Reviews by Colin Maillard

    Showing 1 to 30 of 1030.
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    Atramental by Room 1015

    Basing on the press release, Atramental shall be meant at evoking a “tattoo parlour”. The smell of ink and blood-stained latex gloves, bandages, pomades, rubber and plastic, the noise of the tattooing machines, the “rebel attitude” mood. I happen to be a tattoo enthusiast pretty much constantly craving for all of that, so I am perfectly familiar with that world and those suggestions. But even making an effort to link Atramental to that, I can’t help but thinking this scent has very little to do with it. Just a shallow, kind of cliché-sque connection to tattoing – “black rubberiness” as any copywriter would imagine by googling “tattooing”, and that’s all. And, anyway, press releases and “concepts” aside... things don’t get really that better. Atramental is basically a rubbery-balsamic leather-vetiver scent with some floral notes, maybe a sprinkle of musk (and oud?) and a clean, synthetic texture, as much wearable and really mildly enjoyable as kind of a massive déja-vu. Pretty much like a hipster version of some Montale’s crossed with some self-considered “avantgarde” niche brands like nu_be, both aiming at making a cheaper ripoff of a hypothetical “Fahrenheit Absolute by Comme des Garçons”. Ok, that looks entangled, but basically that would be the genre: “plastic” darkness, polished rubbery refinement, salty synthetic musky-dusty-woody base, a sprinkle of ambery dust. Not bad, this meaning not (overly) cheap, but utterly negligible for me, especially at that price.

    5/10

    24th April, 2015

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    Blomma Cult by Room 1015

    My guess, or better, how this smells under my nose at the opening: vanillin (and vanillin and vanillin), amber, citrus, powdery violet, cloves, cinnamon, maybe something like heliotrope – a kind of dry, floral, powdery-dusty-beeswax note - and clean musky lavender (or lavendery musk, you choose). Spicy, musky and powdery shortly, with a pungent juicy head accord of citrus and, I guess, the “higher-pitched” nuances of cinnamon. Kind of a “white-yellow” scent initially, somehow thick yet rather “modern” where modernity means synthetically (and slightly “cheaply”) plain and plastic. The smell overall ranges from pungent nuances to camphorous-floor cleaner tones, via a juicy core of something smelling halfway a spicy cheesecake, wet laundry and mosquito repellent. Once the tart-fresher head notes vanish, Blomma slowly drifts towards a frankly nicer powdery-spicy drydown; cinnamon, cloves, “lipstick” violet and musk take the stage, together with a hint of dry patchouli. Still a bit unpleasantly synthetic – by “unpleasantly” I mean that to me, this smells too synthetic to be satisfyingly realistic, but not synthetic enough to be “avantgarde”. Just some shy, halfway synthetic nowhere clumsily undecided about which polar opposite to emulate – whether trying to smell “good and realistic” of play the “plastic and futuristic” card. Anyway, my description may make this sound crap, but it isn’t that bad; just quite tending on the cheap chemical side, so hence my “supermarket products” references. The drydown is even passably nice, actually. As regards of the inspiration – not the actual quality – echoes here seem to range from Helmut Lang’s EDC, to many spicy-powdery scents of the 1990s-early 2000s, to a veritable shitload of citrus-powdery colognes, via Shalimar’s drydown, Dior Homme, and something of Buxton’s style and favourite notes. A negligible “synthetic contemporary scent” way late on the trends; not bad as I said, but I personally don’t see any point of interest.

    5,5-6/10

    24th April, 2015

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    Fahrenheit Absolute by Christian Dior

    Flowers out of black asphalt. It wasn’t surely easy to come up with a successful flanker of such a pillar as Fahrenheit, but this Absolute version, well, “absolutely” nails it. The connection with Fahnrenheit is as much subtle as clear in fact: the same sort of oil-leather accord, that “asphalt” terpenic note, is here too. But with a definitely charming and kind of more “modern-transparent” twist: less leathery and more rubbery, silkier, cozier, more mellow, with a tremendous powdery accord of violet (and lavender?) which adds a sprinkle of talc to Fahrenheit’s signature darkness. The darker side of Absolute is the main connection with the original version, but it’s still quite different enough to be appreciated as a different fragrance. First of all it’s not as deep and overwhelming as in Fahrenheit, and as I said is also less centered on leather and more on a synthetic, smoky oud note (more rubbery smoke than oud, actually); plus it’s overall far more discreet, velvety, refined, with an almost “liturgical” vibe underneath. It may be resins or something quite close to incense, but I do get an intimate, kind of meditative dark feel out of this Absolute. Still with a really modern, kind of “retro-futuristic” pungent metallic nuance. And soapy shades. Simple but fantastic, a truly remarkable modern take on a classic. With a really enjoyable “whiter” drydown, powder on black rubber. The name of this flanker is definitely misleading; one may expect a thicker, bolder version of Fahrenheit, while this is a rather gentler and way smoother version of it. Darker, in a more subtle way – quiet, gloomy and smoky. By no means I would consider duller or simpler of original Fahnreheit, though; just a really creative different version of it, maybe a bit more sophisticated, meditative, somehow more shady and ambiguous. Extremely fascinating and great to wear, and above all, with the same distinctive creativity that made Fahrenheit beyond unique.

    8-8,5/10

    21st April, 2015

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    Kenzoair Intense by Kenzo

    Notes-wise, Kenzoair Intense is practically identical to Kenzoair, but correcting its only and main deal-breaker: the lightness and closeness to skin. Finally this Intense version gives that “potentially beautiful” scent the projection and the “stereo boost” it deserved. Which doesn’t mean this is a bold scent; actually, it means just that you can finally smell Kenzoair, and finally for some hours. If you aren’t familiar with Kenzoair, it’s basically a really clean, contemporary, tremendously refined minimalistic aqueous-vetiver-anise scent, bright and crisp like a freshly-cleaned window glass, still with some water drops on it. Breezy and cozy like a very few else vetiver scents. The vetiver here is soft, mellow, salty, not the most realistic or rich around but that’s the beauty of it here, rounded by something like cashmere wood. It quite reminds me of Encre Noire, just more bracing, sophisticated and transparent. Encre Noire is thicker and a tad more synthetic, while Kenzoair smells just more “airy”, slightly watery-mineral too. Delightful and classy, with a perfectly gentle drydown, bright and quite close to skin. An uplifting mineral-woody gem, which I personally prefer over the original.

    8/10

    20th April, 2015

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    Un Jardin Après La Mousson by Hermès

    By far the most peculiar among the Jardin’s series, but in my opinion, only partially in a positive meaning. The main “pro” is that this smells undoubtedly way more creative than the others, it’s a really intriguing concept which actually succeeds in recreating the feel of a bracing garden just after a rain storm. Wet woods, wet grass... and – here’s the “con” – a couple of totally unrelated notes which make me wonder what “jardin” has just rained on, precisely. Basically the core accord of this Mousson smells to me as a surreal edible nightmare made with melon ice cream, cucumber and mushrooms. Not joking: it’s precisely and literally what I smell here. I haven’t a clue of what this may be due to, I guess part of this comes from ginger; but besides a nice musky-camphorous sort of “warm” spicy accord, a subtle citrus top note and a vetiver base note, I get that. Melon ice cream, cucumber and porcini mushrooms. Which as you may guess, it’s something none would want to smell of (I hope). The drydown goes a bit better, a bit woodier and drier, but still that’s the smell. So I get the aquatic rendition is really peculiar here, with a sort of spicy-mineral-camphorous-fruity twist, and I get this is by far the most unique and creative among this line, but for me it’s just this close to a nonsense scrubber. Mild thumbs up just because I admit it’s a matter of personal taste and I acknowledge the quality of ingredients and the creativity involved.

    5,5-6/10

    19th April, 2015 (Last Edited: 20th April, 2015)

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    Fumidus by Profumum

    Despite its name which may sound “dark” and threatening, Fumidus is actually nothing more than a really mild and mannered salty-smoky vetiver scent. It belongs to the “raw & earthy vetivers” family together with Etro Vetiver and Althunis by Sigilli, still smelling somehow duller than both – or better say, with a slight synthetic-cheap rubber aftertaste that ruins a bit the “wild magic” for me. And overall less “feral & wild” than it may seem at first. Nonetheless it’s a sure must for all raw vetiver fans; it’s salty, smoky, obviously woody with a “burnt” shade, quite dry and also slightly grassy. The smokiness here comes both from vetiver and from something which I guess may be a leather accord (guess it’s the birch note though). Nice, long-lasting and fascinating, but there’s way better for this genre – and the price doesn’t help.

    6,5-7/10

    19th April, 2015

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    Guerlain Homme Intense by Guerlain

    Guerlain Homme Intense is one of those scents which seem deceptively “generic”, while instead scream quality and class like a very few others. All is quality for me here: the materials, the composition, the evolution. Still keeping it incredibly versatile and crowdpleasing. You can enjoy a crisp office scent without caring about its subtle superb quality, or you can dive into it and amaze yourself with Guerlain’s heritage on display – because, yes, Guerlain Homme Intense still belongs to “the great Guerlain’s” (unlike, for instance, L’Homme Idéale). Citrus, bergamot, bracing mint and its floral counterpart – geranium, other floral notes, bitter grass, a crunchy rhubharb note, a drop of rhum, sharp cozy woods. Dozens of mainstream green-woody perfumes feature these same notes, but what once was “the Guerlain treatment” brings them all up to another level here. Which is the real of pure understated elegance. You just have to smell this to get what I mean. It’s a matter of radiance, richness, a perfect balance of realisticness, deepness and “polished” cleanliness. Then, all nuances are just so deep and sparkling, morphing and evolving under your nose, in a subtle but totally perceivable way.

    Homme Intense starts with a bracing, invigoranting and fresh slap of citrus, mint and grassy notes, then slowly revealing a warmer heart of rhum, geranium, pepper and woods, slowly drifting to an incredibly refined drydown which features a throwback in time – a really old-school, top notch quality smoky-salty vetiver note. Which is dry and woody, but perfectly enriched by rhum and made greener by a nondescript sort of bracing grassy-floral accord. All – I mean, all! – of these notes, try to imagine them in the best quality and crispness possible, blended together in a bright, cozy blend fitting you like a bespoke suit. Pure delight. The texture is clean and transparent, mostly green-woody with a slightly more unusual palette of nuances – rhum, rhubarb, a slight earthy-vegetable feel reminding me of good old Coriolan... Everything is perfectly safe and classic, even slightly formal, yet perfectly contemporary, as an everyday fragrance for “the modern elegant men” is meant to be. Fresh and sensual. This is my idea of modern luxury in a bottle; high quality and discreet elegance – and don’t have me started speaking about quality versus price, ‘cause the price of Guerlain Homme Intense makes any other self-claimed “luxury” scent look more ridicoulous than they already are. The only flaw of this fragrance is that maybe it is... a tad really too “apparently-generic” to be appreciated as it deserves. If I was more presumptuous I would rate this “for connoisseurs only”, but – aside from being uselessly pretentious – that wouldn’t do justice to the versatility and the positive “crowdpleasing” nature of this fragrance. Just, don’t underrate this.

    8-8,5/10

    18th April, 2015

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    Rochas Man by Rochas

    If there’s a bunch of good masculine-to-unisex gourmands, Rochas Man would be surely in. And possibly be the uncle of them all. Two references come to mind as a comparison among dozens; Yohji Homme, and Thierry Mugler’s style. Rochas Man is just way more discreet, compelling and refined than most of Mugler’s offerings, yet less sophisticated, cold and “avantgarde” than Yohji. Still that would be the family more or less; a coffee-anisic gourmand top accord on a sort of crisp barbershop-powdery base comprising mostly lavender, sandalwood, spices, amber, a hint of bracing citrus. Two notes or accords stand out for me in particular: coffee and flowers. The smell of coffee here is quite remarkably executed: slightly sweet yet “roasted”, earthy, much aromatic, fairly “natural”, mellow and dark, perfectly blending with amber and woods. Slightly milky and vanillic too, as if it was meant to evoke a “cup” of coffee rather than coffee beans – so, say, a quite “urban” and civilised approach to coffee notes, still quite realistic and not that tackily plastic (take that, Mugler). On the other hand, “barbershop” and fougère-ish grassy flowers provide a silky, gentle frame of clean powderiness, bit of “freshly laundered shirt” vibe, providing some more classic “masculine cologne” feel. Woods and amber do the rest acting as a discreet, warm, slightly earthy frame with a hint of smooth leather. What would you ask more? Rochas Man is one of those clever, well-crafted scents that have them all: it’s versatile, it’s classy, it’s distinctive, it’s surely kind of a “youngster” but perfectly suitable for gentlemen; it’s bright and dark, it’s quite “daring” yet completely civilised and wearable. It’s a bold gourmand, but it’s composed in a way it stays elegantly warm and discreet on skin, stopping just a step before getting tacky - so don’t fear smelling like a candy. You’ll smell just unique. Good stuff.

    8-8,5/10

    18th April, 2015

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    Onsen by MiN New York

    Finally the first MiN scent I like, and aside from my personal taste, that I “objectively” find compelling, solid, “finished” and mature. It smells nice and unlike most of the others among this line, it smells like if someone actually put some care and creativity until the very last try before the final version. Basically for me this is a really interesting sort of contemporary mint-woody-ambery scent with a sweet, slightly creamy but at the same time woody-salty base which I guess contains notes of anise and vetiver. Perfectly blended with a crisp, bracing fresh top accord of mint, sharp balsamic pine notes, citrus, maybe other tart aromatic herbs like basil – “invigorating balsamic greenness”, shortly. So far, it may sound a quite conventional, astringent-balmy green-citrus scent with some added woodiness; the thing I enjoy is that they manage to “fit in” a truly pleasant and extremely sophisticated accord of smoky-musky and “ash-y” amber, with a slight nutty aftertaste. Quite subtle but definitely distinctive, providing a really enjoyable feel of mellow, velvety “grey roundness” to the blend. And it does not clash at all with the overall “transparent” and sharp balsamic-green mood; on the contrary it provides just a subtle shade of refined, slightly dark and dusty warmth – warm yet aloof - which goes just irresistibly good with the rest.

    As others have noted Onsen shows quite a meticulous minimalistic work, which doesn’t mean the scent is light; just discreet, simple, yet creative and extremely refined – a whispered, quiet type of refinement. Vaguely reminiscent of some 2000s designers though (and a couple of deodorants too, but I want to skip that for once), but in a positive way; it smells like taking just some of that, well blending it with a “niche” approach. Maybe because I wore it the other day but it reminds me of Paul Smith London for instance; or better say, a “depleted” version of it, taking away basically all the creamy-sweet powderinesss (not entirely though; leaving just a grain here). Onsen smells like the olfactory portrait of some wealthy yuppie’s avantgarde “all-concrete” mansion in the deep woods; greenish and mineral grey, breezy and slightly pretentiously sophisticated, an artificial structure cleverly integrated into a natural ambiance. Or even better, the sculpture “Mirror House” by Altenburger, as Onsen does indeed contain a beautiful slight “metallic-glass” feel. Linear drydown, a bit cheaper than the way more interesting early stages, mostly focused on a citrusy-musky synthetic amber-woody note which may easily become a bit boring... but nonetheless, pretty well done overall for me.

    7,5/10

    15th April, 2015

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    Paul Smith London for Men by Paul Smith

    Creamy synthetic vetiver and sandalwood, citrus, a mint-lavender combo reminiscent of older fougères, and a thick spicy-ambery accord which seemed everywhere among woody mainstreams of the 2000s together with the other big “jolly” of that time - violet. That’s London, and it’s quite nice. For some reasons, despite being partially quite conventional (woods, violet, tonka...) London smells quite more young, vibrant, genuinely “urban” than many other fragrances sharing the same notes. It smells “pop”, somehow traditional and somehow contemporary – like so many British pop bands in fact; always “fresh”, yet always so rooted into Britain’s pop heritage of the 1960s. London shares the same “concept”; it’s like a fresher, renovated, kind of juvenile and lively version of uncle’s Dunhill colognes – more synthetic, more transparent, with a couple of “metrosexual” features (mint, violet). Far from being groundbreaking, but a really versatile and nice fresh-creamy-spicy woody scent, a bit plastic and almost cheap quality-wise but somehow in a positive meaning – that type of “plastic syntheticness” many niche brands are still able to disguise as “avantgarde”, so why shouldn’t we play that card for Smith too. Grab it in case of good deals.

    7/10

    14th April, 2015

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    Life Essence by Fendi

    Life Essence by Fendi is totally intriguing forgotten gem. It’s basically an understated, totally “Italian” citrus-woody scent, but with a creative sort of “rural-wine” twist. And by wine I both mean the smell of wine (I guess the fruity note here), and of wood corks. The woody accord here isn’t played on the “usual” vetiver/cedar and/or sandalwood combo, but it smells rather more “greenish”, sharp, astringent, sour and dry, pretty much like raw cypress wood or oak. I get cedar too, but well concealed among other more prominent woods. That, soaked in wine then left on the balcony drying under the afternoon sun, the smell blending with the herbal aroma of cypresses and olive trees. Imagine this, topped with a soothing and slightly creamy accord of citrus, bergamot, carnation, amber, pepper. And something salty-musky underneath (maybe just side-nuances of woods). A bright, tart, kind of sour but also extremely soothing Mediterranean woody scent cleverly conveying a “countryside” feel; nothing wild or rural, rather the smell of some of those luxury “shabby chic” country resorts with their wine cellars. Natural yet sophisticated, really enjoyable to wear, classy and radiant; linear and poorly persistent, but that is what you would expect given most of the notes. A nice discontinued keeper, nothing groundbreaking and surely unworthy high prices, but still good.

    7,5/10

    14th April, 2015

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    Cèdre Sacré by Sentifique

    I once received a souvenir from – I think – Morocco, it was a big heavy wood dice with an irresistible, sharp smell of raw cedar wood which lasted for years. This fragrance by Sentifique quite captures that smell, sadly drowning it into an unnecessary massive synthetic-smelling feel halfway pepper, plastic, rubber, wet grass and stale water. Try to imagine a bridge between traditional woody fougères and cheap Axe deodorants. Which I guess is how my nose decodes that oud note or accord, as indeed I do smell also something rubbery and “dark woody”. It’s not a “fecal” scent or anything heavy, so don’t think of other ouds; actually it’s a really mild scent, but still I do get a stale feel which I really find just both out of place here, and plain off-putting. And I am not even sure whether if may due to oud, as actually it’s more a “synthetic” stale feel, like in really (really!) cheap woody scents. It’s not a “barn” note, rather some moldy plastic thing left rotting somewhere in the woods after a storm – that’s the kind of “stale” I am talking about. This whole sort of bad-smelling cheap woody accord is negatively enhanced by citrus, which adds a pungent-astringent feel to it. Anyway, among all of this, if you inspire with attention you’ll get a really beautiful, solid and realistic cedar note – one of the nicest I’ve ever smelled. Sharp, wild and aromatic. What a shame you’ve to dig for it. Feels like plunging your arm into a poorly-sanitized crapper to retrieve a gold ring. Not an entirely tragic fragrance after all, but surely kind of messy and to me, fairly cheap (especially on the drydown, which is definitely on the cheap “cloying woody deodorant” side).

    5/10

    13th April, 2015

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    Bois Blonds by Atelier Cologne

    An interesting scent; not sure if a “beautiful” one, but interesting. And surely well crafted regardless of personal tastes. First of all, I enjoy the subtle sharp discreetness of Bois Blond; it’s not a thin or unsubstantial scent, on the contrary it is rather thick actually; but at the same time it smells weightless and unobtrusive. It suprises me how it smells powerful and sharp if you get close to it, yet almost unperceivable sillage-wise. Then, it has indeed a “woodier-than-wood” soul, but with a really peculiar and nondescript sort of peppery-watery twist. It’s pungent on one side, but extremely smooth on the other. In a way, just to give some idea about how it smells, it’s an (apparently!) quite conventional woody-to-the-bone scent with fresh and herbal hints, showing some solid roots into the classic masculine fresh “eau de colognes” family – Eau Sauvage, Monsieur Rochas, Signoricci. Sharp pepper-juniper, some citrus, something musky on the base, and a ton of raw, slightly wet, salty wood – both vetiver and cedar. Actually apart from the abovementioned classic colognes, initially for some reasons this reminds also – and somehow, more specifically – of Nina Ricci Phileas from the 1970’s: like a sort of clever, contemporary “synthesis” of some of its essential features. Most of all I get here the same slight yet quite peculiar rusty-metallic-musky-herbal-watery nuance which I get in Phileas too. I am not saying they smell similar; rather, they share that specific and quite unusual feature, which makes Bois Blond particularly enjoyable. It smells classic, slightly exotic in a sort of “vintage” meaning, but with a definite contemporary look. Plus, it has at least a couple of unusual traits which make it distinctive enough: a whiff of licorice (due to vetiver I think, like in vintage Etro Vetiver, which is another reference that came to my mind especially for the drydown) and an overall peculiar “thick-yet-weightless” texture making it light enough to be elegantly discreet, but also keeping a sharp personality. It isn’t the most creative or groundbreaking scent around but it’s definitely solid and worthy a sniff for me.

    7-7,5/10

    13th April, 2015

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    Aer by Angela Ciampagna

    Aer is all about grassy notes, sharp mint leaves, aniseed, warm salty-watery vetiver and a general, highly enjoyable breezy mood. Fresh, earthy and bright. And totally different from any other “fresh, earthy and bright” fragrance. Whereas most of other Ciampagna scents share a quite clear and consistent “dark rural” feel, Aer puts aside (most of) the darkness while maintaining a bold, crisp, woody-aromatic countryside look; the smell of grass, hay, salt, woods, Mediterranean aromas (aniseed, herbs) is truly “airy” and lightweight, far brighter than nearly all other fragrances from this line. Still somehow “cloudy”, though; a slight aqueous feel, the balmy humid air preceding a storm. So I wouldn’t consider this separated from the “fil rouge” linking all the fragrance in this line; just the brighter one, but still rooted in that “rural Gothic” world. As alfarom notes, there’s a clear resemblance to Kenzo Air; just saltier, with more hay notes, and overall, a bit thicker here, and smelling more “natural”. Bright and versatile, but with enough twists to stand out from the genre. Radiant bracing elegance with a cloudy twist. Again: bravi!

    8/10

    12th April, 2015 (Last Edited: 13th April, 2015)

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    Background by Jil Sander

    Background opens with a thick, quite peculiar soapy-medicinal blend comprising fruity notes, almond (tonka), a true load of cinnamon blended with powdery notes (heliotrope above all), balsamic notes, something creamy like white flowers, and something balsamic-resinous which reminded me of pine and fir balsam. Balmy, spicy, medicinal, woody, powdery, kind of gourmand-ish and balsamic... and leathery too for me, a smooth, soft but bold leather note underneath, slowly arising as minutes pass. A really solid leather accord, actually: waxy, rich, realistic, bracing and totally compelling. A sort of bizarre, colorful, kind of queery hybrid halfway Cuir Mauresque and Helmut Lang EDP, spicier than both and overall kind of more “weird” and playful - in a good meaning though. Kind of flashy too honestly, with (no offense for Germans) a sort of typical German “boldness” (i.e., tackiness) I smell in many older perfumes from Germany. Fun and creative, a bit linear and a bit heavy too, but a really peculiar and overall compelling take on the typical mid-90s Oriental “powdery-spicy” fougère theme (where the “peculiar” feature mostly lies in the sweet-medicinal-balsamic side).

    7/10

    12th April, 2015

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    Concentré D'Orange Verte by Hermès

    Another winner in my Hermes’ “concentrés” book, together with Pamplemousse Rose. Orange Verte does again nothing less and nothing more (no, actually a bit more) than you would expect from its name; more “green” than “orange”, showing also a fantastic discreet ambery-floral-woody vibe which provides a subtle yet delightful warm and silky feel underneath the sparkling bitter freshness of the top notes. All revolves around a realistic, albeit ephemeral zesty lime-orange note and a more persistent and realistically bitter herbaceous-green accord, which is fresh, grassy and crisp like freshly-cut branches, well enhanced by woods. Wildly “botanical”, but with the irresistible Hermès’ touch of clean and distinguished understatement, and this “Hermès treatment” is what makes this special and quite unique if compared to the dozens of other “fresh green” scents. Most of these Hermès “concentrés” manage to be simple to the bone, terribly realistic, and terribly sophisticated too. Legitimately short-lived given the notes, but totally great until it lasts.

    8/10

    11th April, 2015

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    L'Essence de Déclaration by Cartier

    Finally the word “essence” means something, as I clearly smell some differences with the original Declaration, and precisely in the way “essence” may suggest. That is: not only the juice is stronger here, but it also smells thicker, more dry, remarkably darker and smokier, with also a muskier and somehow “sweatier” vein. As a true “essence” of Declaration, indeed; cut out the fancy bright freshness and the crisp preppy look, go right to the juicy core. It’s obviously still Declaration in broad terms, so that’s the smell more or less; just bolder and dirtier. The drydown kind of "reconciles" with the soothing smoothness of the original Déclaration, still slightly smokier and muskier. Perhaps less classy and surely less fresh the original version overall, but totally non-redundant if you own that already. The Mr. Hyde of Dr. Declaration!

    7,5-8/10

    11th April, 2015

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    Body Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent

    Benzoin, synthetic incense and sour balsamic-anisic greenish herbs (eucaliptus and sage) is exactly what you get at the opening, soon developing a warm, rather bold anisic-almondy aftertaste which I wouldn’t know which note to attribute to exactly – quite sure there’s spices here, definitely tonka above all, as I get a whole sweet Oriental base accord, made smokier by that woody incense note. So, shortly a sweet, kind of soft but at the same time round and bold (almost heavy actually) balsamic and nearly-heavily spiced anisic-resinous-herbal Oriental blend. Not the slightest connection to Kouros to pretty much any extent; but still a remarkable scent to say the least, more than versatile and easy to wear, really “simple” and effortless – almost naif and slightly tacky for the first hour or so (far less than it may have been with these notes, though). Then, after some three or four hours, an unexpectedly mellow and “grey” late-drydown arrives, with a really peculiar sort of discreet and dusty incense-starch note that reminded me of the smell of freshly-laundered garments. Slightly aromatic, kind of “gassy” and breezy, really clean. And nearly completely different from what came before, to any extent; the heavy spices are gone, not much more sweetness left, just this immensely enjoyable thin fog of almost-avantgarde smoky incense with an anisic vein and a crisp substance. Quite a twist if compared to the almost juvenile and kind of flashy early stages, which are more all about thick resinous spices. I wouldn’t define Body Kouros a gem, but we’re almost there - a true keeper for sure, with a quite distinctive informal and playful vibe then unexpectedly and effortlessly morphing into a classy and enveloping drydown.

    8/10

    P.S. I wasn’t aware this has been (allegedly) “heavily” reformulated, but just in case - my bottle is the older one.

    10th April, 2015

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    Arctic Jade by Agonist

    Possibly the nicest Agonist I’ve ever tested so far, a line which always left me completely indifferent. The blend here has a really classic French vibe, but with a sharp contemporary look. More specifically, as the name goes, the modernity here lies in a palpable and quite distinctive “icy” grey feel, I think due to aldehydes and something reminding my of olibanum and synthetic incense, together wrapping a warm floral-resinous vanillic blend like in a frosted cube. Floral and ambery-vanillic in a really classic meaning, as I said: think of a brighter and lighter “guerlinade”, with also a hint of camphorous-animalic notes. The fruity notes are treated in a rather “mature” way, so don’t expect any juvenile gourmand stuff: they provide instead a subtle, crisp and realistic sweet-green feel without overloading the composition with “boosted” synthetic sweetness. Sandalwood’s there too, and smells quite good in my opinion: juicy, realistically woody, contributing to build that classic feel (Santal Noble and vintage Egoiste come to mind, Santal Noble especially). All gently leading to a great silky amber-sandalwood floral drydown. The only thing I personally dislike is a slight yet annoyingly perceivable and cheap soapy-metallic feel which I don’t know how to identify, but kind of ruins a bit the mellow, fascinating complexity of Arctic Jade. Apart from this and a rather unsatisfactory persistence though, I find this scent compelling and charming, easy to wear yet really interesting in my opinion. An aloof yet sophisticated take on classic themes.

    7-7,5/10

    10th April, 2015

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    Mood Indigo by Folie à Plusieurs

    Mood Indigo opens with a synthetic woody-peppery accord made thicker and “juicier” by green-floral notes and something slightly earthy-vegetable (pimento, I guess). Warmer, cozier sandalwood-incense-amber drydown, a bit more pleasant than the first stages. Several designer scents come to mind, pick any woody-peppery-amber scent somewhere between 2000 and today and mix it with anything from Comme des Garçon’s Incense series. Maybe just a tad sharper and more “minimalist” (i.e., plain) here. Buxton’s style at its best, where “Buxton’s style” means using the same three or four dry, cold synthetic woody-peppery-incense notes again, and again, and again. Anything the abovementioned Comme des Garçons or other “contemporary mainstream” brands could have accomplished 10 years ago, at a fraction of this price. Now, I admit I am really not the greatest fan of this kind of perfumes except for a few of them, so I may be particularly un-sensitive to this type of inspirations, but this really seems the epitome of boredom to me. It smells decent, but completely dull and mute. And kind of cheap too. An icy transparent blend which appears as interesting and charming as a cute, still kind of lame model whose career won’t probably go any further than posing for some Asos underwear pages.

    5/10

    09th April, 2015

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    Rosarium by Angela Ciampagna

    Rosarium is a balsamic incense-based scent (as the name suggests, with its “liturgical” reference) with overall a bit more complexity and color than many other niche incense scents; there’s a sweet-powdery floral accord comprising a hint of honey (quite dry and really subtle), jasmine and a dusty-buttery note of iris and carrot, and a nice, quite natural and almost raw woody base where you get both cedar (I mean “real” cedar) and vetiver. While many niche incenses smell quite synthetic, this one plays actually the “natural” card; incense itself is surely a bit artificial but here it’s surrounded by a really pleasant and compelling frame of earthy “nature” – carrot, flowers, woods, honey. All crafted in a quite subtle way, to keep incense as the main note. Somehow dusty, somehow gentle (flowers, powder), and overall much quiet, meditative, kind of gloomy as you would expect given the notes – but not overly dark, just more “churchy” with a feel of archaic rawness. Like the rest of this line, this scent as well evokes an intriguing feel of “Mediterranean gothic” which I find quite compelling and well played here as well. It’s still basically and incense scent and personally I am more than tired of this family, so don’t expect anything groundbreaking; but still, this is really nice..

    7-7,5/10

    09th April, 2015

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    Hatria by Angela Ciampagna

    Hatria opens with a really compelling and thick rose-oud combo which smells finally slightly different from the usual clichés of these notes, so don’t think of Montale rose-ouds or similar stuff. Of course that’s the family, but Ciampagna made some efforts to do it in a slightly more personal way. It’s dark, classy and “juicy” as one may expect, but has also a salty, balsamic-herbal quality which definitely brings the blend closer to a Mediterreanean inspiration – something more unusual for such notes in my opinion. The notes are quite simple to get, they smell quality to me and are perfectly blended: rose, herbs, oud, a balmy-ambery sweet base accord with a great sandalwood note, and an overall warm breeze echoing vintage fougères (cloves, patchouli, musk...). The “caramel” note, luckily I almost don’t get it; more than an individual note, I think “caramel” here (whatever they used to build that) provides just a sort of dark, warm, slightly sticky thickness that perfectly gives “weight” to the composition. Another note which I don’t get is saffron, although I do feel a sort of dusty, spicy, “culinary” and Mediterranean feel. Most of all anyway Hatria is about rose, oud, patchouli, sweet-balsamic warmth. A sure “yes” for me overall: it smells deep and quality, and the composition – which is quite linear, though – is crafted in a way that it conveys a fascinating feel of warm abandon as you may experience in a sleepy desolated village in the deep South of Italy – kind of dusty, sweet, earthy, with a balmy feel of “suspension”. Lights and shades. Refined but with a nice “rural” feel.

    7,5-8/10

    09th April, 2015

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    Ducalis by Angela Ciampagna

    As the rest of Ciampagna’s line, which is starting to look like one of the nicest surprises of 2015 so far for me, the “visual” inspiration and the ambiance are quite clear since the very first sniff: a sort of dark, provincial “austerity” somehow sitting between a feel of desolation and a raw, archaic, vibrant naturality. In “olfactive” language: dryness, thickness, earthiness, a palpable “artisanal” feel, an overall dark and meditative mood, but at the same a peaceful sense of quiet thanks to balsamic and aromatic spicy-herbal-floral notes - I guess evoking the “soothing power” of nature. Ducalis is particularly, elegantly dark and dry at first, yet with a warm heart, mostly focusing on a thick woody-floral blend with dark shades and spicy hints; as minutes pass though, it progressively unravels its beautifully intricate texture, which is quite more than you would expect at first. Sweet, velvety, slightly metallic flowers on warm, balmy but also dry and really austere woods: two main “axes” each comprising several facets that you get throughout the evolution. Flowers range to the threatening obscurity of rose and jasmine, to “whiter shades” of lily and cyclamen; the same for woods, which comprise nuances ranging from sandalwood (“juicy”, sweet, bright and cozy) to drier, shadier and “woodier” notes of rosewood and cedar, with some added weight thanks to cloves, leather, and nutmeg. A touch of amber and vanilla provide some sweet and warm “roundness”. Overall Ducalis may appeal fans of oud scents as well, as it shows some similar sort of “dark silky thickness”, just more complex and aromatic – not due to a single note (but indeed, woods, jasmine, nutmeg and leather do create a similar aroma). On the other hand, flowers are worked in a really peculiar way here, which kind of just uses “some” nuances of them; so despite you see many of them listed in the composition, I wouldn’t define this a “floral scent” – rather a woody scent with many interesting and complex nuances, this including flowers. Artisanal to the bone, totally fascinating and sophisticated but at the same time kind of raw and dark. Utterly enjoyable. Bravi!

    8/10

    09th April, 2015

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    Liquo by Angela Ciampagna

    Holy grail stuff for any licorice-hay lover. Liquo opens with an extremely vibrant, realistic, darkish smell of licorice sticks, wet hay under a cloudy sky (think of the hay note in Heeley’s Cuir Pleine Fleur... just in 3-D full power), anise, a ton of dusty and sharp cumin, woody notes, with a gentle touch of lavender and powdery flowers. Mediterranean to the bone, a thick blend transporting you right into a small village’s fair, blending the smell of home-made, non-sweet – rather salty on the contrary – licorice and anise candies with earthy whiffs of barn smells from farms and fields – hay, woods, herbs. That’s it, and it’s terribly good for me. The notes smell raw and realistic, but the blend is extremely refined, crisp, “polished” in a good way; so don’t expect anything overly “hippie and artisanal”. It surely smells natural and almost organic to some extent, and surely shows an artisanal touch – especially that fantastic note of hay – but overall it’s all tamed down and mastered enough to appear as a proper work of high class perfumery. A win-win compromise, shortly: wild and sophisticated. Also, don’t expect any gourmand scent: too earthy and realistic for that. Quite dark too, or better say with a palpable sort of “rainy” feel... ever been to the countryside after a storm? That’s the smell. Peaceful, but almost unsettling, with a soothing, drier and dusty-smoky drydown. A velvety somber perfume managing to smell extremely elegant and enjoyable yet “uncivilised” and moody, with some “gothic” vibe underneath – a “rural” kind of gothic deeply rooted in the elusive quiet of the Mediterranean countryside. Great materials as far as I can tell. Solid and evocative.

    8,5/10

    09th April, 2015

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    La Religieuse by Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

    The only reason why I wouldn’t completely bash this to death is that it reminds me of a dirty cheap deodorant my mother used as a room spray at my parent’s place. That’s the quality, that’s the texture: cheap jasmine, a hint of citrus, aldehydes and a ton of industrial white musks. I don’t smell anything else. A huge depressing whiff of cheapness. But it reminds me home, so... Anyway, since it’s the fourth or fifth Lutens scent in a row which makes me wonder what has happened to this once-so-glorious brand, I won’t compare this to the previous releases – I mean the good ones. It’s a dead brand for sure, we got it, I’ll stop acting sad and surprised. Still I must admit La Religieuse is slightly better than the last couple of Lutens’ fragrances, though: as much cheap as it smells, and boy it does, at least it doesn’t clumsily emulate some naif avantgarde stuff a decade late on the trends (Laine de Verre or L’Orpheline anyone?). It smells decent: terribly cheap and low-end designer, but decent. “Acceptable”, say. The thing is: why on Earth one shall settle with the lamest scent around, at that price? I wasn’t kidding when I mentioned a supermarket deodorant – I meant it. La Religieuse hasn’t the slightest interest and/or quality which may justify even half of its price. It smells really *poor*, plastic, unsubstantial. It just doesn’t stink. But I can’t really see the point.

    4,5/10

    08th April, 2015 (Last Edited: 09th April, 2015)

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    Rosa Nigra by Unum

    Within the concept of Unum line, which in rough terms drawns a line (pardon the pun) “from darkness/meditation to enlightenment/purification” with a tight connection to spirituality and Medieval Gothic architecture and art, Rosa Nigra is meant to be the third fragrance in order – the brighter, the sweeter, the “purer”. If you want to skip my review: a terrific standout, here and in niche in general. Not my personal favourite of the line, but still great. Although despite the name there is no rose in here, the first fragrance I though of as a rough reference at first was indeed a rose heaven - Lyric Man by Amouage; if my memory serves me correctly about that, I think here I get some similarities, mostly due to the “darkish” treatment of fruity notes, but overall tad quieter here, and less opulent. And honestly far more fascinating, less suffocating, with just the right amount of “weightlessness” and airiness allowing you to experience a really “dimensional” composition.

    Anyway, in the first minutes it does overall evoke a rose smell somehow, especially its more dark-carnal and syrupy-fruitier sides, but avoiding any camphorous-soapy effect. Complex on one side, but also totally “straightforward”, almost simple on the other. Basically it’s a sort of bright and uplifting fruity-herbal sandalwood scent with velvety floral nuances and a warm base with powdery-vanillic hints. More fruity at first, with an incredibly nice smelling peach note (vintage Piguet’s Visa somewhere there...) showing a slight aqueous substance, surrounded by juicy flowers, leafy herbal angles and enriched by sandalwood. A clean texture, substantial but elegantly balanced between crisp sharpness and balsamic exoticism, wrapped in a sophisticated, warm and enveloping allure (the “trait d’union” among the three fragrances – a dusty, vanillic, slightly fruity ambery accord). On the drydown, quite the same but woodier, more discreet, somehow muskier too. Dense, rich, incredibly refined and appealing, deeply fascinating, with an undisputable high quality of materials and an irresistible feel of peace and radiance... still, with an austere, and kind of dark vibe, like the other two scents of this line. “Dark” in a “liturgical” meaning, if that makes sense.

    All of this backed with a solid concept: I usually can nearly never stand marketing releases and “storytelling” stuff, which often look like an unnecessary boring load of clichés, but here’s different – just give a look at Rosa Nigra’s page on Unum page while sniffing the perfume, you’ll get what I mean (if you read Italian). There is indeed a solid connection showing the brand’s solid and cultured approach to perfume making. Unum is basically a mixture between dark avantgarde/contemporary aesthetics, Medieval Gothic architecture and culture, a non-banal spiritual discourse and an overall “sacred sense of beauty”. Rosa Nigra perfectly fits some facets of this, as the other two fragrances do with other aspects. Perfect quality to all extents. Bravissimi!

    8/10

    08th April, 2015

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    Opus 1144 by Unum

    Probably my personal favourite among Unum line, despite the really bold opening which may be off-putting at first. Opus 1144 is inspired by the born of Gothic architecture and art and shall be meant to be a tribute to it; and believe me, if you try a non-prejudicial, “synesthetic” association with the idea of Gothic cathedrals and frescoes and all the cultural implications they were meant to convey, it does trigger an association. Nothing to do with incense or other more “liturgic” aspects, here the reference is the material feel and smell of stones, marble, woods, flowers, candles, paper, which all together create the “meditative majesty” of that artistic style.

    The opening is triumphally bold and powerful: a thick, nearly overwhelming dusty-ambery blend (“ambery” à la Goutal’s Ambre Fetiche) with creamy candied-floral nuances (elemi and flowers) and a whole citric-astringent side of citrus and bergamot, perfectly opposing a warm and sweet vanillic base also comprising sandalwood (speaking decently-aged Shalimar here) ... in turn juxtaposed to dirtier, almost skankier notes of benzoin, jasmine, salty ambergris (forget ambroxan, I mean salty, slightly animalic-aqueous ambergris), and something that reminds me of tonka – a sort of sweet-exotic almond touch. Thick, radiant and deep, gourmand-ish on one side (this even comprising a weird sort of balsamic vinaigre feel), almost chypre-sque on the other; slightly waxy - meaning both powdery-iris and leathery as in Lutens’ Cuir Mauresque - monolithic but somehow almost “lascivious” thanks to its softer-darker sides, slightly reminding me of the (few) best aspects of Mona di Orio style – that sort of dusty, antique vibe, just less baroque and more austere (and, ok, uncomparably better executed here).

    The drydown is equally great, and for me is quite the key to get the whole beauty of this fragrance. After the citric-vanillic opening it enters a sweeter phase echoing tonka and resins (echoes of “guerlinades” again), then an un expected drift towards an incredibly beautiful powdery-dusty drydown with darker shades that is as much uplifting, peaceful and mesmerizing as looking at the dust floating in the light of a Middle-European cathedral. Complex but so fulfilling from the very first sniff to the very final drydown (Terenzi’s lab made this, and you can smell that). It’s quite hard for me to describe this fragrance, so I’ll just cut it here; as the other two of this line the composition is incredibly well enginereed and harmonic, really compact, it would be enough to say it smells stunning and perfectly connected to the concept behind Unum line, and that’s all.

    8,5-9/10

    08th April, 2015

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    Lavs by Unum

    LAVS by Unum is the first scent in (chrono)logical order from this line, meant to represent the “roots” of Unum – which are grounded in L.A.V.S. atelier (“Laboratorio Atelier Vesti Sacre”), a successful Italian tailoring workshop that produces vestments and regalia – even for the last two popes (Benedetto and Francesco). This is actually the aspect of Unum that completely got me; despite being myself agnostic, I can’t help but being terribly fascinated by this. In a market segment ruled by copywriters hired to browse Wikipedia to make up stories and heritages for made-up brands, the idea of a line of scent with such solid, consistent and actual real roots in the field they’re inspired by, is mind-blowing for me. Anyway: LAVS was basically produced as a room fragrance the atelier’s staff used to apply gently on the garments before delivering them to clients and sell as a room scent. Once they realised clients liked to wear it too, Sorcinelli and his team thought about starting a line of fragrances. LAVS is that early non-scent just reworked in a “wearable” form. And just to get straight to the point, it’s an incense scent. A majestic one, a “liturgical” one with a subtle exotic vibe, and despite I am not the most enthusiastic fan of this family of scents, one of the greatest around by far for me. What makes it great, besides an undisputable high quality, is that it finally shows some complexity and some classy, clever work with notes; whereas most of other incense scents just rely on a repetitive and overworked couple of molecules (which smell fantastic, like Givaudan’s Mystikal, or just bare play with Iso E), LAVS is built around a more complex evocation of a liturgical ambiance – the garments, the incense, the rituals, the history, the dust, the cold feel of metal and gold, the intimate relation one establishes with all of this. With some facets evoking more distant references, from coriander to spices, that provide a subtle but palpable sort of pagan, exotic feel.

    The main accord is incense though, which smells dark, grey-ish, with a slight ash aftertaste but also breezy metallic nuances, not overly synthetic; and it’s beautifully and perfectly melted into a really airy and uplifting blend which definitely plays the balsamic-herbal-spicy card – I personally get sharp cloves, pepper, coriander and aromatic woods above all. As hours pass it becomes warmer and quieter, still carrying a powerful, and almost intimidating “ritual” feel; a round, mellow and resinous ladbanum-amber note with a hint of dark fruitiness emerges, defining the frame of LAVS and tightly connecting it to the other two scents of this line which contain a similar accord – like a secret sign of masonic brotherhood. So despite being at first clearly a monolithic incense scent, and to this extent being similar to others, it has definitely so much more. If you compare this to other “liturgical” references like Comme des Garçons’ Avignon or Jovoy’s La Liturgie des Heures, you can easily get what I mean. Mostly because as I said, most of other incense scents stop at a more shallow level of “incense-ness”, just recreating and reiterating that same accord which simulates a cliché of incense.

    Maybe because LAVS is an extrait de parfum and therefore is also deeper and richer in nuances than Eau de Parfums, or maybe because Sorcinelli and his team know what they’re talking about when they talk “spirituality” ... but LAVS goes just deeper and further than any other, with a passionate, balanced craft work around the nuances of incense. Spices, amber, musk, aromatic woods, flowers, they all discreetly enhance them and they all help to define and deepen incense, like participants in a ritual. Not a thick scent, though, and above all, not “heavy” as you may expect: it’s deep and enveloping, but as regards of its substance, it’s incredibly balanced, really “spacious”. Totally pleasant to wear, even effortless. And well, all that aside since we’re talking about a perfume... the fragrance itself smells great, sophisticated, with a cozy and spiritual mood and a quiet feel of “sacred” austerity. If you’ve a penchant for “meditative” fragrances with a refined look, this may easily sit among your holy grails. Total quality.

    8,5/10

    08th April, 2015

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    Manakara by Indult

    Manakara opens with a bold, thick, nearly headache-inducing gourmand accord with a powerful, sweetish aldehydic-boozy heart. I can’t recall what this reminds me exactly, but I am sure I ate a cake once which contained something exactly tasting like this (I mean, smelling...). Shortly though, Manakara smells of creamy, resinous, slightly honey boozy-fruity stuff with an almondy aftertaste and a gentle, silky, powdery breeze smelling of rose petals. Nothing juvenile or “teen”, though: rather an “adult”, carnal, complex, even somehow “naughty” gourmand, all played on warm, deep and sensual notes. Litchi, I don’t get the note, not at all; there’s indeed some fruity bitterness at the very heart of Manakara, but well drowned in a thick dark boozy accord - nothing fresh and zesty as you may expect. Not bad overall, surely not what you would expect reading the composition, but still a really classy and unexpectedly dark, lascivious gourmand scent, with a really peculiar powdery-fruity-boozy core. Kind of linear and therefore, given the almost-sickening boldness, kind of annoying soon... but rather interesting nonetheless.

    6,5-7/10

    07th April, 2015

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    Old School Bench by MiN New York

    ... and again, as pretty much anything else I’ve tried so far from this brand, another uninspired variation on the same bunch of trendy aromachemicals. A metallic, plastic, heavily synthetic and terribly cheap blend smelling of, again, some of MiN’s apparent favourite clichés: “dry burning wood”, some vetiver, a nondescript cold gassy-ozonic whiff, made thicker and colder by a rather astringent boozy-aldehydic note. All rather dusty, transparent, somehow slightly rusty too. Cacao and patchouli are there too, and that’s the only interesting part for me, as they’re quite cleverly transfigured in a cold, dusty, mono-dimensional look – that’s interesting because they are deprived of their usual “roundness” and thickness, smelling like holograms of the real thing. A really cold sort of white & black representation of chocolate and patchouli. Another thing I admit I may appreciate is how the blend is built, as the result is extremely tight and densely mixed, and you need quite some time to “unravel” the nuances (an operation unworthy the effort, if you ask me). Dry woody-balsamic drydown with a hint of dusty sweetness, still with a massive plastic feel. Aside from the abovementioned couple of interesting features though, and I’m sure this is my problem, I can’t help finding this overall a barely decent albeit rather boring and uninteresting fragrance loaded with “contemporary niche” clichés plenty of other brands have already and quite more creatively exploited in the last 15 years (burning-woody stuff, booziness, cold airiness, “arty contrasts”...). I get there’s room for everyone, but $ 240 for 75 ml of this?

    4,5-5/10

    07th April, 2015

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