Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Wild Gardener

Total Reviews: 368

Venezia Uomo by Laura Biagiotti

Oriental version of Cool Water.


Boxed miniature
09th November, 2019

Pullman by Dana

Brittle soapy fougère.
Economy Class ticket : hard seats, thin upholstery.


Vintage mini, no box
29th October, 2019

Twilly d'Hermès by Hermès

Teenage girls at the pony club.


Carded sample
27th October, 2019
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Platinum Égoïste by Chanel

Reduced version of Cool Water with a thick and powdery texture like bisque soup. Derivative and boring.


Early boxed minature
19th October, 2019

Envy by Gucci

Envy is a sour green floral made of three simple parts : a bitter brown base, a green accord and a sour floral.

The floral is a magnolia bouquet, made sour by sharp lilac, fugitive hyacinth and fake citrus. There's also cold iris and a green accord based on the shiny smell of muguet leaf.

But Envy is not just sour and green, it must be one of the driest florals on record. It uses a bitter black note found in the magnolia petal - which adds a gritty edge in the same way as the indole in jasmin - and this is worked into a kind of burnt-sugary mossy base which is anything but sweet. In fact, what sweetness there is, is only there to stop the tamarisk note from getting out of hand, nothing more.

Even though it's bold and striking, Envy is not as original as it may seem. It's like a green l'Eau d'Issey on a base of scorched earth - which clearly derives from Sinan.

On the other hand, what is different about Envy is it doesn't even try to smell nice. By flouting the old idea that 'a perfume should always smell good' Envy places itself firmly in the difficult, or expressionist camp along with some of the Roudnitska's, Sécrétions, Poison etc.

And of course it was a big commercial success, which just goes to show that a safe perfume isn't always the most lucrative one. Back in 1997, it seems the public had an unhealthy appetite for the mean and nasty as well as pink fluff and candyfloss, and we can see the same thing happening today with the spiky woods. The spirit may not be there but the orientation is the same, just the materials have changed - for the worse.

Aggressive and mean smelling, Envy was a success because of its faults - rather than despite them - and it's these qualities that make it so distinctive and memorable.


Miniature with no box
16th October, 2019 (last edited: 31st October, 2019)

Rubis Noir by René Garraud

Quiet patchouli oriental.

11th October, 2019

Attraction by Lancôme

Lancôme did everything in their power to make Attraction live up to its name. The box has flashy gold panels that shimmer with rainbows; the bottle - a glass sphere with a golden cap. Attractive? Yes, if you like pricey cosmetics. But it seems they forgot the juice, a creamy-starchy and sour white floral that, if anything, tends in the opposite direction.


Boxed miniature, date coded 22 July 2003
10th October, 2019

Midnight in Paris by Van Cleef & Arpels

Midnight in Paris is clearly based on Bulgari Black. The structures are analogous, built of the same two parts: sweet - floral - powdery on top and hard black rubber in the base. But MiP isn't a straight up copy of course.

In MiP, Black's antiseptic and spicy notes emerge in the opening gambit where they breathe pure air before sinking back down. Another difference is that MiP doesn't have the bitter - smoky, fruity, and then vetiver and green notes that Black has in the base ... or any sort of base at all really.

Broadly speaking, what MiP does is to take the bare rubbery bones of Black and wrap them in a vague softness of bubblegum pink. But despite that, these two works remain similar for quite a while. The difference is largely a matter of emphasis. It's almost like the profile has been turned inside out. Black is more boldly rubber, MiP is sweeter and more diffuse but they both have the two parts on show.

In practice, when it comes to wearing them, MiP's prettied up version is less challenging than the avant-garde rawness of Black. MiP is more middle of the road - which is what it aims for, but it still wasn't going to have true commercial appeal. It's hard to see how a sweet pink oriental with a weird black rubber undercurrent (and a medicinal twang on top) would be welcomed by your average punter in the scent supermarket.

On the other hand, because it was lighter and more rounded, MiP was easier to wear. But even so, its appeal was likely to have been felt mainly by parfumistas and those who read perfume blogs.

So, finally, was MiP an attempt to cash in on a rival's brilliant but uncommercial work by giving it MoR appeal? Or was it an homage to a great work of Art Perfumery that was - by then - largely defunct? Possibly both. The sad reality is though, even the less challenging one was too much for the average buyer - who voted with their credit cards and said No to black rubber a second time.


Decant sample, not sure of the concentration.
08th October, 2019

Fougère Royale by Houbigant

Rudimentary but influential work that, with its lavender - coumarin - bergamot structure, inaugurated the fougère genre.

Vintage Fougère Royale is not a great perfume; it has moments of charm, but when compared to a modern fougère it feels a bit vague and lacking in direction. This is a structural problem caused but the lack of synthetics that were available to Paul Parquet when he invented the genre back in 1882.

Mitsouko is often thought to be Jacques Guerlain's perfected form of Coty's Chypre - which also invented a new genre; but over the years Fougère Royale has been graced with numerous Mitsouko's of its own. This is, ironically, due to the fact that the fougère has less character than the chypre and hence is more accommodating to the different interpretations that have been imposed on it in the last 130 years.

From a History of Perfume perspective Fougère Royale can hardly be overrated. But when it comes to the version I have worked on, the reality of the perfume doesn't support the mythologising that surrounds it. It's a good - and for a time - lovely scent, but not a masterpiece. For the real greatness of Fougère Royale it's necessary to look to some of its own Mitsouko's.


Vintage barbershop hair lotion in a non greasy, alcoholic base. 1950's or possibly earlier.
03rd October, 2019

Tom Ford for Men by Tom Ford

Generic guy thing. Sophisticated but bland.


24th September, 2019 (last edited: 25th September, 2019)

Knowing by Estée Lauder

A rose chypre that nicked the cheese wood from Aromatics and sprinkled it with powder.


Sample vial

24th September, 2019

L'Humaniste by Frapin

I don't see the attraction of this; perfume chemicals trying to smell like powdery tobacco leaf?


Boutique decant
24th September, 2019

Agua Brava by Antonio Puig

Agua Brava is an Italian style cologne where the fresh lines of pine citrus and herbs are blurred by a dark and rounded base. This makes it more fuzzy and lived in than truly formal.

It develops the Latin cologne away from the hard and flat style of things like Pino Silvestre, and towards a less macho and more liberal way of smelling like a man. Not a small thing in the fascist Spain of General Franco. A brave water indeed.


Vintage EdC in fluted columnar bottle
18th September, 2019 (last edited: 23rd September, 2019)
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Ultraviolet for Her / Ultraviolet by Paco Rabanne

Chili, purple fruits and vanilla on the gourmand side, woody-powder and salt-fatty ambergris on the other.

In some magic way, the chilli and purple fruits evoke an ethereal twang that's a bit like UV light ... but not exactly. But then Ultra Purple doesn't have the same ring to it. Clever none the less.

The rest of the profile is a version of the 'Don't eat me' anti-gourmand theme, originally found in Angel. But where Angel tied us in knots - by giving us candyfloss and showing us poison - Ultraviolet is more superficial. Instead of mixing up our instincts, it goes straight for the stomach; like I've eaten the wrong mushroom and it's making me feel sick.

Ultraviolet doesn't work because there are two incompatible themes going on : the UV part - which could work as a tricky chypre, and the indigestible gourmand - which is best forgotten.


Sample vapo in plastic purple coque
18th September, 2019 (last edited: 19th September, 2019)

Ysatis by Givenchy

Wide shoulders, big hair, loud perfume; fashion was really over the top in the eighties. And although it wasn't on the Red List with Giorgio and Poison, this stonking great powdery tuberose is still one to handle with care.


Modern full bottle
18th September, 2019

Safari by Ralph Lauren

With its yellow fruity head note, Safari took up where Giorgio's twelve foot canary left off.

It goes on a long slow journey where hologram pineapple merges with hard khaki; which blends into a milky-sweet pink floral, and then later develops a chypre base.

All this may sound a bit arbitrary, but look at it this way and a pattern seems to emerge:

• Golden yellow : Sunrise
• Green - muted by strong sunlight : Noon
• Pink floral : Sunset
• Dark brown chypre : Dusk

In the light of the nudges supplied by the name and the Out of Africa style adverts, it looks like Safari is describing a daytrip into the bush. If so, this would make it one of a small number of narrative perfumes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Although the nineties were the age of the aquatic, that was historically an abberation. While everyone was going watery to wash away the sins of eighties perfumery, this fruity green chypre was bringing it back to the classical tradition using quotes from Vent Vert, Femme and to some extent No5.

For the way it swam against the tide and asserted the values of classical perfumery in the face of what would become a decade marked by puritanism, Safari is historically, an important perfume.

But on the other hand, it's still pretty good today if you just want to smell nice.


Vintage mini, no box
12th September, 2019 (last edited: 13th September, 2019)

David Beckham Instinct by Beckham

Typical masculine : citrus - aromatic - spicy - woody.
Typical cheapo celeb-u-scent.
Typical Coty Inc.

12th September, 2019

Navigations Through Scent - Iunu by Molton Brown

Illustrated with an Eye of Horus, pyramids and a bizarre two headed - two humped camel, Iunu's sample card lays out its orientalist baggage for all to see.

And the structure of this oriental perfume is just as unconventional as the imagery. Because it lacks the fresh top and the sensual sweet powdery curves of the oriental, what you get is pink pepper and vanilla-candy on a polished wooden floor; and then, shortly afterwards, someone opens a bag of dried fruit and spice. Minimal development and no further reveals. Decent, but not really evocative of the 'ancient silk and spice routes' that the blurb lays claim to.

It seems to me that Jennifer Jambon has tried to create something different to the tired oriental structure based on the same old orientalist narratives, and that's something to be applauded regardless of how succesful or not the outcome may be.

That Iunu feels a bit like the dining room floor of a kid's tea party is unfortunate for an oriental. But the glaring conceptual rift between her messy parquet floor and the Land of the Pharaoh's hype that surrounds it - "may contain magic" ; that is the responsibility of Molton Brown, London based peddlers of soft soap.

10th September, 2019

Pleasures for Men by Estée Lauder

Lauder closed brackets on the nineties with this watery bubblegum for himbo's; a rehash of their Aramis pong that launched a thousand aquatics - New West for Him.

All of which goes to show that once Pierre Bourdon had nailed it with Cool Water everything else was just trimming the sails.


Decant swap
06th September, 2019

Royal Copenhagen by Royal Copenhagen

Sandalwood joss stick meets budget fougère. Not bad, but still a waste of good Mysore.


Vintage carded sample
02nd September, 2019

L'Homme by Yves Saint Laurent

L'Homme is an early example of what could be called the Sauvage style - aka Spiky Woods, an aggressive concoction of cheap aroma chemicals designed - like a fist to the nose - for maximum impact; or projection, penetration, invasion of personal space; call it what you will.

L'Homme is perhaps one of the better ones, although that's not saying much; but it does show how little the genre has changed in more than a decade - except maybe to get louder.

And if this style is derived from the sublime Cool Water, it could be a case of the Aquatic phenomenon repeating itself; an early masterpiece followed by multiple copies with nothing more to say. Not that this is a masterpiece.

From Cool Water to l'Homme to Sauvage, I dread to think what will come next.

31st August, 2019

Sublime by Jean Patou

It has been difficult to pin down the green fruity accord that Sublime opens with, but Pineapple Broom is the nearest I've got; Genêt in French, Cytissus battandieri in gardening speak.

After the broom and citrus fly off you get a thick, orange flower and ylang oriental where bitter notes give some interest to the bland powdery sweetness.

It's like a shy cousin of Giorgio who came to the party way too late - in 1992, just as everyone was going aquatic. She's nice enough in her own way, but sublime she ain't.


Boxed miniature EdP
30th August, 2019

Féminité du Bois by Serge Lutens

A feminine woody, not a woody feminine.

What Roudnitska might have done with Femme, had he converted to minimalism.

***** Shiseido
**** Serge Lutens
29th August, 2019 (last edited: 20th September, 2019)

Bois d'Orange by Roger & Gallet

Nothing to detain you in this orange and chemical potboiler.

25th August, 2019

Sun by Jil Sander

Sun has one of those blink and you miss it intro’s. Marzipan, sticking plaster and rubbery notes whizz by in short order; and after that, it settles into the suncream telescoped by the name and the orange & white packaging. Finally it sinks into an airless dry blancmange that can get a bit tiresome. Spray it on cloth to spin out the head notes.


23rd August, 2019

Pleasures by Estée Lauder

Pleasures; a halfway house between the eighties fluorescent rose and peony, that most censorial of flowers. And underlying that, bitter brown woody burnt sugar.

As much the nineties in its own way as l'Eau d'Issey and the aquatics, but with more character.


Vintage carded sample
20th August, 2019

Cabotine by Grès

Syrupy floral with a ginger note and a rather brutal piquant overtone.

Cabotine wasn't much good, even in its original form, so how it can have survived to this day when other perfectly decent things have gone is a mystery, one that can only be explained by the "pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap" philosophy of art.


Vintage carded sample
20th August, 2019

Cool Water by Davidoff

Cool Water wasn’t the first aquatic on the scene but it was the first to make it big. And to find out why, we can compare it with Pierre Cardin’s Bleu Marine which came out a couple of years earlier.

Bleu Marine was basically a fougère touched up with salty-aquatic and tree fruit nuances. In 1986 the aquatic had hardly been born and this was all very new; little surprise then that the aquatic element in Bleu Marine was rather tentative.

Although Cool Water's message was very similar, it delivered it in a much bolder and legible way. Here the salty-aquatic and tree fruits are pushed right to the fore, and the fougère sits at the back. It's as though they are both saying the same thing but Blue Marine is talking out of the back of its head.

Cool Water was a winner; not because it was a novelty, but because it was on trend, daring, and spoke with perfect diction.

20th August, 2019

Monoï Eau des Vahinés by Yves Rocher

Tiaré flowers look like jasmin and smell like tuberose, and in Tahiti they're steeped in coconut oil to make Monoï, used as a natural remedy for sunburn. And that's what Eau des Vahinés smells like, sweet and creamy sunblock.

But there is a problem. It develops a metallic overtone, and what could have been a Polynesian paradise becomes candyfloss on the Costa Brava.

23rd July, 2019 (last edited: 06th August, 2019)

Rumeur (new) by Lanvin

The other day, this bloke comes up to me in the pub and says, y'know what...?

I heard... this nutter goes into a perfume shop and asks for the worst perfume in the shop.
Worst perfume in the shop? the woman sez, what d'you want that for?
See if my new gas mask is working 'e sez.

I don't believe it myself.
I mean, who'd wanna spend all that dosh on summat that smells like toilet cleaner?

18th July, 2019 (last edited: 02nd August, 2019)