Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Colin Maillard

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Total Reviews: 1254

Panama 1924 : Millésimé by Boellis

I surely agree with the reviews comparing Panama 1924 Millesimé with Cartier’s Déclaration, as the opening is very similar and plays more or less the same chords – spicy cardamom, elegant crisp musky woods, a whiff of masculine flowers (jasmine and carnation for me, or something similar to it, maybe rose too), saffron and some very light tangy citrus. But the similarity doesn’t really last long, though: from the very beginning in fact, Millesimé does have some more richness, smelling at once more refined and more natural than the Cartier’s. And a bit warmer too, thanks to musk and ambergris – the same, quite good dusty-salty musky ambergris base you get in nearly any scent produced by Profumitalia (Boellis and Hugh Parsons, just to name two brands they manage – just compare two random scents for each, you’ll smell the same base notes).

During its evolution, and this is a quality product with some elegant and shimmering evolution, the initial spicy notes – except maybe saffron, which lasts longer – tone down progressively, leaving the stage to an exceedingly pleasant, classy and soothing floral-vetiver core accord still with some subtle pungent spicy edges, musk and some nondescript sort of “juicy” feel which I guess it’s that “tea” note – more a sort of a greenish rose for me, actually. Vetiver gets an increasingly prominent role, and it’s basically the star of the drydown, tinged with some floral nuances and a dusty musky-ambery base accord, which soon becomes a bit leathery too (I think it’s a side nuance of saffron).

So, basically another winner from Boellis in my book. As for the others from this brand, this is really nothing overly creative, and surely it does try to “emulate” a certain type of established crowdpleasers: but it does it with great class, great understatement and great quality. It feels just very mature, distinguished, yet informal and totally affable. To the point it, say, “exceeds” its masters and becomes actually better than them – so yes, for me this is quite better than Déclaration or similar scents. Same tones, same chords, better class and better quality. It has that same soapy “barbershop” vibe of other Boellis fragrances, that effortless Italian class, a shade of musky-amber refined melancholy well paired with some more luminous spicy-green nuances, and it’s just more fascinating, richer and more sophisticated than the Cartier’s in my opinion – also getting rid of that “sanitized” sort of artificial designer feel. The name is a bit pretentious perhaps as I don’t get the “millesimé” factor, but it’s surely recommended nonetheless.

7,5-8/10
27th November, 2015

Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf

I don’t have a problem with sweet fragrances, but Spicebomb is just really too much for me. It’s pure, crude, nondescript plastic sweetness which I have a hard time considering a grown man’s fragrance. Or actually a “person’s fragrance”, of any kind. Again, sweetness is not the issue, neither the “generic” factor, which I’m very fine with most of the times. The problem is that Spicebomb smells like if they accidentally switched the nozzles with a barrel of something meant for a candy factory, and bottled that, and sold it. Leather? Saffron? Elegance? This is a juvenile, sticky bubblegum cascade of cinnamon, vanilla, musk, nonsense synthetic gummy bear stuff all wrapped in a bare “masculine” frame of woody musk and spicy amber. All in the worse quality you can imagine – flat, cheap, extremely linear synthetic stuff as in any drugstore shower gel, with no qualities whatsoever except the ability of making you feel in a time machine ready to throw you right into Justin Bieber’s arms in 2005. I’d choose lifetime chastity over any woman complimenting this abomination.

3/10
24th November, 2015

Acqua di Parma Colonia Intensa by Acqua di Parma

Meh. Contrary to other flankers of this Colonia line, such as the beautiful Assoluta version and the at-least-wearable Leather one, this Intensa variation is quite disappointing for me. Actually much disappointing, even if my expectations with Acqua di Parma are never that high. It starts off as a sort of cheap dupe of a herbal-citrus fougère played on lemon-musky chords, tinged with a depressingly flat synthetic leather note and a surprisingly bold, and kind of harshly dissonant generic woody note (it takes a talent to make cedar smell this bad). It’s basically a “darker”, here meaning woodier and muskier take on the Colonia, but hasn’t really the quality and the class to succeed for me. It’s just... a shrug in a bottle, almost a scrubber. It’s uninspired, too cheap to be at least elegant and enjoyable, as it smells on the contrary almost tacky for how lousy and mediocre the notes smell. And even if they’re just a few and are all quite “classic”, for some reasons at some points their balance smells almost wrong. Too lemony at first, too harshly woody, too cheaply musky on the drydown. But well, I know “balance” is a rather subjective matter, so I guess someone may like that. Still a less than mediocre scent, whether the balance is fine or not. Anyway once the initial citrus and herbal notes start to vanish off, you realize that was the nicest part, and you basically remain with a simple, bland, immobile, surprisingly cheap soapy musky-cedar accord still tinged with a bold detergent-like debris of citrus and a remarkably irritating long persistence, as charming and pleasant as remaining stuck in a lift with that bald stinky colleague of yours.

4/10
23rd November, 2015
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Coven by Andrea Maack

Are you ready for the millionth sort of post-modern “soil-concrete” scent squeezing the desperate hell out of an idea which was barely enough for one scent? Yay. Coven opens with a particularly irritating smell of something halfway uncooked rice and damp paper on a rather confused sort of earthy-spicy-floral base accidentally spilled on wet soil. And so remains for a while. But when you’re almost ready to let the last bit of hope go, there’s a nice slow transition revealing a sort of weightless, synthetic floral-green heart with a warm albeit rather cheap sort of tobacco-infused designer woody-boozy feel (that reminds me so clearly of a scent I can’t remember at the moment – maybe Versace Man on steroids). Overall decent, but basically it evolves from a boring wannabe avantgarde thing, to a boring ordinary designer thing. Either it’s genius or...

5/10
22nd November, 2015

Pentachord Verdant by Tauer

Pentachords Verdant shares the same issue I personally detect in many fragrances by Andy Tauer. They’re intellectually very fascinating and thrilling, they’re exceedingly evocative and realistic, they succeed very well in keeping a decided, peculiar sort of artificial vein well combined with a truthful organic nature; but they don’t smell like something I would wear. Ever. Or that I think anyone would want to wear. Tauer hasn’t admittedly a formal training, and while that is surely a plus when it comes to creative freedom and composing “out of the box”, it sometimes turns into a disadvantage for him. And that is the case for Pentachords Verdant in my opinion.

Pentachords Verdant is basically a tremendously intriguing “smell” which brilliantly evokes the smell of damp grass, wet soil, freshly-cut branches, all with a sort of dark, cold, sharp feel, brilliantly combined with an artificial sort of quite heavy oily-gasoline greyish note that smells basically like someone pouring fuel on grass – you and your lawnmower, a romance by Andy Tauer. As usually with most of Tauer fragrances, the smell is quite sharp and almost harsh at first, stuffed with cold salty ambroxan and a thin, cutting layer of nondescript metallic spices giving the natural side of the fragrance that peculiar “artificial trim” which characterizes many scents by this nose. I don’t get any tobacco actually, to me it’s all a cascade of nose-tingling spicy sharp greenness seasoned with steamy gasoline. The evolution is just more about the volume decreasing, but I detect no particular transitions or movements – just the same identical thing losing strength and projection as hours pass (but that’s fine, and it actually gets almost pleasant after a while).

And, well... you may guess my conclusion (there’s not much else to say about the notes or the evolution, so we can skip to the end). I can’t help it, call me a tight-ass “classicist”, but this is too much on the very extreme fence between a perfume and a smell – not a stink, just an experimental smell which has little to do with perfumery. I mean, it’s not that any smell can automatically turn into a perfume just by a linguistic transition. It’s just too edgy, unstructured and crude to work as a fragrance in my opinion. It’s great to spray it and smell it, it’s amazingly realistic and it’s fantastic how it evokes the combined smell of wet grass, soil and gasoline, truly a hyperrealistic portrait of Mr. Smith’s Sunday morning mowing the lawn. But why on Earth shall I want to smell like that?

6/10
22nd November, 2015

Le Nomade by D'Orsay

The current version of Le Nomade by the formerly relevant French house of Parfums d’Orsay opens as a professional floor and windows cleaning detergent accidentally mixed with a drugstore spicy-woody scent, plaguing your nostrils with a brash slap of denatured alcohol scented with creamy lime, a cheap musk-rose note infused with synthetic vetiver and a sort of sweetish-spicy accord smelling halfway a powdery fudge praline crossed with dry culinary herbs and spices. Sweetish, woody, musky, spicy, slightly floral and milky-greenish, each facet pointing to a different direction as a multi-eyed cross-eyed fella. Once it settles on skin and stabilizes a bit, things won’t get that better - or well, just a bit, as it basically becomes a dull and cheap powdery vetiver-musk scent with a nondescript spicy head accord and a touch of musky rose, but at least it’s wearable. And so remains for hours. I don’t really see the connection to Déclaration though, to me this smells just more like a clumsy musky-spicy variation around synthetic vetiver, with a persistent sweetish-powdery feel and an unrelated touch of lime-green milkiness (reminding me quite a a bit of Kenzo Jungle pour Homme). Calling this “aromatic” is a stretch beyond generosity anyway, it’s just a cheap flat nonsense which may have been done by any low-key designer. It’s so sad to see such clueless people running ex-glorious brand like this.

4,5/10
21st November, 2015

A*Men: Les Parfums de Cuir / Pure Leather by Thierry Mugler

Well, this is an interesting fragrance with an interestingly polarizing reception among fragrance aficionados. My opinion on this is that it’s very nice. Nice and fascinating, and quite unique too, in its own subtle way. Does it smell like A*Men? Yes, it does, it’s 90% identical - it’s a flanker, after all. But still, it has some key features that makes it not redundant if you like or already own classic A*Men. First of all, it smells as a washed, lighter version of it; less challenging to pull off, more dry, kind of darker, surely more simple. A “thinned out” A*Men, so to speak – and that’s nice for me, since A*Men can get sometimes tough and overwhelming to wear. Second, contrary to other reviewers, I do get very clearly the leather facet here, and I really like it. I expected something different, a duller and more mainstream leather accord glued to A*Men like a drugstore patch, while I think that leather here is processed in a very creative and quite classy way.

More than a specific note, in fact, it actually really feels like if they gave A*Men a “polished leather look”, an overall “leather treatment” infusing it with a subtle, yet robust smell of new, tar-like, oddly sweetish polished leather. Obviously the “leather infusion” mentioned on the box is marketing nonsense (and knowing Mugler’s aesthetics, chances are it’s subtly ironic), but still I admit that that’s the effect: I think this does really smell like A*Men drenched in leather. And again, I must stress that for me the leather feel here is quite realistic, unusual and surprisingly well put together. Synthetic, sure, but that’s the smell of most of todays’ leather goods treated with chemical agents. And I guess that many people don’t get the leather facet because they’re looking for some more common, standard leather note, while here leather is kind of “all over” – it’s the ambiance, the frame itself, so you’ve to, say, “zoom out” and look at the entirety of the scent to get it. That’s my reading of this scent. Besides the all-over leather effect, the rest is quite A*Men with no particular variations except for a fresher and thinner look – if you aren’t familiar with that masterpiece, then imagine a bizarre musky-minty-soapy gourmand bomb with lavender, resins, tonka, fresh edges and a dark patchouli-cocoa base. Imagine that, sprayed on a new pair of leather sneakers.

The more I wear this clever pastiche, the more I like it, and I think the subtle yet very competent and creative leather variation is remarkable, and I’m afraid quite underrated (or even more sadly, just snobbed because “it’s Mugler”). If you see it with an “out of the box” approach, and take it as the crazy gourmand oddball drenched in subtle leather that it is, then it’s more valuable and creative than the majority of “avantgarde” niche leathers. It has some cheap facets, but they’re fun – and so is this scent, nothing particularly refined and probably not that versatile too, but fun, nice and unusual. Totally remarkable for the price.

7,5/10
20th November, 2015

Dans tes Bras by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Well, despite I really, deeply dislike this brand, its approach to perfumery and its utter pretentiousness, I must admit Dans tes Bras is probably one of the nicest offerings by Malle (that says it all). Still dull for its price range and with a quite mediocre evolution, but well, there’s worse than this. It opens as a laid-back, cozy, simple yet quite refined and clean – a soapy, warm, talc and soothing kind of “clean” - powdery scent which blends a sparkling bergamot head accord, a rich, pastel lavender-violet-heliotrope heart and a smooth, warm musky-vanillic base enriched by Oriental notes of (I think) tonka and soft woods – for once, I clearly get a decent sandalwood reconstruction, with its proper “milky soapiness”, refreshed by an edgy note of cedar. All tinged with a very pleasant and subtle whiff of earthiness, avoiding any plushy-sweetish gourmand effect often associated to this type of compositions. On the contrary, Dans tes Bras feels initially very airy and actually quite simple too, with no traces of the “complex sumptuosity” that you often find in this type of Oriental powdery scents. Synthetic as hell, but well played.

So, a classy and affable Oriental cloud of talc at first, with powdery-floral-woody notes a bit in the vein of Villoresi Teint de Neige, or Boucheron Jaipur, with quite some differences though: smoother, cleaner, way simpler, much fresher, less sweet and completely “un-spicy”, more focused on gentle notes of violet and heliotrope paired with crisp woods and pine-infused balsamic notes of lavender. I really appreciate the initial herbal-balsamic vein which brings in a touch of “fresh air” and makes Dans tes Bras smell like a weightless, almost “healing” interpretation of a classic powdery Oriental floral scent. It feels extremely soapy and comforting to wear, and it performs quite well, with a transition towards a drier, earthier... and sadly, so much more mediocre drydown, which just like a beautifully painted Barocque trompe l’oeil concealing your crappy toilet, reveals the “hidden nature” of this fragrance: a flat, extremely synthetic base of “white flowers”, musky violet and generic “soft woods”. Not abysmal, but it’s always disappointing to see some “magic” vanish away so soon, especially if you’ve just spent a hell lot of money for it. I wonder if niche brands work with marketing agencies providing them with reports calculating the average time a customer needs to try a scent, complete the decision process and pay for it, and compose their scents accordingly. The transition is truly sudden here – from an almost-very-good fragrance to a cheap fabric softener.

Nonetheless, despite the disappointing evolution, I don’t feel bashing this scent. Or well, just a tiny bit. Even if it smells more and more cheap as minutes pass, it still keeps a pleasant presence on skin. So overall I would surely consider this not full bottle worthy at that price, not even half of it, but if you get it as a gift and you inexplicably resist to the temptation of making some good money out of it, I guess it can be nice to spray this for a sunny morning out for grocery shopping – completely pointless, but I guess it’s the kind of nonsense bourgeois “shabby chic” acts many Malle’s customers love.

6,5/10
20th November, 2015

Méchant Loup by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Méchant Loup opens with an odd sort of cheap nutty-tobacco fougère accord topped with a sort of pine-nutmeg accord, overall echoing a bit (just a bit) the reformulated version of Captain by Molyneux with less complexity and more focus on the woody-spicy part, blended with a say, “drugstore vibe” of balsamic-herbal cough syrup feel and an overall “brownish” feel of anisic, caramelised sweet woods and dried resins. I honestly don’t get any honey nor the “hazelnut” note, to me this seems more just an almost nondescript and rather faint balsamic-woody scent with a sweetish, yet dry and light anisic-resinous base and a whiff of generic herbs, also with a really subtle powdery-soapy feel.

I do admit that for the first minutes (and sadly, only for those), Méchant Loup succeeds in conveying a bit of a “fairytale”, childhood-inspired rendition of a forest ambiance, using “brown” aromatic-sweet tones and an ethereal, elegantly weightless texture instead of a more predictable cascade of green pine-herbal notes. Think of Serge Lutens on a military diet: resins and sweet notes are there, but there’s really no gourmand thickness here – all smells rather dry and breezy, distantly echoing also the salty woodiness of Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel.

So far so good, and now the bad news. As most of L’Artisan offers, Méchant Loup actually and definitely feels in fact way too tame and kind of cheap to be compelling enough. The mild “magic” you get at the opening vanishes as soon as you’ve paid for your bottle, quickly collapsing down to a really cheap, flat and annoyingly persistent musky-woody anisic-soapy drydown, which is the only evolution you’ll get (and please appreciate the stretch of calling it “evolution”). Some – mostly desperate sales assistants, I guess – would call this ethereal and delicate, I’d call it just pale and faint. I can’t stand L’Artisan’s consistent attempts at selling lame weakness as a “style choice”. Normally I wouldn’t care since their concept aren’t that interesting as well, but here it’s a bit of a shame since I think this would be a really nice idea, just wasted in a really mediocre execution.

5/10
19th November, 2015

Neroli Portofino by Tom Ford

There’s little left to say about this fragrance, that other fragrance snobs didn’t say already. Neroli Portofino is a mildly pleasant, incredibly overpriced citrus-neroli cologne with a musky-herbal undertone and a sort of “laundry” soap feel. Just place it anywhere in the Dantesque limbo between 4711 and Acqua di Parma citrus colognes. Just to be clear, it smells decent: exceedingly dull, even a bit cheap honestly, with no rich or “natural” nuances but a rather sanitized, militarly linear designer feel, also quite faint shortly after the initial burst of citrus-herbal notes. But it’s nice, fresh, safe, “GQ advertising dude” kind of classy. And there’s really nothing more to add. The only interesting thing to add would be a group brainstorming on the reasons why should someone decide to spend that money for this instead of a dozen of drugstore neroli-soapy fragrances doing the exact same job as this with the same exact quality and outcome ( “quick money laundering” would be my best guess).

5/10
17th November, 2015

Thirty-three by Ex Idolo

A spicy rose-oud scent as much decent as dull and in the vein of dozens of others, from Montale to Xerjoff to well, two thirds of niche brands. I admit though, that this may sit just a tiny tad above many of them, because of both some moderately interesting nuances, and its overall quality. The smell is in fact enough thick, faceted and natural to result in something a bit (just a bit) more intriguing and fulfilling that several other average niche oud scents. Both rose and oud seem good quality, especially the rose note, which has a quite appealing texture of soapy, resinous, camphorous nuances, a bit as in Aramis Calligraphy Rose, with some sharp sort of spicy edges (I get cloves, definitely, and pepper). The same for oud, it smells a bit flat, but not overly artificial to my nose, and cleverly toned-down to act more as just a smoky, weightless, kind of cold yet gloomy dry-medicinal base for rose. I appreciate so much the absence of any cheap dry rubberiness as in the near totality of synthetic ouds.

Besides the faceted rose infusion, the “interesting nuances” I mentioned (interesting for me, of course) would be mostly a deeper woody-smoky-peppery vein with a sort of dry-mossy feel which kind of reminds me of some vintage masculine chypres (I guess it’s patchouli), that sort of austere dark green-mossy dryness with camphorous nuances infused with a hint of dusky flowers (rose) and something reminding me of civet – that peculiar sweaty-indolic-sultry feel. I see no civet here, but I believe that oud plus some sweet nuances and the powdery feel of the floral notes may create something like that. They create an overall sort of cold, dirty feel, which is quite fascinating – as long as it lasts (not much, sadly).

And that was the good part, basically. Fun subtle variations on a trite theme – this leading us to the bad side of this scent: rose and oud combos and variations are so ubiquitous, so abused and over-done, that it’s really hard for a scent to stand out, especially with absurd price tags such as Ex-Idolo’s ones. Thirty-three is somehow nice, it is refined and competently put together, but not really enough for being bottle worthy in my opinion. I mean: it’s decent, but it’s still just rose and oud again. So many others are equally nice and are cheaper than this. If it cost a third of its price, I’d consider it fine, but for $185 / 50 ml I want something outstanding, magic and memorable, and there’s none of it here (for my idea of “outstanding, magic and memorable” applied to a rose oud scent, just check any Abdul Samad Al Qurashi fine oil).

6/10
16th November, 2015

Panama 1924 by Boellis

Well, I’m impressed. Not that anyone should care, but I just realised that Boellis is perhaps my favourite Italian niche house. First because – pardon the pun - it’s out of Italian niche: out of tradeshows, promotional blog whoring, demented marketing ploys, absurd pricing range. Second because their products are truly good, and each of them really matches my tastes. I’m already a big fan of Panama 1924 Daytona, which quite grew on me over time, but I was still missing the classic Panama 1924; now that I tried it, I can’t say nothing but good things about this as well. A truly rich, solid and compelling tobacco-lavender “barbershop” scent with a veritable material feel of warm, vanillic ambery-powdery dustiness, perfectly supported by a really natural accord of something similar to a touch of anisic herbs, hay (both may be just nuances of lavender, though) and a gentle mossy-patchouli shade on the very base, briefly refreshed by an initial burst of refined, lukewarm and tea-like bergamot notes.

That’s it; mostly a tobacco-powdery scent, shortly, with a remarkably refined feel of dusty natural warmth. Basically something blending Odori Tabacco, several powdery scents for men (from Le Male to Jaipur Homme), anisic-lavender fougères from Azzaro pour Homme on, and a plain natural shaving soap bar. Panama 1924 does brilliantly evoke the shabby, yet refined atmosphere of a typical Italian old-school barber shop – which in the end, is Boellis’ (true and actual) heritage. The smell of soaps, powder, talc, antique woods, linen jackets with dusky tobacco in their inner pockets, all smoothened by a whiff of sweet notes (thus evoking the other pillar of the Italian, and specifically Neapolitan culture – food). All with the perfect sillage and a long, pleasant, non-artificial persistence.

I find this scent as much simple as amazing, I think it’s really well blended, with quality ingredients, and whoever composed this had very clear in mind what to take inspiration from, and for what type of audience. Nothing overly creative, nothing “luxury”, just nonchalantly classy and extremely enjoyable. A cozy little essay of “sprezzatura” in a bottle worth every penny of its price. Recommended.

8-8,5/10
14th November, 2015

Soul by Costume National

This new addition to Costume National’s fragrances range represents the unnecessary confirmation that the only good Costume National scents ever made where the early couple of ones composed by Bruyère – 21 and Scent Intense. It almost seems the guys at Costume National share this feeling as well, since Soul smells basically like an unneeded rewriting of Scent Intense crossed with influences from some of those contemporary Middle East cheap brands which are quite invading the market lately – brands like Arabian Oud, Lattafa, Swiss Arabian and countless of similar ones, with their nuclear, and often sweetish spicy-smoky oud and/or leather blends. Soul is for me exactly halfway all of that, and I wonder why they hired some renowned nose like Ropion for such an uninspired, clerical copy-and-paste job. Soul definitely keeps Scent Intense’s peculiar bone structure of powerful, sort of dry and extremely synthetic amber-musk-fruity notes, and boringly crosses it with a smoky praline of vanilla and artificial, sort of medicinal-nutty oud with a dark shade of leathery patchouli and a greyish salty feel of ambergris. The result is basically “Scent Intense Oud & Patchouli” with a whiff of M7’s trademark ambery-medicinal oud.

Is it any good? Well, sort of. If you like Scent Intense, then that’s still way above this, as it smells richer, more quality and more fascinatingly complex, and also kind of more focused; if you don’t care for it, then Soul may be a slightly more peculiar than usual sort of “futuristic”, androgynous, dirty yet sort of “aseptic” take on oud and synthetic leather with an initially stomach-piercing galore of powdery-musky vanilla tinged with a nondescript candy vibe. A powerful sweetish musky candy with a drop of cheap smoky oud & patchouli, and an everlasting artificial and linear drydown... sounds familiar, eh? Nothing that probably some Middle Eastern drugstore brand isn’t already doing for ten dollars a bottle. Not abysmal, but go for Scent Intense anyway.

6-6,5/10
14th November, 2015
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Habit Rouge Dress Code by Guerlain

By far the best novelty of 2015 for me, even if the year hasn’t ended yet. I must start by saying that I am not crazy for classic Habit Rouge; I really respect and appreciate it, but I like it really mildly – for no specific reasons, it just never completely “clicked” for me. Dress Code instead, I fell in love with it from the very first sniff, and I wouldn’t know where to start with to motivate why. It smells at once really complex, really quality, completely new for me yet robustly rooted into the classic heritage at the same time (starting from Habit Rouge itself), and just tremendously good. Basically, I think Dress Code may basically and inaccurately be described as a sort of remarkably inspired blend which brilliantly mixes Habit Rouge, the Guerlain Homme line (notably Intense), several classic French masterworks like Mouchoir de Monsieur or Monsieur de Givenchy, an apparently unrelated contemporary designer vein (mostly for a subtle and sharp smoky-woody base layer) and a tiny bit of vintage Hermès Bel Ami too, especially the way leather gets a floral-sweet treatment there. There’s some echoes of Tom Ford Noir too for me, which was however a clear tribute to Guerlain’s classics, so here we are again. There’s a lot going on here, and yet it is all so well blended it’s really hard (and eventually pointless) to “read” it.

Anyway, shortly Dress Code opens with a fresh and soapy bergamot-rose-barbershop accord with some quality vanilla, a sprinkle of mild brownish spices (cloves and nutmeg above all, as a distant whiff of a classic Bay Rum) and a dry, sort of incense-infused leather woody base, all tinged with a really peculiar and quite prominent sort of really sophisticated dusty powdery-gourmand feel of what I think Guerlain calls “praline” here – which is basically a gentle cascade of delightful vanillic powder with a truly clever sort of spicy and “toasted” aftertaste, perfectly keeping the “autumnal” feel of Habit Rouge and balancing the sweetness. I expected something more cloying, while this sweet accord is really subtle and mannered, and yet decidedly there.

At first, Dress Code is quite uplifting, even fresh and well more Oriental than classic Habit Rouge, also pleasantly “barbershop-clean”, showing some slight boozy nuances as well – hence my reference to Guerlain Homme Intense; that same sort of distinguished woody-herbal booziness is partially here too (and actually, with a hint of 2003 Gucci pour Homme’s incense woodiness as well) just evolving then under a completely different light. A darker, more luscious, dirtier and, say, “ambiguously sweeter” light – where the ambiguity lies in the Frenchies’ tradermark fondness for sweetness and dirtiness . The evolution is truly dynamic and shimmering, and is in fact all about a descent into a dandy’s closet; powder, nondescript sweet dust, dead flowers, a whiff of salty antique woods (maybe vetiver), luxury leather (true luxury: tanned, rich, comforting, really smooth but sharp – paired with spices, floral notes and a hint of sweetness, here’s why I mentioned vintage Bel Ami). The freshness goes almost entirely away soon except for a hint of citrus, leather becomes earthier and saltier, a gust of warm wind spreads the dirty, spicy, sweet powder all over. And still, Dress Code remains inexplicably gentle, distinguished and almost weightless. This scent is quite all about that - sweet but dark, innocently powdery and dirty at once, mature and really sophisticated yet sort of light and youthful, comprising a whole timelapse over Guerlain’s history in a whiff. It’s quite hard for me to describe this fragrance and its evolution properly, as lots of nuances and notes smell really new to me (better say, the way they are presented and how they evolve); but well, you can just expect a brilliant, refined, cozy combination of classic and contemporary bearing a lot of echoes of stuff you know (more or less the names I mentioned so far), and yet smelling like nothing else. The evolution is really great, and the performance is really fine – this scent is quite more discreet than it may seem from the composition, but it’s not ephemeral at all.

I think Wasser did a truly remarkable job in bringing Guerlain’s DNA and specifically Habit Rouge autumnal formal and “dirty” elegance under a completely new light – not a “designer” light, not a “niche” light, just really new and out of boundaries and definitions, as if he almost tried to get rid of any formal training and just compose “out of the box” to create something quality and new yet solidly rooted into the past, avoiding any cliché. And he surely succeeded for me. Superb.

9/10
11th November, 2015

Versace Man by Versace

I am firmly convinced that if a niche brand came up with this very fragrance in the past season, probably many would be raving about it. “Smooth tobacco gem”, “luxury modern Oriental”, “classy underwear killer” and so on, they’d say. I would even dare to think Creed could easily make something like this and sell it for ten times the price, but I’m too young and handsome to burn in hell yet. Anyway I say all of this because Versace Man has them quite all: it’s elegantly sweet, it’s really easy to like, it smells quite above most of other Versace offerings quality-wise (it didn’t take much), and it’s mild and light enough to keep it classy. So either this fragrance is quite underrated, or perfumery has gone down to the point any average-quality designer from a dozen years ago smells like today’s finest. Most probably it’s the first for me. Either way, Versace Man is really nice – and only that matters. I think it anticipates many “smooth and sweet-smoky metrosexual” scents based on similar notes, and to some extent, also floral-musky sweet fragrances with a shade of dusty dark like Dior Homme (I am not saying they smell similar; just that it anticipates some of Dior’s key features and the overall concept). It bears quite some similarities with Versace Dreamer as well, but it smells decidedly more modern and with some significant differences, notably more warm, spicy-musky powderiness and a typical “sweet-plushy nondescript woodiness” which so many scents from the 2000s had.

If you’re wondering how it smells, well: saffron and tobacco are quite the main notes here, surrounded by a warm, a bit synthetic but cozy enough accord of amber, clean musk, mild peppery spices and a tad of citrus-infused light flowers. So basically a warm, smooth, aromatic and slightly “dusty” blend with a fresher-gentler feminine touch, but also a whole “classy, kind of dark masculine sense of confidence” due to amber, tobacco and spices. It also quite linear though, evolving towards a disgracefully short-lived ambery-woody-musk drydown still with nuances of saffron and spices, mostly cardamom. As for tobacco and saffron, which dominate the first couple of hour or so, I surely don’t get any difference with several more expensive or praised saffron or tobacco scents from today – from L’Artisan Parfumeur to Santa Maria Novella Tabacco.

Overall this fragrance is really decent to pretty much all extents, and I’d mildly recommend it; there’s nothing astonishingly outstanding and it surely smells a bit artificial, but has definitely some nice “deep moments”, it is surely classy and versatile, it’s decidedly discreet so it can perform fine in any situation, and it doesn’t smell (overly) cheap or derivative – on the contrary, as I said, I personally see it as a neglected precursor of more recent trends. The longevity is tragic though.

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

Grigioperla Essence by La Perla

Grigioperla Essence is a really decent product bringing back the “sharp & synthetic woody-peppery-herbal freshness” to the price range it best belongs to. Given many other brands do this same stuff at higher prices and/or with more undeserved praise, I guess it may be considered a mild winner. It’s basically Terre d’Hermès rewritten with less citrus and a bit more soapy-lavendery musk, something green (pine), and also a more vivid whiff of smoky vetiver. Halfway that, Encre Noire, half of Comme des Garçons offerings (all their variations on incense and woods), and a Neutro Roberts man deodorant. The “Freshly Hired Accounting Intern Manifesto”, shortly, but it doesn’t smell bad: on the contrary it actually smells really pleasant, clean, affably refined, surprisingly not that cheap yet a bit boring and quite desperately “nondescript” like a stock picture of a meeting room. Although hiring Bourdon for something this pedantic is a bit like having Frank Gehry renovating your cat’s litter box , Essence is ultimately a fine, versatile, fairly-priced product which would make a great gift for non-fragrance fans looking for a signature office scent.

6,5/10
08th November, 2015

Collection Homme Thé Brun by Jean-Charles Brosseau

What an odd scent this is. At first, Thé Brun smells actually quite as a faithful, vibrant, extremely pleasant representation of some traditional Chinese tea (I thought of the Oolong, too). Genuine dark brown leaves out of the bag. Quite a complex and really vivid structure of earthy, pungent, dry nuances blended with an uplifting fruity-herbal-balsamic heart and some really mild sweet-vanillic-floral nuances. Now, the odd part is that to my nose there’s at least two other major accords which smell at the same time perfect, and completely random; a really bold, fairly cheap and almost acrid sort of musk-hedione base (sort of a damp, grassy, slightly milky and extremely musky accord with a hint of pungent fruitiness) and a greyish, ashy-rubbery note, quite synthetic as well, the same exact kind of ashy-mossy rubberiness found in Bulgari Black, or in several works by Rasquinet (notably the MiN NY line, or Bois d’ascèse). It’s a dark grey, dusty, salty yet slightly camphorous feel similar to ambergris (on fire), which for some reasons, goes just perfectly with the brighter earthy-herbal tea heart of the fragrance and the sort of “lactonic” musky-green accord - which is quite bold as well, with also nuances of tarragon and bamboo (and some woods too, but I can’t detect them in detail). I know it may be hard to imagine how Thé Brun smells overall, and in fact it’s quite a unique and complex blend – not necessarily a good thing (but well, it kind of is here).

So basically, for me Thé Brun smells initially and for quite a while, like a sort of intricated hybrid between something like O de Lancome pour Homme and something like Bulgari Black, both gravitating around a grey-brownish balsamic heart of woody-earthy dry tea leaves. Quite fascinating overall, honestly a bit screechy but for some reasons, with a really peculiar and overall fascinating feel of “something smells wrong, but I can’t stop sniffing it” (most surely it’s the fruity nuances meeting the rubbery-ashy ones causing that). It feels like a bizarre mosaic of diverse inspirations – the archaic heritage of Oriental tea, the smell of a moldy grass field under the rain, and a whole range of artificial smells of rubber, ash, dirt, damp wood, wet concrete. So well, now that I think of it, it may make sense to connect these inspirations and imagine a shabby suburban teahouse in some desolated Chinese metropolitan district. Somewhere you can still drink an excellent cup of tea, just not in a postcard setting, but rather sitting in front of a crippled window looking at uncultivated grass bushes erupting out of an abandoned parking lot. I’m not entirely sure whether Brosseau wanted to evoke such a forlorn post-communist atmosphere, but it’s still better than the usual Oriental clichés in perfumery.

Anyway, back to the actual smell: pretty linear for a while, until the grassy-herbal-tea heart progressively vanishes and on the other hand, the ashy-musky base becomes warmer, gentler, in a way absorbing the top notes as if the whole tea-herbal stuff evolves and disappears as a result of an “infusion” among the base notes. At this time some of the screechy “oddness” is gone, and Thé Brun gets surprisingly refined and soothing, with a discreet smoky-musky presence with a sprinkle of amber yet still a bit grassy and balsamic, lasting quite long and projecting just fine.

I’m not entirely sold, but this is surely quite worthy a sniff.

7-7,5/10
05th November, 2015 (last edited: 07th November, 2015)

Solo Loewe Cedro by Loewe

Duller than the dullest woody scent on Earth, but I’ll admit it: it’s nice to wear. And compared to other mid-range cedar-based scent like the horrid Chopard Noble Cedar and the likes, it’s easily better than many of them. It’s flatly artificial to the bone but it feels smooth, fresh (a refined, slightly powdery kind of orange-infused freshness, thanks to neroli), slightly sweet-fruity, with a classy touch of balmy herbal mint and something like tea. And cedar, of course. It reminds me a bit of Dunhill Icon with less complexity and more crisp wood. And obviously it’s in the same league of Terre d’Hermès and countless of other woody-fresh scents, but the presence of neroli, of a powdery-minty axe and of cedar more than vetiver makes it slightly (really slightly) different from many of them. Say, drier and warmer and the same time. Simple and unpretentious, completely uninteresting from a “fragrance fan” point of view, but quite pleasant to wear. Clean, cleverly composed and showing a really nice balance of tones – from warm to tart. Easily (and nothing more than) a safe and surely successful Christmas gift for dads, brothers and colleagues ready to dismiss their Axe fragrances.

6/10
04th November, 2015

Sandalwood (original) by Crabtree & Evelyn

I was really eager to put my hands on this mythical vintage “Extract of Mysore Sandalwood” by Crabtree & Evelyn, since it is apparently considered among the most vibrant and truthful representations of authentic Mysore sandalwood in perfumery, as it shall contain some. Now, I am not an expert of sandalwood, so I can’t comment on the degree of authenticity and quality of sandalwood here; all I can say is that this fragrance smells terrific, period. Easily the best scent I’ve ever smelled among the ones containing “sandalwood” in their name. It’s just magic, and it truly makes you consider other sandalwood scents in perspective.

At first, there’s a tremendous blast of balsamic, slightly anisic and creamy sandalwood with a drop of citrus and an impressive “material” woody texture, joined by a really peculiar sort of earthy, almost ashy and even slightly fecal undertone; it’s truly subtle, but it’s there, creating a really vibrant dark and organic shade blending with the luminous, soapy, balmy uplifting creaminess of this wood. It feels like an instant Polaroid of a sandalwood plantation, which I’ve never even saw in pictures, so it’s just my imagination speaking - but that’s the beauty of fragrances. It’s soapy and exotically sweet, but now I see what “synthetic” means in relation to sandalwood – it’s a whole different kind of sweet soapiness the one you smell here. It’s just natural, deep, imperfect. It doesn’t pierce your nose or go right into your stomach, it’s not musk-driven, it doesn’t smell like laundry machines or cheap candies. It’s the kind of sophisticated, weightless woody sweetness you maybe got in the drydown of some vintage masculine scents like Egoiste or Tiffany for Men, just in a free, pure, complete and more “amplified” form here.

The evolution is quite dynamic then, and I guess that’s another key point of difference from any synthetic sandalwood scent. And again, it just feels as the natural course of an “organic” smell – it becomes warmer, dustier, drier, lighter too but it doesn’t entirely fade away. It just gently sits on skin with a peaceful, yet intricated harmony of soapiness, creaminess, dry woodiness, and a whole range of “rural” nuances coming and going – from hay, to indolic nuances. It gets darker and smokier for a while at first (I think a hint of vetiver pops out), then progressively breezier and brighter, and also simpler, more purely soapy and balmy. More and more discreet as well as time passes, but long lasting. Finally, just a note: don’t expect anything complex though, as this is a truly simple fragrance. Lots of nuances, but still gravitating around almost a single accord. Outstandingly, sumptuously, richly simple and quintessential, if you get what I mean, easy to love like a piece of perfect blue sky.

So overall, a true gem in my opinion. I must say though that the subsequent “Sandalwood” which Crabtree and Evelyn made in 2004 (discontinued as well, I think, but easier to get) is a truly remarkable and successful effort of bringing back some of these feelings and nuances of the original Extract, in a synthetic sandalwood fragrance. Some, if not most part of the magic is gone, and indeed you get a flatter, more artificial texture, but the final smell is amazingly close to this. The Extract is still worth its money in my opinion, since besides the smell there’s just a fantastic “experience” flowing out the bottle, but “Sandalwood” comes just right after with its tolerable compromises on quality. I own both and despite they smell similar, they don’t feel redundant.

9/10
03rd November, 2015 (last edited: 04th November, 2015)

Brioni by Brioni

*My review is for the expensive 2014 version of this, I think it's a different scent but I don't see it listed here.*

So, finally I was able to try this expensive, sought-after (and discontinued?) “gem”. I’m usually quite a fan of tailors/bespoke brands fragrances, they often seem to put some more budget and care in their products, and seem able to infuse them with some true sense of class and discreet elegance contrary to many other designers - not to mention niche. To this extent, Brioni is not an exception and would be surely worthy a normal high-end designer price. Is it worthy *that* price I see on eBay and online shops now? Absolutely no. Not at all. It’s as much nice as far from being particularly memorable from any extent. It is basically a really decent, refined masculine citrus-woody fragrance with some smoke, cedar, lavender, some balsamic and crisp herbs and spices – shortly, a really classic citrus-green cologne with a classy Mediterranean vibe and a subtle woody-soapy bone-structure. A competent, classic “sunny” scent with some smoky wood and an above-average refined presentation. But still, really nothing more that a good designer, something dozens of other fragrances are as well – either designers, or niche’s “designer in disguise”. From some Hermès, to some Dior (Eau Sauvage line in particular) to some recent Guerlain (Coriolan meets Homme L’Eau Boisée), to Boellis, with a sprinkle of Kenzo too - bearing in mind you can almost get one for each, at the total price of a single Brioni Eau de Toilette. Unremarkably solid, with a completely insane price tag.

6,5/10
01st November, 2015 (last edited: 02nd November, 2015)

Tumulte pour Homme by Christian Lacroix

Still a mistery to me how can someone name “Tumulte” such a peaceful, quietly refined “zen” harmony of ultra-sharp bright woods and spices. Tumulte pour Homme sits exactly halfway Comme des Garçons Kyoto and Gucci Rush for Men, tending more towards the latter; a bit less sophisticated and less “creamy” (and just less unique), more breezy and colder than Rush, but still a bit softer and warmer than Kyoto, also more natural-smelling than that. I’d throw in also Carven Homme since I think I get a slightly similar floral sandalwood note here, although the atmosphere here is decidedly colder and sharper than in Carven, and way less complex.

So if you are familiar with those names, you can already easily and pretty precisely imagine how this smells; if you aren’t, then simply think of a smooth, balsamic, sort of futuristic-aloof and really clean cedar-sandalwood scent with some fresh edgy spices (juniper and pepper), a hint of citrus, a really subtle powdery feel and an elegantly lunar and weightless atmosphere. In the same league of dozens of similar designers, but quite above most of them quality-wise, and closer to the very best of these post-2000s “white woodies” – Rush Men, a couple of Comme des Garçons and so on, as mentioned above. By “quality” I mean here mostly the depth and the vibrancy; the few notes smell rich and uplifting, blended in a really effortless and harmonic way, there’s really no cheap nuances (as in many similar, yet inferior scents – think of Azzaro Visit; that’s a clean woody scent, by the way similar to Rush and Tumulte, but with a quite evident cheaper vibe).

Probably a bit redundant if you already own some of the scents I mentioned, especially the best of them (Rush Men), but still a really nice, sophisticated sharp gem of square cut woods. Don’t get fooled by the unrelated, inexplicably horrid packaging and bottle.

7-7,5/10
31st October, 2015

Olympios by Missoni

I’ve been quite on a “vintage Fahrenheit craze” lately, since I’ve been finally able to stock a decent pile of backups of it, and I wore it quite often. Besides granting me hours of sinful delight, that helped me also in assessing something I wanted to check since long time –if, and how much Olympios Missoni is actually similar to vintage Fahrenheit. I own and quite like Olympios since a couple of years, and before getting some bottles lately, I only vaguely remembered vintage Fahrenheit, so I was unsure of what to think about the relationship between the two. But I was quite sure that as other reviewers mentioned, the two fragrances were quite similar. Well in fact, now that I can compare them, they are indeed. The bone-structure is clearly the same: violet, herbs, cedar, powdery flowers, a hint of leather, moss, altogether creating a similar sort of “dark terpenic violet” atmosphere.

Still, there is enough difference to avoid any redundancy (well, sort of); Fahrenheit is decidedly more powdery, gassier and darker, and way more rich and complex, while Olympios is quite more simple, more herbal, drier and quite more bitter too, ultimately a bit cheaper as well. It feels like taking inspiration from the general genius structure of Fahrenheit, bringing it on an “easier” territory, both notes-wise and quality-wise. Nonetheless I would consider it a little true keeper, as it smells basically like a sort of bitter-herbal flanker of vintage Fahrenheit, both fresher and drier at once. I wouldn’t ever recommend this as a replacement for the immense, out-of-this-world intricated beauty of vintage Fahrenheit, but it’s surely a little fascinating gem that would make a perfect “discarded flanker” of it.

7,5/10
25th October, 2015 (last edited: 26th October, 2015)

Dolce & Gabbana pour Homme by Dolce & Gabbana

I don’t know how Pour Homme smells today, but I recently acquired an early Euroitalia bottle of this (mostly for nostalgia, as I wore this fragrance in the Nineties, without even loving it that much back then) and all I can say is that it smells, well, really good. Not exciting, not particularly fascinating... but just totally, really good. Almost astonishingly good. All I get is lavender, tobacco, a drop of creamy, slightly orange-infused citrus and a mellow, agreeably sweet base of musk, vetiver and tonka, initially briefly refreshed by a sort of Mediterranean herbal-tea accord in which I think I get mostly sage and something like thyme paired with, well, “something” that reminds me of juicy bittersweet black tea (that may be due to tobacco, though; fresh grounded tobacco has often a tea-like aroma).

The notes may sound a bit generic, while the result is inexplicably complex, totally unique and recognizable, way more than it may seem by reading the composition. In fact I can’t really think of anything similar to this, maybe some facets of vintage Dreamer by Versace for the same tobacco-musk-lavender “clean and warm” base, or some other tobacco designer scents, but that’s a long shot in any case since there’s quite something more – and mostly better – going on in Dolce & Gabbana pour Homme. I guess this uniqueness is due to the way musk, tobacco, tonka and citrus interact, they create “something” really comforting, clean (musk and lavender), slightly sweet and warm (tonka and tobacco, plus that “tea” accord I mentioned above) but with a really classy touch of tart, herbal citrus freshness, which altogether create an uplifting sense of confidence, affability and informality with a sultry shade of class, a perfect balance I rarely found in other fragrances. Guess this is an example of how a skillful, eclectic and mature composition smells like. Maybe uncreative, but not anything has to (try to...) be creative. Truly a soothing classy sillage with just the right hint of clean, smoothly modern and understated “genericness” which makes this fragrance a really enjoyable and solid everyday option, with a particular “youthful” vibe. Quite linear, but if something smells this nice, that’s just a plus.

Given the number of negative reviews I read about Pour Homme I assume that today it smells probably a bit more synthetic and harsh than it used to, and I can really believe that since the quality of Euroitalia works of the Eighties/Nineties was quite much higher if compared to today’s standards among designers – not to mention Dolce & Gabbana usual standards, which make Pour Homme even more a unique standout. The early Made in Italy version surely has some soapy-synthetic feel especially on the musky-lavender notes, but overall it has an undisputable solid quality and a remarkably rich, fulfilling and breezy texture that makes it really worthy a sniff – if not a blind purchase in case of good deals (way more than the nice albeit totally overrated By Man in my opinion, to mention the only other masculine Dolce & Gabbana scent worth some care).

7,5-8/10
24th October, 2015

Santal Impérial by Creed

A joke for its retail price assuming it’s still in production (or however, for the price it had when it was available), but overall nice if you manage to get it for some substantial fraction of the cost. Santal Imperial opens – and more or less, so remains – with a distinguished whiff of citrus and bergamot blended with a sort of warm and creamy texture arising from a dusty, sultry base of ambergris and tobacco with some tame sort of mossy musk, and a really smooth and bright woody accord which I guess may contain some synthetic sandalwood too –I get very little of it though, close to zero; all the woody side feels to me more like earthy vetiver paired with some weightless sweet-plushy nonsense like cashmeran. A soapy, clean, really cozy woody base with a nondescript Oriental vibe of spicy, cocoa-infused tonka and probably some red pepper too. Quite generic, but it works, a bit in the same broad league of Tom Ford for Men with less ambery orange, less freshness and a earthier texture, with more ambergris and woods and also a bit more conservative, old school and formal than that (in other words I am not saying these two fragrances smell similar, this was just a matter of, say, a similar “vibe” with similar Oriental chords). Finally I also think there’s something floral, definitely a delicate sweet-grassy vibe which I can’t really identify but it provides an enjoyable sort of silky-powdery touch (someone mentioned iris in another review, it may be it in fact, maybe with a herbal touch of clary sage).

So this is it, you get the picture, an enjoyably mannered albeit rather weak and proudly uninspired spicy-creamy-woody Oriental scent with a sweet floral vibe and a sort of faint mood halfway pedantic and austere, distantly rooted into the classic citrus fougère tradition but also close to several Oriental masculine fragrances from the late 1990’s (to the point I feel this may have been created back then, but I’m not yet skilled enough in converting Creed years in human years so I don’t know what 1850 translates into in real world). Closer to a pale neurotic bourgeois chap than anything or anyone “Imperial”, but a fine scent for sure – a really discreet and close-to-skin fragrance which nonetheless, for some reasons manages to gift you with some sillage consistently coming and going for some hours.

6,5-7/10 (for a fair price)
5/10 (for its actual price)
19th October, 2015

Maxim's pour Homme by Maxims

This is for me one of those cases where I am really happy and thankful that sites like Basenotes exist. If it wasn’t for the positive raving reviews here, I would have never cared for this scent – an obscure name evoking some generic seedy nightclub (sorry, I didn’t think of “that” Maxim’s at first), a rather unappealing box, very little information except for the fact that this was made by Pierre Cardin (meh...) in collaboration with a Parisian restaurant – an anecdote which wouldn’t really be enough to make me intrigued about this fragrance. If any, it would have instead almost an off-putting effect on me. Well anyway, once I read the reviews I thought it was maybe worthy a blind buy instead. I found a really cheap “no barcode” bottle of this and – bingo! I can’t say better what other reviewers already wrote. Just believe them, and believe the (still quite limited) hype.

Maxim’s homme is an amazing hell of a keeper, a fantastic and sophisticated leather chypre which should sit if not next, then just a short step below some of the finest leather chypres of all times, from vintage Or Black to vintage Bel Ami or Moschino pour Homme. The structure is pretty traditional, and others have already analyzed it, so there’s no point in telling how it smells again in detail... it’s just an impeccable, rich, elegant and truly high-quality balsamic woody-leather scent with a really enjoyable whiff of smoky, and almost honeyed-candied floral notes, a bit like in Bel Ami – that kind of dark, austere and distinguished “manly” leather with a hint of balsamic-powdery smooth softness. At first it smells more about pine needless and dry woods, but once it warms a bit, the magic happens and Maxim’s unravels a truly delightful, crisp and brilliant harmony of leather, tobacco, “masculine” flowers, balsamic woods, a subtle musky base of mossy dirt.

I think the balance between the darker side with leather, tobacco and austere woods, and the balsamic-floral side with a really peculiar sort of dusty-sweet resinous texture and a nondescript, yet charming musty aftertaste, is truly remarkable and one of a kind. It’s simple, but so finely tuned it smells more unique than it may seem. Plus the quality is overall ridiculously good, there is an amazing feel of clarity and sultry depth which one would never imagine coming out from something so inexpensive and, say, visually cheap. Another obscure, totally good and totally neglected vintage cheapo which smells a bit similar to this came to my mind - Bally Masculin, but Maxim’s seems showing clearly a higher quality. This could have really easily been some Hermès, Givenchy or Guerlain. Same richness, same elegance halfway formal and effortless, same vibrancy and same uniqueness of most of their finest vintage offerings for men. I’ve read on the Internet that this was an early work by Jean Claude Ellena, and well, I can really believe that. Simply great.

8,5-9/10
16th October, 2015

Terre d'Iris by Miller Harris

Terre d’Iris is easily one of the most compelling and fascinating fragrances by this brand among the ones I have tried so far – a brand which despite its (few) highs and (more frequent) lows, I respect overall. Being a big fan of iris – not necessarily knowledgeable about it, but surely a fan, I am quite picky with iris-based fragrances, and Terre d’Iris, well... it is surely a true keeper for me, for a very reasonable couple of reasons: it smells really good to my nose, and quite unique to my knowledge. It opens in fact as a charming, immediately competent, fascinatingly moody take on iris built on a really inspired, smooth and well-balanced contrast between fresh, tangy herbal notes of lemon, bergamot and sharp, tasty Mediterranean herbs with a fruity drop of orange, and a whole sort of cloudy, damp musky-woody base with patchouli, vetiver and a really subtle, yet perceivable feel of, say, musty mossiness (if you inspire with some strength you get a fantastic distant whiff of bracing, somehow raw yet comforting stale-barn rural nuances provided by – I guess – patchouli infused with oakmoss, that fit marvelously the mood of this composition).

Between these two kind of “opposites” lies her graceful majesty – iris, with a strong accent on its earthy-leafy nuances. Nothing “lipstick”, just a touch of austere yet delicate rooty powder with grassy and “carroty” nuances. The evolution is pleasant and remarkable, albeit closer and closer to skin as minutes pass: the citrus-bergamot freshness evolves slowly into a smooth, slightly creamy, orange-driven nuance blending with herbs, the “cocoa” side of patchouli and the leafier side of iris, which in turn dissolves beautifully among earth, moss, patchouli and herbs. All gets cozier, warmer, a bit sweeter, maybe a bit faint (actually, quite faint) but still showing a consistent, really intriguing contrast between sweet freshness, plushy powderiness and musty-woody earthiness. Quite “whispered”, but it’s all there. It may seem a simple, if not banal composition, but well, the result is great, almost impeccable, and as I said above, quite unique. Or well, I simply can’t think of any other iris fragrance playing these chords, this way, and I’ve never smelled any iris-based scent smelling this earthy, damp, rooty and “rainy” but also bracing, mellow and uplifting. Effortlessly classy and melancholic at once. The drydown reminds me a bit of Prada's Infusion d'Iris drydown, as there's the same bergamot-iris-vetiver vein going on here too, but the mood is quite different here (Prada's all about crisp freshness, here the atmosphere is quite more damp and musty).

Plus (finally!) Lyn Harris’ signature “minimalism” and fondness for dusty-airy notes finds some sense here – the grayish, weightless, almost impalpable texture is just perfect for these notes, taming them down almost to the point of giving them a faded, dream-like substance (so yes, overspraying and frequent reapplications are encouraged). A truly inspired little wonder, maybe a bit too mannered and definitely too light for this concentration, but definitely worthy some attention for me.

7-7,5/10
15th October, 2015

Forbes by Forbes / Forbes of Forbes by Castle Forbes

At a first sniff, Forbes of Forbes seems quite close to, if not falling within the broad “British barbershop” family of scents comprising Taylors of Old Bond Street, D.R.Harris and Geo Trumper type of compositions – traditional masculine accords and some old-school distinguished feel of restrained edginess. I thought of Trumper’s Curzon, for instance, with a hint of Eucris’ ghastly herbal mossiness too. The quality here seems a bit higher though; Forbes of Forbes is a quite bold “eau de parfum”, and for once you can definitely get it in terms of thickness, richness and longevity if compared to Trumper’s or Taylors’ lighter (and often, duller) “eau de toilettes”. And most important, there’s quite much more going here also in terms of creativity... in a just partially compelling way for me, but it’s there.

Now, the blend. Honestly I don’t get some of the notes mentioned in the “pyramid”, while I get others. There’s surely a tangy, but quite tame citrus-fruity orange-pineapple head accord which goes away quite quickly leaving just a subtle, yet pungent and fruity persistent sort of herbal-damp feel smelling as much acrid as disturbingly cozy; and there’s a rich, dusty patchouli-ambery base, “ambery” meaning here both vanillic amber and a camphorous, salty, quite realistic ambergris-like note. But I also get a whole dry woody-mossy-pine accord which connects Forbes to several old-school powerhouses of the Seventies and the Eighties (think of any dry mossy-woody fougère).

Nonetheless, what I get above and beyond all of this, is a bold note of leather (which is mentioned on the box of this fragrance, so I’m not dreaming this): polished, contemporary, slightly ashy leather, a bit designer-oriented too. “Polished” means here nothing like Knize Ten or other raw, tanned, “unprocessed” old-school leathers, and also nothing like modern, over-smoothened soft suede leathers à la Tuscan Leather. This is nothing like them, and a bit like both – say, halfway between them: a dry, smooth, even slightly boozy sort of clean leather which has just been polished with a hefty dose of shoe polish, so showing a sort of chemical, varnish-like pungent aftertaste together with a sort of ashy-powdery feel, which to this extent, makes it smell slightly similar to leather’s rendition in Moschino pour Homme (I said “slightly”, and I refer solely to the leather note – contain your enthusiasm...). Quite realistic overall, but a bit pungently synthetic too, with an almost odd combination of tropical, herbal, ambery and camphorous notes and a salty-vanillic base acting altogether as a quite double-edged sword here – they surely make Forbes of Forbes smell quite interesting and unusually elegant, but also almost a bit screechy.

Overall this fragrance feels halfway really traditional and really unusual to me; it has definitely an old school chypre kind of vibe (besides the leather-powdery combo in Moschino pour Homme, Krizia Moods comes to my mind as well, minus the floral notes, and a bit of Polo Green too), it also has undoubtedly a “barbershop” feel, it has a really enjoyable warm leathery-ambery drydown... but at the same time, a few key nuances make it smell just a tad more “bizarre” than any of the references I mentioned above. More exotic-tropical, somehow more “gothic”, maybe more natural too – a quite raw, austere kind of “nature” with a really fascinating kind of lukewarm feel of somber, even animalic dampness. That’s probably the most interesting feature of this fragrance, which is there also on the drydown – this turbid feel of mossy-woody moisture. I’ve never been to Scotland but well, I guess this fragrance may surely fit the image many people (me included) have of Scottish foggy and humid natural landscapes. Ambergris even provides a sort of “wet stones” feel which surely fits the atmosphere. So far so good, you may say: now add to it some astringent feel of “salty tropicalness”, and you get why I called this scent “bizarre” and “not entirely compelling”.

I’m a bit torn about this distinguished mess, it feels like wandering through the Scottish hills on a moody cloudy day and stumbling upon the wunderkammer of a lunatic explorer. But for some reasons, I think I like it.

7/10
13th October, 2015

Navigations Through Scent - Lijiang by Molton Brown

An unpretentious, yet truly delightful fragrance. Lijiang is a really well-crafted, weightless and fairly unique – despite seemingly faint and generic – uplifting blend built on a classy accord of green-floral-citrus notes with an initial dried-sweet vibe (then evolving into dried-spicy) and a subtle but perceivable sort of creamy woodiness. The osmanthus note is the true star here at first, and I think it’s quite well rendered. Osmanthus is an ephemeral marvel smelling like a sort of ylang-infused cold tea, so imagine something sweet, plushy, floral-green, slightly creamy and powdery but also grassy, fresh and slightly citrusy. Here, you get it brilliantly encrusted in a breezy, bracing and thin frame of light spices and a smooth musky-woody accord which as a miniature, comprises on its turn minimal nuances from salty vetiver to some “pencil shaving”. And that’s it. Dusty sunlight, a damp tea bag in a grassy winter garden. Peaceful and comforting, but exceedingly sophisticated too, in a really intimate and cozy way. The projection is really discreet and the longevity is quite short, but for once, they fit the design and the general airy and “evanescent” mood. Nothing outstanding, but really graceful and enjoyable.

7,5/10
11th October, 2015

Equipage Géranium by Hermès

Among the most prominent designer brands, Hermès is currently probably the only one which is still able to deliver solid products on a consistent basis, at least for the masculine/unisex side – good, sometimes great, decently boring in the worst cases. This new addition to their classic series confirms that commitment to respect customers’ taste and intelligence. Equipage Geranium is in fact, briefly put, a very solid fragrance. It pays all respects to Equipage’s heritage, cleverly reworking its bone structure by giving it a sharper, colder, more floral yet somehow drier shape – shortly, a fresher, more contemporary look. And also a sort of more transparent, edgy texture. I must say that globally it is very similar to Equipage, even almost too much, and you easily get it since the very opening. “Equipage in spring”, so to speak: all that timeless, distinguished, smoky herbal-woody refinement tinged with a shade of cold, yet cozy an breezy geranium and a sprinkle of spices, topped with a really enjoyable citric accord – citrus was there in Equipage too, here it seems a bit stronger and more persistent. The evolution is equally enjoyable, the scent – which turns out to be quite more long-lasting and bolder than you may assume – gets drier, a bit darker and woodier as a base blend of bitter mossy woods (vetiver mostly) and, I think, some cloves-leather accord gets a more prominent position, with even a touch of grey, slightly powdery smoke arising and giving some dusty, refined warmth to the blend. Still a sharp herbal blend, just a bit moodier and more somber. Oddly enough, as we’re talking about two opposite types of fragrances, the emerging of a general sense of dusty-sweet warmth brings in a really distant echo of the very drydown of Tiffany for Men, too.

Coming to the main feature and the “raison d’etre” of this flanker – the geranium – I am sadly not familiar enough with it, so I can not comment on the specific note extensively. Never been a fan of it, actually. But it seems, well, really good to me here. It smells crisp, tolerably acrid, even slightly fruity and powdery while remaining bracingly sharp and minty. And it shows some evolution, which is often a sign of quality of materials – it doesn’t simply decrease its presence, but it changes and evolves, getting unexpectedly warmer and more “powdery-floral” before leaving the stage to the mossier-woodier drydown, with sandalwood and salty vetiver as nearly-main notes – both quite thin, but fulfilling and solid.

So overall, you surely get the “Equipage” first, and only then, the subtle, brighter floral-spicy variations. In other words, don’t expect a geranium-based scent; rather a subtle, elegantly executed spicy geranium-based variation on Equipage. Whether you care for or know Equipage already, the final result is an extremely pleasant, refined “old school” fragrance with a palpable “vintage” feel (the mossiness, the virile and restrained dryness, the austere herbal-woody structure with that nondescript sort of citric-metallic feel so many classic masculine scents had, and so on – several classic names come to mind, from Monsieur Carven to, obviously, vintage Equipage itself) and a more contemporary tangy accord of spicy-grassy notes. Quite a mature, “over-30” discreet fragrance fitting like a bespoke glove, lasting longer than I expected and projecting just perfectly. Maybe just a tad too close to Equipage to make sense for Equipage fans, but... well done, Hermès.

7,5-8/10
09th October, 2015

Givenchy Gentleman by Givenchy

I don’t know the current version of this gem, and given Givenchy’s descent into mediocrity of the past couple of dozens of years, I am not sure if I want to; but the vintage incarnation of Gentleman is by no means inferior to many other timeless vintage masterpieces – and I mean the true Olympus of those, next to Tiffany for Men or vintage Chanel Antaeus. I personally find Gentleman extremely distinguished, extremely high quality, and extremely unique, if not really innovative for its era. My review could (should?) really end here, but well...

The thing I find innovative here is above all the way the combo patchouli-vetiver is used in the composition, and the notes which Léger’s genius decided to surround it with. Basically, the “frame” here is an earthy-smoky texture rich in herbal, hay and woody-leather nuances, which is brilliantly paired with a traditional aromatic lavender-infused fougère bone structure (think of Azzaro pour Homme, although it came later) and a touch of tangy and grassy citrus (similar to verbena). All of this surrounding then the true star of Gentleman, the patchouli-vetiver accord I mentioned above, which gets brilliantly enhanced by earthy, musky, smoky and sweet nuances; the dampness of hay, the indolic smokiness of leather and civet (just a hint, but you definitely smell that little devil rambling beyond the base notes), and a subtle yet perfectly perceivable smooth touch of warm, sweet-powdery-musky floral notes with a shade of vanilla.

Now, it may seem a heavy or complex scent with a lot of nuances ranging from herbal, to smoky-leathery, to woody and sweet-powdery, but it isn’t really. Or well, it is complex indeed, but not too “powerful” at all. It’s a refined, almost tame fragrance, perfectly reflecting its name, delightfully gentle and discreet, cozy and elusive at the same time. It’s so well put-together that it smells perfectly crisp, bright, even fresher than it may seem despite there is many “dark” notes. Truly a perfect uplifting harmony by no means “heavy” to smell – on the contrary, extremely easy to wear and to like. It’s amazing how the notes are there, clear and rich, and yet this fragrance has a remarkably weightless presence on skin – it’s substantial, but really mannered.

Surely a “vintage gentleman’s scent”, probably one of the most sophisticated around, but quite unique and actually, maybe more modern than others, if not slightly more “youthful” too (maybe thanks to the “hippie touch” of patchouli). Needless to say it smells rich, persistent and clear for hours, with a perfect projection and an impeccable drydown which gets gently drier and woodier (that vetiver again!) as hours pass, still keeping a touch of floral muskiness lurking in the background. What else to say? An amazing modern classic of masculine elegance perfectly showing the old school French taste for “classy dirtiness”, that unique ability of many classic French masculine scents to smell refined and cozy still keeping it dirty, complex and even subtly “raw”. Fantastic.

9/10
09th October, 2015