Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Colin Maillard

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Total Reviews: 1254

Italian Cypress by Tom Ford

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

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

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

8/10
26th January, 2016

Royal Oud by Creed

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

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

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

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

Dark Aoud by Montale

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

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

5,5-6/10
21st January, 2016
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Orange Sanguine by Atelier Cologne

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

5/10
20th January, 2016

Rive Gauche pour Homme Light by Yves Saint Laurent

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

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

8,5/10
17th January, 2016

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

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

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

Endymion by Penhaligon's

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

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

8,5/10
12th January, 2016

NeroUno by Montegrappa

I don’t really get two thirds of the notes listed on the box, especially the top ones, but nonetheless I’d say that Nerouno works. Basically I agree with other reviewers: this is a sharp, contemporary yet “old-school in spirit” hybrid exactly halfway Dunhill Edition and Cacharel pour Homme. Imagine a very dry herbal-woody scent (vetiver) opening with a puzzling hard slap of cloves, juniper and nutmeg: spicier than a bag of spices, very woody, slightly herbal and almost overwhelmingly dry. There’s a light whiff of something rubbery-inky which may be due to vetiver (perhaps suede too), and that somehow works fine in the composition. Ironically, since this fragrance is meant to be part of the famous Nerouno line of writing instruments by Montegrappa, it almost recalls the “ink” part of it. This “inky” side smells also lightly bergamot and violet-infused, acting as a subtle sort of “soft” mist providing some smoothness and pale colour in the strong woody-spicy central texture. Still it’s mostly all about robust smoky woods, cloves, vetiver, nutmeg and juniper, so be prepared for a very sharp, dry, rather dark and almost edgy aromatic galore. Extremely linear, but with a nicer drydown finally giving you some break from all the cloves-juniper-nutmeg galore, mostly focusing on a gentle crisp note of vetiver – still spiced, just not that obtrusively anymore.

Overall too dry and spicy for my tastes, and probably a bit too artificial to show some interest, but I admit it wears smoothly (quite close to skin, actually, but it’s a plus with such bold notes) and in a way, it’s fairly refined and more unusual than most of woody-spicy scents of this range. Except for Dunhill Edition and Cacharel pour Homme, I can’t really think of anything similar to this in fact. All in all, worthy a sniff.

6,5/10
09th January, 2016

Arabian Nights by J del Pozo

A very dull Montale-esque oud-spices-musk-rose combo, as much decently crafted as blatantly uninspired and indistinguishable from dozens of other fragrances – from half of Montale’s, to loads of Middle East cheaper fragrances (Lattafa, Rasasi, Arabian Oud etc.). It wears nicely, quite on the dark-medicinal-dry side of the spectrum, not too dirty or raw – actually quite smooth, rich enough to show a softer side of soapy (violet)-ambery nuances and a core heart of lighter crisp woods with a shade of suede. But still it’s just another woody-oud scent with a pedantic Oriental texture of generic floral notes, amber and spices, neither bad nor great, as much elegant as shallow, with a very average quality to me (nothing overly cheap, nothing top-notch: “acceptably synthetic”). An unnecessary so-so attempt at jumping on the oud bandwagon. Decent per se, decidedly overpriced for the value for me.

6/10
09th January, 2016

Ciel Man by Amouage

One of the most unusual Amouage scents I’ve ever tried, and overall also one of the most unusual fragrances I’ve ever sniffed in general. The uncommon nature of Ciel lies to me in its very complex texture made of, say, several thin layers perfectly matching one onto another, which I would have never thought that could blend so perfectly together considering them singularly. It’s basically an amazing sharp symphony played around several nuances of green, peach and white. A lot of inspirations come into play here, from a herbal-mineral masculine fougère (Guy Laroche Horizon anyone?) to a slightly creamy-green sort of Gucci Envy for Women type of blend, connected by an old-school, extremely sophisticated Chanel-esque soapy-fruity axe of white flowers – jasmine, mostly – and peachy notes, all framed within a gentle yet very crisp “barbershop” layout of lavender, sandalwood and vetiver. Basically a sort of bizarre “feminine fougère”, so to speak, as it smells clearly rooted into the classic family of green/barbershop fougères but throwing in a bold “feminine” aura of floral and fruity-powdery notes, and most of all, a very peculiar – and again, more on the feminine side – substance: very breezy, clean, sharp, transparent, almost “crunchy” in its crisp leafiness, at once graceful and silky. I’m not that into gender categorizations but one can really see this isn’t exactly a range of “macho” features – and I fear this is why many men seem disappointed by Ciel.

So overall, something completely different from most of other Amouage offerings for men. No opulence, no somber incense-resinous sumptuosity, actually the complete opposite: Ciel Man, surely aptly named to this extent, is all played on a very clean heart palette of pastel colours which are all about floral silkiness, faint greenness, gentle fruitiness, sharp cleanliness, somehow feeling kind of “formal” and almost aseptic (oddly in a good way, a “calming” and soothing sort of asepticness). As I said there is indeed a subtle green-barbershop fougère vibe though, a sort of very discreet frame made of “mineral” herbs, light vetiver, soapy sandalwood and spices, perfectly acting as the manlier counterpart to the breezy feminine heart of Ciel. But still it’s probably more leaning towards the “floral-green-clean delicate stuff”. The drydown leaves most of the stage to the woody-spicy notes, so as time passes Ciel becomes more and more “masculine”, dry and woody, with a whiff of smoke too, still with a decided green-white mood.

The quality is more than remarkable to any extent for me, both of the creativity and of the materials, as I smell a lot of notes and nuances with an astounding clarity and richness – which is one of the things I love the most in the nicest Amouage scents, their intricate yet very clear texture, something only top-notch quality materials can allow you to build. It’s all consistent and harmonic, and yet perfectly “separate”, allowing you to dive into the composition and smell the notes with a heart-melting clarity and deepness. Overall an unusual, crisp green-azure unisex gem with some hidden darker nuances which I’d really recommend to any fragrance fan, at least for a try. Many seem to mistake it cleanliness and apparent light breeziness for dullness, while it’s actually an incredibly creative, complex and interesting blend for me (or I maybe wrong, of course). It could, and maybe should be a bit more powerful, but I appreciate its discreet yet long-lasting presence on skin.

8-8,5/10
06th January, 2016

Passum by Profumi di Pantelleria

Passum by Profumi di Pantelleria features some of Profumitalia’s trademark notes (if you are familiar with Hugh Parsons, Boellis, Acqua di Biella and other Profumi di Pantelleria scents, you probably already spotted some recurring accords and bases Maurizio Cerizza seems particularly fond of – notably heavy musks, dusty stuff and powdery sweet-amber notes). Passum opens – and remains, actually – as a very dusty, smoky, powdery, dry, kind of almost “moldy” and camphorous blend of musk, dry patchouli, amber, incense and cedary “pencil shavings” dusted with some sweet aromatic spices, notably pepper, cumin and cinnamon, and rounded by a further layer of sweet dustiness provided by myrrh – which smells basically like amber and incense, again. A thick, super dry Oriental woody hypercube of resins, patchouli and incense, shortly, showing some quite bold “powdery-earthy dustiness” from basically any perspective you approach it, the only minor variations being a subtle base accord of dry-woody leather (basically acting just as a darker, more “robust” facet of incense) and some spicy-peppery hints coming and going which provide some very light sparkles of colour and “life” to an otherwise rather aseptic and very static blend.

So, nothing really new although I can’t think of a specific comparison to name, and sadly anyway nothing really exciting either in my opinion: just a quite stout, fairly artificial and very flat resinous-incense-patchouli bomb with no particular features of interest. Woody, earthy, smoky, ambery and powdery in a quite synthetic and extremely linear way, rather thick too, still at a slightly more decent price than many other similar – and more costly – niche scents. Its nondescript endemic dustiness is at once the most fascinating and the most annoying of its traits, as it feels very “massive” and mono-dimensional. Which means “boring”, quite soon. Not tragic but far from being amazing. Recommended for dust eaters, stoner rock fans (you know, all the desert sand imagery and stuff) and incense-amber freaks, more or less vastly negligible for anyone else.

6/10
05th January, 2016

Sushi Imperiale by Bois 1920

The opening of Sushi Imperiale is one of the strongest “déja vu” I’ve experienced so far with fragrances, and sadly, it isn’t really a flattering one for this Bois 1920 scent. In fact it smells basically halfway Opium pour Homme and a bunch of cheap nutmeg-spicy Oriental designers, like Lagerfeld for Man from 2004. But most of all, it’s very, very close to Opium pour Homme, and I’m surprised nearly none noticed this. Unless my sample has been altered, it’s a blatant ripoff of that. For the worse, actually, as it’s actually a bit more mediocre than the YSL’s – flatter, more static, and just cheaper overall. Nothing horrible, but surely nothing special either. Basically Sushi Imperiale (why this name, by the way?) is a gentle, inoffensive, a bit simplistic citrus-spicy fragrance with a nice sort of sweet anisic-fruity “transparent” texture mostly built on cinnamon, anise and nutmeg, running throughout the main spicy woodiness which makes the bone structure of the scent: but it’s basically nothing more than a mediocre designer, quality-wise and, well, everything-wise. I smell nothing creative or particularly “quality” here, just a tame, fairly flat and very averagely decent fresh spicy scent which would have gone completely unnoticed if we were in the mid or late-1990s. But we’re in the era of below-zero creativity and “revivals” everywhere, so... *sighs*.

5/10
28th December, 2015

Fève Délicieuse by Christian Dior

I wouldn’t say that Fève Delicieuse (“delicious bean”, or in North-Center Italian slang, “delicious d*ck”) smells completely horrid, but it’s really almost there. It doesn’t really “smell Dior”, and surely not “Collection Privée”. Not that the rest of the line was breath-taking, but Fève is basically nothing different quality-wise and overall concept-wise from the cheapest Oriental-gourmand ranges of fragrances and grooming products sold in drugstores or supermarkets. Stuff like Italian brands I coloniali, or Tesori d’Oriente - but way below Les Nereides or L’Erbolario, to give you a rough idea of how cheap this is. Imagine that kind of stuff blended with some sort of clumsy imitative Mugler-esque kind of “allure”, sort of echoing some A*Men flankers but without that consistency and playfulness (and they cost half of this anyway).

Basically Fève Delicieuse is a thick, annoyingly flat and cloyingly artificial Oriental-gourmand candy of vanilla, amber, tonka, cedar, powdery-caramel and spicy notes tinged with a tame hint of smoke and some pleasant sort of earthy-vegetable suble nuances, which are quite nondescript but help in lowering the diabete-inducing ratio of sweetness and represent the only sparkle of interest in this disgraceful bucket of dullness. There is basically no evolution and no particular “twists”, just a sticky slap of melted toffee candies laying on your skin, decreasing in power as hours pass – thus becoming more pleasant. Sweetness is the main and most feature of Fève Delicieuse: mediocre, cheap, unrealistic, alienating sweetness, truly comparable with any low-brow drugstore gourmand scent for teenagers. I was not the most enthusiastic fan of the rest of the “Collection Privée” collection apart from Leather Oud, but still I clearly got a sense of decent quality, complexity and craft among the others – or at least, some efforts for that. To this extent Fève Delicieuse is an astonishing ugly duckling among them (minus the happy ending), since it smells not only cheap, but also completely uninspired, simplistic, tired, a more than generic “déja-vu” with a crazy price tag and no reasons to exist. If you’re a fan of The Office US, then I’m Michael and this is my Toby.

4,5/10
26th December, 2015
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O/E by Bogue Profumo

I’m very puzzled by the distance between the hype which has graced this brand from the very beginning of its journey into niche, and the actual quality of their fragrances I’ve tried so far. Both MAAI and Cologne Reloaded seemed to me some very dull and pedantic exercises around very classic structures, something I guess pretty much any nose working for any company anywhere between the 1950’s and the 1990’s would have been able to compose blindfolded; and now this, “O/E”. If on one hand it’s at least a bit more modern and more creative than the other two, on the other hand it kind of reinforces my conclusion that toying around classic structures seems really the main and only skill of Gardoni, or whoever is the nose behind Bogue fragrances. Because O/E smells horrid. A trainwreck. Pardon my French but it really is. Theoretically it would be a “citrus-green leather chypre”, so to speak, so imagine – on paper – a very bold citrus-green top accord built on a dark, herbal, even skanky and slightly powdery-vanillic foundation of woods, oakmoss, and some rusty tan leather.

The problem is that it seems the brief was then handed to a clueless janitor with the specific request of cutting costs and sourcing materials in his storage closet. The citrus-green top accord smells astonishingly cheap, acrid, artificial, flat and harsh, something way more suitable for cleaning tiles than scenting skin. And it’s just clumsily sticked as-is on a more than mediocre leathery chypre foundation, which smells no better than any robust pre-world war II drugstore aftershave did. Mennen quality, to get you an idea. The notes smell from bad to dull per se, and they’re significantly poorly blended, thrown one against the other like a toddler would do with his toy cars. All topped with spices, with the same grace (and purpose, ultimately) of someone rapidly throwing a handful of sand in your face to rob you and run away. I’ve nothing against modernity and “clashy” compositions, as long as there’s some talent behind them. Here I don’t really see any. It’s just noise, cheapness, itch. A decent idea completely gone wrong. Persistence is remarkable though, which is good if you’re into scrubbers; evolution is close to zero, just some lemon and herbs fading away and (surprise, surprise) synthetic cloves growing in presence together with some vanillin and cheap leather aromachemicals. Probably the nicest part, if compared the early abysmal stages. Nothing different from the drydown of any 1 dollar aftershave, but at least it’s wearable (at 180 times more the price). I wish the best to Bogue but seriously... not with this, really.

3/10
23rd December, 2015

Aquae Nobilis by Profumum

Never been a fan of Profumum Roma, and this fragrance does nothing but reinforcing my opinion about the brand. As much nice as annoyingly uninspired and pretentious. It doesn’t smell bad, it actually smells fairly nice: it’s a fresh, smooth, balsamic, kind of aquatic-azure take on vetiver (normal decent vetiver, don’t expect fireworks) with a prominent, and quite pleasant sort of anisic-grassy top accord well breezing on a hay-vetiver heart and a hefty dose of cypriol – sort of a thin yet substantial smoky-green note with a papersheet-like transparency. Basically a grassy-woody scent with a spicy-anisic twist. The only aspect I don’t enjoy is an annoying rubbery feel among the base notes, which smells fairly cheap and it’s something I wouldn’t really accept for this price; but apart from this detail, Aquae Nobilis is surely a very decent fragrance, an enjoyable and surely versatile “spicy-breezy” take on vetiver with a nice evolution towards a drier-darker drydown (no fireworks during the evolution either – it just gets understandably drier and tamer).

So where’s the issue? Well, it may be a trick of my nose, but to me this smells exactly – and I mean, hilariously exactly – like layering KenzoAir Intense on Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin. Or the way round. Take the “ozone vetiver” concept of Kenzo or similar fresh vetivers and blend it with the anisic grassiness of Lempicka. And with the price of Aquae Nobilis you can sure pile up a good stock of both. I get Aquae Nobilis saves you the effort of handling two bottles instead of one, but still I wish my definition of “niche” to be something more than “it takes two designers to make it”.

6/10
22nd December, 2015

Mark Birley for Men by Mark Birley

A perfect example of a fully deserved hype, and I’m surprised this doesn’t get more. Alongside Richard James Savile Row, probably the best British contemporary fragrance for men I’ve smelled in years, although the nose is French. Ironically, given Fredéric Malle is involved (with what role, precisely?), I think that in some way Mark Birley for Men smells “more Malle” than most of his own label’s scents. Many of them are in fact way cheaper and duller than this, which on the contrary is just stunning, both quality, refinement and creativity wise. “Nicher” than most of niche. Citrus, lime, black pepper, crisp smoky woods, some peculiar sort of breezy and “grey” powdery violet notes: actually a seemingly simple structure, but smelling completely unusual, modern, unique and somehow very “dimensional” in the way the notes unravel and evolve. On paper it may seem just another violet-woody cologne with some fresh top, while it isn’t really. It’s just totally different from what you may expect, and briefly put, I have not the slightest idea of how to describe it. It’s just “new” and very unique as a whole.

Probably a sort of “metallic sparkling” aura would define the most immediate of its peculiar features, followed by a sort of aldehydic-musky “dry clean laundry” nuance (due to violet, musk and woods, I guess) which for example you also find, in a similar but way bolder incarnation, in Penhaligon’s Sartorial – and finally a sort of subtle saltiness providing a delightful, very realistic watery-sea feel. But it’s actually the way they work together which is just brilliant. It’s distinguished yet very casual and informal. The citrus-lime top accord alone has some very interesting features as well, as it smells very tangy, fresh, but somehow very robust, bold and very long-lasting, still without smelling like everlasting mosquito repellent. It’s very natural, bright, vibrant and almost kind of fizzy, with a bright freshness that seems always about to fade away, and yet it lasts for hours. It’s very substantial but totally weightless and bright. And the middle and base notes are just great as well, the way violent and woods blend is so effortless and mellow – probably incense has a key role in smoothening the accord and making it smell just as a sophisticated nondescript “mist” of grey-purple nuances. To cut it short, Birley for Men has them all: it’s very unique yet completely versatile and un-challenging to wear, it’s very pleasant, the quality is outstanding and it performs surprisingly well (I disagree with the lack of longevity complaints, it’s very discreet but quite long-lasting). It’s a joy both to explore and to just spray liberally and forget about it. Brilliant.

8,5-9/10
19th December, 2015

Sensi by Giorgio Armani

I am usually not that into the “discontinued hype”, often I find that discontinued scents well sought-after by collectors at high prices aren’t really that special. So I don’t really want to sound enthusiastic just because this is a rare fragrance, but... Jesus! Sensi is great. Plain great. I’d say it’s even perfect in its own way; it’s not mind-blowing, as it’s a very refined, sort of discreetly “academic” and somehow mannered (maybe too much) white floral-woody blend, but it’s just impeccable on every aspect. One of those fragrances which I could really see well working as a lifetime signature. Depending on you and on circumstances it can be luscious and sultry as much as perfectly clean, laid-back, youthful and lively.

The balance of the diverse nuances is just amazing: fresh, deep, powdery, sweet yet not a “gourmand” thing, rather a very crisp, mature, “satin” blend of clean, fascinating white-almondy notes. It’s a very simple blend actually: a gentle, top quality, classy cascade of “whiteness” in its most pleasant, bracing nuances – jasmine-driven whiteness, “sweet” nutty whiteness, even woody-resinous whiteness thanks to some very clean, smooth cedar-benzoin base notes, all topped with a beam of zesty citrus just to keep it fresh enough. At the very core of the scent lies a brilliant sort of fruity-rose heart which is very subtle, very natural, like a tiny pulsating heart giving life to the breezy, uplifting, sophisticated natural brightness of the scent. The drydown is a mellow shimmering modulation of nuances which as time goes by, gain some sort of slightly creamy “sun tan” texture, adding a whiff of floral-scented milk, together with some warmer and stronger presence of woods. I also sense quite a recognizable earthy-talc hint of orris root, although it isn’t listed in the composition.

That’s it, and it’s heavenly. Nothing more to say, not a single flaw to mention. Tremendously classy yet completely versatile. A smooth gem to spray liberally and smell gorgeous anytime, anywhere. This is how perfumes should be made, it exudes skills, confidence, quality, and wearability. Maybe not “creativity”, and to this extent I agree with Luca Turin review stating it’s not exactly an “inspiring” scent, but who cares! This is the quintessence of a classy, outstanding quality workhorse. A perfect signature, as I wrote above. All in all, in a world with so many people paying the same money for pathetic garbage (I’m looking at you, niche), Sensi is probably still worthy the collectors’ prices (well, the lower ones).

8-8,5/10
16th December, 2015

A Quiet Morning by Miller et Bertaux

A Quiet Morning by Miller et Bertaux is quite a nice little discovery I’ve made recently, together with the fact that Miller and Bertaux aren’t, as I imagined, the umpteenth irritating couple of 30-something niche hipsters dressed in white garbage bags, rather two eccentric, laid-back middle-aged beardy gents. I’m not crazy for the other scents of this brand I’ve tried, but A Quiet Morning works darn good instead. It’s very minimalistic, but for once, it doesn’t seem to rely to the same trite array of synthetic aromachemicals which are in fashion in the “minimalist” side of perfumery. In other words don’t expect just another ripoff of some Comme des Garçons/Andrea Maack-like stuff. Neither a dull citrusy or floral faint nonsense. This is a pretty different take on minimalism – for the better. It takes (well, it took me) a while to appreciate it and it’s probably easy to dismiss it at first, but the truth is that it manages to smell somehow very natural and breezy, yet amazingly modern in its transparent thinness, still keeping it not cold or blatantly synthetic. It creates instead a very peculiar “aura” of warm, sophisticated clean subtleness and lightness which contrary to many other cases, at no point becomes “dullness”. It’s actually a very substantial scent with some seriously enjoyable transitions and depth: it’s just filtered through clear, thin pastel glass, smelling rarefied and delicate, but so to speak, very robust “in spirit”. And briefly put, it doesn’t smell like anything else.

The fragrance opens with a quite sharp yet weightless sort of bitter cedar, and actually oud-like note (emptied of any “animalic” dirt), quite woody, dry and spicy-medicinal, blended with a nose-tingling accord of ginger (or something similar to that) cumin and saffron, and a touch of rose – or, again, something similar to it, slightly floral and fresh-juicy. A tasty, dry, almost edgy spicy-woody-floral accord which soon starts to unravel a warmer heart: clean, soapy hints of sandalwood blend with a really enjoyable, very subtle yet crystal crisp accord comprising something like a honeyed saffron note paired with a microscopic drop of warm floral soap. I’ve mentioned the word “soap” a couple of times but don’t get me wrong; A Quiet Morning isn’t really a “soapy” scent, it just has some light hints of that (and this scent is all about shimmering, light “hints” of things). It’s dry, dusty and breezy, but has indeed a sort of slightly soapy-sweet and “juicy” base texture, mostly due to sandalwood and that touch of honeyed-floral spices.

On the drydown it becomes more and more warm and a tad sweeter too, before turning again more dry and woody, with a slightly bolder presence of (good, seemingly quite real) sandalwood still lightly infused with a sort of medicinal cedar-oud note, and a simply, quiet but somehow distinctive floral-spicy accord – which after some time starts reminding me of tea a bit, as some herbal accents pop out. All still feeling very light, clean and “peaceful”, albeit slightly smokier and darker than the first hours. The overall effect is very nice and enjoyable, achieving a rather unique sort of “spicy-woody airiness” that I basically never found so far in fragrances. It’s indeed a “quiet morning” feeling - soft, clean, cozy. It’s a very light scent, but somehow it projects and persists well better than it seems, staying more “around you” than on skin – which is an effect I’ve often noted in many (good) sandalwood scents, so maybe it is due to that. Probably too light for many given all the “bombs” we’re used to today, but an unusual, fascinating little gem.

7,5-8/10
15th December, 2015

James Bronnley Original by Bronnley

As a longtime fan of classic British horror movies produced by Hammer, Amicus or Tigon, I’ve always lived with a sort of “mythical” imaginary of the British countryside - permanently foggy, rainy, unwelcoming, with small shabby cottages and ghastly antique boutiques where everyone looks like Peter Cushing or the Shadmock from “The Monster Club”. Well, this little gem by James Bronnley I acquired by a complete casual chance, is the closest, most vibrant thing to all that world I’ve ever smelled. It has them all: while being apparently a very traditional citrus-herbal “barbershop” cologne, it has an impressive feel of dusty-camphorous decadence, impeccably blended with a distinguished smell of powdery moss, grass, aromatic herbs, vetiver and a nondescript, quite bold sort of “damp wood” feel (I think due to moss again, infused with something resembling to chamomile or sunflower), and a top accord of greenish citrus and neroli – which isn’t really “zesty” or particularly fresh, rather more bitter, dry, slightly floral and creamy.

Besides being exceedingly compelling and elegant, the overall feel is just quite more bizarre and puzzling for me, and surely I wouldn’t really associate this fragrance to summer. It may be just me, but I get a very dense feel of grayness, of dusty “countryside” mossiness, definitely something more autumnal for me. Think of entering a shabby cottage and catch a whiff of the inside – the smells of musty dust, cracked damp furniture, dry soaps, old books, cider dripping out of a cracked glass, the dapper landlord lying murdered on the stairs. Basically what many would refer to as an “old man” fragrance – and by “old” I would mean here two, three thousands years old. It’s a spooky and amazingly fascinating foggy mist halfway archaic and funereal, it smells sophisticated and very natural, breezy yet almost oppressive, very distinguished and neat yet almost off-putting. Associations aside, as I said (and as others already said better than me) it’s basically an impeccable “barbershop” citrus-mossy classic eau de cologne with a powerful sense of dusty melancholy, projecting just fine and lasting for long with an utterly enjoyable herbal-powdery drydown, still bearing a decided neroli note. Shortly a British decadent take on 4711 and the likes. Surely quite mature and fairly austere, but truly classy and pleasant. A true little gem far more unique and distinctive than it may seem by the composition, definitely worth it if you’re into classic “gentleman’s” stuff.

8/10
12th December, 2015

Vetiver by Roja Dove

Not much to say about this, except for the fact that the “extrait” name (and the price) may be somehow misleading. Vetiver Extrait smells great, but well... simply put, it’s no different from any good vetiver scent. It’s a really simple, smooth, light straightforward vetiver, classy and cozy, not particularly powerful (actually, not at all) or rich, just diligently bearing most of the usual nuances of most vetiver scents – it feels initially zesty, peppery and crisp, slowly becoming smokier, rootier, still keeping vetiver’s traditional subtle feel of “oily grassiness”, subtly paired with a rather conventional base accord of powdery-dusty notes. It’s all good, really. It wears extremely well, it feels refined and laid-back, carefully mannered enough to avoid any “raw” earthy effect – on the contrary it feels rather polished, bright and distinguished. It conveys an extremely enjoyable albeit slightly pedantic sense of calm, class, confidence and sophisticated weightlessness. If compared to dirtier or richer vetiver scents, this is quite on the opposite spectrum – it feels very clean, almost ethereal. Even a tad too much, as it soon feels quite – if not, completely – unexciting, and almost kind of mute (I suspect there’s some generic “woody smoothener” used here – some very generic plushy woody base). The longevity is a bit weak, but that’s the price to pay for higher concentrations of natural materials.

So all in all, it’s unquestionably nice. But really only that. For £ 275. Not grounbreaking, not heart-melting, not mind-blowing – just an impeccable everyday vetiver fragrance for office time. Ready to let your rock and rule the printers’ room and the vending machines’ corner. Just as any other good vetiver scent. It can be fantastic for you if you like vetiver, but in no way it can be worthy that price and that pomposity (and come on... for that price, some crap cardboard box? I want my box to be lined in Elton John’s skin!). It does no more and no less than any simple, solid vetiver fragrance (there’s so many of them I can’t even think of a couple of specific names to mention – Guerlain? Carven? Ford’s Grey Vetiver? Heeley? Anyone, really), and I think there is really no standout features that would explain why one should prefer this over others. Clearly, the value lies in the “status symbol” allure of the brand and the presentation. And that has nothing to do with fragrances, so... Anyway if you’re really wealthy and you really like vetiver then go for it, otherwise I see really no need to break the bank for this.

6,5-7/10
11th December, 2015

1445 by Castle Forbes

1445 by Castle Forbes is among the nicest alternatives to vintage Azzaro pour Homme which I’ve ever tried so far. While current Azzaro is still great, but – like pretty much any contemporary designer fougère – feeling a bit flat, tame and washed-down, 1445 brings back quite the same mossy-herbal-woody round richness of the vintage, even replicating the same sage-lavender anisic trademark of Azzaro. The differences are subtle, but remarkable enough to make it not too redundant if you already own Azzaro: a muskier, “grayer” base with a sort of “damp stones” feel, some more citrus, a bitter herbal side of tarragon, more cloves (especially on the drydown) and overall, sort of a simpler, more artisanal, and more natural feel, also with a drier, smokier drydown. Castle Forbes’s products are allegedly made in some small countryside in Scotland, and whether that’s true or not, 1445 does indeed smell somehow “simpler”, but rawer at the same time, if compared to the products of a major corporate like Azzaro. I mean – just as you would imagine something manufactured in a small workshop on the Scottish hills would smell. Old-school, natural, foggy and grassy, kind of damp and dark, classy yet straightforward and easy-going. The evolution has some interesting, pleasantly natural transitions; the smell remains herbal and woody, just becoming drier, smokier, darker, spicier (cloves) and with a prominent camphorous feel of mossy-earthy ambergris, with a sort of light metallic aftertaste.

Overall a really traditional, mature, completely uncreative yet very pleasant aromatic fougère. Nothing astonishing, but it smells really good (isn’t that the most important thing, in the end?). The only “unique” feature being that sort of countryside-artisanal feel which makes 1445 smell more easy-going, more natural, somehow more breezy than a proper vintage fougère. Very solid and fine for the price. By the way the bottle I based my review on is a bit older than the ones which are sold today (tartan motif, no allergens listed, I guess it dates back to a dozen years ago at least), so I don’t know if it’s still that good.

7,5/10
10th December, 2015

Noir Epices by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Noir Epices effortlessly fills the last spot on my personal chart of Malle’s fragrances - I mean the worst spot. The bottom of the barrel. I don’t get the “black” and ultimately I don’t even get the “spices” that much as well, or not as I would assume at least. I don’t want my spices laid on a corpse, and instead that’s basically how Noir Epices smells. “Carnal”, overdosed nuances of metallic rose-geranium and a nondescript sultry musky note blended with a ridicolously loud concoction of spices and waxy floral-citrus notes, finally infused with a really bizarre and discomforting sort of sugary-watery vein, almost musty and milky. Sounds messy, eh? That’s how it smells, too. It’s loud, vile, ultimately a bit cheap as well, as besides being cacophonously blended, the materials don’t really seem that top-notch either. As hours pass it gets a bit better as it tames down a little at least, becoming slightly sweeter and smoother, but still remaining basically the same awkward and screechy mishmash of musk, soap, wax, spices, expired citronellol candles and blood-stained rusty metal bars. I’m genuinely sorry to sound so tight-butted and unable of getting the magic here, but I find this blatantly atrocious on every level.

4/10
07th December, 2015

Dior Homme Parfum by Christian Dior

I would say that Dior Homme is such a brilliant, timeless cornerstone of modern perfumery, that any variation on it will always be at least quite good. But then Dior came up with that abysmal Dior Homme Sport, so sadly that isn’t completely valid. But well, apart from that, basically all Dior Homme flankers have been compelling so far – and so is this recent Parfum version. Not entirely, but mostly. And surely not as much as the Intense. Nonetheless it’s very fine. It’s fun that I completely skipped this flanker at first, thinking that it was just a different concentration of classic Dior Homme, and didn’t even bother to read the notes or some reviews. If you’re reading this it already means you didn’t do my mistake, but well, just in case – don’t do my mistake! Dior Homme Parfum is a solid, refined, kind of more formal (or more “mature”) and drier variation on Dior Homme, specifically played on darker, luscious, spicy notes and a recognizable leather base with a clever soft hint of soapy sandalwood. Classic Dior Homme’s DNA is here, sadly not as much as I wished but still here; the unmistakable cocoa-iris-musk structure is the core vein of the fragrance (although in a slightly cheaper rendition if compared to its original form), wrapped in smooth black leather dusted with a sweet blend of pepper, some nondescript sort of blackcurrant feel and an added dose of cocoa. Sort of “Dior Homme in a bitter black praline”, so to speak, at once enhancing the sweet-dusty side of Dior Homme by giving it a sort of more carnal and mature feel, and reinforcing its darker foundation thanks to a sophisticated smooth layer of classy, slightly musky black leather. Leather is quite peculiar here – it smells kind of oily, slightly bitter and rubbery, a bit artificial (shoe-polish type, so to speak) but still very pleasant and classy. I appreciate the fact that it smells discreet and skillfully blended, so it’s not just a rough leather patch glued on the scent as it sometimes happens with leather flankers. Actually the whole scent smells pleasantly discreet and smooth, feeling sultry, quiet, somehow cozy (mostly thanks to sandalwood for me) but at the same time almost austere, with an interesting feel of musky dirt running throughout its apparent “mannered” black feel.

The only flaw I have noticed after a few wearings past the initial enthusiasm is a certain subtle feel of flatness – almost cheapness, honestly. Dior Homme Parfum is a very pleasant scent and there’s definitely some creativity here, but I feel it can’t really compete with classic Dior Homme’s quality in terms of richness, dynamism and deepness (contrary to the Intense version, which perfectly stands to that level). It feels a bit simplistic – and I don’t mean “more minimalist”, I mean just a bit cheaper, more shallow. As if the budget wasn’t as good as the concept (which is potentially great in fact). Something you can notice in the “performances” of this scent as well – kind of linear, with a slightly disappointing drydown mostly based on plain synthetic musk. But well, maybe I’m just being too picky, among today’s garbage my rating is still surely positive. All considered, if you don’t compare it to classic Dior Homme, it’s still one of the nicest, most versatile and most creative “niche-like” recent designer leathers on the market, definitely perfect if you’re looking for a classy, subtly sweet, sultry androgynous leather for your dirty nights out.

7-7,5/10
05th December, 2015 (last edited: 12th December, 2015)

Five by Bruno Fazzolari

Wow. The opening (and well, the evolution too) of Five by Fazzolari is just “wow”. Powerful, deep, extremely clear and completely unique, at least for my experience. A very innovative sort of classic “eau de cologne” with citrus, edgy green notes and a very light powdery-mossy base... but richly infused with a sort of thick, evocative salty-watery feel. I would use the term “ozonic” if it wasn’t so abused and associated to so much garbage. But it is indeed “ozonic” in the most truthful and genuine sense possible. I know what you may think then – “well, basically an ozonic citrus scent?”. Theoretically yes. But actually no, not really. That would be the “concept”, but the notes and the way they’re blended smell deeply different from what you may think and surely from any ozonic-fresh scent I know. Mostly because of the herbal-watery feel, which is truly puzzling. It’s mindblowing for how realistic, faceted, shimmering and deep it is, and for how it interacts with the other notes. It smells truly like damp seaweeds and wet rocks with a gentle uplifting herbal breeze – imagine that, impeccably blended with a more formal “eau de cologne” fragrance (so citrus and lavender, basically).

It’s actually hard for me to do this scent some justice only with words, but yes, probably thinking of a classic “eau de cologne” rich in citrus and powdery notes blended with the invigorating smell of a sunny late afternoon lying on a damp rock on some cozy Sardinian cove, may more or less suggest what Five is about. With a clarity, a richness and a persistence I’ve never, ever experienced with this genre of scents. Truly perfect. Maybe Villoresi Uomo is a similar, and similarly amazing, unusual and rich Mediterranean interpretation of a classic citrus-herbal cologne, but lacking in what makes Five so special - that bold “iodine-watery” element which is, well, just brilliant – and is actually the main vein of Five (I mean the main “accord”, it’s quite powerful). Again, please don’t imagine any “calone” thing, or some flat chemical “salty” garbage as in many “sea-salt” niche scent – this is lukewarm, organic, rich living sea water diluted with a distinguished vintage citrus-powdery cologne and a sort of somehow fitting metallic aftertaste (which paired with citrus and a subtle darker mossy base, kind of reminds me of Christopher Street by Charenton Macerations). Fantastic drydown, with the “sea” effect taking the stage over the “eau de cologne” part, leaving a trail of fresh herbs and marine water on your skin. Probably the most interesting, clever and well executed variation on a classic citrus-herbal scent I’ve ever tried, and surely the bes t “marine” fragrance on the market for me.

8,5-9/10
03rd December, 2015

Cologne Indélébile by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Frederic Malle scents are really a mystery for me. Some smell nice, some smell cheap, some smell just as designer in a cheeky sleek-chic disguise. Cologne Indélébile falls halfway the last two categories for me – it smells a bit cheap, and it smells like something nearly any low-mid level cosmetics brand could make. Or probably has already made. Following the “eau de cologne” trend which seemed arising among niche brands in the past years – ah, the luxurious realm of creative freedom and pure artistry with no boundaries gifting us with long-awaited ripoffs of drugstore classics – Cologne Indélébile is, well, a very classic, very flat neroli-musk fresh scent with a delicate “laundry” feel of lavender and orange blossoms and an odd sort of nondescript aldehydic-woody base.The “grey” musk notes are rather strong, as soon as the zestier and rather pleasant citrus-neroli head notes tame down, that’s pretty much what you remain with. Sort of a clean, gentle, pleasantly dusty blossoms-infused musky drydown reminding me of Kurkdjian’s style, just tamer and drier. Just to be clear, Cologne Indélébile smells nice, but... I don’t know. I just really don’t see the point of paying so much for an astonishingly dull and uninspired sort of muskier take on 4711, or any (I mean it - any) other clean neroli-musk “eau de cologne” with no added value or higher quality - and surely no “niche” facet whatsoever, excluding the ridicolusly overpriced tag. It’s even wryly short-lasting. But who am I to judge - if it worked for Tom Ford, why shouldn’t it work for Fréderic too.

5/10
01st December, 2015

Baldessarini Ultimate by Baldessarini

It didn’t take much effort to accomplish that, but finally here’s the first decent offering from Baldessarini since their early Baldessarini Eau de Cologne. Ultimate doesn’t really scream quality, but it’s very (thus, surprisingly) nice, surely more than enough for the brand and the market positioning, no snobbery intended. It’s modern, almost slightly “avantgarde”, and could very easily fit in contemporary fashion lines like Comme des Garçons. Actually it smells like something they could have made, and that would have even been better than some of their offerings.

Anyway basically Ultimate is a sharp, quite fresh, intentionally (I guess) heavily synthetic sort of metallic-crisp woody-peppery fragrance with some nondescript yet fairly pleasant “juicy-floral” feel and some peculiar, sharp herbal-metallic nuances. It’s like a mix of Comme des Garçons 2 Man, Rochas Aquaman or Lanvin Oxygene, and any fresh citrus fragrance. It’s a contemporary “ transparent woody-peppery” scent with fresh herbal-citrus and slightly fruity tones. And some sort of watery-aquatic feel – not ozonic, I really mean “watery”. It then evolves on basically the same path, just becoming a bit warmer with amber, olibanum (Iso E Super, basically) and leather (sort of, an unperceivable thin whiff of suede) unfolding their velvet touch over the initial tangy pepper-green head notes. And so remains for some hours, aseptically warm yet breezy and pleasantly classy, quite “youthful” and even sort of hipster-ish despite the marketing claim you read on the box (“Separates the men from the boys” – seriously?).

So, that’s it. A totally decent, even interestingly multifaceted modern designer with a “niche-avantgarde” feel (so again, basically something à la Comme des Garçons). Which is a very positive sign from Baldessarini – they could have kept going on with that Del Mar and Private Affairs cheap garbage, while they decided to do this. It isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s still on a whole different level if compared to any other offering by this brand, except as I said, the first Baldessarini cologne. It has some sense, it has a definite personality, and the quality seems very respectable. Nothing you can’t skip safely, but it’s very fine. Surely worthy a sniff for me.

6,5-7/10
28th November, 2015

Eternity Now for Men by Calvin Klein

The card defines this a “juicy oriental fougère” balanced with “exotic woods”. Pretending I didn’t read the “fougère” part in order to keep my lunch in my stomach, what I get out of Eternity Now is basically only the “juicy” and the “exotic” parts, both in the tritest and cheapest way you can imagine - as juicy and exotic as a tin can of sweetish synthetic drugstore tropical soda. Juvenile, shabby and – ok, you get it.

4/10
28th November, 2015

Bois d'Iris by Van Cleef & Arpels

I must admit it: I’ve a penchant for iris fragrances. As long as they’re even just decent, I always like them a lot. It amazes me how versatile this material can be, and how many nuances it offers. It can smell warm and luscious, dusty and cold, “grey” and “red”, plushy and earthy, and always so refined and mysterious. Anyway, Bois d’Iris is surely a remarkable must for any fan of this material, probably even more than other more praised ones in my opinion. It explores the colder-dustier and more balsamic side of iris, pairing it with dry resins, warm amber, a very peculiar sort of “greyish”, massively incense-driven crisp woody note, and a sort of rarefied foggy pine-forest feel. So imagine a breezy, balsamic, woody and above all, dusty-powdery incense scent, completely unisex and actually quite dark somehow, or better say “cold”, peaceful yet somehow aloof. Almost “lunar”, I’d say. And extremely refined: the dustiness has some very fascinating sort of sparkling texture – “silver powder”, so to speak. Dior named a scent “Bois d’Argent”, but that name would be so better for Bois d’Iris actually. By the way the two scents are indeed quite similar, but I prefer Bois d’Iris, for a couple of very simple features: less pretentious, more substantial.

What fascinates me about this scent is how it creates a shimmering, rarefied sort of “silver incense” vibe played on iris powder and resinous-balsamic woody notes, without using directly incense. I mean, this fragrance smells quite incensey to me, but in a peculiar way, “incensey and not-incensey at once”. Maybe more than incense I should say “a whiff of cold, azure-grey smoky breeze scented with iris and luxury resins”, as it feels weightless and airy yet surprisingly substantial, balsamic, enveloping. Truly one of a kind, extremely enjoyable and fascinating. Shortly – if it wasn’t clear already – I really like this scent: it feels quality, it’s extremely sophisticated, it’s delicate but not light or too close to skin – just elegantly discreet. I own other iris based scents, and this has definitely its own personality which makes it worth owning even if you think you’ve “smelled them all” when it comes to iris. Maybe a tad too expensive, but a true class act!

8/10
27th November, 2015

Picadilly Circus by Hugh Parsons

I’ve yet to “get” this brand – British name, all made in Italy, zero information about the alleged “heritage”, terrible promotion... and surprisingly nice fragrances (so far for me, at least). Piccadilly Circus is in fact quite good, quite more than I assumed. Basically it is fairly similar to Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta or similar floral-citrus variations on classic “gentleman’s eau de cologne” structure, just a bit greener, edgier, drier and warmer at the same time, with some more salty-musky ambergris on the base. That is the family: a refined, cozy, surprisingly “natural” and rich citrus-floral cologne with some more weight and thickness than usual, and a remarkable quality, also with a very pleasant evolution towards a woody-green drydown tinted with citrus-powdery notes. Quite close to Colonia Assoluta as I said, but not redundant if you own both (as I do): Piccadilly has more citrus, it smells sharper and also a bit bolder, slightly echoing dry green fougères like Grès pour Homme. It’s quite good anyway, it smells very solid, elegant and extremely versatile without smelling dull. A bit synthetic perhaps, especially for the price, but it works fine. The theme would seem a bit trite, but it smells actually very compelling – perhaps for the touch of musky ambergris, or for the way citrus-green notes interact. It smells, say, raw and clean at once, breezy and natural (except for some synthetic musky-soapy feel) but nothing too hippie or “artisanal”. It’s rather distinguished and mature on the contrary. Nothing breathtaking, but very nice with a touch of distinction. Plus it lasts long and projects very well. Not sure if it’s worthy the retail price but it’s very nice.

7-7,5/10
27th November, 2015

Panama 1924 : Fefè (Dandy Napoletano) by Boellis

This new offering by Boellis is also probably their most creative one so far. The color of the packaging (bright bold orange) and the Neapolitan reference misled me at first, I thought this would have been some bright, lively fresh zesty scent, but the notes intrigued me as it seemed actually darker and rounder. And in fact it is, this is by far the darker and also quite more complex scent by this brand. But at the same time, probably the one I enjoy the less.

Basically Fefé is a patchouli-musk bomb with a massive dusty-powdery-woody feel, truly warm and aromatic (even “culinary” thanks to saffron), barely enlightened by some very subtle whiff of citrus greenness. Patchouli, musk and a dusty woody-ambergris accord sit at the core of this scent like big, bold, humid Stonehenge stones: imagine the smell of some antique, kind of musty Belle Epoque closet, with its earthy-powdery and woody nuances, and that nondescript smell of damp dust and old abandoned garments. Refined and melancholic at once, and I surely get the reference to a Neapolitan dandy – a quite evocative and quality portrait of the Italian heritage of laid-back dapper gents of the early Nineteenth century. Or well, of any gentleman of that era, and this is the smell you still can get in some very old boutiques (dusty barbershop boutiques, again... you can’t really say Boellis hasn’t a very clear “fil rouge” throughout their offerings).

The scent is quite complex for me, as the way the notes interact smells quite new to me, but at the same time it doesn’t evolve that much, so that’s pretty much it – patchouli, musk, amber, earthy-powdery nuances, a dusty sort of “damp stones” feel mixed with a soapy vibe. It smells good, but well... quite a bit cloying after a while, honestly. Not sure if that’s intended, but it does seem a bit static, and given the boldness of the notes and their dusty-damp feel, you would probably prefer it to evolve a bit, to “open” somehow, to lose some weight and strength as it feels quite thick and almost haunting after a while. Or just a bit boring. Nonetheless the smell per se is very good, so if you like it or if you’re looking for an unusual patchouli-powdery scent, then it’s a deal. I do like it, but it’s really not an “everyday scent” or something I’d want to reach often.

6,5-7/10
27th November, 2015