Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Colin Maillard


Poivre 23 by Le Labo

One of the nicest Le Labo fragrances I have ever tried. And basically the first pepper fragrance I’ve ever liked. Rich but simple, realistic, straightforward, clean but dark, bold and unique despite featuring some really common notes ( “the devil is in the details”...).Basically, as the name suggests, it is a peppery fragrance, but an extremely clever, balanced and pleasant one. Pepper is quite tricky in fragrances; some tend to be really loud (Villoresi’s Piper Nigrum), some cheap or screechy, some are just boringly, artificially “woody-peppery”, or sometimes they’re just a monotone pepper litany. Well, Poivre 23 isn’t any of that. It brilliantly manages to keep pepper as the central note, yet with some really pleasant and enjoyable nuances that give some colour, some evolution and some vibrancy to the scent – both “bright” and “dark” nuances (or better say, warm-sweet and cold-balsamic). The palette of “colours” of Poivre 23 is quite nondescript actually, it’s just a really vibrant and shimmering fragrance which doesn’t smell like pretty much anything else. I get a lot of “curry” smell, especially initially; some subtle vanillic amber, maybe even something greenish-floral and slightly resinous.

The evolution gets eventually drier, a bit muskier, earthier, still with a perfectly detectable warm-ambery labdanum note, at the same time slightly more balsamic and green (in a dark, “fougère-like” meaning). And with a really pleasant whiff of crisp laundry musk. It feels like a “pepper soliflore” with distant, light echoes of other fragrances – from Etro Ambra to Le Labo Labdanum to many musk-vanilla scents, to (obviously) pepper fragrances like the abovementioned, and inferior, Piper Nigrum, finally almost reaching some really classic green-floral Chanel or Laroche scents – not sure why but I thought of both vintage Laroche’s Fidji and Chanel’s Cristalle at some point. I am not saying I smell them here, rather that their faint green-musky chypresque ghosts lightly “float” around on the background thanks to some really well-put subtle nuances that seem to recall them. Probably one of the most “dynamic” scents I’ve smelled recently, brilliantly keeping it consistent around pepper and cumin. I can’t explain myself better – it’s just a really catchy, fascinating and refined pepper-resinous-green scent, unique and vibrant, extremely enjoyable to wear. And that’s it. Bravi!

28th July, 2015 (last edited: 29th July, 2015)

DKNY Red Delicious Men by Donna Karan

A hypothetical hybrid between Dunhill Desire Red and Dunhill Custom – gone wrong. Red Delicious is a sweet, extremely synthetic “laundry musk” scent infused with discount sandalwood, a bold (and again, utterly plastic) accord of something halfway apple, earthy stuff (coffee?) and booze, finally unexplicably stuffed with a ton of nondescript metallic screechiness which does have a fascinating shimmering nature – smelling halfway rotten cough syrup and floor cleaner. Not tragic overall, and most important not really far from many niche scents playing this same “sweet booziness” card. But the quality is really, really low - too cheap to be taken seriously.

26th July, 2015

Honour Man by Amouage

Honour Man is for me among the “least Amouage” offerings by Amouage – both in a (slightly) positive and (mostly) negative meaning. The good news is that it smells different from most of their other masculine scents, so at least it’s something new: the bad news is that this “new” smells like a cheap parody of any Comme des Garçons-like balsamic peppery incense stuffed with musk, nutmeg, geranium and discount vetiver. That’s pretty much it in fact, a really artificial and kind of harsh musky incense with a mildly vibrant geranium-green-balsamic vein, which would be even quite nice (leafy, bitter, realistic) if it wasn’t blended with a cheap peppery-musky-incense and ambroxan galore, supported by a really generic, Jil Sander-esque woody base. You can easily guess how this smells on skin: “grey”, kind of cold, annoyingly synthetic, with a lot of plastic-rubbery nuances I wouldn’t really want from this price range. Vibrant and creative as an office cubicle on Sunday. Shortly probably it gives you the same result you’d get by layering Jil Sander Men (from 2000) with any geranium-musky supermarket scent. Now you know why I don’t like most of niche offerings? Because contrary to mainstream/designer brands managing (more or less successfully) to produce anything from socks to fragrances via dog leashes, so having at least the “we’re really busy” excuse, niche houses have one job – making perfumes. They’ve all the time and the resources to do it. And half of the time they make clumsy stuff mainstream brands could make blind folded between a new pair of shoes and a stoneware set. And at a fraction of the price, obviously. Honour Man may be decent, but... what’s the point?

25th July, 2015
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Mark Birley For Men Charles Street by Mark Birley

A really successful blind buy for me for once. You can safely trust the positive reviews, it is a really nice scent indeed. Solid, masculine, really elegant. Although I don’t get some of the notes listed, what I do get is surely coffee (pungent, dry, austere and earthy coffee beans – don’t think of any diabete-inducing Mugler’s type of coffee), a really well-crafted angelica note smelling leafy and bittersweet (better say bitter-“aqueous” actually), a pungent fruity accord which is actually more boozy than fruity (think of the smell of wine corks) and a really nice, robust leather accord. Now, the comparison to Tuscan Leather is surely correct, although Mark Birley smells decidedly more “virile” and dry for me. But surely that’s the ballpark. Smooth, slightly sweet leather. The thing is Birley costs a fraction of that, and is also quite more interesting, creative and complex, so it’s really easy to see the winner here.

Other comparisons came to my head, basically many recent fruity-leather scents – from Cuir X by La Parfumerie Moderne, to a sort of drier, darker, “gentleman” version of Parfum d’Empire’s Cuir Ottoman and so on. I really, really appreciate the mood of Charles Street, as it brilliantly manages to smell at once contemporary (even “trendy” for its “polished leather & fruity notes” structure) and austere, sophisticatedly echoing vintage dark leather fougères. This is what makes it better than most of the modern leathers mentioned, this really elegant sort of “mature” vibe perfectly fitting the concept (a tribute to Birley’s club?). I think Bourdon did a really good job in blending classic and modern leather inspirations. As regard of the general mood and style, also Bentley for Men Intense came to my mind at some point – the notes are quite different (not completely though, the ambery booziness is quite here too), but I think they share some similar mood, really nailing it in terms of self-confident class and quality. Projection and longevity aren’t really top notch, but apart from this... really good!

21st July, 2015

Pure Lavande by Azzaro

Not bad per se, but this has nothing to do with lavender. This is a really mellow, smooth, even sort of pleasant blend of anisic-aldehydic musk and vanilla; soapy, sweet, ambery, and with that peculiar sort of "dusty gassiness" provided by aldehydes or something like that. I think I also smell some really light and subtle hint of something rubbery, like a really synthetic imitation leather note. Shortly a "grey" synthetic scent which as other reviewers said, probably would work better as a room spray than on skin. Nothing green, or aromatic, or floral as one may expect. But I get Azzaro's clumsy attempt to connect this to "pure lavender", as it has indeed some "laundry" feel thanks to musk (which also lavender may have, as a minor side nuance). I wouldn't consider this a bad scent though, as it is decent and crisp overall and almost smells like something Comme des Garçons or Andrea Maack could have come up with; it's just completely wrong for that name.

20th July, 2015

L'Essence de Cerutti by Cerruti

Essence de Cerruti opens as a heavily synthetic sort of balsamic musk blend, kind of creamy and minty, with something smelling like fresh violet and sweet woods (imitation sandalwood, imitation cedar). I surely get amber, and also a fruity-citrus note, but I completely miss the leather initially. Just a quite nondescript, juvenile sweet-creamy-woody blend with a toothpaste-like mint and peppery vibe and some generic crisp wood on the base. And a terrible feel of clumsiness and rush, as if Antoine Lie got the brief for this the night before the final delivery – although honestly that’s the feeling most of his compositions give to me. A complete lack of interest, direction, inspiration. A shrug in a bottle, which doesn’t even smell that good – quite cheap indeed on the contrary, but not enough to pass it as some “futuristic synthetic avantgarde”. Just cheap and generic. As a side consolation, on the drydown there’s some faint rubber resembling to leather – the cheapest contemporary leather you may think of, in line with the rest of the fragrance. I quite like, or at least respect Cerruti usually, but allow me to “meh...”.

19th July, 2015

Weekend for Men by Burberry

Crisp green-fruity-citrus scent with no praise or blame – well, more blame than praise, quite on the synthetic/acrid side (a floor detergent, basically – imagine you’re using it to clean the tropical juice you’ve just spilled on the floor, here’s Weekend). Quite cheap overall, especially for the first minutes which are fairly loud and pungent; once it settles a bit on skin and finds its proper tuning, it’s a mildly enjoyable and exceedingly generic green-citrus-musky scent with those annoying metallic-pungent nonsense nuances many brands try to pass as “tropical fruity notes” – although luckily it’s more green-woody and citrus than tropical. Not that acrid anymore if compared to the opening, more metallic and “gassy” after a couple of hours, but still miles away from being something pleasant to wear. Anyway, linearly green and fruity on the lime-tropical side, and that’s all. Personally I’d rate this mediocre, to be generous; but if you’re looking for a summer fragrance and your pretenses are really (really, really) low, then here you go.

18th July, 2015

Dunhill Edition by Dunhill

Another fragrance I misjudged at first – it may seem a bit conventional, it isn’t really. Edition (vintage version) is a really pleasant, extremely refined and quite modern gentleman’s scent decidedly belonging to the classiest “barbershop” family, but at the same time connecting to several different inspirations. There’s some clove tobacco and rubbery/leather-ish notes that remind me of some old dark Italian leather fougères like Ferré for Man or Krizia Moods (but with a far echo of vintage Bel Ami too), there’s quite some bold spicy nutmeg which seems anticipating stuff like Cacharel pour Homme and Cacharel Nemo, and there’s finally a really classic and smooth citrus-lavender-mossy/woody structure that brings Edition back to a timeless “barbershop” realm. Spicier and fresher at first, darker and woodier (mostly vetiver and nutmeg) on the drydown, with a silky “fil rouge” of gentle leather and flowers (I definitely get carnation and rose) providing a really palpable feel of mannered luxury and sophistication. So don’t expect any “powerhouse” for sure – this is, or was, probably one of the most elegant British fragrances around. And quite complex too, but the final result on skin is extremely wearable, easy-going, versatile and most of all, exceedingly pleasant. Smoky and spicy, slightly dark, perfectly suitable for both formal occasions and daytime informal settings, the kind of “old school distinguished stuff” getting repeatedly ripped off today by brands like Puredistance, Roja Dove and Clive Christian. Really good.

16th July, 2015

The Dreamer by Versace

First, the good news: if you want my opinion, I see almost no difference between the “vintage” and the more recent version of Dreamer. I said “almost” so I’m not saying they’re identical – the vintage smells a bit more natural, slightly darker and smoother, without the synthetic harshness of the recent (current?) version you can smell loud and clear at its very opening; but since in a matter of minutes it goes away and the scents perfectly “tunes in”, I think the two versions are 99% equivalent overall – just use a little patience with the more recent one. The drydown is pretty much identical, I surely don’t get any “ruined” juice as I read online about the current version. This said, the scent itself is just an excellent piece of modern perfumery. Almost nondescript for me, and it took me a while to “understand” it: it smells just really beautiful, uplifting and terribly pleasant. I don’t get how did they make it precisely, but all works perfectly. I smell tobacco (cigarette type), lavender, spices (Jaipur Homme’s kind of Oriental, talc-infused sweet spices), a clever touch of something balsamic-green, but most of all I smell overall a fantastic feel of cleanliness, peace, fulfillment with a really peculiar “ambiance” halfway naturally and earthy, and so clean and slightly musky it almost smells futuristic.

I usually can’t stand reviews romanticizing scents and I try to avoid mentioning feelings and suggesting “images”, but this time I can’t help it, as Dreamer has a really strong evocative quality for me – evoking this sense of neat, clean, “natural versus artificial” brightness with a fantastic shade of “barbershop” notes and a touch of Oriental mystery. The way they’re blended makes the difference here, Dreamer is incredibly harmonic and compact, there’s just a perfectly consistent unique smell that smells of, well, “Versace Dreamer” and that’s it. This fragrance has them almost all – it’s elegant, versatile, but at the same time informal and fun, and has a really nice set of shades and a subtle “enigmatic” vein, I guess due to its Oriental notes. An easy-going but fascinating “chiaroscuro”. Plus I think it brilliantly takes inspiration from several families of perfumes – from classic tobacco-floral fragrances like Zino Davidoff, to dandy Oriental gems like Jaipur Homme, both under a decidedly “younger”, more modern light. An outstanding work of synthesis of many diverse inspirations, brilliantly projected into the future. Excellent creativity, excellent skills to give it shape. But above all, it smells just fantastic – the vintage version does it since the very first spray, with the recent one you’ve to wait some 15-20 minutes, but then it works as good as the previous one. Easily the nicest Versace ever for men, together with L’homme from 1984 (which is as good as conventional and a bit outdated for me though, while Dreamer is way more timeless – or more precisely, completely “out of time”).

14th July, 2015 (last edited: 15th July, 2015)

Pure Cédrat by Azzaro

One of the nicest and more peculiar recent scents by Azzaro, which since a couple of decades seems aiming at producing duller and duller cheap scents one after another. Pure Cedrat is surprisingly decent, and surprisingly “outdated” in a really pleasant way. Basically it is a really mannered and elegant citrus-neroli fragrance with lavender and a herbal-mossy-musky undertone, and the citrus here is not a blast of synthetic “sport” stuff but a refined, really natural “citron” note – the name “Pure Cedrat” refers to that in fact (contrary to what many would expect I guess, as this has nothing to do with cedarwood). The result is a distinguished juice evoking classic products from Eau de Rochas to many “Monsieur de”, to vintage Eau Sauvage, to a good old fresh glass of fizzy citron juice.

Azzaro smells thinner, a bit cheaper and more modern than many of those classic scents, but it has that same irresistible subtle touch of French “dirtiness” that many masculine fragrances had in the past (not Derby or Jicky kind of raw dirty, rather a more discreet touch of something mossy-musky which speaks “vintage” to me – that sort of “moldy” aftertaste). Imagine that, blended with the graceful, bracing, slightly fruity notes of citrus, citron and neroli. And the fact it smells less complex and less austere than many classic fresh fragrances for men would be a plus for many people, since I guess this it makes Pure Cedrat a bit more unisex and more appealing for younger targets which I guess don’t usually crave for that “grandpa” feel. Pure Cedrat basically blends a modern/mainstream vibe with classicism, and I like that since it does it in a really balanced and honest way. It’s nothing complex and nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a healthy breath of elegance from a (nowadays) exceedingly dull brand. Sadly the other two fellows of this “collection” - Pure Lavender and Pure Vetiver - aren’t this good, but this one is worthy a sniff.

14th July, 2015

Sander for Men by Jil Sander

By far the dullest Jil Sander masculine scent ever for me. It smells literally like a couple of really basic and bland aromachemicals thrown and stirred in a bottle, the same kind of stuff you can find in any masculine sport-woody deodorant. Beyond generic, a true nowhere in a bottle. No direction, no inspiration, “nondescript” to say the least as other reviewers already stated. I am sorry to say that since I’ve always found Jil Sander scents much underrated, and I am usually quite a big fan of the brand, but there’s surely way better among their offerings – actually almost anything’s better than this in my opinion. As regards of the smell, notes speak for themselves and there’s not much to add for me, just imagine them in the most boring and unsubstantial rendition possible: a cheap woody-peppery-herbal scent with a bold, pungent synthetic feel and a sort of far background similarity with herbal-aquatic scents like Rochas Aquaman or Lanvin Oxygene – a distant echo tortured and buried under a drugstore mess of cheap woody aromachemicals. Meh...

10th July, 2015

L'Ombre dans L'Eau by Diptyque

Messy, acrid cheap synthetic cassis, synthetic rose and synthetic blackcurrant all the way. It may have been better some years ago, now it’s this – and nothing else. It smells halfway a drugstore green-rose cologne from the 1980’s and a contemporary fruity-musky scent right out of a suburban Chinese emporium. As hours pass it becomes more tolerable as it focuses on rose and faint leafy echo, but it’s still nothing more than a cheap insult to “selective” perfumery for me.

10th July, 2015

Horizon by Guy Laroche

Horizon by Laroche is a really fascinating scent, I wouldn’t define it a “good” scent but it’s surely much intriguing, quite ahead of its time for me and making a creative use of both green fougère structure and fruity-floral-aquatic accords. That’s what I get here in fact – basically a sort of “aquatic-fruity-floral fougère”, a slap of green-fruity watery freshness (imagine a Mediterranean breeze of pine and warm sea) on a more conventional green-mossy fougère, both blended with a graceful accord of flowers (dark carnation, bright pastel cyclamen) and a recognizable note of orange. Sort of Givenchy Insensé meets Cool Water and both meet Pino Silvestre. Still a bit cheap, but in a fun way - and pleasant above all, that’s what counts. The name “Horizon” quite fits the scent, as it really radiates a peaceful feel of contemplation and calm with a joyful, vibrant natural vibe – and a brilliant vein of “classic” barbershop notes giving just right amount of “civilized elegance”. Really enjoyable and decent, just a bit screechy at the very opening and not the classiest scent around (it’s quite loud especially on the green-fruity side), but an uplifting fun little gem.

10th July, 2015
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Kenzo Power by Kenzo

Another example of a “potential niche sensation” in a “neglected mainstream bottle”. Give this an obscure hipster name, make 50 bottles per batch when you feel to and get rich (if not in money, in praise and hype). Jokes aside, Kenzo Power is an extremely interesting fragrance, surely one of the most creative ones by this brand, and most important, tremendously easy and enjoyable to wear regardless of any added value. Power is a really bright, white, talc-like powdery scent with a fantastic bergamot opening, a sort of gassy-spicy vibe and a really recognizable tolu balsam note, which brings it really close to that other tolu bomb – Escada Magnetism for Men. Both share that same exact sort of “creamy-powdery-medicinal Cola feel”, and while in Escada it was bolder and more predictably integrated in a YSL M7 kind of structure, Kenzo Power brilliantly and perfectly fits it in a completely different, almost opposite ambiance – a delicate, weightless, futuristic sort of abstract floral whiteness, which gets some “substance” and a sweet darker shade precisely thanks to this odd balmy feel coming and going, cleverly balanced by a subtle but persistent feel of aromatic zesty freshness (bergamot). The only far comparison that came to my mind at some point was some sort of translucent lab hologram of a grandnephew of Jaipur Homme and Escada Magnetism for Men – fresher than both. Quality-wise the blend smells synthetic in a really pleasant, creative way, somehow soothing and somehow aloof, the kind of synthetic which you quite never smelled before (who said syntethics don’t require as much talent and creativity than naturals?). The result is a really clean and bright scent with a ton of personality, some really charming and enigmatic shades, decidedly androgynous, creepy and comforting at the same time. Fantastic for summer days. Really well done.

06th July, 2015

Ferré for Men by Gianfranco Ferré

Ferré for Men (nothing to do with Ferré for Man from 1986) is for me one of the most representative epitomes of “half-baked” fragrances. It’s perfectly split in half, on a time axis: one is really – really! - good, the other is not tragic, but a bit disappointing. The opening is perfect for me, a surprisingly rich buttery iris with a remarkably elegant “lipstick” effect on a musky-mossy base and refreshed with some zesty notes of bergamot, and probably that “pineapple” too, since there’s indeed some really subtle fruity feel that gives some sweet brightness to iris. Less quality than Dior Homme, a bit darker and woodier and with a sort of poliurethane-leather feel, but surely Dior Homme may be a broad comparison. Either that, or even more L’Homme de Coeur by Divine. This is the best part of the evolution, a really elegant opening phase perfectly balanced between “masculine” musky-woody-leathery notes, a hint of mainstream spiciness (tonka above all), a feminine touch of lipstick iris, and a whiff of aromatic freshness.

Sadly though, the progression isn’t really consistent: the iris note tones down quicker than I expected and so does its really nice sort of citrus-fruity support, and Ferré for Men slowly turns into a generic woody-musky scent with a generic spicy accord (tonka again, now more prominent) and a generic touch of synthetic leather, just tinged with a really mild and light touch of iris (mostly soapy musk than the initial “lipstick” iris). Like a good supporting band without its leader. Still better than most of mainstream average of this same “contemporary Oriental” family, nothing bad and totally nice to wear, but surely way less refined and intriguing than the first phase. I still consider this a good scent overall, and I’d even suggest you to grab a bottle if you stumble upon nice deals; just a bit disappointing after a while – so either settle for this, or keep reapplying it.

05th July, 2015

Herrera for Men by Carolina Herrera

I recently acquired a current, allegedly reformulated bottle of this (all brown dotted packaging with silver borders) and without having tried the previous one, all I can say is that this more recent version smells really good for me. Nothing harsher or more “synthetic” than one may reasonably expect - and accept - within this price range; Herrera for Men is actually kind of classy, suprisingly compelling and really enjoyable, and also fairly creative for its era: basically a sort of really smooth, niche-like curry-scented tobacco scent with a hint of honey, some clean musk-lavender tone and the shade of a classic fougère structure. Lots of interesting nuances here, from something tea-like to a really balanced use of cloves (a note that 99% of the times I hate bad). What amazed me at the first sniff is how surprisingly close to tobacco this is – way more than other more praised scents that were kind of a disappointment to me to this extent (e.g. Aramis Havana, which is great but doesn’t remind me of tobacco that much; or inferior juvenile stuff like Michael Kors for Men – not to mention most of contemporary tobacco scents smelling like cheap candies).

Speaking as a long-time cigarettes smoker, I think Herrera for Men quite captures the aroma of a packet of cigarettes – not the raw, dry-earthy one of cigars, not the sophisticated, “humid-sweet” aromatic smell of pipe tobacco, but the mildly sweet, slightly synthetic, maybe pedestrian smell of common cigarettes. There’s lots of this tobacco here, tasty and realistic, together with cumin, a drop of citrus at the opening and something sweet-warm and slightly fruity, like honeyed amber and a bit similar to tea too (think of a grown-up macho version of Gucci pour Homme II), with a really clever accord of more “traditional” masculine notes (musky lavender, woods, geranium) that gives the scent a pleasant touch of “barbershop”. There’s also some really nice sandalwood here, joining the sweet-earthy side of the fragrance. A lot of names come to mind considering the different sides of this Herrera individually, but none would be really a comparison for the fragrance as a whole, as in fact Herrera for Men smells honestly quite new and unique to me. It’s surely a bit close to other early 1990s fragrances (the first Zegna comes to mind in particular) but there’s quite more going on here. The quality isn’t top-notch but it works really good, way better than I expected given that all other Herrera scents I’ve tried were utter crap for me. A bang for the buck if you ask me; it smells good, bold but classy, masculine as a Raymond Chandler villain, totally decent for the price.

04th July, 2015

1000 Miglia Extreme by Chopard

*This review applies to the normal, non-extreme version of this (which isn't listed on Basenotes yet, I will move this accordingly once they add it)*

The composition seemed interesting to me at first, especially that promising “asphalt-suede” combo, so I approached this with slightly more enthusiasm than usual, although I am not really a fan of Chopard fragrances, and well, I was wrong – in being slightly more enthusiastic than usual, I mean. Utter cheapness and boredom in a bottle. The opening comprises mostly a contemporary aromatic fougère bone structure of wood, lavender, citrus scented with tobacco, some subtle smell of coffee, a dusty-sweet feel (amber and violet) and a little sad suede aromachemical lying in the shame corner. 1000 miglia reminds me of a cheaper, subtler, more boring version of woody-coffee scents like Rochas Man crossed with Lanvin’s Arpège pour Homme and similar “violet woodyambers”; just more generic, with more lavender, more (depressingly synthetic) wood, a bit more zest, a hint of green. Basically a dull, slightly confused and more generic version of both (or similar ones) with a persistent sort of soapy-musky-woody feel drowned in plastic. Tragically uninspired, too cheap to be at least “mediocrely refined”, one of those scents you have to sniff constantly to remind how they smell, and probably regret having bought them. Plenty of better options for this non-genre.

04th July, 2015

L'Eau des Hesperides by Diptyque

Eau des Hesperides by Diptyque starts off with a sharp, almost acrid minty-citrus-grass accord, which smells as much green as really pungent and balsamic. Invigorating and bracing on one side, quite artificial on the other, ending up in smelling a bit like a nasal decongestant – balsamic for sure, but also decidedly “medicinal” in a literal, non-fascinating meaning. The musky base, subtle but substantial, doesn’t help in minimizing this plastic feel. Still if it’s smashing green freshness what you are looking for, regardless of quality and charm, then this will probably suit your needs. Personally I find this a bit too loud and artificial, with way too much acrid-synthetic stuff going on - speaking of contemporary green citrus scents I tend to prefer more discreet, natural refined stuff like some Hermès “concentrés”, but to each his own. Like many other Diptyque fragrances, a nothing bad-nothing good quintessence of negligibility.

03rd July, 2015

Infusion d'Iris by Prada

A classy gem I neglected for too long, I used to own Infusion d’Homme some years ago and got rid of it since it smelled too light and a bit dull for me - and I thought this was just its feminine counterpart (therefore even lighter and – not to sound sexist – probably duller). I was so wrong! This is so better than that – and ironically, way more suitable for men. Easily however this is one of the nicest iris-based scents on the market for me, especially of the fresher/gentler sub-family. And even more easily, the best offering by Prada so far, but it didn’t take much for that. Infusion d’iris is a tremendously radiant, bright and bracing blend centered on a minimalistic structure of iris petals (no buttery/waxy/lipstick orris root), bergamot, something slightly and elegantly candied-fruity, soft incense and a silky, really discreet base accord of musk and bright vetiver. The notes seem common, their smell isn’t at all: the quality is clearly high and unique, particularly more than usual, and you can definitely feel it. All smells clean and light, but decidedly more intense and substantial than one may expect.

The evolution is also really catchy and irresistibly pleasant, moving from a zesty pastel opening of fresh bergamot and bright iris petals through a soapy, stronger central phase centered on iris (blossoming in its earthier-leafier side) and musk, ending on a beautiful vetiver drydown still infused with a powdery touch of iris. Like a really consistent three-movement piece of intimate piano music, with iris being the recurrent theme. And aside from its brilliant evolution, it just smells great - period. And persistent, too: very few perfumes manage to smell this crisp, weightless and luminous keeping some intensity and persistence, and also ending up in being exceedingly perfect for men and women. Probably only the best Ellena’s for Hermès managed to do that – and Infusion d’Iris could easily stand among them in fact. Together with Rush for Men, probably one of the best works by Roche-Andrier, showing that exact same feel of discreet, bright, extremely clean sense of quality, refinement and sophistication (now let’s all wait until Prada discontinues it to realize that!).

02nd July, 2015

Geranium Odorata by Diptyque

Nothing more than a barely decent and kind of loud (not to say screechy) synthetic geranium scent with a rose nuance and a dull cedar-ambery base, also tinged with a whiff of something reminding me of ambergris – something salty, musky and slightly animalic. Maybe some incense too. No relevant evolution and quite a long, annoyingly artificial persistence. I wouldn’t define it “tragic” but it is really a bit too much close to an overpriced floor cleaner or a really, really cheap mainstream fragrance to make some sense as a niche perfume – especially for the price.

02nd July, 2015

Escapade a Byzance by Olibere Parfums

Escapade à Byzance by French newcomer Olibère is for me sadly nothing more than a worthless addiction to the endless galore of Duchaufour’s creations, and particularly one of the most negligible. I guess the budget was tight here, both for the materials and for the nose, so the result is both cheap and uninspired. To cut it short this smells to me as an extremely synthetic blend of ambery-woody incense with... well, not much more. Something sweetish, spicy-dusty, vaguely similar to cinnamon but so generic and artificial that it does not trigger any specific association to notes for me. The few notes I can “recognize” with some stretch are the abovementioned amber (nothing warm, rather the ubiquitous greyish ambroxan), woods (the usual synthetic cedar stuff) and a really cheap incense note. That’s it. It doesn’t stink, but... 2015, niche? This smells like something Jil Sander could have come up with in 2001 at a third of the price. Meh...

01st July, 2015

Kenzo Pour Homme Boisée / Woody by Kenzo

This “woody” flanker of Kenzo Homme is one of those fragrances you can’t really go wrong with. It has for me a remarkable balance of generic safeness and decent quality, and above all, it is really pleasant to wear. You won’t keep sniffing your wrists and you won’t hear underwear garments fall at your side, but you’ll smell nice, fresh and effortlessly, discreetly classy. Plus this fragrance is also extremely simple and clean, which is another “added value” in terms of versatility and wearabilty. Basically on my skin it smells literally of three or four bold and clear notes: some citrus, an initial ton of sharp minty-aromatic leafy green (the fairly realistic basil-mint accord) which will then slowly fade away, a really tiny hint of some soapy musk and a really enjoyable vetiver base which will emerge more clearly on the drydown – which is basically nearly only vetiver and some musk again. The vetiver here is grassy, fresh and woody, nothing forcedly “dark” or inky/smoky. I’d dare to compare it with the marvelous grassy vetiver note in Guerlain Homme Intense, just with a lower quality (surprisingly not that lower though, it smells actually really compelling). That’s it: nothing groundbreaking or memorable, rather the epitome of clean versatile safeness – something solid (and it really is for me, quality-wise) you can generously overspray on the rush in every situation with every weather, when you’re not in the mood of wearing something more fulfilling or complex.

01st July, 2015

Zegna by Ermenegildo Zegna

Like many other masculine classic fragrances from those years, the first scent by Zegna tries to blend some classic “powerhouse” notes from the 1980’s (leather, cloves, oak moss, carnation) with a “younger”, more refined powdery Oriental vein of amber, spices and something floral-musky. A “gentler” powerhouse, maybe broadly comparable to Guerlain Heritage, just way less sophisticated than that, more herbaceous, sharp, still more leathery and “virile”. Say, more than a similarity, I think they could share some similar inspiration – to “brighten up” the rather gloomy realm of masculine fougères of the preceding decade with something spicier and more powdery. And that’s it, you can easily imagine how it smells and sadly for me, with all respects, it falls within the “boring” side – I mean that it is a perfectly decent and elegantly masculine fragrance with no particular quality or creativity or “added values” to make it a “gem to re-discover” (unless you’re really obsessed with Italian fougères).

29th June, 2015

Armani Eau de Nuit by Giorgio Armani

Halfway Paul Smith Man and Dior Homme, a sort of spicy-dusty “grey” iris-tonka fragrance loaded with synthetic amber nuances, a ton of cheap soapy musk (you’ll get it all on the drydown) and a hint of smoke. Clearly similar to Dior Homme – the kind of “similar” connecting a counterfeit PU leather replica of a Hermès Birkin bag to the original one. A strong will to be content with very little, a bit of imagination and really low pretenses can make the purchase worthy. The same here; Eau de Nuit smells heavily and almost annoyingly cheap and not exactly “inspired” from the point of view of the creativity... but well, it works somehow, especially since the prices seem quite low. It’s warm, slightly sweet, dark but gentle, a resemblance with the drydown of Body Kouros pops out on the drydown. *Indifferent shrug*.

27th June, 2015

Original Santal by Creed

Trying not to be judgemental here, but Original Santal by Creed is really a depressing fragrance given the price and the pretenses it has. I can accept the fact there is no (I mean: no!) sandalwood here, and obviously no “original” sandalwood therefore, but even putting that aside, it smells really, clearly and desperately mediocre. Don’t expect any luxury out of this, it is basically a really generic herbal juniper-lavender blend with a lot of spices on the smooth-sweet side, mostly cinnamon and tonka, and that’s it. Pleasantly outdated if you want, but that’s a really miserable cold comfort to pay that money to feel like a wealthy distinguished connoisseur while actually smelling like a lower-class accountant from the early 1990s. Not saying Original Santal stinks; it is decent, in the least enthusiastic meaning ever, something which I would consider acceptable for a 15/20 EUR fragrance. “Drugstore/chainstore-decent” as any Montblanc and similar fragrances would be. Sadly I am given to understand Creed fans are most of the time so devotedly stubborn that my review will just appear as some snobbish grumpy opposer bashing the brand for the sake of it... well I am not. I admit this would be fine with a way lower price, so I do see some margin of acceptability with this fragrance, but as-is (over 2 EUR/ml?) it’s objectively preposterous - this being in the same broad price range of, say, Hermès Cuir d’Ange? Insulting.

27th June, 2015

Balmain Homme by Pierre Balmain

The very first two thoughts I had when I tried this: it’s pretty much exactly how you can imagine it by reading the notes, and it definitely “smells Interparfums”. They must really use the same materials over and over, because I get here the exact same notes I get in many other scents made by this company – e.g. some St. Dupont’s, or Paul Smith’s. But well, it isn’t really an issue for me as long as they smell fine, and most of them did or do for me. There’s something “dusty”, smooth, smoky- powdery in most of their textures, which I quite like. Balmain Homme also strongly reminds me of a mainstream fragrance I can’t identify at the moment; I sprayed 1 Million on my other arm just to see if it may have been that since it has been named somewhere as a close comparison to Balmain Homme, but it’s not that – it does not really have much to do with Balmain’s in fact. Nearly nothing (phew!). I am quite sure it may be Versace Eros on the contrary, as I get here the same sort of “soapy spicy sweetness” due to tonka, cedar and musk. But that’s the only similarity, as Balmain Homme smells different for the rest. Another reference that I thought of is – fun enough – discontinued Balman by Balmain; it was sweeter, more “creatively” synthetic and less smoky, but I see a clear connection. Anyway as I said the notes are quite faithful: the opening is really nice, fresh and almost tea-like, I get mostly violet (synthetic sharp-soapy violet), tonka, cedar, musk, some other smooth spices (nutmeg for sure), something almost fruity, and just some really mannered, almost unperceivable and smooth polished leather as in most of recent “trendy leathers”.

A fresh-sweet-smoky Oriental fragrance for “urban” young fellas; it smells clean, quite synthetic (not an issue for me), decidedly mainstream, but undoubtedly decent and elegantly versatile. It’s actually quite nice to be honest, it has an enjoyable feel of bright spicy cleanliness which I quite like, blending quite nicely fresh notes and smokier ones; and if you make the effort of putting aside prejudices against “generic mainstreams”, you’ll also think of some niche scents if that’s a plus for you (a couple of Parfums de Marly came to my mind, and several “weightless” violet-leather scents). Nothing extremely sophisticated or particularly “masculine” in a more mature meaning, and surely nothing particularly interesting for perfume collectors and enthusiasts (unlike the other couple of Balmain fragrances for men), except if you’re looking for some “easy” alternatives in your more fulfilling connoisseur’s rotation; rather something generically “cool”, pleasant, safe, pedantically conforming to mainstream current trends, and really easy to wear. No contraindications, no unpleasant side-effects. Which is what designer fragrances are mostly designed for, so there’s little to blame here. It’s quite powerful too, the projection is remarkable and so is the persistence. So shortly nothing memorable but a decent, unpretentious, slightly overpriced candidate for a “signature scent” for 20-25 something guys (or handsome, Dorian Gray-esque young-looking 30-something’s as myself).

26th June, 2015

Bentley for Men Intense by Bentley

Bentley for Men intense is ridicolously good. Breathtakingly good, the kind of good which makes you feel there’s still hope for perfumery – both niche and designer, as Intense easily stands above most of both – and it is somehow rooted into both. As other reviewers noted in fact, it brilliantly takes its inspiration from Idole de Lubin for all the exotic boozy-woody stuff, a couple of Tauer perfumes (I strongly agree with L’air du Désert Marocain reference in particular, I clearly smell almost the exact same base of tasty spicy ambroxan for a while), and Amouage’s Jubilation XXV. I would also add Gucci pour Homme I, not because of the notes (even if I get some subtle similarities) but because of a sort of common ground of dark, breezy and understated woody-incense elegance which so far, basically only Gucci pour Homme I itself was able to express at its best – and now, Bentley does it too. Intense is decidedly darker, though: it’s boozy, peppery and leathery with a genius aromatic breeze of greenish, fougère-like notes of bay leaves and a hint of cocoa-like patchouli (think Lutens’ Borneo 1834), but as for many fragrances by Nathalie Lorson, showing an irresistible sort of dusty, weightless resinous-talc texture making it smell discreet, warm, slightly sweet and extremely sophisticated. Also slightly fruity too.

And for once, the “concept” and the skills of the nose are supported by a decent budget, as this smells clearly a great quality fragrance also from the point of view of the materials. It is rich (despite being unobtrusively “thin”), deep, vibrant, it has a brilliant evolution from the sharp boozy-leathery-patchouli opening (the leather in particular is really good here for me – Amouage-like, again) to a fantastic amber-incense drydown with sweet echoes of benzoin, leather and talc. It is really mannered and refined, at the same time totally safe and versatile, almost close to skin as a proper classy scent should wear, but long lasting. My expectations were quite high given the praise by a couple of “key” reviewers for me, but it easily surpassed them, and I think Bentley and Firmenich couldn’t really do better than this. Well to cut it short I can’t say better what other reviewers already said – this is easily one of the very best fragrances of the last decade, period. Apparently the prices dropped as I paid 40 eur/100 ml on a French website, and that’s a steal for such a great fragrance.

25th June, 2015

Blu Notte pour Homme by Bulgari

Blu Notte by Bulgari is a barely-to-fairly pleasant and quite distinctive fragrance playing some interesting, albeit not entirely compelling gourmand-barbershop chords in a less common way than usual (didn’t say “better”). It may be considered a “chocolate-lavender” fragrance, as those are for me the main notes composing the recognizable bone-structure of the scent, so we’re in Rochas Man and similar masculine gourmands kind of league; not saying Blu Notte is similar to Rochas though, as besides the absence of coffee, it is massively more synthetic, more spicy-woody (cedar and cardamom are surely there) and with a more decided office-safe “laundry” feel of lavender and musk. Also less sweet and gourmand than Rochas or similar fragrances, and showing some fresher-greener head notes to balance the sweet spicy-woodiness. But as I said, the “concept” seems similar – pairing “office-barbershop” notes (lavender, woods, citrus) with some younger, “urban” Oriental-gourmand stuff (from cardamom to chocolate here).

A bright, warm, polished type of spicy choco-lavender fragrance... With an elephantine flaw, though: an unbearably bold feel of aseptic, synthetic soapy-powdery “cleanliness” which reminds me of some of the cheapest Versace on the market, and other 1990s/early-2000s fragrances heavy on “laundry-powdery” aromachemicals – musk, lavender, sweet soapy stuff. This has the same feel, a nondescript smell of, well, pure “synthetic soapiness” which I can’t really cope with. It’s everywhere, wrapping the notes like that white ice cream of that great horror B-movie from the 1980’s – “The Stuff”. Which is sad because aside from this, some notes smell nice. So shortly I quite enjoy the concept personally, as I have a penchant for adult masculine gourmands; but sadly the execution for me is just barely decent and a bit too cheap to be compelling enough (and worthy the discontinued prices).

24th June, 2015

Un Homme by Charles Jourdan

Un Homme by Charles Jourdan is an extremely solid, charming and well-made aromatic fougère for men clearly in the same league of Azzaro pour Homme, playing pretty much the exact same main key notes – anisic-powdery notes of lavender and sage on green, flowery-mossy woods. But there’s a twist unique enough to make it worthy having; it smells basically like a sort of wilder, darker, grassier version of Azzaro. “Wilder” not because it is more aggressive or louder, actually in fact it smells really mannered and classy; but because it has some really vibrant, natural quality which makes it really close to the actual smell of wet grass and freshly-cut green branches, also with a nondescript sort of “cloudy” feel, evoking a tense gust of air before a storm. Also spicier and dirtier, with bold notes of cloves and patchouli that provide weight to a feel of subtle dark leather that will gain more and more strength as time passes. So imagine Azzaro pour Homme in its utmost vintage splendour, just wrapped in leather and wet grass. Azzaro pour Homme “The Kinky Gardener Edition”. I also agree to references other reviewers made – Captain Molyneux, Oscar de la Renta pour Lui, Krizia Uomo... dark-green aromatic fougères, that’s the family and Jourdan surely sits on the top of it. Brilliant!

22nd June, 2015

Very Irresistible for Men Fresh Attitude by Givenchy

More than irresistible, this is just very, very, very plastic and synthetic in the wrong meaning – smelling like something which just popped out of a futuristic complicated industrial machinery. I get some nuances that with quite some stretch and fantasy, may be connected with the notes listed (citrus, coffee, cedar), but above all I get a really loud concoction of pure plastic, with laundry-fruity-citrus nuances. Mostly due to musk and citrus, I guess, and something vaguely floral. The only notes which smell acceptably “realistic” especially after a while, are cedar and lavender. With the right name and the right marketing concept, this would be easily a best-seller among the “post-modern futuristic side” of niche perfumery. As is, it’s just more a depressing, Calvin Klein-esque mainstream fizzy burp with no interest, no depth, no taste (both meaning “no class” and literally, “no specific taste”). Surely it is a “fresh” watery version of Very Irrésistible though, as I get some connection to the original - and no, not that better - version, so at least that part of the name is realistic and won’t disappoint you. As for the rest... meh.

22nd June, 2015