diptyque legions, still proceed with caution, and try the EdT before the EdP, since one is the "full Monty" and the other is a concentrated stripped-down model that feels almost like a different scent. A very warm, enticing, if unorthodox "shop in a bottle" kind of scent that is bound to appeal for folks who enjoy coziness in their perfume! Thumbs up!
03rd December, 2018

Mitsouko by Guerlain

Mitsouko (1919) is not just a great perfume, but also a very important one. Loved by generations and almost passed down like an heirloom from its fans to their children, Mitsouko is one of the most often-discussed classic Guerlains in existence, picking up the nickname "Mitzy" by it's admirers. I feel like a century after its creation, Mitsouko can only really be appreciated outside of these faithful fans for the history, context, and legacy it left behind for most rank and file people. Folks who enjoy perfume in the 21st century will have a difficult time understanding the appeal of Mitsouko, if only because it is of a style effectively extinct in mainstream or designer perfumery, and that style is of the chypre. Jicky (1889), L'Heure Bleue (1912), and the later Shalimar (1925) were all more or less in the fougère style, or semi-oriental fougère in the case of Shalimar, but Mitsouko was not part of Jacques Guerlain's usual "compound building" technique of basing perfumes on other perfumes, or building off of partial structures from past works, thus is unrelated to them or "Guerlinade". Instead, Mitsouko was a thoroughly new creation from the ground up, in an emerging style Jacques likely wanted to play with, and a style proving quite popular with women, becoming universally popular for much of the 20th century. It wasn't until the advent of aromachemicals that classic perfume genres declined in favor of cleaner and less-assertive compositions, with the restriction of substances upon which chypres were mostly based making chypres too difficult to create; the style had simply fallen from grace far enough to not make it worth the research anyway. In the meantime, the fruity-floral mannerisms and brisk cistus/oakmoss backbone of Mitsouko inspired countless perfumes to follow, and like most early 20th century feminine Guerlains, was also used extensively by male dandies, even being a favorite of esteemed actor Charlie Chaplin. The origins of the name "Mitsouko" is up to debate, but most sources point to it being derived from the name of the heroine in Claude Farrère's novel "La bataille (The Battle), set in Japan during the Russo-Japanese War, and telling of a secret affair between a British Navy Officer and one "Mitsouko," the wife of Fleet Admiral Baron Tõgõ Heihachirõ. As the story goes, both the officer and the Admiral went off to war together, and Mitsouko waited at home for the return of the survivor, with whom her romance would continue on. I think the association with this story alone managed to sell considerable units, since the Guerlain advertising was often hinted at it.

The smell of Mitsouko is designed somewhat to be a compliment to the previous L'Huere Bleue, which is why they share the same bottle design. L'Heure Bleue is meant to symbolize waiting for love at the onset of night, while Mitsouko is meant to symbolize the returning of said love after a battle, representing something of a symbolic beginning and conclusion of a story arc. L'Heure Bleue is mostly a rich, powdery floral fougère, which comes on strong then fades into sweet warmth. Mitsouko is the equal opposite of this development, and represents a fragrance that literally reverse fades into view by being quiet in the opening, then gradually ratcheting up presence until the complex and sharp chypre base provides the climax. Mitsouko opens transparent, with light fruity top notes of peach, mandarin, bergamot, neroli, and lemon. The smell is so very familiar at the onset because most of us have encountered some of the women's perfumes ranging from drugstore to boutique perfumer that have attempted its emulation. The middle slowly materializes with rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, and lilac, with a spicy clove note to sensually bind them all. By the time the base finally arrives, it's pretty difficult to tell notes apart, as the fruity floral top and middle collapse into a very complex and blended chypre base, with oakmoss and cistus labdanum being the only two really noticeable players outside some musk, amber, and sandalwood. Not quite Guerlinade, but still clearly over-engineered like most Jacques Guerlain pefumes. Some of the most cherished classics actually come across as hot takes on Mitsouko's finish in hindsight, so that deja vu comes back again for another round in my mind. Unlike whatever random Revlon or Coty everyone's Aunt Maude wore, Mitsouko has a certain refined air of a true sophisticate in its DNA, and doesn't reveal all sides of its structure in every single wear. Performance varies on concentration but more on that later. Mitsouko is not a casual fragrance, nor was ever meant to be, so wear it on special occasions where something as deeply textured or mysterious as Mitsouko feels warranted. Being perhaps one of the finest examples of a dead genre makes Mitsouko feel a tad more antiquated than some of its peers of the day, since Shalimar still remains in the public consciousness thanks to modern celebrity endorsement, plus the older turn-of-the-century Guerlains seem to more closely-resemble genres experiencing resurgence in modern prestige perfume. Mitsouko by contrast just sort of sits pretty with its hands in its lap as the darling precursor of the mid 20th century's favorite feminine style, which does more to make it an anachronism than the rest, but at least it isn't powered by aldehydes like Chanel No. 5 (1921).

I love chypres, but I also can't rightfully lead anyone to sample this without first making it clear that Mitsouko has weathered age the least-gracefully of all the classic Guerlains. Naturally, all moss was limited to ridiculously small levels by IFRA after 2011, and from 2006 to 2011, a blend of oakmoss and treemoss had to be used to reduce the amount of skin sensitizers naturally occurring in oakmoss by itself. This is why most classic chypres outside of the big sellers are discontinued, and the ones profitable enough to keep on the shelves in spite of themselves have been reformulated sometimes to the point of being unrecognizable by fans of the original releases. Contrary to that, a lot of research money has been dumped into the preservation of Mitsouko, with low-atranol "fractured" versions of oakmoss using molecular chemistry being substituted by Guerlain house perfumer Thierry Wasser for the natural stuff. It's this same reconstituted oakmoss that also exists in modern Habit Rouge (1965), and makes Guerain chypres a far better sight and more authentic than most other chypre survivors in modern times, but still markedly different from vintage since oakmoss is such a linchpin to the chypre accord itself. Other Guerlains from the era like L'Heure Bleue or Shalimar rely more on powdery vanillic tonka bases or oriental elements, so they have survived in forms much closer to their original state than Mitsouko. Regardless of whether one seeks vintage or not, Mitsouko is still a large perfume by modern standards, so only fans of slow unfurling dry downs should seek it, with old colognes being brighter, current eau de toilettes having a more floral character, and parfum extrait having the deepest base presence/longest wear. I really like Mitsouko, and even if it's among the harder classic Guerlains for a man to pull off, I'd still flaunt it like I just don't care (because I don't), however I also cannot in good conscience call this unisex. Classic chypre fans consider Mitsouko one of several holy grails for good reason, but for everyone else, it is more of a historical journey than a practical perfume, answering the question of why "Mom's old Avon" smells the way it does. Well, now we have our answer: it wanted to be Mitsouko. Since 1919, a lot perfumes have wanted to be Mitsouko, even future Guerlain ones. Everyone just wanted to be Mitsouko, but there can only ever be one Mitsouko, and she still patiently waits for us to return home from our battles, so she can give us her love. Thumbs up!
01st December, 2018 (last edited: 03rd December, 2018)

Black Aoud by Montale

The perfume houses of Montale and Mancera are not entirely separate in my mind, and instead come across like two sides of a coin minted by Pierre Montale in 2003, after what he claims to be a career as a successful by-appointment perfumer for Arab royalty in his former Dubai base of operations. Many of his clients, citing his French heritage, supposedly requested Western-style perfume instead of the traditional attars, and his affinity for mixing Middle East ingredients in Western ways was born. Skipping back to 2003, and his new niche perfume house in Paris became responsible for launching the "Oud Craze" in Western and designer perfume, with his much-adulterated synthetic oud accord which contained but a sliver of actual agar, projected with aromachemicals like Iso E Super. Several releases came and went between 2003-2006, but it was Black Aoud (2006) that put him on the map, setting a standard which other Western houses would follow. Mancera would represent something of an equal opposite for the perfumer, with mostly Western themes presented to the Middle East market, which ate up his takes on popular Western tropes just the same as Westerners consumed his synthetic ouds. Of course, there is so much crossover that really both name plates are the same brand, with Montale using metal sprayers and Mancera using traditional glass spray flacons. Black Aoud still remains the top-seller for the house, besides being a more-basic interpretation compared to later Montale/Mancera ouds, and that has to do with the hype it's garnered.

Most consider this the best starting point for the house too, but after sampling around both labels, I'm not so sure I can agree with that, even if I do enjoy what's here very much. To be honest, Black Aoud feels more like a rose fragrance than one centered around oud, and it makes sense considering the medical nature of the Montale/Mancera oud compound, and the rest of the aromatic backbone surrounding that rose. It's also logical to guess this is more of a rose perfume given that rose is such a prominent player in many Middle Eastern styles, perfume or attar, oud or not, with the same level of ubiquity present that lavender, citrus, or aquatic accords enjoy in Western markets. On that note, Black Aoud opens with and is carried by an intense Turkish rose. This is a dark, rich, serious, and brooding "Gothic" rose found in antique Western examples, with zero bergamot or jasmine to lighten or sweeten it. Black Aoud is a thoroughly masculine rose, but the composition itself is sold as unisex in most markets, so I see this appealing mostly to genderfluid or generally adventurous folks outside the Middle East where it's par for the course. Cistus labdanum and dry patchouli make up the middle of Black Aoud, adding a lush green facet to the stoic rose, but not adding any humor. The medical oud note is the obvious finish, softened with a touch of orange, but otherwise standing alone with the rose. Longevity is an all-day 12+ hour affair, while sillage can be catastrophic if not applied carefully, so beware. Black Aoud is a no-apologies perfume worn by an unrepentant lover of strong, domineering rose scents, so find your own suitable context for wearing it. I find Black Aoud good in all temperatures, as it pierces the air regardless.

You likely won't get many compliments wearing Black Aoud, but I don't think this is the kind of perfume for seeking that attention. Western rose oud perfumes have not only grown in sophistication since the release of Black Aoud, but also in authenticity too, as perfumers either substitute in more of the real material (if niche/artisinal) or find better ways to shape their synthetics into something closer to actual oud macerations, dressing up the note pyramids to make more complex and less naked presentations than how Black Aoud comes across to the nose. I like a good kick-in-the-ass rose, and a shrieking medical oud underneath just lets that grim rose shine even more, so this is a huge thumbs up for me, but with the caveat that Black Aoud is basically a rose-scented agarwood sledgehammer that totally lacks finesse. Still, without any barnyard funk of more-authentic ouds, Black Aoud is less Marilyn Manson and more Gene Simmons in total shock value, which suits me just fine but may disappoint purists. My only complaint is the brutal simplicity of Black Aoud, as I've worked backwards from some newer representations in the field of Western rose oud perfumes which arguably have rendered Black Aoud obsolete; even the bargain-basement Jovan Intense Oud (2012) showcases a slightly more-believable synthetic oud with a drop of animalic growl (as per their specialty), feeling more like a cyborg with a bit of skin stretched over than a full-on metal-clad android like Black Aoud. Ultimately, it's the quality of rose that keeps Black Aoud safely at it's niche perfumery level, since the Jovan (and many others including some higher-priced designers) use cheaper synthetic rose oils which vary in tone from sweet to citric depending on where that geraniol is sourced. Black Aoud is still a pillar in the rose/oud genre for a reason, but has the grace of a pickup truck, so I'd sample this first before paying that niche-level price for a bottle. There's simply too much choice now to dive into this blind. Thumbs up!
28th November, 2018 (last edited: 29th November, 2018)

Cedrat Boise by Mancera

An awful lot of noise comes from the online fragrance community across forums, YouTube, and social media, especially from the CISHET male side about how Mancera Cedrat Boise (2011) is the big "Creed Aventus (2010) killer" made to put the house in its place for considerably less. This is absurd, and has righteously caused many Creed sycophants to instantly declare this an enemy/usurper (which is a bit theatrical but not far off), while others whom agree with the declaration think they've earned some modicum of hipster colognoisseur cred by wearing the Mancera over the Creed. Once all the silly High School drama clears and we're left with Cedrat Boise sitting on it's own merits, what we actually have is a fragrance released by a perfumer who is in his own little world (likely from sniffing too much synthetic oud) that is indeed a competitor for the same demographic almost by accident, but actually smells more like higher-quality and more-natural predecessor to Dior Sauvage (2015). Another glaring facet that "dudebros" seem to forget is Cedrat Boise is not a gendered fragrance, and therefore all but unisex without being called such, so folks with feminine chemistry are also meant to try it to see what results can be wielded from wearing it. I do agree that like many Unisex Creeds, Cedrat Boise mostly appeals to masculine tastes, but not by the design of the house of course, since "citrus woody" as its name roughly translates could apply to a number of feminine perfumes. Cedrat Boise is a dry woody scent with a juicy sharp fruity citrus punch on top, and a few key synthetics to shape it out, which is where I get most similarities with it and the designer bomb known as Sauvage.

Mancera Cedrat Boise opens with a brief rush of dry bergamot, followed by Sicilian lemon, and a sweet blackcurrant note which is the biggest comparable facet to Aventus it has. The connection to the later Sauvage is much stronger and almost instant as well; one can surmise that François Demachy of house Dior must have taken huge inspiration from Pierre Montale's work here when he composed Sauvage, especially in the base construction. I can see where the fruity presentation might sniff of Aventus from afar, but a total lack of pineapple (or the ability to tell it apart from blackcurrant) instantly kills all serious likeness between Aventus and Cedrat Boise to me. A touch of dusty white florals and cardamom spice inhabit the middle of Cedrat Boise, while the blackcurrant continues into the heart, joined by a white patchouli note and jasmine hedione. A telltale norlimbanol scratchiness which is milder than Sauvage but close in throbbing tone announces the base, and also distances Cedrat Boise from Aventus even further, both in quality and personality. A white musk and cedar note finish out Cedrat Boise, with hints of leather softened by vanilla and shined up with a sliver of oakmoss bite, whatever quantity is allowed by IFRA these days anyway. Sillage is mild overall, and downright weak for the usual Montale/Mancera composition, but longevity is stellar at 12+ hours assuming you don't become anosmic to the musk or synthetic karmawood. This is a perfect year-rounder generalist through and through for folks digging this vibe, so wear it where you will, and maybe make it a signature if you're a one-scent kind of person. My only complaint is I'd get bored really fast if this was my signature of choice, since this style is all but standardized anymore.

A big weak point to Cedrat Boise if compared directly to Aventus is the scratchy norlimbanol, although not as intense as what is found in the later Sauvage, but still gives Cedrat Boise an obvious synthetic quality which Aventus is much better at hiding with its house ambergris. Secondly, without pineapple or vetiver, the only real link they share is the white floral heart, and that's too brief, but for noses not as finely-honed, I can see where the confusion in telling them apart lies. I also honestly don't think Cedrat Boise was made to be an "Aventus Killer", as marketing anything that way is setting up for failure with critics, who have by and large embraced this juice. Lastly, Cedrat Boise is one of a glut that Pierre Montale churns out yearly for his own houses, precluding any notion of targeting another scent's market, especially considering Aventus was barely even a year old by that point, and not yet the hype monster it would become in the fragrance community. Guys who like Sauvage but find it too sharp, loud, or shrill should really check into Cedrat Boise, and fans of Aventus should add this alongside, as discounters often sell it at designer price points, so you can get it with less risk. Old heads will likely hate Cedrat Boise, but it's almost deserved disappointment if you prefer mossy or animalic masculines and dive into psuedo-synthetic "nouveau-niche" like this without first testing. I am a fan of the fruity sharp citrus synthetic woods style (much to the chagrin of some peers), as for me it's the early 2000's come again, but I'd not recommended this over anything it compares to because Cedrat Boise feels less like a replacement for a popular masculine and more like an alternative to sit alongside them in a larger collection; it's a real off-beat "deep cut" of a creation made more for a collector than somebody with a smaller, more pragmatic wardrobe. Thumbs up!
26th November, 2018

Tabaróme Millésime by Creed

Tabaróme Millésime (2000) is a modern re-orchestration of the original Tabaróme (1875) supposedly created by Creed for a wealthy English statesman during the Victorian era. That scent was a dark, sharp, and rich tobacco leather scent which was claimed to have been worn by Winston Churchill alongside Blenheim Bouquet (1902). The 2000's was a period for Creed where they sought to ween themselves off of legacy re-issues and "elevated" takes on conventional designer genres, breaking out into more original and striking designs meant to set Creed apart from their competition, especially in light of the emerging niche segment of ultra-expensive but more-expressive artisinal houses that were focused on perfume as art. Tabaróme Millésime and Himalaya (2002) were early efforts at this, with the latter being more conventional but ironically nicer than the former, and they would continue on with Original Vetiver (2004), Love in White (2005), Original Santal (2005), Love in Black (2008), and a host of limited editions to this end. Creed would be hit-or-miss with this approach, until they decided by the 2010's to blend the faux-history of their redressed, re-issued, then re-vaulted former commissions with a more "classic French approach" that blended the aesthetic of their past with a more avant-garde style, stapling on plenty of "you earned it" status-focused marketing to drive white-collar millenials wild. Unfortunately, the re-orchestration of Tabaróme into Tabaróme Millésime has left it something of a muddled mess that totally misses the mark in what it attempts to do, and although I can see how people like this, I'm pretty indifferent about it considering the tepid performance and mediocre style, especially given its price point and backstory carried over from the original Tabaróme it replaced. Hardcore Creed collectors will wanted the vaulted original, and new wave Creed fan boys won't usually venture farther back into the Creed catalog than Virgin Island Water (2008) unless it's to get a bottle of Green Irish Tweed (1985).

Tabaróme Millésime opens with bergamot and tangerine, a semi-sweet juicy holdover from their 90's period married to the same ozonic sharpness but feeling more like it's created by camphor than sea salt, then spiced up with a hit of ginger. For a scent that claims to be all about tobacco, I get very little actual tobacco in Tabaróme Millésime, and absolutely no leather whatsoever anymore. I have been very happy with most of Olivier Creed's solo compositions without a Pierre Bourdon or his son Erwin to assist him, but on this one he appears to have completely murdered the legacy of Tabaróme in the name of modern appeal, which is not unlike what designers would do a decade or so later with their own reboots of classic fragrance lines using entirely new compositions. Cardamom and sandalwood bridge the fruity citrus Y2K opening and ginger to the new aromatic base of Tabaróme Millésime, with the old pipe tobacco of the original replaced with a faintly-detectable whole leaf variety similar to Versace the Dreamer (1996) but not as distinguished. Dry patchouli, Creed's signature ambergris, musk, Iso E Super, and galbanum in the base (like Silver Mountain Water) create the final woodsy skin feel of Tabaróme Millésime, but it's fleeting and under performs not just for this price segment or Creed, but altogether as a parfum in general, making for an underwhelming 6 hours max wear life. Tabaróme Millésime is certainly more mature and formal when compared to its Creed contemporaries of the time, and likely the choice of older clients looking to branch out from their vaulted classics, but it's a huge let down for anyone else, Creed fan or not, especially with so many better options within and outside of the house. All that said, the fragrance isn't bad, just not good enough for a "modern reworking" of a revered classic, nor as a high-end entry into the tobacco trend that was happening around that time, although if you said somebody like Avon or Lomani composed this and sold it for a twentieth of the price, I might have given it a thumbs up.

I don't know what to really say. I don't hate the stuff, but I don't really think it gets the point across for what it is supposed to be, and Tabaróme Millésime is pleasant enough of a scent, but leans too hard on it's purpose to bridge the ultra high-end designer 90's business model with the new heritage-flavored niche 2000's one. I almost like their 2010's prestige-focused works better because they at least try to give performance and stylistic distinction for their money, even if they come across as a very expensive peacock-feathered solution to a massive corporate middle-management insecurity pandemic that seems to be sweeping all our male USD $150,000+ annual earners across the Western world. No amount of Creed from any era will save them from being laid off when software replaces them, and local offices close in favor of remote-operating IT guys wiring into HQ servers from home halfway across the globe, and those guys don't even climb out of their pajamas to wear designer duds let alone use cologne of any sort (I'm friends with some so I know), and the older CEOs they teleconference with, to whom the style of Tabaróme Millésime might appeal most, wear Roja Dove or Clive Christian anyway because they've graduated -from- Creed. I guess if you're the kind of person who needs every last variety of Creed in existence for your collection, you're bound to find some favor in this to take it home, plus if this found it's way into your collection as a gift, it would see some appropriate use in office or business casual settings, but buying this by choice for the prices it carries seems so foolish to me when - like Creed Viking (2017) - there is so much better reference material in the genre for less. I'll give a neutral rating, but it's a really heart-wrung neutral since I love tobacco fragrances, and even discounting the awkward fruity citrus 90's opening, there isn't enough meat on these bones to make me buy into what Tabaróme Millésime is selling. That's all I got.
26th November, 2018

Bois du Portugal by Creed

Creed Bois du Portugal (1987) remains the single classic, stately, and mature entry remaining in the male side of their catalog, the only proper men's barbershop scent rendered in a traditional semi-oriental style popular in the 1970's through early 1990's. After the wild success of the co-composed Green Irish Tweed (1985), Olivier Creed asked Pierre Bourdon to come back and help him make Bois du Portugal, which undoubtedly was made as a warmer, more-formal counterbalance to the proto-aquatic genre-forming freshie that Green Irish Tweed came to be. Bois du Portugal can trace its roots all the way back to the seminal Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur (1972), arguably the earliest designer incarnation of the powdery, creamy, semi-oriental barbershop fougère style, and next logical step in the direction Dana Canoe (1937), Brut by Fabergé (1962), and Avon Wild Country (1967) took. After Versace L'Homme (1984), Bois du Portugal would be the next scent to head further down the path of petitgrain-infused-lavender richness, but it would soon be joined by a glut of designers and early niche houses all jumping on this bandwagon by the early 1990's. Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée (1989), Tiffany for Men (1989), Parfums Nicholai New York (1990), Guerlain Héritage (1992) and even Avon Mesmerize (1992) would all bunch onto the same subway car as Bois du Portugal, offering many different price points for the same vibe and drowning out the groundwork made by Bourdon and Creed here in white noise. Green Irish Tweed continued to get all the love and attention over the decades, but Bois du Portugal's cult following is no less fervent, just much more soft-spoken in the way they worship the fragrance.

That isn't to say Bois du Portugal isn't good. In fact, this is a phenomenally rich example of the genre, and pound-for-pound out-performs everything in it's class, even if the price point is also many times higher and therefore maybe not a better value per milliliter sprayed. Still, the sweet mandarin opening combined with sharp bergamot and petitgrain is second-to-none for fans of this style; for fans who experience this first, some of the others may seem like imitators, and for those who experience this after trying the others, this might seem like a high-powered version of their mission statement. From that classic opening comes in the French lavender, folded over into the citrus like an old friend, adding roundness, smoothness, and richness. Cedar joins the petitgrain top to keep the almost-vanillic lavender and mandarin from being too cloying, and the creamy mysore sandalwood of the base merges it all together in Creed ambergris, oakmoss, and grassy vetiver. Wear time is basically until you wash this off, and this is a rare five star sillage bomb to me, being comparable to Joop! Homme (1989) in its radiance, so be careful even in winter time, unless you want somebody taking you out back and hitting you with a hose. Bois du Portugal gets knocked around as an old man's scent because it partially was aimed at the mature segment upon creation, which in the years since has kept it pegged in that demographic since guys who were mature in the 80's are likely seniors in the 21st century if alive, although it has its younger fans too here and there, especially if they appreciate vintage styles.

This leads me to my final remark about Bois du Portugal, and that concerns the constant scare of pending discontinuation, in light of other mature classics such as Orange Spice (1950), Acier Aluminum (1973), and Green Valley (1999) all being vaulted after Aventus (2010) set the tone of Creed's male marketing direction. Well, Creed likely pays attention to forums and blogs, as it's had feelers enter them just to stir up controversy, and will likely continue making the stuff so long as people fear that it will go away, because that fear drives sales, and they are ultimately all about making money. When folks stop talking about it, or chatter of Bois du Portugal reduces to a murmur (much like it did for the others above), then maybe we'll see it go back into the vault, and when it does, I'll correct my words accordingly. Until then, I'd advise people just to chill out and sample the stuff, then buy it if Bois du Portugal fits their aesthetic. As the highest-costing semi-oriental fougère this side of a Parfums MDCI or Roja Dove release, this still has a much more narrow market than most Creeds because it not only is one of the most expensive options in its class, but is of a class that has itself become much more niche in demand over the years, since young guys find even stuff like Liz Claiborne Curve for Men (1996) to be retro, and that fougère style is much newer than the one on display in Bois du Portugal. For performance hounds with mature tastes, little else beats it for formal or winter use, and if you can afford the price, Bois du Portugal's relaxing, yet composed manner will be a best friend in your wardrobe. Thumbs up, but with the caveat that this is a well-worn style with many other comparable options which may seem like a better fit economically, or stylistically, so make sure to do your homework before diving in.
26th November, 2018
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The One Grey by Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana have really nosedived in the 2010's with their masculines, and are either run by robots, or are letting the robots design their perfumes with algorithms designed to make olfactory Kool-Aid out of the most-trending fragrance notes of the decade, since The One Grey (2018) smells neither particularly interesting, original, nor like it was even composed by a Human being at all. I've heard this argument lobbed at Dior Sauvage (2015), and while I won't deny the possibility that some IBM-grade science wasn't used for that scent, it really must have been exclusively deployed here. Furthermore, only a machine would think to make such inane flankers like Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme Intenso (2014), or additions to established lines like Light Blue Pour Homme Italian Zest (2018), that bedazzle with marketing themes or packaging graphics only to deliver something so tepid, so uninspired to smell, that it's literally angering. At least with The One Grey, you can see that this is a boring also-ran with literally zero personality or originality before you even smell it. Is this some kind of satirical social commentary on the state of mainstream white collar male business culture? If it is, bravo Dolce & Gabbana, you really got me good with this one, now please get back to making decent fragrances again. This stuff is designed like they almost wanted to capture the "grey" of an office cubicle in a dead-end data entry position where supervisory positions are always outside hires with business management degrees fresh out of community college, and the training you were promised to get that promotion is just a dangled carrot to get more productivity out of the same pay grade. Bleh.

To make matters worse, The One Grey seeks to be the "cheaper alternative to Tom Ford" for the guys in those same hired-from-a-job-fair positions who want to smell like the Grey Vetiver (2009) their bosses wear but don't want to cross into triple digit price territory to do so, and have exhausted all their free samples from Nordstrom, so they get in under $100 by buying this and "make it work". Granted, cheapo alternatives are a matter of business for some houses, just ask Avon, Armaf, or Lomani about that, but at least they have enough self-awareness to put a unique and enjoyable spin to their usually-respectable downmarket homages. The One Grey opens with a truly enjoyable hesperidic vetiver note, probably the best part of the whole fragrance, but like many mediocre designers in this same category, the top notes are all it's got. The grapefruit and vetiver eventually merge with some dry lavandin (a more medicinal variant of lavender), then some cardamom to muddle things up a bit, which is actually bad because fresh vetivers are usually soapy and clean, not brown and spicy. For me, it's this clash of values which sets the tone for the rest of the scent, and the biggest sign that this was potentially made by IBM's Wattson and not a perfumer, since cardamom is popular in many designers now. Amber, norlimbanol and Iso E Super posing as "grey woods accord" (yeah right guys, give me a break), and a fake "tobacco" that's little more than tonka and trickery are the final stages of the scent, with the grapefruit coming back in the end to be made unpleasantly sweet by the amber, drowning out the vetiver. Luckily performance is on par with the original The One for Men (2008), so very quiet, even if longevity is decent enough.

I don't know, I try to give a lot of designers a fair chance to show their inner beauty in spite of being juiced up worse with chemical enhancement than an Olympic bodybuilder or professional wrestler, and there have been a great many which have been unfairly thrashed by fragrance community snobs when they actually have some merit, accounting for taste of course. However, there isn't even a slight sliver lining to this very "grey" cloud, one that is looming ever greater over the house of Dolce & Gabbana if stuff like this is the future of their creative direction. We've already seen a decade of inane flankers for older lines, and their last new masculine pillar is from the 200o's, which is stretching into Chanel-length development cycles, but without the Chanel reputation for quality and originality. Honestly, if this really is an attempt to cash in on renewed interest in vetiver, there are so many better options at the same or lower prices than this, it's existence is irrelevant, and if it is indeed meant to be a cheaper take on Tom Ford's Grey Vetiver, guess what? It's only maybe half again cheaper at retail unless buying from a discounter, which is where stock of this is likely destined anyway. Huge Thumbs down, and if you end up with this as a gift, just bring it to the office for the next Secret Santa, just don't blame me if they fire you for your sardonic sense of humor. This is a veritable flusher for me, but I won't discount that a lot of you folks really into vetiver might actually be interested in something like this despite its huge flaws, or just something "perfectly boring" to wear when you have the pragmatic urge to smell like little extra besides deodorant. Make sure to sample this first, which shouldn't be too difficult at department stores, who will literally thrust something like this into your hand at warp speed, especially during sales events. This holds not a single candle to the original The One for Men, which is worlds apart and actually a good gourmand fragrance.
25th November, 2018 (last edited: 26th November, 2018)

A*Men / Angel Men by Thierry Mugler

The original gourmand for men this is often called, and Thierry Mugler was quite the rebel for releasing it at the time. The scent of A*Men (1996) is a love/hate sort of thing, as was the original Angel (1992) perfume for women, and an acquired taste for those who eventually love it, much like beer or liverwurst. The "Beige Age" of the 1990's was in direct reaction to the almost hedonistic excess of the 1980's. Credit lines were spent and maxed by the beginning of the decade, the middle class in many Western countries (particularly America) were beginning to be divided up into the entry-level upper classes or the working poor, plus art reflected the mood with baggy dressed-down androgynous looks, simple chord-focused music expressing angst or street life, and apologetic fragrances meant to "blend in" rather than stand out. Life sucked unless you were one of the emerging private-sector oligarchs vacuuming up profits from a decade of "trickle-down" Reaganomics, showing off your newest platinum-coated hypercar or personal 747 jumbo jet, but you had some counter-culture elements in arts or entertainment to give us a little bit of excitement, joy, and hope. Independence Day was returning the concept of the large-scale blockbuster to cinemas, bands like Hootie and the Blowfish were obstinately optimistic when nobody else was, and A*Men was a complex contrarian of a scent using edible notes and aromatics at a time when everyone wanted to smell like dryer sheets to avoid interaction. The gourmand wave that ran counter to all the aquatics and freshies of the decade began courtesy of this little number. Remember folks, A*Men released in 1996, not 1986, and concurrently with epitomes of 90's fresh pleasantness like Acqua di Giò pour Homme (1996) and Curve for Men by Liz Claiborne (1996). The smell of A*Men is so lauded because it blends the ordinary with the strange, offering something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone long enough to almost pull away, then brings you back with something to make you think about it and stick around for what's in store for you next. Patience is needed to appreciate A*Men, and I can't blame anyone for bailing out on it, because it is rather unsettling at times, but the dry down is where the legend of this one lives.

The extremely bizarre opening of A*Men by Thierry Mugler is caused by a huge whiff of a synthetic called helonial, an aldehyde derivative of heliotrope and something rarely found in perfumes made for people, but typically seen in commercial fragrances for laundry and dish soap. It's metallic accord is more common in your favorite variety of Palmolive than in any of your personal fragrance choices, and it's paired with peppermint to make it even scarier. Lavender and bergamot bring you back into the comfort zone just long enough for the sticky accord of coffee and tar-like styrax to emerge, offering both the desiccating dryness of fresh ground coffee beans and animalic stiffness styrax affords, before a smooth patchouli note comes to the rescue. This patchouli remains for the rest of the wear, but is joined by chocolate, caramel, and vanilla, offering further culinary association which earned A*Men it's pioneering gourmand label, providing a scrumptious skin finish that is sexier than it has any right to be by the end of the wear. Tonka bean and musk bring in a late-stage fougère accord which is the final pull back out of the strange and back into the familiar, with the wild see-saw ride of notes ending in green patchouli-lead aromatic fougère territory with hints of cocoa and coffee remaining. I don't know if perfumer Jacques Huclier is a genius or a psychopath, but Mugler has retained him for many more releases, including several A*Men flankers, so he must be doing something right. A*Men might be that tall dark kid wearing the trench coat everyone feared in high school during the 90's, but like most who dressed that way, he's really just misunderstood, soft-spoken, and not the least bit violent. Guilty of bad taste in music maybe (usually death metal or goth rock), but once you get him to sit down and talk, you realize that he likes smiling and laughing just as much as the rest of us. There's the initial shock, then reassurance, more shock as things develop, then more reassurance, and finally, you've made peace with the experience and share the joy. A*Men is not huge on sillage, but it is a challenge to strangers, does last quite a while and can cloy in hot weather, so keep it to colder months and casual settings where folks won't look askew at you.

Future gourmands inspired by A*Men would turn up the food-derived richness, become more approachable, closer to an oriental in my opinion, and ditch the confrontational notes like helonial or coffee beans. Yeah, niche houses have since come to play with stuff like that, especially if you fancy Lush or Etat Libre d'Orange, but remember that Thierry Mugler isn't some high-end expensive niche perfume brand that expects to move bottles only to the converted few willing to take the plunge, but a mainstream perfume house found in every Macy's, Nordstrom, JCPenny, and even some Walmarts or Targets across the globe. With that in mind, releasing this scent must have seemed like career suicide, but it was a risky gambit that gave birth to many gourmand favorites in years since. Givenchy Pi (1999), Yohji Homme (1999) Rochas Man (2000), Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin (2000), Spark for Men by Liz Claiborne (2003), Avon Tomorrow for Men (2005), Burberry London (2006), Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men (2008) and more all owe their existence to A*Men by Thierry Mugler. It honestly took me more than a few tests to really come around to this. The first time I wore this I was like "ack this is horrible", then the second time I was like "okay, this is more interesting than I thought", then the final time I was like "oh, okay.. I get it now". Granted, there are many people that will justifiably never get acquainted to this scent, and that's okay. Just as some folks will never get over the gasoline opening of Fahrenheit, or if we go further back, the urine-like opening of Moustache by Rochas (1949) or even the animal-bomb of Guerlain Jicky (1889). The point of challenging fragrances is to dare the observer to open their horizons, to perceive beauty where traditionally it might not be, although there is a very fine line to walk between challenging and just plain stinky. Thumbs up, but with the caveat that a rebel like A*Men is not for everyone, especially not the meek or mild.
25th November, 2018 (last edited: 26th November, 2018)

Himalaya by Creed

Creed Himalaya (2002) was purportedly created to commemorate Olivier Creed's Tibetan expedition, because normal perfumers go on crazy expeditions across the globe right? Right. Anyway, avoiding complaints about delusions of grandeur concerning the Creed family and their house, I will say that Himalaya conjures nothing of the sort when smelled or worn, but that doesn't mean it's not good. The notes breakdown of Himalaya seems to describe this mystical fragrance which is one part of juicy citrus, one part dry aromatic sandalwood, and one part illustrious Creed ambergris base all rolled up into a delightfully-fresh semi-oriental smell in a gleaming silver bottle meant to take you virtual mountain climbing with your deer friend Olivier Creed, but that really isn't the case here either. What I (and most people) actually get here is a fresh fougère competing with the likes of Calvin Klein Eternity for Men (1989) or Paco Rabanne XS Pour Homme (1993) but given a new lease on life with fruity top notes and some Creed quality to make the base last far longer than either of the other two. I imagine Himalaya was meant to be the Green Irish Tweed (1985) for a new generation of upper-management career professionals, but with Millésime Impérial (1995) still doing very strongly, and Silver Mountain Water (1995) being something of an underdog champion amongst younger, more aggressive guys able to afford Creed, Himalaya probably felt too staid, even though it was intended for that market while the other two were technically unisex fragrances. Himalaya therefore goes somewhat unloved and unnoticed in the more-modern canon of Creed, until some of it's ideas were repackaged again with less freshness, no fruity charm, and more traditional barbershop notes in Viking (2018), which is a solid, if underwhelming fougère that is ironically even closer to the 90's stuff than Himalaya.

The opening of Himalaya is rather vibrant, offering a three-way waltz with dry bergamot, juicy lemon, and sweet grapefruit, the latter of which was just starting to come into vogue in the early 2000's. Creed always had been mindful to offer an "elevated" version of what's popular with designers in the 90's, at least until they went "full niche" then later shattered the mold with Aventus (2010), setting a trend for the first time since Green Irish Tweed instead of just making luxury versions of "everyone else's cologne" like they're essentially doing here. The really natural-smelling citrus, along with a trademark authentic ambergris base, is the hallmark of most Creed fragrances, and even if you hate the rest of it, you can count on those being there to give a beautiful house note. Same holds true for Himalaya, as after the fruity-sweet citrus settles down, we get an almost metallic middle of geranium, hedione, and sandalwood, which is a big link to Chanel Platinum Égoïste (1993) as well, but is all the commonality it has despite what naysayers might tell you. White musk, the aforementioned ambergris, cedar, oakmoss, and Iso E Super finish this up, but that natural ambergris is really what sets Himalaya apart from any other designer fresh fougère from any decade. Typical long life of about 10+ hours and potentially dangerous sillage abound with Himalaya, so be careful how much you apply, and this is another unusually casual scent for Creed, just like Silver Mountain Water, so it might make a good daily driver for office use or day errands on weekends when the weather is fair. Nobody will suspect you're wearing "one percenter's fragrance" due to the affable nature of Himalaya, and nobody will likely even turn their head to figure out where your smell is coming from, but anyone within touching distance will notice you're not smelling of the usual mall fragrance, and will ask what that gorgeous scent is called.

I think this casual friendliness, it's clean, fruity, solidly aromatic lines, and the total lack of pomp or drama is what makes Himalaya so underappreciated among Creed fans. One sort of expects a Creed to have a distinguishing accord which attracts attention or envy like Aventus or Green Irish Tweed, some kind of expensive-smelling facet to create intimidation like Bois du Portugal (1987) or Royal Mayfair (2015), and when it doesn't feel special in those ways, the psycho-emotional disconnect of not feeling elite is a let-down for some Creed-o-philes. However, with Himalaya, there is still an underlying uniqueness and distinction which sets Himalaya off from other things you could be wearing, and that's the overall optimism of the fragrance combined with its quality. Most fresh fougères are just that: fresher versions of the standard green, clean, and groomed accord men have been relying on since the late 19th century. Yeah, there's the rich vanillic stuff from the mid 20th century, the heavy aromatic stuff from the 70's, and the extremely mossy stuff from the 80's, but with few exceptions, fougères are fit for work, and rarely play. What Creed does with Himalaya is make a playful, lightly sweet, and "young" fougère that avoids the radioactive pitfalls of the ozonics of the day going for youthful countenance, but also avoids the "dad's aftershave" reputation that even lighter 90's fougères eventually picked up by the turn of the millennium. No other house at any price point was really trying to keep the fougère relevant anymore, but here was Creed quietly injecting a bit of anti-age serum into the formula, and making a sleeper of a generalist in the process, albeit an extremely pricey one. Something like Himalaya feels more niche a decade plus removed from its release date, and that's its charm, but it shouldn't be anyone's first Creed, unless price is a factor as it gets discounted more often than some others. Thumbs up!
25th November, 2018 (last edited: 26th November, 2018)

Millésime Impérial by Creed

Millésime Impérial (1995) is one of two unisex fragrances released in 1995, the other one being Silver Mountain Water (1995). Both were effectively subverted by male power wearers looking for the biggest, most expensive alpha dawg siren songs to woo the women and strike fear into the hearts of lesser competition, but only until Aventus (2010) arrived to take up that mantle once Creed saw there was profit to be had in coddling fragile egos flush with cash. In the 1990's Creed's business model wasn't to nurture sociopathic narcissism in it's male audience like it arguably would become after the 2010's, but rather just honestly offer an "elevated" take on the styles current with the mainstream perfume world. Ever since mostly-abandoning their by-appointment-only boutique model in the 1980's to become more of a global force with an ultra high-end department store presence, Creed did a mix of new compositions and re-released past commissions from former clients (with dubious re-writes of their history to increase their mythos), but by the time Millésime Impérial came around, they were done filling in the blanks to prove their heritage. Silver Mountain Water is honestly the "most unisex" of the two with it's ultra-fruity top and base of white musk over ambergris, a real winner in my opinion if the price is right, but Millésime Impérial veers more masculine due to it's salty dry personality that feels like a slight cannibalism of the composition behind Erolfa (1992). With Erolfa, Creed was making their ultra-luxe take on an aquatic, but a heavily synthetic fragrance at that price point proved controversial even among those with the money to buy it, so some of that was folded into Millésime Impérial and presented more eloquently. Of all the 90's Creeds men like to wear in the fragrance community, this one seems to get the most talk, the most wear, and retains its price point in the aftermarket more, although it's still less expensive than most popular 21st century Creed masculines, for what that is worth.

Ultimately, Millésime Impérial is a more-natural take on the ozonic accord also proving extremely popular in the 90's, a style that would strikingly come into it's own by the early 2000's before the bubble burst, but remained a louder underdog option for those not fancying aquatics or bland fresh fougères, at least until gourmands like A*Men (1996) or retro-revival scents like Gucci Envy (1998) appeared. Millésime Impérial follows in the footsteps of Claiborne for Men (1989) and L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme by Issey Miyake (1994), but borrows a fruity twist from late 80's/early 90's freshies with its use of calone to bridge the ozonic and the aquatic, then anchoring it with the classic Creed ambergris base. Millésime Impérial opens with this calone (a deal breaker for some), merged with grapefruit and bergamot to provide a sparkling tart melon citrus that is dried by the sea salt borrowed from Erolfa. This effervescent sharpness creates the required "ozonic" effect without using a chemical ozone note in the compositions like others of this ilk, proving that such stinging sharpness is possible without as much artifice. I'd still say it's an acquired taste, but one that many evidently acquired due to Millésime Impérial's popularity. More citrus and a dry floral note awaits in the heart, as mandarin and lemon join with some violet to create a sparkling accord similar to the later Ed Hardy Love & Luck for Men (2008), but much simpler and with a better dry down than that often-compared fragrance. White musk, ambergris, dihydromyrcenol (the aquatic accord), cedar, Iso E Super, and a light oakmoss finish out the wear which veers masculine by the end, hence it's greater popularity among the "bro segment" than it's peer Silver Mountain Water, but at least nobody calls it a wife stealer. The usual 10+ hour wear time is expected, and booming projection if over-applied, plus this has enough vavoom for all seasons but the most bitter cold, making it a good generalist for the guy wanting a signature daily driver that's a cut above but not wanting to go overboard with a bottle of Aventus or Viking (2017), which are exorbitant regardless of where you find them for sale.

Millésime Impérial is likely the peak of 90's Creed style for young men, so for guys wanting to know what the Hollywood jet set likely wore twenty years ago, this is a good place to start, and discounters can get your foot in the door with this for about the same price as a large Tom Ford signature line selection or bottle of Parfums de Marley, over which I'd gladly take this any day. As mentioned, a lot of comparison is drawn between Millésime Impérial and the later Ed Hardy creation Love & Luck for Men. I won't deny similarities in the heart phase of both fragrances, and maybe Tom Ford/Ed Hardy perfumer Olivier Gillotin was indeed inspired to some degree by Olivier Creed's work on this, but they open differently and dry down differently, so I feel folks calling them the same are just smelling them on other people from afar. If you wear fragrances for your own emotional enjoyment, you'll find the full dry downs of both are entirely worlds apart, as you can paint a Porsche and a Pontiac the same shade of red to marginally fool some people from afar, but not when they sit inside the car themselves. Millésime Impérial is a good Creed entry point for guys looking for a less-challenging introduction than something like Royal Oud (2011) or Bois du Portugal (1987), and Millésime Impérial is less ubiquitous among Creeds than something like Green Irish Tweed (1985) too, so you won't feel like you joined the haute-bourgeois herd just yet. Creed called this unisex back in the day, and it's still marketed as such, but I don't see anything that a more feminine-leaning perfumista would like outside the violet and musk, which are both slight compared to all the dominant clean citrus. Thumbs up from me, but definitely sample or buy a small decant first, as this kind of "ozonic" category hasn't aged as well as other 90's genres, and the salty melon note might be off-putting to some, but overall this is a solid warm-weather wear for those with the money to burn. Also, this appears in an older clear bottle with a label affixed, and a newer all-gold bottle which compliments the all-silver Himalaya (2002) quite well, but both are the same juice inside.
25th November, 2018 (last edited: 26th November, 2018)

Silver Mountain Water by Creed

I walked into Creed Silver Mountain Water (1995) really wanting to hate it, because I kept seeing people talk about it being the "ck One (1994) for millionaires" and of all banal things, the subject of a particular YouTube reviewer calling it "how to steal someone's wife 101" which instantly put it into the "alphadudebro gonna be a stunner sick gains gotta get swole baller baller y'all" mentality which Aventus (2010) has sadly also fallen into. But, just like Aventus, I was pleasantly surprised that there was serious quality behind this, and originality that makes it very likeable to my nose. I totally understand why this draws in the typical over-privileged and under-disciplined dregs of toxic masculinity within corporate Western culture, as it is a real "stunner" as they'd say with sparkling fruity top notes and a crisp green finish that is more unisex than all the male collar-popping surrounding the fragrance may lead on. I get the reason this exists too, contrary to what Chad McAudiGym Esquire might think, as Creed after the initial 80's explosion from their own boutiques into high-end department stores began to market themselves as a cut above designers, not quite niche per se, just a "finer" option in the same stylistic vein as their "plebian" competition. Before they began re-writing their own backstory and jacking up prices to be the house you "graduate into", they really seemed to be trying to offer better takes on popular ideas, with this being their answer to the unisex craze of the 90's.

Silver Mountain Water opens with a gorgeous mandarin and bergamot; the top notes are nothing out of the ordinary for a fragrance made in this decade, but smell extraordinarily natural for what they are nonetheless, offering first glimpse of "better than the rest" I feel Creed was going for at the time, before the idea of being an aspirational house sank in too much with the marketing team. Quickly the juicy blackcurrant joins the already-sweet mandarin, and I'm surprised so many chauvinist guys actually like something this fruity and feminine. There's a green tea note here which mimics the popular Calvin Klein creation from the prior year, and sort of also sets the standard for the later Bvlgari scents which also depended heavily on either green or black teas. The development is just the right amount of aromatic to keep it gender-neutral after the flamboyant top settles down, and the dry sandalwood begins bridging this development of top and middle to the trademark Creed ambergris base. We find such a base also decorated with petitgrain, galbanum, and a synthetic white musk note which apparently even Creed wasn't above using in the 90's, which is okay because it works within the "fresh and fruity green citrus" theme of the airy verdant mountainside captured in aroma. Sillage can be a monster with this, as it is so piercingly sharp after the sweetness dies down, thanks to petitgrain and galbanum being base notes instead of top notes, so be easy on the trigger and make note that this has respectable winter legs for a freshie. Despite the lofty makings, Silver Mountain Water feels very casual to me, and not at all like something you'd wear only in high society, which is counter to the personality of a lot of other Creeds (including Aventus), so it's dare I say.. actually approachable from a house that doesn't usually like being seen as such.

Creed is not unilateral on their pricing, using popularity as justification for markup, and since this one is not quite as popular as it's biggest money makers (but also not the most obscure), you can get in the door for much less than many of the top-selling Creeds. Still, this one will cost uncomfortable amounts of cash for folks used to designers or discounter sales, meaning it isn't a blind buy despite my praise, so sample if you can or buy a decant from the many sellers who offer splits. Silver Mountain Water is an extremely unique and high-quality unisex fragrance, but only under the condition that you enjoy fruity smells, with a lot of citrus zing and green fizz, as the sandalwood here is just a faint wisp of a base note, and like the ambergris, appears only at the end when this is a skin scent. Sure, there are many other fruity 90's scents both masculine, feminine, and even unisex, and you could easily have a wardrobe of a half-dozen such scents for the price of this one, but if you really wanted just one, this isn't a bad choice if you're not feeling any Creed sticker shock. For collectors and enthusiasts who usually spend considerable coin on perfume anyway, this might be worth a look as one of the not-so-overexposed entries from the house, and Silver Mountain Water is one of my favorite 90's Creeds thus far, regardless of how basic the bros who also like it might be. If nothing else, this is at least worth a sniff for somebody desiring a freshie that is a cut above, and if you like this, you might also want to check out it's sequel, Virgin Island Water (2007), which takes this theme in a different direction. I can't guarantee how well Silver Mountain Water will help you with spouse stealing, but have fun trying, just don't come crying to me if you get hurt.
25th November, 2018

Acqua di Giò pour Homme by Giorgio Armani

The incredibly ubiquitous Acqua di Giò pour Homme (1996) by Giorgio Armani is more than just the most-detected men's fragrance seen in the streets of most major Western cities, but also quite literally the 1990's in a bottle, the pinnacle of the fresh, clean, unobtrusive and oftentimes androgynous style common in the decade, a style which sought to put distance between itself and the burly over-masculine 70's and the loud, ostentatious 80's. The smell of Acqua di Giò pour Homme was that of Christian Dior's Eau Sauvage (1966) come full-circle, with the jasmine hedione and citrus hespirides which put that venerable chypre on the map for it's freshness stripped of all other superfluous elements and built back up with synthetic wonder-chemicals to be the shining beacon of simple, amiable, uncomplicated likeability which defines the 90's vibe. Acqua di Giò pour Homme is the ultimate crowd-pleaser and most folks who hate it are just sick and tired of how impersonal and polite it's presence is, and the fact that the basic floral aquatic tandem it perfected has been abused ad infinitum ad nauseam for the greater part of 2 decades, and still is by some houses. Simply put: Acqua di Giò pour Homme is one of three major reasons designer masculine fragrances have stagnated creatively, alongside Liz Claiborne's Curve for Men (1996) and Thierry Mugler's A*Men (1996), setting a standard that reads "if not aquatic fresh, then fruity fresh, and if not either, than rich and sweet". Acqua di Giò pour Homme can't entirely be faulted for the state of designer perfumery, because it was more than the success of one fragrance which determined that accountants should be creative forces over perfumers and force distillation of past successes to replace creative exploration, but that's another story. Alberto Morillas and Jacques Cavallier were called upon to form a dream team on Acqua di Giò pour Homme, and it really shows in the pop music simplicity Morillas gave it, and underplayed elegance on display courtesy of Cavallier.

The scent opens with a lovely jasmine hedione, not as rich as the aforementioned legendary Dior, and laced with a larger dose of synthetic hespirdes and the "aquatic" note of dihydromyrcenol, the 90's chemical du jour alongside calone which sets the tone for the fragrance. How you feel about Acqua di Giò pour Homme largely determines how you feel about these key aromachemicals, so if you absolutely hate them, stop reading here and go back to your aromatic chypres or orientals, but if this kind of thing is your bag and you already own stuff like Creed Green Irish Tweed (1985) or Aramis New West (1988), you'll be in heaven as they are used most expertly here. Rosemary adds a bit of aromatic comfort in the transition from the top to the base, but the hesperides also come along and marry with some white florals and persimmon, plus a salty oceanic accord which is the scent's biggest trademark, living up to all the advertisements featuring moist beach bodies and sea water lapping upon rocks. It's a rare a fragrance truly fits its marketing, so take it where you can get it. Rock rose (a drier/lighter form of cistus labdanum) brings in the musky dry down, and it's an ultra-clean synthetic laundry musk just like what is heavily featured in both Jacques Cavallier's L'Eau d'Issey (1994) and Alberto Morillas' co-penned Calvin Klein ck One (1994), so no big surprise there really. There's cedar serving as a sharp desiccant, and some form of highly-bleached/altered patchouli roundness floating in the mix alongside the faintest hints of oakmoss (more in the older batches), but that's about it. Wear time is average but better than most aquatics at 8 hours, and sillage is surprisingly strong, so watch over-doing it unless you're taking Acqua di Giò pour Homme to the club (a common occurrence in the 90's), unless you want this nice oceanic ambiance to transform into a nose-shredding synthetic monster from Planet Armani. By how much I still smell this in my daily comings and goings, I might get the suspicion that the designer style has never really left the 90's in some ways, but that is also another story.

I like Acqua di Giò pour Homme, and am surprised that is radiates in both hot and cold weather, lending to its legendary status as a year-rounder. This scent is like any other long-lived stalwart of the industry, such as Old Spice (1937), English Leather (1949), Brut (1962), Azzaro Pour Homme (1978), Cool Water (1988) and beyond. There will always be a massive throng of signature-scent users and abusers ruining the Acqua di Giò pour Homme experience for people who prefer variety, by stubbornly wearing this every single day until kingdom come, so I don't besmirch the haters. However, I see this for what it is, and that's a watershed fragrance which has become the ultimate generalist, showing no sign of slowing as it still is a best-seller in many countries, keeping pace with much younger combatants like Polo Blue (2002), Terre d'Hermes (2008), Bleu de Chanel (2010), Dior Sauvage (2015), and YSL Y for Men (2017). I think Acqua di Giò pour Homme is the only reason Giorgio Armani still stays relevant to men in the 21st century, and is still heaps better than many of it's newer competitors, despite several advancements in modern designer perfumery, like the oft-overused ambroxan. It's certainly not my favorite, but Acqua di Giò pour Homme gets a thumbs up for being a dependable, if somewhat plain staple of the modern men's wardrobe. No need to sample, you've already smelled this, liked it, and probably didn't know it was. Seriously, this stuff is EVERYWHERE, which might prove a significant reason to shift from an urbane to a rural lifestyle, especially if you can't stand aquatics. Thumbs Up, but with the caveat that like cheese pizza or vanilla ice cream, you really have to be in the mood for something this straightforward unless you're the kind of person that orders their cheeseburgers from McDonald's without pickles or onions, in which case this is probably your favorite fragrance already.
25th November, 2018

Lyric Man by Amouage

Amouage Lyric Man (2008) is an exceptionally challenging fragrance on many fronts, and has developed a love/hate reputation among colognoisseurs for several reasons. Primarily, Lyric Man is a fresh, green, soapy rose fragrance in the old Victorian tradition, but with ambergris and other animalics that would normally darken and dirty a composition from that period replaced with Middle Eastern favorites like sandalwood and myrrh for a drier finish that magnifies the clean, verdant notes on top. Relative unknown Daniel Visentin created this for Amouage, whom since opening by Prince Sayyid Hamad bin Hamoud al bu Said under request by Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, has always sought mainly prominent Western perfumers to interpret their hybridized ideas, so his idea must have been particularly strong. Most of the division over Lyric Man stems from its perceived lack of masculinity, especially compared to the much-heavier oriental rose of Amouage Lyric Woman (2008), which arguably is unisex. Most heteronormative guys buying blind based on reviews find Lyric Man to be jarringly light, floral, and feminine unless they love rose or have an expanded palette for perfumes across gender marketing lines, and Lyric Man has unsurprisingly found some favor with women. I think both versions of Lyric are unisex but clean and dirty sides of the same coin, and I can see why Amouage would take this direction as they're seeing the Western trend towards fresher masculines continuously dominate the market, but probably didn't put two plus two together to realize that Western rose guys prefer a dry rose like the later Cartier Déclaration d'Un Soir (2012) and Le Labo Thé Noir (2015), one that's barely implied like the even later Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme Ultime (2016) or one folded into a fougère accord like the classic Caron Number 3/Le 3eme Homme (1985). Maybe Amouage was just a little early to the 21st century rose revival for men?

Lyric Man opens with a dry bergamot and tart lime, fresh, zesty, semi-ozonic in character as it wafts from skin. The featured rose on the box emerges right away, and it's a bright tea rose, not a heavy Turkish or sweet Damask rose as pictured or as might be expected in a Middle Eastern perfume for men, which typically utilize those varieties in their composition. Angelica and neroli flank this tea rose, offering a soapy white floral balance to the heady signature note, and the whole thing is very lightly dusted in galbanum, which brings in the leafy green factor of the tea rose nicely, making Lyric Man feel like a throwback to the sharp feminine chypres of the late 60's through early 80's. Ginger, nutmeg, and saffron "brown up" the middle in savory spice, but it doesn't detract much from the rose/neroli pair, serving only as olfactory adhesive which mulls the florals, making me think of a rose-flavored traditional eau de cologne with spice swapped in for herbs. Sandalwood, vanilla, musk, and myrrh dial in the semi-sweet aromatic factor even more, with pine being the one masculine anchor keeping the other base notes from making the dry down too sweet, offering up a Hollywood-sterilized view of the Victorian dandy. Sillage is tight but intense, not quite nuclear like some Amouage scents, but you will smell yourself all day with just 2 sprays so be please be careful. Fans of neroli who don't mind a rose/galbanum accord floating about may also find favor with Lyric Man, as that orange blossom is the most-prominent floral in the composition besides the rose. Lyric Man is a scent out of place, time, and apparently gender norms too, so no context provided for where to use it outside of extreme heat or cold, where such piercingly bright soapy florals shine the most.

I totally get the controversy surrounding Lyric Man, as its feminine counterpart is actually more butch than it, which doesn't bother ladies so much as feminine-marketed perfume has always come in a wider swath of styles than masculines, while stuff pitched at CISHET guys is generally a "clean citrus/aquatic/woody amber", a "vanilla/tonka/tobacco/spice" or occasionally a "sharp aromatic woody/leather/hesperides", with nary a bit of floral dalliance or soapiness. Older guys or vintage masculine fans are more than prepared for what Lyric Man has to offer (particularly with the lime opening), as these kinds of things were more-commonly worn in decades past, just smell Hammam Bouquet (1872) or even Zino Davidoff (1986) for reference. If anything, Lyric Man smells like a darker, less-green and slightly-soapier Perfumer's Workshop Tea Rose (1973) with much better performance. Being a niche prestige brand pushing well past 3 digits, I do not encourage a blind buy here, but regardless of whether you're genderfluid or dyed-in-the-wool masculine/feminine, Lyric Man is a lovely antique rose perfume laced with a bit of modern clean. The only real negative I can find in Lyric Man is its slightly-linear development, but when the prominent floral on display is rose (my favorite), executed so well, with such good performance all around, it can be forgiven. A friend of mine opinioned that this scent is perfectly suitable to a gay man comfortable in his own skin, and may in fact be intended for such an audience. I almost couldn't agree more with him as I love the stuff, but knowing Amouage's country of origin and how rose perfumes of all kinds have been traditionally enjoyed by men for generations, I think this is just a Middle East-meets-West sort of happy little accident. Thumbs up, but be careful not to rush in on the hype.
23rd November, 2018

Unspoken by Avon

Avon moved into green floral chypres like so many did in the 70's, beginning in earnest with Charisma (1970), then progressed through Moonwind (1971), Emprise (1974), and then this, Unspoken (1975). By mid-decade, chypres for women had become brutally sharp bergamot and oakmoss monsters peppered with white florals, and sometimes leather, but they had to compete against the over-the-top musk bombs and soapy herbal fougères of the era, so they too became inadvertently masculine as a result. Nobody at the time really perceived them as such, but after a few decades, looking back on most of the surviving examples will yield bitter, green, assertive results that are far more unisex now than anything else, especially in light of what actually passes as intentionally unisex in the 21st century. Unspoken runs in the same lane as Chanel Cristalle (1974), but is even more extreme and almost psychotically bone dry. Unspoken uses similar blanche citrus and floral development but has a fatter oakmoss bottom, a powdery incense note, and a small hint of leather. If Cristalle casts a cold unfeeling gaze, then Unspoken has the eyes of murderous intent. Something this extreme pulled off on such a budget inadvertently makes it more extreme, as there is greater note separation and less ingredients to blend down any of the exposed seams, so expect Unspoken to test even ardent chypre lovers.

The opening of Unspoken is rakish, and a bit startling, with bergamot, galbanum, aldehydes, and hyacinth pulling a cat claw across the face. I'm reminded of Estée Super-Cologne (1968) and Revlon Moon Drops (1970) a bit by the stark aggression, but they eventually soften while this does not. Extremely dessicated peach and raspberry notes zing about, but it's not registering as "fruity" when this dry, and just diversifies the tartness overall instead. Jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, and a soapy iris note play tug-of-war in the middle, with jasmine providing some sensuality while iris makes it proper, and the rose/ylang just being stuck in the middle. It all grays into oakmoss, cedar, and incense anyway, with sandalwood and musk just rounding the edges slightly, letting a mild leather ghost note appear late in the wear. Unspoken is warmer than Cristalle for sure, and beats up your nose with its rough edges before settling down for an 8+ hour wear. This stuff is humorless and all business, so regardless of gender, Unspoken is definitely an office scent. I'd say Unspoken is also a rare year-rounder in its class, as its warmth gives Unspoken winter strength, but the dry, piercing nature will also cut through humid hot air like a javelin. Regardless of when you wear Unspoken, people will notice, and you'll garner looks of all kinds, most of them alarming or concerned. Oh what fun!

Heteronormative guys won't really dig the hyacinth in the opening, but if they survive it, a steroid-infused version of the old powdery Victorian barbershop floral style awaits, so fans of Caswell-Massey Jockey Club (1840) or Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet (1872) might dig Unspoken's dry down. Women who love this era of perfume will see Unspoken as the heartless, unfeeling polar opposite to the sunny disposition of Revlon's Charlie (1973), and might find favor with Unspoken when they want their presence felt, but wish to otherwise be left alone, like the colorful spots on a poisonous frog. Cristalle is still classier and better-executed (I mean come on, it's Henri Robert's work), but I am mildly impressed how Avon was able to churn out something competitive in so little time, as they're usually 5 years behind the cutting-edge minimum unless they create a happy accident like Cotillion (1934), or Occur! (1962), or the previous year's Timeless (1974), which actually presages a movement in the industry. Unspoken is another "ultra-cologne" that never survived the 70's but also never caught on, so it shouldn't be hard to seek out for the curious. My only real complaint is how Avon basically ripped off the bottle design of Estée Lauder Alliage Sport Spray (1972) with Unspoken's packaging, but alas, if you're looking for a totally unforgiving chypre accord, this little cheapo wonder has your number. Use with caution, or use when alone. Thumbs up!
22nd November, 2018

Occur! by Avon

Avon's glory days were certainly from the late 1940's through to the early 1980's, where they erected a direct-selling empire oft-emulated by other upstarts which more or less became pyramid schemes after a time. Avon had moved away from traditional soliflores and prim bouquets by the postwar period, fully embracing chypres and orientals for women, many being quite racy in nature. Occur! (1962) was certainly one of the raciest, with Avon Unforgettable (1965) following in its footsteps rather closely. Occur! was an amalgam of styles: part leather chypre, part floriental, part aldehydic floral, sitting somewhere between Houbigant Chantilly (1941), and Robert Piguet Bandit (1944), with a few drops of Lanvin Arpege (1927) and Dana Tabu (1932) to broaden things out. This might sound like a granny boudoir nightmare to the modern mainstream feminine nose, but the accord created by this combination is fairly unisex and unintentionally niche in the modern era where clean citrus and synthetic fruits are the norm. If you pay attention at all to the artisinal scene, the kind of ingredients being played with in Occur! are all over the creations of one-perfumer upstart houses. Occur! won't blow anyone away, but we'll likely never see Avon get this lewd again, regardless of feminine, unisex, or masculine marketing. What's most funny is Occur! feels like a precursor to many of Avon's own masculine creations in later years, as several of its dry down phases distinctly recall future men's compositions, particularly Wild Country (1967) and Black Suede (1980).

Occur! shows its aldehydic floral and oriental facets early before drying down into a tigress of a leather chypre, being a slight bait-and-switch like so many really dynamic older perfumes. The scent opens with bergamot and aldehydes, but suspiciously no florals, coupling spicy coriander and cardamom to the top. This opening hit reminds me a lot of Lagerfeld Cologne (1978) and Coty Stetson (1981), both of which were masculine scents years away, if that gives any indication of how butch of a perfume Occur! happens to be. A mixture of yellow and white florals so well blended I can't tell them apart await in the heart, but carnation and rose stand out the most, reminding me of Wild Country in some ways, which is another masculine a few years away from happening. Beyond this opening the earliest part of the heart, Occur! becomes its own animal, leaving most comparisons behind, as patchouli, incense, vetiver smoke, and an odd cococnut sweetness dry down and dirty up the scent for the final act. Styrax, castoreum, honeyed civet, and musk all await to delight or frighten the nose, and it doesn't stop there. Leather, oakmoss, and Avon's patent amber (recalling Black Suede's finish) are among the calmer of the base notes here, with a dollop of vanilla to pretend this is civil. The saving grace of Occur! is it isn't a whopper in performance, being the rare Avon women's cologne spray that actually is, and giving moderate projection at best with 6 hours of wear time before it becomes a skin scent.

You're going to stand out wherever you wear this so forget context, but I do suggest colder weather due to animalic stew living in the base. There's a powdery quality late in the wear which combines with the leather to make Occur! feel quite like a proper Victorian barbershop cologne, which is amusing considering it was lobbed at ladies, but I also have to remind myself that women's perfume was actually more muscular than the early "dapper gent" stuff houses were filtering onto the then-untested men's market, so it makes sense that feminines were less conservative, because less risk was involved in such an established segment. Daring, mature, and take-charge types will love Occur! for it's bodybuilder physique in a miniskirt presentation, but folks looking to be polite are best to avoid Occur! at all costs. Simply put, this was Avon's most-definitive take on the mid-century "liberated women" theme in perfume, and although it still doesn't have the huevos of something like Estée Lauder Youth Dew (1953), it at least has the prowess to be a member of the pack. As an aside, if you decide to seek a newer re-issue bottle (they ran up until 1997), avoid 90's production as it severely tones down the animalics, letting the leather, oakmoss, and vanilla do more of the talking. Of course, that might be what you want, and likely a safer bet anyway if old pressurized sprays sound scary and cologne splashes are ill-suiting. This is another shockingly provocative oldie from the annals of Avon history! Thumbs up! One things certain: if you wear it, something will Occur!
20th November, 2018

Perfume Calligraphy Saffron by Aramis

Aramis Perfume Calligraphy (2012) was an earnest attempt by Estée Lauder to break into the Middle East perfume market, which until recent years was served only indirectly by Western perfume houses, and they did so by making a Western perfume with Middle Eastern rose/oud/amber/saffron inflections. The first entry was originally composed by Clement Gavarry (son of Max Gavarry) for Estée Lauder and quizzically released under the Aramis line despite being a unisex launch. The Middle East and Europe got that one in a limited edition woodcap bottle, while the US saw distribution exclusively through Neiman Marcus in a bottle that matched the Gentleman's Collection set, marketed to men exclusively. Apparently the stuff, which has seen mixed reactions from perfumistas and colognoisseurs, was a success and spawned two limited flankers the following year: Aramis Perfume Calligraphy Rose (2013), which was composed by Trudi Loren and took focus on the rose element of the original, and Perfume Calligraphy Saffron (2013), which saw Clement Gavarry return to focus on saffron. Rose and oud are still small parts of Perfume Calligraphy Saffron, as it doesn't go full-tilt amber rose like Perfume Calligraphy Rose did, but neither does it go full-tilt saffron as the title might suggest. Fans of Chanel Égoïste (1990) should take note of Perfume Calligraphy Saffron, as it has a similar sweet rose heart sandwiched between aromatic elements, but presented in a smoother, more spicy way.

Perfume Calligraphy Saffron feels the most Western of the three Calligraphy perfumes, and also the most masculine, but more on that a little further down. The scent opens with pasty marigold and honeyed bergamot, sweet, ochre-like, and very reminiscent of honeyed floral openings such as Boss/Boss Number One by Hugo Boss (1985) and Balenciaga Ho Hang Club/Le Club de Balenciaga (1987), particularly when the rose heart emerges to interact with the honey. Lavender also joins the rose in the middle, creating another link in my mind to Caron Number 3/The Third Man (1985), especially when the tonka appears to give Perfume Calligraphy Saffron a fougère-like quality. Make no mistake, this is still an oriental, with the namesake saffron note and oud seeing to that, but the base is remarkably Western in flavor, particularly with the animalic leather and styrax playing with tonka and grassy vetiver. The total aura with leather included is very much French, almost a French Morocco of old in a roundabout way, not that Clement Gavarry was making a perfume ode to colonialism. Sillage is tight but longevity is really good at 10+ hours of total wear time before its a memory, just like the previous two Calligraphy perfumes, and I could see this being a good fall/winter evening choice for casual or romantic use, but definitely not office-friendly. I'd also say this is sweet enough to serve under makeshift clubbing duty as well. Fans of the original Perfume Calligraphy will have more to gravitate towards in the saffron flanker than the rose, mainly because they have more in common, which may have to do with them both being made by the same perfumer.

Overall, I dearly love all three Calligraphy scents to pieces but if I had to give an objective "Best of Series" award to any of them, it would be this one, since it doesn't feel conflicted and compromised like the original Perfume Calligraphy, nor like an altogether unrelated Middle Eastern rose perfume like the Perfume Calligraphy Rose flanker. Perfume Calligraphy Saffron is the entry most likely to find appeal with vintage male fragrance hobbyists because of the leather, animalics, and similarity to so many masculine classics, but the marigold top might be a bit off-putting to CISHET guys since that flower is rarely seen in "sporty" modern men's compositions. Perfume Calligraphy Saffron is a smooth honeyed rose, oud and leather oriental surprise from Aramis, and one which probably connects least to a Western audience as it contains animalic elements that haven't been popular in over thirty plus years, which makes it all the more endearing in my eyes. Like with Perfume Calligraphy Rose, this only comes in the limited woodcap bottle and never saw an official US release, but Neiman Marcus imported some briefly, plus you'll find it all over the internet at prices much lower than its original $120 MSRP. Perfume Calligraphy Saffron also seems to be the least talked-about of the three in this series, so eBay gougers aren't likely to try monopolizing stock due to lack of sufficient interest from crazed collectors. Thumbs up!
19th November, 2018 (last edited: 20th November, 2018)

Shalimar by Guerlain

Shalimar is the crown jewel in the Guerlain catalog, the scent that came to define the house and it's use of the "Guerlinade" compound note which found its way into almost all of perfumer Jacques Guerlain's compositions, plus a great many of Jean-Paul Guerlain's as well. Shalimar was named after a garden in Lahore made for Mumtaz Mahal, the same woman for whom the Taj Mahal was also built. The creation of Shalimar was near-accidental too, as perfumer Jacques Guerlain discovered its primary accord by pouring a bottle of ethylvanillin into a bottle of Jicky (1889), the seminal fougère that was originally composed by his uncle Aimé Guerlain, building a fragrance upon another fragrance as Jacques Guerlain was known to do. Therefore like Jicky, Shalimar is technically a fougère as well, since it is built up from that fragrance's structure, but it contains a great many more oriental elements to it, and is thus often associated with the oriental category. If Jicky was the unintentional gender bender progenitor that was loved by a great many men alongside women, and Mouchoir de Monsieur (1904) the masculine-targeted shade thereof, then Shalimar is the rounder and more-luxurious advancement of that primary accord pitched to women during the roaring 20's. The scent was originally released in 1921 alongside Chanel No. 5 (1921), and proved to be the strongest competition that iconic perfume had, but went under a numerical designation just as the Chanel did until 1925, because the name "Shalimar" was being contested by another perfumer who claimed to have already used it. When known as "No. 90", the perfume made waves, but it wasn't until it's widespread 1925 release as Shalimar that the legend was born. The overall smell of Shalimar isn't much removed from Jicky, and indeed many of the great oriental and fougère-like compositions made under the hands of Jacques Guerlain share similar traits, not only because of his "fragrance upon another fragrance" crafting or the "Guerlinade" house accord he perfected, but also because it's the style he seemingly preferred. L'Heure Blue (1912), Mitsouko (1919), and Shalimar all have multiple levels of this intertextuality with each other and previous Guerlain efforts from which Jacques drew his inspiration; that was just part of of his unique creative process.

What makes Shalimar stand out from all it's siblings is its plushness, its fullness, the radiance of its notes, which can be a bit much to take for some people. The scent opens with lavender, bergamot, and mandarin, but switches out Jicky's rosewood for aldehydes and herbal rosemary, which makes for the resplendence of Shalimar's opening. This change doesn't make as much difference to the overall character of the perfume as the addition of an actual heart structure to Shalimar, which Jicky sorely lacked. That scent moves from its barbershop opening into a hellish moat of animalic and heady base notes, with only a floral heart inferred by the flip-flop transition between top to bottom. Jacques Guerlain likely wasn't happy with the "presto-chango" suddenness of uncle Aimé's composition, because instead, we go down to the base notes in stages with Shalimar, more like a traditional perfume. Jasmine, rose, patchouli, and vetiver stand vividly in the heart of Shalimar more than they did in the trap door dry down of Jicky, and are joined by a poofy iris note which also replaces the orris of Jicky and helps Shalimar feel a bit more feminine, which was the aim anyway. The tell-tale vanilla note anchoring the accidental discovery that is this perfume's primary accord shows up halfway, bringing in the rest of the Jicky base with new additions of opoponax and peru basalm. Shalimar tries to be a little more polite with its use of animalics, taking musk in place of styrax, and toning down the civet and ambergris just a touch so the other heart notes of tonka, leather, sandalwood, and oakmoss can be felt. I don't get the cinnamon spice or incense notes of Jicky in Shalimar either, and the blending is much smoother, making any note separation a real reach (translation, lots of sniffing to find), which is another master stroke of Jacques himself. Taken on its own merit without comparing it to compositions with which it shares most of its notes, Shalimar is an unusual vanillic oriental fougère-like fragrance that sat right with women in the early 20th century, particularly flappers that liked it's dynamism made possible by rich semi-indolic underpinnings, lady-like aldehydic florals, and oriental smoothness. Wear time varies greatly on concentration, as Shalimar was made in many forms, but a median figure across all iterations is a solid 8 hours of moderate sillage. Something this illustrious isn't a casual wear, regardless of context, so make sure you don't glow like a diesel hot plug by your choice of Shalimar on a casual game night.

All told, Shalimar is still mostly retained by women as the matriarch of grand perfumes, with only the aforementioned Chanel No. 5 to really contest this claim, but guys can totally wear Shalimar too, as the primary accord is rather unisex, but with a slightly heavier dose of "Guerlinade" than usual pushing the smell to be uncomfortably makeup-like if you're a jock type. Still, dandies in France famously have worn Shalimar for years, and if Jicky didn't scare you, I doubt this will either. The reason for the stigma against men wearing Shalimar, like most things in the fragrance world, comes down to marketing. Guerlain had mostly given up on pitching Jicky to women even after making Mouchoir de Monsieur as a manlier substitute, but they stuck to their guns with Shalimar, keeping it in the company of Mitsouko and L'Heure Bleu as sort of the "big 3" feminines from the house, creating something of a marketing barrier. Then Jean-Paul Guerlain went off and made the chypre Habit Rouge (1965) with grandfather Jacques' "Guerlinade" in the mix, perhaps moving male interest further away from Shalimar in the process, but that hasn't stopped perfume hobbyists or open-minded guys with a bit of gender fluidity from enjoying it. Bottom line here is if you like old floral barbershop smells, vanillic orientals, and anything with a clean, plush, soapy smell up top, but a substantially musky animalic backbone, you'd enjoy Shalimar regardless of what is between your legs. Since this perfume has inspired so many others high and low, you've likely already bought something descended from it anyway and didn't know. Parfum extrait and eau de parfum are going to be the heaviest take with the most complex dry downs. More vanilla, oakmoss, sandalwood, and musk is present to my nose in the extrait, and the top fades fastest. I find folks enjoying the animalic qualities of Shalimar best suited to the eau de toilette, which seems to let the floral heart and civet in the base breath more freely, at the cost of some development. The folks who want the fougère elements to ring truest are better off with the eau de cologne, since it showcases the lavender and bergamot strongest, then crisply segues through the floral heart and lays upon a drier version of the base that sees the vanilla, civet, and leather turned down in favor of the tonka, oakmoss, and ambergris. Regardless of which version you get, they're all thumbs up from me. Shalimar is a pièce de résistance solidifying Guerlain as one of the greatest perfume houses of all time, and you know I rarely speak in such lofty terms.
19th November, 2018

One Man Show Oud Edition by Jacques Bogart

"Je ne crée que pour l'homme" (I create only for men) has been the modus operandi for Jacques Bogart since 1975, and when the age of the powerhouse masculine fragrance ended roughly in the early 1990's, Bogart said "Hell no, we won't go!" to that paradigm shift and kept on making powerhouses, with adjustments in style as relevant over the decades. This has made the house something of an unsung hero among colognoisseurs, particularly vintage fragheads who miss the days of stiff oakmoss and virile animalic masculines that were anything but subtle or polite. For the old man who never left the 80's, or the young man who romanticizes about the period in fragrance history when the loudness of your fragrance was equal to your jock cup size, Bogart is your house. With that having been said, there has still been a lot of modernity and progressive thinking on display from the "real" house of sillage over the decades, and I believe One Man Show Oud Edition (2014) displays that nicely. The original One Man Show (1980) is a castoreum-fueled scrotum sac nightmare that you either love (like me) or hate (like many) which put the house in the early runnings alongside Jacomo with their Jacomo de Jacomo (1980) for the animalic oakmoss loudness war that is the previous generation's iteration of the ambroxan/norlimbanol war men's fragrance started experiencing in the 2010's. True, YSL Kouros (1981), Chanel Antaeus (1981), Bijan for Men (1981), and other "Class of '81" powerhouses would more or less stick both Bogart and Jacomo on the B-list bench the very next year, but the reputation of the "jus" remained intact. Bogart began tinkering with One Man Show flankers with One Man Show Gold Edition (2011), a Middle East-inspired scent because the loudness factor of Bogart overall made them appealing in that sector of the world fragrance market. They kept on with One Man Show Ruby Edition (2013), which stayed in that lane, until finally going full-blown-oud with this creation. All of them share the DNA of the original One Man Show, so liking that scent is something of a prerequisite to enjoying this.

One Man Show Oud Edition is of course a synthetic oud, especially since it barely tops $40USD at retail unless somebody is trying to rip you off on eBay, and it's usually half that if you're going for testers or unboxed items. However, it is a very natural-smelling synthetic oud which doesn't fall into the medicinal trap many in this price range shoot for, having a touch of the barnyard stink and aromatic warmth that you'd have to normally spend over three digits for with something containing trace amounts of the real deal. Oud carries the opening, alongside sharp bergamot and galbanum which tie it into the original One Man Show. There's thyme in the note pyramid, but that oud just stomps all over everything else so beats me how it survives that onslaught. Geranium, sage, saffron, coriander, and nutmeg all inhabit the middle, which is where the oud technically does too, but it was at me from the jump so it stands apart from the rest of the pyramid in my opinion. The base is warm patchouli, a petrol leather note, tobacco, and a small hit of that castoreum funk also making a reappearance from the original One Man Show, pulling this oud variant into chypre territory in particular with the leather and oud adding thickness the absent oakmoss usually provides. Supposedly there is papyrus here too, but again, it gets tossed around by the oud. Sillage is intense, projection is downright nuclear, even for a Bogart fragrance, and longevity needs not be mentioned. This stuff will last as long, if not longer, than you want it to, trust me. One Man Show Oud Edition is the 1980 strut of the original trading in its corduroy pants and vest for a thobe, igal, and sandals. I'd say wear this wherever you dare, as like most intentionally-loud fragrances, One Man Show Oud Edition will not bow to the concept of context or appropriate usage, so be proud about it will ya? I find these kind of aromatic and dry leathery scents to work better in winter, but they'll not smother too much in summer as they aren't really sweet at all, which also makes this a charmer compared to the modern sweet amber woods massacre that is the modern mainstream male powerhouse aesthetic.

One Man Show Oud Edition is loud, proud, and even a bit lewd, presenting the best facets of an in-your-face oud perfume without relying on the oft-paired rose accord. I might say this even makes itself a more-restrained alternative to Christian Dior Leather Oud (2010), as both scents focus on virile leathery oud dry downs, but the Bogart scent is actually for once the more conservative scent compared to it's usual competition, so for those thinking the Dior is nice but a bit too "extra", this might be their ticket. There's also the elephant in the room of the Dior costing about ten times the price of the Bogart, so it may also be a more frugal option that can be backed up with abandon. I really like this scent, but I can see how it is polarizing to people, especially those not used to oud, or expecting something more complex, as the linearity of the wear is the only real fault I can find in the experience. I've tried a lot of Western ouds from the likes of Avon and Jovan, all the way up to John Varvatos, Yves Saint Laurent, and Diptyque. I'm not surprised that the Bogart version ranks highly among such variegated company which pitches and haws between cleanly medicinal and skanky hanky panky. One Man Show Oud Edition is warm, dry, aromatic, rich, sensual, all those things a type-A guy wants in a good old-school night out fragrance, just done with a modern synthetic oud note which puts this flanker more-solidly in the game than any recent Bogart before it save maybe the erstwhile One Man Show Gold Edition. You get tons of bang for your buck with Bogart as usual, and this by no means smells cheap, so reputation secured in that regard, and the only thing left to do is give it my thumbs up for a job well done. Bogart really is a criminally under-praised house in this price segment and this little gem is another prime example of why. Try before you buy, because not everyone is going to appreciate what this kind of oud has to bring. Cheers!
17th November, 2018 (last edited: 20th November, 2018)

Charlie / Charlie Blue by Revlon

Ahhh.. Charlie (1973), that tender sweetheart of a perfume every high school girl and young twentysomething woman wore in the 70's and 80's. Charlie is a cultural watershed fragrance to be sure, and sadly not often talked about on perfume sites, which are admittedly focused more on niche, ultra high-end compositions, and trendy designer releases anymore, leaving anything mass-market out of the equation. Despite it's high degree of influence and artistry, Charlie gets ignored not just because its price segment has taste-makers considering it dreck before even a single spritz is released from the nozzle, but also because it belongs to a class of perfumery ironically almost extinct outside of artisinal and niche perfumes: the chypre. Most who enjoyed Charlie in it's day did so without really knowing all the where-tos and why-fors of the perfume, as it was marketed most successfully by Revlon as a "lifestyle fragrance", embodying the care-free, tomboyish, emancipated woman unafraid to strike her own path or flirt with gender-bending. This was rather groundbreaking marketing in the early 1970's, and it spoke to generations of young girls who didn't want to grow up to be housewives under the thumb of a breadwinner, or stuffed into a neat little dress and shopped to employers as a secretary, maid, or nursing assistant. Looking back on Charlie, it's because the stuff was in the drugstore/mass-market segment that the truth about its composition was never uncovered, as people in that demographic (no offense) usually drink the marketing Kool-Aid hook, line, and sinker, never exploring outside the box constructed for them. If they had, ladies might have realized that Charlie riffed rather close to a number of masculine-marketed chypres from the mid-century through the 60's, and really wasn't very womanly at all, even with tomboy aesthetics discounted. Sadly, like most Revlons, we don't know who the nose behind this scent was, but they sure knew what they were doing.

Charlie has a lot in common with citrus-led aromatic chypres marketed to men, but in particular, Cappucci Pour Homme (1967) bears a striking resemblance, which was awash with bright lemon, anise, herbs, and a fruity floral middle 6 years before Charlie, and had a dandy-like quality to it for that reason. Indeed, Charlie shares this same hesperidic and anisic fruity floral chypre development, with bergamot, lemon, and prominent anise in its top. The anise sits as equals alongside the citrus, not only recalling the Cappucci, but presaging scents like Azzaro Pour Homme (1978) and Aramis Tuscany Per Uomo (1984) with it's use. Cappucci uses basil while Revlon's Charlie swaps out for tarragon, but we're really splitting hairs at the difference it makes. The middle of Charlie has peach as the fruity note, while Cappucci rides in with nondescript pectin. Charlie is also joined by a larger host of mostly white florals than what is found in the Cappucci masculine. Even then, rose, jasmine, muguet, cyclamen, and carnation are all florals that appear in dandy-themed masculines anyway so it still isn't much of a push to the feminine side of things outside of the distinct peach. We soon turn towards a traditional chypre base, again like Cappucci Pour Homme, but not as dry or academic in execution, since the sandalwood, oakmoss, cistus, and cedar are joined by a touch of soft white musk and vanilla, but it still really isn't enough to shed the massive unisex potential Charlie has, the same unisex potential I also opined that Cappucci Pour Homme possesses as well. In fact, one could easily substitute for the other, as the underlying differences are Charlie is tweaked towards a bit more fruity sweetness, and Cappucci Pour Homme is tweaked a bit more towards dry herbs and leather, which in the 21st century doesn't make a huge argument since both are past-tense. One thing that hasn't changed much perceptionally is the casual nature of Charlie, and it provides 8 hours of fun-loving and easy-going sunny aromatic chypre pleasure for any time of year. This stuff screams "weekend" to me, and does a good job of communicating it's upbeat message in the development of the citrus, anise, florals, fruits, and its crisp semi-sweet chypre finish.

Gender paradigms sadly shifted as the decades went on, polarizing the sexes in the mass-market segment and killing most genderbending potential by putting men onto boring clean citrus aquatics or sugary amber woods tropes, while women sprayed themselves with "fruitchouli" kiddie punch or ozonic fabric softener florals that smelled like everyone's favorite variety of Gain laundry soap, meaning anything remotely green, mossy, or sharp that previously swung both ways was now too butch, and anything too spicy or rich in the oriental category was "too perfumey", lending Revlon to do a major re-orchestration of Charlie into the sweeter "Charlie Blue", releasing a full line of other colored flankers to try and revitalize the line for younger women. Charlie Blue is a scary metallic cyborg of synthetic lemon drops and florals underneath the skin of the now-dead original Charlie, so go vintage if you want to smell like what I described above. Women who dig vintage styles, and love old chypres for their sharp, sporty qualities will be enamored with Charlie, as it was every bit on par with the Estée Lauder chypres of the time, although the "real good stuff" like what Dior or Chanel were pumping out will still trump it. On the other hand, I'm surprised more guys aren't all over Charlie, as it does smell so uncannily close to a lot of the chypres men were dousing on just a decade or so before Charlie came to be, that it could be worn in a crowd of guys sporting Monsieur de Givenchy (1959), Moustache by Rochas (1949), Monsieur Lanvin (1964), or even Yves Saint Laurent Pour Homme (1971) while not standing out much at all. In fact, the anise and white florals are so nice that I reach for this when I want a "less dark Azzaro" with similar oakmoss bite, minus the barbershop fougère roundness, of course. Charlie is clever, sassy, upbeat, and a lot of fun, which are all things I aspire to be after I've had my morning coffee, so it's a huge thumbs up. Any ladies sporting (or still sporting) the original Charlie in the 21st century, you keep holding that torch up high, and maybe Revlon will have enough sense to kill that nasty "Charlie Blue" and bring the real Charlie back to shelves, albeit in IFRA-strangled form.
16th November, 2018

Lust by Gorilla Perfume

Lush perfumes are paradoxically simple to understand, but difficult to talk about, as Mark Constantine perfumer/owner was never a classically-trained perfumer, and like Roger "Roja" Dove, has his background in makeup and marketing. However, after discovering that the fragrances he contracted out to chemist firms for his homemade bath products weren't always as naturally-derived as he would like, he took it upon himself to start mucking about with perfumer's raw materials and in essence became an early crude form of the one-man operation perfumers we have in niche circles now. Problem is, many so-called bedroom companies have folks who've studied perfume if not academically, at least from a hobbyist standpoint, for years before diving in, but with Mark and his Lush, he just decided to dive right in as he had done with homemade cosmetics years before alongside Liz Weir. Thus, some of these perfumes are very child-like in their simple interpretation of a theme, while others are accidentally elegant in their simplicity, and still others downright shocking. Lust (2010) falls into the latter category.

Lust takes the theme of the late 19th century "fallen women", and focuses on the heavily indolic jasmine perfumes they often wore, much like women's orientals and chypres did in the immediate postwar period. Key difference here is Lust focuses almost exclusively on the jasmine indole and nothing else, diming the volume on it and building the rest of the fragrance around that. Jasmine indole wielded like a cudgel is the gist of Lust, period. The opening lacks all citrus and literally is just a blast of jasmine hedione with a churning heart of indole underneath, which quickly comes into view in under 5 to 10 minutes. The rich, fatty, dirty indole is shored up by rose and ylang-ylang, but they're suffocated into the indole before they have time to separate from the main accord too much. Sandalwood, vanilla, linalool, and coumarin make up the base. Of course, I don't know what kind of compound is used to imitate the mysore here, but it's of that creamy Chanel Égoïste (1990) variety. Longevity is insane and sillage can also be a monster too.

Fans of primal animalics will fall in love with Lust, and the fragrance layers well with other jasmine-forward fragrances like Dior Eau Sauvage (1966) or Diptyque Olean (1988), providing a deep indolic vanilla sandalwood backbone to the flighty and fleet nature of jasmine hedione perfumes known for sometimes poor performance. I definitely think Lust is a winner but jasmine this rich usually doesn't find favor with most CISHET guys used to their clean citruses, laundry musks, or spicy sweet amber woods, which comprise the bulk of their modern palette. Therefore, Lust stays thoroughly feminine to my nose, only to be explored by masculine folks really into jasmine or already crossing silly gender boundaries in fragrance with their choices. Wear this pair of soiled panties where you dare, but one thing is for sure, you definitely do not wear something like Lust to the office! I find a floral this heavy smells best in cold air, so it's particularly useful in northern regions or winter months. Thumbs up!
15th November, 2018

Timeless by Avon

I sort of wondered how something like this gets around so much when so many other Avon feminines from the period never left the decade in which they were created, but I think I finally understand why. There is some real appreciable wit in the creation of Avon Timeless (1974) that all it's low-key fans understand, but that might be missed by the casual observer. It is a feminine perfume that is still perennially in production by Avon, but debuted in 1974, and isn't timeless because of that, since it was given the name "Timeless" all those years ago from the start. Rather, it is a snapshot of what Avon thought were timeless qualities in perfume, and has subsequently now become manifest as literally timeless due to its long-term success thereafter. To fully "get" Timeless, one has to reach back to before WWII, and look at the perfumes women wore then: animalic, oriental, provocative things that scintillated with sharp tops, indolic hearts, and smothering bases. Perfumes like Guerlain Vol de Nuit (1933) or Coty Emeraude (1921) seem to be the biggest root inspiration for Timeless, and its biggest competition of the day were other smouldering oriental chypre/fougère hybrids like Estée Lauder Youth Dew (1953) or Revlon Ciara (1973), which both straddle the same lines of green and indolic, with the latter being more fougère-like. What then is Timeless? Well, it's aldehydes and white florals up front, not too dissimilar to the stark Topaze (1959), but it's also the virile patchouli and indole of Occur! (1962) in the middle, with the best-executed "Avon amber" base of the house's long history and healthy tonka to pin it all down. Men can totally wear this if they fancy stuff like Aramis JHL (1982) or Calvin Klein Obsession for Men (1986), but also if they already gender-bend with fragrances like Guerlain Shalimar (1925) or Yves Saint Laurent Opium (1977), which this actually predates. Fans of old-school heavy perfume will take note of this, as this is one heavy, heavy perfume that will cut through chill air like those electric carving knives you're given for Christmas and really only use at Christmas to carve the ham.

Timeless opens with aldehydes, a whiff of allspice, galbanum, bergamot, lemon, and a subdued gardenia note, that last one being the big test of a man's mettle if he's playing with female-marketed perfume. To me it's no big deal, I always loved gardenia anyway, and it fades quick in the might of the midsection, which is where all the muscle on this one resides. There's a bit of a ghost peach note in transition to this middle, but once there, warm patchouli and cedar are met with jasmine indole to make a knockout animal punch that is balanced by soapy iris, orris root, and a touch of that dreaded fake rose Avon loved to use outside of Roses Roses (1972), which was the first time they went for a real rose. I can deal with the latter because the rest of the middle is so good, and the base is even better. Vanilla, coumarin, a bit of that lipstick/foundation powder smell, Avon amber cranked up to near-ambergris levels of stiff (higher than anything else I've smelled by them), oakmoss, and good ol' olibanum round out the finish. Very late in development a rich non-laundry musk shows up, pretty fatty like the one used in vintage Wild Country (1967), and earthy bits of opoponax, with whatever shreds of soap that existed in the heart long gone. Timeless is a dirty girl, and unlike some of her higher-class designer peers of the day, she doesn't try to hide it at all. This stuff is pure grit and will either remind you of sweaty garter belts, or your grandma's house, depending on your upbringing. This is another misleading "cologne spray" with parfum longevity and tight, concentrated sillage. You won't broadcast across the street, but people getting near will be taken in. I'd keep this to night use, winter use, romantic evenings, or solo snuggles with your favorite blanket, as something like Timeless might be intoxicating to the right partner, but cloying and annoying to a stranger that only has business or casual interest in you, as it's almost impolite with its indolic development.

I said a few things a long time ago when I first started gathering up reviews for all these unsung vintage Avons, starting with the men's because I feel they are even more unsung due to the male tendency to shop fragrance for displaying of status and "results" rather than personal enjoyment, and they are: Avon is really good at the things they know well, the things developed on their own without reverse-engineering the competition on a dimestore budget. They're amateur to mediocre at literally everything else they try in the perfume sector, and sadly have tried more things they ended being just okay at than making the things they're really good at, because their business model is economy and variety rather than a consistent house image. This can be amusing, but is exacerbated when you're dealing with a company that releases multiple perfumes a year every year for over a century, and proves to be a hard-pass for many hobbyist perfumistas who wade into Avon like a poppy field full of landmines, stepping on all the weird stuff and missing the real gems, then chalking it up to the price tag. Men don't even bother because they believe the negative hype that it's all crap and just let Johnny YouTube push the newest designer flanker or prestige scent down their throats. Folks not into this kind of density or richness won't like Timeless, regardless of their stance on cheapo perfume or vintage stuff, but if you like making an entrance with your trail, and perhaps entrancing onlookers while you do it, Timeless is as good as any other in this long-dead genre. In fact, something like this would be considered quite niche nowadays if dished out by Tom Ford or one of the limited-batch bedroom operations that get around Etsy or LuckyScent, just make sure you look for the diamond-cut original bottle and not the rectangular re-issue, as that's where you'll find all the ugly good stuff IFRA says we can't have anymore. Definitely for the daring regardless of gender, but also oddly comfortable too. Thumbs up!
14th November, 2018

Dior Homme by Christian Dior

Parfums Christian Dior had a few misfires with the men's segment in their attempt to make a successor to the accidental masterpiece that was Fahrenheit (1988), but the 90's and early 2000's was a rough place for designers to attempt innovation. This is mostly because the buying public was almost anti-culture by the turn of the 90's, rather than counterculture like in the 1960's into the 1970's; sophisticated forms of music were thrown out for simple or atonal varieties, color form-flattering clothes were disposed of in favor of impossibly baggy or monochrome duds, and worst of all for perfumers, olfactory dynamism was traded out for an apologetic sea of shimmering freshness. Dior had no real way to fit in with the aquatic genre since they ended the 80's with gasoline and violets, while the "fresh fougère" also eluded them since that style had mostly run it's course even before the 90's came to a close. Dior chose to run with the short-lived fig fad started by Diptyque with Philosykos (1996), marrying fig to soft musk with Dune Pour Homme (1997), but it didn't move units as planned. Next up was Dior Higher (2001), another fragrance cashing in on a short-lived fad, which in this case was the super-shrieking ozonic grapefruit style which multiple designers tried to wing at the under-21 segment of mall-going males. Suffice it to say, Higher was lower than expected. Thus, by the mid 2000's, Dior just fell back on tradition and created a gentlemanly floral leather fragrance the likes of which would have otherwise seemed out of place if not for the retro-chic boom caused in the segment by Gucci Pour Homme (2003) and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Pour Homme (2003). It was a surprising move that worked, considering the gimmicky direction of the previous two pillars, but one that proved not everything needs to be "fresh" and "light" in order to appeal to modern tastes.

This was before the days of François Demachy running Parfums Christian Dior as head perfumer, so a young Olivier Polge (yes, that one) must have won the bid to compose for his then-employer IFF with his primitive, and thus landed a huge credential on his resume, since Dior Homme (2005) ended up being an unlikely anachronistic success. Now, to be fair, Dior Homme isn't entirely old-school. Olivier Polge wields then-modern gourmand structures onto Dior Homme's powdery florals, earthy woods, and sharp leather structure, being something of a semi-chypre gourmand perfume that has for all intents become the Guerlain Habit Rouge (1965) of it's generation, seeing much romantic and formal use. The scent opens with bergamot, lavender, and sage, all very traditional head notes for most masculine perfumes throughout the 20th century, but the weirdness happens with the middle phase. In the heart is a now-legendary iris note, powdery and feminine, often called "lipsticky" by detractors because iris is commonly found in lipstick scent. This poofy iris note is balanced with dark cacao and an old-school composite amber, the vanillic "brown" type that doesn't exactly emulate ambergris, but is a far cry better than modern synthetic ambroxan. The scent is warm, rich, mildly soapy and somewhat unisex by this point, but a perfectly balanced green base re-asserts the masculinity of the composition by the end. Patchouli is balanced by an grassy vetiver, cedar, and subtle suede-like leather note. The whole thing is rather radiant but still soft, approachable, and gentlemanly. I get about eight hours with mild to moderate projection myself, and find the iris in particular sticks around with the base notes after everything else has gone. Dior Homme also shows different facets of its composition depending on the temperature and where you spray it, and I get more iris on clothes, with more cacao on skin, and more patchouli/amber presence with a bit of heat. The leather accord isn't strong regardless of conditions, so I wouldn't suggest it for leather lovers. Original bottles had a metal stem until about 2010, then house perfumer François Demachy reformulated this himself in 2011 to meet IFRA requirements, resulting in a tiny bit brighter development, but it's integrity has held up nicely overall.

Dior Homme is certainly no powerhouse, or else they wouldn't have needed to make an intense version two years later, but that's not it's point of existence. Nobody was doing mature, well-meted masculines of this type in the mid 2000's, and very few were playing around with chocolate notes, and I'm sure the cacao in this directly inspired Avon's Tomorrow for Men (2006), which commits more firmly to the note and goes further in the gourmand direction overall, making that scent its own animal. In fact, the gourmand notes in this inspired a lot of designers, and the iris note prominent in this also opened up everyone's eyes to the note being present in masculines once again, with the last time it was notably used in the designer sector being in Versace the Dreamer (1996) almost a decade beforehand. I think the best use for Dior Homme is in fall through early spring, for classy get-togethers or evenings out. The scent is relaxed enough to do casual duty, and poised enough for formal business affairs, but I find the chocolate present to make Dior Homme a tad bit too sensual for my taste in those settings, but that's just me. Dior Homme would be successful enough to receive an army of flankers in its wake, more than any other Dior masculine to date, so not only was it the first real successor to the Fahrenheit crown, but also threatened to overshadow Eau Sauvage (1966) as well, at least until Dior Sauvage (2015) was launched to put Dior Homme in its place. Guys looking for something mature, but not too "dated" (whatever that means), attractive without trying to be, and approachable without being too casual will find favor with Dior Homme, as will vintage frag heads that want something actually made in the 21st century in their collection but don't like where the "scene has gone" since Y2K. As a warning, there is also a Dior Homme Parfum (2014) that has little to do with Dior Homme or Dior Homme Intense (2007), so make sure to test! Thumbs Up!
12th November, 2018

Versace Man Eau Fraîche by Versace

Versace Man Eau Fraîche (2006) is the do-over Versace needed to remain relevant in a man's fragrance scene that was still dominated by synthetic freshies and aquatics some twenty years after their creation. Versace Man (2003) was the first real attempt at getting on board the amber and Iso E Super-led "softness" train that was sending men's fragrance down an ever more-bland an apologetic direction, which ran counter to the sharp youth-oriented ozonics marketed in the same period, but it's grape leaf focus was really at odds with the rest of the designer scene. Donatella Versace headed this one herself, and although it was a good step away from the gaudy and loud Y2K period for the house post-Gianni, it just wasn't enough to be the "next big thing" for Versace after The Dreamer (1996) a decade beforehand. Polo Blue (2002), Kenneth Cole Reaction (2004), and Nautica Blue (2006) were bringing the aquatic back into focus after it became too samey throughout the 90's, so it makes logical sense that Versace would want to make a fast buck on that wave with Versace Man Eau Fraîche, which really bares no resemblance at all to the original Versace Man outside the bottle motif. As fate would have it, Versace Man was all but forgotten about, and Versace Man Eau Fraîche became the defacto pillar in it's stead, much like how Drakkar Noir (1982) succeeded Drakkar (1972).

The opening of Versace Man Eau Fraîche is the nice, crisp "Mediterranean Sea" kind of aquatic opening that even fragrance fans loathing the genre can respect. Versace Man Eau Fraîche isn't super sweet, and keeps it's use of dihydromyrcenol "in the pocket", focusing on bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, rosewood, and tart starfruit in the first rush. The scent is still very much an early 2000's archetype despite the aquatic direction, and can be nose-burning if over-applied, but beyond that, becomes quite an "eau de cologne" type of freshness, especially when the herbaceous heart comes into view. Clary sage, cedar leaves, tarragon, and geranium round out the simple but classy middle, giving slight nods to the barbershop aficionado in the process. The base is pretty standard fare for the period, with Iso E Super "woods", laundry musk, and a composite amber note. This was just before norlimbanol or heavy ambroxan usage, so there isn't this intense umbrage of sweet or scratchy to muck up the lightness of the top and heart, but also not a lot of heft outside hot weather, which is where this belongs. Versace Man Eau Fraîche will last about 8 hours in the right conditions with moderate sillage, and is firmly in the casual territory. I'd use this for casual days at the office when it's warm outside, or weekend outings during spring and summer. Versace Man Eau Fraîche is almost the equal opposite to Versace Eros (2013) in terms of attitude, and that's why it has such mass appeal.

I'm not the biggest aquatic fan, but this stuff is pretty sharp, dry, laid back, and still plenty masculine enough to hang loose with the bros. Versace Man Eau Fraîche is a dumb-reach that flew off shelves, almost forgiving the irrevocably quirky original Versace Man that was ironically worn by younger guys than those who wore Versace Man Eau Fraîche due to it's candy-like grape leaf head note. If you want an aquatic you don't have to think about, and one that won't smell like most of the others stalking the malls these days, this is a good blind buy, and the bottle, which is a blue and silver-clad version of the original Versace Man's purple ridged and gold-trimmed one, can be found almost anywhere Versace is sold. I can't really say much more than that other than I feel like Versace may have had too much of a good thing with Versace Man Eau Fraîche because Versace Pour Homme (2008) smelled mostly like a disappointing remix of it and unessential for those who already own this one. Definitely not my first choice for somebody looking to explore the masculine side of Versace perfumes, but a must-smell nonetheless, Versace Man Eau Fraîche can only really be faulted for being in a very narrowly-defined genre swamped with "me-too" imitators and smell-alikes. Thumbs Up!
11th November, 2018 (last edited: 03rd December, 2018)