Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Wild Gardener

Total Reviews: 315

Vetiver Hombre by Adolfo Dominguez

When vetiver already smells fabulous in a smokey-earthy, aromatic, rooty-anisic and green kind of way, why bother loading it up with all that sweet soapy and powdery-woody stuff?

02nd November, 2018 (last edited: 05th November, 2018)

Paris by Yves Saint Laurent

Paris is a reworking of an old early-modern trope of perfumery - the rose-violet, but in conception and form it's very much a perfume of the late twentieth century.

At the core of Paris is a version of Sophia Grojsman's Hug Me rose that performs some kind of molecular witchery with ionones, and in so doing it links up in several directions.

The soft pink and milky rose is set on a ground of mimosa-like pollen-covered lilies and a musky formica table top note which makes it close to Oscar for Men (2000) but the rest of the profile has a hard and dry quality which comes from the other, more conventional use of ionones, violet-iris. It gives Paris an edge, an unfeminine feel that isn't contradicted by the neutral muskiness of the base.

This epicene floral of soft pink rose and dry hard violets was something quite new. Paris gave a previously unheard of toughness to a traditionally feminine form, and it did this at a time when a generation of women musicians like Siouxie of The Banshees, Nina Hagen and Kim Wilde were creating names for themselves in the macho post-punk world of New Wave. Their style was a most unladylike image of black leather jacket and dyed spiky hair; traditional notions of femininity were being challenged, both in fashion and in perfume.

Paris wasn't just a hard nosed rerun of a traditional style floral but a modern new blend of feminine and masculine that had something apposite to say about the changing gender politics of its time. It was, possibly, the first feminist floral.

It's also very powerful and can get overwhelming if you overdo it.

24th October, 2018 (last edited: 13th December, 2018)

Hugo by Hugo Boss

Cool Water clone with added sugar.

24th October, 2018
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Gucci pour Homme by Gucci

With a slash of fruity lip gloss across its incense and papyrus, Gucci pour Homme feels like some trashy ikon by Andy Warhol - but this time done with infinite care.

A bizarre alignment of the sacred and the trite which, as it descends, eventually comes to land on a pale sweet powdery-woody base done in the style of Dior Homme (which actually came later). This makes for a disappointing conclusion to what is otherwise a bold work that hoiks incense out of the temple and into the 21st century.

Michel Almairac visited this theme again with Bentley for Men Absolute, which will have to serve as replacement for all those who can't get their hands on this scandalously deleted classic.

20th October, 2018 (last edited: 25th October, 2018)

Eau de Lit by Guerlain

Guerlain's contribution to cocooning - shutting out the world and snuggling up at home is a pong they call Eau de Lit, Water for the Bed.

Fair enough, some people may want to perfume their sheets - as well as themselves, but when it comes to dousing the boudoir with a Turkish Delight gourmand that's barely better than air freshener and costs 85€ a bottle, a more fitting name for the stuff might be Eau Délit, Crime Water.

Didn't anyone at LVMH see that one coming?

14th October, 2018

Adieu Sagesse (original) by Jean Patou

Adieu Sagesse is the black one in Patou's hair colour trio. It wraps a dark mix of blackcurrant, muguet and vetiver around the creamy aldehydic core the series is based on.

This basic core is most evident in the perfume for blondes, Amour Amour. It's also the most straightforward of the three, a nice polite soft pink floral with a touch of costus to give it an idea of hair. The other two perfumes in the series are developments of this with added extras bolted on.

Que sais-je? wraps it in a huge brown pelt that makes the brunette the most hair like.

This one, the black version, doesn't have either the simple prettiness of Amour Amour or the animalic power of Que sais-je? Its dark earthy-winey add-ons work at cross purposes to the pale creamy core and Adieu Sagesse doesn't quite pull off the air of mystery you would expect from a perfume for the raven haired.

09th October, 2018 (last edited: 21st December, 2018)

Que Sais-Je? (original) by Jean Patou

Peaches and cream aldehydic floral with a strawberry note and a lot of costus - which gives it a niff like unwashed hair. Que sais-je? is the brunette in a trio of hair colour perfumes released by Patou in 1925.

Alongside the smell of hair there's an even dirtier brown urge at work here, a bit like civet, woody teak and maybe some clary sage, which layers over the soft pink floral of Amour Amour - the one for blondes, and ramps it up into a wild animalic / floral combo. What's so brilliant about this is the way it operates both as a sweet pink floral and a dirty animalic without any seeming contradiction, or the kind of compromise that the third one in the trio Adieu Sagesse resulted in.

This may start out as a head of brown hair but by the end of the evening it's more like the skin of brown beast.

09th October, 2018

What Would Love Do? by Gorilla Perfume [Lush]

What would love do? Well, for half an hour it would entice you in with a good apple crumble and orange ginger syrup, and then for the next month or so it wouldn't stop banging on about patchouli and benjoin.

08th October, 2018

Ma Griffe (original) by Carven

The vintage is an aldehydic & smooth green woody chypre that - despite its hard and rather dour green-brown tonality has buoyancy in the head and a charming rose-jasmin muguet heart. Appearing just as Europe was getting back on its feet after the Second World War, Ma Griffe was (surprisingly to our noses) the first teenscent, one of many new shapes that filled the air with optimism and hope.

Without the prefabricated bases used in the old formula, modern versions of the juice are like bland green blobs, totally lacking in finesse. Get the vintage if you can - but don't expect to wear it much, it's from another era and smells like it. But if you do want to try it, any concentration works better on bare skin - like an old fashioned dabbing perfume.

04th October, 2018

Dangerously In Love by By Kilian

When I was a child I happened across a book called Russians as People. It was illustrated with black and white photos of happy peasants on tractors and muscular heroes of industry toiling away at blast furnaces and the like. Blatant Cold War propaganda in other words, designed to convince us Capitalist Running Dogs in the West that Khrushchev's nuclear armed Communist state was in reality benign and presented no threat.

Now, with this line of releases only sold in Russia, By Kilian have turned the tables and are trying to convince Russians that this rubbish cardboard rose is actually real perfume.

02nd October, 2018 (last edited: 13th November, 2018)

Zino Davidoff by Davidoff

A dry resinous amber with a herbal and rosewood twist.
Being quite conservative, as befits the oriental genre, it hasn't really dated that much.
If you tried Obsession for Men but found it a bit too soft this amber with backbone might be worth checking out.
(Vintage Aftershave)
02nd October, 2018

Eau de Cartier by Cartier

After heartily overdoing it and getting a disappointingly thick and airless result, my favoured way of wearing Eau de Cartier is now (v-e-r-y l-i-g-h-t-l-y) so all you get is an occasional tinkle of something peppery and violet, like wind chimes.* In this way the effect is adumbrated to the point where all but the highest notes merge into an almost unnoticed, ambient background.

(This intermittent tinkling effect strikes me as being not unlike Brian Eno's description of how, one time when he was recuperating in bed, his stereo was set so low he could barely hear some 18th century harp music he was playing, and being too weak to do anything about it he just had to put up with it being there - just on the edge of audibility. It was this experience that he cites (on the sleeve of Discrete Music) as an inspiration for his pioneering work in the field of ambient music.)

(*The first part of this review illustrates the trouble that can arise when you have already read about a perfume - before having had the chance to try it on - and when the reviewer's 'mot juste' hits the nail on the head (as it does in this case with Luca Turin's tinkling wind chimes** (Perfumes The A-Z Guide (2009),(to give it its full title, or just The Guide to parfumistas, surely)) their apposite imagery sticking in the mind and getting in the way of your own interpretation): ('a discrete noseworm of scratchy violet', for what it's worth).

(**Not a direct quote, by the way...)

25th September, 2018

Nobile by Gucci

Stonking great 80's fougère with the kind of sillage you can cut with a knife.

24th September, 2018
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Insensé Ultramarine by Givenchy

Insensé's peppery-musky formica floral drowned in salty chemical aquatics. The theory is sound because the original lends itself to this type of interpretation but in practice the aquatic chemical pong just ruins it.

That's one flanker down, just sixteen to go...

18th September, 2018

Eau de Shalimar by Guerlain

When compared to vintage Shalimar's home made pain d'épice this is nothing more than an industrial brioche, the sort of sweet, soft, vanillic white bread you find at the supermarket in a plastic bag.


15th September, 2018

Jicky Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

Putting on Jicky always feels like being mooned at by some smirking public school twerp, the mixture of dirty civet arse and smarmy sweet leer (and nothing in between) is both provocative and annoying.

The author of Jicky boasted that it's one of only two quality fougères (both by Guerlain) while all the rest were "only fit for truck drivers". While this isn't one of the best fougères in the world it does seem to think it is, there's a certain air of complacent superiority about its antique aroma.

As old as the Eiffel Tower, Jicky is a relic of a bygone age. It stands in relation to today's perfumery in the same way that M. Eiffel's novelty for the Paris Expo relates to the architecture of now.

Because Jicky's structure (like the tower) is heartless (according to Roja Dove) its form of soaring skeleton and broad sweet base seem a bit weird when compared to a traditional three tier pyramid. At the time, this was a radical departure from the norm, but unfortunately this kind of skeletal super structure, plus void, plus chewy amber base can also be found in some of the most lazily constructed masculines knocking around the bottom of the market.

Jicky not only doesn't have a normal structure, without being clad in today's de rigueur shiny exterior (acid fruity floral, orange syrupy spiky wood) it also seems by current standards rather gauche, and very old fashioned.

To be fair there's more to Jicky than that, it turns into one of the best cinnamon perfumes there is, the best part by far being the discrete, dusty, warm spicy drydown; but a tail end flourish doesn't justify the tedious dirty joke at the outset.

The biggest problem with Jicky isn't the intrusive scatology however, its the once revolutionary - and now rather suspect - empty heart, which has become tainted by its association with a boring expedient of bad perfumery.

13th September, 2018 (last edited: 15th October, 2018)

Comme des Garçons 2 Man by Comme des Garçons

Noticeably sweet, an ethereal, synthetic, powdery-woody profile based on the tension between sugared almonds and incense. Now that the novelty of this kind of see through composition has worn off it feels a bit ho hum. Slightly oversweet for my taste.

05th September, 2018

La Nuit by Paco Rabanne

A handsome big boned chypre you half expect to have long raven hair and fangs to go with her blood red satin gown. This is a gripping spectacle of gothic theatre, more sinister than the cold wind of Poison (also 1985), truly magnificent. Now where's that Temple of Love extended HQ remix?

04th September, 2018

Sunflowers by Elizabeth Arden

Sour, a sharp powdery yellow floral and hard woody varnish that - in these days of penetrating spiky woods - wouldn't be so out of place as a bizarre sallow masculine. Too cheap smelling to be serious though.

03rd September, 2018

Molinard Homme III by Molinard

An aquatic aromatic fougère that feels like a 1996 roundup of the mainstream masculine i.e. Azzaro pour Homme was great and then there was Cool Water. Give Molinard Homme the Third some orange syrup and a big dose of ambroxan and it would come bang up to date with the latest cliché.

30th August, 2018 (last edited: 02nd September, 2018)

Patchouli Intense by Molinard

Boring sweet patchouli and musk.

30th August, 2018

Vétiver (original) by Carven

If your're looking for a straight up vetiver better forget this one. It's likely to be too overdressed and too underpowered for what you want.

28th August, 2018

Blumarine by Blumarine

Woody citrus and synthetic floral that was probably rejected for furniture polish before being snapped up by Blumarine, Italian design and fashion house, and handbag maker.

27th August, 2018

Eau de Citron Noir by Hermès

For quite a while now Union Fragrance has had a perfume with a Marmite note in it, but its only now that Christine Nagel has come up with what the English would call a marmite perfume; like the salty yeast extract spread, you will either love it or hate it - there can be no inbetween with something like this.

Citron Noir is a highly stylised update of the lemon / vetiver version of the Eau de Cologne, which also draws heavily on the sensibility of Tommy Girl's bitter black tea and synthetic fruit. With an absolute bare minimum of sweetness, this raw and uncompromising scent comprises a pin sharp citrus with a tonic water fizz, set over a bitter, brown smoky, woody amber base.

Because the structure is nothing special the profile must rely on the detailing to carry it through, and it does. For such a minimalist composition the subtlety of the citrus accord - made of unusual naturals and (I am guessing) cutting edge isolates is surprising. The woody base cannot by its nature be so intricate but it is still no slouch. The overall effect; a crystalline, freeze dried woody cologne.

The stark power of CN is astonishing; acid citrus and woody amber - there can rarely have been a perfume this brutal.

Going against the trend for more sweetness which is now creeping into masculine frags, CN's audacity is laudable and Hermès should be congratulated for holding their nerve - and not their nose - with this new uber-sharp direction the Eaux are taking.

I suspect CN is going to be widely unpopular with the public, but highly praised by (some) afficionado's. Divisive as well as impressive; try it first.

25th August, 2018

Petit Guerlain (original) by Guerlain

Guerlain must have thought this was a great idea; get the little ones started on the creamy soap and baby powder of Eau de Senteur and when they grow up they'll graduate to ... Ivoire!
23rd August, 2018

Geranium Odorata by Diptyque

Genre : Modern floral fougère

Description : Starts off with the fruity side of iris while holding its dry powdery violets in reserve. Geranium comes through behind that with its characteristic green, minty and citrus rose. There is a brown woody undercurrent and a hard and dry edge at the top. As the iris/violets and geranium merge the profile loses a bit of character.

Image : The mixture of dry piquant powder with bitter violet accents, combined with the red fruity-rosy geranium is like a finely cut suit with floral waistcoat.

Material quality : Generally good but not perfect, some off notes in the opening phase.

Conclusion : Geranium Odorata is a tailored masculine floral which is not bad at it's dandified schtick but it lacks versatility.

Rating : Ok but the peppery floral gets a bit tedious.

22nd August, 2018

Cristobal pour Homme by Balenciaga

Muddled oriental fougère with a mentholated green accord a bit like sweet peppery spearmint.

Smells like a bad Calvin Klein or Tsar with a hangover.

21st August, 2018

Lolita Lempicka by Lolita Lempicka

As this is the 113th review of Lolita Lempicka I'm not going to run over its highs and lows, others have done that already.

There are now 46 flankers of the original juice, most of them housed in a bottle shaped like an apple, just like Poison. And it's this poisonous gourmand thing that makes LL so interesting. Back in the nineties perfume was not afraid to use a note like ivy in an oriental gourmand, such as you find in Pavarotti for Men (1994). But today, the 'eat me - don't eat' me paradox at the heart of LL has proved to be challenging for mass perfumery. In its day the difficult and contradictory gourmand message LL gave out didn't stop it from becoming a monster best seller. Since then however, perfumers seem to have forgotten that gourmands function best on the boundary where scent meets taste. Under pressure to make the genre more commercial the trend has been away from the inedible and towards the tasty. Perfume now tries to hook the consumer through her (and now increasingly) his, taste buds. At first it was candy floss but now it's bigger doses of better new molecules - cheap products of the much larger flavour industry. As a consequence, the gourmand has lost a lot of its uneasy, stomach churning, headache inducing power to fascinate - and repel at the same time. Somehow, a huge dollop of red fruity syrup with your patchouli seems easier for the human brain to figure out than the parma violets and licorice hidden in the dusty recesses of ivy growing on a wooden fence, such as we have here.

LL divides opinion. And that's a good thing in my book; it shows there is a vital creative spark at work. The mixture of edible and indigestible notes presents the kind of challenge that a piece of music does where the melody contains dissonant elements as well as harmonious ones. So when we review it today - in the age of the fruchouli jingle, what seems amazing about the dissonant Lolita Lempicka is just how successful it was.

19th August, 2018 (last edited: 20th August, 2018)

Bouton d'Or by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Sunflowers with three day stubble.

15th August, 2018

Pour Un Homme L'Eau by Caron

First the bad news. Instead of striking out in a new direction for their masculine range Caron have just launched their fourth flanker of Pour un Homme.

On the other hand, the good news: 1) it's better then the last two efforts and 2) composed by a new perfumer William Fraysse (no doubt the son of the previous incumbent).

The perfume itself is the old lavender and amber classic given a contemporary makeover. The lavender now has a fresh juicy twist with lime and a peppery aquatic and the amber has been paired with ambergris which - with its salty aquatic and fatty aspects cleverly ties in with the changes in the head. There is a geranium note in the middle that hints at fougère, but the most interesting part is the addition of an all new burnt caramellic, dusty-woody vetiver and sweet powdery base. This represents a departure from the old formula that works nicely. There's also woody amber in the dry down even if it is quite discrete - for once, but technically that also makes it a spiky wood...

With hindsight the effect is a bit predictable. L'Eau is Pour un Homme for the 21st century. It targets young men, fed up with lamentable teen frags who want something mature but not Fogeyish. It's like Caron are trying to position this as a entry point to a more sophisticated style of masculine. A weaner frag, if you like.

Another thing about l'Eau is it feels a bit overstated. Perhaps this is a consequence of the strain put on the structure as it's bent out of shape, or perhaps it's more to do with the expectations placed on the newbie, but it feels like a demonstration piece designed to showcase a rookie's talent.

But credit where it's due. The new base fits the profile nicely, showing that William Fraysse has learnt the structure inside out. This is no cut and paste job with a few novelties thrown in but a fully reworked composition that (with the caveat that it's been touched up with a grab bag of different motifs) doesn't offend the spirit of the original.

In the long term l'Eau may turn out to be just another flash in the pan flanker, but if it acts as a gateway to the original (which seems to be Caron's strategy) then so much the better.

In the short term however, its significance is more positive. With a new perfumer at the controls the worst of Caron's problems may be coming to an end. It's too early to say right now but l'Eau does give grounds for cautious optimism.

06th August, 2018 (last edited: 28th October, 2018)