Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Zealot Crusader

Total Reviews: 748

Bad Boy by Carolina Herrera

Carolina Herrera Bad Boy (2019) is the masculine counterpart to Good Girl (2016) that nobody really wanted nor expected, and seems to be the basis for Carolina Herrera Kings (2019), which was released before this in the US but was oddly developed afterward. Instead it seems that Latin America and Europe got first dibs on Bad Boy, and much of that may have to do with the redundant nature of both compositions, or just the fact that US male fragrance buyers shy away from campy themed bottles in a post-Avon world where they aren't commonplace anymore. Whatever the reason, Bad Boy is finally a global release nearly a year after it was first spotted, but the good news is those who didn't have access to it haven't really missed out on much. If you've smelled Kings, you already know the dry down of Bad Boy: Just strip away the violet leaf top and spices in the heart, but leave the sweet tonka "amberwoods" base alone, and turn the whole compositions towards the youthful side of things. Bad Boy to me reads like a study on "what works" to pull the most attention, compliments, and positive interaction from a male-marketed fragrance in the late 2010's market environment, and smells like the homework assignment of a perfumer looking to base their thesis on just that. Bear in mind that doesn't make Bad Boy truly bad, just incomprehensibly average and pleasant.

The opening of Bad Boy is sweet vacuum-distilled bergamot a la Creed Aventus (2010) and most of its children in the 2010's, but more accurately Montblanc Explorer (2019) because that's the quality of ingredients you'll find here. This sweet bergamot is paired with the same airy marine note as Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce Cologne (2002), but thickened up with pink and white peppercorns so it doesn't feel too summery. The clary sage and cashmere woods in the middle of Bad Boy further compare this to Fierce but a rounded bubblegum shower gel sort of vibe also hearkens towards Paco Rabanne Invictus (2013), with more Paco Rabanne comparisons rolling in once the heavy tonka base reminds me of 1 Million (2008). There is a bit of some fractured patchouli molecule here for additional thickness but no cacao as the note pyramids on some sites may state. In the end, this a kinder, gentler, smoother version of the "universal mall" accord that permeates most Macy's and Sephora stores, sitting somewhere between clubber and generalist masculine fruity sweet clean and rich. Wear time is about about 8 hours which is average, and projection also sits close to skin with good sillage during those eight hours. This will offend nobody, and you may indeed garner some compliments wearing it, but Bad Boy is a misnomer for such a capitulating fragrance. I'd say you could use this three out of four months in a year, just not in the dead heat of summer, where the sweetness is likely to be cloying.

Of course, there's no getting around the bottle of this little number, as it screams "Shazam" to me every time I gaze upon it, although some people may liken it instead to The Flash or David Bowie's Aladdin Sane period. Louis Turner (who worked on the original Good Girl) was brought in to work with Quentin Bisch on Bad Boy, and I honestly think that between the two of them, they were concocting how to include the most bullet points from an impossible list of things the bean counters at Carolina Herrera insisted on being in the scent to guarantee "maximum market penetration". It's really kind of sick that this is where we are with designer masculine fragrances (and to a lesser extent feminines too), that a perfume is designed not to stand out from a crowd or carve out its own place in the market, but rather to be a mosaic of the most-prolific success stories of the last twenty years combined with the most-trending buzzword notes and accords. The sheer distillation of market research and cost-cutting found in releases like Bad Boy is soul crushing anymore, regardless of how kitschy the bottle shape may be. Still, I can't bring myself to hate Carolina Herrera Bad Boy, as it does nothing wrong, but on the same token just sorta does... nothing. It exists, it smells okay, and is definitely not lightning in a bottle. Neutral.
24th February, 2020

Eau Capitale by Diptyque

Eau Capitale by Diptyque (2019) is a stunning modern interpretation of the 80's animalic rose chypre, and sits somewhere between a classic example of one like Montana Parfum de Peau (1986) and the bigger-boned animalic rose patchouli chypres like Estée Lauder Knowing (1988) that also existed at the time. Of course, being as this is a completely 21st century perfume beholden not just to IFRA restrictions but also sensibilities of the market base, Eau Capitale is going to be extremely light on any animalic tones and contain only a speck of oakmoss (if any) in the structure. Ultimately, this proves fine to my nose, as I appreciate a subtle tease sometimes more than gratuity anyway, but to the hard-nosed vintage purist, this will probably prove insufficient. For everyone else, Eau Capitale is a bold rose chypre that is very faithful by design, but colors within the lines of what squeaks by the censure of the buying public or perfume industry itself, which isn't easy.

Eau Capitale opens with a lusciously jammy Turkish rose and bergamot, very similar to Ungaro Diva (1983). Perfumer Olivier Pescheux has really done his homework here and keeps this chypre accord alive by adding some pink pepper to the patchouli heart, which helps hide the synthetic wood accord that zips and zings about within the seams. The base has some synthetic musk with an animalic tone (probably civetone) dosed real low with evernyl backfill and some of that aforementioned wood accord which becomes the "chypre" of the whole thing in place of something like sandalwood or cedar. I can't tell if it's some mix of polysantal, javanol and cedral or something else because the blending is too good, but I get the sharp "woodiness" that slides alongside the "mossiness" and the "muskiness" of the base; these things take a nose used to older specimens to familiar territory by proxy, but not with 100% accuracy. Wear time is good for an eau de parfum, and sillage is not verbose like an 80's perfume, but this is beautiful nonetheless.

Fans of modern rose perfumes really haven't had better outside maybe an expensive bottle of Portrait of a Lady by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle (2010) or a nice taif rose perfume from a Middle Eastern house, as most other niche perfumers seem focused on fresh "rose water" types like Maison Francis Kurkdjian's À la Rose (2014) if they're not playing with oud or patchouli. With Eau Capitale, Diptyque shows us that a "big" rose perfume without oud is still possible in these bleak times of aromachemical dependency and marketing department creative suffocation, although perfumistas used to the taste of vintage roses will find this homage to be a bridge too far in adulteration. I like me a nice no-holds-barred shoulderpadded Aqua Net hair tease of a rose perfume too, which is why I'll always love vintage Montana Parfum de Peau, but sometimes it can be a bit "extra" whereas something like this may scratch that same itch more discreetly. Oh well, I'm not going to split hairs here. This smells good. See for yourself. Thumbs up.
21st February, 2020

Rose Prick by Tom Ford

Tom Ford Rose Prick (2020) is another ostentaciously-named limited edition private blend that banks on the deep pockets and fervent loyalty of superfans into the brand image of the Tom Ford label. Like other exclusives from this line, the composition itself is fairly gimmicky and linear, being a straightforward conceptualization a la Fucking Fabulous (2017), Lost Cherry (2018), and Lavender Extrême (2019) before it. Unlike the previous entries in this super-expensive flash-in-the-pan range, there is a bit more going on with Rose Prick beyond the obvious, but this is through and through a rose fragrance. If you can get past the fleshy pink bottle and the lewd name, you'll be presented with a candied sort of rose, heavy on tonka bean and fractured patchouli in the base, coming across like a lighter "macaroon flavoring" take on Tom Ford Noir de Noir (2007). This part I like about the scent, but the rest I really don't, even if I can't bring myself to exactly dislike Rose Prick either.

The opening of Rose Prick is a jammy Turkish rose blended with the more-common Bulgarian rose and a bit of that powdery rose de mai which sometimes finds its way into soaps, cremes, or lighter feminine-market rose products. This blend works to establish that candied confectionary sort of rose I mentioned earlier, and sits on top of the mostly pink pepper heart. The pink pepper and Sichuan pepper add body and heft to what would otherwise be a pretty transparent accord, and the synthetic patchouli/tonka base gives that rounded gourmand oriental-ish heft, but it's never woody or mossy like a chypre. Rose Prick isn't particularly fresh either even if it isn't the usual dark oriental rose, so you're left with a middling sweet "rose flavoring" on your skin, which probably has naughty intentions behind it. This lasts over 10 hours even though it isn't a screamer in the projection department, so Rose Prick is definitely more of an intimate sort of affair meant for weekends or long nights under romantic duress.

This isn't really my favorite interpretation of rose and for the price is utterly ridiculous, as there are many higher-quality rose and patch combos for much less money or expensive truly niche rose perfumes far more worth your coin than something that takes the rose/patch tandem and gives it the Willy Wonka treatment. Collectors of these aren't likely to give their bottles regular use because that isn't the point, so like most novelty fragrances from this lineup, it will be bought then squirrelled away for investment and flipping, or the yearly indulgence. Of course, with enough traction this scent could become the next Fucking Fabulous and be re-released in larger number again the following year (then indefinitely), but that hasn't happened so far with the others so don't hold your breath. Rose Prick is just another example of liquid brand hype sold at nosebleed prices per milliliter, but a mildly amusing adulteration of the core accord which made Noir de Noir so good. Try it for yourself but don't get pricked in the process. Neutral.
20th February, 2020 (last edited: 21st February, 2020)
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Roma Uomo by Laura Biagiotti

Laura Biagiotta was known in fashion circles as the "Queen of Cashmere" for popularizing the use of the fabric in the fashion industry, but the name of Biagiotta is best known among perfume collectors for the eponymous Laura Biagiotta (1982) and the smash hit Roma (1988), which gave the name some clout in the perfume market that would carry through into the 90's. Biagiotta had the eponymous Uomo (1989) that proved pretty conventional for the times, but made a bigger splash with men when Roma Uomo (1994) showed up in time for the mid-90's techno craze, meaning it ended up being a club-going signature of many men for years to come. Alongside Iceberg Twice for Men (1995) and Nikos Sculpture Homme (1995), Roma Uomo would do battle with the dominant Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Mâle (1995), although it would ultimately lose that fight even if it has had enough success for the house of Biagiotta to issue flankers under the name. If your idea of a good time is hopping on the Vengabus and heading over to the C&C Music Factory for a glass of Aqua, this might be the fragrance to satisfy your inner Doug & Steve Butabi. For me, it's pretty much a pass, and I can also see why so many people might like this, but just can't get past the execution of it all. 90's clubbers differ from more recent ones in that they don't go for as much rounded sweetness, but this one lets all the various dynamic edges reach out and poke you in the eye.

I say this because Roma Uomo tries to be both a 90's shampoo clean scent, an oriental, and something green or more typically aromatic that one might expect from an Italian perfume house, failing on all accounts. The opening is tangerine and grapefruit sweetened with a puff of calone and then made green with basil, bay laurel, and galbanum. This vomitous clash of clean sweetness and dry green only gets worse when a metallic geranium and galaxolide laundry musk rest on top of some bitter juniper in the heart, making the whole thing smell like the chalky orange from children's chewable Aspirin/Tylenol. The base is sandaxol (santal mysore) wielded crudely with cedar and a funkier ambery musk that smells like the body odor someome might try to cover with this once the base begins clashing with the top and heart. Vanilla and oakmoss do what they can here to smooth things in the base but it really isn't enough, making this queasy clash of shampoo, herbs, metallic notes, dirty musk, and synthetic woods a real nightmare. By the late stages of the wear, Roma Uomo by Laura Biagiotta isn't as massively harsh, since the shampoo notes and laundry musk quiet down and let the aromatics and longer-lasting oriental elements do the talking, but it isn't enough to tolerate the rest. Wear time is way over 10 hours and sillage is more than you'd ever need, although something this "summery" overall feels best when used in hotter weather if not inside a stifling night club.

I am likely going to be in the minority here because I have seen that this scent is rather well-loved among some vintage masculine perfume fans, but I just really don't jive with the disquieting combination of things presented and the way they unfold without rhyme nor reason. I like synthetic shampoo notes, owning Samba for Men by The Perfumer's Workshop (1990) and Wings for Men by Giorgio (1994) as good examples of those accords done right, and I also like examples of calone or other fruity notes being mixed with more of an Italian garrigue feel, which is where Aramis New West (1988) and Sud Est by Romio Gigli (1995) do well. However, Roma Uomo by Laura Biagiotta tries to be all these things with a fashionable dollop of 90's reserve, and also have an unconvincing sandalwood base with a "sexy" musk undertone, biting off more than it can chew and coming across an an unbridled mess. I know this is an early perfume from Annick Menardo, who would go onto much better things later, and Roma Uomo is nothing if not ambitious, but it just isn't pleasurable, at least not to me. Romo Uomo is a passive-aggressive middle-finger of a sillage monster wrapped in the skin of a 90's apologetic note structure, assembled like Ikea furniture without instructions, and I just can't stand it. Sample for yourself before coming to any conclusions though, as I go against the grain with mine. Thumbs down.
19th February, 2020

Pegasus by Parfums de Marly

Parfums de Marly Pegasus (2011) is part of the second generation which consisted of only two additional masculine releases, the other being Shagya (2011). The brand didn't even bother with feminine or unisex releases until three years into its existence, showing that they knew who was likely to pay their lofty asking prices. Parfums de Marly Pegasus more or less shoots straight for the style of popular upscale men's semi-orientals, a genre well worn-in by Parfums de Marly itself during the first of operation with launch releases like Ispazon (2010) and Darly (2010), but Pegasus does something entirely unlike those by dispensing with the fougère tones and ambery bases they contained. Instead of those, Pegasus builds up with almost a gourmand feel in similar fashion to L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme (2004), with some powdery touches that compete with Reflection Man (2007) by fellow luxury niche purveyors Amouage. Pegasus isn't a direct copy of either, it's just in the same olfactive ballpark as them. Pegasus also shows the house moving away from its brief flirtation with eau de toilette concentrations, debuting as an eau de parfum in a silver version of the lacquered bottle used for Parfums de Marly Godolphin (2010). Going forward, most fragrances from this house would also be in similarly opaque bottles until the arrival of Sedley (2019) near decade's end. There isn't anything groundbreaking about Pegasus outside maybe an interesting use of almond in the heart, and lacking innovation is a sentiment echoed about many Parfums de Marly scents through the hobbyist community, but this is a very well-crafted and unique entry within its genre.

Pegasus was made as the answer to niche luxury buyers looking for something without a potentially cloying base of amber or leather, which is what underpinned the four launch scents and something commonly found among competitors like Tom Ford Private Blend or Serge Lutens, showing off the first use of an ambroxan base from the house (albeit low-key). What makes Pegasus rather unique is this ambroxan is built up with oriental tones and a high-quality synthetic sandalwood compound (likely based in javanol), so it doesn't really feel like some of the later ambroxan-heavy compositions Parfums de Marly would release after the house caught some hype from YouTube reviewers. The opening of bergamot, heliotrope, and caraway seed is particularly anachronistic in the way it introduces a powdery vibe not really much seen in masculine perfumery since the 1970's, and like Parfums de Marly Lipizzan, might have some appeal for vintage masculine fans into that sort of thing. Unlike Lipizzan, Pegasus does not remain in "vintage mode" much past the opening and part of the heart, since an old-school French lavender/lavandin combo reminiscent of Caron Pour Un Homme (1934) is married to an almond accord that presages and likely inspired the creation of Guerlain L'Homme Ideal (2014). There is a bit of clean hedione here as well, then the base of sandalwood, vanilla, ambroxan, and a touch of incense appears. Wear time is over 10 hours, with consistent sillage and moderate projection for the first half. Beyond the 5 hour mark you will only catch whiffs of the lavender playing with the almond and woods, which lends a very pleasant office-friendly character to the scent. You may be tempted to apply heavier to circumvent this, but a metallic harshness surfaces if you do, so I'd just suffice with it as is, and I have a feeling this may have something to do with powdery tones of the top mixing with the ambroxan in higher doses.

Parfums de Marly Pegasus straddles the line between office fragrance and cozy romantic evening scent, especially with the way the lavender, heliotrope, almond, and vanilla greet you like a welcoming hug but also lend a bit of a sharp edge with the woody ambrox tones in the base. There isn't anything really sexy about Pegasus, and it is definitely not a "banger" like some of the later Parfums de Marly scents that feel over-engineered in the marketing research and development area, but this scent adds further evidence to my claim that the first few years before the niche brand found its true... um... niche, were some of its best because the accountants at the top of the company were just letting the perfumers "mess around in the kitchen" rather than attempting to go for a killshot in every release. Later on the house would schism into 2 assortments for the Western and Middle Eastern markets, giving the former a handful of upscale designer clones that draw contempt from hardcore niche fans, and a more interesting spread of orientals and ouds to the latter market until Layton (2016) came along and cemented the brand globally in the way Aventus (2010) did for Creed. At least here with Pegasus, we see a luxury masculine perfume less concerned with results and just being comfortable existing in its own skin, even if that doesn't exactly ameliorate the ridiculous price. Still, if you're looking for a high-quality semi-oriental you can use for work or a night out and don't mind shopping in discounters for a good value (where this is about half-price), Parfums de Marly Pegasus is maybe just the horse that'll fly for ya. Thumbs up.
15th February, 2020

Darley by Parfums de Marly

Parfums de Marly launched with four masculine-market scents to directly compete with brands like Creed in the emerging "rich boy cologne" market, thanks to the growing success of the latter and other luxury niche upstarts such as Parfums MDCI and Xerjoff. The market research was pretty sound for the first releases, including upscale interpretations of popular masculine accords spread across an average age demographic from twenty-something to forty-something, and everything pointed to a successful launch until Creed Aventus (2010) happened. That singular release blew the doors off the niche world for male buyers, and such was the reaction and the hype, that clones or "inspired by" niche competitors would appear on the market literally the next year. Parfums de Marly's debut lineup was all but lost save for one release: Godolphin (2010). This eau de parfum alone would generate interest for being seen as an upscale and more-complex take on Tom Ford's Tuscan Leather (2007) by reviewers, while the flanking 3 eau de toilettes of Ispazon (2010), Lippizan (2010), and Darley (2010) would be disregarded. The first two would be heavily discounted and eventually discontinued, while Parfums de Marly Darley would become a late-bloomer in the wake of Godolphin's success, eventually being upgraded to an eau de parfum as well. Of the three original clear bottle releases, Darley is the most mass-appealing with obvious comparisons to Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Mâle (1995), but I think it's more than that. The basic gist of Darley is to be a rich, complex, oriental fougère that combines the minty pop of something like Le Mâle but with the powdery vanillic maturity and upscale French perfume vibe the house was after at the time.

In essence, the opening of Darley is the accord of Le Mâle "all grown up". Younger guys can still enjoy Darley for the sweetness and dynamism of this opening accord, but older fellas likely to have the cash to spend on this house can wear this and not feel embarassed by the sillage and aggression of a club fragrance as it dries down. The opening is bergamot, mint, and citron, giving off initial similarities to the Jean-Paul Gaultier fragrance it is often compared to by detractors. The heart proves Darley is a horse of a different color however, moving into rose and orange blossom with lavender present but not in control like with Le Mâle. There is more pillowy smoothness in the blending here than a typical fougère, and the ambery musky base seems almost lifted from Ispazon if not for the tonka/tobacco note laced with some sandalwood and patchouli for that oriental roundness. In particular, the "whole leaf" tobacco featured in Darley is reminiscent of Versace The Dreamer (1996), another 90's release that saw continued popularity into the 21st century. Wear time is good on the old EdT bottles, but better on the newer EdP bottles; you can tell them apart by the sticker on the side declaring the scent as "Darley" on older examples (once used to tell all 3 EdTs apart), with the lack of such a sticker on the newer EdPs. Sillage feels oddly louder on the EdP but not by much, and overall this is a great cool weather evening fragrance for romantic use or casual after-work scenarios. You could use Darley at the club due the present DNA, but you'd better be off in a corner where your fragrance doesn't get trampled on by the foghorn aromachems of designer clubbers that dominate these spaces.

Of course, there is the matter of price too, since Parfums de Marly wants what is in essence a redressed designer fragrance style for three times the price, and is where the house still draws much of its ire from hobbyists with releases like Herod (2012), Galloway (2014), and Layton (2016). Normally I'd be alongside the critics pounding away on my gavel in the court of opinion with Darley, but it doesn't feel so supercharged with performance-enhancing synthetics as later releases from the brand, which is a trick Parfums de Marly obviously had to learn in order to combat the sillage of competitors like the aforementioned Aventus in the spaces where they expected their fragrances to appear. That being said, $295 is still a bit much for this, but if you're finding it at half-price or below, Darley isn't a bad pickup for someone in the market for a redolent masculine accord such as Darley. I'm also a bit biased against Le Mâle anyway for being overused in the gay clubs I roamed (thus overexposed to it), and over it in much the same way people are over Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008) or Versace Eros (2013) these days for fumigating nightclubs, so I see Darley as a bit of a classier alternative I'd be more inclined to use. I'll admit that this style of fragrance will never be my favorite (especially when mint and sweetness combines with musky lavender and amber), but the hybrid oriental fougère accord with the tobacco twist makes Darley just refined and sophisticated enough to wait out the early game that the opening plays to reach the good stuff in the base. If you try to test Darley, you may end up needing to get a carded sample, as this isn't one which turns up often in department stores which handle the brand. Thumbs up.
14th February, 2020 (last edited: 15th February, 2020)

Tabac Original by Mäurer & Wirtz

In some ways I guess it could be said that Tabac by Mäurer & Wirtz (1959) is Germany's answer to America's medicine chest stalwart Shulton Old Spice (1937), and in some ways has held up better in the long run, since it is still very much used in Germany, rather than being sold part and parcel to a healthcare conglomerate like Old Spice then exploited as a brand label until all meaning was lost. In that respect, Tabac is a rare survivor of the corporate bloat and downmarket destruction that has afflicted most drugstore perfumes of yore, to be either replaced with cheapo aerosol body sprays like Axe/Lynx or become a pale veneer of what they once were sold only in gift sets around Christmas. For better or worse (perhaps better or wirtz), Tabac has remained the beast it originally was, so much that it now bears the subtitle of "original" to differentiate it from competitors and its own host of modernized flankers. The smell of Tabac is not really tobacco, but neither is the smell of Old Spice strictly spicy, as both are of that rare breed of men's oriental which borrow much from the orientals sold to women through much of the early to mid 20th century, just with Tabac being intentionally masculine by design (whereas Old Spice was originally for women). The results of intentional masculinity superimposed on what is otherwise an oriental accord conventional for the day includes the sucking out of nearly all sweetness, and beefing up of base notes that appealed to men at the time.

Tabac was composed by Arturo Jordi-Pey, who spent more time behind the scenes at Firmenich than composing perfumes for big name houses, despite being widely-respected as a master nose within the industry, meaning you're more likely to see his name in a book on perfume method than on a perfume. He must have looked at what made Old Spice so appealing to men, then took a look at what men loved about dry leather chypres like Javier Serra's Russian Leather/MEM English Leather (1949), combined them, and embellished them into something unique. The opening is fairly "knock you back" stuff, combining bracing aldehydes, bergamot, petitgrain, spices, and some powdery tones. The barbershop aesthetic is actually really strong with Tabac in this stage, but it's no wonder since this stuff was meant to be an entire men's grooming solution. The heart of carnation is dotted with cardamom, clove, lavender, and geranium, but honestly the carnation/clove (both powered by eugenol) dominate here. The isobutyl quinoline leather of Robert Piguet Bandit (1944) fame is also here, but so is amber, oakmoss, vetiver (for smoke), sandalwood, tonkin musk (or proxy), olibanum, and coumarin (for tobacco). Wear time varies by concentration but the original eau de cologne is deceptively long-legged, while later EdT sprays can choke a crowd if not careful. I'd call this a cool weather scent but if you enjoy Tabac unironically, you probably don't give a damn about when or wear you use it. Like most older masculines, any sense of context has long since been erased with the passage of time (and relevance).

Fans of Clubman Pinaud Special Blend (year unknown) may enjoy Tabac as a rough clove-heavy leather scent with rounded oriental charm, but that heavy plonk of animalic musk in the base removes any preconceived notion of casual use from the start. This was and still is a "man's man" stereotype of a fragrance, coming across surly, brusque, individualistic, and not foolin' around. It's almost amusing to see the Germans "out-America" a mostly-American style of masculinity, but so much time has passed that this kind of thing isn't really stylish in America anymore, meaning something like Tabac might be seen as a challengingly exotic fragrance at best, or unforgivably dowdy and aggressive at worst (much like Old Spice). Wet-shaving enthusiasts are probably apt to enjoy the kind of rough-hewn manliness on display with such a dense and dry, spicy leather accord as Tabac has, and if you want to play into the German leather bondage stereotype, this will also work very well for you. Tabac is sold in the US but never gained traction like some of the Italian barbershop staples did, so while you might see people stocking Pino Silvestro (1955) or Acqua di Selva (1949) stateside (especially in New York city), you aren't likely to find Tabac outside an independent perfume shop that specializes in oddities or vintage brands. One thing is for sure: if your Old Spice isn't old enough, your English Leather not English enough, or your Jovan Musk (1972) not musky enough, Tabac has you covered for the price of a beer. Just remember that this chap drinks Paulaner or Bitburger, and not that pissy American beer, Thumbs up.
14th February, 2020

Lipizzan by Parfums de Marly

Parfums de Marly Lipizzan (2010) is perhaps the most criminally under-appreciated fragrance the company has ever released, which is a really bold statement to make, but before I get into why, we need some context. The year 2010 was a another huge "changing of the guard" year for masculine-market perfumery, twenty years exactly from the last major shift in the landscape. Back in 1990, all the old musky and mossy aromatic masculines were breathing their last gasp of freedom before being dismantled and swept away by calone and dihydromyrcenol-powered aquatics and fresh fougères. By the year 2000, the fragrance landscape was changed again, but this time by the proliferation of niche fragrances in the male space thanks to the success of Creed, showcasing that guys were willing to spend double to triple what they once did if it meant having a fragrant edge on the competition. In 2010 Parfums de Marly would launch globally with four masculine-market releases in their now-iconic heavy-capped embossed bottles, but they were nearly blindsided by a massive olfactive shift in the market thanks to the proliferation of ambroxan and norlimbanol by Creed Aventus (2010) and Bleu de Chanel (2010) in the niche and designer realms respectively. Suddenly, nothing the budding luxury brand offered was really relevant in the shadow of such dual titans save maybe Godolphin (2010), which drew favorable comparisons to Tom Ford Tuscan Leather (2007). Of three other releases launching the brand, Lipizzan was the huge nod to the old school, the one for the mature man not fit to be bothered with trend or compliments, which naturally makes it the most-doomed of the lot. Darley (2010) was sweet and attention-getting, Ispazon (2010) was clean and mild-mannered for office use, but Lipizzan broke pretty much all the rules and featured an oakmoss chypre base that would be impossible to make even a year later after IFRA effectively neutered the use of the ingredient after 2011. What makes Lipizzan so unloved is its target audience (mature men over 40) mostly hate the brand for being "on-trend" and focused on spruced-up modern mass-appeal accords, and generally perceived as overpriced for what they are. While I won't argue that isn't the case with their most popular scents, I will interject that if those same folks got a whiff of this, their minds would be blown.

Parfums de Marly Lipizzan is for all intents and purposes a niche take on the animalic "dandy" chypres popular in the mid to late 1980's. For as hard as it may be to believe that Parfums de Marly is or ever was even remotely capable of such a thing, smelling is believing here with Lipizzan. The main theme is a jasmine and rose tandem surrounding a heart note of carnation, topped with bergamot, galbanum, and herbs, then laid to rest on a base of leather, civet (likely civetone), and oakmoss. For the guys who like references, this is basically a love letter to Bernard Chant but also Lauder for Men (1985), Aramis (1965), and Aramis 900 (1973) all from Estée Lauder, with some inspirational riffs taken from more-obscure releases like Lord Molyneaux by Parfums Molyneaux (1989), 1881 pour Homme by Nino Cerruti (1990), and Joint by Roccobarocco (1993). Lipizzan opens with a green chypre bergamot and lemon, with tarragon, clary sage, and thyme helping to smooth out the galbanum in the top so it doesn't sting. There is a small puff of aldehyde here and before long the funky carnation, rose, jasmine, and cardamom do a watusi while slivers of the isobutyl quinoline leather accord appear. The sourness of this note is very restrained, as is the pissy civetone, because this is still Parfums de Marly after all, and they were looking to put on that air of French civility and refinement they still drone on about today. However, all the musky leathery goodness is there even if significantly muted, teasing up the base of vetiver, oakmoss, cedar, camphorous patchouli, and vanilla. The final drydown of Lipizzan is fairly complex, floating between patchouli, vetiver, the musks, the oakmoss, and with a tiny bit of smoothness from the vanilla. The rose/jasmine/carnation accord flit and fly here and there above this skin feel, and you'd swear you were wearing something far older than Parfums de Marly. Hell, you might even mistake this for some lost Lanvin with the way the base plays out, and the whole thing is very, very French. Performance is good but bear in mind that the early clear bottle PdM releases were eau de toilette, and this was discontinued only a few years after launch due to IFRA, so projection and longevity (while good) will not be radioactive like Herod (2012) or Galloway (2014). I'd use this formally or in spring through fall like with most chypres, but beware if you're a young hip dude that doesn't want to smell of "old man".

It may be a stretch for some longtime hobbyists to consider scents like the aforementioned Aramis 900 or Lord Molyneaux as niche because they once littered perfume counters everywhere, but the fact of the matter is they are because the styles they exist in are all but dead anymore. Tom Ford and other luxury houses like Roja Dove have banked on reinventing classics from perfumery's past as high-class indulgences for years, so in some regards what Parfums de Marly did here was really no different, just out-of-character for a house that gets constant praise from YouTube shills as the preeminent maker of expensive compliment magnets which rely on heavy-handed doses of aromachemicals to make their voices heard above your average designer. This is why Parfums de Marly is literally the last place an older man "trapped in the 80's" would look for a niche interpretation of his favorite smells, nor where a younger collector bitten by the vintage bug who worships at the alter of Yves Saint Laurent Kouros (1981) would seek a modern analog, yet here it is. Some of you may not think this holds a candle to the styles it co-opts, and you may be right if we're judging by the sheer density of oakmoss or animalics present, or the lack of sometimes-obnoxious 80's powerhouse sillage, but artistry, execution, and intent are inarguable with Lipizzan. I dare say you won't find a better men's chypre made in the 21st century outside an at any price outside an artisanal house ignoring IFRA regulations, so if you're not a "vintage or bust" kind of guy, Parfums de Marly Lipizzan is worth seeking out. Easily the best-kept secret of the house, and an unfortunately discontinued one at that, you may still come across a bottle online for the price of your typical Amouage at discount, but that is likely to change as the years roll by. If Lipizzan has spiraled into some unicorn like a few of the 80's scents it emulates by the time you read this, it's poetic irony if anything, but doesn't change the fact that deep down inside Parfums de Marly exists the guts to make a proper French perfume for men. If you find yourself being asked anything near (or over) what Parfums de Marly wants at retail for a bottle of this, you might be better off paying the price for a few coveted vintages like named earlier and layering them together for an approximation of the effect, because it makes no sense to buy an homage (niche or otherwise) if you're dropping that kind of coin anyway when you can just have the originals. Thumbs up.
13th February, 2020

Ispazon by Parfums de Marly

Parfums de Marly has always been about eminent wearability and niche-level performance, even if some of their more-popular works tend to swing too close to the mainstream flame for comfort with some hobbyists, but that's okay because we have all the stuff released inbetween such blockbusters to remind us of that. Take for instance the first four releases from the house, and you'll find a gorgous niche floral leather in a gold bottle named Godolphin (2010), and three very mass-appeal masculines in clear bottles flanking it. Of those three, Darley (2010) is the one that caught on the most for being sweet and in the wheelhouse of the young affluent men who would come to adore the brand, while the other two have remained in the shadows to be forgotten. Ispazon (2010) is the fresh barbershop trope seeing the luxury treatment, while Lipizzan (2010) is the mature oriental one. Here with Ispazon we see an amber-heavy twist on the barbershop fougère, made a bit sweet as per modern tastes at the time. Since everything was in transition from mostly oakmoss-based masculines to ones based around ambroxan as per the slow eventual lockdown of the former through IFRA regulations, and the fact that champions of the latter like Creed Aventus (2010) and Bleu de Chanel (2010) would be released the same year as Ispazon, it makes sense that this was glossed over.

The opening of Parfums de Marly Ispazon is one that contains a bitter citric blast of lime, lemon, and orange that puts many people off in the modern era, since not a lot of masculines in the wake of the aforementioned Aventus come across bracing quite like this one does anymore. However, once this trifecta of tart citrus calms down, we are presented with bay laurel, thyme, and some powdery elements that set up for the barbershop finish. Muguet is in the ephemeral heart of Ispazon, adding some brief dusty floral qualities alongside some woody aromachems like clearwood and what have you, although they are just a presage to the base, which is where the scent truly shines the brightest. Here, at the core of the experience past the first 15 minutes comes in a treemoss/evernyl foundation laid with amber, vanilla, musk, and a bit of cedar. This isn't the chemical soup of Layton (2016) and the amber here reminds me a lot of Uomo? Moschino (1997), especially with the way the citrus accord on top lingers to play with it, but the vanilla and musk round this out a lot and make it more smooth, rich, and satisfying than the Moschino. Wear time is literally all day and sillage is more than adequate, even if this is no screamer like some of the newer Parfum de Marly scents that go for full-frontal assault. Ispazon seems almost purpose-built for office use, and is just one lavender accord shy of being something like Penhaligon's would make.

To be honest, I get a lot of Amouage by reference with the dry down here in Parfums de Marly Ispazon, and fans of things like Reflection Man (2007) by them should pay Ispazon a visit, but I also feel this is still a bit more synthetic-smelling (albeit not unenjoyably so) than your average Amouage. Timing was this scent's biggest enemy too, and like so many things caught in the shadow of a huge success by a competitor, Parfums de Marly Ispazon could benefit greatly with a reintroduction ad campaign, especially in light of barbershop masculines making a comback both in the mainstream circuit and with hobbyists. Scents like Prada L'Homme (2016) have done tremendously well and Creed released Viking (2017) to sit right alongside Aventus in most counters carrying the brand, so all Ispazaon needs to be a late bloomer is a little nudge from the house that made it, rather than a "soft" discontinuation by removing it from their website and leaving it up to distributors for a push. Oh well, they can't all be "bangers" like the YouTube reviewers say, but at least it doesn't look like scalpers have much interest in Ispazon despite being off the official catalog of PdM either, so availability will remain in the interim. The old racehorse still may grow a unicorn horn however, if a sudden gust of hype pushes it into the covetous eyes of "perfume investors", if not re-released. In other words, don't sleep on this one unless it's too late or something has changed, although don't panic either because there are lots of quality barbershop smells in the niche world that could substitute as well. Thumbs up.
12th February, 2020

Dark Orchid by Amouroud

Amouroud is a strange newcomer to the niche scene, representing a full-circle for The Perfumer's Workshop, who were arguably OG hipster niche before the term was prevalent due to their original business model of custom blending fragrances from components right at the counter. The brand quickly moved into ready-made bottles of pre-mixed popular accords, which is how Tea Rose (1972) was born, then gradually moved down market like so many brands did in the 1980's when volume became preferrable to margin as perfume use becamore more ubiquitous. Naturally, The Perfumer's Workshop also branched out into owning licenses for designer-branded perfumes too, and has been a shadow player for years on that front, so it makes sense to use a new name like "Amouroud" to re-enter the niche market they partially helped create way back when, since the name of "The Perfumer's Workshop" doesn't have the luxury zing today's niche buyers crave. You might be wondering if a name like "Amouroud" means a love of "oud" (a.k.a. macerated agarwood) and yes, it does, but in this regard the house is a sham because they neither use real oud nor even attempt to make their oud compositions smell like it. However, the other lines Amouroud has do offer a lot of quality for their niche price tag, since The Perfumer's Workshop has always offered value since the beginning, but some compositions like Dark Orchid (2016) sit a bit too close to their inspirations for comfort. To be blunt, Dark Orchid is a clone of Tom Ford Black Orchid (2016), almost a decade to the day since Tom Ford launched his house with the erstwhile oriental gourmand chypre hybrid, but seeks to be a true unisex composition in tone rather than one which is inadvertently unisex through co-opting by men.

Black Orchid isn't exactly niche, but the price tag of even the signature lines from Tom Ford makes it one of the rare designers that dwells in the niche space, so I can see why Amouroud would target it and make a riff based on it. The opening of Amouroud Dark Orchid is very much like the aforementioned Tom Ford, but less sweet, less bright, and made greener with the addition of fig leaf. Herein the bergamot/mandarin/gardenia opening of Black Orchid loses the jasmine hedione in exchange for the fig leaf, and the heart of lotus/orchid/spice (all basically made up notes) is stripped of any fruity sweetness too. A dry ylang-ylang replaces what is missing from this heart, and the experience continues on as a more-serious and less-sensual Black Orchid, although Amouroud's clone does get some real personality of its own late in the wear. The patchouli and sandalwood base of Black Orchid are built up with olibanum and amber, which goes entirely opposite to the way the tonka and chocolate notes round out the experience. Instead, Amouroud Dark Orchid is gothic in a sombre Guillermo del Toro way rather than a kitschy Tim Burton way, and slightly more formal to boot. Wear time is outstanding and sillage is good. Projection here is pretty impresesive too, and because Dark Orchid is not very sweet, it doesn't feel as cloying in the heat. I'd say office use may be a bit much, but anyone can wear Dark Orchid in the evening year-round, even in situations where a "come hither" trail is not wanted. For me, Dark Orchid just screams "formal dinner with the in-laws", so take that as you may.

Tom Ford Black Orchid is a very iconic perfume, and there haven't been many if any noteworthy attempts to emulate it outside the fly-by-night Middle Eastern clone houses or operations like Alexandria, Dua, and so forth. Definitely no other designers have really tried to touch Black Orchid, or else whatever you want to call its style would be a genre of its own by now, and I would not so easily be able to label this scent a clone. To be honest, I usually avoid using the term "clone" because it is a mark of condemnation from the YouTuber-worshipping "frag bro" subset of the fragrance enthusiast community, and wielded improperly, can call the failure of a fragrance. In this case, the term "clone" just fits too perfectly, and Amouroud Dark Orchid is a damn good one at that, taking something so notoriously decadent as the brand-launching scent from Tom Ford and cleaning it up with a bit of tweaking to be more oriental and less gourmand. People who don't enjoy fig may not really dig Dark Orchid, and people who really don't like the core of Black Orchid may not like it either, but if sweetness and cloying sillage were your biggest complaints, or you want to steer closer to true unisex accords rather than bounce around the spectrum, Amouroud Dark Orchid may be the alternative for you. I have to dock some points for originality because a house that makes oud fragrances that aren't really oud fragrances has an uphill battle on principle alone, but the quality and performance are undeniable even at the prices they charge, and everyone -but- those poor oud takes has been top-notch from the house. Thumbs up.
11th February, 2020

Umbra by Ramon Monegal

Umbra by Ramon Monegal (2010) does something a bit unorthodox, which throws a lot of people off upon first observation, and that is start out smelling like it's going to be of far less substance than it ends up being. This leaves a lot of opportunity for early dismissal by seasoned fragrance enthusiasts, particular men with Umbra, who get the notion they know where it is going and proceed to scrub it before getting there. What I mean by this is Umbra starts off feeling very much like a light and peppery barbershop eau, in the same vein as Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet (1902), before growing a bit more sour and becoming something closer to a citrus chypre a la Cappuci pour Homme by Roberto Capucci (1967). Obviously, this scent is still a bit hobbled by IFRA restrictions on oakmoss and costus, so it never quite reaches the aromatic resplendence of antique examples, but it's nice nonetheless. Monegal overall is a hard house to like without a bit of an irreverent mindset, since Ramon neither sticks with traditional materials 100% of the time, nor follows traditional accord structures to a T, and that is due mostly to his experience as perfumer for Myrugia.

The opening of Umbra is the most misleading part, where a sharp lemon, pepper, and chemical sharpness that comes across like Iso E Super, along with a sour woods note that smells like cashmeran and bergamot mixed together. Of interesting note, the rebooted Dior Homme (2020) would try this exactly a decade later, but without as much complexity nor utilizaing the classic lemon pepper lines in the top. The fun begins once you get past this bit of designer aromachemical magic, as a vetiver and geranium note appears, recalling Terre d'Hermès (2006) in moments within the heart. The base shows up with a light oakmoss/treemoss hybrid, pine, and a dusting of dry tonka to establish that chypre accord mentioned before. Umbra consists of the moss, pine, vetiver, and geranium in the last portions of the wear once the "shadow" of aromachemical modernity drops, being very gentlemanly and not unlike something guys would enjoy in the 1950's, although I do think it feels a tiny bit unfocused in the way the theme is executed. If the early-stage sythetic use along with the lemon/pepper tandem hasn't lost you by the first 30 minutes, then you're treated to a masculine, low-key but tenacious office-oriented dry chypre experience of about 10 hours that can be used year-round.

I like Umbra, as I like everything I've mentioned above (including the rebooted Dior Homme from 2020), but I must admit that fragrance heads caught up in the veneration of purely-natural or purely-traditional perfumes will look at Umbra as if it had six heads, which may explain the disparate reviews it receives. Most people either don't have the historical knowledge base to know what they should make of it, or can't get over the opening, which is admittedly a bit heavy-handed on the woody aromachems. Monegal overall gets flack for the way he slings naturals and synthetics together without attempting to really blend them, as if he's still making designer perfume but without the budgetary limitations of Myrugia, and Umbra is a little more obvious in that way than some of the better-received compositions like Ambra di Luna (2009), but proves to be both interesting and effective to the perfume lover less bound by strict schools of thought. If you want a dry woody vetiver with the modern spit-shine of crispy geranium and the traditional finish of a classic chypre, Umbra might just be the understated niche alternative you're looking for if $175 for 50ml seems a fair deal. Thumbs up.
08th February, 2020

Sublime by Jean Patou

When I approached Sublime Jean Patou (1992) for sampling and review, I was both surprised and not; this was at once a classic chypre from the Oakmoss Maestro Jean Kerleo, and a perfume meant to fit within the shifting olfactive landscape of the 1990's. Kerleo gave Jean Patou bean counters both the market-relevant perfume they demanded yet also didn't, sticking to his ostensibly classic style in the base, something he would also do to a lesser extent with Voyageur Jean Patou (1994) when asked to deliver an aquatic for the male market. In the same sense that Voyageur was a layered olfactive parfait that went from new to old as it dried down, so does Sublime present itself as beholden to trend in the first fruity-fresh opening moments, only to show its musky animalic bone structure after it settles in. This of course comes across just modern enough for classic Patou fans to love Sublime for feeling new and exciting compared to their bottles of Joy (1930) and 1000 (1972), but for the mass market it entered at the time, Sublime was still seen as an old madame just like Lanvin Arpège (1927) or any of the mid-century Dior femmes. Sublime sold well enough to keep the doors open, but it was not the runaway success bringing Patou into the "modern age" that it was likely meant to be. Considering Sublime also managed to avoid the chopping block like much of the Patou catalog after so many changes of ownership, I suppose one might say that Kerleo was playing the long game with its design.

Smelling Sublime Jean Patou from the start, a lot of "90's chic" notes come to the fore in the first few minutes. You get some bergamot mixed with sweeter citruses like mandarin and neroli, with some slightly powdery iris as feminine perfumes by the 90's were returning from the loud big-boned roses and tuberoses of the 80's to something more dainty and apologetic in the years to come. The 90's was the hazmat crew coming to delouse society with stylistic asceticism after an uproarious 80's, which is why stuff like Calvin Klein cK One (1994) took off like it did, and Sublime communicates the same intent at first, but only at first. The heart is full of dry spice and florals like muguet, carnation, coriander and ylang-ylang, touched with rose and jasmine indole. The base warms up even more, seeing the powderiness of the iris fall away to a base of civet, styrax, sandalwood, amber, and patchouli, cleaned up only a touch by the lingering orange blossom tones and a late-stage vetiver. Tonka and oakmoss play their usual anchoring roles, with vanilla keeping the musky skin scent close enough to the feminine wheelhouse to not raise eyebrows too much. Sublime becomes semi-oriental by the end, and is one of few fragrances that starts as office-safe then finishes as anything but, so wear however you see fit. Projection is not monstrous but Sublime has plenty of staying power thanks to the heady base, and feels best in cooler weather, plus could be unisex if you enjoy animalic warmth.

Of course, the next question might be who should wear this perfume in the 21st century? That depends on what kind of perfume enthusiast you are. If you enjoy classic themes with novel twists, this may suit, but if you are looking for the typical fruity floral vase water being made around this time, pass on Sublime. I think that like many partially or fully-anachronistic scents made on the cusp of the 80's and 90's (since revisiting structures from nearly a century before was a fad at the time), you have to perceive Sublime Jean Patou not as a product of the 90's, but a fragrance meant to pay respects to the golden age of classic perfumery that ran from the late 1800's up until the 1950's, when terms like "chypre" and "fougère" first became commonplace in the industry. It is only then when viewed alongside icons like Caron Narcisse Noir (1911), Chanel No. 5 (1921), Guerlain Shalimar (1925), Dana Tabu (1932) and Miss Dior by Christian Dior (1947), that Sublime Jean Patou begins to make sense. Kereo was in essence, making *this* kind of perfume with an introduction tailored to a 1990's mindset, and in so doing succeeded wildy, but also made a fragrance mostly without an audience. Luckily, this little gem has more than found that audience decades later, even if mainly among perfume enthusiasts. Good call playing the long game after all, huh Jean? Thumbs up.
07th February, 2020

Oud du Jour by Amouroud

Am I going insane or am I writing the same review twice for two different fragrances here? Amouroud is a premium niche line from The Perfumer's Workshop that focuses on oud-based creations as the name suggests, but this is zero for two on the oud-perfume-smelling-like-oud front from a brand that is self-identifying as one for lovers of the note. Going back to my review for Amouroud Oud After Dark (2016), I made note of a perfume that was really structured around the interplay between saffron, synthetic wood, ambroxan, and some novel fruity notes, coming across like an alternative to Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 (2015), and again I make the same observation here with Amouroud Oud du Jour (2016). I find that Oud du Jour comes across a bit drier and less-risky than Oud After Dark, plus a bit less of a direct homage to MFK br 540 in the base, which leads me to believe that they were likely two propositions on the same brief by the same perfumer and Amouroud decided to keep both. The name also implies day/night tandem use of both "oud" fragrances, but if I had to choose only one, Oud du Jour edges out Oud After Dark only slightly for being the more unique and enjoyable of the two. Still, it is a bit hard to overlook the glaring false advertising present in a house with "oud" in their name releasing "oud" fragrances that do not even remotely resemble what they claim to be, not even in the slightest.

Amouroud Oud du Jour opens with a similar saffron and pink pepper blast, with a "wild raspberry" note that feel more tart than the osmnanthus of Oud After Dark, being similar to the blackcurrant in Mancera Cedrat Boise (2011). The scent then moves into a familiar base of plum, synthetic wood stylings, and some dry florals like muguet. Supposedly there is olibanum here, but the only "incense" I get is the norlimbanol kind, although it is very slight and not on the scratchy side like with modern designers, showing the perfumer here has a deft hand with synthetic notes. The base is likewise ambroxan but without the tonka sweetness found in Oud After Dark, taking the plum note down into the base of the scent and pairing up with a patchouli isolate for a bit of a "fruitchouli" vibe late in the wear. Gaiac wood notes are claimed to be present, but it is the same Akigalawood "generic woody mossiness" that Tom Ford favors in his Private Blend bases. Enjoyable, but not an oud scent by any stretch of the imagination, the initial sting of being taken for a fool with Oud After Dark is less painful here in Oud du Jour, since at least Oud du Jour is a woody oriental scent when the chips fall, and gets barely inside the wheelhouse of a synthetic oud (unlike Oud After Dark) for that reason, even if it doesn't smell like one. Wear is average all around, so no need to detail that out for you, but the smell of Oud du Jour is more unisex than Oud After Dark, and better for casual or formal use because it is less sweet. I feel this is still a cold weather fragrance like its sibling as well.

Who Oud du Jour will appeal to is anyone's guess, as it doesn't try to ape a more-popular and more-expensive niche competitor like Oud After Dark, which at least in so doing gave it reason to exist for thrifty niche seekers in spite of itself. Casual oud fans with even basic knowledge of more medicinal designer synthetic ouds, let alone those who love the more-natual and animalic stuff, will still have a hard time accepting the farce that the brand is shaping up to be, which is sad because the non-oud entries in Amouroud's catalog are really freakin' nice. Just who is going to shop a brand pretending it specializes in ouds for their non-oud lines? Nobody, that's who. If you are a lover of odd and well-done creations, you may very well enjoy Oud du Jour, and fans of Le Labo who are used to knowing what is in the bottle doesn't match what's on the label may also be more lenient with Amouroud, but the brand is batting 1000 in the niche exploitation department for everyone with 2 cents to rub together. The Perfumer's Workshop otherwise has a good reputation for delivering quality pound for pound, so maybe you can overlook this glaring ruse when sampling these "ouds", but I certainly can't, although I can't bring myself to dislike this perfume either. Like I said before, at least Byredo interpretations can be recognized as such. Spiced plum and woods over patchouli and "ambergris" sounds good to me, just don't try to tell me it's oud or we're going to have some problems. Neutral
05th February, 2020
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Oud After Dark by Amouroud

The house of Amouroud is the new niche arm of The Perfumer's Workshop, the once niche-before-niche-was-a-thing upstart perfume brand-turned-conglomerate on the success of their early hits, who has for years silently bought up licenses for designers and drugstore brands alike to act in a similar manner to Bogart Group or Puig. The irony of all ironies here is that the house, which is an obvious portmanteau of the Italian word for "love" and the word "oud", doesn't actually use any real oud in their scents. I know that even at the $150-$200 price point, real aoud is still not to be expected because actual macerations of the stuff can cost hundreds for just a few drops, hence the extreme expense of artisanal perfumes which use it, but one would think that Amouroud would at least give the old "college try" at making a reasonably-convincing synthetic compound. Well, the answer to that is decidedly "no", because I find myself singing "Is this oud that I'm feeling" in the voice of Whitesnake's David Coverdale as I wear the stuff on skin. What makes the smell of Oud After Dark by Amouroud (2016) so much worse is that the base doesn't even resemble the medicinal synthetic oud notes we're used to in designers. Hell, the cheapo One Man Show Oud Edition by Jacques Bogart (2014) does a better job of a reasonable oud accord than many of the Tom Ford Private Blends, and even has a bit of an animalic kick to boot. Instead of that, Oud After Dark goes in a similar direction to later (and much more expensive) Initio Oud for Greatness (2018), but just simply forgets to have an oud accord at all.

What is here in Oud After Dark is worth sniffing however, as you get an opening of saffron, pepper, and some rather genderbend fruity floral notes like osmanthus and orchid. The middle lists an oud note but in reality this is a plum and shoe leather accord augmented with a synthetic wood type which I can't fully peg but resembles Tom Ford's beloved Akigalawood. You get a bit of black shoe polish, plum, and wood mixing with the fruity spicy opening, balancing between dry and sweet, before the real star players show up for the majority of the time on skin. There is Turkish rose listed too but I don't detect any noticeable rose, so if it's there, it must be just a pin drop. There is tonka, plus an ambroxan note which mixes with the pepper, spice, and wood mentioned above to form a feel similar to Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 (2015), to which this scent most resembles. Oud for Greatness also gets some comparison to Br 540 because of the saffron and synthetic elements in it too, but it still has an oud note in it, however designer-like of an oud note that may be. Here in Oud After Dark, there is none of that, just the saffron, the leather, the plum, some smooth synthetic woods, tossed with a softening pinch of vanilla and musk near the end. Amouroud mentioned tobacco in their official note breakdown, but that's just the tonka. Maybe the oud comes after dark like the name implies? I waited until sundown for this one before writing my review, and still no oud. Wear time is over 8 hours and performance for both sillage and projection is above average, and overall vibe here suggests cool weather evening wear to me. I guess this can read as romantic from the sweetness, spice and musk, but if I smelled it on someone, I might mistake it for a business perfume due to the dry woods note that leaps out now and then.

Is this nice? Yeah, sure it is. I particularly enjoy the plum and the saffron paired with the really smooth woods in the base, although I can do without the apricot-like osmanthus opening note. In the end, this will appeal to fans of Br 540 more than fans of oud fragrances, and people who want something adjacent to the costly Oud for Greatness. Is this truly unisex like the label claims? Maybe, but most women with conventional (also read: mainstream) tastes will not like the scent beyond the opening 30 minutes, unless they're into woody tonka perfumes. Trying to make an oud-like accord with zero oud or even oud replacer notes is something that seems to be en vogue with some niche houses, and Byredo attempted a similar thing to Amouroud, with better results, but I just can't get over the fact that the house doing this is called Amouroud in the first place. I reviewed one of Amouroud's non-oud compositions first (from the white line) and found it really good, so I went into this expecting a well-done synthetic oud at an entry-level niche price point a la Diptyque or Perris Monte Carlo, especially because The Perfumer's Workshop performs natural-smelling miracles at the lower-end of their wares. I wouldn't buy this literal bamboozle in a bottle, but I admit it does smell well-composed for what it is. You may have a different opinion depending on how you feel about being baited and switched with perfume nomenclature, which if you're a fan of Le Labo and their practices, may be something you're already used to by now. Neutral.
04th February, 2020

Vetiver Citron Cologne Intense by Art of Shaving

This is a good, uncomplicated masculine green fragrance. You could end the review right here and not feel misled, but there is always more to something than the initial reaction. The Art of Shaving has been slowly taking themselves upmarket in the world of wet shaving since their inception, whilst also trying painfully to maintain their post-modernist hipster "grassroots" edge, being as the edges of their actual razors are already pretty sharp. Unfortunately, the "gentrified hipster" is a real and actual creature, and mostly represents a high-earning Caucasian male in his late 20's or early 30's the tech industry trying to keep in touch with a sense of humility by surrounding himself with outmoded working-class culture from the previous century. It's almost as if spinning vinyl records on pricey vintage Hi-Fi equipment and driving a restored 1988 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme would make such a fellow fit in with "the poors" when the same demographic he unwittingly parodies can't even afford car or home ownership anymore, let alone concern themselves with "vintage blue-collar" anything. However, some of us out there do unironically enjoy cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and look to establishments like Art of Shaving as a convenient way to test drive wet shaving products we'd otherwise have to buy blind off the internet, so it can't be said that they only serve their target demographic. In the case of Vetiver Citron Cologne Intense (2016) it looks like the brain-trust behind their fragrances (Proctor & Gamble) have tried their hand at a proper vetiver fragrance for men, rather than some mega-citrus blast overloaded with Iso E Super that many designers pass off as vetiver scents these days, and for that I am appreciative. This won't knock your socks off if you're a veteran of classic vetivers from all the old names like Carven, Guerlain, Lanvin, and Givenchy, but it is better than most things in the price range it dwells and touches upon niche style.

The overall gist of Vetiver Citron Cologne Intense is to be a "whole vetiver" fragrance, much like the vetiver products Roja Dove offers, although it isn't made with anywhere near the same level of blending or richness. In some ways, I see the style of Vetiver Citron Cologne Intense as a "poor man's" precursor to Roja Dove Vetiver pour Homme Cologne (2019), as it exhibits a similar full-bodied style and lightness. There are more synthetics going on here than in the $300 Roja Dove take on the same idea, and no litsea cubeba (a star player in all of Dove's vetivers), but this is 90% similar at 1/3rd the price. Perhaps P&G reverse-engineered the older EdP version of the Roja Dove, or just got really close to the same conclusion using different ideas, but to say they're kissing cousins isn't far from the truth. The smell of Vetiver Citron is opens with bergamot, lemon, and grapefruit, but quickly settles into the grassier aspects of vetiver in the heart which most of us recognize. There is black pepper, artemisia, and cardamom to offer a spicy herbal masculinity, with a touch of animal warmth in the base from a well-placed labdabum/patchouli combo. Not quite chypre thanks to judicious tonka usage, Vetiver Citron Cologne Intense then rolls in the nuttier, earthier vetiver root into the final dry down, with synthetic wood notes like javanol and cashmeran showing up to remind you this is still basically a mall fragrance. Of course the dry down is where most comparisons to Roja Dove drop out, although I'm not suggesting that the dry down isn't perfectly nice, as once again The Art of Shaving have put many similarly-priced designer offerings to shame by demonstrating that something well-crafted and believable can be marketed at this level. Wear time is a little shorter on this than other Art of Shaving Cologne Intense versions at about 6 hours, as is performance from a projection standpoint, but considering Vetiver Citron is keyed mostly for warm-weather aromatic freshness, it can used outdoors or layered over top something like Green Lavender Cologne Intense (2016) or their popular Coriander & Cardamom (2016) range in colder surrounds.

The good thing about Vetiver Citron is how approachable and unpretentious it is compared to some of the Art of Shaving line, since it doesn't try to pass itself off as being something that it's not like Oud Suede (2016) or Sandalwood & Cypress (2016), instead just smelling like it sounds. Another good thing (or potentially bad thing for future availability) is how often this one seems to get discounted or end up on gray market sites like eBay for low prices, which may mean eventual discontinuation for lack of sales like L'Occitane's Eau de Vetyver (2001) if it isn't already by the time you read this review. However, for the moment this means you don't have to pay $100 for a full bottle if you end up enjoying a sample you may get from their stores. I'm not sure I'm on board with a full suite of available shaving products in this scent, as I see vetiver as more of something worn during the day and I mostly shave at night, even if I could see someone in love with the stuff going all-out on it. Vetiver is a hard subject to tackle with authenticity and distinction because it is the most commonly-used note in men's perfume, and so many cheap bogus vetiver scents attest to that fact, although The Art of Shaving have done an admirable job of bringing something better than your average designer vetiver flanker to the table with Vetiver Citron Cologne Intense. This definitely won't replace anything like what Etro, Diptyque, or Lalique does with vetiver in the quality and performance department, but satisfies within the intended wet shaving/casual fragrance context as a valid addition to vetiver genre. The best part of all is you don't need to be a fan of Mumford & Sons, use pomeade in your hair, or have a large collection of old Commodore PCs from the 80's to enjoy it! Thumbs up.
02nd February, 2020

Sandalwood & Cypress Cologne Intense by Art of Shaving

The Art of Shaving is seen by some as the ultimate in hipster gentrification because it upsells the concept of the traditional wet shave by offering expensive versions of what your grandfather used to shave with alongside their own suite of scents and soaps. Of course, once you get past all the faux steampunk facial hair and Skrillex side-cuts of the staff, their smarmy condescending recommendations, and the fact that most of these places are in shopping malls (the least-hipster of places on Earth), you can start to appreciate their products a bit more. Sandalwood & Cypress Cologne Intense (2016) is the effective replacement for the brand's original Sandalwood (2004) range, and mostly due to the cost of the real thing making the original formula untenable (even if it did only still have a marginal amount of sandalwood oil). The new take on the accord is filled out with more notes into a proper masculine fragrance in its own right, and is rather good as a fragrance sold at designer price points, although to call anything from Art of Shaving "niche quality" is both foolishly enabling the niche market to fleece us further and giving a slap to the face of niche perfume fans who've already invested. Best of all, this "Cologne Intense" is meant to used as part of an entire suite much like how Avon used to do with their masculine fragrances, so you can go all-in with pre-shave oil, shave cream, after-shave balm, and the fragrance itself.

For starters, Sandalwood & Cypress does not mostly smell of sandalwood like the 2004 scent it replaced, and instead focuses on something of a semi-oriental fougère accord built on a base that contains multiple wood types and an animalic. The opening is bergamot and the odd choice of chamomile, which rounds off the bergamot some and gives that stereotypical soothing aroma you can expect from the tea. Under this rides a spicy core of cardamom, pink pepper, black pepper, and cumin, The cumin is dialed down real low like it is in Brooks Brothers New York for Gentlemen (2008) but adds a bit of a dirty musky tone to the creamy woods base. This muskiness is furthered by styrax that enters the picture when the javanol-powered sandalwood accord shows up, flanked by tones of cedar, guaiac wood, tonka, and olibanum with an evernyl faux-oakmoss padding. How much of these other woods are not just aromachemicals is unknown, because the blending here is extremely well-done and you won't really be picking apart the smell like your typical designer. Whatever is comprising what Art of Shaving considers cypress is also in this mix, but this is no "chypre" to me. Wear time is rather good at 8 hours, and I find Art of Shaving Sandalwood & Cypress Cologne Intense to be a slightly more-upscale take on Kenneth Cole Signature (2005) merged with a bit of the aforementioned Brooks Brothers, but without as much citrus and no hedione freshness.

This is a proper woody scent for men that works well when layered up with the other products in the range but can also perform acceptably on its own. Projection isn't monstrous but sillage will stick around you for most of the 8 hours, so this "Cologne Intense" really just ends up being an eau de toilette with a marketing gimmick. If you can overcome your aversion to "mall niche" brands like Art of Shaving, L'Occitane, or Lush, you'll be rewarded here with an easy-wearing sandalwood scent that is perfect for casual cool weather use and can pull duty both in an office or dressed-down evening events. I wouldn't call this classy enough for formal use because of that slightly animalic undercurrent in the late dry down, but since this is part of a shaving range, I don't think that is intended anyway. There really isn't much more to say, especially if you're the kind of guy that still misses the original and simpler 2004 version of this stuff, but for fans of woody fragrances not so particular about ingredients origins or brand image of the perfume itself, you can do far worse for $100USD. Sandalwood & Cypress isn't my particular favorite from what Art of Shaving sells, but as a true barbershop staple-type scent of higher quality than anything you're going to find at the drugstore it was an easy sell for me, even if I'm yet ready for mutton chops and a man bun. Thumbs up.
01st February, 2020

Heritage Tricorn / Tricorn by Caswell-Massey

Caswell-Massey Tricorn (1941) has an interesting history and remains one of the most-popular scents from the brand's storied catalog. I won't go into detail here, but as one of the oldest continuously-operating Western perfumers on the planet, and the oldest American perfumer, Caswell-Massey has remained a going concern beyond its early years as an apothecary by marketing itself as one of the best-kept secrets in perfume. By courting celebrities, dignitaries, and pretty much doing with historical proof what Creed claims it has done, Caswell-Massey has carved a niche of being a historically-significant and enlightened perfume choice for connoisseurs, all the while still offering a range of accessibly-priced products celebrating their humble origins (something Creed hasn't done). Tricorn comes in two versions these days: the formula descended from the 1941 original adjusted for ingredients cost and availability, plus a "Heritage" version released in 2017 that exists as an upscale refresh appealing more to the modern niche perfume fan than someone interested in the brand legacy. My review mostly deals with the 1941 stuff, but I'll touch upon what you can expect in the 2017 redressing. Tricorn was originally released to coincide with a new chapter for the brand when Ralph and Milton Taylor took over the buisiness, and became a favorite for both musician Cole Porter and actor John Barrymore. The scent of Tricorn itself is loosely an oriental, a rarity for men at the time outside of Shulton's Old Spice (1937), and would presage many similarly-styled men's orientals by 40 some odd years, when fragrances like Aramis JHL (1982) or Calvin Klein Obsession for Men (1986) would come to market.

Smelling Caswell-Massey Tricorn reveals both why this stuff was so loved by those who knew it, why it was so missed when pulled from the market, and why there are some common misconceptions about the fragrance from those who loved it but wore little else. First and foremost, the rumor that Tricorn is some God-tier sandalwood fragrance removed from the market because of the over-harvesting of Bangalore Mysore sandalwood it once used is patently false. Yes, this stuff did indeed have some sandalwood in the base, but even from vintage samples I've tested, it was still primarily an oriental based around labdanum, vanilla, civet musk, and amber. More recent batches including the newest limited re-issue of the 1941 formula, still have a noticeable sandalwood sharpness, but this is completed with Australian/New Caledonian sandalwood and polysantal to make up the difference, and is negligable anyway due to the core amber/musk accord being the primary base note. Beyond that, this is a lovely masculine classic that goes on a bit powdery from the petitgrain, lemon, muguet, and cedar opening, warming up with a heart of vanilla, cocoa butter, and the aforementioned rockrose/labdabum, before setting up so the ambery slightly-civeted (civetone) musk brings in a quieter version of the "urinal cake" facet YSL Kouros (1981) is famous for, tamed by the sandalwood note and a bit of dry leather. Tricorn has outstanding performance for an eau de cologne, undoubtedly due to the richness of the composition itself, and is best for winter or romantic evening use. Wear time is easily over 10 hours and sillage is strong, even if projection beyond a foot or so drops off after the first few hours. Tricorn wants you to get in close, which is in stark contrast to the sharp and extroverted Caswell-Massey Jockey Club (1840).

Fans of men's oriental fragrances wanting to switch out the spice typically found in the style for a bolstered musk profile, a bit more raunch, and a "rawness" to the amber not much seen outside of niche perfume these days ought to get their hands on Tricorn in its 1941 configuration while Caswell-Massey still makes it, or else be stuck waiting for the next time around (if there is one). If you catch this review during a time the 1941 version is unavailable then that's okay, the upscale re-orchestration is still good too. The 2017 "Heritage" version uses more sandalwood (obviously because it's more expensive), removes the civetone musk, adds a honeyed floral profile to the heart, and is less powdery in the opening. Tonka is noticeably present in the 2017 version, and the composition is cleaner, woodier, and more sophisticated, being more versatile as a result but a bit more boring to my nose. Considering the deep vintage stuff sells for a fortune, I'd jump on a bottle of the re-issued 1941 version if you're at all curious about why people make more noise about vintage Tricorn than almost any other scent in the Caswell-Massey catalog, as it is an early and slightly more-accessible forerunner among a dying breed of animalic men's fragrances for those curious about the style. Tricorn has not a lickety split to do with the hat after which it is named, but who cares? This is a warm, cozy, ever-glowing treat of a fragrance that really highlights the wonders of what amber can do when wrapped in creamy sandalwood and musk, making Caswell-Massey Tricorn every bit deserving of the hype it used to get when more commonly-available, just don't call it a sandalwood fragrance. Thumbs up.
30th January, 2020

Futur by Robert Piguet

Robert Piguet was a fashion designer whose perfumes eventually overshadowed his couture work, even if he is best known in that field for training Hubert de Givenchy and Christian Dior. Piguet as a perfume brand is legendary for bringing to prominence the butch leather-like isobutyl quinoline note in Bandit (1944) to women's perfume, which eventually saw its way through cross-gender use of Bandit and into masculine perfumery. Later on Fracas (1948) and Baghari (1950) would further cement Piguet as a prominent and inspirational perfume house to the point of the nameplate continuing on upon Robert's death in 1953. It's unkown if perfumer Germaine Cellier continued to compose for the Piguet brand after this period, but the house would see brief revival in the 60's with Cravache (1963) and this scent, Futur (1967). There's something to be said about the compositional style of Robert Piguet Futur, as it combines elements of what was then considered forward-thinking perfume notes in the women's market (namely green floral tones), with the smoker's lounge retro-chic of Bandit's leather core. The result of this mixture feels more like Futur really has one leg in the past, as if to say "don't forget where you came from" to the rest of the perfume world at the time, and was only on the market for seven years before being axed after Piguet fell further into obscurity, trading hands a few more times before re-emerging as a niche perfume brand. So what does this "days of future passed" chypre really represent in the 21st century? Well, the olfactive equivalent of the Seattle Monorail, or Disney's Epcot Center, an idealized future proved imperfect like so many obsolete concepts of anticipated progress.

The opening of Futur is where many people will scratch their heads, as out comes a very citric chypre opening, not totally unlike the concurrently-released Capucci pour Homme (1967) or the later Homme de Grès (1996). Notice how these are both masculine market releases, and so too the style of Futur would seem better-suited to the masculine palette these days for fans of the traditional chypre. Unlike classic examples such as Guerlain Mitsouko (1919), or even later ones like Chanel No. 19 (1971), there is no fruity introduction nor noticeably-floral heart to make this declare "for women" per the tastes of the day. Instead, the galbanum blends down with a melange of fleshy floral notes which do not present themselves openly. Daffodil and narcissus being oddly paired with violet and ylang-ylang in the heart, and the unconventional note of tamarix (a flowering dedacious bush used in desert reclaimation) drying out whatever bounce these flower choices may have had. The futurism of such a near-androdgynous mix is brought roughly a decade or so back in time once the base appears, lifted seemingly right from Bandit but made greener and more airy with prominent vetiver and cedar notes replacing the birch tar or animalics of castoreum and civet. However, this isn't to say that there is no animalic component, as the ISBQ leather, oakmoss, and earthy patchouli are still very much there. In some ways Futur is more complex and sophisticated than Bandit despite having less notes, but in other ways is also more elegant and to-the-point, being an easier wear in either case. Futur is very green and very much a chypre, making it a wear for spring through fall, but can be worn in milder winters too, proving very unisex despite the marketing. This scent has moderate sillage, mild projection, and lasts 8 hours on my skin.

Where to use Futur might be a bit trickier than when, since this is still very much a leathery fragrance but spared some of the black shiny BDSM appeal of Bandit by focusing more on the chypre accord than the leather accord, which again makes it feel more like something a mid-century man would match with a tweed jacket than a woman with a black dress. Still, chypre fans of all walks should be delighted that Futur was resurrected in 2009 by a renewed house of Robert Piguet, and is in fine enough form to recommend, even if vintage purists may want to automatically assume it as inferior drivel and blow fat stacks of cash on securing a quite-rare original-run bottle made between 1967-1974. Whatever helps you sleep at night is what I always say about people who obstinantly chase unicorns over the rainbow bridge, but I admit that at least knowing the vintage if not owning it is the best way to get a fun snapshot into the late space-race futurism of the mid 20th century as it trickled down into household technologies, media, fashion, and art like this perfume. I also recommend this to people who find the animalic or leathery aspects of Bandit to be a bit much and want something more versatile while not sacrificing the aesthetic appeal of a leather perfume. Whatever version you happen to find, expect a very green and aromatic woody/leather experience that sits right up there with the butch femme greats like Cabochard de Grès (1959) and Miss Dior [Originale] (1947). Robert Piguet Futur is not exactly the house of the future we were all promised in the old film reel cartoons of the 1950's, but I'll take it. Thumbs up.
29th January, 2020

London by English Laundry

It was only a matter of time before English Laundry tackled a fragrance that smells like Creed Aventus (2010), and that's because English Laundry as a house seeks to democratize the British/UK luxury male fashion aesthetic for the US and other audiences abroad, so taking a shot at the leading masculine perfume from one of the most popular luxury perfumers sold in the UK with claimed ties to English nobility (despite being French) is a no-brainer. Indeed, Creed Aventus is one of the most-worn fragrances among the affluent upper-classes of London, after which English Laundry names its "clone", but like all homages to popular styles coming from a designer couture house rather than a deliberate "clone" perfumer, English Laundry London (2018) seeks to sell itself as something other than a copycat. Unfortunately, this is simply impossible when dealing with fragrances that either reference or take any inspiration from Creed Aventus in even the slightest form, because the fan base for the stuff is so obsessive, so pedantic, so foaming-at-the-mouth to defend the honor of their gentrified bro-culture validation sauce that anything bearing resemblance is descended upon, being ripped to shreds instantly. Nobody really cared when Creed Green Irish Tweed (1985) was democratized (by its own perfumer) as Davidoff Cool Water (1988), although comparisons would eventually turn to bitter arguments after the invention of the internet allowed "cologne guys" to discuss their interests. So here we have English Laundry London, the first proper designer fragrance to take a stab at the DNA of Creed Aventus, and although it would be completely overshadowed by the higher-profile and more-unique Montblanc Explorer (2019), it's something of a marvel on its own. For starters, the smell of London is not a play-by-play doppelganger of Creed Aventus like a true clone such as Armaf Club de Nuit Intense Man (2015), because the house has always done "luxury" takes on popular designer accords by buttressing several together or adding a unique spin to a singular popular style, then smoothing the Hell out of it so the chemical seams don't show like they would in the designer being plagiarized.

This method immitation-meets-innovation has taken the house far in the eyes of the fragrance community as a good value-for-dollar alternative to designers, since they're basically applying a niche sense of quality to a mass-appeal fragrance, but since a niche perfume with considerable pride of ownership/status is being tackled by good ol' Chrisopher Wicks, I'm not sure this method will be appreciated by hobbyists with London. The opening of English Laundry London is as you might expect, coming across the nose with a whole lot of citrus, pineapple, green apple and other fruitiness. English Laundry switches out the blackcurrant of Aventus for blackberry, but it makes no difference in the end because you still end up with the same sweet, completely safe, and played-out citrus/fruit one-two-punch. I think the veteran Creed fan will pick out the difference right away and recuse any arguments of direct clone intention, but the general "frag-bro" will still cry fowl. From there, we get a heart of jasmine hedione, denatured patchouli heart, and birch like Aventus, providing a bit of the smokiness Aventus is famous for, but adding a gin-inflected touch with juniper in place of rose. This juniper gives a slight presage to Maison Francis Kurkdjian's Gentle Fluidity [Silver] (2019), and is the unique twist English Laundry places on the heart. It's clear after about 30 minutes on skin that London has no intention to dry down exactly like Aventus does, even though ambroxan/ambergris, white musk, and vanilla are key players in the base, since the oakmoss note is a bit more prominent in London and the musk vibe gets closer to that of Creed Royal Mayfair (2015) than in Aventus. I think this is the key difference between London and Aventus: the serious English austerity tone of Royal Mayfair was tapped for the creation of English Laundry London, with the knobs tweaked just a bit to that end, even though the principle ingredients are evidently almost note-for-note with Aventus. A more-British and less-booming take on the style is what London brings to the table, with a floral print shirt and petticoat reminiscent of the UK Mod style English Laundry proselytizes to US buyers of the brand replacing the bespoke tailored suits and wingtip shoes vibe Creed channels through their masculine offerings to the would-be customer. Performance is actually rather on the poor side compared to other English Laundry fragrances, with 7 hours pushing it and projection dropping to skin levels after only 3. The genuine article still has most knock-offs or inspired-by scents beat in that department unless you want the nuclear-strength of the Armaf, but English Laundry London isn't terrible, just not useful much beyond the sedate setting of the office. Weather-wise this is pretty much year-round except maybe not for the harshest extremes of hot and cold, in which other things more-specialized may better serve.

If English Laundry was a clone house from the Middle East, or some "attempting to improve upon the original" dupe brand like Dua, Alexandria Fragrances, or Pineapple Vintage, we'd have a whole different story on our hands. But as fate would have it, this is a brand that from tip to tail exists to romanticize past fashions of a specific culture, packaging their concept of luxury into manufactured ready-to-wear and fragrances that merge the catch-all mindset of a designer with the air of exclusivity their source material suggests but at value pricing, so seeing English Laundry ride closely parallel to an upscale brand like Creed doesn't feel disingenuous. What I feel instead from English Laundry is more of a "what took you so long?" kind of emotional energy, as the house has been playing mad scientist by combining or embellishing popular designer tropes for years, making mashups of YSL, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Chanel, Dior, Viktor & Rolf, Tom Ford, and Burberry since their inception. If you're genuinely trying to be the Kia or Hyundai of the luxury niche perfume world, you have to eventually step up to the plate and start smelling like the "big boys", not copying the stuff just slightly above you in price that people interested in upscale perfumes are trying to avoid. I'm not saying English Laundry London is great, and I certainly don't think it is the credible designer answer to Creed that Montblanc Explorer is, but it is the first successful dry run of doing this style well and inexpensively without feeling dishonest. In other words, English Laundry London is the first fragrance of its type that makes you question the price tag of Creed Aventus, because outside a bit of projection loss, they compare favorably to each other in quality. I don't need something like this in my wardrobe, but for fans of the smell but not the price of Aventus, it fits a purpose. English Laundry London makes me excited for what the brand might tackle next, although with the caveat that if they head too far into niche styles, they may lose their intended audience for these fragrances in the first place. Thumbs up.
22nd January, 2020

Oxford Bleu by English Laundry

English Laundry Oxford Bleu (2014) is another clever amalgamation of designer accords blended with "luxury" levels of care and performance, presented at eau de parfum strength. The whole point of English Laundry seems to be a reversal of the "emperor's new clothes" aesthetic that many luxury-marketed niche houses employ: instead of taking something mainstream and adding a luxury twist then selling it at exorbitant prices with a prestige-focused sales pitch, English Laundry takes the luxury blending, performance and a facsimile of the presentation found in "haute parfumerie" and democratizes it. Of course, there is no hiding the synthetics or quality of ingredients used, but at least the amount of care taken with the compositions shows a level of craft not seen in most A-list designer masculines these days. My only grievance with the house is if a scent isn't an outright clone, they do an old 1980's/1990's Avon trick of mixing elements from several popular fragrances together, meaning the savvy wearer plays a guessing game of what has been mixed when smelling something from English Laundry of this nature. In the case of Oxford Bleu, Versace Eros (2013) seems to have loaned its top notes to a "fougère-ified" base of Bleu de Chanel (2010), with a bit of soapy Prada-style iris/orris tossed in the middle, creating the designer masculine equivalent to a "White Mystery" flavor used by Airheads candy. Yikes.

The above description alone may be enough to end this review and steer you clear of Oxford Bleu; I wouldn't blame you if this is the case, but I'm going to see this through regardless. The opening is a minty apple and lemon mix very reminiscent of Eros, with a bit of that clean iris/orris tandem showing up in moments, but smoothed over with a bit of vanilla and sparkly geranium. The vetiver and "modern woods" accord recalls some of the ambroxan-powered incense base of Bleu de Chanel, but the smooth tonka and evernyl "oakmoss" accord in this also brings in some shades of Montblanc Legend (2011), so the scent really is sort of all over the 2010's designer spectrum by the end. Ultimately, the blending of styles and tropes Christopher Wicks uses here makes Oxford Bleu one of the more unique entries in the canon of English Laundry, but also one of the more generic since it doesn't try to commit itself to one style. Wear time is excellent at over 10 hours and sillage is good, just don't expect monster projection like Eros or a real "lipsticky" iris note like Dior Homme (2005). I'd say this is about as generalist as any of the more mass-appeal English Laundry masculines (so basically most of them), but is better used in median to cooler weather due to the heavier clubber elements stapled onto an otherwise office-centric style. I try to avoid the word "dumb reach", but if there ever was something that almost requires zero thought to reach for and enjoy, it would be Oxford Bleu. I've said this about others from the house, but if you're looking for a one-fragrance-for-all solution for the guy who only wants one bottle of scent at a time, English Laundry Oxford Bleu seems to be a good fit.

My biggest problem with this one, and the reason I wouldn't own it, is that Oxford Bleu literally smells like what most designers strive for these days: a perfect catch-all masculine fragrance. Even the biggest, and most-popular designer fragrances of the 2010's decade still have a tiny speckle of challenge to their nature that makes them miss this mark. For example, Dior Sauvage (2015) is almost an AI-composed auto-tuned aromachemical pop tune made to be irresistibly likeable to others, but still smacks the wearer with its deliberately overcharged base. Likewise, Creed Aventus (2010) has been copied to death and costs more than a new Xbox One, meaning wearing it presents a social challenge of forcing you to "flex" by mentioning yours is the real deal and not a clone if noticed. Oxford Bleu is just too easy, touching on too many pulses at once, and comes across like threadbare pandering with a glaze of quality to hide it all. You get a sweet opening, the clean middle, the warm faux-woody base, with a seamless dry down, smelling like everything you think you like or want about a modern generalist fragrance, but in so doing smelling like it has zero quirks, imperfections, or personality. English Laundry Oxford Bleu is the uncanny valley of mass-appeal fragrance accords, which is somewhere nobody should want to go regardless of price, but in a "value luxury" way that punches above its weight as intended in other regards. Neutral.
21st January, 2020

Dior Homme Eau de Toilette (2020 version) by Christian Dior

Rumours had persisted for the better part of 2019 that a new version of Dior Homme (2005) was coming, especially in light of Dior house perfumer François Demachy having reformulated Olivier Polge’s original 2005 composition in 2011 after taking over, as if to put his own stamp. People were unhappy then with the change from iconic sliver stem to black in the bottle, but the scent was more or less recognizable as it was before. After that, Demachy began messing with flankers, inventing and reinventing them several times through multiple iterations, dialing back the signature iris accord just a little more each time until it was completely absent from the last version of Dior Homme Cologne (2013). However, Demachy did something of a fake-out and tricked everyone thinking he hated iris by releasing Dior Homme Eau (2014) the following year, which probably has the most-bitter representation of the note in the whole line, only to walk back by releasing the latest version of DIor Homme Sport (2017) that once again removed it almost completely (but not entirely like in Dior Homme Cologne). I know what you might be thinking: why all this fuss over iris and cacao? Maybe it’s the fact that iris is a signature note of Olivier Polge, as he was to feature it again in Valentino Uomo (2017) before replacing his father at Chanel as house perfumer, or maybe François Demachy just really wants to rebuild the Dior Homme portfolio to his own standard, but realistically the answer is something far less dramatic . Dior Homme just doesn’t sell well enough for the kind of numbers designers want to pull from their mainstream releases these days and Dior asked him to re-orchestrate it into an entirely new scent. Iris is something of a niche flavor in men’s perfume because it is so indelibly associated with women’s cosmetics thanks to Guerlain lipstick scented with Shalimar (1925) and Coty’s Air-Spun face powder, itself scented with Coty L’Orignan (1905) before that. Some guys could just never get over that makeup-like ionone note no matter how you dress it up, and after the initial flash of gourmand genius that was Dior Homme in 2005, it clung to survival only so long based on a hardcore minority fanbase. Keep in mind I say this with love as a fan myself.

That isn’t to say Dior Homme [New] (2020) should instantly be abhorred and shunned as a pretender to the throne for replacing a sacred and beloved fragrance among hardcore Dior fans, and Dior itself is smart enough to redub the outgoing formula as “Originale” like they did with the first version of Miss Dior (1947), but this move also means more-limited production and likely a higher pricetag because of it. For those willing to wade into new designer waters, this 2020 iteration of Dior Homme is an intensely woody affair, overdosing sour musks and woods in the same way Dior Sauvage (2015) overdosed ambroxan and norlimbanol to create its own buzzy scratchy “desert-like” warmth. The opening of Dior Homme [New] is full of bergamot, pink pepper, and elemi. This sour blast is boosted with a heart of cashmeran, a synthetic wood saddled with the natural wood of atlas cedar and dry patchouli to create a green aromatic core that the sourness floats on. The base is a bit of musk and vetiver, with a touch of cypriol and a lot of Iso E Super in similar fashion to Terre d’Hermès (2008), of which I can see this draws some inspiration. Is this sexy as the new ad copy claims? Well not really, and I can tell you that the sourness of the elemi and cypriol contrasted with the herbal woody nature of this scent is going to be somewhat divisive and not mass-appealling like Sauvage, but also more “classically masculine” like a citrus chypre for men from the mid-20th century. Granted, there’s no oakmoss or sandalwood to give this the gravitas and naturalism vintage guys would expect from an accord like this, but Demachy tries to capture the same mood with modern McMolecules. Dior Homme [New] therefore is ultimately safer, and better for the office or generalist use than either previous iteration of Dior Homme before it, which translates to higher sales in the accountant-lead world of post-2000’s profit-centric designer perfume. Wear time is about 8 hours on average, with moderate performance all around, leaving a nice tart trail that will follow you throughout the day. Suggested use is fall through early spring for business casual environments or evenings.

Will fans of the original Dior Homme like this new version? Most likely not, and many of them are already screeching like incensed banshees at the notion of not getting their iris fix from their beloved favorite Dior, but some of the most discerning (also read: stuck up) Dior Homme fans clocked out years ago when the stem changed from silver to black and won’t wear anything but original vintage Dior Homme anyway, so you can’t exactly take their opinion to the bank. Personally, I like this scent well enough, but being a connoisseur of cheap-ish barbershop and drugstore masculines anyway, I’ve already smelled this sort of “sour citrus over herbs, musk and woods” combination before, as budget hearthrobs like Avon and Revlon have been doing it for decades before Demachy decided to make the Dior version of this style. You can go all the way back to Moustache by Rochas (1949) if you really want to smell the origin of the species, and get real whiffs of bergamot, sandalwood, oakmoss, and civet musk while you’re at it. Likewise, Avon did this style as recently as Avon Paradigm (2002), just with a leather twist and more herbs. Many people are already sharpening the edges of their pitchforks and lighting the bonfires without having even smelled this new Dior Homme, gearing up to tear down Castle Dior and pull Demachy from his bed for a proper scarlet lettering, but if the original iteration of Dior Homme remains available even if in limited distrubution, it should be enough for folks wishing to sit this one out. Otherwise, Valentino Uomo is also availabe if you don’t mind a splash of Nutella in your ionone-based iris, and for those undaunted by gender boundaries, Guerlain Shalimar will likely be available until the end of days. Taken on its own, Dior Homme [New] is a novel “nü-chypre” sort of deal for men, and although I think it would have been better served by a new name, I can set aside politics and enjoy it, just not in the company of other fragrance enthusiasts for fear of my life. Thumbs up.
14th January, 2020

Fragrance One : Office for Men by Jeremy Fragrance

The much-hyped and much-maligned Fragrance One: Office for Men (2019) by Jeremy Fragrance was already both applauded by fans of his YouTube channel and dismissed by hobbyists in the fragrance community that feel antagonized by what he represents. I've watched a few of his videos, and I admit the obsession with sex appeal, compliments, or the toxic masculinity vibe of being "alpha" that he generally sells in his videos is laughably banal at best, and dangerous from a social psychology standpoint at worst, but for the most part easy to ignore. The man who is Jeremy Fragrance has a long history of trying to sell his own image via two separate failed pop music careers (one solo and one with a boy band), but moved into the influencer space as his youth appeal began to show signs of patina, channeling his own personal interest in fragrance into a career as an upstart YouTube reviewer. Fast forward a few years, and he's successfully used his good looks, smarmy attitude, and expertly-keyed marketing angle to not only become the biggest YouTube fragrance reviewer in existence, but an influencer with enough pull to fund launching a perfume brand of his own. Fragrance One: Office for Men was initially backed on Kickstarter after a false start Patreon fundraiser that ended up paying for his Ferrari (surreal as that may seem), but this second time around he managed to secure Alberto Morillas as perfumer, shipping a prototype batch in a nondescript bottle to everyone who had pledged. There have been two more batches since then, each in a clear and black bottle with a cap that look more like a uniform finished product, with some claiming a bit of refinement to the scent itself between that initial first wave and the second two. So what do you get with Fragrance One: Office for Men? Well, that's easy to answer. You get a fragrance for men designed to be what every shallow, insecure, and self-absorbed overachiever type climbing the corporate ladder wants in a scent: pure performance and little else. Office for Men is all about AI-refined demographic-based research into mass-appeal masculine smells turned all the way up to 11. Someone like the esteemed Luca Turin would be both impressed and horrified by such a cold, clinical distillation of "purpose" in perfume, executed to a sociopathic degree with regards to nothing but "results". What are these results you say?

This is also easy to answer: deliver the loudest scent trail with what marketing research proves to be the most-complimented notes found in men's mainstream releases made in the 10 year period leading up to the making of Fragrance One: Office for Men. Jeremy Fragrance has indeed successfully created a chimera of the most-popular notes found in 2010's mainstream generalist perfumes, mashing up a bit of what people find appealing in several of the "blue fragrances" that appeared in the wake of Bleu de Chanel (2010) with some of the high-end panache borrowed from niche favorites in the "dudebro" segment of the fragrance community like Creed Aventus (2010) or Mancera Cedrat Boise (2011), layered over the buzzy harsh norlimbanol ("modern woods") blast of Dior Sauvage (2015). Not to be outdone by any of them, Office for Men twists these elements together in a not-so-unexpected way, but manages to stand out from the pack by sheer volume alone. There is no mistaking that this is a powerhouse, maybe not on the same level of respect as the 80's masculines which gave birth to the term, but with the same level of cloying strength as the infamous Joop Homme by Parfums Joop! (1989). Fragrance One: Office for Men comes on with a lot of bergamot, and something almost camphoraceous that some people compare to moth balls. This loud and zesty opening screams "fresh" at the top of its lungs, and will deafen anyone within a few feet of the wearer, sending the message clear that you are wearing a fragrance to people across the street. The magic of Office for Men is it manages to be an olfactive foghorn on a level even greater than Dior Sauvage, but because it is slightly more complex, does not drive the wearer nose-blind with sheer chemical linearity. The norlimbanol which is the root cause of this foghorn effect is combined with "amberwood" (ethoxymethoxycyclododecane if you need the chemical name), pink pepper, and paradisone to add a touch of rounded, flowery effusion that helps prevent Office for Men from being scratchy like Sauvage but boy oh boy is it loud! The base sort of dials it back after a few hours with standard-issue ambrox super, denatured patchouli "heart", Iso E Super, and white musk. If that sounds like pure science with very little soul to you, then you're right, but the point is that the kind of audience eating this up doesn't even care at all about what's in the stuff so long as other people like it on them. Of course, Office for Men is almost comically too strong for the office, but for guys who want to "feel like the CEO" when they show up at work by putting everyone on notice when they enter the room, this is just what the doctor ordered.

Office for Men is really just a super-powered generalist scent at its core, so you can wear this all times of the day in all weather types, smelling nice to everyone within a quarter mile. Sillage and projection is without question some of the greatest I have ever witnessed, and longevity is also beyond measure so you'll be scrubbing this off with every shower and laundering your clothes three times just to be rid of it. Performance pound-for-pound is every bit like an old 1980's masculine if not more but made with the modern aromachemicals and stylistic leanings of something designed for the kind of person Jeremy Fragrance videos target. That's to say an over-sprayer who falls hook-line-and-sinker for today's designer catch-all fragrances, worships at the alter of mass-appeal niche houses like Creed or Parfums de Marly for the "clout" they deliver to their wearers, but maybe won't pony up $400 for something from them at retail. This of course brings us to price, as Jeremy Fragrances sells his super-powered designer juice for nearly $200, but always offers either buy one get one free promotions, or half-off coupons to bring the functional price per bottle closer to the designers he seeks to outshine. I am impressed by Office for Men for being something so strong yet still so easy to wear, even if the sillage is actually somewhat tiresome, but this is still a boring montage of 2010's designer ideas save maybe the sweetness of clubbers all swirled together into a bottle. Considering the purpose of Office for Men, the almost "Spotify playlist" nature of Jeremy Fragrance's own tastes in fragrance, and the perfumer doing the composing, I got what I expected when I smelled Office for Men. Would I buy this? Nah. Nothing here really excites me, particularly not the price, and I have most of the things this borrows pieces of, so I'd rather have my peas and carrots separate from each other in cases like this. In perspective, this shows a lot of promise from a perfume label started by a YouTube reviewer still relatively new to the fragrance industry. I'm just past the stage of needing to impress anyone with my perfume and I don't buy into the "survival of the fittest" social Darwinism that fragile masculinity dictates is necessary to live a fulfilling life, but if doing one-armed pushups in an Armani suit is a long-term goal for you, this might be your new signature scent. Neutral.
13th January, 2020

Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren

Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren (1993) was a very big deal when it launched, and became the go-to scent for many a "gym bro" back in the day, who were composed entirely of muscle, libido, and a desire to beat everyone at everything in which one could possibly declare a winner and loser. This was the smell of unbridled ego-driven whey-fueled insecurity for much of the 90's, a market that would be tapped into heavily until the 2000's, and if you so dare as got even unintentionally in the path of one such meathead doused in Polo Sport on his way in or out the door, you'd be on the receiving end of either an arrogant quip or possibly a shiner. Now not everyone wearing Polo Sport is or was a self-centered "Chad", as a lot of impressionable teenage boys and young men throughout the time Polo Sport reigned supreme wore it to be "on trend", much in the same way Davidoff Cool Water (1988) was also worn to absolute death. For my experience, this was one of the few scents you were almost required to own if you were going to own any at all coming up through high school by the end of the decade, as wearing something so popular that onlookers could recognize your scent was actually encouraged rather than frowned upon like it seems to be now. Polo Sport wasn't so much an important release for incidentally becoming the territorial pissings of steroid abusers during the 90's, but rather because it furthered the aquatic genre put into being by the aforementioned Cool Water and eventually the "blue fragrance" category. There were other attempts at emulating the accord founded by the erstwhile Davidoff mega-hit, but nobody really tried to advance the state of the art quite like Harry Freemont did with Polo Sport. Becoming the number-one "sports scent" among males for a time is no small feat, but the combination of oceanic tones with a richer earthy/woody underpinning was one sure-fire way to make it happen. Polo Sport is by far the final word in "blue" aquatics, and there would be at least one or two more great leaps in the genre until it lay dormant to be reawakened without so much "blue" midway through the 2000's, but it's still pretty important because the abstract concept of a fruity fresh "blue" masculine fragrance really solidified with Polo Sport, evolving more when Bleu de Chanel (2010) showed up to change the game by removing the aquatic elements.

The cobalt-colored bottle reminiscent of a sports canteen is crowned with a cap and resembling a bar/knob from a free weight or piece of athletic equipment, housing a juice that itself would be copied countless times for the next 15 years or so. Polo Sport fused fruity minty top notes with smooth cool spices and a unique sea grass note in the heart, then finished with a woody aromatic base laced with the prerequisite dihydromyrcenol "aquatic" note. Opening with mandarin, tangerine, pineapple, mint, lavender and neroli, Polo Sport confronts you with a dynamic contrast of fruity sweet, cool, sharply citric, slightly-medicinal aura that sets up for the green vegetal sea grass heart mixed with geranium and rosewood. This heart is the most-iconic feature of Polo Sport, and is the part that would become most-copied as the 90's went on, quickly stealing the title of "aquatic gold standard" away from Cool Water, which itself has by comparison received far fewer clones over the years. From there, we move into a more-conventional base of musk, oakmoss, patchouli, and sandalwood with the "aquatic" note moving between them, but this is also a bit unconventional in a way too, because it was far heavier and more aromatic than what few aquatics arrived on the scene prior, and definitely has more depth than Cool Water itself. What we're left with is an accord that provides a semi-sweet fresh crisp experience with dynamism up top mixed with a vegetal quality of the heart that very gradually moves the slider into aromatic woods and musk territory as the base takes over. Polo Sport is a suprisingly unpretentious fragrance since it offers up approachable freshness and inviting warmth when you get close, which seems all the more ironic that it was pitched as a sport scent and worn by a bunch of Gold's Gym flunkies looking to get in everyone's pants or scare them off the dance floor with arms too big to do much more than the cabbage patch when C&C Music Factory started cranking at the Roxbury. Where you would use this now is anyone's guess, as Polo Sport has moved so far away from the common masculine vernacular that wearing it around millennials might actually catch people off-guard regardless of context or time of year, but this feels more summery than anything else even if it has enough weight for general use. You won't get looks of concern like you might wearing an 80's powerhouse or 70's aromatic, but you'd definitely get some folks trying to place where they've smelled it before if you sport it on an outing.

As for performance, conflicting opinions exist about pre-and-post-2011 batches, or before and after oakmoss was heavily restricted and mostly replaced with evernyl for the houses unwilling to pay up on the low-atranol treated oakmoss available nowadays. For my part, the modern version of Polo Sport still "smells like Polo Sport", and wears with moderate projection and longevity. This was never a "beast-mode" fragrance from the onset, but most people experiencing Polo Sport back in its prime were also experiencing an over-application on the wearer's part in many cases, with rose-tinted glasses and hobbyist knowledge doing the rest for some guys to assert that vintage is stronger/better because it had more oakmoss. If you prefer it, then by all means seek vintage out, but people new to Polo Sport will still "get the point" with what's commonly out there. Jean Patou took the depth of Polo Sport's base even further with the oakmoss-stuffed Voyageur (1994), a fragrance that isn't even possible to make under current IFRA regulations, so if oakmoss content is important to you, then I'd not look to this scent for satisfaction anyway. Wings for Men by Giorgio Beverly Hills (1994) is the next logical leap for folks who enjoy the "blueness" of Polo Sport, as Wings for Men is the "bluest" aquatic I have ever smelled. For everyone else, Polo Sport is the once-ubiquitous turning point in men's fragrances where "sport" was more of a marketing gimmick than an actual olfactive aesthetic, and remains something that at least needs to be experienced once if not worn or enjoyed alongside Polo Blue (2002), as a critical step towards where mass-appeal masculine perfumes have gone. I still enjoy the occasional sniff from Polo Sport when I find an old tester here or there, but wearing this is like strapping on my JNCO jeans and tossing a Korn CD into my stereo, and I'm not testosterone-filled or close to having pectorals bursting from a purposely too-tight shirt to own a bottle unironically. Still, for the guy looking to rock some old-school aquatics (feels wrong placing those two terms together but here we are), Polo Sport is probably the best starting place because it shares the most DNA with what's out there now than anything else made back then, and still smells pretty damn good too. Just please remember to rack your weights when you're done with them, since not all of us can bench press a SmartCar like you, thanks. Thumbs up.
12th January, 2020

Quartz pour Homme by Molyneux

Quartz pour Homme (1994) is a satisfying yet low-key fragrance, as many 1990's masculines often were if they didn't shoot for aquatic freshness, gourmand tones, or sterilized fougère accords, but is also a real litmus test among the perfume community to spot a hardline vintage fan. Now, let me start by saying that there is nothing wrong with deciding you only enjoy perfumes from a specific set of decades, or perfumes heavy with musks, oakmoss, and the like, I'm merely pointing out that this specific scent is good for parsing folks of that particular predilection from the larger perfume community. Why you might ask? Well the answer is simple: reputation. Molyneaux as a house doesn't have a huge catalog of masculine-market perfumes, but when they released Captain Molyneaux (1975), they set a precedent for sheer volume of oakmoss in a single fougère. Since a lot of vintage purists harp on about a perfume's oakmoss content as proof-of-quality, Captain Molyneaux is obviously held in high regard, and is a very good aromatic fougère to boot. Lord Molyneaux (1988) was the follow-up that focused more on a musky rose/geranium dandy chypre accord, as that style briefly came back into fashion for men right at the end of the 80's before fresh aquatics swept it all out to sea, but wasn't conventionally masculine for the time and thus misunderstood. Here comes Quartz pour Homme, the long-awaited men's version of the famed Quartz Molyneaux (1977), but had very little to do with the original, certainly nothing in common with the 1970's, and no detectable oakmoss. Fans of "the captain" were fooled again and having been burned twice in a row for a proper sequel, wrote off the house. Men not so hardened in their tastes or just simply younger had no issue with Quartz pour Homme, and it has been successful enough to spawn flankers and keep owners Group Berdoues from shuttering the label (since the actual house is gone), but the scent still has a bad rap even with newer "vintage guys" despite generally glowing reception otherwise. Once you parse away all the forum drama and histrionic reviews reminiscent of "old man yells at cloud", you'll find a pleasant, well-composed generalist in Quartz pour Homme, even if it isn't particularly engaging to the wearer.

Quartz pour Homme is a woody amber fragrance at its core, with chypre-like dryness and the use of both actual wood notes and actual amber notes, so it is a "real woody amber" as opposed to the norlimbanol nightmares we see in the 21st century labelled as such. Wear this as opposed to something like Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme (2006) and you can see the stark difference right away: both open with an apple note but the wood and the amber stand out separately in Quartz pour Homme, while the rest of the fragrance supports them rather than just congealing into a single olfactive portmanteau caused by blended aromachemical use like in YSL L'Homme. The opening of Quartz pour Homme begins with a very 90's tart take on apple and other fruity spicy notes over bergamot, including blackcurrant and clove. Judicious use of galbanum adds the right amount of green to the opening that leads us down to vetiver and cedar polished with a bit of hedione. There is no calone-fueled melon note here like many masculines from the era, which ironically dates Quartz pour Homme a bit as feeling older than it is, despite protests to the opposite by vintage gurus fuming over not getting their oakmoss fix. There is oakmoss/evernyl here as a part of the fixative, but it takes a backseat to dry earthy amber and rockrose/labdanum in the base, adding a late-stage chypre-like woodiness that supports the cedar and vetiver heart notes. There is a bit of generic white musk in the final skin feel of Quartz pour Homme, another telltale sign this is a creation of the 90's, but it acts mostly in the capacity of a thickening agent, so I wouldn't exactly call Quartz pour Homme musky. Wear time is about average at 8 hours max, and sillage is a bit below par, but you'll detect Quartz pour Homme to some degree throughout that wear time, so as with most apologetic semi-synthetic 90's scents, you'll want to reapply or apply heavily. Quartz pour Homme is no "chemical bomb" despite what some say, and can serve year-round as an office or casual scent, but can pull date or black tie duty in a pinch since it covers all the bases with fruit, woods, resins, and musk.

I can see why so many people like this, but also why so many hardcore vintage masculine collectors (especially fans of powerhouses) despise this so vehemently: Quartz pour Homme is a nimble and transparent woody amber fragrance that follows in the footsteps of its older sister from 1977 only in spirit, ignoring the heavy-handed (albeit delicious) applications of oakmoss and civet in the previous two masculine entries from the house, and feeling like a betrayal to those who were expecting more of that vibe. I suppose it's only normal to create a schism in a fan base when anything makes a sudden change in direction, but in this case the voices screaming "boo" are fewer in number but louder than those who enjoy the scent since the latter doesn't care enough to go jumping online to its defense, especially decades after it hit the market. The fact people are still bitching about this speaks greater volumes to the ability of Molyneaux perfumes to leave an impression than about the scent itself. Fans of Pasha de Cartier (1992) or Yves Saint Laurent Jazz Prestige (1993) might find Quartz pour Homme to be a woodier, airy, more discrete alternative for use when fougère or oriental tones come across too serious, plus I'd call Quartz pour Homme the midway between something like Pasha and the full freshly-cut vetiver and fig tree-blast of Salvatore Ferragamo pour Homme (1999). One thing is for certain, considering what else stalked the shelves in the 1990's, Quartz pour Homme is actually a creative highlight from the decade and a masculine that smells mostly timeless once you get past the opening 10 minutes, which is something you cannot say about many things made for men from the era. Circling back, if you associate Molyneaux with mossy or musky powerhouses and can't see it any other way, this is your friendly warning to avoid Quartz pour Homme, and I love oakmoss too so I feel your pain, and I only poke fun at you with love. Otherwise, if you're looking for an uncommon display of unsweetened amber with some really nice green notes and clove on top, this may become a new under-the-radar favorite for you, and I encourage testing at the earliest convenience. Notorious or not, this one smells good to me. Thumbs up!
11th January, 2020

The Baron by LTL

When you name a perfume for men "The Baron", you sure as Hell better deliver on it, and that's what the husband-and-wife perfume moguls behind Evyan sought to do. Walter Langer Von Langendorff, who was simultaneously a doctor, chemist, and unverified Austrian Baron (can't make this stuff up), and his wife Evelyn Diane Westall, formed the Evyan perfume house after buying out Hartnell, manufacturers of their smash hit White Shouders (1943). The couple launched Evyan in 1945 and re-marketed White Shoulders under the brand, a marquee made by merging Westall's first and middle names together. Diane went by "Lady Evyan" for marketing purposes, while Dr. Baron Von Langendorff used those chemistry skills to compose the perfumes. The duo wanted to distance the house from what they saw as the pedantry and obsessive decorum of the French perfume industry, keeping everything made in America, their chosen home market. Most perfumes from the house were pitched to women because Langendorff was deeply in love with his wife, using her input and drawing his inspiration for all but one composition from her presence. The singular masculine entry was The Baron (1961), a revisionist take on styles popular with dandies in Victorian times, and thus a very powdery affair from start to finish. The fragrance is among several from that period which was marketed explicitly as "for gentlemen", because we were still in the days of American men needing it spelled out for fear of "smelling like a woman", although ironically the makeup of The Baron is extremely similar to White Shoulders in style and development, leading me to believe it was a retooling in the same manner that Jean Carles or Bernard Chant were infamous for when making scents meant for opposite sexes. Whether or not Walter Langer Von Langendorff wore the scent that bore his supposed title is unfortunately not known.

The Baron for the most part predates the resurgence of the fougère in America by about three years, when scents like Brut by Fabergé (1964) or Jade East by Songo/Swank (1964) reignited passion in men's circles for the style using clever marketing. You can expect a sharp floral introduction started by dry bergamot, aldehydes and lemon; there is a bit of lavender here but for the most part this scent is dominated by powdery orris, heliotrope, orange blossom, jasmine, and muguet. There may still be a pinch of tuberose in this too, but otherwise, the lilac/gardenia/tuberose accord central to White Shoulders has been replaced in The Baron with heliotrope, lavender, and the orange blossom to make The Baron feel fresher and less-fleshy than its older sister. Likewise, the base is totally lacking the civet and benzoin of White Shoulders, seeing the oakmoss/amber accord bolstered with sandalwood, vetiver, and nitromusks. Ultimately this is only one missing application of coumarin shy of being a fougère anyway, but because it lacks the hay-like semi-sweet heft of tonka, The Baron settles into a 19th Century barbershop vibe similar to Caswell-Massey Jockey Club (1840) or Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet (1872) without the rose or dirtiness of the latter, taking on a slightly metallic vibe instead. Considering the last time barons were relevant to the current socio-political climate was prior to World War I, this scent completes the task of living up to its name. Wear time is good at 8 hours plus, and the sharp powder will keep sillage strong too, so go easy on applications. I'd say this works best as a part of a wet-shaving routine coupled with the aftershave, or late night casual event with friends that tolerate your taste in vintage perfumes due to how old-fashioned and without reference it is to the average Joe, but suit yourself regardless. There was also a "The Travelling Baron" kit from 1968 which contains an array of grooming products featuring the scent if you wish to attempt going "all in" on The Baron as a signature fragrance.

The Baron made a small stir at a time when there were not so many options for men of the day, outside a bottle of minty aftershave and scant few products released from Arden, Revlon, Avon, and such, or the big French houses that were to the common guy then as niche perfumes seem to be in the 21st century, so I can understand how this could radiate a classy aura back then, even if it would be left behind by fougères and aromatics within just a decade's time. The simple barrel-shaped silver-clad bottle with the red Gothic script lettering inset on an oval-stamped label introduced in 1965 (to fall in line with the aggressive presentation of competing fougères) is so hilariously out-of-step in the modern age of squares and understated masculinity, but that's why so many morbidly-curious guys stumble onto this and blind-buy it. I imagine hilarity ensues when what is expected to be a macho animalic musk monster is revealed to be the olfactive equivalent of Tiny Tim singing on an episode of Laugh-In. Fans of D'Orsay Etiquette Bleue (1908) and Fragonard Zizanie (1932) are likely to enjoy The Baron, as are fans of the powdery misadventures of men's Avon products like Blue Blazer (1964) or Lover Boy (1980). LTL (out of New York) resurrected The Baron in the 90's after Elizabeth Arden under the French Fragrances moniker bought Evyan in the late 80's (dropping everything but White Shoulders), but the scent hasn't seen remanufacture since before the first 2001 IFRA restriction of oakmoss. Stocks dry up and prices soar, then have sometimes dropped again when a new unsold stash is found somewhere, meaning this may or may not be a unicorn when you find it, but I wouldn't pursue unless you're hellbent on either powdery barbershop scents of yore or 60's nostalgia. I love this kind of stuff, but I wouldn't trust my opinion on this one if I were you unless you too have a weakness for the dandy style. Thumbs up.
10th January, 2020

Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme by Gucci

So Gucci thinks it's a novelty act to bring back a classic masculine accord, and so assigns such an accord to a limited edition flanker to the original Gucci Guilty pour Homme (2011), as interpreted by modern cost-minimized aromachemical perfumery in an era of maximizing short-term profits over long-term brand integrity. Begrudgingly this works, and I don't like to admit that, because here we have a house that has repeatedly flushed its own legacy down the toilet with every new exchange of hands. It's becoming something of an abusive relationship with Gucci to allow oneself to fall in love with anything they make, knowing it will sooner rather than later be taken away and replaced with something potentially even more banal and catch-all than the last thing, but I like Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme (2019) in spite of that. To be fair, this isn't quite a faithful aromatic fougère recreation because it has a few choice embellishments on top to fit the "love" aesthetic, ergo some touches that the modern mainstream perfume buyer would perceive as romantic, and doesn't attempt a synthetic oakmoss accord like Montblanc Legend (2011) by using evernyl. I both love and hate talking about these "new fougère" fragrances in a post-oakmoss world, because I feel like I'm speaking to a schism in the fragrance community between those who have almost a drug-addled fixation on oakmoss, and those who came into enjoying fragrances too late after all the restrictions to really understand why this is such a big deal to some people. In my opinion, this is one of the best in the Gucci Guilty pour Homme line since the the original and Gucci Guilty Absolute pour Homme (2017), but it takes coming to terms with what to expect from this market segment to appreciate it, and there are still far better options that don't come with the caveat of being pre-planned unicorns on the merit of having a limited finite production run at launch. Is Gucci poorly attempting to cash in on their own aftermarket status with fragrances like Gucci Nobile (1988) here? Who knows?

The top of Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme has the odd choice of kumquat, or whatever captive stands in for it, with some mandarin and ginger to build out a fruity semi-sweet spicy "romantic" opening. I think classic fougère lovers will find the most difficulty in loving this "love edition" with the top than with the rest of the fragrance, but if they can set aside their dismissals for just a few minutes, the rest of the fragrance shimmers into place. Lavender, geranium, and rosemary establish the classic aromatic fougère heart of Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme, and it mingles with a bit of the fruity accord in the top and the flanking pink pepper in the middle almost like how the neroli and black pepper play with the fougère heart of Tsar by Van Cleef & Arpels (1989), making something of an old-school "sporty" vibe by accident. Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme leaves memory lane quickly by veering off the nearest exit ramp into a modern ambrox base, but it's honestly not bad even then. Patchouli, vetiver, and benzoin are all classic resins and aromatics found in fougères of the past, so here they work to mask the weird transparent warmth ambrox usually gives to a modern fragrance with a bit more bushy depth. At the end of the day, we get a marriage of 1980's and early 90's fougère aesthetics with the modern ingenuity perfumers often develop when saddled with briefs from mainstream houses that won't spend the coin on naturals like low-atranol oakmoss or allow more than a few months gestation in the lab before it hits shelves to meet a seasonal deadline. In short, Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme won't please die-hard vintage lovers but will make a small splash outside of that for its retro-green feel with modern versatility (accompanied by the odd bottle color). Wear time for Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme is pretty average for the segment and performance is also pretty much the same. Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme has moderate to high projection at first, with some quieting down later, but the aromatics throughout lend some of their powerhouse charm to the modern ambrox glow so it doesn't smell like your typical "Sauventus" one-trick pony on skin.

With so many options for reformulated classic aromatic fougères available, Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme may inadvertently prove to be a gateway down the "vintage cologne guy" rabbit hole for some younger people after they get their first taste of a proper lavender/geranium tandem, and wonder what they've been missing all this time. The bulk of mainstream buyers will probably just be stuck on kumquat, patchouli, and benzoin portions of the overall accord in Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme, as together they do create a pretty sexy sweet "jungle fruit" brusqueness that was last seen in action somewhere around the turn of the millennium. I still think this new limited flanker is pretty office-safe despite the romantic lean because of the old-school aromatics in the composition bringing a bit of the brisk "sportiness" guys who lived through the 80's will remember with early Lacoste efforts, but this same group will also probably be too hung up on the modern facets and lack of oakmoss to notice that connection. I can sort of see why this would be a limited edition, because the combination of Gordon Gecko and Elon Musk on display in Gucci Guilty Love Edition pour Homme is too dated for the average GQ-reading Chad, but too modern for the oatmilk latte-swilling hipster that records his Spotify lists to cassette so he can play them in his 87 Honda Prelude's OEM stereo. Vintage guys will sniff the top notes and go "hate it" while everyone else will be puzzled by the Gucci with the same color green on its bottle as a 1960's refrigerator, but I guess the right hype from a big enough YouTuber could put enough spin on this to catch some heat. Otherwise, this one is going to sell on impulse alone until it ends up in discounters, like most Gucci Guilty pour Homme flankers. Test it out and see for yourself while you still can, as I expect this is meant to run through Valentine's Day 2020. If you're reading this review way after the fact, you might as well just go to eBay, as it will have joined the rest of the discontinued Guccis there. Thumbs up.
06th January, 2020 (last edited: 07th January, 2020)

Patchouli by Murdock

Murdock Patchouli (2010) is a fresh, bright, dusty patchouli fragrance given a proper barbershop cologne treatment with a bit of dandy flair thrown in for good measure. Some may compare it to Terre d'Hermes (2006) because of the prominent interaction between citrus, geranium, and patchouli, but I assure you that this is a different fragrance where it counts. Murdock Patchouli plays a similar tune to JB by Jack Black (2010), infusing black pepper in the top of the fragrance to really bring out the bright facets of the geranium core, it just ends in dry patchouli closer to the aforementioned Terre d'Hermes rather than ending in a smear of synthetic woods notes like the Jack Black (although good in it's own right). The focus here is still on patchouli despite the complex note pyramid listed, but Murdock has eased us into the note rather than built it up with animalics or vanilla to smash your head in like something such as Givenchy Gentleman (1974) and Giorgio Beverly Hills for Men (1984). I like those much more assertive patchouli too, but I imagine not everyone does, and with most other alternatives being variations on the head shop theme, it's nice to have something like this available.

The opening is bergamot, petitgrain, and black pepper. Cardamom and nutmeg enter to give a spicy dustiness that lingers into the dry down. The geranium comes into play vividly after just a few minutes, polishing up nicely with some hedione and just a speck of clean rose. There is no ylang-ylang to my nose, despite being listed, but the patchouli makes its way into the picture after about 30 minutes, leaving to a three-way between the pepper, geranium, and that patchouli which comes closest to Terre d'Hermes in overall effect. The pepper dies down as the scent becomes closer to the skin, and from there Murdock Patchouli becomes mostly geranium, then mostly geranium-touched patchouli, with some late-stage incense and amber warmth. There isn't the industrial-sized dose of Iso E Super here like in JB or Terre, so no risk of going anosmic to Murdock Patchouli, but also not a radioactive field of projection either, and this is still a cologne so wear time won't go much over 6 hours. Perfectly dandy in tone thanks to the florals, and perfectly barbershop in longevity, Murdock Patchouli will see you right on a casual day at home or the office.

My only bit of complaint is paying $115US for a bottle of cologne with cologne performance, when pound-for-pound either JB by Jack Black or Terre d'Hermes have better value, even if the former focuses on other notes like eucalyptus while the latter has the flint/mineralic elements that set it apart. I suppose if you're the kind of guy that shops at Nordstrom or other higher-end stores that stock Murdock products, then this price point may not seem unreasonable, especially if you frequent the niche or luxury men's products that tend to be carried there, I'm just speaking from purely "average Joe" perspective. I don't know who the nose for this brand is but they surely have their head in the right place here, as there simply aren't enough patchouli fragrances that veer away from the thicker, oilier aspects of the plant that tend to be the focus with perfumes that place it at the center of a composition. This should be pretty easy to test and there is even a sampler size to buy if you can't find a way to walk in and spritz, with fans of modern fresh aromatics or dandy revival scents in particular advised to try it. Thumbs up!
06th January, 2020

Vetiver by Murdock

Murdock seems good at what they do: creating a simple genuinely urbane line of traditional British gentleman's colognes of the ilk that used to be common when The Crown Perfumery, Penhaligon's and Geo F Trumper were all common names on the high street. Unfortunately, many of them relied on oakmoss bases and so got the axe when it came time to choose between paying up for the low-atranol stuff or just discontinuing the scents out of frugality. Vetiver (2011) released right on the cusp of the huge restriction on atranol found in oakmoss, so it was mostly future-proof anyway, and serves in place of now-dead fougère varieties with it's dry lavender top, semi-nutty/creamy vetiver middle, and tree moss base. The scent of Murdock Vetiver will likely appeal to those who want a brighter, more citric treatment of vetiver without all the smoke, and has enough complexity to avoid being a single-track mind of a vetiver scent like many from the barbershop fragrance realm, but probably won't appeal to the hardcore vetiver fans that want the nutgrass to smack them right in the face.

The opening is all bergamot and English lavender, with a dry citric and medicinal smell that reminds me a lot of how The Crown Perfumery Sumare (1925) opens, aka "properly British". The vetiver doesn't take long to appear and in some ways reminds me a lot of the much more-expensive Roja Parfums Vetiver Cologne (2019) from the fellow British perfumer extraordinaire, but without all the complex blending or litsea cubeba to extend the citrus-like tone into the core of the scent. Instead, the citrus recedes and the vetiver teams with the lavender, providing an earthy almost woody facet to the composition which brings Murdock Vetiver closer to being a fougère scent than "just a vetiver" fragrance. The base is tree moss and little else besides a puff of musk, but that's all anyone really needs because the star of the show has already been established by then and all the base does is need to sing in harmony. Wear time is about 6 hours which is the only let down, but this is a cologne so I can't be too mad. Sillage is also mild after the first 30 minutes, which further asserts this as a real cologne.

For a casual use vetiver cologne of sophistication unexpected at this price level, Murdock offers a really good alternative to something in the niche realm that could cost several times more, but is still much for a barbershop scent with a price tag over $100. Still, joy knows no budgetary constraints and this is quite the happy vetiver, so I see nothing wrong with paying the retail price for someone looking to buy what is essentially a vetiver-focused barbershop fougère made within the confines of IFRA/SCCP regulations. I am a bit perturbed that much of the Murdock line has been put to pasture because oakmoss restriction, and I'm not usually one to obsess about it because I like many things that don't even contain the note, but Murdock Vetiver is almost a fair trade. People who want more gusto with their vetiver are still better sticking to classics like Guerlain Vetiver (1961), and someone looking for zestier formats may want to check out designer offerings, but for a light and balanced take, the Murdock has it dialed in just right. Very reserved but also very nice. Thumbs up!
06th January, 2020

Dark Rum by Malin + Goetz

Neutral reviews are some of my least favorite because it means I didn't get a strong enough reaction from a fragrance to feel one way or the other about it, and the fact that I seemingly have to write more and more of them as time goes on is a bit alarming in itself as an unintentional commentary on the state of mainstream perfume. Malin + Goetz (Malin plus Goetz or Malin and Goetz anyone?) is another gray-area niche house that has the distribution footprint of a smaller designer brand and the pricing of a higher-end designer/entry-level niche perfumer but delivers style somewhere between The Body Shop and Le Labo. There seems to be a lot of those cropping up in the wake of the "niche boom" that has been slowly putting the squeeze on overly-regulated and under-creative designer perfumes ever-maximized further for cost/benefit for untenable profit growth curves in our late-stage Capitalist market, but I digress. This is another house I could have done just fine not knowing about, but because I walk past it every time I enter a Nordstrom, I found it necessary to at least take one sniff. Dark Rum (2013) seems to be the best of the bunch, in that it smells the least like a rejected Le Labo or Byredo formula, but still contains the same linearity or single-purposefulness of concept.

First thing's first, Dark Rum neither smells dark nor like rum to my nose, and as someone who used to imbibe in stuff like Kraken spiced rum or Bacardi Oakheart, I can tell you that darker rums have no correlation in smell or tone to this perfume. Secondly, the top notes seem more like base notes as they never let go of the accord, and you're going to get a strong bergamot/plum tandem from start to finish, so I hope you enjoy that. This opening does soften up a little bit, but the very synthetic "car freshener" plum note warms up a bit more with some fashion of leather accord, but more like that "nu-leather" suede-like note a lot of designers use, eventually ending in patchouli and ambroxan. The singular warm plum over patchouli accord here feels pretty much like a feminine-market fruitchouli at times, but the slightly dry effect of the chemical leather accord makes Dark Rum tolerable as a unisex fragrance. Wear time for Dark Rum is actually really admirable if you enjoy the accord, and it will last all day with moderate to strong sillage, good projection, and will power through almost any weather, so performance is not an issue. If you dig something like this, I also suggest pairing it up with the scented candle and skincare line since Malin + Goetz are a bit like a bourgeois Bath & Body Works in that all their products synergize along a common olfactive theme.

It should also be mentioned that Dark Rum is effectively the eau de parfum variant of the original discontinued Rum Tonic (2009) eau de toilette, with no discernible changes other than strength. There is also an even more concentrated perfume oil roll-on as well, for something more akin to the density of an attar or extrait wearing experience, except minus the layered dry down. The house claims it uses all naturals, which makes me a bit mad, because one sniff betrays that claim immediately, as this smells almost completely like something made by Glade to scent a candle or fill a diffuser than something worn by a person. This makes sense to me given the fact that Malin + Goetz produces products like that, but don't try to "niche swindle" me with hollow claims when anyone with a semi-functional nose can tell are false. With that having been said, I don't completely hate Dark Rum, but there is little else to be said about it besides it smells strongly of plums and leather. I'm personally going to reach for other perfumes with more development if I want that kind of smell, but I can see someone falling in love with the simplicity of Malin + Goetz Dark Rum. Sampling this should be easy but be warned: most salespersons in department stores handling this brand get spiffs for selling it (bonuses to commission), so they get pushy when you start sniffing! Neutral.
06th January, 2020

Midnight Oud by Juliette Has a Gun

Romano Ricci's Juliette Has a Gun line was supposed to stop after five fragrances, and Midnight Oud (2009) was the first sign of that not being the case. Francis Furkdjian was not tapped for this like he was with Lady Vengeance (2009), but the same rose and cetalox (ambroxide) is featured, just swaddled in some synthetic oud and other oriental notes which evoke a Middle Eastern perfume. The gold bottle and ornate decoration really hit home what market this was meant for, but we got it stateside here in the US as well, so you can travel to any Sephora or other department store and perfume boutique that carries the brand to sample it. As someone who has smelled Areej le Dore and Bortnikoff perfumes plus handmade oud attars from my local niche shop, I have sort of developed a distinction between aoud and the "oud" typically used in Western perfume, but if you're not looking to spend hundreds on a rose/oud combo, then I can heartily say you won't go wrong with this. Midnight Oud sort of comes across like a Montale Black Aoud (2006) lite, which isn't an insult by any measure because that shit is insanely potent and medicinal almost to the point of being confrontational, while Midnight Oud seeks to domesticate the same sort of vibe with some smoothing and judicious use of animalic musks. I know it might be hard to believe that any modern perfume not made by an artisanal perfumer contains any animalic musks anymore, and the risk is mostly in the buying public reacting strongly with claims of animal cruelty or gag reflexes since the modern non-perfumista nose is used to clean laundry musks like galaxolide, but animalics are here in tiny amounts.

The opening is a bold rose, bergamot, and birch tar combo, which quickly leads Midnight Oud into a heart where geranium and saffron both extend the rose while mulling it down. There is also a bit of amber in the heart stage as well and the synthetic oud accord is already present by the opening rose note, tuning in more clearly as the scent dries down. The base has amber, patchouli, the oud, guaiac wood, and the cetalox, although I suspect everything but the amber and patchouli is done with synthetics like norlimbanol. The animalics creep into the dry down as a small puff of castoreum, providing a warm leathery backdrop to the rest of the composition that does its magic behind the scenes unlike something more obviously animalic like an 80's powerhouse. The rose remains very lucid throughout the wear, and unlike Black Aoud, the oud note here doesn't keep beating you over the head, making Midnight Oud somewhere between the rose/patchouli/ambrox combo of Lady Vengeance and the rose/synthetic oud combo of Black Aoud, like Midnight is a further development of the former to be more like the latter. Wear time is definitely past 10 hours but sillage isn't monstrous with careful sprays, meaning you can get away with office use if you really feel the need to wear something like this to work, but I'd also limit this to fall through spring because you'll want a fresher rose for hot weather if you're going to be outdoors. Midnight Oud is about as unisex as one can expect from anything featuring a prominent rose/oud, even though Juliette Has a Gun markets this as a female fragrance. In short, this is an early forerunner of the Western oud market done exceptionally well with good versatility, and is really balanced for lovers of rose, but is just is not very exciting either.

Midnight Oud has the distinction of being one of the early Western oud perfumes to really make a dent on the market after Yves Saint Laurent M7 (2002) introduced the accord to the buying public (even if Balenciaga tried the waters first back in 1990 with the much-skankier and therefore doomed Balenciaga pour Homme), so it's likely to have been many Westerner's first taste of a rose and oud fragrance since Montale was not distributed much outside the Middle East at the time. The stuff must have done well enough for itself because you can still buy it, unlike a lot of other Western ouds that were swept under the rug in short order after a number of years, but Midnight Oud is really just a tease to those who know better. I like this a lot and I'd never have a problem wearing or smelling it on someone else, but with so many other options in this bloated category both higher and lower in price, you'd really just have to a be lover of the house to sink your teeth into it. For me there is a lot of better stuff if I want rose and oud whether natural or synthetic, albeit oud perfumes tend to be that one rare exception in the market where paying more does actually get you more, so at $145 Midnight Oud is a bit of a stretch since another $60 or so nets you something exponentially better. Still, I won't begrudge people who have fallen in love with this but at the end of the day, an overly-friendly and approachable oud sort of defeats the purpose of using a wood type known for it's pungent partially-decayed smell. There's nothing really friendly about that, and people who wear ouds are usually looking to make a statement or enjoy the exotica taking place on skin, neither of which Midnight Oud delivers despite how well-made it is. Neutral
02nd January, 2020