Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Colin Maillard

Advertisement
Total Reviews: 1247

Canali Men by Canali

A drastically unimpressive sort of herbal-woody-fresh & musky suede-infused designer mishmash, a sort of fruity “neo-fougère” ideally between Cerruti Essence and Canali Style, just fruitier. Surely, as other reviewers mentioned already, the fruity-ozonic head accord paired with suede and that whole musky-woody foundation echoes Grès Cabaret Homme a bit too, given the nose is also the same, but well... Canali contains too much musky plastic to be realistically compared to that. I mean literally – take all those notes, and wrap them in plastic, that’s how Canali Men smells. Cabaret smells maybe a bit more conservative, but way crisper, bolder and overall much better made than Canali (and it’s way cheaper than that).

I admit that the touch of pineapple (or whatever that head aromachemicals are intended to evoke) works fine with the musky-suede accord though, creating a sort of poor man’s Aventus-like feel in a cheaper disguise (and that says it all, since Aventus isn’t exactly Patou pour Homme). But that’s however a very minor positive nuance of an otherwise desperately dull concoction – which besides being flat and weak from the very beginning, is also ridicolously short-lived. Desperately lacking in anything making it worth even just a third of its current collector’s prices.

4,5/10
22nd May, 2016

Cologne Intense Collection : Oud & Bergamot by Jo Malone

Christine Nagel at her finest, no surprise she’s been chosen to inherit Ellena’s throne. A charming whiff of sophisticated, mellow, androgynous, hyper-modern, clean yet somehow “mysterious” and moody spiced Oriental orange-infused woods. This is Oud & Bergamot by Jo Malone, a refined, minimalist, very well conceived experiment around the contrast between the aromatic, luscious smokiness of oud and cedar (and suede, I think), and the graceful, pastel, zesty and slightly floral touches of bergamot and citrus, with a hint of cinnamon-like touch of sweet – just as in Fendi Theorema for women, also composed by Nagel. All done with an amazingly well-engineered weightless texture taken to the very extreme – basically, pure thin scented air. It feels like a perfect olfactive rendition of some abstract watercolour featuring harmonic drops and brush strokes of pale orange, pale brown, pale black. All smells even, smooth, airy and pale, yet totally “there” under your nose. It’s like smelling a linen shirt previously sprayed with a hypothetical “true” substantial version of Oud & Bergamot – this is how the actual Oud & Bergamot smells. It’s there, and yet it isn’t. Like the suspended memory of a scent, more than an actual scent, and yet it’s there materializing under your nose. Fascinating to say the least. And it’s all done so terribly right, as all notes manage to smell crisp, smooth and clear, yet subtle.

The scent is very simple actually, basically a fairly linear and “white-ish” sort of musky-suede rendition of (synthetic) oud and cedar tinted with some orange and cinnamon. It’s the way Nagel made it that makes it so special. It takes some guts and skills to take these notes and turn them into an impalpable whiff of watercolour mist (I mean, it takes some guts to do it right and not end up with an ephemeral fart of a constipated princess). More than compelling and more than a scent, a little piece of minimalist art. Obviously not a “bomb”, very subtle but quite persistent, more than one may assume: somehow you smell it around yourself for hours and hours even if it seems disappearing from your skin soon. This close to smelling just dull and weak – and maybe it is, and I’m just overestimating it – but I find it just lovely.

8-8,5/10
21st May, 2016

Royal Aoud by Montale

Unlike its Creed’s namesake sibling, which is all about “royal” with zero oud, Royal Aoud by Montale contains a ton of (synthetic) oud with a very little dose of “royalty”. In fact, like most of other scents by this brand, it isn’t exactly the most refined or “luxurious” scent around; but I admit I do see the efforts of making something a bit more sophisticated than their average standards. Also, contrary to many other more recent ouds by Montale which contain the same exact flat accord of mostly dry cedar with a weak oud-like shadow, Royal Aoud seems belonging to their “slightly-closer-to-reality” family of ouds – the nicer and more quality ones. Don’t get me wrong, oud here is still artificial to the bone, but it’s quite substantial, and it shows some complex, even nearly-natural-smelling nuances: the note smells in fact medicinal, compellingly woody, slightly “fecal” too at the beginning, quite robust and dirty, with a solid earthy-oily foundation just like real agarwood. Shortly it’s not just a slap of depressingly linear and shallow dry-cedary rubber, and that’s already something with Montale. So far, I got some “good imitation oud” only out of White Aoud and Aoud Cuir d’Arabie – and now, Royal Aoud.

Also, it’s surely enjoyable how they chose to pair it with an initial solid whiff of clean, bracing citrus, and a sort of floral-resinous, slightly candied base accord, which sweetens and tames down the acrid, medicinal-dirty nature of the oud note, finally revealing a quite pleasant, comforting musky-soapy rose heart with a classic British “barbershop” vibe (an association also enhanced by the presence of citrus). There’s even quite some evolution as hours pass: from a sharp, bitter, dark and quite bold citrus-oud opening to a mellow, powdery, clean yet somehow a bit stale “whiter” rose-medicinal drydown still bearing some light fruity-grassy echoes of citrus, reminding me a bit of White Aoud’s drydown (less sweet and plushy, still musky-vanillic but a bit fresher, darker, greener and more austere). That’s quite a transition overall, which is another evidence of the above-the-average quality of this fragrance - compared with other Montale’s, I mean.

Nothing to break the bank for, but more than nice to wear and also quite “easy” to pull off. Kudos!

7/10
12th May, 2016
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

Encre Noire à l'Extrême by Lalique

Encre Noire à L’Extreme opens indeed as an “extreme” version of Encre Noire, where “extreme” is to be intended as more powerful, rougher, drier, more woody, somehow more “mature”, a bit more dirty, and ultimately with some more “oomph” than that. It doesn’t smell particularly “natural”, and I guess that’s part of the concept, but surely it does have something crisper, rootier, earthier if compared to the round, and kind of muted synthetic “inkiness” of classic Encre Noire. It’s also quite woodier, thanks to cypriol and to some more cedar. Be reminded I’m talking about nuances, the main bone structure of Extreme is still clearly Encre Noire – nothing dramatically different. But still, especially (and sadly, only) during the early stages, there is indeed enough differences to make this Extreme stand on its own. It smells basically like Encre Noire briefly drenched in wet balsamic woods (cypress) and dusted with pencil shavings and incense ashes, almost making it resemble to a sort of a lighter, drier, more cedar/incense-oriented version of Jovoy’s Private Label (Encre Noire à l’Extreme is nothing remotely that complex or intriguing, but there’s some slight connections) infused with a drop of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Timbuktu (again – not hinting that the quality is the same; just a matter of superficial similarities between notes, especially some sort of similar “papery cypress” feel). Finally, just mix that with Montana’s Graphite kind of “freshly cut dry cedar”, and here’s this Extreme flanker of Encre Noire.

Now, despite the first minutes seemed quite promising, I must say that overall I’m a bit underwhelmed by this scent - the main issue being that it quickly starts to smell a tad more synthetic and flat that I wished, especially at this price point (but I guess there’s a reason why this is already widely available at a fraction of its original cost). It’s not bad, it’s actually fairly decent; but the dry ashy-cedary part soon smells as much nice as muted, generic and heavily artificial, so do vetiver and cypress, and incense – all notes, basically. I wouldn’t consider Extreme “cheap”, as even if it smells quite synthetic and a bit dull it’s a well-played, ultimately quite pleasant kind of synthetic. Still it doesn’t really keep up with the initial promises for me, soon that “oomph” I mentioned will be just a souvenir. And since Extreme is also heavily linear, there’s really no hope for some twists or changes (which in fact, don’t happen, except for a weak sort of “velvety suede” feel I get after a couple of hours, which combined with vetiver, kind of reminded me of Jil Sander Man by Wasser and Menardo from 2007).

All in all this isn’t strictly a bad scent, but not a great one either. Not even a “very good” one for me, just more only “boringly nice” with a subtle bitter aftertaste of disappointment. This may be a smart choice if you’re looking for your first and only “night vetiver” to own and you don’t want to bother trying others: but be sure to get some good discount though, as this isn’t worthy the full price tag.

6,5/10
10th May, 2016

Black Vetiver by Phaedon

I am missing the “black” part here, at any stage, but nonetheless... what a compelling smooth and modern vetiver this is. Along the line of Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver, but noticeably more quality to any extent for me: crisper, more natural, more vibrant, with a more “dimensional” texture, slightly rawer too (or, say, maybe just more “genuine-smelling”). A bit similar to Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier’s Racine as well, mostly for the citrus-vetiver combo, but somehow more transparent, slightly colder and overall more “minimalistic” than that – shortly, more contemporary. The evolution of Black Vetiver is quite simple, basically it starts off with an invigoratingly vivid splash of zesty lemon supported by an initially toned-down elegant accord of smooth, salty vetiver infused with something which smells like a sort of aldehydic musk to me; it’s very subtle, but it gives a peculiar texture to the woody base accord, making it smell as a sort of a greyish, breezy vetiver “mist” sprayed on dry concrete. Well, I’m making it sound more avantgarde than it is, but that’s more or less the effect I get here.

Once most of the greenish top notes of lemon fade away, it’s all about some really great, high quality, vibrant yet pleasantly civilized grassy-salty vetiver still surrounded by that breezy sort of dusty mist I mentioned above – and still lightly infused by some citrus nuances. But most of all it’s vetiver though, and it’s completely, indisputably pleasant as only good vetiver can be. It smells very natural, very woody and grassy-salty (no “inky” nonsense or whatever other ill synthetic rendition of it). And like good vetiver does, it smells also at once very elegant, yet terribly laid-back and easy to wear. As the drydown progresses, some more somber, smokier and slightly sweeter nuances arise, but at no point it will get too “black” – just a bit quieter and moodier, but with a palpable salty-breezy feel underneath. More than “black”, a “grey-yellow vetiver”.

That’s it, it may sound simple and it actually is, but it’s a pure, vibrant kind of simple, something more than pleasant to wear. Thank God none of Guillaume’s trademark mish-mash concepts are here, no weird mojitos and no chubby gourmands gone wrong. This doesn’t smell at all like one of his creations for me, and maybe that’s why it smells so nice. By far my favourite “modern” vetiver, a refined everyday gem and a perfect contemporary companion to the nicest old-school vetivers like Guerlain’s or Carven’s. Still quite overpriced but totally worthy if you can get some discount.

8,5/10
05th May, 2016

Baie de Genièvre by Creed

Another discontinued Creed scent way superior to the near majority of their current abysmally insipid range. Baie de Genièvre is an impressively solid masculine spicy fougère straight out of the early 1980’s (still quite 1970’s-inspired, with all that herbal-stale dryness) with some quite peculiar features making it surely worthy a sniff at least – not a purchase at those “vaulted” prices, but surely a try. I mean, it’s very good, it’s a Creed, that’s already quite something.

What I really enjoy about Baie is how simple, robust yet very inspired it smells: basically it’s a crisp, tasteful blend of citrus-infused, herbal juniper notes with their recognizable sort of very aromatic, edgy, bitter, metallic, super dry and dark-boozy nature; then some sharp, earthy, smoky and salty vetiver (“the vintage kind”, rooty and dirty, such as in Maitre’s Route du Vetiver or Goutal’s Vetiver), some very well-fitting sort of sweet-spicy dash of Oriental aromatic powder (they say cinnamon, I trust that, although it smells a bit more generic to me – just something slightly sweet, lukewarm and exotic, even slightly fruity at first) and a light note of lavender - which isn’t listed, but I think I smell it. A sharp, dry, distinguished and very aromatic blend with a palpable sort of “antique” vibe – rusty metal, smoky old woods, sharp herbal spirits. With just the right amount of late-1970’s mojo. There’s some evolution, too: it gets progressively warmer, gentler, powderier, less dry and bitter and a bit smoother and smoky-sweeter, with vetiver and herbs creating a sort of “powdery barbershop” mood. Nina Ricci’s Phileas is maybe a distant relative of this, mostly for the same bold herbal-spicy vein and a very similar sort of “rusty” feel – Phileas is more complex than this, but I think they’ve something in common.

So that’s it, a very old-school, refined yet quite “rugged”, extremely vibrant and very natural-smelling gentleman’s scent with nothing wrong in it – it smells just very good, period. Maybe not overly exciting, but truly impeccable, with solid materials (juniper and vetiver especially!) and a totally neat composition. Very “vintage”, and probably a bit dated for many fans of today’s Creed’s offerings, but definitely a nice option for all fans of classic masculine stuff (nothing macho, but definitely a “virile” blend). By the way, by “vintage” and “dated” I don’t mean generic or boring, though: it’s actually quite of a “statement” scent, due to its metallic-smoky-spicy edginess and sharpness which creates a dark, “raw” vein brilliantly contrasting with its subtle, warm Oriental sweeter side. Extremely versatile as well, it projects quite good without getting too obtrusive. Totally recommended – again, not at full vintage prices though: it’s good, even very good, but not a Holy Grail.

7,5-8/10
06th April, 2016

Polo Supreme Oud by Ralph Lauren

Well, one must really never judge a book by its cover. Most of the times this motto isn’t really that valid with scents, as hopeless houses rarely produce something unexpectedly worthy, but there’s some exceptions. I’ve never been a fan of Ralph Lauren scents except for vintage Safari, as most of the rest epitomizes an abysmal approach to scents – the preppier the look, the crappier the smell. But well, Supreme Oud is completely, surprisingly different – for the good – from anything else I tried from this brand.

Sure, its core note is “the synthetic kind” of oud, as in any (or well, the vast majority of) Western interpretation of ouds, but this doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad. Could be, but it isn’t. It’s By Kilian’s Pure Oud’s kind of synthetic oud (and for me, Supreme Oud quite shares some broader similarities with that scent, by the way) – very smooth, smoky, somehow weightless and totally pleasant to smell, no Montale-sque cheap and acrid rubberiness. Artificial to the bone, but it smells very dignified and solid. But actually oud here is just part of the show, and I must really give some big credit to Carlos Benaim for the composition of Supreme Oud. The blend is in fact as much crystal clear and simple, as unique and creative: it’s basically vetiver, smooth oud and cinnamon with a bare touch of silky powderiness, and a whiff which smells like some balsamic sort of pine infusion to me. Basically a refined, forest-like smoky-woody galore with an Oriental shade of sweet spices and some base talc “warmth” provided by that undefined base powderiness (maybe there’s some vanilla, too).

At first Supreme Oud is drier, sharper, “blacker”, slightly reminding me of Montana Black Edition, but more centered on balsamic oud and some edgy, tantalizing cinnamon (which combined with those dark woods, basically smells a bit like roasted, coffee-infused licorice); then it slowly gets warmer, silkier, some suprisingly sophisticated and natural-smelling vetiver note emerges together with that whiff of pine I get, while oud becomes more of a smoky-medicinal shade on the background giving some “dark bone” to vetiver, and you get this incredibly pleasant drydown of oud-ish, balsamic vetiver tinted with a simple, almost minimalistic, yet very distinctive sort of powdery-spicy accord of cinnamon and whatever warmer-sweeter notes there’s on the very base. It may sound a bit “generic”, but trust me it’s not. Or well, it’s so pleasant you don’t really notice how generic it may or may not be. It smells smoky yet sweet, “luminous” yet somehow black. Its discreet, classy, non-thick and non-rubbery texture makes it also very versatile and probably, totally safe for any situation and/or climate. It’s just very refined, very pleasant, and would put a smile on every smoky woods fan’s face. Projection and persistence are just perfect – not a bomb but not a skin scent, lasting a good day long. I get all of this doesn’t sound groundbreaking but Jesus - for being made by Ralph Lauren, this fragrance is a miracle!

7,5-8/10
30th March, 2016

Cuir Vetiver by Yves Rocher

One of the most honest, worthwhile and affordably good releases in a long while. I am not a fan of Yves Rocher usually, as despite I respect the brand, none of their releases seemed that interesting to me so far (not even for the price); but Cuir Vetiver quite got me. It is by no means inferior to many decent designers easily showing double the price tag – Hermès, for instance: for the similarity of the notes, the composition and the quality, this could have easily been a budget-mainstream release by them. In fact Cuir Vetiver is basically a cheaper, yet absolutely solid sort of fresher Vetiver Tonka meeting Terre d’Hermès with a thin shade of some smoky tonka-infused suede (and that’s the only “cuir” you’ll get), and also some tangy cardamom nuance which reminds me of another Hermès scent for men – Voyage.

A poor man’s Hermès digest, shortly, with a surprising good quality and a not-so-ordinary texture. Specifically I detect here a more than compelling sort of fresh-woody-powdery transparent clarity dangerously close to Ellena’s style, and despite Cuir Vetiver smells quite close to the stuff I mentioned above, for some reasons it doesn’t feel just like a blatant ripoff of it. I don’t get what precisely, but there’s more than that. It’s like if more than a simple passive carbon-copying activity to monetize on other brands’ ideas, this was just more a genuine “tribute” simply taking inspiration from them with enough skills and budget to elaborate the brief a bit. It’s still 90% close to Vetiver Tonka and the other couple of Hermès I mentioned, but the remaining 10% is, well, a little sparkle of uniqueness (after all, it’s fresher than Vetiver Tonka, and smokier than both Terre and Voyage – unique, in its own and a bit derivative way).

So, all in all, totally recommended. It smells good, classy, versatile, smoky yet fresh and breezy enough to be perfect for any climate and circumstance. And surprisingly natural, too, considering the level of flat syntheticness you usually get at this price range. Sadly the persistence is a bit weak, but it’s so inexpensive that you can simply reapply it on and on. For 29 eur/100 ml or so, a total winner in my “everyday-replacement-for-more-expensive-stuff” book.

8/10
10th March, 2016

Royal English Leather by Creed

Not the most creative or interesting leather around and definitely unworthy its prices, especially now that it’s discontinued (sorry, “vaulted”), but I can’t really argue Royal English Leather’s quality. It smells good. Almost great, if you’re into classic, waxy, dark, austere “shoe polish-infused” tanning leather scents. True rich and faceted rusty leather, forget today’s stupidly flat and artificial Tuscan Leather-ish stuff. Just think of Knize Ten: Royal is definitely close to it, just adding a whiff of flowers, a very pleasant touch of ambery mandarine giving some “air”, colour and sparkling sweetness to the heaviness of leather, and in the most recent bottles, also Creed’s trademark base of metallic-dusty ambroxan. I had the chance of getting an older bottle of this, and that base accord was definitely not there – it was quite more all about leather and oily shoe-polish like notes (also darker, drier and spicier, overall slightly heavier too).

That’s it: no tremendous twists during its evolution – actually, almost no evolution at all, nothing particularly standing out. But it smells good, very good. It’s rich, distinguished, totally – somehow, slightly pedantically – elegant and austere, with the perfect balance of complexity and simplicity: it’s nearly only waxy, brownish, lived-in leather - done extremely well, with a subtle sort of ambery-floral-mandarine aura giving a perfect hint of bright sweetness, and yet it doesn’t smell boring or simplistic. Not even dated, actually; somehow it does have a “vintage” feel (think of Knize Ten again), and yet its texture feels crisp, clear, without the old-school thickness one may expect from this type of scent. Quintessentially British in fact: unexcitingly impeccable!

7,5/10
09th March, 2016

Mr. Burberry by Burberry

By far one of the most irrelevant, pedestrian, nonsense new launches I smelled in a long time. If something like, say, Dior’s Sauvage seemed like that for you, then Mr. Burberry will make your nose explode. Someone on Basenotes’ forum mentioned an Axe deodorant, and I now regret having used that same term of comparison for scents which compared to Mr. Burberry don’t really deserve that. Because in fact, in my experience Mr. Burberry is the scent which absolutely went the closest to that. Actually it even went further and below– no kidding, the 2,50 EUR deodorant I carry in my tennis bag smells more appealing, nuanced and rich than this garbage.

Basically this is a truly nondescript, extremely artificial, puzzingly uninspired sort of a counterfeit Bleu de Chanel meeting a sport deodorant with a drop of Interparfums’ irritating signature musky-tonka base accord (Armani Code all over again- please fix that time machine, Interparfums!). There’s some synthetic citrus, some extremely generic woody stuff with a pointless sort of subtle minty-creamy nuance (a bit as in Paul Smith London), something sweet-spicy, and that’s it. I’m using the term “something” not out of laziness but because it’s truly the best approximation I can use – I read the composition, but none of the notes mentioned is remotely detectable here for me. It would be a joke to mention cardamom or vetiver here. It’s just woody stuff, spicy stuff, citrus stuff, cheap lab replicas of some “idea” of woods and spices. The same exact materials you find in supermarket deodorants in fact. Just a big generic “something”. And it’s so vastly nonsense that I can’t even think of a possible audience for this, neither can I understand how could Burberry approve to invest money for something so desperately unappealing and cheap.

So shortly, if it wasn’t clear enough, my opinion is that this is a complete depressing trainwreck on every level – quality, inspiration, identity. And if you want to understand better how it smells, I can’t really describe it better than I did above – I know my description sounded generic but this is truly how this scent smells. I’ve never been a fan of Burberry but I’ve always (kind of) respected Kurkdjian’s work on commission, even recently – for example, Carven Homme from 2014 was quite good, and if you compare it to Mr. Burberry you can definitely sense the immense gap of budget and efforts that separates the two scents. This is on the contrary easily the worst scent Kurkdjian ever put his name on, and one of the worst scents by Burberry ever.

3/10
07th March, 2016

Silver Bond / Andy Warhol Silver Factory by Bond No. 9

“It... could... work!” – that’s what Silver Factory by Bond n.9 is for incense (and for the brand itself). Finally – finally! – a non-boring, non-flat, no-nonsense incense fragrance, unexpectedly coming from one of the most boring and nonsense niche brands there are today. One of the most improbable and surprising “what-were-the-odds” coincidences I’ve ever witnessed. But well, it’s here. Silver Factory is very good. It’s a deeply creative take on the incense theme, and somehow it does have a “pop” soul as the name suggests.

First, they finally gave some thickness and substance to incense, instead of diluting & stirring Givaudan’s Mystikal incense compound and selling it as-is; it smells solid, vibrant, alive. The substance is made of an array of nuances which are this close to smelling messy, and instead smell just beautifully kaleidoscopic: there’s amber, there’s a bold metallic vein with a smudged pink shade of iris, there’s some odd smell of ashy rubber, even something resembling to a dusty old drop of musky castoreum popped out of a vintage chypre, and a distinguished, slightly urinous touch of lavender and violet. Just as you would assume with something named after Andy Warhol, it’s old and new, naif and dirty, cold and oily, dark and colourful mixed altogether. And obviously, completely unisex. If I had to sum this up I’d consider Silver Factory a pinkish ambery-lavendery-candied-metallic incense, but that would make little justice to the funny, cheerful, complex texture of this fragrance. It’s at once elegant and juvenile, funny yet troubled, hippie and hipster, but perfectly easy to wear and like.

I agree with what many others said – if Bond ever made something nice, it’s probably this. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not suggesting you to get it: the price is completely mad and this is surely not worthy that money. But if you get the chance of some deals, then surely grab a bottle!

7,5-8/10
05th March, 2016

Mat; Very Male by Masakï Matsushïma

Somewhere halfway two other prominent Japanese brands making (sometimes) nice scents – Comme des Garçons and Kenzo, and a tad below – yet connected to – the majesty of Yohji Homme, there lies “mat; very male” by Masaki Matsuhima. The aesthetics are clearly closer to Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto, and so is the inspiration of this scent for me – quite minimalistic, “urban”, dark and hypermodern; but some notes and the overall texture definitely remind me of a couple of Kenzo’s, notably Kenzoair for a similar use of “transparent woods” and a sort of light, grassy-watery breezy vibe. Finally I can’t not mention Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin for the top anise accord, here filtered through a contemporary Japanese sensitivity, and also actually smelling a bit more quality and less juvenile than in Lempicka’s rendition. Just add Comme des Garçons Black’s smoky licorice to the scents I just mentioned above, and you’ve quite a good picture of “mat; very male”. In fact it’s pretty much that: smoky licorice, breezy anise, “airy” woods, an almost unperceivable hint of birch-suede, with a touch of water and a Japanese sense of peaceful, ephemeral suspension. Be prepared to a massively light scent, but it lasts for a decent amount of time.

Shortly a very compelling modern take on a woody-anise-licorice theme, quite “synthetic” in spirit but actually fulfilling and “round” enough not to smell annoyingly artificial, or too harsh. Nothing top notch, but it’s very (very!) decent. Very easy to like, very versatile, not too derivative, quite unusual too due to its “aquatic black” sort of atmosphere – a transparent, breezy ambiance yet with a subtle, weightless black feel amazingly paired with the sweetness of anise. It can still be found for relatively cheap on eBay, if you like the names I mentioned in my review I’d definitely recommend it.

7/10
02nd March, 2016

Hermèssence Santal Massoïa by Hermès

I think I underrated this line way more than it deserved, except for Cuir d’Ange which stroke me since the very first sniff as the utter overwhelming masterpiece it is. Both Vetiver Tonka and Ambre Narguilé quite grew on me slowly over time, and lately Santal Massoia has done it too – even more slowly. It seemed to me a weak sandalwoody ”thingy” at first, while now I quite changed my mind about it (luckily I hesitated to review it right away back then). I mean, I liked it already, but it just seemed a bit too tame at first. On the contrary, it’s a fantastic, perfectly compelling and fulfilling scent: and as many fantastic scents, it just requires a bit more attention than usual to get its value at its fullest. Composition-wise it bears Ellena’s best features, which this Hermessence line surely and deservedly glorified: transparency, weightlessness, and yet a substantial, consistent, rich presence and persistence – just a different, “airy” concept of richness. If you want to understand the difference between “light” and “weightless”, then a couple of these Hermessence scents are quite a magnificent example of that.

Since the very first minutes, Santal Massoia goes back to Gucci Rush for Men’s territory: clean, modern, transparent, onirically creamy sandalwood-cedar notes, here paired with a subtle, marvelously comforting sort of milky-fruity note (the “fig” nuance). Take Gucci Rush for Men, for once not raping it like any other depressing ripoff of it did in the past years (from Azzaro Chrome to Pal Zileri Sartoriale), mix it with Carbone de Balmain’s concept of a “fig-infused woody accord”, give it a luxury, extremely quality substance and elegance as in the very few best sandalwood scents of all times, tweak the volume know down to left a bit, spray it on an angel’s wing, distill it, there’s Santal Massoia. By the way, the “angelic” component – I wasn’t kidding about that – will emerge even more clearly on the late drydown, a fantastic, ephemeral sort of watercolour touch of bright, vibrant yet extremely delicate floral nuances with a light woody undertone, oddly even more fresher than the early stages.

A superb piece of classy understatement, nowhere and anywhere on your skin, one of those subtle scents which seem always about to vanish and yet you smell around them for hours, and hours. Just pure white brilliance with a sophisticated, somehow opalescent and dreamy texture as in some old Polaroids of a trip to Middle East. It’s very simple actually, a delicate (and amazingly high-quality) creamy sandalwood, and yet Ellena’s ability makes it smell just like heaven. A dreamlike reflection of heaven, actually, given its smooth, glassy, see-through substance. Just give it a shot. Amazing and completely unique.

8,5-9/10
22nd February, 2016
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

No. 89 by Floris

N. 89 by Floris is a delightfully old-school “dandy” gem, quite a prototypical British soapy barbershop scent all about rose, lavender, mossy woods and citrus. It’s astonishingly uncreative, but truly impeccable to any extent. And surprisingly rich and good quality even in the current version, which smells absolutely great, round, not overly synthetic or flat as many current versions of old fragrances – or as other inferior, similarly-themed English products like Geo Trumper’s ones (Floris is quite better quality-wise for me). Bronnley’s Gentleman cologne does quite a similar job at a more affordable price, but No. 89 smells probably a bit deeper and more distinguished than that, also more rose-y and powdery. Very classy, very solid, very “gentlemanly”, a tad pedantic yet less boring than it may seem. More than pleasant all in all. British barbers’ soap at its finest.

7,5/10
18th February, 2016

Dia Man by Amouage

Dia Man by Amouage is stunning. Stunning! Not my favourite Amouage to wear “daily” and forget about it, due to its very subtle presence on skin (which for me would be a crime to miss, so I’d rather wear it when I’ve enough attention and peace of mind to appreciate it), but surely and by far, probably my favourite ever of their range as a work of... hell, there, I’ll say it: a work of art. I think it accomplishes a level of vibrant creativity and impeccable perfection no other Amouage ever did, except maybe for Ciel. But Dia probably pushes the limit even above that. It manages to be smoother, to subtract even more, to make an even more precarious, complex and thin balance perfectly stand still as a transparent ice sculpture. Just replacing ice with air. Others in their range are more easy to love, richer and more fulfilling maybe, surely performing better and thus being more appealing and easier to wear. But Dia Man is just something different.

On paper it is seemingly quite a simple, understated floral-suede-vetiver scent with spicy-green accents – and you could wonder where’s the deal. The deal is precisely in how Dia transform that mildly promising, yet probably not-overly-exciting structure into something completely amazing. And that sadly can’t really be described with words, which would only make it sound undeservedly boring. Or well, mines would surely. I could mention a mind-blowing weightlessness, a unique sense of natural refinement, an amazingly, almost hypnotic slow evolution bringing in and out vetiver, smooth smoke and posh powdery suede, quiet clean woods, delicate breezy flower petals (orris, peony, ylang) which you can almost feel agitated by some gentle wind, an incredibly crisp yet almost unperceivable sort of grassy-minty aroma breezing erratically through the notes as a fairytale ghost of an elf, a genius touch of silky fruitiness... but that would all make Dia sound “just as another good scent” – while it isn’t. Not because it isn’t good, obviously, but because it’s beyond a scent - it’s a world, really. I would add “totally unparalleled” if Hermès Cuir d’Ange didn’t exist, as in some way, I think these two scents share some connections – both in some notes (especially the powdery-suede treatment), in their stunning quality, and in their general texture and inspiration. But creativity-wise, Dia is probably a tad superior to that, as it dares a bit more in terms of minimalism and complexity. The palette is broader here, so to speak, but surely they share some roots.

Pardon this personal detour but in a way, Dia Man reminds me of some summer holidays I used to spend in Switzerland, Engadin valley, some years ago. I always admired and deeply enjoyed the sense of cleanliness, clarity, purity and almost unsettling calm you can feel wandering through the lakes and the Graubünden mountains in the summer season, together with the warm, cozy, subtle yet somehow also very austere, pragmatic, even slightly decadent neat elegance of many houses and cafés there. In my memories the world there was all green and blue with a sprinkle of flowers, a constant uplifting crisp breeze, a Swiss sense of restrained elegance combined with a deep, archaic love for nature and for the mountains, with their dark shades and primitive secrets (which a couple of clouds are enough to transform from heaven to the most frightening place on Earth). I mean, Nietzsche spent his holidays there, in Sils Maria’s village – you get what I mean. It’s not only about some fresh air and good food to seek some rest. It’s like wandering through human nature. Now ironically Amouage’s heritage hasn’t much to do with of all that (or maybe it has?), and yet the refreshing, soothing sense of sophisticated, almost meditative yet also very “civilized” raw naturalness is quite the same. Probably “natural elegance” hasn’t ever make so much sense as it would for Dia Man. And it’s something really beyond simple charm, or a simple “natural feel”. It’s truly the modulating smell of a whole ideal world in a bottle, a blend of crisp archaic nature and modern cozy refinement. And the choice of giving it such a discreet, subtle texture is just pure genius to me, as it really feels like a call to your sensitivity and intellect to appreciate it at its fullest. Brilliant!

10/10
14th February, 2016

Kingdom by Alexander McQueen

As usual I’ve a bit of a hard time with fragrances known for being “skanky”, “dirty”, “animalic” and in broader terms, “challenging”. Because they never really seem so to me. And this is the case of Kingdom, too. It’s a fantastic fragrance, that’s for sure, but I get really nothing dirty or skanky here. Either I’m too used to live in the dirt myself, or have dated particularly clean people, because I get really no smell of sweat or “ladies’ parts” (let alone “man’s crotches”) here, or whatever other kinky stuff. Kingdom seems to me basically a complex, yet actually surprisingly mannered blend revolving around notes of rose, sandalwood, musk and cumin with a dark ambery-mossy base accord, and a silky frame of whiter floral notes. Surely not a light scent, and I see how a hefty dose of rose combined with an equally generous dose of cumin on a thick load of musk and woods can result into something “carnal”, alluring, almost intoxicating, but it doesn’t really seem anything particularly “skanky” or challenging to wear to me. It’s just more very vibrant, warm, refined and sensual, surely much “human” and somehow “carnal”, but not exactly dirty to me. Also as I said, it seems actually quite more mannered and smooth than I thought – not a “bomb”, really. It’s surely rich and deep, but not loud or more powerful than many others. It’s very velvety actually. Most vintage chypres are way more dirty, loud and challenging than this.

Anyway, aside from the fact it smells truly good, absolutely quality and surprisingly versatile (not sure why but in some way, this reminds me of a rose-spicy version of Yohji Homme, with a touch of something androgynous), the reason why I really like Kingdom and consider it a totally worthy gem is because of its charming complexity. That kind of intricated complexity that presents you a very harmonic, balanced, perfectly consistent blend that at first seems almost comprising only a small bunch of notes... until you get captured into it, and thrown among the myriad of nuances it has. And it’s like in a well-written poem – everything is in the perfect place, with a perfect timing. You don’t even have to pay that attention actually; you can wear it and forget about it, it will all come to you. Eventually you’ll get whiffs and echoes of carnation, amber, mossy notes, gentle powdery-floral notes, hard spices, even something resembling to silky orange blossoms (I guess the top citrus-neroli notes combined with the “whiter/softer” side of musk), just as if you’re wearing a half dozen of different scents, with an astounding clarity even in the tiniest, most ephemeral details. And yet, you’re always wearing just this one. It’s a peculiar effect some scents have – to release “minor” notes and nuances erratically during their evolution, and yet to keep their, say, “main structure”. I mean, it’s not that it changes or evolves dramatically – ironically it doesn’t that much. A pretty linear scent, in fact. But it has this cinematic effect of releasing coming-and-going nuances throughout its evolution, behind the main consistent structure of rose-cumin-sandalwood-musk, which makes wearing Kingdom a captivating, vibrant, extremely fulfilling experience. And anyway it smells just great, deep and classy, it lasts long without being obtrusive or challenging. Total quality. Prices today are really crazy for this, but you wouldn’t probably regret the purchase – even just to keep it as a reference collector’s item (or a beautiful piece of design... I mean, look at that bottle!).

8-8,5/10
10th February, 2016

No. 10 White Oud by Agonist

A pleasant offering by a brand I haven’t really the highest consideration for. White Oud opens with plushy white musks infused with a nutty-camphor vibe and a sort of subtle, bright floral-fruity top nuance, as much pale as clearly defined (I mean – not a generic floral accord, just crisp precise floral notes with a very ethereal, therefore “pale” substance). Mostly the first minutes are all about clean, Helmug Lang-esque musks though, that sort of lab-like, greyish “laundry” feel with a very peculiar sort of cold, hard, slightly mineral-salty vibe (I think caused by the base notes of cypriol and woody aromachemicals), which creates a sort of thin, yet stout feel of, say, “marble paper”, if that makes sense. Thin as paper, yet robust as a rock. It’s quite hard to describe, but if that helps, you can think of something halfway Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne and L’Artisan’s Timbuktu painted in white icy watercolours.

Then, cypriol emerges together with the tonka-woody accord dusted with patchouli, or better say the way round – the top notes (floral, mostly, and the sweetest, plushiest, “soap-like” side of musks) fade away and tone down considerably, which is quite unusual for musks. White Oud gets then drier, woodier, still “white-grey” in an aloof, concrete-like way, and to this extent there’s some distant connections to another musky “cold” scent – Narciso for Him, mostly for this same similar “concrete” vibe. White Oud smells more thin than that though, and also considerably more complex. There is in fact this bizarre sort of mineral-nutty note coming and going, probably due to tonka, but emptied of any warmth or exoticness. Actually that’s how most of the notes smell here – exotic, but somehow “emptied” of their vibrant nature. Also patchouli, for instance, it smells like a black & white polaroid of it, rather than the “full” usual note. And it’s not just about being more light, it’s a more interesting work on the very texture of the notes. Finally, the drydown pleasantly brings back some soft floral accents (oddly similar to orange blossoms at this point) laying them on a woody-ambery base accord (mostly woody, with a dusty touch of amber).

It seems to me that White Oud definitely nails the concept of creating a “white-dark woody” scent translating the exotic terms of a typical oud scent into a Scandinavian-inspired cold and, say, “hard” blend. Being not a fan of Agonist I wouldn’t have given much credit to this attempt, but the result is quite compelling actually. For as weird it may seem, it does smell like a “white oud” infusion indeed: it keeps the same nutty-medicinal woody nuances of oud, just replacing any skanky, smoky, oily- thick texture with its exact opposite: musks, floral notes, a dry-cold substance, a touch of exotic-almondy dry sweetness. As a comparison, just consider the similarly-named Montale’s White Aoud: I love that (nearly the only Montale I really like), but that’s way more “easy” and simplistic rendition of “white oud” – it’s just oud, with some conventional “white” notes on top, like vanilla and flowers. Agonist’s White Oud is instead a more creative, abstract, complex interpretation of the idea of “white oud” – more a veritable “translation” of it in fragrant terms, if that makes sense.

Well anyway, this is interesting and smart. And also quite pleasant to wear, regardless of any “theoretical” consideration about it. Maybe a tad boring after you got the magic and the concept, slightly more synthetic than I would have liked (even taking into account that it quite fits the concept – smelling so artificial, I mean) and definitely overpriced, but well designed and well done.

7,5-8/10
09th February, 2016

Leather by Franck Boclet

I recall I tried this once a couple of years ago and was more pleasantly surprised than I would have liked to admit – it’s niche, it’s quite overpriced, for a die-hard “anti-niche” like I was (and partially still am) it’s sometimes hard to admit that something smells nice. Now I got the chance to smell this again and yes, it smells definitely good. By “good” I mean here my favourite interpretation of the term, applied to perfumes: “solid and creative”. This is in fact something quite different and finally, quite more unusual than the majority of today’s niche leathers (which smell either like bitter rubber or whatever other ill, unwearable idea of leather, or just like Tuscan Leather clones). It opens with a sort of medicinal-nutty accord of amber, mild patchouli and some quite good saffron, mixed with a delicate sort of salty, salicylic-musky “polished” leather with a hint of rubbery oud, topped with a crisp, very mild yet perceivable “fresh” balsamic whifff of woody-floral notes. Quite unusual, as I said: it blends some clean, musky-modern leather as in Lang’s Cuiron with M7’s “nutty-medicinal amber” (actually, the resemblance to M7 is quite bold here for many aspects, and that just hits a soft spot for me), perfectly blending them under a sheer floral-balsamic light. The result is extremely pleasant, compelling, flawless and totally nice to wear. It feels nutty and woody (or better say mostly “cedary patchouli”), quite spicy but in a smooth crisp way, at the same time also feeling “musky” clean with a hint of salt. Overall it does convey a sense of modern, clean, freshly-polished “leather” without involving the usual clichés of these types of scents (and without basing the concept on a load of uncooked rubbery aromachemicals). I’d also mention Cuir d’Ange as a distant reference for the musky-powdery leather part, although Boclet’s Leather goes on a totally different path – nutty, ambery and medicinal as I said. But in a way, it also has this “breezy” powdery side which definitely echoes Ellena’s masterpiece, too.

Just to be clear, I dropped some really big names here – Cuiron, M7 and Cuir d’Ange. It’s not that Boclet’s Leather can be compared to them, as it definitely can not: it’s just that the inspirations seem to me recalling these works, whether that’s intentional or not, and that’s really a plus since the majority of leathers today seem often pointing towards other, vastly more trite directions. This one instead tries at least to think leather out of the box and do some - at least, partially - creative work on it, with just the right touch of 2000s nostalgia. And the materials work fine too, it smells very nice, rich enough yet totally smooth and discreet as a proper “modern refined leather” should. Partially synthetic too, sure, but it fits the concept and there’s some work around it. Still a bit overpriced and with a slightly disappointing longevity, but a more than worthy addition to any leather fan’s wardrobe.

7,5-8/10
05th February, 2016

Heat Kissed by Beyonce

I rarely happen to try “celebrity” fragrances and am absolutely unbiased towards them – it’s just fragrances, just as legitimate as any other. And in fact, this new scent bearing Beyonce’s name is nothing that different from the majority of contemporary designer “fruitchoulis” aimed at teenagers and young women – whether they actually are, or tragically just feel as such. There’s obviously nothing of what the card claims, Moroccan Rose and whatever other standard cliché. But still it’s a nearly tolerable fruity-woody scent with a thick musky vanilla texture giving it that popular, kind of cheap, still better-than-nothing sort of fruity soap-shampoo substance. Sweetish, clean, conventionally “exotic” yet quite “urban” with its mediocre metallic vibe. It reminds me of so many forgettable designer scents or cheapos for women, that I can’t name any. It’s just beyond generic and artificial with no creative features or qualities whatsoever, but I can’t say it’s that bad for the expectations one may reasonable have. I mean, it’s a trendy celebrity scent and it’s part of its nature to be nothing more than some fashionable cheap garbage. To this extent, not that anyone should care but I oddly respect this way more than pretentious fancy “luxury” stuff pretending to be what it will never be able to be.

5,5/10
04th February, 2016

Colonia Intensa Oud Concentrée / Colonia Oud Concentrée by Acqua di Parma

Well, nothing more and nothing less than one may expect from an “oud” take on Acqua di Parma Colonia. A wannabe-posh, soapy, sheer, very smooth (and very synthetic) sort of citrus-floral-musk blend infused with a dark, rubbery, bitter yet overall quite tamed down and exceedingly artificial woody accord of oud and birch, becoming drier and muskier as hours pass. I must say that somehow, the initial “fizzy-soapy” frame which comprises the oud accord works, and makes Colonia Oud smell as a fairly pleasant sort of “bright oud” with a laundry vibe. There’s a tangy sort of citrus-geranium accord which fits in surprisingly well. Given the bitter rubbery dirtiness of the synthetic oud note, it creates quite a pleasant play of contrasts – which will eventually fade away and leave the stage mostly to rubber and synthetic woods, but until it’s there, it’s nice. Still though, even considering that, it’s all really too cheap and ultimately uninspired to sparkle some interest. The “Colonia” side is just as flat and artificial as in the Intensa version (I’m still wondering how the Colonia line can comprise gems like the Assoluta next to utter garbage like the Intensa), and the oud accord is for me nothing different from any drugstore oud accord you can find anywhere these days. The price and the “luxury” packaging would let you think we’re in the same ballpark of something like, say, Dior Leather Oud, but truth is, we’re more close to Ferrari Oud, or Versace Oud, a Montale imitation dupe or whatever other lower-key designer ouds. Just a matter of quality: flat, synthetic, as much generically refined as completely “muted”. Nothing against that class of scents by the way, but there’s a reason if they cost three or four times less than this.

Not sure why (or well, reading what I just wrote until now, I can see why actually), but at the very first sniff my mind just came out with a spontaneous association – “what an airport fragrance this is”. Out of the blue, I just imagined a mid-level manager waiting for his plane. Not a wealthy businessman snorting fine complimentary cocaine in some vip lounge, just some ordinary businessman playing with an empty cracked bottle of water, boring the hell out of himself, probably needing a shower after a two hours taxi ride to the airport. Think of focusing your nose on some details – the citrus musky cologne he wore before leaving the motel now mixing with sweat, the cheap smell of his ready-to-wear laundered suit, the rubbery smell of his trolley bag and of the airport seats, the overall sense of suspended, depressing boredom which fills such “non-places” like airports. That’s the mood of Acqua di Parma Oud, basically somehow a sort of slightly more pretentious “office scent” with a professional look (not refined, not sophisticated, just “professional”) and a subtle dirtier vein. And by that I don’t mean something “sexy” , just literally dirty, sweaty and rubbery. It’s all filled with a nondescript, quite deep feeling of restrained, unemotional “nothingness”. And well, it smells a bit more cheap than it should anyway. Not blatantly cheap and not completely tragic, but definitely unworthy the price tag. Kind of similar to Indonesian Oud by Zegna (and just as much dull as that).

5,5-6/10
01st February, 2016 (last edited: 14th February, 2016)

Tea for Two by L'Artisan Parfumeur

I had some expectations about this, as I really love tea, but as for tobacco (which I love, too), this is just another disappointment. I may be wrong or used to the wrong kind of teas, but I really don’t see how one could buy this cheap, synthetic, subtly (but I admit, pleasantly) zesty musky-spicy blend with a massive synthetic tobacco base for a “lapsang blend”. Or a tea blend of any kind, unless you reference tea is in your office’s vending machine. It isn’t dramatically bad, but it’s just a fairly cheap, extremely linear and massively uninspired sort of sweetish mish-mash between Gucci pour Homme II, Tobacco Vanille and Bvlgari Black and/or Céline pour Homme, in a clumsy attempt to rip-off Annick Menardo’s style and fondness for dry, smoky, elusively Oriental “weightless” textures (not the first time I notice this “talent” of the Queen of hipster parfumistas – Olivia Giacobetti). Again, just to be clear, it smells decent, but it’s really a depressing department store kind of decent. If you want a sweet tobacco, then stick to the plethora of cheap clones of Tobacco Vanille; if you want some versatile masculine tea-infused scent, the immensely richer, more compelling and more quality Gucci pour Homme II is there for you, and it’s still the nicest “tea-inspired” scent I’ve ever tried.

You know that joke: “when I went to parties and then people said things like «there was two or three people», I always was «or three»” - that’s Tea for Two. A flat bit of this, a bit of that, mediocrely diluted with zero inspiration and zero creativity. Last but not least, with a crap longevity. Meh.

5/10
30th January, 2016

Liquid Cashmere White by Donna Karan

Just as cheap as Liquid Cashmere Black, just playing different chords. But equally nonsense for me. Osmanthus, really? This is a clean, irritatingly cliché-sque and overwhelmingly generic “stock floral and stock musk” soapy scent with a thick synthetic texture making it smell no different – not at all, really – from any cheap “white flowers” deodorant or fragrance you can get at your local supermarket. It’s fresh, powdery and slightly creamy, also slightly headache-inducing to be honest (not sure why, I guess it’s just a side effect of being so cheap). Too flat and poorly-crafted to be worthy some attention, let alone a purchase at that mad price.

4,5/10
29th January, 2016

Liquid Cashmere Black by Donna Karan

A “not-overly-annoying” yet however dramatically dull and more than forgettable synthetic “fruitchouli” bomb with neither praise nor blame, that cheap and linear “nom nom nom” kind of sweetish bubblegum nonsense for teenagers stuck in grown up’s bodies. I rushed to try this as I thought it had some connection to the discontinued glory of Black Cashmere, but this is just a silly cherry potato. Meh.

4,5-5/10
29th January, 2016

Italian Cypress by Tom Ford

Bingo! My favourite Private Blend scent so far. Or better say, the only one I would say I truly like. I wouldn’t ever spend that money for this, but let’s be honest – this is very good. It’s basically a better (way better) Ralph Lauren Polo Green, which is a scent I moderately admire and really wanted to like, while I couldn’t really – pardon the blasphemy, but I find it (in both its vintage and new versions) too dry, unbalanced, screechily macho and almost vile. Italian Cypress just tweaks the right knobs and fixes that same concept to perfection, creating a very handsome, mature scent with a brilliant masculine vibe miles away the idiotic baseball-hatted “bro” attitude of half of the rest of the Private Blend line.

Basically it’s a very compelling, “virile” and old-school yet somehow totally contemporary green-woody fougère with an amazingly crisp sort of leafy-earthy feel of balsamic greenness and smoky woods. It covers the whole spectre of aromas you’d encounter in a forest, basically – from the thin fresh balsamic air, to the damp smell of woody roots. It may sound nothing special or new, but instead it manages to present such a conventional structure under a very different, and ultimately quite distinctive light. Probably the cypress accord is the key, as it’s green, minty and woody in a very peculiar way – a sort of bitter, watery, rooty, exceedingly realistic smell of crisp green woods. Now take that, surrounded by a half-macho, half-gentleman fougère-inspired aura of smoke-infused darker woods (slightly birch-y, too) and topped with an added dose of more rarefied citrusy greenness. Nothing really Italian actually, this smells more like some German forest to me, like in some Prussian area – it feels quite balsamic, uplifting, but at the same time somehow cold, dark, archaic. More “viking” than “macho”, so to speak. “Italy” shall mean probably more citrus, more herbs, and a more friendly, affable, laid-back mood, while Italian Cypress has some fascinating feel of dry, austere breezy darkness that definitely moves the inspiration way “more up-North”, in my opinion.

Anyway, inspirations aside this is a very well made scent, not overly creative but really impeccable. It smells just great: refined, quite natural, fascinatingly complex, subtly austere, it manages to do something I always love with fragrances – making you feel “home” with an apparently conventional structure (the early Eighties green fougère here) but yet refreshing and playing around with it a bit, just enough to smell distinctive and show some, say, “up-to-date” personality. Plus it also checks all the relevant performance marks – lasts well, projects well, no unpleasant surprises, very decent materials. Well done.

8/10
26th January, 2016

Royal Oud by Creed

Oh well, I thought I would have never said this, but... Royal Oud is great. Hands down. It just works perfectly. It’s rich, elegantly powerful, it has a ton of personality, it shows an amazingly crisp clarity of notes. The issue is that it has nothing to do with oud, and I really mean nothing, but once you know and accept that, it’s really good. And “royal” indeed. Basically it is a delightfully complex and overall quite “bright” blend of super crisp spicy cedar notes (real – or however, really good – cedar, for once!) infused with some balsamic pine-floral greenness, slightly bittersweet too, oddly dark and quite new to me (the “angelica” note, I suppose), an invigorating slap of aromatic citrus-bergamot with a juicy peppery vibe, all layered on Creed’s trademark synthetic “sparkling musky ambroxan” base.

It may seem a simplistic déja-vu, but it’s actually quite unique. It’s truly a superb, almost loud rich spicy-green woody blend with a truly palpable feel of crystal clarity, of uplifting golden crispness, with a fantastic thin shade of dark. I get an intense “forest” vibe out of this, but filtered through a very mannered and refined lens. It smells round and sophisticated, at once powerful but bright and distinguished enough not to smell too obtrusive. Plus, the woody accord is plain great – it’s truly pure wood, extremely aromatic and realistic, something miles above the majority of woody scents. It just feels “stereo”, if you get what I mean, and very modern in its texture. And also it has that subtle, elegant, confident and very distinctive sort of balsamic-green feel provided by the angelica note (again – just a guess: I never smelled this material before, so I’m not sure if it’s that, but most probably it is). It’s basically a sort of balsamic absinthe-like note with a pine feel, so to speak. It blends amazingly well with pepper, cedar and the fresh citrus notes, and it also creates a sort of subtle bitter herbal vein with a subtle, exotic “poisonous” feel. This gives Royal Oud a very pleasant, and again, quite creative sort of “dark green” shade which is really perfect for the mood – counter-balancing the bright crispness of cedar, citrus and pepper and the designer-oriented dustiness of musky ambroxan.

For once this is something genuinely unique, distinctive, totally versatile, amazingly refined and absolutely compelling quality-wise and performance wise (beast longevity, Dolby projection). Still overpriced, a bit linear and ridiculously mis-named, but terrific.

8-8,5/10
24th January, 2016

Dark Aoud by Montale

I may be anosmic to some components (I am very skeptical about “selective anosmy”, though) but I don’t get anything “dark” here, not even by mistake. And no oud either, but that’s no surprise with Montale offerings. Dark Aoud seems to me a very inoffensive, quite pleasant, slightly boring and extremely artificial cedar-sandalwood scent with a polite, understated, mannered dry look – almost minimalistic, in some way. It feels very clean, slightly earthy-herbal too, with a mild touch of spices to add a delicately sparkling edge to the core woody galore. That’s it. No oud, not even a synthetic hint of that, and no darkness for me, at all. Quite the opposite, actually (you know what scent Dark Aoud reminds me of, if any? A Quiet Morning by Miller et Bertaux).

Despite the criminally misleading name and a certain feel of flatness it’s a decent scent though, almost nice - a very clean and discreet everlasting woody blend with no particular sparks of interest, but effortlessly enjoyable. A very safe and versatile workhorse, I guess. One of those clean, generic “IKEA-like” woody scents, just with some spices and an eau de parfum strength and longevity. Not exactly the catchiest scent around and definitely overpriced, but there’s worse than this.

5,5-6/10
21st January, 2016

Orange Sanguine by Atelier Cologne

As the name may let you assume, Orange Sanguine opens with a zesty, fairly realistic, yet overall quite mild and mannered accord of orange-citrus notes framed within a sort of salty-soapy structure comprising, I guess, some light cedar, some musk and a nicely executed subtle floral-spicy accord, which sort of enhances the tangier-edgier side of the top citrus-orange accord. Sadly though, I soon get an unpleasant whiff of artificiality and syntheticness, which once past the (quite short-lived) top notes, which are (were...) the only bare hint of “realisticness” here, make Orange Sanguine smell basically as a rather dull sort of clean, aseptic, laundry-like citrus-musky-spicy blend. Quite designer-oriented too, as we aren’t really far from some Kenzo or Calvin Klein scents – or also, some Ferragamo citrus colognes like Tuscan Soul. Actually now that I think of it, Orange Sanguine is indeed quite similar to that, also quality-wise – and that tells it all, since the Ferragamo costs a fraction of this. And that’s not a steal, it’s just the right price for something like this. The same cheap, flat, extremely generic fresh & clean blend, just with some more orange tones here. The openining promisingly recalled some of the nicest, crispest Hermès colognes, such as the Pamplemousse Rose cologne, but sadly the mediocre quality soon brings Orange Sanguine down to a whole different – and abudantly worse – evolution and conclusion. All considered it’s still moderately pleasant and not abysmal, but absurdly overpriced for the quality.

5/10
20th January, 2016

Rive Gauche pour Homme Light by Yves Saint Laurent

What a perfect flanker this is. It is indeed a lighter version of classic Rive Gauche but in a smart, fulfilling, unpredictable and very compelling way. It's not simply a "washed-down" version of it, not a "sport" flanker, it hasn't "just more citrus" as it often happens with "light" flankers; instead, as other reviewers already noted, it is 95% Rive Gauche (this implying it bears the same DNA of an amazing contemporary barbershop masterpiece) with a subtle, yet amazingly recognizable and brilliant tweaking of a couple of key knobs - notably, anise and geranium for me. In fact, it smells at once a bit more "azure", crisp and slightly more sugary thanks to a little more anise, and at the same time, kind of subtly fresher in a floral, "watery" way, thanks (I guess) to some more geranium. Just think of the immensely beautiful "new wave of barbershop fougères" embodied by Rive Gauche pour Homme, with the abovementioned variations.

The difference with Rive Gauche is quite subtle, but so cleverly made that it makes it absolutely not redundant to own both. Actually they smell much "complementary" for me - the Light flanker is slightly, elegantly fresher, more suitable for the day, also slightly less bold and thus something you can spray more liberally. While classic Rive Gauche is a bit more mature, more darker, somehow more formal too, and probably more powerful (although this Light version is definitely strong and long-lasting as well, don't worry about that). Again, not a massive difference, but not even that negligible. This is how flankers should smell for me - subtle, yet interesting and clever variations. Fantastic per se (it's Rive Gauche, after all) and a great addition if you already own Rive Gauche.

8,5/10
17th January, 2016

L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme Extreme / Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

L’Instant pour Homme by Guerlain is one of my favourite fragrances ever, and together with Dior Homme and a very limited few others, surely well represents the highest peak of recent contemporary perfumery for me (any perfumery, niche included). That kind of perfection which would make any flanker of it smell fantastic as wel, obviously provided the bone-structure remains the same. And in fact, this Extreme version is just as great as the original, to any extent. I neglected this for long thinking that it was only a more concentrated version of the original L’Instant, but now that I tried it, I realised it’s more than that (I know I’m ridicolously late on the party... better late than never, right?). It’s 95% L’Instant with the brightness knob turned down a little bit, and a 5% of anisic-cocoa boost. So it smells kind of darker, rounder, also woodier (especially on sandalwood) and a tad sweeter, shortly a bit more gourmand-ish than the original version, with a sort of younger feel all over. And it also feels bolder and understandably more powerful on skin. Sweeter and more powerful – now I see why this seems more popular among younger fans, if compared to classic L’Instant with its slightly more mature, musky, ephemeral and distinguished green-citrus vibe. But for once, dudes and bros are nailing it – this is some phenomenal scent as well. Different enough from classic L’Instant not to be redundant, great enough to make you want to own both. Brilliant.

8,5-9/10
15th January, 2016

Endymion by Penhaligon's

One of the most (or should I say, “few”) intriguing fragrances by Penhaligon’s together with Sartorial, both sharing the same peculiar feature – showing a sort of deceptive designer-oriented nature, but creatively elaborating it with what I’d personally consider an interesting and very compelling “artistic” twist (sorry for that, I hate the concept of “artistry” applied to fragrances; don’t take it too literally, it’s just meant to refer to the creativity involved in this). Endymion is basically a very gentle, impeccable, sophisticated and truly British in spirit sort of plushy powdery-gourmand Oriental scent with a fantastic smooth bergamot opening and a coffee-infused, musky-woody and slightly honeyed-resinous foundation, that overall undoubtedly contains echoes of many designers – from YSL La Nuit de l’Homme to Zegna Intenso to the drydown of Rochas Man, but it wouldn’t really be fair to compare them. There’s echoes, they may share a similar sort of inspiration, but that is really not enough to make a proper of comparison in my opinion, as their “substance” differs enormously. Endymion has a whole different quality and texture, which briefly put, is better – or well, surely more fascinating. It smells at once more substantial than them (except for Rochas Man maybe, that was a masterpiece already), more crisp, more quality, and most of all delightfully more ethereal, impalpable, boundless and sophisticated. “Emptier yet fuller”, if that makes sense. And it’s not simply a matter of lightness, I think it’s just a whole different approach and construction, and that’s what marks the difference.

As Diamondflame brilliantly explained below in fact, Endymion belongs to that small family of “airy”, weightless (yet more than substantial and rich in character) scents together with Hermès Cuir d’Ange or Prada Infusion d’Iris: stuff which doesn’t smell like a “normal” blend of notes, just rather a unique heavenly whiff of “pure scent”, which you’ve to take and enjoy for, well, just what it is – in which the materials are so good and blended so effortlessly well and out of any formal pattern, that you only get “it”, as a whole. And that’s truly a delightfully poetic effect on skin, as you almost feel you aren’t wearing a fragrance – you rather feel surrounded by an impalpable, almost nondescript yet perfectly detectable and enjoyable scented aura of distinguished lavendery-gourmand British class, tightly blended and masterfully balancing a sort of “double cleanness” – clean zesty top notes of bergamot, clean “laundry-talc” musk and soapy sandalwood on the base notes, wrapped around a warm, velvety heart of lavendery-gourmand-herbal elegance with a perfectly mannered shade of woody smoke (which will arise more prominently on the drydown). It’s warm, sunny, cozy like an English sunset. It feels familiar, but unique. Truly irresistible. I’m probably over-romanticizing this and I am not sure if I made some sense with my description, but just I enjoy immensely the way Endymion disguises its evocative uniqueness under a deceptive, easy-to-dismiss designer-oriented look. And regardless of that it just smells fantastic, surely more on the discreet side of the spectrum projection-wise (albeit quite persistent), but it fits the scent and the inspiration perfectly. A lovely uplifting gem.

8,5/10
12th January, 2016