Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Colin Maillard

Total Reviews: 1254

Panama 1924 : Daytona by Boellis

A guilty pleasure for me. Boellis is a traditional shaving/grooming brand based in Italy, finally really connected to an actual historical boutique and an actual Boellis family, the current owner being an actual skilled and renowned barber. Now, obviously this means nothing as regards of their perfume range since they are not producing the scents themselves and rather just sold the license to a production and distribution company based in Milan (Profumitalia); but at least, the brand is honest and doesn’t need to boost its image and mock customers’ intelligence with made-up nonsense. And the fragrances seem reflecting that attitude actually, since the ones I tried seemed all as much unpretentious as quite solid. Maybe unremarkably, if not mediocrely good, but still (almost) worthy the price tag if you are into non-groundbreaking, non-luxury, but nice, well-made, compelling and slightly designer-oriented stuff with a refined old school, typically “Italian” twist.

Now, Daytona is a fresh, elegant, comforting, maybe slightly dull but totally competent leafy-zesty-woody scent with a metallic fruity twist bearing quite a clear resemblance to Creed Aventus, with some key differences for me (besides the elephant in the room – the price tag). There is surely a tiny bit of that same department store feel, the dihydromicernol-driven kind of pungent-metallic-aquatic citrus-fruity note blending with dry, musky, ambroxan-infused and again quite “mainstream” crisp woods; but there’s no pineapple first, less cassis-driven fruitiness, and there’s more musky smokiness with a cozy minty-lavender accent and some more nondescript “grassy” feel, which seems connecting Daytona more tightly to the old school aromatic-green fougères tradition, making it smell a bit more barbershop-oriented, more distinguished and more mature than Aventus. And overall, aside from the notes, Daytona smells also more breezy, more smooth, and surprisingly more natural than that in my opinion. Still that’s the ballpark, so nothing really new; but if you feel something like that (like Aventus I mean, or in broader terms, like a safe and tame enough contemporary aromatic fougère balancing “charme” and a “crowd-pleasing” attitude with a really good persistence and projection combo) is missing from your wardrobe... then Daytona would make a really classy and quality choice, with a decent value for the price.

07th October, 2015

Tom Ford for Men by Tom Ford

I’ve never been much of a fan of Tom Ford’s masculine offerings, as I find them either nice but overpriced, or fairly dull (Noir, for example). For some reasons I always never cared for this one, maybe unconsciously thinking, given the name, that it was a sort of epitome of all of that, and... bingo, this is instead the first one which works for me. Mostly because it’s finally something solid, with a fair price (well, sort of). Maybe a bit boring, surely too discreet for the needs of the average “bros” building pools to bath in their Private Blends, and however miles away from being ground-breaking: just solid and mature, unpretentious and versatile, with a remarkably decent quality and overall, extremely pleasant to wear. The composition smells simple and clear, and notes seem all built with really decent materials: the spiced, gingerish orange-citrus notes are sparkling, tangy and juicy; the floral-infused musky-ambery base smells compellingly warm, slightly creamy and slightly salty too, the whole woody-herbal accord is a bit aseptic and nondescript (I only get some faint, weakly mossy vetiver), but working fine within the composition, providing an office-safe “boisé” feel which will get some more credit on the drydown, and the suede-ish tobacco smells, well, like most other tobacco notes on the market - which means “nothing like real tobacco” for me, but nice anyway; smooth, sweet, “brownish” and affably, youthfully distinguished.

Like for some other reviewers, two fragrances came to my mind while wearing this the first time: Hugo Boss Baldessarini and to a much lesser extent, yet worthy a mention, a sort of spicier and watered-down version of L’Instant pour Homme by Guerlain. Maybe Carolina Herrera for Men too, just for the tobacco accord (an “orange-amber” flanker of that would be close to this Ford’s, I guess), and Kenzo pour Homme Boisée just for a similar citrus-scented light woody accord. Above all I’d mention Baldessarini though, and I would say Tom Ford for Men smells quite a bit better than that – more crisp, more appealing, definitely more quality too. So, anyway: a zesty, classy, politely self-confident fragrance with just the right hint of musky tackiness and a pleasant spicy-woody drydown with a warm whiff of amber. Surely a mild, maybe pedantic, kind of “generic” office-safe fragrance based on a really conventional and mainstream concept of “tart-spicy Oriental cologne” with pretty much the sole scope of making you smell nice in the most mannered, discreet and crowd-pleasing meaning possible... but hell, it does it impeccably good (sadly with a short persistence, but it does).

05th October, 2015

Montana Initial by Montana

Montana Initial is quite an odd scent for me. It smells as much cheap as quite unique, and with some stretch, fairly pleasant overall. It’s plastic, but fun. Out of the notes listed, I actually get just tonka (the powerful synthetic sweet-dusty-almondy tonka note featured in hundreds of cheapos/low-class designer scents), cinnamon for sure, some really generic crisp woods (“cedramber” and the likes), some citrus, a really faint cardamom, and most of all, a true ton of a really peculiar accord of, basically, spicy musk and ambery orange (which then evolves into “orange-infused amber”). This accord, which is basically the bone-structure of Initial’s first and mid phases, smells really powerful and bold, and I’m surprised it is missing from the “pyramid”. Now, I am not sure about the “orange” since it’s more likely due to the interaction of bergamot (which has surely some citrus-orange nuances) and cinnamon, but I am quite sure about amber and musk. They give Initial an almost overpowering feel of synthetic-soapy “laundry” cleanliness with a warm, dusty, slightly talc vanillic-ambery-woody vibe supporting tonka and cinnamon, with a whiff of syrupy fruitiness too, enhancing and taming them down at once (enhancing their power and the volume, taming down their, say, identity and their nuances).

Still I admit it’s not a tragic scent; if I had to compare this, and it’s not an easy task since as I said, one of the few positive features of Initial is that it smells quite peculiar, I would probably think of a funky, ultra-spicy, sweeter flanker of Armani Code or similar fragrances. Sort of a cheap downtown sweet Oriental bomb. Actually it reminds me a bit of Zegna Intenso too, just sweeter, with double the power, half the refinement and more spices. The projection is powerful and the longevity is as much linear as impressive. A bit harsh and flat, probably a tad too much sweet and slightly tacky overall, but it works. Kind of the equivalent of a $10 tracksuit you can wear home or for some local grocery shopping. Quite unworthy its original retail price in my opinion, but Montana fragrances are usually sold in many grey-market stores for pennies – in that case, it may be worthy a sniff.

02nd October, 2015
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

Mauboussin Pour Homme by Mauboussin

Mauboussin Homme is a fragrance which could effortlessly sell well in today’s niche or high-end designer market. I would definitely pay a higher price for it, since for the quality, its price a complete steal. The composition smells quite “new” and really sophisticated, the materials are clearly good and vibrant, there’s almost zero “designer cheapness”, and the scent shows all the solid skills of a great nose like Morillas. It’s a win to all extents, and I can’t see a reason to dislike it – except maybe for the slightly disappointing longevity, and the fact that they reformulated it – I assume that happened somewhere in 2005/2006 when Diana de Silva (which manufactured the first version) closed down. I haven’t tried the second version, which seems easier to find today, but the earlier bottles (with the purple bottom band) are still quite widely available, so no panic– in case of doubt, I’d look for those. And anyway my review is based on that first version.

Now, the juice: a surprisingly consistent, compelling and elegantly comforting smooth blend opening with a fresh and distinguished – but somehow “youthful” too – accord of bergamot, lavender and cinnamon soon joined by a sort of “phantom of Azzaro pour Homme” bone-structure (anisic sage and other “culinary” herbs, woods), recalling itself YSL Rive Gauche pour Homme, and also Cristobal pour Homme; together with a crisp, tasteful accord of something like ginger and spiced sandalwood which, as other reviewers noted, does indeed recall Carven Homme a bit. All brilliantly dusted with a subtle sweet accord of vanillic patchouli (smelling basically almost like cocoa beans) which considering the presence of citrus, herbs, sandalwood and musk, seem somehow anticipating some chords of Guerlain L’Instant pour Homme. But it's not over yet: there's also something dark around, dark and medicinal too, which joins the aromatic herbs in a really far souvenir of vintage YSL M7 (in the end, Morillas just composed it the year before).

You get the picture: a modern, spicy-balsamic (almost minty at first) Oriental fougère with a really crisp and smooth vibe and a dark shade, rounded by a surprisingly odd but perfectly fitting sort of sweet-fresh frame (I think it’s due to some nuances of cinnamon and lemon blending together), quite complex actually but perfectly harmonic and really easy to pull off. An elegant and uplifting fragrance to say the least, with a perfect evolution bringing it towards lukewarm woodier-muskier territories as hours pass, still keeping the lavender-cinnamon-vanilla combo up and running (joined by a whiff of cedar-infused incense, maybe due to the aromachemicals commonly used to built sandalwood notes).

Some of the facets of Mauboussin Homme show indeed many references to other fragrances, but considered as a whole, this scent is actually quite unique. It brilliantly puts together several inspirations, and it does it with versatility and effortless class. It smells like a bridge between classic aromatic fougères like Azzaro pour Homme and post-2000s Oriental woody-spicy gourmands. I’d define it quite “laid-back”, sophisticated by with a really carefree and relaxed vibe. And smelling just good, really good. It has just something “right” and inspired, which I really enjoy a lot. Recommended.

30th September, 2015

Zafferano by Odori

This line is fun. Not because of the fragrances, which are decent, but because their names are consistently, completely misleading. I got not the slightest hint of leather in “Cuoio”, not a gram of tobacco in “Tabacco”, and now I don’t really smell the saffron here in “Zafferano”. At all. To me this smells just like a nice, not-overly-thick, slightly smoky and powdery rose blend with spices, something similar to pollen, and a smoky-camphorous base infused with vanilla. Lightly sweet and pleasantly dry. Basically a sort of sweet rose with some moody shades, showing an inspiration close to Aramis Calligraphy Rose and to several Middle-Eastern inexpensive fragrances similarly built on rose, resins, spices and vanilla. More or less, the ballpark seems the same to me, although Zafferano smells slightly more discreet, more floral, less heavy on sweet-resinous notes. It smells somehow more breezy, more sophisticated and more light than most of those (probably, more natural too, although I get a suspiciously crisp Iso-E note). It’s still decidedly soapy, but there is a really nice sort of dusty-airy texture which makes it smell quite more “spacious” and thus a bit more refined than several heavier Middle-Eastern scents. Nonetheless, they surely come to mind as a close comparison. Pretty linear and not that long lasting, with quite a boring drydown (mostly woody-soapy) so there’s not much else to add. Not the most creative blend around, not the most astonishing quality on the market, but nice and unpretentious enough (except for the price, which is quite a joke). If you’re into Oriental smoky-sweet-resinous roses, you may like this – just don’t expect any saffron.

28th September, 2015

Allure Homme Sport by Chanel

The only positive thing about this fragrance is that the name is perfectly self-explanatory and truly true to faith, so if you’re aware that most brands use “sport” as a synonim for “pathetically cheap and metallic”, you can guess what to expect here and can start to roll your eyes. A deeply nondescript fresh mishmash –Adidas-esque kind of metallic-woody freshness – stuffed with cheap ozonic-minty notes, the only tolerable nuances being a really subtle sort of smooth sandalwood-musk base accord, something sort of powdery-leafy floating around, and some ordinary (but at least, not screechy) lemon. A few hints of decency (basically, the only connections to classic Allure) buried into an almost futuristic mess of pungent artificial stuff which shall be supposed to connect with the concept of “fitness”. I never understood why most of “sport” fragrances smell like this – I wonder what kind of “sport” brands think to specifically, since I think more of a gold medal perspirator washing a car while wearing a Calvin Klein dupe. But well, to each his own. Horrid for me.

28th September, 2015

Le Jardin de Monsieur Li by Hermès

This latest addition to the unnecessarily populated “Jardin” series is probably the blandest of them all for me, and surely the others weren’t that great either. It smells decent, so it isn’t at least a stinker as Un jardin après la mousson; but a really mediocre, almost pedestrian rendition of decency. It’s basically a pale, transparent, sharp Iso E-infused green-fruity thingy with a nondescript whiff of white flowers on a clean, completely dull light woody base. Now, the problem for me is that it smells as much thin, clean and graceful as openly, shamelessly cheap. It’s nearly the same standardized smell of any floral-green softener mixed with a generic drugstore room spray scented with jasmine and citrus notes. It tries to play some sort of green-fresh Oriental “minimalistic” card, but the result is pretty depressing. This isn’t sophisticated, it’s just light, generic and dull. Completely inexpressive. There’s no interest, no depth, no evolution, no sparkles of “life” in here for me, just an aseptic, mediocre flatness which clumsily tries to evoke some sort of clean, bright elegance. Almost a parody of Hermès clichés. The issue with this house and Ellena’s immense talent - and the reason why I find this scent particularly disappointing - is that they set such high levels of excellence, they can’t really try to troll us with this stuff.

24th September, 2015

1818 by Brooks Brothers

I must agree completely with what shamu1 wrote on “Pour Monsieur” blog, and I thank him for having brought this fragrance to our fragrance fanatics’ attention. I am truly amazed by 1818, and despite I am a longtime fan of traditional wet shaving, I am usually not that intrigued by this type of fragrances (first because I usually don’t like cloves and they are usually stuffed with that note; and also because nearly all the ones I tried were always kind of cheap, too dry for my tastes, often poorly-lasting... and well, plain boring too sometimes). 1818 by Brooks Brothers is instead both the best masculine offering by this brand, and one of the nicest, most compelling “barbershop” scents currently available on the market, if we exclude rare or costly vintages. Maybe the best one. It is a truly impeccable, rich Bay Rum scent exuding masculinity, self-confidence, a “raw” piratesque exoticism blended with a Western breeze of clean, reassuring warmth – the kind of smooth and comforting soapy warmth evoking a fine robe, a glass of sherry, your freshly-shaved neck still burning from your Astra blades’ passage.

1818 is all of that; there’s an initial blast of leathery spices (cloves), a fresh, tart slap of citrus and bergamot, a surprisingly rich, uplifting and natural-smelling herbal-woody accord mostly comprising bay leaf, bitter grassy notes and mossy woods (and I mean deeply, realistically mossy), a dark and extremely distinguished musky base, all slowly revealing a fantastic “shaving cream” heart of soapy talc-powdery notes, with a subtle hint of sweet tobacco. There is no creativity, no fancy stuff, no pretend luxury; just a straightforward, unpretentious, proudly old-school tribute to the most classic “real men” grooming products blended by someone which must really know the subject. Mature and gentlemanly: no dandies, no hippies, no bros, no hipsters allowed.

Another sign of the quality of this fragrance is the evolution, which shows an extremely enjoyable transition from a raw, sharp and edgy spicy-leathery-herbal opening to a smooth, warm drydown comprising hints of vanilla, boozy-ambery tobacco, a surprisingly bracing sort of herbal-infused bergamot tea note, even almost some licorice-like accents, still enveloped in a refined cloud of talc soap and moody spices which smells so soothing and classy you wished it could last forever. The drydown is really not to miss here, I’ve rarely experienced such a clever, neat use of warm tea-vanillic notes (by this I mean you wouldn’t expect this drydown considering the first sharp stages of the fragrance: I didn’t really “see it coming”). The note I call “tea” is probably just the echo of herbs and bergamot, but still it really smells like tart black tea leaves to me. Hours of clean, refined, vibrant, relaxed elegance with some unpredictable shades and transitions, which can easily replace and overpass dozens of more pretentious (and way more expensive) “gentleman” fragrances. Pure comfort in a bottle. I assume 1818 won’t appeal many, if not most of today’s fragrance fans , but if you’re a “classicist” and you crave for a fantastic “barbershop” scent for those days you want to smell like a John Steinbeck’s character, then this is a gem and an absolutely compelling steal for the price.

23rd September, 2015

Bel Ami Vetiver by Hermès

So finally I was able to try this flanker of the glorious Bel Ami. I never cared to approach the current version of this timeless masterpiece, I only know and love the vintage one (not a matter of snobbery; I just like that, and don’t want to cope with disappointments), but the reviews for this Vetiver take were quite good and generally positive, so I was quite sure it would have been a good fragrance. And it totally is, in fact. What I like about Hermès scents, besides their nearly-consistent high quality over the years, is that the name often reflects the content with sharp, no-frills precision (something you wouldn’t take for granted with other brands); and in this case, in fact, you can safely expect Bel Ami with a deeper, richer presence of vetiver. So imagine that smooth, elegant, youthful suede-floral chypre wrapped in smoke with a sort of Oriental, “organic” added value provided by a tremendously pleasant note of fresh, earthy, sweet-salty and totally good quality Haitian vetiver supported by some subtle dusty and exotic sweetness – an accord which reminds me a bit of Vetiver Tonka (and this means also Pal Zileri Viaggio d’Africa). A vetiver accord which will be the true, and nearly only star of the drydown – extremely discreet, but really pleasant.

Bel Ami Vetiver carries and develops Hermès’ trademark sense of understated “luxury” : it feels bright, refined, smoky but somehow clean, feeling natural but also “bourgeois” - not exactly aristocratic, just more of an upper-class distinguished, quiet yet practical elegance. An impeccable suede-vetiver blend on the smooth-fresh side, lasting decently long and projecting just fine (quite discreetly, as most of current Hermès fragrances). Slightly overpriced, but totally bottle worthy if you can get some discount. The only “cons” I would mention are basically two: first, that for some reasons, Bel Ami Vetiver smells a bit restrained, even dangerously tending towards “boring” after a while, and surely not that “unique” if you care about it (and I mean both per se, and if compared to Bel Ami); and second, well... I can’t help it: if you really love perfumes, for the same money of a 100 ml bottle of this, you can probably get a 50 ml bottle of vintage Bel Ami. Half the size, but all considered, double the joy. Nonetheless I don’t really want to play the “vintage nazi” card, since this is not even Bel Ami but a new, specific different version of it. So judging the fragrance per se, my opinion is that for nowadays’s depressing market, Bel Ami Vetiver is a solid win.

22nd September, 2015

Tabacco by Odori

Tabacco by Odori is one of those “tobacco” scents in which I don’t really perceive any tobacco at all. I get sometimes notes and names have to be taken in a figurative meaning, but honestly, even making the effort of avoiding literal expectations, I get no tobacco at all here – and I consider myself quite familiar with several types of tobacco, being a passionate smoker (but well, then I may suffer from “olfactory fatigue” as regards of the smell of tobacco). Nonetheless, this fragrance is actually quite good. It opens with a thick, boozy, sweet blend which seems revolving around something like a resinous, licorice-infused note of jasmine with hay, something like aniseed, and a thin, distinguished dark base of mossy woods and a shade of something similar to styrax, all topped with a zesty drop of bergamot (or something like bergamot – some aromatic, sweet citrus/orange note) and some camphorous, pungent cloves – quite a must in tobacco scents. I am just throwing ideas and impressions as I don’t know the actual composition of this, but more or less that’s what I get out of Tabacco.

Ideally I would say this smells like something Parfum d’Empire could have made, considering Marc Antoine Corticchiato’s fondness for hay and moody Mediterranean earthy-anisic notes of herbs (and I mean also “culinary” herbs, I think I get an odd whiff of garlic too at some points) and mossy woods. Tobacco is quite herbal in fact, it’s balsamic and sweet with a really well-executed boozy and floral heart – “floral” meaning here what I referred as jasmine above (which kind of reminds me of immortelle, too; maybe there’s some). That’s it, no tobacco at all, but a rather complex and sophisticated blend evoking nuances of licorice, damp flowers, country herbs, hay and woods. Perfectly unisex, quite evocative, balanced and effortlessly pleasant, classy and smooth, with a nice evolution towards a discreet, albet quite short-lived and thin balsamic drydown of leathery herbs still carrying some floral-resinous sweetness. Carolina Herrera for Men also comes to mind during the very late drydown, although Tabacco feels “nicher”. For some reasons I smell a lot of “other fragrances” here, so this isn’t really something I would consider memorable enough, and the short persistence doesn’t help... but until it lasts, it’s really decent and pleasant.

20th September, 2015

Sentiment for Men by Escada

Unlike Magnetism for Men, which wasn’t a masterpiece but was surely a decent and interesting piece of “mainstream creativity”, the equally discontinued Sentiment pour Homme is well worth the discontinuation in my opinion. It’s quite hard to believe IFF stars Ropion & Bruyère signed this. It is basically the quintessence of “nondescriptiveness” in a bottle: extremely, almost pointlessly artificial, with some really clumsy and acrid green-fruity-citric notes reminding of the worst Calvin Klein or Hilfiger fragrances on the market (or any countless imitation of those). There is no concept, no inspiration, no direction, no evolution, just a detached, almost nonsense plastic concoction of pungent stuff. That type of blend which seems being based solely on one creative brief – “just throw in anything people seem to like. You have 24 hours. Here’s ten dollars.”. It’s fruity, slightly medicinal, it’s fresh and green, metallic and plastic, a bit sweet, woody-peppery, oddly cold and transparent. But above all it’s just cheap and boring at once.

19th September, 2015

Perfume Calligraphy Saffron by Aramis

Quite another winner, to say the least, among this limited (and discontinued already?) line by Aramis. My favourite still remains Calligraphy Rose, but this Saffron sibling comes right after that. First of all I must point out that honestly, I would have called this “Calligraphy Chamomile & Tagetes”, because that’s precisely what I get out of this for the first couple of hours. An extremely pleasant, bracing and calming blend of resinous, honeyed floral notes with a peculiar sort of warm, “edible”, gently balsamic pollen-infused earthy-herbal feel with a slight sort of waxy-citric aftertaste – which is more or less what I refer to as “chamomile” (say, a steamy cup of honeyed, bergamot/rose-infused chamomile). There is saffron, too, but to me it acts more as a subtle enhancement of the spicier, more aromatic side of the blend. It’s surely not the most prominent note for me, but it’s there.

The color of the juice and the label reflect the smell quite well: all that gold, yellow and ochre – that’s how Calligraphy Saffron smells, in “synesthetic” terms. It’s exotic, elegant, soothing and almost “meditative” with its sense of golden, peaceful floral-resinous warmth, just with the right balance of thickness and dryness – the dryness mostly coming from a discreet, austere and kind of smoky accord of light leather and vetiver providing a thin, yet quite perceivable and perfectly fit “dark” and dry base tinged with a whiff of rose powder. All works just perfect: a simple composition, rich in depth more than notes, with seemingly great quality and a really desirable presence on skin – it’s long-lasting, not overly sweet (actually, considering the notes, it’s barely sweet), pleasantly linear with a slow transition towards a drier, smokier, unexpectedly more balsamic woody-resinous-leathery scent, with the right projection (more on the discreet side). If I had to mention a flaw, it would be a slightly excessive sense of restraint; personally, I would have wished something a bit more “opulent”. It’s a rich scent, but a bit too tamed down to express its richness at its best. But however, it’s great. I didn’t try the black-label “original” Calligraphy scent, but both Rose and Saffron are definitely two really great pieces of Oriental perfumery which I wouldn’t have expected from Aramis. Totally worthy the price.

18th September, 2015

Safran Troublant by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Safran Troublant opens with an extremely realistic smell of saffron, and I mean the actual ground saffron you can buy at the drugstore, just lightly enhanced by rose and vanilla, both blending with the floral and sweeter sides of saffron. The whole, quite simple ensemble is topped with a nose-tingling spicy note resembling to cumin, a slightly cheaper hint of eugenol (cloves, basically) and an odd, almost random touch that reminds me of a sort of a damp lemongrass-infused tampon - it may sound bizarre, but it works. I think it’s due to rose. Anyway that’s it, a graceful and quite refined blend of thin spices and gentle powdery-sweet accents, with a fascinating sort of subtle, almost transparent texture revolving around the edible heart of saffron. And well, a couple of cheap nuances, but tolerably covered by the good parts. The notes may make it seem a thick Oriental “bomb”, while on the contrary it has more of a British presence – diaphanous and discreet, with a sophisticated sort of camphorous, musky, earthy yet smooth cashmere-suede feel (I think due to saffron) that adds some further elegance to this mannered blend, slightly reminding me of Hermès Cuir d’Ange. I admit this fragrance is fairly pleasant to wear, at least for the first phases of its evolution, but there’s a gigantic flaw I can’t avoid to mention and which sadly, makes Safran Troublant look like (as so many - too many niche scents) a half-baked work: the longevity, which is unacceptably short and really subtle for my tastes. Way too much. Within 20-30 minutes, you already remain with the faint, nondescript drydown it should have after 5 or 6 hours. A time machine in a bottle. Still, one of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s scents I enjoyed the most.

16th September, 2015
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

HiM by Hanae Mori

I usually like cheapos, as many times (more often than many think) they offer some respectable, if not really good quality for the price. And I also happen to love HM by this same brand, which is possibly one of the greatest cheapos on the market; and since HM and HiM often go in pair, I was sure I would have loved this too. Well, not that anyone should care, but I really don’t instead. I tried to like this, but for me this is really a “no” – or well, a “meh”. As many other reviewers already said, HiM smells apparently quite similar to Gucci pour Homme II, the relationship between the two being like comparing a decent hand-crafted leather bag to a 5 EUR polyurethane bag – the cheapest ones, those which are so poorly-crafted you can tell they’re cheap by a mile distance. I don’t want to offend fans of this, but for me HiM is quite the same if compared to Gucci pour Homme II. The notes are quite similar, there’s the same peculiar sort of spicy-tea-woody blend with cinnamon, musk, something pine-balsamic, woods (the exact same exotic, coffee-infused teak wood note you get in Trussardi Inside), piquant “culinary” herbs, something similar to tobacco and an overall sweet/powdery ambiance; but it’s just a bit... wrong for me, on many levels. It smells flashy, cheap, and even oddly unbalanced in a way that on my skin, it smells like something which belonged to a saucepan more than a bottle of perfume. The drydown is a bit better, some screechy edges and dissonances fade away and you get a still cheap, yet quite smooth musky-woody-sweet with an almost fascinating balsamic-culinary-Oriental vibe and a warm, mellow ambery feel. But still I think Gucci pour Homme II plays these same themes ten times better to all extents – elegance, quality, harmony. Since the price gap is tolerable, go for that.

13th September, 2015

Violette by Norma Kamali

Probably the blandest fragrance by Kamali I have ever tried. The brand was responsible for “holy grails” like Incense (which however I’ve always found a bit too harsh to be actually wearable), while Violette is really nothing special for me. Or, well, it is well different and a bit inferior to what I expected. Basically, it is really only a blast of artificial violet, surrounded (as most of violet soliflores) by a ton of soapy musk and cleverly reinforced by a thin spicy frame where I think I smell some saffron. But most of all it’s violet, violet and violet again. And I mean, really only that. Quite a bit synthetic and flat for me, offering you probably the same sillage you’d have if you accidentally poured some cheap essential oil on your shirt (I happen to have a supermarket violet oil among the oils I use for my cheap Muji home diffuser; I think the tiny bottle costed some euro cents or so; I can’t really tell the difference with Violette). That’s it, more than a creative work around violet or a particularly high-quality soliflore this is just, well, pure and slightly cheap violet in a bottle with a decent sort of cold, “grey” drydown. The only aspect I appreciate here is the tone, as Violette sits elegantly on skin providing a graceful soapy-powdery sillage (again, nothing any ten times cheaper stuff can’t do, but at least it is not loud). Good if you really like violet, you have low expectations, you want precisely just that without and “perfumey” work around it, and you’re inexplicably willing to spend more than you should for that. Otherwise I am afraid this is nothing more than a “nicely dull” fragrance you can safely ignore.

13th September, 2015

V/S for Men by Versace

Quite a fun, almost fascinating oddity from the dawn of the second millenium. As most of Versace scents from the Nineties/2000s, V/S smells heavily synthetic, but unlike for most of their offerings back then, it manages to turn that into a positive and creative feature. In fact V/S is basically a really clean, and I mean ghastly, aseptically clean sort of “empty flowers” galore, modern and archaic at once (Kenzo Power’s kind of futuristic floral notes meet Guerlain’s Héritage decadent dustiness) with patchouli, fresh basil and at least another fresh-fruity... “thing” I can not identify (some peachy neroli?), musk and ambroxan, surrounded by a ton of nondescript spices which smells as vibrant as completely abstract to me, and some equally nondescript woody base – smooth, clean woods (cashmere/cedar), with a distant yet perceivable whiff of dark-mossy herbs. Something that would almost fit “avantgarde” lines like nu_be, Humiecki & Graef or Andrea Maack, or other modern masters of turning nothingness into “art”. V/S smells “mineral”, grey and dusty, flat and aloof like perfectly polished concrete, with a desaturated, kind of melancholic accord of herbs and floral notes which smell pastel, powdery, cold and detached, floating in a lukewarm sea of industrial-like watery cleanliness with a subtle gassy, almost “toxic” smoky vibe. Sort of a bleached alien nephew of a typical Oriental floral scent from the Nineties. That’s it, and I admit that it takes some will and fantasy to take its extreme syntheticness as an added value, so for many people this may just be a screechy artificial mess (and partially – actually, mostly – it is), but still it’s a fun ride worthy a sniff.

12th September, 2015

Eau Sauvage Fraîcheur Cuir by Christian Dior

I have never been an enthusiastic fan of all Eau Sauvage versions and flankers, I only love the vintage classic Eau Sauvage and the recent Extreme version from 2010. This Fraicheur Cuir is a rare and apparently rather neglected flanker which I barely heard about sometimes in then past, I assume also because it was a discontinued limited edition, and now that I got a bottle of it, I can see why it wasn’t apparently that successful. In fact, for being released in 2007, it smells extremely, amazingly close to the vintage version of classic Eau Sauvage, just – as the name says – with an elegant shade of thin, dry leather. That’s it, so the name is perfectly fit: it’s Eau Sauvage at its best, it’s fresh (with a slight, almost unperceivable but well-fitting sort of watery-ozonic vibe at first), and it has leather. All in the most respectable quality you can imagine. As simple as it gets: bracing and pungent at first, slightly more herbal than classic Eau Sauvage maybe (L’Homme de Grès kind of vibrant, pungent green bitterness), gently surrounded by a dry, dark, mannered and austere frame of dry leather, just tinged with a hint of powderiness (lavender, I assume), distantly reminding of some leathery feminine chypres. Simple, but fantastic. An amazing time capsule with a modern vibe, probably too elegantly nostalgic to find its way in nowadays’ market, and a precious and sophisticated homage to Dior’s golden era. Quite worth the price.

10th September, 2015

Graphite Oud Edition by Montana

I’m not saying this because I am quite a fan of Montana’s poorly-distributed yet quite underrated cheapos, but Graphite Oud is indeed a really nice and affordable oud scent well worthy some support. Fans of the plethora of polished, colourless Western synthetic oud fragrances would probably enjoy this, it smells nic(h)e at a ridicolously inexpensive price. And there’s even room for a hint of creativity: Graphite Oud is in fact “not your usual oud scent”. It is mostly based on crisp sharp woods (there’s the connection with the “pencil shavings” galore of Montana Graphite) and there is a polished, mannered, dusty and slightly alcoholic synthetic oud note; but there also a quite peculiar and really – really! – pleasant touch of tart, pleasantly pungent and non-sweet fruitiness, mostly similar to strawberry, slightly powdery too, that basically turns Graphite Oud into a fairly unusual sort of “summer oud”, or “young oud” if that makes sense. And it works quite well: it’s smooth, bright, clean, pleasantly sweet, still keeping the dark, medicinal-oily texture of oud. It may sound messy, while it actually works really nice. It shows the shady, exotic refinement of oud, but with a lively, versatile, youthful vibe, which makes it really easy to pull of with any weather and for any situation. Quite a nice balance of sweet, fresh and dark-woody notes. It’s also really discreet on skin, almost a skin scent, and that is nice for this type of composition. The quality isn’t really top notch, but for the price, it’s more than ok. Like many cheapos, it can perfectly sit next to way more expensive siblings. It won’t appeal fans of real (or well, at least “a bit more realistic”) oud fragrances, but if you like Montale’s stuff or light designer ouds and want a fresh, sweet, laid-back and more than affordable take on that type of oud fragrances, Graphite Oud would be quite a smart choice.

08th September, 2015

Armani Eau de Cèdre by Giorgio Armani

Oddly similar to a sort of fresher flanker of Cerruti 1881 Amber meets Declaration and Armani Eau de Nuit at first, Eau de Cèdre opens with a blast of acrid, desperately artificial notes of cardamom, musk, cedar, a subtle generic soapy-floral accord, a light sort of depressing musky synthetic leather (Essence de Cerruti style), something smooth and lavender-like, amber, and a conventional head accord of mandarine-infused citrus notes. The composition itself wouldn’t be that bad, as it’s basically a refurbished classic “eau de cologne” structure with a contemporary touch (suede, powdery amber), but the quality of the notes – of any note here – is really, really too mediocre to make some sense. There’s a heavy feel of uninspired cheapness and flatness all over which makes Eau de Cedre smell as refined and interesting as a crippled emergency cone. It doesn’t stink but I don’t really see why one should look for this – maybe for the drydown, which is slightly better and pleasantly smooth (to the point of being worthy the wait and the nonsense first phases? No, not really). Armani fragrances have never been the state-of-the-art of perfumery, but this falls quite among the worst ones for me.

08th September, 2015

Indonesian Oud by Ermenegildo Zegna

I hardly think there’s anything Indonesian here, but there’s surely a ton of oud. Synthetic to the bone with very little effort (or skills, or budget) to hide it, but it’s there, and it’s nearly the only thing I smell, paired with a subtle but consistent dark musky rose nuance, and some really sharp, bitter herbal patchouli, which took me some time to detect as it blends really well with the smokier-earthier side of oud. An odd, but quite well-fitting touch of bergamot floats around during the opening phase. Most of all it’s oud though. And it’s, well, a really ordinary, dry, extremely linear, a bit cheap oud note – the only interesting nuance being a sort of alcoholic-liquorish nuance. Nothing animalic or “fecal”, on the opposite it’s a woody-medicinal, smooth and polished note as in most of low/mid-range Western oud scents (from Montale down to Ferrari Oud), with a tar-like vibe reminding me of L’aigle de la Victoire by Rancé, and something similar to a touch of saffron. Quite artificial and flat, but fairly pleasant and unpretentiously classy. I appreciate the general “tone” in particular; despite being a dark scent with some potentially heavy notes, it smells actually really discreet and mannered. Just a bit too dry and linear for my tastes, and a bit cheap too as I said. Overall, aside from personal feelings, I would consider Indonesian Oud a decent fragrance which isn’t really worthy the crazy retail price, but may work nicely as a cheap everyday oud scent if you get it as a gift or stumble upon a (really) good deal.

07th September, 2015

Dunhill Icon by Dunhill

Finally something able to stand up to Dunhill’s reputation. They aren’t Kilgour or Anderson & Sheppard, but they definitely deserve better than that Custom, Black, Xcentric rubbish they’ve been releasing for the past dozen of years or so. Icon finally marks some difference, starting from the bottle, a heavy – and I mean, physically hell heavy – piece of great design, not some usual random glass bottle with some lousy chrome-plastic cap. Coming to the juice inside it, well... it isn’t a groundbreaking fragrance and it doesn’t aim to be so – except for the vaguely megalomaniac name, but it’s surely miles above the abovementioned mediocrity which Dunhill has been getting us used to for the past years. Nothing overly exciting, but it’s good.

Basically Icon is an elegant, clean and laid-back everyday fragrance built on a conventional, yet always pleasant structure of classy neroli – that means a zesty mandarin note tinted with some floral-leafy muskiness – blended with cardamom, lavender, crisp woods, tangy peppery notes (I smell quite a bold note of juniper too) and a subtle sort of smooth, dusty, slightly sweet vibe all over, which I guess may be due to musk, tea (as usual, a generic sort of mellow sugary-green note), some amber and a touch of powder, well contrasting the fresh head notes. A fresh, spicy-floral and orange-y take on a “barbershop” scent with a really enjoyable soapy freshness. At first, as other reviewers mentioned, it smells a bit like Declaration due to the initial blast of cardamom on a fresh, aromatic “eau de cologne” base, just with a sharper and fresher feel; then it slowly becomes woodier and slightly soapier, with a warm and slightly smoky base keeping the distinguished “mature” vibe going on, also adding a whiff of synthetic leather.

I agree with the reference to Terre d’Hermès and similar scents (just a bit more floral and muskier, and with some richer neroli instead of some more ordinary citrus), but I also think the tart, bracing sort of brightness which persists all over Icon’s life on skin reminds me of Guerlain Homme, especially the radiant Eau Boisée flanker. Finally, I think Icon may sit also somewhere near the current version of Eau Sauvage, just in generic terms of “family”. With these names on the table, you get the picture: it won’t surprise and amaze you, but the quality is good – and that’s the point – and the fragrance smells crisp, compelling, long-lasting and refined, with a persistent, really pleasant feel of clean elegance. Mature and youthful at once, fresh, long-lasting but discreet enough to be perfect for any situation – from the office, to a date. A respectable and unpretentious candidate for a “signature scent”, surely ending straight on top of Dunhill offerings for men – it didn’t take that much for that, though.

The only “con” I would mention is an annoying synthetic, slightly sweet woody-ambery-powdery base... thing, which I get in every, and I mean every single masculine fragrance manufactured by Interparfums. I don’t know what that is, probably some of their standard bases, but at some point on the drydown, here it is – Interparfums’ signature, like a thief signing his robberies. It’s not tragic, that note/base I mean – but a bit cheap, flatly plastic. And Icon didn’t deserve that. But well, it’s nice anyway, and Benaim did a respectable job. The official retail price seems a bit too high for me, but you already find some discounted bottles here and there – at half the price, it’s perfectly worthy the purchase for me.

07th September, 2015

Acqua di Parma Colonia Club by Acqua di Parma

The opening of Colonia Club strikes me as an overpriced, apparently fancier but still quite cheap fragrant version of the almighty Proraso shaving cream, with that classic minty-citrus-woody blast rounded by a musky soapy feel. I mentioned Proraso but you can name any other popular, proletarian-to-middle-class old school green shaving cream/aftershave, mostly the ones in fashion in Italy and Central Europe from the Sixties on. The balsamic mintiness is quite powerful at first in Colonia Club, and I admit its realistic, nose-tingling, pore-unclogging vibrancy is quite enjoyable. But once that phase ends in a matter of minutes, all you remain with is a decent, mannered, really classic (and that’s good) desperately mediocre (and that’s bad) clone of a clone of any of the countless clones of any “classic green fragrances” from post-war aftershaves to Ralph Lauren Polo, Vidal’s Pino Silvestre or dozens of obscure “Aguas” from the Eighties, stuffed with synthetic musk with a whiff of carnation and green-earthy notes. Don’t get me wrong, Colonia Club smells linearly and flatly decent, but countless of other fragrances and aftershaves do this same exact job at a fraction of its price. As for many other Acqua di Parma fragrances, I don’t really see the quality gaps or benefits justifying the cost.

05th September, 2015

My Queen by Alexander McQueen

I’ve known this fragrance for quite a while, but I only had a microscopic dab sample which wasn’t really enough for a review. Now I finally managed to get a full bottle and bath in this, finally having the chance to explore it better. My first and last word on this: amazing. My Queen by Flipo and Ropion smells and wears just amazingly good – perfect quality, perfect composition constantly floating between dynamism, liveliness and quiet elegance. It’s opulent, but graceful and mannered, a sort of subtle opulence slowly, but consistently revealing itself as hours pass – like a “slow-release” potion.

All iris-violet-heliotrope fans can’t really miss this, as it’s basically a triumph of that triad. Iris, violet, heliotrope, almonds, a hint of neroli and a perfect, Guerlain-esque (masculine) base of woods smelling crisp and clean enough to tone down the “heaviness” of the main notes and keeping My Queen weightless and unisex enough, if not almost masculine, perfectly balancing freshness and powderiness. Spices concur to this too, as there is some clever, really subtle cumin-pepper that adds just the right tangy “sparkle” to the floral accord, and so does musk – which is quite subtle here, but helps in tilting the balance to the unisex side. And finally orange blossoms, which add a perfect, delicate hint of tart, slightly creamy citrus leafiness, again helping in taming down the power of the iris-gourmand heart of My Queen.

But most of all it’s all about iris, which has here a fantastic, extremely sophisticated talc texture that I really haven’t found anywhere so far. It smells powdery and slightly “lipstick” buttery, realistic and high-quality to say the least, but if feels like they did a fantastic precision job in toning down any possible “dirty” or heavy facet of iris, or anyway any excessive thickness, making it smell dusty and impalpable. Not light, though; it is vibrant and substantial to say the least, just with a transparent substance effortlessly blending with its “pastel” sibling – Parma’s violets – and with both almond/heliotropin’s sweet and floral-pasty texture, and the sharp, crisp woody base. The drydown – which is refinedly persistent for quite some hours - feels predictably a bit more woody, dusty and less “plushy”, with a really pleasant iris/violet-infused fresh vetiver and cedar accord paired with a zesty, and again slightly creamy orange blossoms-musk nuance (a bit similar to the drydown of Dior Homme, just a bit “more violet”). If you’re familiar with the (few) nicest works by Ropion you can imagine how good this smells.

My Queen is quite complex if you dig deep exploring how magnificently they blended and crafted the notes, but the final result smells smooth, simple, irresistibly refined. And contrary to what you may think from the notes, really versatile and easy to wear – for men too. It can enhance any mood and any outfit, thanks to how perfectly they handled the several facets of iris, a flower that can smell “innocent” and “luscious” at once. And it projects clearly without being heavy. Pure heaven with an outstanding quality and (back when it was available) a cheap price – the discontinued prices of today are still completely acceptable for this quality anyway, as it’s really fragrant gold. Some broad comparisons may be Galliano EDP from 2008, a hypothetical less gourmand, iris-centered version of Villoresi’s Teint de Neige, or a sort of dreamier, more powdery-pastel flanker of Dior Homme. A sophisticated, amazing mood-uplifting unisex wonder.

05th September, 2015

Sauvage by Christian Dior

My expectations for Sauvage weren’t extremely low, but neither that high for sure. I was convinced it was probably better than the undeserved skepticism it seems getting here and there from fragrance snobs, but nothing groundbreaking for sure. Now that I’ve finally snatched a sample, I must say it quite reflects the idea I had about it – and actually, it is slightly better than I expected. First of all, in broad terms, it is probably right to consider this the first “Dior’s Bleu de Chanel” (or name another fragrance like that), as the league is more or less the same; but contrary to Bleu de Chanel (and most of similar scents), besides showing a clearly better quality, Sauvage avoids any boring, pretentious, preppy middle-class mannerism and adds a subtle touch of pungent vibrancy, of “rawness” as the name suggests. It is in fact a compelling contemporary take on a classic green fougère theme, opening with a bracing, peppery, crisp green-bergamot accord with a peculiar sort of “cedrat” heart, something bitter and earthy that provides a really nice sort of musky-sour shade to the crisp, fresh leafiness of the main accord. And then there’s a subtle, yet deep base of synthetic ambergris enhanced by some generic woods – “generic” means here nothing smelling overly cheap, but surely not the greatest woody notes around.

So imagine a quite classic and apparently mannered green masculine scent centered on pepper, citrus notes and dry ambery woods with some mossy patchouli lingering below, and give it a modern shape with an exotic, and slightly sombre touch halfway “organic” and “futuristic” (thanks to the cleverly-fitting warm and “grey” note of ambroxan). I must note that Sauvage feels quite much dry throughout its evolution, which I guess may be taken as a “masculine” added value, and also shows a pleasantly nondescript sort of dark, bitter-fizzy feel with a Mediterranean vibe, which reminds me of the balmy smell of air on a cloudy day in some woodland by the sea. Quite some interesting contrasts, overall: dryness, bitterness, warmth. So, again: an office-safe scent for sure, but in no way cheap or uncreative. Nothing exciting, but nothing bad to say the least. It just offers the right tiny amount of creativity within a “pop”, crowdpleasing frame. I think Demachy did quite a nice job in creating a deceptively generic fragrance with some sparkles of dark rawness. And I also appreciate the fact Sauvage smells really simple overall, almost minimalistic composition-wise, and with no overly cheap nuances. Simply put, it smells nice and it isn’t boring at all. As hours pass the ambroxan-woody-patchouli base takes the main stage, making Sauvage smell darker, warmer, dustier, more (again, “generically” ) classy and less bitter, with also some (good!) vetiver popping out. Still quite dry but at the same time quite comforting and sophisticated.

To cut it short, I think this is a good fragrance, quite more peculiar than it may seem at a first rushed test, and I think it is fully justified for Dior to have something like this among their range. Not everything has to be creative, or flashy, or (more or less faithfully) luxury or make some “statement”. Sauvage is a quality, discreet everyday scent with a seducing dark-organic twist and a nice evolution, smooth enough to appeal classic wearers but quality enough to be worthy a sniff for everybody else, including niche-heads. And it would surely be a mistake to dismiss this too early labelling it mediocre or cheap, since it isn’t either of the two. I probably wouldn’t buy this, but I’m glad Dior introduced it.

03rd September, 2015

Vibrant by Boadicea the Victorious

The opening of Vibrant is indeed quite vibrant, and quite peculiar too. At first, it strongly reminded me of some vintage fragrances by Etro; not a specific one, just rather that same sort of exotic and mysterious allure many of them had, centered on musky spices and dusty resins. There’s patchouli (quite à la vintage Etro Patchouli), some odd animalic amber, musk, a – for me – nondescript moldy and camphorous note with a subtle floral shade (rose?), some tingling spices, earthy woods, and also a subtle layer of quite well-crafted and tobacco-infused leather. All feels “antique”, nostalgic, dusty, quite gloomy – I see other online reviewers mention Mona di Orio, and in fact I agree with some similarity to her world (well, the world she was able to express in the 2-3 scents which aren’t parodies of a scent). No fresh citrus and no whatever “bright” side for me, although I do get a slight and completely non-fresh citrus note – rather musky and pungent, more a “cedrat” note than an ordinary citrus.

The blend smells simple and complex at once; there’s not many notes involved here, but each of them seems presented under a creative and unusual light. And also their, say, imaginary displacement in the overall design is creative and evocative, in a way that for some inexplicable reasons, makes Vibrant strongly remind me of a closet which once contained scented clothes, their sillage still exuding from the wood walls. A sort of dusty, melancholic, smooth yet pungent stale aroma which contains a sort of distant “echo” of the composition you read – say, it feels like a sort of “desatured”, washed-out version of the fragrance you would imagine by reading the notes. And by this I don’t mean it feels light or dull, on the contrary it’s quite bold and clear, but all feels imprisoned within a decadent cloud of camphorous and musky nuances, and an interesting, realistic frame of dusty, and again moldy hard woods. I don’t know how they did that, but the final result is quite intriguing. It’s classy, dark and seducing. Sadly though, the scent is quite linear, quickly reaching a way less interesting drydown smelling mostly of musky woods, and both persistence and projection aren’t top notch. Still surely one of the nicest Boadicea out there.

01st September, 2015

Zegna Intenso by Ermenegildo Zegna

It took me quite a while to make up my mind about Zegna Intenso. I own it and wear it quite happily from times to times, but any time I tried to approach it more thoroughly from a “reviewer” point of view, I always felt something was missing in my, say, perception of it. Like when you enjoy something, but any part and aspect of it seem dull and negligible, and you are unable to get a global, comprehensive idea of it. And yet you reach for it and enjoy it even if you can’t really explain why. Zegna Intenso does precisely that effect to me. At first I was ready to dismiss it as a boring mainstream scent, but each time its discreetly enjoyable presence on skin was telling me it would have been a mistake. Now I think I got why. The main key of this scent is that it smells so nicely and perfectly generic and discreet, it serves more as a sort of ideal silent and distinguished servant than a “statement” accessory. Any time you wear it, it’s ready to do and “tell” you exactly what you want it to, to suit your mood, your style, the situation you’re in. It can smell formal and dark, or lively and “young”; sometimes it feels simple and warm, sometimes elusively exotic, sometimes dusty and vibrant like a club downtown. A perfect Zelig in a bottle (Woody Allen’s Zelig, I mean). And I think this is due to Daniela Andrier’s ability to bring out the best off the concept of “safe and generic” – something soothing and comforting designed to make you want to wear it just for the pure sake of it, and then forget about it. Zegna Intenso brings that to an unexpectedly high level.

Coming to the smell itself, many compare Zegna Intenso to Armani Code but I don’t really see the similarity. I mean, of course that is the family, but there’s quite some differences. And anyway, frankly Zegna Intenso smells way superior than that for me to any extent. Tonka and musky iris notes provide a dusty, sophisticated and crisp Oriental frame (a yuppie concept of “Oriental”, obviously – it’s a designer after all...) which is perfectly harmonized with generic - and yet, perfectly nice - clean woods and some nondescript sort of fresh-tart head accord that gives Zegna Intenso a quite enjoyable sort of mildly aromatic fresh twist – fresh enough to keep it more vivid and sophisticated than many similar, and often kind of heavy or cheap Oriental tonka-centered designer fragrances. Diamondflame’s review is really spot on about this interesting “chiaroscuro” effect due to bright head notes versus the general Oriental spicy-smooth “darkness” of the other notes. This whole harmony makes Zegna Intenso smell way more refined and comforting than it seems. Now imagine all this in the hands of an extremely talented nose with an eagle eye for subtle – and again, positively “generic” - refinement as Daniela Andrier, and here’s Zegna Intenso. A true little piece of smoothness and respectability in a bottle. I know many scents already play this “comfort” role (e.g. many classic clean “eaux de cologne”), but well, each does it its way and so does Zegna Intenso. A bit like Bottega Veneta pour Homme by the same nose, it brings that traditional concept of “smelling nice and quality just for the intimate sake of it” to a more contemporary level. You can find discounted bottles of this everywhere, grab it if you stumble upon one.

31st August, 2015

Coal by Andrea Maack

Perfectly consistent within Andrea Maack range, Coal is an entirely-artificial, minimalistic exploration of an imaginary thick “grey” concrete-like matter, pretty much as its name suggest. It evokes in fact something smooth and threatening at once, dark and “organic” with a sheer, balmy lab-like vibe, smelling basically as a really tight and aseptic blend of musk, synthetic woods (Iso E Super), nose-tingling pepper, with a hint of something slightly sweet, Gucci Rush-like, which I guess is due to some, again, artificial note of cashmere wood or sandalwood. Basically a sneaky yet apparently successful rebranding of any Azzaro Visit and similar cheap plastic woody-pepper stuff (something also other “post-modern” niche brands seem good at doing, like MiN New York). I find it exceedingly boring and itchingly pretentious, as I see zero true innovation or creative research, but I admit they seem skilled in turning cheapness into avantgarde - if you’re a fan of that, then help yourself.

30th August, 2015

Villa Ocre by Pascal Morabito

Given the name and the slightly outdated packaging echoing (probably unvoluntarily) Haschisch Men by Veejaga, I was expecting some mild and uninteresting sort of herbal/pine fresh fougère. Well, Villa Ocre is a whole another story on the contrary. It opens as a surprisingly pleasant kind of carbon-copy of many “cold”, sharp incense-cedar fragrances like Comme des Garçons Kyoto, or Christian Lacroix Tumulte – and like for the Lacroix, the packaging has quite nothing to do with the fragrance. Albeit a bit derivative, Villa Ocre is quite much enjoyable; slightly warmer than the two (and similar) abovementioned fragrances, extremely smooth and nice to smell on yourself, unobtrusively simple and refined in its crisp incense-wood structure. But there’s something more going on, which makes it slightly more peculiar than it seems at first – it’s not just about a couple of smooth woody aromachemicals. There is a warm, spicy, mildly sweet vibe coming from an orange-infused accord of cardamom and I think some mild resins too, which as the evolution progresses, takes a bit more prominence slowly turning Villa Ocre into a mellow, and quite interesting blend of a Kyoto-style “contemporary” balsamic incense with something spicier and warmer like Cartier’s Declaration - finally to the point it ends on a drydown which is basically a more transparent, balsamic and incense-y version of Declaration tinted with orange and cheap vetiver. Nothing groundbreaking, but informally elegant and pleasantly compelling to say the least.

28th August, 2015

Potion by Dsquared2

Another fairly-priced mainstream fragrance I’ve ignored for years until reading some positive reviews by a few contributors I trust. And again, they were right: Potion is a true little gem, quite unrelated to the averagely mediocre quality of other Dsquared scents, not to mention their hideous fashion side. First of all, many mention Gucci pour Homme from 2003 as a reference for this, and if you want my opinion, they are quite similar indeed. And in some way, even if there is some substantial differences notes-wise, Potion may work as a good replacement if you miss Gucci. The two fragrances may not be identical, but the quality is definitely (and surprisingly) on the same level – which is a quite top-notch level. And they definitely share a really similar vibe in my opinion. Potion has the same smooth, sheer and sophisticated woody-amber-incense structure of Gucci, adding to that a consistent dose of crisp, minty and delightfully pungent aromatic herbs, a fantastic musk note (“fantastic” because it’s musk, but a quality one - way different from the usual, sticky, everlasting musky base you get in many cheap mainstreams) and some spices, mostly a peppery cinnamon note.

So it’s basically a sort of spicier, sweeter and muskier version of Gucci pour Homme (with a far echo of another giant of designer perfumery – the herbs-amber accord of YSL M7); less “mature” than Gucci, but quite close to it nonetheless. More “tasty” and aromatic, slightly sweeter (I guess thanks to the subtle floral notes), less austere and less smoky than Gucci, overall more easy-going, but totally refined as well, showing Annick Menardo’s talent with spices and sheer, subtly elegant harmonies. I think I also get something reminding me of Body Kouros, but I don’t know what precisely. Anyway as I (and many others) said, Gucci pour Homme is the more evident close sibling to Potion. And the key similarity for me is their level of quality, which makes stand both quite above the rest of the “woody-amber” class of masculine designers. The quality of Potion is truly elevate on every level – materials and composition. A bit close to skin (maybe too much, at least for the EDT), but it works. A true must for the price.

25th August, 2015

Richard James by Richard James

The early version of the apparently reformulated Savile Row is a stunning masterwork which shows most of niche brands how a rich, fruity, deep contemporary floral-leather fragrance should be made. Following the ideal creative path started by Givenchy Insensé, it takes the richest, darkest and most “masculine” floral notes with no compromises on quality, and pairs them with a modern fruity-suede vibe amplifying and giving depth and strength to the “smooth contemporary leather accord” that inspired many relatively recent (and so much inferior) “soft leather” scents – from Cuir Ottoman to Tuscan Leather, via Lutens’ Daim Blond and even a hint of modern Visa by Piguet. So don’t expect any dry, well-worn leather à la Knize Ten, as here it’s all more about a tobacco-infused smooth and bright suede accord. Smooth, but not light at all. Savile Row is powerful, immensely sophisticated, and contrary to many similar scents, finally bold, clear, thick in a distinguished and mannered way. It has the grace and the pastel palette of a dandy portrait thanks to its juicy, luminous accord of sweet notes (from rose to ambery peach, and from tea to sandalwood) paired with “The Dark Force” of many classic masculine fougères – leather, tobacco, lavender, patchouli, oakmoss. And tuberose, of course, the main altar of this Baroque cathedral. There’s quite some complexity going on, or better say, a kind of extremely harmonic – again, I’d define it Baroque – golden intricacy which still leaves me speechless every time I wear this. Classic, but smoothly contemporary – by this I mean crisp, refined, bold but unobtrusive. Slightly linear but that’s all you would wish from something so perfect. Nothing else to say: just brilliant.

23rd August, 2015