Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Zealot Crusader

Total Reviews: 358

Musc Ravageur by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Musc Ravageur (2000) is an interesting and very successful attempt at making musk without a typical white musk molecule, removing the "laundry" aspect of most modern musks and creating something oriental, fatty, and animalic like the musks of old. Having smelled deer musk, this is by no means that kind of smell via vegetal proxy, but it is a wonderfully sensual musk in it's own right, full of the loudness and performance all the "beastmode" power fragrance fans crave. Due to it's aggressive nature, Musc Ravageur leans very much male, despite being genderless in composition, and this is due to sociological conventions. The average self-identified CISHET woman would likely find Musc Ravageur too rich, overtly-sexual, and lacking subtlety; that's not to say there aren't some ladies who love headstrong fragrances (they were the rage in the 70's and 80's, with fragrance gender lines blissfully blurred back then because of it), but on average, strait guys looking to troll for dates at clubs and bars seem the likeliest purchasers of Musc Ravageur. The biggest obstacle to this being made reality however, is the prestige price point of the average Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle composition, which rival Creed at MSRP and keep Musc Ravageur from stalking all but the most exclusive night clubs. The notoriety of Musc Ravageur is also a bit undeserved, as it's not the horniest animal in the woods, with stuff like Kiehl's Original Musk (1963) or Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khän (1998) flogging it senseless in the virility department, for those who care about such things.

It's probably for the best that only the "upward mobility" segment would dare drop cash for this, because I can see Musc Ravageur becoming suffocating in the way Jovan Musk for Men (1973) used to be due to it's former ubiquity in social settings. Malle making this a pricey rare bird ensures that instead, Musc Ravageur is always a pleasant, if provocative surprise when encountered in the wild. Technically speaking, Musc Ravageur is an oriental, and not a musk, since it contains none, but the immense impression of musk it leaves is far better than most things containing the actual molecule. Lavender and bergamot are very expectantly the top here, but in moments they give way to a huge clove and cinnamon tandem that is the heart and shapes the rest of the experience. If you don't like either of these in abundance, then Musc Ravageur is not for you. Heaps of vanilla and tonka in the base do the rest to shape the "musk" accord of Musc Ravageur, flanked by woods like cedar and sandal which dry it up just enough to keep it from smelling like dessert, which it almost does anyway. Gaiac wood and linalool add the final touch of woodsy floral spiciness which "browns out" the dry down of Musc Ravageur to an aura of thick bakery spice and sweat combined with an aromatic untreated wood finish. Sillage and projection are on levels you'd need Neil DeGrasse Tyson to figure out, and longevity is "until you wash it off" levels of good. I'm saying all this from just 2 sprays, so if nothing else, Musc Ravageur may actually be worth it's price just for sheer performance, and a 100ml/3.4oz bottle of this should provide a lifetime of bakery meets jock strap next to a lumber yard ambiance.

I like Musc Ravageur, but similar to most scents in this category, I don't see myself aligning with the Type-A personality and blunt intent needed to enjoy what this offers more than once or twice a year, meaning that for me, this isn't a full bottle purchase. I do give this a thumbs-up as one of the better musks in the game (even if it doesn't contain a musk molecule), and certainly one of the few Frédéric Malle releases that doesn't feel like an outright fleecing for its price tag, since performance is even greater than what the usually-impressive Creed ambergris bases offer (for comparison), with a drydown of spice-laden vanilla and tonka that never ends. Penhaligon's Endymion (2003) would offer a lighter, more manageable version of this experience, with much less projection and a more finite lifespan, at less than half the cost to boot, so if you feel Musc Ravageur is a bit too much, then that is the route to take. As for everyone else, if you're looking for a high-end, over-the-top sweaty oriental cream chowder parading around as a funky musk, this is the dog that'll hunt, just be kind with your sprays, as a little goes a very long way. Keep this one to winter time and do not torture your coworkers by showing up to the office smelling like a musky husky pretty please, although if you work outside, I guess it's okay to wear, I just definitely see this as a fragrance meant to help you "score". Some say original 2000 vintage is even stronger than the better-mannered new production I'm smelling, and that's a legend I frankly don't want to test. Hats off to Maurice Roucel, you got us real good with this one, and you would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids and their dog.
18th October, 2018 (last edited: 19th October, 2018)

Perfume Calligraphy Rose by Aramis

Aramis Perfume Calligraphy (2012) was apparently popular enough to spawn not one, but two flankers simultaneously the following year, or maybe Estée Lauder was just desperate to generate appeal in the Middle East that they pushed out an entire line with unproven returns. Whatever the case may be, we received Perfume Calligraphy Saffron (2013) by the same perfumer as the original, and Perfume Calligraphy Rose (2013) with the nose of Trudi Loren at the helm. Trudi had worked on an Aromatics Elixer Sheer Velvet Philtre Sensuel (2006), so she knew her way around rose perhaps better than Clement Gavarry did on the original, since he buried both the synthetic oud and rose of the first Perfume Calligraphy in so much amber and patchouli that it takes some digging to separate them out. Trudi Loren doesn't even try to make a rose oud tandem with synthetic oud, but instead takes a more honest approach to a westernized version of a Middle-Eastern perfume by just capturing the feeling with Western ingredients, which makes Aramis Calligraphy Rose both smell better than the original, and ironically smell more authentic. Rose is the star of the show here, and it's both front and center for the duration of the wear. However, this is no sweet Damask rose, but a rich, visceral, almost beautifully dark Turkish rose absolute softened with a supporting cast, and feels like a warmer, slightly more approachable take on the niche Ex Idolo 33 (2013) which actually launched concurrently with this.

Aramis Perfume Calligraphy Rose opens immediately with that dark Turkish rose, flanked by a saffron honeysuckle glaze which sweetens it like a much more brooding take on the rosewater they sometimes use for macaroons or icing. This opening glaze doesn't hang around long, as the gothic rose bounds through it like a pro wrestler given an extra shot of steroids, carrying oregano and myrrh in each swollen arm to spice up the opening so it feels slightly pasty. There might be a slight peck of the synthetic oud here, as I get a brief barnyard feeling I didn't get with the original Perfume Calligraphy, but it's gone once the very round French lavender and labadanum come into play. Aramis Perfume Calligraphy Rose plays far more animalic regardless of whether there's an oud note just because of the styrax and fatty yellow musk that's in the base. An ambergris note of probably synthetic origin gives me faint impressions of Creed also comes and goes, but it's no amber composite nor ambroxan, as it isn't overly caramelized or sweet like either of them. Olibdanum provides the final anchor here, and the dry down continues to provide warm, pasty, dark rose which draws comparisons both to the aforementioned Ex Idolo and Frédéric Malle's Portrait of a Lady (2010), sitting somewhere between them. Aramis Perfume Calligraphy Rose behaves more like a Western perfume than the original, keeping it's projection modest, but a smaller, tighter sillage sphere which is more intense and longer-lasting. Performance is outstanding and Aramis Perfume Calligraphy Rose will work all day, even if it's Moulin Rouge-meets-Marrakesh smell is indeed anything but work-safe.

What we get here is entirely unlike the noble but muddled pandering that is the original Perfume Calligraphy, which was fascinating to the point of enjoyable because of it's compromises. Rather than that, we have a rapturous, mysterious, alluring, heady rose bouquet commanding of one's attention. This is a rose which feels at home both in an ancient temple or a modern BDSM club that fits better on a man but also works on a woman familiar with shiny latex or Fifty Shades of Grey. I'd keep this to evening use, but even then, you're going to make an entrance to rival Batman if you show up on a blind date drenched in this, so it's not appropriate for your first meeting with a new interest. I'm a rose fan so this is best of the Perfume Calligraphy line to me, but unlike the first, it's distribution in North America wasn't wide so you'll have to go online unless you have a Bergdorf Goodman handy, which is the only US chain that had it. Besides, who wants to pay its niche MSRP when discounters can sell this for a third of that? Thumbs up for another quirky East/West hybrid that offers one of the best values in this particular niche of dark, saturated rose. Aramis Perfume Calligraphy Rose still doesn't beat Salvador Dali Pour Homme (1987) in terms of grim determination, but little else can these days without the help of animalics and oakmoss, and that's a strict no-no. If you haven't checked out the original Perfume Calligraphy, it isn't necessary to enjoy this, as they don't share anything outside a few parts-bin fixatives and house captives; if Western hot takes on oud aren't your thing, it's best you start with this little gem anyway. Easily one of my favorite takes on the rose. Very well done.
17th October, 2018

Moschino pour Homme by Moschino

The Late Franco Moschino was an eccentric fellow, and you can see it in his designs, which often mocked and satirized the rest of the fashion industry buy doing things like making a leather jacket and placing the words "Expensive Jacket" on the back. Kitsch appeal in a haute couture world focused on putting on airs is hard to pull off, but this former Versace illustrator-turned fashion mogul was determined to do it. Moschino dressed up his debut perfume like a bottle of Italian table wine with Moschino (1987), and that oriental chypre was decidedly out of fashion, on purpose. Moschino Pour Homme (1990) was little different with it's lack of contemporary appeal, and that intentional irrelevance is what would ironically be the very thing which made fans of Moschino's irreverent style come to purchase it. By 1990, the first wave of aquatics and calone-powered fresh fougères were sweeping away the old guard of stiff mossy chypres and musky floral powerhouse fougères, but Moschino Pour Homme stood off to the side, following an even older trope of the classic leather chypre. Hermès had released Bel Ami (1986) just a few years earlier, and this often gets compared to it, but Moschino takes a brighter floral and basalmic route to it's petrol leather base, echoing the classic Knize Ten (1924), but without the powdery bite. As for the packaging, well it's Moschino, so expect some weirdness. First run bottles of the Eau de Toilette came in a dual-necked bottle with a sprayer on one end, and a pour resevoir on the other, rather than Moschino making both types of bottles separately. Eventually a standard spray-only bottle was manifest as well as an entire line of products.

Once you look past the gilded playing card and yin yang motif, Moschino Pour Homme comes off as rather conventional in spite of itself, and traditional with just a slight risque edge even, which is something vintage colognoisseurs will undoubtedly get off to, but for everyone else, you really have to enjoy leather scents to appreciate this tandem of concepts. People who have collections stocked with goodies like the aforementioned Knize Ten and Bel Ami, or even Dunhill for Men (1934), English Leather (1949), Aramis (1965), and Fahrenheit (1988) are in good hands with Moschino Pour Homme, since it's familiar territory. What Moschino does differently is inject a tiny bit of punk attitude into the mix here. There's a spicy mace note mixed into the opening of Moschino Pour Homme, saddled with lavender, bergamot, clary sage, rosemary, and a tiny peck of galbanum, and it's the mace that makes this leap at your nose like somebody stuck a studded collar around the neck of Joseph Knize. The floral heart is a little more conservative, with carnation, jasmine and rose holding hands while caraway and orris root keep things sharp and a little soapy. The base here is the thing most fans of Moschino Pour Homme tend to scream over, with labdanum, oakmoss, that petrol leather note, and a slightly animalic styrax mellowed out just a smidge with a thin sliver of coumarin. The final result of this bright to floral to dirty dry down is a formal petrol leather that flirts with being classy then sassy through use of its florals, mace and styrax, with good longevity but moderate projection that survives even cold weather thanks to the nature of its base. A petrol leather is as a petrol leather does so wear this where you want, since you'll always make a statement regardless, just like with any of the above mentioned leathers in this class, and just be thankful it doesn't have a nuclear isotope for endless sillage like many things in this vein.

Moschino Pour Homme was worn by Franco Moschino himself until his tragic death in 1994, from post-surgical complications following a tumor removal, exacerbated by the onset of AIDS, but the designer's quirky and parodic vision didn't die with him, since his assistant Rosella Jardini took over and kept the house alive. Take a look at any of the other fragrances made since the release of Moschino or Moschino Pour Homme, and that same whimsy is there, if not amplified further in many cases. Uomo? Moschino (1997) would succeed Moschino Pour Homme and it too would flirt with contrasting themes, but not by being anachronistic, and instead by lampooning the unisex craze. Uomo? Moschino presented a woodsy amber scent with a sweet lemon top that was both fresh and unisex, but also warm and masculine, hence the question mark. Moschino Pour Homme had and still has its fans but would be discontinued then quietly replaced by Uomo? Moschino as the male pillar of choice for the house, becoming something of a cult classic to leather fans looking for their petrol fix, since this genre exists mostly in niche realms these days. Fresh faces looking to get their feet wet in the leather genre are better off starting with Knize Ten, which is still made, plus is the granddaddy of this style anyway and sells new for about what Moschino Pour Homme sells for in the secondary market. However, seasoned fans of leather who've been there and done that should most definitely give this a sniff, even if from a mini or other trial-friendly size, as Moschino Pour Homme plays like a rough-and-ready bonus track or lost B-side to the smoother greatest hits of the genre, and that's quite alright by me. Rest in Peace Franco Moschino (1950-1994)
16th October, 2018
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Versace Man by Versace

Versace had a troubled time as a house after the slaying of Gianni Versace, and it's perfectly understandable. Donatella Versace stepped up from her Vice President role to share managerial duties with her brother Santo Versace, the latter of whom handled the men's lines, and abolished the Versus fragrance sub-label she had run prior to Gianni's death (given to her by Gianni because she loved perfume). The women's lines, perfume included, continued to do well, but Santo didn't really have much of a nose for fragrances like his sister, so the men's fragrance lines became a lot of show, but no go. Several flankers to the "Jeans" line came and went, the bizzare freshie Versace V/S (2000), gaudily-packaged boring musk that was Versace Jeans Couture Man (2002) alongside yet another freshie in Versace Time for Action (2002), showcased a house that didn't really know what men wanted. To be fair, the early 2000's was a strange time. Retro-revival styles sat alongside licorice and caramel gourmands, ultra-modern experimental Iso E Super bombs or radioactive grapefruit ozonics with club-friendly ambery musk bases, contributing more to the tribal division of vintage, niche, and mainstream camps amongst male fragrance buyers that started fleeing to their corners with the boring-as-Hell "fresh revolution" and "Beige Age" of the 90's, meaning nobody knew where the male market really was going after crowd-pleasing aquatics started running their course. Donatella took position as chief designer and became hands-on with the men's perfume lines as well, launching Versace Man (2003) as a do-over of sorts after all the fabulous missteps. Versace Time for Action and it's flankers would continue a while, but everything outside the primary male lines Gianni himself once oversaw were dropped in favor of Donatella's new aesthetic, which was even more "stereotypically Versace" than before. Versace Man wasn't the savior in the male sector Versace hoped it to be, and indeed a great many men don't even realize this exists, as the flanker Versace Man Eau Fraichê (2006) would completely overshadow Versace Man like Drakkar Noir (1982) did to the original Drakkar (1972), but in much less time.

I feel Versace Man is just so strange that it was doomed from the start, outside of the initial early adopters upon the scent's release or Versace home turf. Versace Man is a quirky semi-oriental/semi-gourmand amber and woods fragrance with a light tobacco in it's base which keeps it from becoming too rich or sweet due to it's synthetics. Domitille Michalon composed this, and is also responsible for the orange creamsicle that was Hugo Boss Boss In Motion (2002), but taking Versace Man in an even more peculiar direction by having a synthetic approach to recreating the smell of... wait for it... grape leaves. This isn't a note very palatable to tastes outside Europe, with the US market, which was the most conspicuous consumers of Versace at the time, being blindsided, even though Versace Man fared well in Europe. Versace Man accomplishes it's odd task of being a synthetic grape leaves scent by using aromachems with a top note intro of neroli, bergamot, black pepper, and angelica, which itself rarely appears in a masculine. Sillage is deceptively low at this stage so don't be tempted to apply more, since Versace Man has a round middle that sneaks up after 15 minutes. Cardamom and saffron do some brief talking before the sweeter meats of the scent take over. A tobacco leaf note similar to Versace The Dreamer (1996) arrives, but a composite amber, Iso E Super "cashmeran woods" note and labdanum submerges it, pulling Versace Man in a supple, androgynous, and apologetic direction started by Chanel Allure Homme (1999), that would be best done in the 2000's among the men's segment by Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme (2006). Versace Man then becomes a tobacco-dusted semi-oriental take on the "Iso E SuperSweetie", my nickname for the mid-2000's precursor to the ambroxan bombs of the 2010's. Sadly, the obtuse grape leaves opening takes this endeavor too far left of mainstream appeal. Longevity is decent for a day, but this is too playful for a work scent, and too quiet for a play scent, plus A lot of things in this vein would be dropped when the second wave of aquatics started hitting in the latter half of the 2000's. Sillage is moderate once Versace Man opens up, but it's definitely no shining star like Eros (2013), although I do remember smelling this a lot on guys in the mid-2000's not knowing what it was, so it saw a brief flurry of use.

Noses in American and Asian markets reasonably gravitated towards the more-conventional Eau Fraichê, which sort of became the unofficial Versace Man pillar in those markets once sales of this one sharply sloughed off. Retro-chic heavy-hitters like Rive Gauche Pour Homme (2003) and Gucci Pour Homme (2003) held the attention of mature guys, and the youth were still busy rolling in super-fruity ozonics, so Versace Man had a very limited target of the pre-recession post-college career millenial who wanted a Calvin Klein Obsession for Men (1986) but with an effeminate style which appealed to his own generation. I do like the smell of grape leaves, having experienced them plenty in food, and for those who haven't, they might get an unshakeable impression of powdered grape Kool-Aid (matching the bottle color) for just a few moments before the rest of the semi-oriental/semi-gourmand bouquet kicks into gear. There isn't enough tobacco to make this a choice for a tobacco scent lover, but anyone that likes the fruity-sweet understated vibe of this era's "metrosexual" fragrance trend will find little fault in Versace Man for trying to augment it with a heavier base, which in modern times gives it decent transgender and unisex flexibility. Availability of this in stores evaporated after Versace Pour Homme (2008) created a new male flagship line to replace Versace Man, while Eau Fraichê lived on, but stock can still be found at discounters, eBay or mom and pop shops. No official discontinuation news exists for this, but Versace Man just fell through the cracks so there's virtually no mention nor demand for it these days, making it inadvertently cult in status, even confusing some into thinking it's a flanker of Eau Fraichê and not the other way around. A vexing acquired taste of a scent, but far more original than most male-marketed 21st-century Versace output, Versace Man is the furthest from being blind-buy worthy, and then only explored by people interested in the dark horses of the oft-maligned 2000's. Thumbs up from me, but with the caveat that I find the scent more entertaining for personal reasons than something truly noteworthy for someone looking to reviews for solid recommendations.
15th October, 2018 (last edited: 16th October, 2018)

Perfume Calligraphy by Aramis

Estée Lauder wanted in on the Middle East perfume market, and with increasing interest in that sector for their Tom Ford subsidiary, they thought it keen to directly cater with a new series of fragrances called "Perfume Calligraphy" in 2012. There are a few inherent problems with a thoroughly-Western perfume and cosmetics company trying for Middle Eastern appeal, and coupling that with a few dubious choices on Lauder's part, and we end up getting a fragrance line met with mixed reactions. The first dubious choice was going the blatantly-synthetic route with oud for a market used to the real thing, or at least a more virile and authentic dupe, but part of this methinks is because of the success Tom Ford Private Blend selections have had in the Middle East, and they too can wear their chemistry on their sleeve. The second dubious choice was to use the Aramis brand for the line, since they're marketed as unisex (like most authentic Middle Eastern attars), despite the Western eau de parfum format and intentional association by Lauder of Aramis with men's fragrance. Lastly, Lauder made the puzzling decision to release this in American markets a year later but aimed at just men as part of the "Aramis Gentleman's Collection", in the same steel-capped bottle design borrowed from Tuscany Per Uomo (1984) as the rest of the collection. This last move wouldn't confuse anybody if the Internet didn't exist, as we'd all just get the bottle shapes we're used to, but folks buying online don't see things so clearly with such "localization". Many think one is a reformulation of the other, chasing after the one they think is vintage, or that one is a weaker concentration of the other. Some mistake them for his and hers versions, or even entirely different scents altogether, with hysteria resulting among perfumistas and colognoisseurs. To compound things further, there have also been flankers released with no American packaging adaptation, which is just lazy for a designer that wants to sell these at a niche/prestige price point of about $140 MSRP. Oh well, at least they got a good nose in the form of Clement Gavarry (son of Max Gavarry) to compose.

Aramis Perfume Calligraphy (2012) is primarily a rose and oud fragrance rounded out by saffron, patchouli, amber, and leather. The big giveaway that this is Western besides it being a perfume with synthetic components in the first place, is the proportions of rose and oud in relation to the rest. A lot of Middle Eastern or at least Middle Eastern-themed fragrances in the style have a fierce Turkish rose or more-virile "barnyard" oud note which hangs its ass out, with saffron serving a role similar to labdanum, and use supporting players to shore them up, not blend them down. With Perfume Calligraphy, Lauder deals a conservative hand, the Americanized "casual dining" interpretation of this kind of scent, slathering the rose and oud in a slick layer of it's supporting cast rather letting the notes actually support the star players. The opening begins with lemon, cinnamon, cardamom, and a sweet Damask rose which instantly recalls Azzaro Acteur (1989) for me, but while Acteur's sweet rose plays with leather, Perfume Calligraphy's rose is quickly saddled with a pasty saffron and myrrh accord, diminishing into a larger whole of candied spice. The synthetic oud in the base is also fairly medicinal as expected from a Western perfumer, but is dulled further with amber, patchouli, and musk, rounded to the point of disappearing once the slight petrol leather note emerges, once again recalling Acteur in my mind, just not nearly as resolute in it's intention like that older composition. Longevity is impressive but sillage is a quiet skin glow, another hallmark of Western tastes. There is also really no appropriate context to wear this, so just wear it where you want and chance having some eyeballs on you. The drydown of Perfume Calligraphy is remarkably very chypre-like, and also draws comparisons to Aramis 900 (1973) or Clinique Aromatics Elixir (1971), particularly with the rose and patchouli, even if there's no galbanum or jasmine here. Estée Lauder is exceedingly good at chypres, and maybe part of that DNA bled into this, because I can smell it.

I like Aramis Perfume Calligraphy in spite of it's many compromises and flaws, because it's middle ground between Eastern exotica and Western diplomacy is uniquely endearing to me, but at the same time, I would neither recommended this to a fan of rose scents, nor oud. I wouldn't even recommended Aramis Perfume Calligraphy to a beginner looking to try this style, nor someone looking for a more subtle take, as in both cases, this is just too much it's own creature to be anything other than a happy accident of a cultural hybrid for fans of sweet, voluptuous blended fragrances which work for any gender. If this sounds interesting to you and you're going to buy it blind online, I implore you to choose based on list price, as both bottle designs have fallen into discounter and eBay seller hands, but some want closer to the original niche MSRP while others carry it closer to the $40 mark depending on what coupons and sales are offered. I'd say only go for the wood-capped version if you're trying to complete a set with the flankers, as they only exist in the tall wood-capped design (yay for inconsistency), but I'd honestly say not to even to buy the original Aramis Perfume Calligraphy in any bottle format if you're just looking to try one from the series, since the flankers to this are far superior. Aramis Perfume Calligraphy Rose (2013) switches out the old-timey Damask rose for a dark Turkish rose, and although also not very culturally-authentic, it ditches the leather and is positively riveting in it's own right as a rose scent. Aramis Perfume Calligraphy Saffron (2013) goes back to Damask rose and leather, but adds marigold, vetiver, and styrax to a more-prominent saffron for a drier, smokier, more animalic yellow ochre which ends up the least-oriental, but also most distinctive. Aramis Perfume Calligraphy gets a thumbs up from me for it's enjoyable weirdness, but this cultural Heinz 57 of a perfume is really only for the deep-interest folks who dig the strange and unusual, or house Aramis completists (if they exist). For everyone else, I suggest moving onto the rose or saffron entries, as they're far more focused on what they want to be without as much compromise, and have much more personality.
13th October, 2018

Encens et Lavande by Serge Lutens

Serge Lutens was a make-up artist on call for much of the fashion world throughout the mid-to-late 20th century, eventually helping to push a dark and dour harsh image of black on black, which he conveyed in his early perfume work with Shiseido as well. However, his involvement with makeup receded and work with perfume increased until late in life, when his own house was launched in 2000, just like Frédéric Malle. Key differences between Lutens and Malle however is Lutens actually composed his own perfumes before hiring out, still creates make-up, and doesn't seek to be a prestige "greatest hits" of the industry's most-reknown perfumers, but rather reflect his own style, with help. Lutens compositions run the gamut from simplistic like Lush, to vintage Guerlain-levels of complexity, depending on who's making what, and sitting price-wise between the average niche house to the ultra-luxe prestige brands like Creed or Xerjoff. Encens et Lavande (1996) predates Lutens as a house, and like Féminité du Bois (1992), was originally part of the Lutens line under Shiseido. Encens et Lavande was composed by Christopher Sheldrake, who moonlights as a frequent contributor to Lutens, even though he also is creative director of perfumes at Chanel. I'll admit I was a tad underwhelmed by this, but only at very first. Most niche houses I've tried so far turn their amps to 11 with sillage and note pyramids, as if to justify the high price, but this is literally just "incense and lavender" as the name suggests, with a handful of supporting players. After a few hours on skin, I started to understand why, and my appreciation of it's fundamentalism grew, but it's still not my first option for lavender. The scent has been moved from the main line to the exclusive line, so it's only available in a 75ml "bell jar" for which this house is known, available only directly from Lutens or maybe Barney's of New York if one is near you, guaranteeing that if you pay the price of admission, you'll likely be the only one in your area wearing it.

The interesting thing about Encens et Lavande is that it grows louder over time, since lavender isn't the most boisterous top note when not helped along by citrus, and incense gets pretty warm and aromatic once body heat reaches it. This isn't the first perfume I've worn that sorta had a "dry up" instead of a dry down, but in all cases, once the plateau is reached, they do come back down the other slope and reduce to skin scent levels. However, because of this "creeping" nature, I'd warn to go with a few sprays or splashes if from a Lutens bell jar, then wait before using more. The development of Encens et Lavande is pretty obvious: you get a very raw French lavender note like Lavande by Jean des Salines (1945), but all by itself with just a smidge of clary sage underpinning floating around, giving Encens et Lavande a slight green tinge. The incense comes in within minutes, like somebody moving a crossfader slide across a mixing desk, panning in the myrrh-like incense until it's 50/50 with the lavender, reaching full volume of the experience, then continuing to pan the olfactory channels as the scent grows quieter until the incense is in front of the lavender as the name suggests at skin level. Longevity is average and sillage moderate at best, but quiet at worst. Encens et Lavande is probably the most-basic of scents from the house, the "comfort food" of the Serge Lutens line, which may explain why it's an exclusive. Lavender is always a good work or casual scent, and is generally versatile enough for all engagements including formal ones, although I often associate it with bedtime so that's where I'd have this seeing the most use personally. Encens et Lavande also doesn't like cold weather. I'd still take the Jeans des Salines over it, as it has tobacco in place of incense, lasts about as long, and has a brighter lavender (plus costs a fraction as much), but that's no besmirching to Serge Lutens as a house, which also plays home to iconic experiences like Chergui (2001) or Muscs Koubläi Khän (1998).

Compositions like Encens et Lavande often sit at the crux of the "what is niche" debate, because they don't seem very niche being simple, comfortable, almost ordinary compositions that could be released by any mall-brand perfumer like Bath & Body Works, or compounded by a head shop to chase the smell of marijuana away. However, the real question here is if you were handed vials of lavender essential oil, myrrh, sage, and some perfumer's alcohol, could you make this? Well, maybe... in a fashion, but not exactly. Yeah we can harp on about quality and provenance of ingredients, uncompromised artistic vision appealing only to the most refined connoisseurs, and pat ourselves on the back for paying the $220-$300 per 75ml bell jar that it costs for what is a basic lavender fragrance made by the creative head at Chanel but for another label, and who exactly are we convincing if we do? Serge Lutens has always been about selling a style, not material quality, as his start was in make-up, not couture or even furniture like Clive Christian, so getting your "money's worth" isn't a valid argument with this house, as you're literally buying an aesthetic, not so much a product, which is no different than letting Jackson Pollock cover your wall in paint splotches for a cool million or two. Encens et Lavande is a very fine lavender indeed, sold at an exclusive price point, and because it doesn't pretend to be something else, it gets a thumbs up for me, even though I think lavender scents in general are just too common to ask for this level of exclusivity. If you have the coin to spare and don't have a problem parting with it, Encens et Lavande is one of the best "near-soliflore" presentations of lavender I've ever encountered, and I've smelled a lot of lavender, plus live where grows wild and is also grown/sold, so I wouldn't make a claim like this lightly.
11th October, 2018 (last edited: 12th October, 2018)

L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain

L'Heure Bleue (1912) is a timeless Guerlain masterpiece that has been enjoyed by generations of women, and indeed some men, for well over a century. The scent followed in the footsteps of powdery floral fougère-like compositions worn by the chaste upper classes of the late 19th and early 20th century, and was composed by Jacques Guerlain, the man who literally shaped the house note itself by building on work from his uncle Aimé Guerlain with this, then Mitsouko (1919), Guerlinade (1924), and Shalimar (1925). Outside of helping to define the reputation of house Guerlain, L'Huere Bleue (aka "The Bluish Hour" in French) was meant to be worn in early evenings at dusk, to compliment the bluish hue the sky takes, and to conjure images of gentle romance; think about that next time you smell a modern perfume just made to be "sexy" or "fresh", as the entirety of this perfume was composed to capture a very specific time of day and activity occuring at the time, almost as a task-specific evening tryste fragrance. The smell of Guerlain L'Huere Bleue was perceived as quite feminine at the time, and it's heavy heliotrope also helped further define the "baby powder" smell in coming years as perfumes of this type before it had, but time has rendered L'Heure Bleue more genderfluid than that, especially in the wake of powdery 60's fougères like Brut (1962) and Wild Country (1967) or masuline indolic flower bombs like Royal Copenhagen (1970) all challenging the femininity of the antique L'Huere Bleue by sharing similar values. That's not to say this stuff isn't still effeminate, because so are those older masculines in comparison to what exists for men in the 21st century, just that like them, the appeal of L'Heure Bleue has expanded beyond it's intended audience. Still, this scent most definitely conjures images of huge flower-adorned hats and parasols to me, and outside of the heart, there isn't a muscular bone in L'Heure Bleue's body, so do NOT go into smelling it thinking it's another Jicky (1889), as even in vintage form this scent is not really all that animalic, but rather pillowy rich thanks to older synthetic musks like musk ketone and musk ambrette.

The smell of L'Huere Bleue is familiar yet strange all at the same time in the opening salvo, as it's one lavender note short of a stereotypical fougère accord with it's bergamot, clary sage, aniseed, tarragon and lemon, which join a fruity-sweet neroli that serves as the feminization factor here. There's something of a connection between the complex floral middle in L'Heure Bleue and the masculine dandy-like chypre Habit Rouge (1965), composed by Jean-Paul Guerlain, which is where CIS men of any orientation familiar with classic Guerlain will find the most comfort and familiarity when smelling L'Heure Bleue. Rose, iris, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, jasmine and carnation all blur into a soft "foundation" smell which was doubtless pirated ad infinitum by cosmetic companies after L'Heure Bleue hit shelves. The base is where the "fougère factor" rings true again, and the biggest point of separation between this and later Habit Rouge, which definitely goes for a sharper "cypress-like" dry down. Sandalwood, tonka, musk, vetiver, oakmoss and cedar all draw similarities to stuff like Zizanie (1932) or Canoe (1936) which showed up later and were pitched to men, but benzoin and vanilla "tweak the knobs" in such a way with L'Huere Bleue that this bullet would be dodged sufficiently even in the wake of emerging masculine tropes that heavily abused the emerging "barbershop" accord found in part under L'Huere Bleue's amazingly complex floral bouquet. The powdery heliotrope diffuses sillage enough that it isn't a bomb, but sustain vibrato is very long-lived with L'Huere Bleue, providing a very structured and abstinent pleasantness lasting over 12+ hours and made perfect for a meeting with a new client and a date night all in the same day. Office use is A-ok with L'Huere Bleue, and it does retain some of it's antiquated romanticism if you're going to a classy old-world joint like Maxim's of Paris or a late walk through New York City's Coney Island boardwalk.

L'Huere Bleue may be prim and proper as expected for a perfume from 1912, but it's Belle Époque origins guaranteed it free from the rigidity of social discipline that Victorian perfumes had to observe, meaning it's slightly-indolic tones and softly sweet idealized romanticism weren't quite so scandalous anymore, and they were just the beginning of a theme for Jacques Guerlain, who would steadily take his feminine creations down an increasingly assertive path until his hand-off to his grandson Jean-Paul. Wearing L'Heure Bleue is obviously like wearing a piece of history, but all that aside, wearing L'Heure Bleue is like wearing shades of everything a powdery floral perfume is known to be (even in the 21st century), but slightly blurred by the roundness of a fougère-like base and an overly-blended heart note haze, itself something of a trademark for the late perfumer, who was also known to mix entire previous perfumes into the base of new ones and continue building. L'Huere Bleue just "glows", much like the sky in the time of day after which it's named, ultimately making it an unusually relaxed, comfortable perfume to wear. Open-minded or particularly flamboyant/dandyish guys should definitely try this out, but otherwise this is still likely to appeal mostly to folks who identify as female or feminine-leaning, which is fine. Fans of vintage perfumes won't really care where this sits along the spectrum and ostensibly modern folks might see poor L'Huere Bleue as too "Grandma's Boudoir" for their liking anyway, so being able to enjoy this goes hand-in-hand with enjoying the art, music, fashion, frivolity, and indeed the flavor of the Belle Époque itself. For everyone else, this is likely too dainty and irrelevant of an old girl to hang in the company of modern "fruitchouli" and "cashmeran amberwood" fragrances, even if it's DNA still lingers in all of them. It's not my everyday cup of tea, but thumbs up for this beautiful piece of history.
10th October, 2018

Thé Noir 29 by Le Labo

I haven't been too keen on Le Labo overall, as I find their "sciency-wiency" gimmick and naming things one way but having them smell another to not be so cute as they'd hope it to be, but I rather like Thé Noir 29 (2015). Those not brushed up on French might see this as "The Black 29" but it actually means "Black Tea 29". Yeah, we have another case of not smelling like what it's called, but in this instance, I forgive Le Labo for their quirky misleading single-note titles because what it -does- smell like is pretty damned good. Thé Noir does contain elements of black tea, but the elephant in the room which makes this not what it seems is a fig and rose pair of Siamese twins. You get a big ol' fat dry fig and rose compound note conjoined at the hips which is the true focus of this composition, whether real or just a happy coincidence from the mix of black tea and it's surrounding support columns, but for anyone who has smelled Cartier Déclaration d'Un Soir (2012), Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme (1999) or Mancera So Blue (2015), it's a darker take on the same aura. As a whole, Thé Noir is a dark, brooding, dry, "Gothic Romance" fragrance in the atmospheric (but not necessarily olfactory) vein of Salvador Dali Pour Homme (1987) or Portrait of a Lady (2010), just with black tea, hay, fig and tobacco as the canvas for it's rose instead of animalics or ambery synthetics, respectively. This is so far the one Le Labo I'd buy, and the most accessible of the range's most popular creations by far, since Santal 33 (2011) and Rose 31 (2009) are pretty "out there" in comparison to Thé Noir 29. I'm not saying being "out there" is a bad thing, just not a great quality to possess for easing newcomers into a brand, since folks regularly test these at Nordstrom counters where they're most-commonly found.

Thé Noir opens with dry bergamot, which is almost a prerequisite for this psuedo-Victorian style, but the black tea shows it's face pretty early, holding hands with fig on the left and rose on the right, like the top notes are playing a very intense game of Red Rover. It's all pretty stiff and linear going in, which is the biggest weakness of the opening, as a love-or-shove reaction will be had then and there, but if you get passed it, there is some development. Cedar, hay, and vetiver comprise the middle, tightening and firming with grassy and woody aromatics with just enough hay to give Thé Noir growl without feeling like being down on the farm. These middle notes join the simple musk and slight tobacco base near the end. Yeah, there's some synthetic play here, like Iso E Super, but I don't get much else. The tobacco is very leafy and almost invisible against the rest, and the musk isn't very rich, with most of Thé Noir living in the strong top and aromatic middle, coming across as pale, dimly-lit, and mysterious. Sillage is on the impressive side but this isn't a bomb, and longevity is appropriately sufficient given the niche price point. The kicker here is how much do you like dark, dry, leafy tea, fig, and rose on an aromatic bed, and if that answer is "a lot", then this may be right for you. I'd say Thé Noir is too "Depeche Mode" for the work space, but on a night out at a darkly-lit gastro pub or an art exhibit, this feels particularly right. There's a bit of unisex appeal in Thé Noir as well, but it does swing mostly masculine to my nose.

Thé Noir sits somewhere between modernity and antiquity, as do a lot of things in this perennial genre. Other scents present stronger tea notes, like Bvlgari Black (1998), while still others have a more-prominent rose, like the aforementioned Déclaration d'Un Soir, and if you want to go full-fig, there's Philosykos by Diptyque (1996), so the value in Thé Noir is in it's blending of these themes on an aromatic base. For that reason, Thé Noir is spared from being assessed as an ineffectively expensive option in a crowded samey genre, like so many niche fougères or niche Western ouds, because there isn't much exactly like it, albeit there are many more economical options in the same wheelhouse. Frank Voelkl earned his perfumer stripes making compositions on a much smaller budget for Avon and Kenneth Cole before becoming a Le Labo mainstay, and like his compositions for those houses, Thé Noir displays a certain level of "less is more" efficiency despite being a niche scent, giving it great note separation and a bit of transparency in spite of it's voluminous strength. Niche done like a mainstream cheapie or niche done cheaply? That's for you to decide, but if you're up for the $240+ price tag Le Labo commands for 100ml, this is almost a blind buy for lovers of leafy, floral, dark, aromatic perfumes. For everyone else, I suggest a sample first, lest a steep blind buy make this Gothic romance transform into an Expressionist stage play full of tragedy and long faces. Thumbs up for me!
09th October, 2018

Déclaration d'Un Soir by Cartier

Cartier is a house that always defies convention, and takes a lot of bizzare risks, yet consistently manages to stay relevant and "in the game" with their masculine releases, offering alternatives left-of-center compared to what else a guy could be wearing. This started with Santos de Cartier (1981), then continued on with Pasha de Cartier (1993), and the fantastic Déclaration (1998), then Roadster (2008). Most of the more zany flankers which filled the gaps have been discontinued and carry silly prices just because of the "only the good die young" hype which often forms the pathos of most vintage collectors, but Déclaration d'Un Soir (2012) has stuck around, even spawning a flanker-of-a-flanker intense version recently. Why such success? Well, it's hard to really pin it, but I'll venture a guess and say because Déclaration d'Un Soir smells much higher-end than it's top-shelf designer price thanks to a modern masculine dry rose edge that feels like a composition from a boutique Middle-Eastern royal house. Déclaration d'Un Soir is definitely no pour man's Amouage and there's no oud here, but appointed house perfumer Mathilde Laurent aimed to keep the original Déclaration pyramid intact, but build it out into what we find here, giving Déclaration d'Un Soir unusual complexity.

Déclaration d'Un Soir opens similarly to Jean-Claude Ellena's original Déclaration with bergamot, bitter orange, and an ozonic tinge, but the dry rose quickly reveals itself very early on and remains a dominant note throughout, reminding me of a great many Mancera creations which also have this shrill ozonic citrus and modern processed rose. There's a nice set of shoulders under the head of Déclaration d'Un Soir however, and the cold spices of cardamom and ginger found in the original are bolstered with pepper, nutmeg and cumin, adding a slight piquant dirty growl to accompany the rose, but still very "Western" and not in the barnyard like a lot of Middle East rose perfumes. The stark leathery and woody base is also intact, but the cedar, leather, vetiver, and oakmoss are joined by an Australian sandalwood note, which isn't the preferred creamy rich Mysore kind found in vintage or prestige boutique creations, but it's still recognizable. Sillage is quieter than one might expect, and like the original Déclaration, this one has plenty of unisex and transgender potential, as little about leather and woody dry rose says much to me besides fanciness, and anyone can (and should) be fancy from time to time. Watch me spin~ ...Anyway, this also has longevity comparable to the original as well, which is moderate.

Cartier bought at retail can reach Chanel and Dior levels of price, but deals abound for most of their line. Folks who found the juniper and artemisia of the original Déclaration too raspy or dry might enjoy the rose floral focus of Déclaration d'Un Soir, while fans of the original absolutely owe it to themselves to sniff this one, which almost beats it. You ultimately have to like rose to like this flanker, so while Déclaration is safer as a blind buy, this one is not, but does dip the toe more into a romantic aura thanks to that rose, while still retaining most of the safe-for-work versatility of the original. Comparisons are also drawn to the later Calvin Klein cK2 (2016), which seems to borrow the dry modern rose theme of Déclaration d'Un Soir, but surrounds it in science fiction synthetic notes like "wet cobblestone" and deliberately flaunts the unisex vibe; it's cheaper than the Cartier all around, but not better. Déclaration d'Un Soir is a great "almost-generalist" pale rose for all but the hottest and coldest of environs! Be sure to try the original Déclaration before this one if you've tasted neither, as so much of the appreciation for the line hinges on it. Huge thumbs way up!
08th October, 2018

Open Black by Roger & Gallet

I feel like the folks at Roger & Gallet sat around a table, maybe after work one night, and had a little talk about IFRA and oakmoss. They likely reminisced about older male powerhouse scents like Roger & Gallet L'Homme (1982) or the original Open (1985) and somebody said "you know what, I bet we can still do stuff like that even with only zero-point-whatever allowable oakmoss", and some anonymous perfumer within the Roger & Gallet fold took up that impossible challenge. Hell, even if that little romanticized tale is the furthest thing from the truth about how Roger & Gallet Open Black (2012) came to pass, it's mere existence is proof of concept that a rich powerhouse fragrance for men in the old style still can be made in modern times, even if it probably shouldn't be from a marketing perspective. The original Open contracted "flankeritis" in the 2010's because it's been a popular dark horse globally for over three decades, even here in the US where literally none of the other Roger & Gallet fragrances can be easily had without paying double-retail for imports from overseas eBay sellers (including L'Homme), but after Open Black came Open White (2013) and Open Gold (2014) so something must be going on. The truth is Open Black is trying to follow the "black/noir" flanker theme and thus is only coincidentally a throwback powerhouse, because when you take a tobacco scent and shoot olfactory 'roids like bergamot, lavender, patchouli, and tonka into the mix while also upping the vetiver smoke of the original, you're just gonna end up with something like Jacomo de Jacomo (1980) or Drakkar Noir (1982), it's inevitable. Fans of those, or to a lesser extent Jacomo Eau Cendrée (1974) and Guerlain Vetiver (1961) really need to swing by Open Black and give it a big ol' fat sniff, as it's very anachronistic for a 2012 release, to say the least.

The scent opens with bergamot, lemon, lavender, and clary sage, very sharp, rich, dark, and massively similar to the aforementioned Jacomo de Jacomo. This is pure early 80's people, and if I hadn't told you different, you'd have thought so yourself. Shades of Oscar de la Renta Pour Lui (1982) are also recalled, but without the rose and orris savon. From this very classic and masculine beginning develops a barbershop tone joined by cardamom, thyme, clove, and a rubbery tar-like note that might be black tea or birch but it's hard to say. This is no Rive Gauche Pour Homme (2003) however, and the barbershop is soon left behind for a base of very smoky vetiver, patchouli, musk, coumarin, a sliver of moss, and of course, that tobacco note carried over from the original Open. This iteration is a bit more synthetic than the original (of course), and doesn't have the "beastmode" projection of a true vintage 80's powerhouse, but if choking out your office mates in a cloud of scent is what you're after, going heavy on the sprays will do it, at your own risk of anosmia of course. The whole thing feels like a smoother, richer Jacomo de Jacomo, as if to stand between it and Eau Cendrée, with a drop of Ted Lapidus Pour Homme (1978) leather ghost note near the very end, but using modern ingredients to temper the delivery. Longevity is good at 8+ hours and sillage without over-spraying is more than sufficient. Open Black is indeed the darker, more serious, and sober brother to the original, not just because it lacks a boozy top note, but also because it is such a stern, business-like wear perfectly matched to a black suit and tie meeting where you might want to impose a little more than usual.

My only question is who was this made for? Young trend-conscious guys are too busy making mushroom clouds of Dior Sauvage (2015) in an office elevator near you, or chasing down the perfect batch of Aventus (2010) to impress Nancy from Accounting with their "upward mobility", so they'd never want a tobacco scent presented this way, if they even want a tobacco scent period. Hardcore vintage guys would also likely sling mud at this for smelling old-school without actually being old, and lacking the animalic accords, myassissore or oakmoss (the latter which I feel that rubbery note stands in for), they endlessly claim are the only proper base notes for any fragrance ever, and I get it guys, but "they're dead Jim", and that's that. Who else then might actually enjoy Open Black? Well, I honestly don't know, but I like it. If you want a close-enough guilt-free "vintage experience" you can use, abuse, and replace for pennies, this is your new darling. Fans of the original Open should at least sniff a sample of this, and folks who enjoy really dark smoky vetivers and worship at the alter of Encre Noire (2006) should also pay attention to this, as I feel this may be the closest thing to a patchouli-laden 80's style take on it. Fall and winter prove best for tobacco and vetiver heavy petting such as Open Black, and office or personal use are best, since you're not getting anyone's phone number at the club wearing this unless you're at a bear bar or like dating cougars. Thumbs up for such an obscure late-coming flanker to the classic Roger & Gallet Open, and if you haven't smelled that one first, come back to this only afterward. For anyone else curious about how the classic 80's powerhouse style might be if made in the post-IFRA landscape, this is the answer to that question, and of low risk due to the nice price. Open Black is quite the little under-the-radar time machine!
06th October, 2018

Light Blue Italian Zest pour Homme by Dolce & Gabbana

Sometimes I feel bad for being perhaps less-picky or "discerning" as the hoity-toity segment might say, giving a vastly greater number of positive reviews to neutral or negative ones. I have a wide palette, and I enjoy both challenging and easy-going scents, expensive or cheap. Hell, I don't even care if you use plastic bottles (hello Pinaud), so long as there's no perceivable dip in my enjoyment. However, scents like Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Italian Zest Pour Homme (2018) not only come across like reciting a long-winded name of a race horse only to deliver an astonishingly plain product inside, but can't even be true to their own name by giving an experience that at least matches their description. I went in expecting a zesty fragrance in the Italian style, thinking maybe Dolce & Gabbana got their s**t together and blended in the Light Blue Pour Homme (2007) base with the bright amalfi lemon and tangy herbs of glorious past Italian masculines like Versace L'Homme (1984) or Gianfranco Ferré for Man (1987). Hell, even the Italian-by-proxy Aramis Tuscany Per Uomo (1984) was a really good presentation of the aesthetic and could have given D&G a good reference point, but nope. Nada. Zilch. Negative. Instead, we get what is basically lemon Pellegrino on top of Light Blue Pour Homme, with what little sweetness the original had sucked completely out. If this sold for $15 out of an Avon catalog as a quirky cheap summer thrill, I'd be giving it a thumbs up, but since they want prices only a few dollars away from Chanel for this, I'm highly displeased.

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Italian Zest Pour Homme (gesundheit) starts with grapefruit, manadarin, lemon, no... that's not right. It smells like lemon S. Pellegrino sparkling water tastes so let's not sugar-coat it. Even the salesperson at Nordstrom warned me it smells like "lemon Italian soda", to which I couldn't believe and had to spray. Sure enough, that initial reaction was one of disbelief and laughter as we were both covered in a cloud of evervescent lemon. After that, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Italian Zest Pour Homme (let me catch my breath) moves into "freshie 101" territory by using garden-variety heart notes that lead me to believe this was a college thesis for somebody who graduated from Givaudan School of Perfumery bought up by D&G for a cheap summer quickie. Juniper, rosemary, Sichuan pepper, and rosewood yawn into each other to form a genetic piquant "meh" which sandwiches our lemon soda to the standard Light Blue Pour Homme base of incense, musk, and a sliver of oakmoss. I wasn't too keen on the original Light Blue Pour Homme either as it too was very boring and with extremely poor performance, yet commanded top designer dollar alongside Diors and Hermès selections. And hey, some others in this price point can have weak sillage and poor longevity too, like Eau d'Orange Verte (1979), but at least they're interesting. With Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Italian Zest Pour Homme, we have a poor-performing but harmless aquatic transformed into something laughably absurd. If you were trying to get a chuckle out of me D&G, mission accomplished. Well done. Bravo.

I'm sure the novelty factor of this is enough for some people to enjoy, and if I came across it cheaply, I might toss a bottle in the back of a dark oubliette somewhere to bring out when I want to play a gag on my friends, but as it is, this stuff is a serious waste of cash and time for both the person who wears it, the person who composed it, and the house who commissioned it's creation. When one factors in other flankers like Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme Intenso (2015) and Dolce & Gabbana The One for Men Grey (2018), a picture is painted of Dolce & Gabbana being a house deathly afraid to move beyond their past pillars but also not really knowing where to go next in order to retain some clout in the rapid-fire relevance game the mid-tier designer male fragrance segment has become, presenting choices which are "safe yet different" to everyone's chagrin. I mean look at how hard their attempt at a niche-level collection flopped... Anyway, one thing is for certain, and that's this Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Pour Homme flanker has about as much Italian zest as a pint of gellato bought from the grocery store. I really hope they can at least bang out something new and more interesting than this, even if it has to be another flanker, because as it stands, the most noteworthy masculines from the house are a minimum decade old, and I'm not even a hardline vintage guy. Sorry, can't even give this one a neutral, but at least it proves that I don't actually like everything I smell, if that was ever in question from the start. Hard pass.
05th October, 2018

Uomo? Moschino by Moschino

This is a pretty clever fragrance, but then again, most are from the house of Moschino, a house that surprisingly gets little love. The previous masculine, Moschino Pour Homme (1990), was a nice petrol leather chypre likely meant to compete against Dior Fahrenheit (1988) or even Hermès Bel Ami (1986), but clean musks were all the rage in the mainstream men's segment during the second half of the 90's thanks to scents like Jovan White Musk for Men (1992), Calvin Klein cK One (1994), Curve for Men by Liz Claiborne (1996), with a strong unisex vibe, either intentional or not, running through many of them. The "Beige Age" as I affectionately remember it, was a time of edgy, simplistic music coupled with dressed-down looks and fragrances that felt like atonement for the deliciously wild and crazy 80's, but Moschino didn't enter the game then, and therefore really had no reason to "play nice" with anyone's nostrils. Everyone else was apologizing while Moschino was cranking Nirvana's "All Apologies", consequences be damned. To that end, Uomo? Moschino (1997) is a musk, but not really a clean one, although you wouldn't realize that with it's lemony de-jasmined "new hedione" carrier note. The question mark after the "Uomo" is also a bit of cheek from Moschino, in the same order as the double-necked editions of their previous masculine, removing the need for separate spray and splash productions. In this instance, the question mark is more a symbolic gesture asking the onlooker "is this really for men, or can anybody wear this?", to which the answer is, yeah.. maybe. Woody ambers are typically the provenance of men just out of tradition, but they never used to be back in the early to mid 20th century, and thanks to the genderless white musk accord in this, can sorta tip their toe "across the line" here in Uomo? Moschino, which may also explain the use of the question mark.

Uomo? Moschino was composed by Olivier Cresp, a perfumer who in time would become known for a lot of vacuous output, but here he turns his focus to a synthetic white musk molecule made somewhat dirty again with the addition of a composite amber note (since this was before the invention of ambroxan), an Iso E Super fake woods note (also before the proliferation of norlimbanol/karmawood), and some actual aromatic cedar. Riding on top this musk and prototype "amber woods" accord is a bit of gourmand spice and sweet hedionic citrus. The opening of Uomo? Moschino reminds me a lot of the vanilla-frosted lemon cake they serve at Starbucks (pairs nice with vanilla bean frap by the way), but the aldehydes and hedione soon fade into a bizarre but interesting kumquat and pepper which is no doubt what the "transparent coriander" is supposed to be. Moschino also seems bitten by the Calvin Klein fantasy note-names bug with this one, but I'll forgive them. The heart is rosewood and florals like cyclamen and artemisia, coupled with cinnamon and clary sage, give Uomo? Moschino a "light floral gourmand" tone similar to the later Yohji Homme by Yohji Yamamoto (1999), but without the licorice twist. Once the spices and crisp floral bouquet settles down, we land on the aforementioned synthetic "amber woods" musk base, which is either clairvoyance into the future of masculine fragrance or just dumb luck on Cresp's part. Best of all, since this accord is built from last-generation chemistry instead of the most recent versions of these accords, there's no "norlimbanol scratch" to assault your senses, even if the older-style composite amber is a less-accurate proxy for real ambergris (which is why it's sort of become it's own note over the years). Longevity is fair but could be better, and sillage is moderate, but considering it's an oriental/gourmand/musk hybrid claiming a "sunlight accord" that -doesn't- smell like a hot plate of yack, I'll take it.

Uomo? Moschino is a synthetic musk in that quasi-soapy-yet-dirty limbo that the much-more-expensive Musc Ravageur (2000) would later take to the 11th power of wowzers, but here has enough complexity and lightness around it to prevent it from being all that shocking. You have to really dig amber to find favor in Uomo? Moschino, as it stands taller than even the musk in the later stages of the wear, but in typical Moschino fashion, this scent retains a flirty irreverence, just without being in decanters stuffed in Teddy bears or shaped like Windex bottles (and you thought old Avon was bad). Uomo? Moschino is simple, doesn't smell particularly sophisticated or expensive, and merely toys with the idea of being unisex (deliberately) but also sells for a song, so they're not looking to get any amnesty for their behavior. Uomo? Moschino is a casual or office scent best in temperate climates, but can hang in all seasons if you work indoors, and maybe stretches into dressed-down romantic use due to the ambery musk base, but just as it's almost but not quite unisex, I'd equally say it's almost but not quite generalist, as if Olivier Cresp was given a box of crayons and colored outside of the lines everywhere he possibly could. Best part of all is the smell of Uomo? Moschino is thoroughly inoffensive so it flirts with the safety on, keeping it well within the "Beige Age" parameters of the decade. Whoever said pleasant couldn't also be thought-provoking? If you want a cheap daily grinder with a bit of versatility, just old enough that nobody else will be wearing it, but still modern (also read: synthetic) enough to not feel out of place, this might be your ticket. I like a scent that plays by it's own rules but plays well with others, so Uomo? Moschino gets a big thumbs up without any question marks.
04th October, 2018 (last edited: 05th October, 2018)

Gucci pour Homme (original) by Gucci

Gucci has been a house fraught with rise and decline, bloating out to 20,000 accessory lines at it's peak, working with automakers and more, to shedding back down to 5,000 lines and teetering on bankruptcy. Gucci has changed hands multiple times and been a member of several partnerships, with hostile buyouts a common sight, seeing it's entire image and sense of worth rebooted repeatedly until it was embraced as a gateway brand for urban youth in the 90's, currently being the Hip-Hop fashion darling counter to the rock star-oriented house of Versace. The flagship fragrances for the house of Guccio Gucci, first launched in the 70's, have been completely re-orchestrated and re-launched a total of three times since then, with this debut masculine scent being the first of three times "Gucci Pour Homme" would appear on a perfume from the designer, originally released in 1976 and composed by the legendary Guy Robert. Mr. Robert seemed to favor traditional aromatic citrus and/or leather chypres for men, as evidenced by his work in Monsieur Rochas (1969), and Hermès Equipage (1970), with Gucci Pour Homme (1976) being no exception to this rule. The 2003 version created under Tom Ford's creative direction was an ambery affair and one of two twins (with the second one still in production), while the 2008 version originally being named "Gucci by Gucci Pour Homme" until the previous iteration was discontinued. That current version is a modern synthetic proxy of a chypre infused with "freshness" from boutique aromachemicals that pissed off fans of either older version upon arrival, and is the current flagship male line. Gucci Pour Homme '76, as one of the fabled masculine "Guccicorns" alongside Gucci Nobile (1988), Gucci Envy for Men (1998), Gucci Rush for Men (2000) and Gucci Pour Homme (2003), scents that have an almost religious following and frequently push past Creed's retail prices in the aftermarket, really cannot be recommended as a blind buy, although samples and minis can be had up to 30ml for acceptable prices (barely). Regardless of how good it is, there are simply too many alternatives even among also-discontinued fragrances which offer better value and availability 10-to-1 over Gucci Pour Homme '76, mean it is a collector's piece at this point, but regardless of all that, here are my thoughts on it:

Gucci Pour Homme '76 opens like a right proper aromatic chypre of the ilk made from the late 40's through to the mid-80's. The opening shares a lot of DNA with the tart lemon/bergamot and dry lavender/basil combination found in older creations like Arden for Men Sandalwood (1957), Revlon That Man (1958) or Monsieur de Givenchy (1959), but is stronger and more pressing like the Revlon, just without the linearity. From this familiar "forthright masculine" citrus opening comes a woodsy carnation and patchouli heart that is sour and equally stiff, likely because it is trampled on so intently by the top. Rich sandalwood and cedar which also remind me greatly of the Arden and Givenchy come to mind as well, but also an order of magnitude stronger than them, once again sharing potency with the aforementioned Revlon. The only thing missing from Gucci Pour Homme '76 at this point is a civet note, and the lack thereof is what sets it apart from much of the crowd, with a musk note in it's place making it something of a missing link between these mid-century oldies and the later Italian examples like Gianfranco Ferré for Man (1987). The base is pure oakmoss, leather, labdanum, and that aforementioned musk, making me think of Penhaligon's Douro Eau de Portugal (1985) particularly with the labdanum/yellow musk tandem. We have 1950's style mixed with 1970's potency and a subtle leather forward-thinking twist underneath the aromatics and oakmoss, which gives Gucci Pour Homme '76 it's character, but doesn't really set it apart too much from it's rivals. This is a similar problem, but to a lesser extent, that faced Capucci Pour Homme (1967), and hence the Gucci is also buried in chypre heap somewhat, despite notable sandalwood performance the others lack. Sillage is above-average for this kind of chypre, and longevity is around 8 hours, but it's easy to get anosmic to heavy oakmoss just as it with modern white musk, so guys wearing this as a signature probably reaped diminishing returns over time, meaning Gucci Pour Homme '76 still likely needed to be part of a rotation back in the day. I'd say this chypre is actually best used in fall because of the creamy sandalwood and labdanum-dipped leather and moss, since I feel this more with a cool breeze than inside a warm room.

Gucci Pour Homme '76 isn't very Italian by design, but I guess that's what happens when you let renowned French Guy Robert do his thing when crafting your fragrance, and the French finesse mixed with American loudness on display gives this a rather distinct trail which feels like a rounder Moustache by Rochas (1949) plucked of it's animalic. By 1976, this kind of sour lemon and dry lavender on top of sandalwood and oakmoss would feel conservative in the wake of Disco darlings like the Halston line or any number of loud and sweet aromatic musks stinking up the clubs, meaning Gucci Pour Homme's decidedly more-mature audience would literally die off in the subsequent years since the youth in the 70's weren't wearing it, and thus wouldn't necessarily arrive on it later in the 80's either after they matured, leaving this as the dominion of vintage fans as early on as the 90's. By the time Gucci was re-invented as a house the first time by Tom Ford, few seemed to care about this scent's fate, which is why it still somewhat lives in the shadows of other "Guccicorns". If it were possible to economically daily-drive this, I'd say it's a good "Mad Men" office scent, but as it stands, this Maltese Falcon of a historical anecdote is only getting more precious as time goes on, meaning it will be an object for the Osmothequé at some point and looked upon in rememberance only, but not worn. I really like Gucci Pour Homme '76 a lot, and fans of these old aromatic chypres won't find much better lemon/sandalwood/oakmoss accords in modern times outside of the one-man operations in the niche realm, and even they don't have access to the ingredients found in this, which were once commonplace but now rarefied. If you stumble upon a bottle of Gucci Pour Homme '76, it's actually a remarkably good introduction to the genre as it sits so squarely in the middle of many others of the style, but I wouldn't seek it out unless you're fatally bitten by the vintage bug. Thumbs up!
03rd October, 2018 (last edited: 08th October, 2018)
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Pasha by Cartier

There was a good, albeit short-lived trend among the "Beige Wave" of the 90's, and it was the fruit and spice semi-oriental fougère, and a direction meant to uplift that last blast of dandy-like fougères clinging to the tail end of the powerhouse era from their own impending oblivion. I'd say this artistic offshoot only delayed the inevitable for the classic fougère genre as a whole, since synthetic abstraction was the future and classic genres like fougères and chypres would eventually be impossible to make under IFRA regulations once the synthetics became widely-accepted substitutes. Jazz by Yves Saint Laurent (1988) arguably kicked off this last gasp, even if the independent R&D behind it cost them so dearly it eventually drove YSL into receivership by LVMH, and it would appear Cartier would be the ones truly benefitting from the effort, since Pasha de Cartier takes the theme to the next level, and is perhaps the briefly-lived genre's finest example. Fragrances like Pasha de Cartier (1992) were the perfect answer to guys who found aquatics like Cool Water (1988) too seasonal and "fresh" fougères like Eternity for Men by Calvin Klein (1989) too thin, but also didn't want to slide back into the heavy-handed animalic/patchouli/oakmoss or musk/leather/woods bases which dominated the 80's and 70's respectively. Public opinion was rapidly changing on what smelled masculine, but scents like Pasha de Cartier represented a good compromise between the aromatics of the old school and the sweet apologetic vibes of the new, so as a neat little "bridge" between generations at the time, it was fantastic. It seemed even Yves Saint Laurent realized they had been outclassed by Cartier, as they released a revised version of Jazz called Jazz Prestige (1993) the following year which traced the footsteps of Pasha in an attempt to trump it, and although it is stronger, I don't necessarily find it better, but more on that further down.

Pasha de Cartier opens much like Yves Saint Laurent Jazz, as if perfumer Jacques Cavalier really dug what Jean-François Latty had done for the other house but felt it was incomplete, needing "jazzing up" further with mint and mandarin orange accompanying the lavender and artemisia of Jazz's opening. The result of these additional fruity and fresh notes makes for a bouncy, energetic, and personable zip which YSL would try to 1-up by taking the fruit further in Jazz Prestige, swapping out orange for a louder apple note, but here the sweetness stays inbetween the two Jazz compositions sitting "just right" like Goldilocks and her porridge bowl. From this fruity opening we're lead into a caraway and anise note, making Pasha feel like a fruity take on the opening of classic Azzaro Pour Homme (1978). Coriander and rosewood add an aromatic spice to the heart, and supposedly there is an Aurinia/Golden Alyysum note here; I've never smelled that so I can't speak to it, but I do know a faux apple and spice note does creep in, drawing another bridge to the later Jazz Prestige. The base for something like this is pretty obvious, being cistus labdanum, patchouli, oakmoss, coumarin, and sandalwood, with the latter being particularly creamy here, denoting it's likely the composite favored in compositions like Chanel Égoïste (1990). Pasha de Cartier seems like a fougère kissing cousin to the latter Platinum Égoïste (1993) in it's dry down, another link in this brief chain of semi-oriental fougères. Sillage is moderate and longevity is left wanting although acceptable, so a work day in this might need reapplication at about the 6 hour mark for sustain, but most scents in this small genre aren't beasts anyway.

I feel this whole shindig was likely killed off due to the release of Tommy by Tommy Hilfiger (1994), which took the fruity top and married it to a zesty semi-ozonic "fresh" fougère composition that felt like a pairing down of Aramis Havana (1994) made more youth-friendly and demographic-driven, and once sales figures made that the new standard, nobody continued down this sandalwood-heavy path anymore. I really enjoy Pasha de Cartier and it's one of my favorite examples of fruit, spice, and oriental tones playing with a fougère accord, wearable anywhere, anytime, just not in summer. As for YSL Jazz Prestige, it riffs very heavily on Pasha de Cartier but turns up the fruit, plus delivers it's trail at "Concentrée" strength, but Pasha de Cartier is the more-balanced and artistically-superior composition, even if the praise and veneration unfairly get handed to Jazz Prestige for being rare and discontinued, which in vintage hound's logic always means better. I'd reach for Pasha de Cartier 5 to 1 over any entry in the Jazz series, even if quantity and price of replenishment weren't an issue, but the popularity of the scent making it possible to buy Pasha de Cartier at any department store or any online perfume shop for a fraction of the YSL price sure helps. A billion limited flankers would also result from the success of Pasha de Cartier, but many of them are really unrelated creations sharing a bottle shape, so approach them on an individual basis. Definitely thumbs way up here, and a must-smell potential daily signature for anyone interested in the best of what the otherwise-tepid 90's had to offer! Cartier as a house rarely seems to falter anyway.
02nd October, 2018 (last edited: 03rd October, 2018)

Light Blue pour Homme by Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabanna had a huge hit in the masculine sector with their original Pour Homme (1994), but after that, their masculine follow-up offerings like By man (1997) or Masculine (1999) were bizarrely gaudy, loud and obtuse upon arrival, being discontinued fairly quickly after release, and outside the cult followings or steep prices they command for collectors, did nothing to further market penetration. From a business standpoint, I can see a need for a release like Dolce & Gabanna Light Blue Pour Homme (2007). The second wave of aquatics really got it's kickstart with Polo Blue (2002), Bvlgari Aqva (2005), Versace Man Eau Fraîche (2006), Nautica Blue (2006) and the like, so what better way to get back in the thick of things than to jump on a steamrolling new trend? Not every designer house can be leaders like Chanel or Dior, so when in doubt, innovate on a popular conventional theme. Do I like Light Blue Pour Homme? Well, not so much, but I don't hate it. Dolce & Gabanna hired Alberto Morillas for the task of crafting the scent, as he us known for his many by-the-book mainstream creations that sort of peg him as the David Foster of perfumers, and he delivered yet another dialed-in mainstream generalist as a result. I'd say the success of this is due more to it's steamy ocean side ads full of almost-nudes and expected bait-and-switchout for a rather safe and unsexy office aquatic which doesn't do those ads any justice but can make guys who buy into the ads think they're turning folks on as they walk past smelling like dish soap.

Dolce & Gabanna Light Blue Pour Homme doesn't steep itself in as much of the heavy mint and sweet dryer dry sheets aura like a lot of it's competition from the day, staying away from heavy laundry musks and sweet citruses. Instead, this scent opens rather like the original Nautica (1992), with bergamot, a salty sea note, some juniper, and mandarin, pretty simple and not entirely a "saturated blue". Comparisons to Nautica's structure end here however, as Nautica is more of a fougère with aquatic elements stapled on, while Light Blue Pour Homme is just a um.. lighter aquatic aromachem scent that goes through some pepper, and herbs in the middle before heading into a dry base. Rosewood, Iso E Super, musk, oakmoss, and cypress note keep things tart and very oceany even at the end, although I don't get much oakmoss or rosewood from this, or very much past the top and middle notes really, which is the reason I don't totally align with the stuff. The drydown of Light Blue Pour Homme is brief, overly simple, and gives the stuff poor lifespan on my skin. I got maybe an hour of detectable sillage, then 3 hours of smelling myself, and then nothing. Granted, I didn't roll in it, but that still tells me this is barely above eau de cologne strength, but without any of the old-world charm an EdC would bring. I'd say drenching oneself in this might get it above 6 hours, but despite being cheap compared to some options out there, the price this sells for versus the scent personality and performance given just make it a ripoff for me, thus why I can't give it a thumbs up.

A lot of folks swear by Light Blue Pour Homme, and I don't blame them: it is a tenacious dumb-reach scent for the guy who doesn't want to stink but also not be a standout, making it perfect for entry-level cubicle office spaces, folks working lower-end retail (e.g. Wal-Mart) who are even allowed by company policy to have fragrance in the first place, or teens that might over-spray and gas out a classroom. You won't get yourself in trouble over-applying Light Blue Pour Homme like you would Versace Eros (2013) or even Liz Claiborne Curve for Men (1996), so for the apologists in the room, this is your signature barely-there scent. Dolce & Gabanna scored their perfectly-safe aquatic hit for mass consumption with Light Blue Pour Homme, and it's a necessary evil because without it we might have never gotten The One For Men (2008) or it's flankers, but I feel most of the latter D & G output for men was ruled by the shadow of the colossus which became the legacy of Light Blue Pour Homme anyway, as so many limited flankers all smelling alike came zooming out of the house after this, that I don't think anyone takes the house seriously anymore, even when they tried to do the "Velvet" series of prestige limited niche-like creations. It's a decent enough daily for summer use if it can be had for cheap, especially when a guy wants to be soft-spoken and to disappear into the woodwork, but the boring, dry oceanic vibe of Light Blue Pour Homme would put me to sleep just like an ocean wave sound machine, so I have to pass on this one.
01st October, 2018

Invictus by Paco Rabanne

Nothing brings out the male fragrance-head class warfare quite like a popular bland mid-tier designer scent! Guys in love with their cheap wet shaving scents like Backyard Pete's Homemade Bay Rum will call this stuff gaudy and superfluous with it's fancy packaging and sweet, people-pleasing smell, saying it's neither manly nor grass-roots enough to join them in their daily mustache waxing ritual. Guys that drop hundreds on a single bottle of Eau de Hedge Fund Parfumerie will cast this trophy-shaped bauble down as cheap, overly synthetic, and with poor performance compared to their nuclear ouds and ambergris florals made by the eighth generation of whoever from ingredients his man servants fetch him under fear of the lash. Dudes who just want to get lady's phone numbers at the Hard Rock Cafe and max out their reps at the gym before tuning their Audi A6's for weekend street races probably already worship this stuff and have all it's flankers too. Who needs that pricey Dior stuff when there's Invitus (2013), the scent of winners?? Am I winning yet? No? Guess I better put more on. All joking aside, Paco Rabanne had to know all this controversy was coming for releasing an ambroxan-powered sweet citrus office bomb on the heels of Blue de Chanel (2010), and Prada Luna Rossa (2012). Their previous "winner" Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008) was finally starting to show it's age a bit as the rich fruity composite amber stuff was getting played out in clubs by then, and "freshness" was made exciting again thanks to some new aromachemicals that Chanel took out for a test drive in Jacques Polge's swan song for the male line. His son Olivier Polge worked on this monster, alongside not one or two, but three other perfumers of some repute, including Dominique Ropion, Anne Filipo, and Veronique Nyberg. Paco Rabanne was borrowing from Calvin Klein's old playbook of "the more perfumer talent thrown at it, the better it has to smell", and just like with CK's confused mid-2000's output, Invictus also comes across like a train wreck of compromised ideas stitched together and made to draw breath, but it isn't bad... somehow. No, no, what we end up with here is a rather competent fruity fresh citrus musk with a telltale ambroxan base thrum, which is certainly the flavor of the 2010's tuned to what the buying public has since grown accustomed to calling "good". I like Invictus better than 1 Million, and give it a thumbs up only because it is inoffensive and versatile as a generalist, which is something Paco Rabanne has needed back in their contemporary lineup since they released the aged XS Pour Homme from 1993.

The 20-something single-fragrance every-reach-is-a-dumb-reach kind of guys are who this is made for all the way, and you could almost stop reading here if that's all you wanted to know. I'm not going to try and fool anyone into thinking this is perfume art, as it is very painfully safe from start to finish, but that's why I ironically like it. Most Paco Rabanne masculine scents have some air of risk about them, going all the way back to the soapy green macho wonder that is the first Paco Rabanne Pour Homme (1973), then onto their brash animalic floral 80's release Ténéré (1988), with XS being the only safe space with it's barbershop tones before launching into the genderbender of Paco (1996), then the loud Ultraviolet Man (2001), and the club-hopping 1 Million. There wasn't really an office-safe entry in the Paco Rabanne canon outside of good ol' XS, or maybe the unisex Paco, but Invictus solves that, if you just look past the beyond-stupid packaging. I guess we allowed Zippo lighters, bright purple juices, and gold bars from this house, so why not a trophy? Invictus opens with grapefruit, like a callback to the late 90's and early 2000's ozonics, but it doesn't go nose-burn or tart like them, instead thrusting in some sweet mandarin connective tissue borrowed from 1 Million, and dihydromyrcenol/calone mix that also feels like an even older call back to the early 90's. However, before we go calling this a timeline in a bottle, the heart shows us the true face of Invictus: Hedione hedione hedione! Wow guys, if you thought hedione as an aromachemical was dead in modern designer fragrance, take a whiff of Invictus, as the stuff is simply soaked in it. If you survive the hedionic assault, you get some hints of that "fake bay" smell found in cheaper after shaves, but don't believe the pyramid here, as this is anything but a St. Thomas scent. The base is the place of disgrace for most perfumistas and colognoisseur, as it's a very ambroxan-heavy finish. I can handle it, as I'm also a wearer of Bleu de Chanel, Sauvage (2015), Obsessed (2017), and many others that have taken to this ingredient as their new fake-amber, but when saddled with guaiac wood, it almost has an oriental timbre than can be cloying in warmer weather. Luckily, this is still a few years before norlimbanol was shot into men's cologne like anabolic steroids before a Mr. Olympia competition, so there isn't much harsh scratch in the finish, but there also isn't much else besides musk either.

Once more, I find Invictus agreeable, but barely so because it plugs a hole in their lineup. I see the hyperbolic vitriol in reviews below coming from some of our more up-turned community members here, but I think they just don't really -understand- what these kind of scents are about, like a fan of classical music or jazz suddenly being forced to endure modern electronic dance music or pop all in major chords or 4/4 time, and spewing out all this hate whilst upon their "enlightened" soap boxes about how music "should" be rather than realizing the very definition of music transmogrifies person to person, generation to generation. To be blunt: this is the electronic dance music of fragrance for a generation that values creative use of synthesis over naturally-sourced elements that can be picked out as such in a wear. Not everyone can appreciate an acoustic guitar recorded onto an old Ampex tape deck live in the studio without a metronome, just as not everyone can handle a sequence of pre-recorded MIDI samples or purely-digital sounds on a looping track without any transitions or changes in time signature. Same applies with fragrance fellas: not everyone wants bitter herbs, virile animalics, dusty florals, or smoky vetiver on ambergris, oakmoss, and sandalwood. Some folks want that sweet, synthetic, plasticy "smell good" vibe of car air fresheners or bath products adapted to their personal space. Perfectly pleasant stuff like Invictus, which is effectively the "nondescript nice" essence of every bottle in Macy's sprayed simultaneously, but all in one bottle instead, fulfills that purpose. This stuff isn't higher art for sure, and it's performance is just adequate for the price, but even I like a lazy day with something I don't have to think about on my collar after a week or two or really out-there perfumes which command my attention, and the only fault I find with Invictus is the fact that it's a very gaudy bottle for what is just a sweeter, rounder, and more-generalized take on what Chanel started in 2010 when it released an aquatic with a warm base. Never mind me however, and please go on about how this scent and it's ilk have ruined the state of modern perfumery or whatever, but be mindful that your scent choices were designed with you as a target demographic just the same this was for the slack-jawed clerks at Wal-Mart who you'll smell this on, and that's fine, same as Invictus, which is also literally "just fine".
30th September, 2018 (last edited: 08th October, 2018)

Eros by Versace

It honestly was only a matter of time before the house of Versace also jumped on the ambroxan/norlimbanol bandwagon of male fragrances with synthetic ambery woods bases, as dictated by the always trend-setting Chanel (for better or worse) with their Bleu de Chanel (2010) penned by Jacques Polge on his way out the door. Versace has always been one step behind everyone else in terms of male compositions in the perfume industry (where trends are concerned) after the unfortunate passing of Gianni himself, since he often was hands-on with these because he wore them himself, and Donatella let the company sort of run itself for quite some time after his death, particularly with male-oriented products because she had no knowledge in that area. Every now and then something quirky comes down the pipe to keep us interested, and Such a scenario was the case with Eros (2013), a fragrance seemingly built up from the work on Versace Blue Jeans (1994), but perhaps improved with the removal of the powdery core which I find too annoying to ignore. This is Donatella's first hands-on with a masculine fragrance, with Aurélien Guichard tackling Eros as it's perfumer, and since he's becoming something of a house perfumer for Robert Piguet, I imagine he was on loan for this work. Eros feels to me like a marriage between the ambrox-powered "blue cologne" smell established by Bleu de Chanel, and the sweet semi-oriental synthetic night club tones of Paco Rabanne 1 Million (2008), merging a cool opening and warm base with a Hell of a lot more sugar and spice. Something like this combination suggests would make a fragrance which appears deceptively fresh upon first noticing, then grows rather warm and smothering quite quickly, but if it's meant to pull double-duty in both the office and the club, a lighter hand can prevent it from being the "beastmode" projector that it otherwise can become. The gorgeous bottle in which this is presented merges the color schemes of past flacons, like the aforementioned Blue Jeans, and the Medusa-head motif as seen on bottles like Versace The Dreamer (1996), with a Greek frieze-style patterning along it's sides. Even people who hate this stuff love the bottle, and I can totally get why, as it pretty much screams "VERSACE" at you from the counter.

Eros opens with mint, lemon, and green apple, all of which I can detect and which hearken me back to the 90's when these notes were more common among masculines. The fruity sweetness countered by the citric bite and coolness of lemon and mint respectively is particularly 90's inspired, and is where my mind makes a connection to Blue Jeans, with it's "citrus cocktail" that's basically a mojito in disguise. Eros also follows with geranium just like Blue Jeans, but where these two differ is in the development past the top and part of the middle, as the powder tones of Blue Jeans are excised to make way for tonka and ambroxan which both are unusually early to arrive in Eros. This uncommonly rich middle phase is the direct result of using what have been base notes in most other scents as heart notes in Eros, but that comes with a price: this stuff really blows the doors off compared to it's other ambrox brethren. Dior Suavage (2015) may win the battle in sheer volume with it's norlimbanol overdose, but for a fat and almost intimidatingly sweet bass riff, Eros wins the day, and will thrum along for days especially on clothes. The base of cedar, norlimbanol, and vetiver isn't dry enough to counteract that heavy-handed tonka and faux-ambergris in the top, which is further supplemented by vanilla and oakmoss in the base. One thing is certain: anyone wearing Eros is definitely trying to make an entrance, and possibly a statement to boot. I'm not saying this stuff doesn't smell good, but you're more likely to have a bad experience with this if it's on a more-casual fragrance wearer, because they're not going to be skilled enough with application to know how much is enough, and thus Eros joins the ranks of bombs like Pierre Cardin Pour Monsieur (1972), Bogart One Man Show (1980), Lapidus Pour Homme (1987) and Joop! Homme (1989) where a warning label for application should be included for public safety. Suffice it to say sillage is nuclear and longevity is eternal on this one. I'd say keep this to the clubs, as it has less versatility than it pretends to, but it's the first truly stand-out creation from this house in a long time, plus the only modern one really worth dropping into a department store to sniff.

Eros will obviously not appeal to the older fellas who stopped caring about any designer fragrance the day oakmoss was restricted in 2011, and still have PTSD over the use of calone in the 90's (come on guys, really?), but for the man looking for a rich and sweet club hopping tune that smells different from the blood orange bomb of 1 Million or the revered gay club icon that is Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Mâle (1995), this might do the trick. In colder months, with much lighter application, Eros might also serve in place of Bleu de Chanel as an office scent, since it carries the "blue pleasantness" of mint and citrus, but has a beefier base which makes it more formidable when the needle on the thermostat dips below comfortable levels. Even in this scenario, I'd be careful if your job keeps you indoors a lot, because Eros has almost an almost horrific amount of lingering power, and the trail you'll leave from office desk to copier and back might make some sort of unintentional scent boundary if you don't watch where you spray. Eros succeeds in delivering the ambrox/norlimbanol trend in the brash House Versace style, and although they have since released several lighter, more aquatic, and totally tepid casual playthings since it's release, this is still the best one outside of their classics for a guy that wants to shout to the world that he never gave up on the Versace brand even after all the rock stars stopped endorsing them. I feel Eros is a missing link to the 90's heyday of the label (which many particularly-set-in-their-ways old heads don't like either) for a house which has had trouble finding it's direction in the 21st century from a fragrance perspective, and it's a good base from which to work, even if there actually haven't been any flankers of Eros since it came out. There certainly isn't niche quality in this, but definitely niche levels of performance, so Eros is also good value-for-money in that department, it just has about as much subtlety as Batman crashing through the skylight, so be warned. Thumbs up for this odd mix of fresh and loud.
30th September, 2018

Wanted by Azzaro

I feel like Azzaro Wanted (2016) never really had a chance with the fragrance community, but then again, I also feel like it never really needed one. Like so many modern designers, this seems made without any regard to the tastes of legacy fans, which represent the bulk of core fragrance community members with the loudest voices in forums still wearing designers and not niche or ultra-luxe, so because this doesn't follow traditional lines a la something a vintage fan would appreciate, and certainly doesn't push much of an artistic envelope, Azzaro Wanted gets summarily judged as dreck without a sniff. Granted, the bottle shaped like the bullet chamber of a revolver doesn't help much, as it just looks like another gimmicky 2010's bottle a la what Paco Rabanne thrust on us with 2013's Invictus, and the instant more serious frag-heads see it they run screaming the other way, retreating back to their Guerlain bee bottles. However, I sometimes come down from my lofty pillar of vintage Avons (let that sink in real good) and take a sniff of what "the kids" are wearing these days, and I rather like what Azzaro has done with this. No, this Azzaro is almost nothing like any of the classic entries and shares zero DNA outside the brand name with anything before it, but such has been the 2010's for most designers in the wake of Bleu de Chanel (2010): jump on that ambroxan and build something sweet/fresh around it while the folks still think it's good! I wonder how folks will look back on this particular decade of fragrance? Most of these little numbers, Azzaro Wanted included, fuse innocuous 90's-like top notes with heinously-powerful synthetic base notes into a sort of "powerhouse beige" smell that has come to dominate the malls and department stores everywhere. I've picked out my fair share of the iconic ones, and quite enjoy them for their idiosyncrasies, then shot down the ones that are nearly exploitative in their unoriginal and banal designs. Azzaro Wanted avoids the latter fate, as Fabrice Pellegrin is no slouch perfumer, working well even within a narrow chemical palette and limited development budget. Like so many modern fresh warm citrus stews, Wanted isn't high art in a bottle, but it's more likeable than a lot of it's competitors.

The first distinguishable note of Azzaro Wanted is lemon and ginger, much like a nice soothing tea to calm a sore throat; it's not an ideal opening for a fragrance contained within part of a six-shooter, but it's calming balmy effect is welcome nonetheless. Mint and lavender follow this up, reminding me that some people still appreciate classic fougère tones this far into the 21st century, but the ginger keeps it "weird" enough that Wanted is no barbershop scent. Cade oil, honeysuckle, and cardamom come next, all three of which produce a more spicy and rounded floral juniper accord that flows well from the lemon and ginger. The mint balances this and it doesn't get very warm at this point, but Wanted does eventually heat up in the base when apple, tonka, ambroxan, and norlimbanol show up. Azzaro is more in the sweet side of this tandem than the scratchy side, feeling more like Bleu de Chanel's finish than that of it's major competitor, Dior Sauvage (2015), which is the reigning king of scratchy karmawood. There is a slight Haitian vetiver note here too, but it's a waxy kind, not smoky or grassy. The ginger stays with the dry down of Azzaro Wanted from start to finish, and the scent evolves from comfy lemon-oil and lavender to juniper and finally tonka, making this squarely a modern fougère sans oakmoss, but we can't really expect the latter from a designer of this level anymore, as the IFRA-safe denatured stuff is still too expensive to use. Silliage is moderate for something of this ilk, and Wanted doesn't have the best longevity either, with mostly office-safe accord it creates being better in temperature-controlled environments, as I see cold or extreme heat totally decimating the subtle trail this otherwise leaves. The spices drag this slightly towards scents like Dolce & Gabanna The One for Men (2008) or Penhaligon's Endymion (2003), but the lemony top prevents Wanted from being anything more than a flirt with oriental tones. I guess this qualifies as an oriental fougère, but it's certainly no Troisemme Homme de Caron (1985), that's for damned sure. Under the right weather conditions, I see this being a good dumb grab, which is a compliment for any scent from this generation.

Azzaro Wanted is definitely the best ambroxan freshie offering in the mid-tier designer range for the guy who can't splurge on Dior, Chanel, or YSL only because it's not 100% trying to be a marine-inspired "clean sheets smell" in a bottle with a trick-pony warm woodsy ambroxan base, but rather goes a little bit against the focus group design ethics which powers so much of the designer output by being just a tad floral and spicy. Put another way, Azzaro Wanted feels like the Yves Saint Laurent Jazz (1988) of it's generation, opting for spicy and slightly oriental fougère tones in an age when oceanic smells were coming in vogue, representing a bit less-edgy take on the theme of the day. Whereas YSL Jazz was up against calone shimmer, Azzaro Wanted is up against norlimbanol scratch, and with both fragrances, their lavender, spice, and fruit set them apart. Coincidentally, Jazz also was in a rather wacky bottle for being so sedate a scent, but history does repeat itself as they say. The guy who will like Wanted is a guy who either falls for the packaging, or likes the compromise of fresh and spicy this represents, as unlike Jazz, Wanted doesn't have nearly half the complexity so I won't say it's like a successor to it, just that it has the same vibe throughout it's wear time. Ultimately, Azzaro Wanted is still a modern middle-tier department store frag that's as safe as they come, with a deceptively campy presentation to tempt the blind buy, as is more and more common in this segment. I like Wanted enough to see myself wearing it, and for a daily grinder, you could do far worse, but you could also do a Hell of a lot better, but since there's nothing I particularly dislike about it either, I'll give this pistol Pete of a scent my thumbs up. You won't win a shootout at high noon wearing this, and I won't know if you'll truly feel wanted, but at least you won't blend in with the ocean of blue smells and nose-hair tickle that saturates the rank and file of which poor Azzaro must now share space. Best as a work or casual daytime scent in spring or fall, but not much else.
30th September, 2018

So Blue by Mancera

Mancera is Pierre Montale's collection geared to Western tastes while his original namesake collection is centered more on authentic Middle-Eastern fare, but I still get a lot exotica in every one I try, particularly with the strong authentic rose note found in most of these I've tried so far. Mancera So Blue (2015) is an oud-less rose fragrance from the house, listed as unisex from most sites which catalog it, but oddly listed as feminine on others (like Basenotes). Regardless of who is meant to wear So Blue, it's thoroughly unisex to my nose, as a super-aquatic with a fruity citric aldehydic top, a lovely dry Bulgarian rose middle supplemented by a slight salty marine note, and a base of musk, sandalwood, oakmoss, and amber. The structure is very Creed-like, which may automatically scream "blasphemy" for worshippers of that house, but there are differences, namely in that trademark house musk which Pierre Montale seemingly stuffs into all his creations, and in this case, the marine "blue" theme which also carries over to Aoud Blue Notes (2015) of the same year, a theme Creed has never fully done outside maybe Creed Virgin Island Water (2007). Aquatic fans might not get over the strong rose here, and folks who hate the aquatic vibe might also choose to stay clear, but this interesting " fruity rose aquatic musk" might be just the wild card a more open-minded perfumista or colognoisseur is craving.

Mancera So Blue opens with bergamot, lemon, mandarin, so much citrus! It's a very bright and sweet "blue" introduction with a fruity blackcurrant note to darken So Blue just enough that it doesn't feel ozonic like Wild Rose Aoud (2014) from the year before. The Bulgarian rose comes in pretty quickly and soon dominates the composition's next 30 minutes or so, with a salty marine aromachemical coming in alongside to re-assert the theme. We stay in "aquatic rose" mode for about an hour until base notes of creamy sandalwood and patchouli appear, with a slight resemblance to the modern designer "fruitchouli" feminine perfumes that might make this feel more for a woman to staunchly-masculine tastes, but if you stay with it, that changes. The final dry down of So Blue leaves a citrus and rose marine glow on top of sandalwood, faint oakmoss, patchouli, and the trademark Montale/Mancera musk, with the patchouli fading into the background as an olfactory binder of the other notes. Honestly, Mancera oud is always very dry and medicinal anyway, so I don't really miss it here, and So Blue is just fine without it. Sillage is moderate but staying power is monstrous here, so a little goes a long way with So Blue, and base just becomes ever more prevalent as it goes, which is quite lovely for those with patience. If I had any personal gripe with So Blue, it's that it sprays on deceptively quite then grows louder thanks to the fruit drying into the rose/marine tandem, which is much stronger than the top by orders of magnitude.

Mancera So Blue is no different from other Mancera creations in overall vibe, with bright nose-burning top notes, a strong rose and/or citrus, plus a dry medicinal oud and/or sandalwood/amber base with a musk throughout you either love or hate. I didn't get a lot of that notorious "Mancera Musk" other reviewers cite in Wild Rose Aoud, but I definitely get it here, and it's a sharp kind of musk, like a Calvin Klein laundry musk dimed on the amplifier, but it doesn't bother me, so I guess the rest of this house output will agree with me too. My biggest concern is the slight "fruitchouli" vibe that occurs during the dry down, as a lot of old heads hate that vibe, while a lot of really uppity niche-o-philes might see it as cheap, but again, not a deal breaker to me because it adds some genderbending quirkiness that fits the rest of this odd composition. As usual, Mancera is at the more reasonable end of the niche spectrum borderlining on designer price points, with lots of discounter sales around, making them a friendly entry point to the world of niche, with a quality of performance that definitely yields bang for buck. Another winner in my book, best for casual day wear in temperate environments, with thumbs way up! It's so blue!!! Cue all the Elvis, Patsy Cline, and LeAnne Rimes references in 3..2..1.. go go go! Seriously though, this stuff will put a smile on your face long before it makes you sad.
28th September, 2018

Salvatore Ferragamo pour Homme by Salvatore Ferragamo

Maybe Diptyque caused a small ripple in the 90's and early 2000's with their Fig-dominant Philosykos (1996), but one thing is clear: anything that followed in it's footsteps was an inferior creation for fig lovers, or superior scent for those who don't like an isolated fig "soliflore", as is the case with myself. It's equally strange that an Italian house like Salvatore Ferragamo would ask for a fig-forward scent as their masculine debut into fragrance instead of something sunnier, then even weirder that they would pull strings with their connection to Wertheimer thanks to Chanel holding the license to Ungaro fragrances (and Ferragamo Group owns Ungaro), so that they could involve Jacques Polge in it's creation. Jean-Pierre Mary also assisted Polge here, and his credentials included working with Boucheron and Dolce & Gabbana throughout the 90's, but honestly this scent feels more Polge than anything. Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme (1999) would blend fig leaf down into a bed of vetiver, woods, oakmoss, and musk, reigning in the musty "decayed peach" smell of full-force fig and making something of a figgy vetiver sandalwood parfait of it all. This is definitely a little left-of-center for Jacques Polge, and maybe Jean-Pierre Mary is responsible for that bit of quirk, but Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme is certainly well within Polge's stylistic wheelhouse, especially in view of his later Les Exclusifs creations or reworkings for Chanel.

Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme obviously opens with fig, but it's a fresh fig carried by dry grapefruit and neroli. Cyclamen and geranium add a green floral briskness to the stuff, but the fig just pushes through everything like that note tends to do when made to play along with other components. A clove note also appears a few minutes into the opening, and re-asserts the green theme of the top, with a rosewood/orris tandem that also presses for elbow room against the common jasmine/rose hedionic floral duo found in lighter hesperidic fragrances like this. Make no mistake however, as Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme is no Eau Sauvage (1966) or 1881 Pour Homme (1990), as this bright period in the middle is brief and transitory while that fig still screams overhead for another 15 to 20 minutes until the base brings in the bulk of the scent's true personality for the majority of it's semi-linear wear. Cardamom, cedar, and a gentle leather finally calm down the fig and rest with it on a cushy pillow of sandalwood, oakmoss, vetiver, and musk. This final dry-down phase is what will last the wearer of Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme the longest, and acts like a prototype Chanel Sycomore EDT (2008), just with an obvious fig twist and clove connective tissue. I rather like Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme, and although the fig opening still gives me nightmares of being drowned in Philosykos, it plays rather well in the end with what's otherwise a woody floral musk scent of quality craftsmanship. Of particular interest to me is the way the vetiver plays with fig here, almost like a vanilla to fig's chocolate, a yin to it's yang. The two green notes chase each other's tails endlessly around the sandalwood and clove, keeping me catching whiffs of both throughout the wear. It's admittedly the only really obvious note separation in the scent, so I'll take it.

I can really see where Polge likely took "his" part of the structure here and retooled it into the modern reboot of Sycomore, and anyone of any gender who appreciates the latter should just ignore the "pour homme" on the bottle of this Salvatore Ferragamo and give it a whirl, as it's rather unisex and has just the right amount of fig in the drydown to make it feel like an anachronistic flanker to Sycomore. I don't think the "fig craze" had a chance after mall shops like Bath and Body Works got ahold of it, plus the note also ends up alongside clove in a great many Christmas-themed air fresheners, so there is a chance that you might get that seasonal association with Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme too, and if you do, then at least you can wear it one or two months out of the year. As for me? I think Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme stands strong as a black sheep entry in the Polge canon, and best for fall through spring office and casual use. This scent doesn't have monstrous sillage but it does last a while, selling for a fraction of what other Chanel-labelled Polge creations do, making it also a good entry point to the perfumer for folks who don't want to spend in the triple digits to see what all the fuss is about. Vera Wang for Men (2004) would take a stab at fig with tobacco, but I feel it's presented best here, with the vetiver and sandalwood being good "handcuffs" for this otherwise out-of-control note in a very nice, aromatic, and safe environment. Thumbs up!
27th September, 2018

Green Irish Tweed by Creed

Creed Green Irish Tweed (1985) served unwittingly as the original notorious "I'm better than you" socio-economic superiority scent for men long before Aventus (2010) came along. While that latter scent targeted an army of justified "new money" sociopaths chugging protein shakes in one hand and cutting their employees' benefit packages with the other while juggling gym routines and their Tinder accounts simultaneously, Green Irish Tweed sat quietly through much of the 80's and 90's, gathering it's reputation (and Creed's) by going against the olfactory grain of the decade in the mainstream, appealing to the "old money" guys who didn't need to scream in order to prove their worth, and could still have an empathetic exchange with a stranger or tip the valet without a snarky comment. In the days of "GIT", Creed was almost an enigma to most people, as was the scent itself, and the house didn't advertise nor sell outside of it's own boutiques because it didn't have to, and like most ultra-luxe brands in an age before the popularization of the niche segment, Creed maintained it's clout through exclusivity via word of mouth by way of it's wealthy clients rather than condescending advertisements to the masses whom most of which resent being repeatedly reminded of what they "can't have". Creed had a different approach for most of it's life, and it's funny because Olivier Creed (Six Generation) was in charge then as he was when Aventus launched, but soulless marketing cronies hadn't wormed their way yet into his brain and talked him into "curating" the brand as an aspirational one, although he DID secretly pull assistance for this big move to publicly-distributed perfume from friend and fellow perfumer Pierre Bourdon, (who was coming off of YSL's 1981 hit Kouros), since Creed hadn't applied himself to the complexities of modern perfume like his father, as evidenced by the simple and traditional Olivier-crafted Fleurs de Bulgarie (1980). Pierre would famously cannibalize most of the formula he assisted in making with Olivier for a downmarket proxy by the name of Cool Water (1988), creating the aquatic genre which has been "soaking" the male market for decades since it's unleashing, but the aromachemical dihydromyrcenol made mainstream in Cool Water was first notably used more subtly by Bourdon here. Green Irish Tweed was supposedly worn by Cary Grant in his latter years, plus a handful of other Hollywood actors in years to come, which was an early celebrity link which helped moved units into the hands of guys who kept up with Hollywood tabloids.

If Aventus is a garish BMW M5 with a racing wing owned by a mouthy head software engineer fresh off his hiring bonus, Green Irish Tweed is the scent of the CEO who hired him, a man who quietly leaves the office in an all-black Mercedes S Class, making idle chat with the concierge who he knows by name and often gives his company skybox tickets to when he can't make the game. The scent opens with a bitter sharp green head which fades very fast, featuring a stiff hit of what is likely the best lemon verbena this side of Geoffrey Beene Bowling Green (1986), which holds the note much longer. It's perhaps best that the lemon verbena fades so fast, as the rest of the composition would be at odds with it since we basically have a prototype aquatic, the Ur-Cool Water if you will, underneath. Comparisons are inevitable but Cool Water and Green Irish Tweed are not the same animal outside of some chemical magic, even if I can see the DNA, since GIT uses iris and violet coupled with the famous Creed ambergris and sandalwood in it's drydown, while Cool Water goes through a more complex jumble of barbershop fougère notes and mint. Green Irish Tweed is actually quite simple and elegant, with a beautifully-unfolding green floral middle, because of that iris and violet, and no need for chemical white musk because the ambergris is such a complex, round, and rich base note that it requires no extra fattening with laundry musk like literally every aquatic with a composite amber note born in it's wake. A man wearing Green Irish Tweed in the 21st century will leave an unmistakably familiar trail thanks to the promulgation of it's base aromachems, but everything else about the scent will leave a sweet, crisp, and herbaceous ambergris glow most won't place, and only die-hard perfumistas or mutual wearers will likely identify. GIT is the superior scent between it and Cool Water in my opinion, but Cool Water is by no means a cheap imitation either, as it's simply a different direction meant for a different audience more into conspicuous consumption. I know Creed haters don't want to hear that, and I give Creed their fair share of guff too, but when this house gets it "right", they really really do. Sillage is way better than any aquatic, and so is longevity, but Green Irish Tweed is obviously no 80's powerhouse despite it's 1985 year of release, which is probably why it has continued to endure as a top-end option for successful men over 3 decades later, while newer selections have already been "vaulted", even after the release of it's spiritual successor, the much-lauded Aventus. I think green masculines overall might seem dated to some younger guys, regardless of price point, but anyone that appreciates understated class will like smell of Green Irish Tweed.

As for me, I'd take Green Irish Tweed over Aventus any day, as green florals with a sandalwood touch will appeal to me 10 to 1 over fruity white florals with a dab of smoke, and something like Green Irish Tweed has better summer legs and a more-natural smell, as even though it contains the infamous "aqua-chem" that would later hold hands with calone and run amok through the 90's. Best use for Green Irish Tweed is in office or casual day wear, and like many Creeds of this ilk, could be a daily driver if the price isn't prohibitive. I also have more appreciation for GIT because it's audience has matured and simmered down, so I don't have to worry about overzealous type-A personalities going "beastmode" in my message box or on replies to my forum posts for taking pot shots at their bottled ego juice. Longtime fans of GIT have since learned that pride can be carried with diginity just like any other aspect they possess, and just like GIT itself, they don't need to be the loudest thing in the room to be noticed for their qualities. I don't know if this stuff smells like a walk through the Irish countryside as Creed claims, but of all the more-accessible Creeds I've smelled, this is so far the only one I'd take any effort to acquire, which speaks a lot. Pierre Bourdon would also stick around to help Olivier Creed with Bois du Portugal (1987), which was the "loud 80's powerhouse" in the Creed canon, and a stiffly mature fragrance that nobody under 30 should touch (smell it and see), but Green Irish Tweed still wins me over as the best masculine 80's Creed, and maybe best masculine Creed period not only for thrusting the label into the public eye and erecting a segment of ultra-luxe top-end department store smells which they still lead, but by being truly ahead of it's time with a gentle grace during a decade when ham-fisted animalics ruled the day, and thus an extremely timeless fragrance carries on. I'm still at odds with Creed pricing, but GIT approaches "normal" niche levels more often than newer entries in their catalog thanks to over 30+ years of market saturation. Thumbs up here!
26th September, 2018

Swiss Army by Swiss Army

What's arguably worse than notoriety in the fragrance community? Well, anonymity is likely worse, because at least a bad fragrance is known to be bad, and draws in some curious stares. If nobody is talking about a scent, then likely nobody is buying or wearing it either, and it sort of dies a sad death in overstock warehouses across the globe. The venerable knife maker Victorinox isn't actually obscure, but one would argue that the name conjures images of the world-famous Swiss Army knife or even licensed camping gear long before any kind of fragrance, but after several aggressive expansions throughout the 70's and into the 90's, everything from luggage, apparel, watches, and toiletries became branded with the cross logo. I really like Swiss Army by Swiss Army (1996), which has since been rebranded as Swiss Army Classic under the Victorinox label due to the expansion of the line manyfold (more on that later), but I can't believe after 21 years of very conspicuous market presence, that nobody has ever talked much about it outside the reviews here. I had the stuff in High School, bought after a sniff from a tester at the local Wal-Mart, and I know that alone sends this damned near down the toilet sight unseen from the Creedophiles and Lutenites among us, but I wouldn't expect anyone buying certified-organic Cheerios from Whole Foods through the app on their $3000 Samsung smart fridge (those exist) to be bothered with a licensed brand fragrance anyway. As for the rest of you, Swiss Army Classic doesn't fit firmly in the 90's with it's minty green citrus vibe, since it's not ozonic or really all that aquatic either, resting somewhere between chypre and eau de cologne construction with EdT concentration, making it a lark among beige creations.

The opening notes are Japanese yuzu, bergamot, spearmint, and a small twinge of galbanum, which marries well. The yuzu is obviously inspired by L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme (1994), but it's odd bleached citrus tones mix with the mint and dry bergamot well, with a lavender sweetness in the middle which comes up fast to keep this from being the bitter sci-fi chemical bath that L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme's very stark opening becomes. Violet leaf dances with hearty rosemary, giving faint floral wisps of a greener de-gassed Fahrenheit (1988), but the alpine edelweiss flower gives Swiss Army Classic a unique "X factor" that comes across like a less-mustardy version of immortelle, which like Guerlain Coriolan (1998), gives appeal that one can't quite place their finger on during the heart of the wear. The base for Swiss Army Classic is a less interesting clean laundry musk not with a synthetic "cypress" note that underlines the price point like the bases of most inexpensive scents, but it earns the chypre comparison at least. Cedar and balsam fir bring more green to the bottom which mixes with the green top, and the whole thing is like backpacking through Switzerland at the end, but I don't get any chestnut or fireplace notes like the pyramid here suggests (guess they borrowed some fantasy from Calvin Klein too). Swiss Army Classic isn't the most unique thing out there, but in comparison to other things released in the mid-to-late 90's, the scent is rather old-school, and it's unknown perfumer seemed apt to mix trendy 90's citruses with barbershop heart notes and a light chypre-like green base that comes across like an eau de cologne but with a bit more woodsy oomph. Longevity and sillage aren't monstrous for the stuff and summer is definitely the best time to use Swiss Army Classic, but it's refreshing without feeling super artificial.

I guess this stuff sold well somewhere in the world, as Victorinox felt compelled to vomit out a Swiss Army's worth of flankers that I've never seen, and there have even been some clones of this spotted online, so it must be popular enough in some regions to be boolegged, which is puzzling since it's non-existent in the US outside discount sites or obscure mall kiosks. I haven't seen the stuff in the wild since my original bottle was exhausted sometime in the early 2000's and I never bothered replacing it because I was knee-deep in Avon then designers, but I feel Swiss Army Classic has suffered a bit of critical injustice if apparently not commercial because it never caught the attention of the fragrance community. If you're looking for a quickly citrus floral musk with a garnish of smooth mint, an exotic flower which a song was named after, and lots of green, this might be your newfound obscure gem. Swiss Army is most comparable to Live Jazz by Yves Saint Laurent (1998), but doesn't have the boozy clear rum note, is more floral, plus is a Hell of a lot cheaper and easier to find because it's not discontinued. People who miss Live Jazz being commonly available and don't want to pay over department store prices might also have a new hero in the Swiss Army. I won't say the stuff is "classic", but this forgotten 90's cheapie is surprisingly not very 90's in tone, checking off all the boxes for an herbal citric tonic-like eau that doesn't sag like a cologne. Very nice!
25th September, 2018

Swiss Army Classic by Victorinox

What's arguably worse than notoriety in the fragrance community? Well, anonymity is likely worse, because at least a bad fragrance is known to be bad, and draws in some curious stares. If nobody is talking about a scent, then likely nobody is buying or wearing it either, and it sort of dies a sad death in overstock warehouses across the globe. The venerable knife maker Victorinox isn't actually obscure, but one would argue that the name conjures images of the world-famous Swiss Army knife or even licensed camping gear long before any kind of fragrance, but after several aggressive expansions throughout the 70's and into the 90's, everything from luggage, apparel, watches, and toiletries became branded with the cross logo. I really like Swiss Army by Swiss Army (1996), which has since been rebranded as Swiss Army Classic under the Victorinox label due to the expansion of the line manyfold (more on that later), but I can't believe after 21 years of very conspicuous market presence, that nobody has ever talked much about it outside the reviews here. I had the stuff in High School, bought after a sniff from a tester at the local Wal-Mart, and I know that alone sends this damned near down the toilet sight unseen from the Creedophiles and Lutenites among us, but I wouldn't expect anyone buying certified-organic Cheerios from Whole Foods through the app on their $3000 Samsung smart fridge (those exist) to be bothered with a licensed brand fragrance anyway. As for the rest of you, Swiss Army Classic doesn't fit firmly in the 90's with it's minty green citrus vibe, since it's not ozonic or really all that aquatic either, resting somewhere between chypre and eau de cologne construction with EdT concentration, making it a lark among beige creations.

The opening notes are Japanese yuzu, bergamot, spearmint, and a small twinge of galbanum, which marries well. The yuzu is obviously inspired by L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme (1994), but it's odd bleached citrus tones mix with the mint and dry bergamot well, with a lavender sweetness in the middle which comes up fast to keep this from being the bitter sci-fi chemical bath that L'Eau D'Issey Pour Homme's very stark opening becomes. Violet leaf dances with hearty rosemary, giving faint floral wisps of a greener de-gassed Fahrenheit (1988), but the alpine edelweiss flower gives Swiss Army Classic a unique "X factor" that comes across like a less-mustardy version of immortelle, which like Guerlain Coriolan (1998), gives appeal that one can't quite place their finger on during the heart of the wear. The base for Swiss Army Classic is a less interesting clean laundry musk not with a synthetic "cypress" note that underlines the price point like the bases of most inexpensive scents, but it earns the chypre comparison at least. Cedar and balsam fir bring more green to the bottom which mixes with the green top, and the whole thing is like backpacking through Switzerland at the end, but I don't get any chestnut or fireplace notes like the pyramid here suggests (guess they borrowed some fantasy from Calvin Klein too). Swiss Army Classic isn't the most unique thing out there, but in comparison to other things released in the mid-to-late 90's, the scent is rather old-school, and it's unknown perfumer seemed apt to mix trendy 90's citruses with barbershop heart notes and a light chypre-like green base that comes across like an eau de cologne but with a bit more woodsy oomph. Longevity and sillage aren't monstrous for the stuff and summer is definitely the best time to use Swiss Army Classic, but it's refreshing without feeling super artificial.

I guess this stuff sold well somewhere in the world, as Victorinox felt compelled to vomit out a Swiss Army's worth of flankers that I've never seen, and there have even been some clones of this spotted online, so it must be popular enough in some regions to be boolegged, which is puzzling since it's non-existent in the US outside discount sites or obscure mall kiosks. I haven't seen the stuff in the wild since my original bottle was exhausted sometime in the early 2000's and I never bothered replacing it because I was knee-deep in Avon then designers, but I feel Swiss Army Classic has suffered a bit of critical injustice if apparently not commercial because it never caught the attention of the fragrance community. If you're looking for a quickly citrus floral musk with a garnish of smooth mint, an exotic flower which a song was named after, and lots of green, this might be your newfound obscure gem. Swiss Army is most comparable to Live Jazz by Yves Saint Laurent (1998), but doesn't have the boozy clear rum note, is more floral, plus is a Hell of a lot cheaper and easier to find because it's not discontinued. People who miss Live Jazz being commonly available and don't want to pay over department store prices might also have a new hero in the Swiss Army. I won't say the stuff is "classic", but this forgotten 90's cheapie is surprisingly not very 90's in tone, checking off all the boxes for an herbal citric tonic-like eau that doesn't sag like a cologne. Very nice!
25th September, 2018

Aventus by Creed

Ah Aventus... the scent trail of an alpha male among betas and omegas stalking his territory in a late-stage capitalism society which confuses merit with equity, exalting career criminals as business leaders and decries empathy as a vestige of weakness to be bred out like a recessive gene. The marketing campaign of the fragrance itself places the notorious Napoleon Bonaparte at it's center, a chauvinist and narcissist who is literally the poster child for a complex meant to diagnose insecurity in men, and indeed Aventus (2010) targets that very same insecurity in it's market, as almost a wonder drug made to cure it. The unforseen consequence for this is Creed pulling in customers from way below the pay grade of their ideal client, which has made Aventus borderline-mainstream, or about as mainstream as a $500MSRP men's fragrance can get, which has led to a slew of low-cost clones, and a robust decanting market willing to sell little chips off of large commercial-sized urns Creed makes knowingly for resellers. Factor in all the seemingly-intentional batch fluctuation (poor quality control IMO), and a whole new hysteria of finding "the perfect version" of the already "perfect" man-juice is manifest, seeing working stiffs going off the psychological deep end in their quest for the biggest deus ex machina to use in their socio-economic conquest of each other. Whew... that's some heavy shit man.. now for the scent itself. Aventus is actually pretty unique, and once you parse away the Randian and Nietzschian drivel that has attached itself to the stuff like a social parasite (delicious irony), you're left with a slightly smokey, fruity floral which sits between fresh fougère and chypre but ultimately swings chypre because of the labadanum and oakmoss in the base. I haven't dealt with much of the variation, so my review may not apply to your batch, but the amount of "smoke" in mine is subtle, and the pineapple is also not terribly overwhelming either, so maybe I have some "Goldilocks" batch where all the sliders are at neutral? Who knows? Who cares? Shall we carry on?

Aventus is far too fair and pretty a scent to be aligned with such "toxic masculinity" culture as it's marketing has fostered, which may also be part of it's appeal for me: it's tragic beauty caught in the throws of it's own misgivings, carried off by the demons it's very existence summons, leaving those who smell it unawares to be captivated whilst blissfully ignorant of it's notoriety, upon which once learned, transform that captivation to contempt. The scent opens with pineapple, blackcurrant, and French apples carried aloft on a ray of dry bergamot, giving a fruity hesperidic zesty sweetness that will never not turn heads; the opening of Aventus is where all the magic happens, and the rest of the composition serves to lock in that opening note with supporting bedrocks. Jasmine and rose make an appearance in the middle, like many men's floral chypres of old, but liberated of the indole or sharp green galbanum that usually makes this combo feel "perfumey". Instead, there's a dry lightness which is almost unisex in the middle, joined by a rather medicinal take on patchouli, with birch and a peck of vetiver for the oft-quoted "pineapple smoke" of the heart. The base is pure Creed with an authentic ambergris note, joined by oakmoss and a white musk which adds a touch of the modern "laundry" aspect which reminds you this is from 2010. There's Iso E Super here too, and some dry vanilla, but little else, as the point is to let that opening fruity hesperidic floral accord dominate, and it's all rather dandy for a scent lauded by gym bros as a lady killer... ahh all the more deliciously ironic. Aventus actually feels like it benefits from being a distinctive fruity floral scent in an age of aquatics or scratchy woods, and if something like this saw release in the late 80's like other things similar, it would be long discontinued now and exalted by the vintage community instead of the six-figure set or those hopeful to be.

I rather like Aventus, although I despise the online community that has popped up around it, ready to chase you into battle on any forum, hack your Facebook, or make a subreddit about how much you suck for being too plebian and poor to understand why Aventus is the "best scent evarrrrr", and I really wanted to dislike the stuff too just because of the toxicity which surrounds it. On the bright side, Aventus has reimagined a chypre accord for the modern man, and offers something fresh and clean with classic touches, so hats off to Olivier and Erwin Creed for that. Aventus has also proven to be a tremendous gateway drug to the perfume hobby for many a man in search of "grail juice" so it's also helped keep the hobby alive alongside filling Creed's coffers. Aventus has proven to be a hard act to follow, and Creed's own Viking (2017) has fallen far short of the task, since nobody is making Viking subforums or burner accounts to dodge bannings for bad manners online. Longevity is killer, but the sillage isn't "beastmode" as "Aventusites" will claim, but it is above average. Aventus is almost a generalist to me, with casual, office, and romantic use feeling appropriate, since it's fresh fruity floral side is so likeable, and it's smokey underbelly carrying more warmth than expected in a scent like this. I'd say this fails only in extreme heat and cold, where it's generalized nature isn't tuned properly to cope, but again, overzealous fans would challenge me to fisticuffs over that. If you can afford it, Aventus, really isn't a bad daily driver, but as the saying goes "it's too rich for my blood", so if and when a full bottle does appear on my wardrobe, I'll have to keep my "smokey pineapple secret weapon" under lock and key for special use only. I totally understand why folks love this so fervently, as the next nearest thing to something so unique yet so comfortably familiar was Curve for Men by Liz Claiborne (1996), and that stuff also had it's own army of acolytes for the better part of a decade too, they just all drove beat-up Chevys and old Toyotas instead of BMWs and Teslas. Good stuff, totally undeserving of it's hype, and still too much for what it is, but at least earning a thumbs-up from me.
24th September, 2018 (last edited: 25th September, 2018)

Aqua Velva Musk by Williams

The wonderful thing about musks as a genre is they don't wander far from base note, keeping surprises to a minimum. Some go in a more floral or soapy direction, others go a bit more aromatic and leathery, while some go strait for animalic hair-raising musk aroma not fit for polite society, but best of all, it doesn't take a lot of money to find a decent musk anymore if you enjoy it. Naturally, a lot of this has to do with the proliferation of synthetic musks that basically replaced all the deer hunting which used to supply perfumers with the commodity, and suddenly musk was no longer a rare and precious material. On the flip side, synthetic musks made the process of creating musk scents so inexpensive that once musk itself came back in fashion around the late 1960's, they were often the entry point of every fly-by-night aftershave, cologne, or perfume upstart trying to get in the game on the ground floor until the genre was beaten into the ground, which is where our story begins with Aqua Velva Musk (1975). Aqua Velva (1935) was originally released as an all-purpose mouthwash/after shave/hair tonic in 1917 before being more heavily-mentholated in 1929, then changed blue with bittering agent in a 1935 version so soldiers who received it in their drop packs wouldn't drink it, eventually replacing the original formula domestically so Williams didn't have to produce two variants, but they reversed this very same thinking by the end of the 1960's when new "flavors" were introduced to compete with all the variants of Old Spice (1937) and English Leather (1949). Aqua Velva Musk launched the same year that both Shulton and MEM released their own musk variants of Old Spice and English Leather respectively, as musk itself had slowly been on the rise thanks to Kiehl's Original Musk (1963), Alyssa Ashley Musk (1968), a double-male-whammy of both Jovan Musk (1973) and Monsieur Houbigant/Monsieur Musk), then finally Coty Musk for Men (1974), guys everywhere by the mid-70's were just nuts for musk as the "secret weapon" for the date scene.

It was only a matter of time before the drugstore giants like Williams, Shulton, MEM and all that lot got into the musk race too, and as mentioned above, it's an easy genre to abuse due to it's inexpensive nature to produce synthetically, which lead to much such abuse, and a great many superfluous and ineffectual examples of "men's musk cologne" either as flankers such as this, or obscure stand-alone one-off labels that lasted a few years then poofed into non-existence, fought over by drugstore memorabilia collectors on eBay decades thereafter. I'm happy to report that at the R&D department of Williams, somebody must have done their homework on musk because Aqua Velva Musk is not only more sophisticated than the average bear from this price point, but generally a classier and truly masculine example of the genre, and not just laundry musk laid over top of an existing note pyramid. Aqua Velva Musk features a tobacco and leather base that ever-so-slightly reminds of the original Aqua Velva's leather chypre core, but does it's own thing with the rest of the composition. Aqua Velva Musk opens with a brighter-than-usual mentholated citrus coming from a bergamot/orange/lemon /mint tandem, and is semi-sweet with slight tarragon and sage notes in the middle to make it a bit green as well. The usually-meaty tarragon note adds a sweat factor which helps keep Aqua Velva Musk out of the laundry basket like many from this variety, but there's a still slight nod to the barbershop aesthetic thanks to a rich lavender working with the mint too. This is Aqua Velva after all, so even as a quasi-virile concoction, it has to tie in with wet shaving, but manages this feet without the brutish uneasiness of Jovan Musk for Men, or ambiguous too-clean lines of Coty Musk for Men. The base is naturally going to be that musk note, with the aforementioned classic Aqua Velva "brown leather shoe" note, alongside a pipe tobacco backdrop, some oakmoss, and tonka. The mentholated edge of this burns off nearly as quickly as the sting from application, but what's left behind is a leathery aromatic sweet musk which could almost be a base to layer something else on top of, or worn all by itself, which isn't a bad bit of versatility.

There's no doubt this won't compete with Muscs Koublaï Khän by Serge Lutens (1998), Musc Ravageur by Editions Parfums Frédéric Malle (2000), or even a nice bottle of the Kiehl's mentioned above, as this is not a serious connoisseur's musk by any measure, nor does it have much of the dirty vibe real musk lovers crave. Avon Musk for Men (1983) comes really close to this, but is a bit more piney and much harder to find as it's been discontinued in it's original format for a very long time, so Aqua Velva Musk might be the cure for folks who miss that one. Longevity is decent for an aftershave, and this challenges the cologne segment, but won't stand up to a proper eau de toilette without lots of reapplication, hence my hinting at layering this with something you also enjoy. Aqua Velva Musk does have decent projection in it's 6 hour max life span, so I'd be careful with over-applying thinking it might boost the wear time, because you'll just gas everyone out instead. Trust me, I knew an older guy who stocked shelves at my local grocery back home, and he was always soaked in this stuff; you knew what aisle he was in by the smell before you ever saw the guy, but he loved his Aqua Velva Musk so what can I say? For being around $5, I won't give this too much flack, as it is quite good for a simple citric musk aftershave with a sweet tobacco and leather bottom end to keep it macho, but it's still something that will feel woefully dated in civil company thanks to sideburns and tall collars aesthetic that even 40 years of time can't shake loose. The stuff survived the culling of a great many flanker when Combe took over production of Aqua Velva for Williams, so I guess that also speaks to the unique quality of the stuff, which punches far above it's plastic bottle drugstore aisle weight without a doubt. There aren't many disco-era man musks I'll wear (at any price point or vintage), but this one does just barely register a blip on my radar when I have that itch to scratch and don't want to reach for Houbigant or Avon, as it's just a tad more refined than most of it's brethren despite it's cheapo origins. Keep this one to nights at home alone after an evening shave. Your friends will thank you for it later.
24th September, 2018

Bleu de Chanel Parfum by Chanel

What does a house like Chanel do when their biggest-selling male fragrance line since probably the first continues to sell well nearly a dacade after it's launch and without the aid of a myriad flanking varieties? Like it or not, the final mainstream masculine work of Jacques Polge, his commercial "aquatic done right" which finally placed Chanel into a category it was more than twenty years behind on, was a smash success, and Chanel was smart about not fixing what "ain't broke" and handling the line like a feminine one, with alternate formula tweaks via concentration levels rather than entirely new flavors wearing the Bleu de Chanel (2010) badge a la their Allure Homme (1999) line. The latter frankly needed the variety to survive after the Y2K mediocrity that was the original pillar, but such isn't the case here. Jacques Polge took one final stab a year before retirement making an eau de parfum version of Bleu de Chanel simply called Bleu de Chanel Eau de Parfum (2014), and it was a slightly warmer, sweeter, more ambery take on the original that supplemented heavier doses of the ambroxan and norlimbanol the original contained with additional citruses and an old-fashioned vanillic composite amber note. I personally didn't see that one as an essential purchase for owners of the more complex and dynamic eau de toilette, but folks who hadn't yet entered the BdC game might dig it. Jacques Polge was tired, and ready to hand the reigns over to his son Olivier Polge, who had trained under both his father and Chanel artistic director Christopher Sheldrake, so it wasn't much of stretch to imagine that he didn't really try much with the eau de parfum before turning in his keys. Bleu de Chanel Parfum (2018) answers the question first posed at the beginning of this review, and is the first official masculine outing from new head perfumer and prodigal son Olivier Polge. I feel like Bleu de Chanel Parfum is a direct reaction to competitors like Dior Sauvage (2015) and Yves Saint Laurent Y for Men (2017), as both of them continued upping the ante with ambroxan and norlimbanol in a "loudness war" for the title of screechiest chemical fragrance of the century (and I like Sauvage so I say that kindly). Bleu de Chanel Parfum keeps itself distinguished by moving not up, but to the side, offering a fundamentally different experience from the core pillar of the Bleu de Chanel line, unlike the erstwhile EdP.

Bleu de Chanel Parfum sees Olivier Polge strip away a lot of the rather impressive blending his father did with the original Bleu de Chanel note structure, and indeed hacks away at unessential notes too, with a lot of the citrus outside the grapefruit gone with the wind. In their place, Olivier introduces a rounded French lavender, giving a link of sorts to the fresh fougère genre of the early 90's citing examples like Eternity for Men by Calvin Klein (1989) or Paco Rabanne XS Pour Homme (1993). Pink peppercorn surives the cull, while the dihydromyrcenol and mint are kicked up, giving the parfum a stronger "dryer sheet" aquatic lean not unlike Wings for Men by Giorgio Beverly Hills (1994), but these notes rush into the heart very quickly and all but the mint drops off. There, in that glorious middle, cedar joins this mint, alongside labadanum and ginger, with the rest of the old heart also excised from the composition. The base of Bleu de Chanel parfum is where the most dramatic difference lies between it and it's fore-bearers, since the ambroxan is turned up but the norlimbanol turned down, and some form of Australian sandalwood (New Caledonian according to Chanel) taking the place of the trimmed "karmawood" scratch. The composite amber note from the eau de parfum is also here, but it is turned down and therefore less vanillic or sweet, serving just to round off the additional woods, the lingering mint, ginger, and soft citrus. The result of this stark simplification is a version of Bleu de Chanel which feels more natural, with much more note separation, and clear-cut transitions from the top, heart, and base through the wear. Now I'm not saying there still isn't a prescription's worth of synthetics in the parfum, but they share space with more natural-smelling, if not actually natural accords here, with minimal traces of the "scouring powder" scratch that many things from the genre the original Bleu de Chanel created seem to break down into in the end. Just like the advertisements say, this is a woody, more aromatic, and intense interpretation of Bleu de Chanel.

Whereas I felt the eau de parfum was a sweeter, richer, and quieter take on the eau de toilette made void of it's freshness (and charm), the parfum isn't similarly an aquatic with it's wings clipped, but rather not really an aquatic at all thanks to the prominent lavender. What we have here is a woodsy parfum with a minty lavender citrus barbershop top, using aquatic elements blended into mint and lavender to make the appropriate "bleu" vibe, but without actually feeling like it's replicating the smell of water. Bleu de Chanel parfum has a similar approach to what Aqua Velva (1935) or Gillette Cool Wave (1993) take by placing an aqueous note back behind lavender and mint and not the other way around. Without sounding like I'm debasing the Chanel by comparing it to a drugstore aftershave, let's just say that it's an ephemeral freshness meant to introduce and not dominate the rest of the composition. Once Bleu de Chanel Parfum gets on skin for any appreciable amount of time, it's minty woods, lavender, and amber for the duration, which is a far cry from the original EdT or even EdP, meaning owning the parfum would not be redundant for owners of the EdT, unlike the EdP release. Wear time for Bleu de Chanel Parfum is long and sillage is actually greater than with the Eau de Parfum release, and since it jives differently, one could almost layer the original eau de toilette on top the parfum so as to get that dynamic citrus and pepper on top the lavender, amber, and sandalwood base. People who took issue with the synthetic nature of the original entry, or just hate all things modern will not click with this, and if the original Bleu de Chanel couldn't change your mind about aquatics, this parfum won't change your mind about the Bleu de Chanel line either. The parfum feels like a companion fragrance that's nearly a flanker with the way it stands apart, which is something Dior and YSL also seem to be doing with higher concentrations of their marquee masculines as well. Bleu de Chanel sees Olivier Polge hitting the ground running, and the simple elegant quality here has me hoping that the next great masculine pillar will be a real return to form for the house of Chanel.
22nd September, 2018

Cabochard by Grès

There's a pretty big story behind Cabochard de Grés (1959), which is appropriate given this is a big, big perfume. Alix "Madame" Grés herself returned from a trip to India and imagined a perfume that captured her memories of the experience. Her first concept was assigned to Guy Robert, who came back with a light and airy tuberose scent that Alix loved, but her advisors said wouldn't sell in the mid-century market of strong "liberated women" chypres like Piguet Bandit (1944), and Estée Lauder Youth Dew (1953), so a second fragrance composed by Bernard Chant (future unofficial Lauder house perfumer through until the 80's) was commissioned with these bolder trends in mind. Alix Grés initially decided to release both fragrances under the names "Chouda" and "Cabochard" respectively. The former is Hindi slang for copulation (shortened from "bakachouda") while the latter simply means "headstrong". Suffice it to say that Chouda de Grés never saw market, but a lifetime supply was produced for personal use by Madame Grés herself, while Cabochard de Grés was the one everyone else was able to buy. I think this was probably for the best, as despite Cabochard following conventions of the day, it's specifics would later open a whole new door for men and women scent-wise, being a green-topped floral leather chypre that inspired nearly all of Bernard Chant's future output with Estée Lauder, and similar green things from Chanel, Givenchy, Dior, Jacomo, Revlon, Avon, and so many more. Cabochard was made for the smoking and drinking woman, the commanding woman that couldn't be tied down by a husband because she had things to do in her life, and wasn't afraid to crack a whip. Guys in modern times who love leather could certainly love this too, as it's of surprising quality given the palty prices it commands.

The smell of Cabochard really wasn't super ground-breaking in the leather chypre realms, as Caron Tabac Blonde (1919), Knize Ten (1924), Chanel Cuir de Russie (1924), Lanvin Scandal (1933), Alfred Dunhill for Men (1934) and MEM English Leather (1949) had all infused various degrees of nostril burn from light tanning aldehydes to full-on gasoline depending on the scent, but what Cabochard did differently from the rest of them was add a dollop of androgynous sharp green galbanum, a grassy top note that would come to dominate designer fragrances in the following decades, and mixed with aldehydes and leather, galbanum packs quite a punch. Much like we see with ambroxan and norlimbanol in the 21st century, the galbanum and leather combo was on display with moderation in Cabochard, then subsequently dialed up in a loudness war little by little as competitors emerged, but here, the hefty petrol green combo is at harmony with the rest of the composition. Galbanum and leather is obviously joined by hesperidic citrus notes which were also gathering favor at the time, with herbs like clary sage and tarragon finishing out the top. Rose, jasmine, geranium, all notes Bernard Chant would continue to abuse in future works are here in the heart, and despite this being marketed as a feminine for Grés, by the 70's it would be clear that Cabochard was more of the Ur-Aramis "Laudernade" accord than anything else. Ylang-ylang and orris also make a show here, but by the base we're moved into familiar chypre territory with mossy layers of dry woods and vetiver ontop a re-asserted leather note with just a smidge of castoreum. Cabochard still had to appeal to the ladies, so we're not drowning in the animalic castoreum like in Bogart One Man Show (1980) or Chanel Antaeus (1981), but it supports the moss bite and leather crackle nicely. Cabochard wears well almost year-round like most green leathers, but probably best in extreme heat or cold, where different sides of it's wild dynamic will show through.

Cabochard is a must-buy for fans of petrol leather from any part of the gender spectrum, and wears rather masculine in the 21st century but likely seemed unisex even in 1959 due to the high amount of green notes. A CIS-gendered heterosexual woman can still very much pull off Cabochard given that she's the boss in the office or head artist at the local tattoo parlour, but otherwise this is way too butch for the "fruitchouli floral" mall scent crowd associated with modern perfume concepts of femininity. Guys who own Aramis (1965) will get a kick out of knowing that it was a re-tooled Cabochard with rounder florals and moss, with a higher dose of aldehydes, and wearing Cabochard side-by-side with Aramis will reveal it to be stiffer, greener, more bitter, and ironically more intimidating, so therefore more "masculine" than Aramis outside of the higher presence of rose and jasmine, which these days are stuffed into a lot of masculine fragrances from the niche segment anyway. Eau de toilette is the way to go for a more terrifying top and greater sillage, but the eau de parfum will last longer whilst glowing closer to the skin with a heavier floral bass riff. Vintage will have higher animalics and oakmoss, but modern is tamer but still damn good. Like most virile leather chypre scents, there's no "right" time to wear Cabochard, so headstrong ladies, gentlemen, and kind folk will just have to take their chances with it. If the 60's through 80's green chypres were a bordello, 1959's Cabochard de Grés is the head mistress. She may not be as spry or loud as those under her keep, but she's the one you should fear most. Absolutely riveting stuff!
21st September, 2018

Bleu de Chanel Eau de Parfum by Chanel

I said my piece on the whys and wherefores of the Bleu de Chanel (2010) line on the entry for the original eau de toilette that launched it, and despite every indication from the learned and scrupled crowd of male fragrance connoisseurs here on Basenotes pointing toward Bleu de Chanel being a vapid generalist sell-out, the overall effect of wearing the late coming Chanel entry into the aquatic genre was actually pleasurable. Granted, an aquatic is an aquatic is an aquatic, as all the myriad children of Davidoff Cool Water (1988) have a very narrowly-defined blueprint to which they must adhere if they wish to be recognizable for what they are, and that makes even Chanel's uncommonly sophisticated entry still a victim of the "if you're not a beer drinker" argument that states if you don't like the style, Bleu de Chanel still won't change your mind. With that having been said, taking the alternative concentrations route instead of the flankers route was a surprising move for Chanel here with Bleu de Chanel Eau de Parfum (2014), as everyone just so intently expected a sport, intense, eau fraîche, la nuit, or something other than just an eau de parfum option of the best-selling masculine. If you know anything about Chanel's practices with concentrations as per what they usually do with their feminine lines, you'll probably have already guessed that this is a slightly different composition and not just more perfume oil. Chanel had initially done this with masculines too right around the end of the 20th century, with entries like Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée (1989) or Égoïste Cologne Concentrée (1992), but it hasn't been since then that something like what we have here has appeared.

Four years after the release of the original mega-popular Bleu de Chanel, comes this EdP, and there still wasn't much competition then since Prada Luna Rossa (2012) didn't really light anyone's world on fire, plus we were still a year away from the launch of Dior Sauvage (2015), the biggest challenger Bleu de Chanel has in the ambroxan and norlimbanol loudness wars. The composition to the EdP therefore doesn't feel like a marked improvement or variation from the original release, much like Égoïste Cologne Concentrée wasn't much different from the original Égoïste (1990), but had a few of it's graphic equalizer sliders moved up a few notches while a few others are slid down. In practical terms, this means a similar but dialed-down opening achieved by a few top notes being moved to the heart for sustain, then more notes stuffed into the heart, which is where eau de parfums work hardest, then a shuffled-around base to make the dry down feel differently than in the eau de toilette to (attempt to) warrant a purchase. Drier and lighter notes like lemon and bergamot, join the peppermint in the top, while grapefruit, vetiver and pink pepper move downstairs to live in the middle here alongside the nutmeg, labadanum, and cedar, with jasmine and ginger also intensified a bit. The only new addition to the composition is an old-fashioned composite amber accord, which provides a vanillic sweetness that hides the scratchy harshness otherwise caused by ramped-up ambroxan and norlimbanol, which is something later perfumes in this style by other houses would seldom even try to do at all. Sillage is lower than the EdT but the burn is expectedly longer on skin, but is it really better? No, and in fact, I find this iteration of the 2010's Chanel masculine pillar to be less dynamic and therefore less interesting.

I've always sort of felt that the very nature of aquatics goes against them lending themselves well to being perfumes. Colognes or toilet waters in a synthetic but breezy crisp style definitely have their place and have obviously resonated with the general public for three decades now, but their lightness is actually where their appeal lies, and to take that away is to doom their effectiveness as what they're intended to be. Simply put, Bleu de Chanel Eau de Parfum is an aquatic that isn't fresh, and there will never be wisps of that effervescent and bouncy top past the opening 15 minutes like there is with the original eau de toilette, just a DMV waiting room of sweet florals, spices and synthetic base notes meant to simulate the comfort of real woods and animalics like cedar or ambergris, and it's all very "Glade Plug-In" at that point once the top is neutered on their behalf. If Chanel had wanted this to work better, they should have asked Jacques Polge to just totally reinvent it as a new scent like he did with Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée, which is a warmer, richer, altogether different experience than the original Chanel Pour Monsieur (1955) from Henri Robert. This isn't bad, but has the olfactive effect of digitally remastering an album to be louder, squishing the dynamic range in the process, and losing both crisp highs and deep bass to clipping in favor of terrorizing you with a crackly midrange vocal track which makes even the best set of speakers sound like a muzac system in the very same DMV mentioned above. Come on Chanel, you know better. More of a "good" thing isn't always what we want.
21st September, 2018

Number 3 / Le 3ème Homme / The Third Man by Caron

The legacy of Ernest Daltroff and his exactingly traditional perfume style was evident at Caron even years after his death, and having made only 2 very iconic masculine fragrances since their 1904 inception up to the point Number 3 (1985) was named and released, Caron had a tall order to serve. Pour Un Homme De Caron (1934) was Daltroff's own homage to the lavender-scented dandy of the late 19th century, giving guys an "official" masculine lavender they didn't have to sneak into the women's perfume counter to buy. Yatagan (1976) was a fierce green leather chypre from Vincent Marcello in the burly 70's convention that was very much against the genteel grain Daltroff set with Pour Un Homme, so it makes some sense that Caron would return to the style they helped set during Daltroff's lifetime with Number 3. Richard Fraysse, head nose at Caron at the time did most of the composing here, with the help of little-known perfumer Akiko Kamei, created a lush floral fougère of early 20th century design, bolstered with the bold spiciness of oriental tones to make it appropriately loud for the powerhouse age of the 1980's. Number 3 is a mature gentleman's scent with hints of romanticism, and although not a full oriental, was a slight presage to Calvin Klein Obsession for Men (1986), which would take a similar romantic but office-safe direction, just with sweeter and richer tones. What amazes me most about a fragrance like this is the fact that it sits squarely in feminine realms in regard to traditions surrounding the ingredients used in it's composition, but literally because it's a fougère "pour homme", all is seemingly forgiven even by the staunchest of manly men despite how actually gender-neutral it smells, much like the preceding Pour Un Homme de Caron.

Number 3, or Le Troisemme Homme/The Third Man de Caron (three names for the third scent), was partly named after the Orson Welles film and like Pour Un Homme De Caron, is meant to carry the same level of calm elegance. The opening therefore is the trademark rounded French lavender found in the debut Caron masculine, but rather than swaddled in just oakmoss, civet, tonka, and vanilla, it's dressed to the nines with anise, rosemary, and bergamot in the top, to make it a bit more resonant in a tenor pitch rather than the baritone hum of Pour Un Homme. This is just the start however, as we move quickly into cinnamon-sprinkled carnation, jasmine, rose, and geranium. It's that floral dandy heart touched with manly spice which keeps Number 3 straddling the 1980's and 1880's, with a "fern-like" green touch of nutty vetiver alongside the florals to keep Number 3 from feeling too flamboyant. The base is pure Caron richness just like Pour Un Homme, with coumarin, vanilla, and an oakmoss bite carrying over, augmented into an 80's hard rock power chord with ambrette-style musk, not the laundry stuff you'd usually expect. Patchouli and cedar make a show to maintain that fougère accord, but there are no animalic traces outside that musk note, making Number 3 remarkably tame in a decade ruled by castoreum, styrax, and civet overdoses in the men's fragrance segment. Sillage is throbbing but of medium radiance, while longevity is stellar, so you'll never need to worry about reapplication. This kind of fragrance also has amazing potential on a lady, much like alluded to above, since it's florals, musk, amber, and vanilla are very agreeable to the feminine sensibility. It's true that not many lavender-heavy fragrances make their way into the women's sphere these days outside some things from Chanel, but the lavender here is honestly lighter and much more mixed-down than usual, being more of an overture for the rest of the composition rather than the main body.

What I find most interesting about Number 3 is how it sits squarely between rich orange and lavender orientals like Aramis JHL (1982) or Jaïpur Homme (1998), and fruity floral fougères like Zino Davidoff (1986) or Lapidus Pour Homme (1987), yet also be so distinctly it's own animal because of that wonderfully-French top hat and cane aesthetic Caron seems able to do so well when they set their minds to it. Granted, their other more avant-garde male creations like Yatagan and L'Anarchiste (2000) have been met with mixed reactions and thus are about as infamous as their more-traditional fare is famous, but they're not a house which makes "just okay" fragrances like modern rivals Calvin Klein or Dolce & Gabbana, so it's expected. Number 3 is a timeless well-rounded and multifaceted floral fougère that was nearly a classic upon release, and we're lucky to still have it in the 21st century, as most of it's later rivals have met discontinuation, but here the Third Man sits, waiting to become the new signature of the next unsuspecting guy looking for something unique and mature. I'd say keep this one for fall through spring, as it's a bit too warm for summer use and could be cloying, much like it's older brother Pour Un Homme. Vintage version are warmer and richer with oakmoss, and heavier use of tonka too, while newer production is actually superior to my nose, since the florals are allowed to come through more, and the base is a tad sharper, with the tonka and vanilla toned down to be less-cloying, so don't drive yourself too crazy over a 1985 survivor bottle unless that kind of thing is your fetish. Very well done!
19th September, 2018 (last edited: 24th September, 2018)

Honor for Men by Express

Have you ever wondered what a juniper-forward and muskier Acqua di Giò (1996) might smell like? No? Well that's no surprise, and honestly neither have I, but evidently the folks at Express were pondering such a query because that's exactly what their Honor for Men (2010) ended up being when launched. I had this tossed in my lap the year of release because I thought it looked cool with it's heavy pewter cap and stamped emblematic logo right on the bottle, but it was just a fatice when I saw it, and I never got to taste this little wonder until I unwrapped it as a gift. Honor for Men isn't bad, but I admit that it's rather forgettable past the novelty of "Acqua di Junipèr" for the first hour or so. The bottle is seriously heavy, like the debt of honor owed to the person giving you this, and wearing it's powdery and musky fougère tones may also be, as it veers just left of Acqua di Giò's freshness and goes all-in on vanillic tones near the end. I see who this was made for: the guy who thinks less about his cologne than his choice of apparel (Why else would he shop at Express?), but without a listed perfumer, I'm convinced this was actually composed by a marketing executive using his Fischer-Price "My First Roudnitska" perfumer kit. I'm not saying this is bad, and you'll likely get compliments wearing it, there's just zero soul in it man, zero feeling. Honor for Men even looks like somebody wanted to marry a Creed flacon with a wiskey flask and stamp House Gryfinndor on the front as their way of covering multiple market angles. Leave no gimmick stone unturned.

Honor for Men opens with that juniper as described above, plus the watery dihydromyrcenol smell which links it back to Acqua di Giò, Cool Water (1988), and even runs shades of Creed Green Irish Tweed (1985). Peppermint is also here, as expected, giving Honor the kind of bland "mall store clean" one would expect a company like Express to foster. You could have said this came from Rue 21, The Gap, The North Face, or any such outfit and I wouldn't have been wiser. Grapefruit makes a show, as does fig and some scattered kitchen herbs, with cardamom and nutmeg browning out the middle, but when the vanilla hits, we leave behind aquatic generalist land and head toward something comparable to Penhaligon's Endymion (2003) but less subtle or balanced. Tonka, white musk, and a slight tinge of nutty Haitian vetiver make for what could have been a smooth and dry fougère base, destroyed by Newtonian quantities of vanilla. Fresh juniper citrus, then subtle dusty spice, and a vanilla tonka sledgehammer are what Honor for Men brings to the table. I wore this, begrudgingly, then dumped it as soon as I was dumped by the love interest who gave this to me. I like Acqua di Giò the same as I like Wonder Bread, and this was the thicker, heavier, store-brand version of that with crust that always falls off the first time the stuff hits the air.

I guess my gripe with this juice is the asking price combined with the Express-only distribution model. Much like Victoria Secret's elusive masculines, you have to run into a store or sign up for their online store spambot to buy Honor for Men by Express, and even then not at a price any better than most designers which are superior to it. Sure, this turns up on eBay, but you're not getting a deal there either, and the aquatic top doesn't quite mesh with the juniper anyway, nor does most of the composition with it's base, so like a jawbreaker, you go down very clear-cut layers that make where you end have zero relation to the starting point outside being part of the experience. It's okay for casual use or office wear if you spray lightly, and has good longevity and nuclear sillage, but anyone ending up with a surprise bottle of Honor for Men by Express should use it as an opportunity to branch out from it rather than keep their wardrobe stocked with it. A solid meh for me, I'll be nice and give it a neutral since it looks like the stuff is so forgettable that nobody here even reviewed it until I came along. Express has other smelly things besides this for sale, and I wouldn't hold the way this turned out against them, since this and the previous Reserve for Men (2009) were basically training wheels for their later efforts.
19th September, 2018