Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Michael.j

Total Reviews: 14

Ungaro pour L'Homme III by Ungaro

transcends fad and trends. timeless.

I blind-bought this based on reviews. One of my best blind-buys. It delivers and then some. Absolutely delighted with the complexity and contrasts of this. This makes the tone deaf aquatics and the audibly spicy syrups seem even more adolescent. This is not old-fashioned; it is timeless in the way that Eau Sauvage and Yatagan are timeless. I'm usually skeptical of designer fragrances because they're not about smell; they're low cost entry points into a brand's universe for Brittany and Bubba Spraycheese. The smell-as-brand-experience is invariably a colorful swill wrapped in the lust and luster of backstory and implausible nudity (I'm looking at you, Versace). There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to make a buck off your perfume, even with naked people on cars, rocks, yachts, sun decks, rocks on yachts, sun decks on cars, etc. Duh, it's a business. But Just look at the latest string of embarrassingly cynical and childish releases from Fendi, Gucci, Ferragamo and Versace (weird that they're all Italian). None compare to Ungaro III in attention to layering, blending and sheer range of notes. Ungaro III reflects a commitment to a particular type of experience, not a faddish, brand-resident identity. Many frags have disappeared because they were selling a form of personhood, not a smell. That Ungaro III is still in production and stubbornly popular today is clear evidence of its ability to transcend fashion. This is one of the reasons why Demachy and Polge are the respected figures they are in contemporary perfumery -- because they produce stunners like Ungaro III.

Pros: very sophisticated and cerebral, beautiful, complex
Cons: none"

18th September, 2013

Fan di Fendi pour Homme Acqua by Fendi

Odious clone

This fragrance is childish and silly. Carla Fendi is hardly la regina della trasgressione with this bland, airport duty free shop shelf filler. There are at least a hundred other fragrances with this same boiler plate vocabulary. It just shows that the market is never too crowded for another clone with big marketing dollars, and a desperate, fading house, behind it. I see this doing well in 3rd tier markets where the Fendi brand still has some currency.

Pros: It'll be in the remainder bin by year's end
Cons: Insultingly common, dead boring, a cynical attempt at market share

27th May, 2013

Monsieur Balmain (new) by Pierre Balmain

The Lemon Complex: Not So Simple

This was a blind buy, and, as we know, blind buys can be disasters, sometimes expensive ones. This buy, however, lived up to the hype. But I would disagree with facile characterizations of this fragrance a lemon bomb. There is lemon, to be sure, and lots of it, but lemon here is about theme and variation -- the lemon is a constant that interacts differently with the various notes in the dry-down. This is perfume-as-process. The lemon and the pepper, which is very strong, and the sandalwood are not in lockstep. Rather, there is a tension among them that renders these ingredients somewhat unsettled. But this is not discord, it is communication. There is a linearity to this unsettledness, but it is not clumsy or awkward. It is highly choreographed, and is, therefore, quite confident and poised, despite its deceptive simplicity. It's rougher around edges than Dior's ultra-sophisticated original Eau Sauvage, and bone-dry compared the luxuriant, lemony sweetness of Chanel's original Pour Monsieur. I think it would layer well with a range of other scents, including Atelier Cologne's Orange Sanguine, a some of the vetivers. The pepper note would work well with Ellena's Bigarade. It's elemental enough to invite wide experimentation. The dry-down is very close to Oscar for Men, but the pepper isn't quite as overwhelming as it is in the Oscar. Curious to see if the new bottle (à la Carbone) will contain a reformulation.

Pros: Elemental, classic.
Cons: Could have dialed back on the pepper.

16th May, 2013
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Lanvin L'Homme Sport by Lanvin

This scent continues to surprise me -- I'm surprised how much I like it. Is charming and playful, but with a serious side. Love this. It's so easy to dismiss sport flankers, and normally they deserve to be dismissed. Ridiculed, even. But not this one. It's more than a good effort; it's just plain good. Great, even. It's on the sweet side, but not cotton candy. Think tarte aux fruits. I think this is going to be my sotd for the next week. I bought this months ago and liked it when I first got it, but new it'd be better to study it on my skin once the days got warmer. It was worth the wait. A gem.
15th May, 2013

Artisan Black by John Varvatos

Like BriGuy, I also get the cat urine smell in the heart, though probably not as strong. I wanted to dislike this fragrance, given the hackneyed tactics of its market identity, but I just can't. It's pert and perky, fresh and alert. It doesn't have a complex psychology, but it is the life of the party for a short while, and there's a role for that player in my dramatis personae
05th May, 2013

Bogart by Jacques Bogart

I really wanted to like the, but it just sits there on the skin, humming its one note all day. I don't mind the sweetness, but the powdery dry-down is cloying. Kind of reminds me of a chalky, cherry antacid.
30th April, 2013

Vétiver Fatal by Atelier Cologne

You have to wait at least an hour, maybe two, before the fruit salad begins to subside and you begin to smell the vetiver. The transition from fruit to vetiver is gradual and gentle, masterfully orchestrated. But at some point several hours later the fruit is gone and the vetiver is left on its own, still trying to hum the harmony all alone. And it's not a good solo. It's raspy and sharp. I wish it had been a softer. If you like your vetiver on the slightly raspy side, you might like the ultimate dry-down on this one. I liked the point about an hour and a half in when the fruit, vetiver and oud were all in perfect balance. It was spectacular.
26th April, 2013

Florabotanica by Balenciaga

This is most definitely a unisex frag. It might be one of the most powerful fragrances I've ever tried -- at least in terms of staying power. I sprayed it on my left arm yesterday at noon, and I can still smell it strongly through the sleeve of my canvas shirt, from 18 inches away. It's like a cross of Ivoire de Balmain (vintage) and YSL's original Paris. I'm a guy and am thinking seriously about getting a bottle. It is by no means original, but it is refreshing. It is not subtle, but subtle isn't always a virtue. It is commanding and bold. It's not a slouchy scent. Rather, it's something you might wear to a semi-formal garden party in East Hampton. Think linen pants and silk bow ties over shorts and flip-flops; mimosas over beer. This day scent is not, however, stuffy or pretentious. It's sophisticated relaxation, a hammock in the shade, a cooling balm after a day at the beach. Reminds me of my summers in Southern Maine.
22nd April, 2013

Black XS L'Excès for Him by Paco Rabanne

This smells identical to YSL's l'Homme Libre. Maybe a little less sharp in the beginning, but the dry-downs of both are almost indistinguishable from one another.
21st April, 2013

Oscar for Men by Oscar de la Renta

This stuff is incredibly complex and rewards careful study, which is absolutely necessary to understand what's going here. The first time I wore this all I smelled was pepper and cumin. It was disgusting, but I didn't want to write it off immediately. I'm glad I didn't. I'm on my second wearing and now I smell the spices and herbs, the citrus and the flowers. I'm still not sure if I like it, but I will enjoy the process of understanding it. This is definitely not a clone. Indeed, it is very much its own animal.
08th April, 2013

Mr Blass by Bill Blass

Thumbs way up. What a find. I blind-bought this based on reviews. Never have reviews been so reliable. I'm gobsmacked that this fragrance is so good and so inexpensive. This scent will never get the attention it deserves, for obvious reasons, but I encourage fellow Basenoters to try this and share their impressions. It would be a sad day indeed if this absolute gem were to die an early death.
07th April, 2013

He Wood Rocky Mountain Wood by Dsquared2

A poor man's powdery Encre Noire. Nothing new or innovative here. High quality, but very tame and inoffensive. You can usually find this at Marshall's for around $20, which is a good price for the quality.
07th April, 2013

Versace pour Homme by Versace

I was hoping this would be interesting and was looking forward to trying it given the notoriety if its creator. I was very disappointed, but not at all surprised given the house that commissioned it, to learn that it is another citrus clone. It absolutely dead common. I'm ready for mainstream designer perfumery to turn the corner on this trend. And I'm sure it will when profits from the genre begin to wane. I'm somewhat surprised, actually, that it's gone on so long. There's nothing objectionable here, just utterly ordinary. It's been said, but I can't help but think that Gianni would have been so much more out front than his less gifted sister is now.
17th March, 2013
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Eau d'Ikar by Sisley

Where's the 'meh' button? I first smelled this when I was living in Lyon back in 2011 and I so wanted it to be more than it is. I wanted it to be innovative, but instead it lacks imagination and takes absolutely no risks. For me, Eau d'Ikar leaves no lasting impression. I read somewhere that this fragrance was ten years in the making. If that is true, I think the scent suffers from over-thinking and compulsive revision --in an effort to make it well rounded and internally consistent, Eau d'Ikar has been edited down to the point where 'tasteful' reads as bland and inert. Also, curiously, this fragrance is almost twice as expensive in the US as it is in France. C'est dommage.
10th March, 2013