Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Wild Gardener

Total Reviews: 315

Aqua Sextius by Jul et Mad

Smelling Aqua Sextius I couldn't help being reminded of 4160 Tuesdays' What I did on my Holidays, which came out the year before in 2013. Both of these mint compositions have seaside themes with sweet, woody and aquatic notes but they approach the subject from completely opposite directions.

AS paints a rather low key portrait of mint couched among the driftwood and dune grass, while WID is a much louder and vivacious radish and stick-of-rock* mint in blaring primary colours. WID has much more wind in its sails and it gives the sense of an outdoor type - whereas the rather introverted AS has no free space and feels more like an enclosed interior.

* A stick of rock is a foot long baton of mint flavoured candy, usually white with a pink coating and having the name of the resort where it is sold running through it in pink lettering; a tooth rotting marvel of confectionary engineering.

WID is thus more legible than AS - in the way that a neon sign is more legible than a crabbed handwritten note on a buff coloured page.

Technically, the faults of these two compositions tend in the same direction as their characters, AS being overly compressed and WID feeling like it will fly apart at any moment. I think the technical differences between them give us a basis on which to make an objective judgement about which one of them functions better as a perfume. WID clearly gives the better performance; it has a clearer, more well defined structure and a more individual character; WID expresses itself distinctly, AS tends to mumble.

Having said that, any decision about which of these you might choose to wear will, in the end, be a matter of personal taste. As they both more or less explicitly belong to the subgenre of Beach Fragrances, the one you choose (or not) may well depend on your choice of holiday destination: AS if you like the windswept expanses of Finisterre for example, WID if you prefer the candy floss and bright lights of Blackpool.

Bonnes vacances!

03rd August, 2018 (last edited: 08th August, 2018)

Eau Sauvage Extrême by Christian Dior

For those who prefer Glee Sings the Beatles to Rubber Soul.

29th July, 2018

Orange Blossom by Jo Malone

Orange blossom cologne with a water lily note.

28th July, 2018
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Grapefruit by Jo Malone

You wouldn't normally think of 'rounded' as an adjective to use about grapefruit but that's what Jo Malone has done here. She brought out the fruity aspect of the citrus, bolstered it with rosemary and then sweetened it with a jasminesque floral. This is all set on a fairly standard vetiver-chypre. The result is the puckering acidity of the grapefruit has been modulated into just a pleasing tartness, which when combined with the brown woody base makes for a nicely piquant A# variation on the usual lemon-vetiver chord. Good stuff, much better than the rather forbidding name would suggest.

26th July, 2018 (last edited: 01st August, 2018)

Tuscany / Etruscan by Aramis

Edgy anisic fougère on a mossy-woody and musky brown base.

These days probably a better choice than the now eviscerated Azzaro pour Homme.

23rd July, 2018

Piège à Garçons by Lulu Castagnette

This fruchouli nightmare is a boy trap? You'd have more luck with mosquito repellant.

08th July, 2018

Eau des Sens by Diptyque

A traditional orange flower cologne formula treated with wood and juniper to - presumably - make it feel modern. It doesn't. The result is heavy and - despite plenty of indole - unstructured, and there's a chemical feel hanging around as well.

05th July, 2018

Boss in Motion by Hugo Boss

Irritating fizzy orange.

29th June, 2018

Fou d'Absinthe by L'Artisan Parfumeur

In his painting L'Absinthe, Edgar Degas depicts the ruinous effects of absinthe in the way that a photojournalist might. It shows two bleary drunks, a man and a woman, decrepit and broken down from absinthe abuse. Because of the harm it evidently caused, the drink was banned for more than a century before finally being allowed back on sale again in 2005. This, in theory, would have allowed Olivia Giacobetti to experiment with the drug, as well as giving her the chance to smell it. Whatever the reality of this speculation, her Fou d'Absinthe (Absinthe Addict) is a sparkling 21st century interpretation of the drink, quite different from the hazy wastedness seen in the canvas.

The juice itself mimics the anisic taste of the sugared spirit which is distilled from artemisia, green anise, fennel and other herbs. (Pernod is a sanitised version produced without the psychoactive ingredient.) The odour is boozy and a little green but it's more than just a simple presentation of the smell. A gassy-hissy note speaks about intoxication and the booze, of course, denotes drunkenness. A sweet brownness in the depths gives us the oral pleasure of the taste. Not only does Giacobetti invoke the Green Fairy, as they used to affectionately call L'absinthe, she also illustrates its effect on the mind; portraying and interpreting, showing and telling, this is an ambitious work.

The perfume is based on an anisic fougère - anise being the core of the absinthe odour, and as anise is commonly used in fougère, Giacobetti took the obvious course of action and composed an anisic fougère with a twist. But in this case taking Route One is not without its problems. The elegant fougère has very different connotations to the bohemian (or disfunctional) lifestyle we associate with absinthe drinkers, and the image of Homme Raffiné associating with wretched addict is somewhat unusual to say the least.

There is a curious powdery note that comes out in wearing that doesn't relate to either of these characterisations. Powder is not a typical fougère note and it doesn't fit with any description of booze. I'm not sure it says anything about being off your head either.

Fou d'Absinthe is a kind of magic realist fantasy, a combination of venomous hiss and Azzaro pour Homme set on a brown woody vetiver and sweet gourmand base; and all of this overlooked by an unrelated powder - that whispers of the bordello perhaps?

Bizarre it may be, but FdA's dissolute gas light fougère has - like an addictive drug - a certain nagging appeal.

25th June, 2018 (last edited: 30th June, 2018)

Patou pour Homme (original) by Jean Patou

A sweet and rounded woody citrus; with aromatics, a bit of choppy herbaceous green and a slight gravelly undertone.

Along with Eau de Coty and Eau Neuve by Lubin (and others) this is what I call a Cologne de Toilette. The reason is obvious when you smell it - it's somewhere between a citrus splash and a full EdT.

The Cologne de Toilette is a narrow genre - based on lemon and a demerara-sweet vetiver - so you like one of them you'll probably like them all. Patou pour Homme's speciality is to land, with the haste of an Eau de Cologne, on a sweet floral accord that's quiet as a whisper.

This old version was good, albeit a poor performer (I got through an entire 10ml miniature in a day!) but never-the-less, don't be fooled into buying the Heritage Collection, it's rubbish.


25th June, 2018 (last edited: 27th June, 2018)

Aqua Kenzo pour Homme by Kenzo

Very sweet fruity aquatic with fake woods and loads of ambroxan white noise.

Like a feminine version of Kenzo World.


23rd June, 2018

Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior

Like the music composer Rimsky-korsakof, Edmond Roudnitska was a naturally gifted autodidact who delighted in subtle and complex forms. He may have been a great composer of symphonic perfumes but unlike Rimsky-korsakof, Roudnitska was not a prolific source of creative ideas. His complex and multi layered masterpiece of citrus - verbena - herbs - transparent floral and vetiver shares more than a little in the structure of citrus - verbena - white floral and chypre behind François Coty's cologne de toilette, Eau de Coty.

The main difference between them - and what marks Eau Sauvage out as belonging to a new generation of perfumes - is Roudnitska's bold use of hedione. This pale and translucent jasmin isolate displaces the lemon and sweet spicy focus of the Coty, it diffuses the white floral and in doing so opens up the profile like a paper fan.

Even if it is derivative of a relatively unknown perfume, Eau Sauvage is none the less a very subtle work. Today, it's difficult for us to comprehend just how new and different it must have felt when it first came out. Back in the 1960's, masculine perfumery was still "basically the barber's Eau de Cologne. There was the green, the blue and the amber. There was also Old Spice." This according to the president of the French Society of Perfumers who was quoted in a 2012 edition of Madame Figaro magazine. "With Eau Sauvage we discovered something quite different." Eau Sauvage represented a step change in perfumery, not only achieving a new level of subtlety but perfume in general was now able to express an ethereal quality that hadn't been possible before.

This translucent quality of Eau Sauvage can make it seem to disappear in short order. In fact it doesn't vanish but it does have a tendency to lie low. But what it lacks in odour yield is made up for with increased longevity - as compared to a citrus Eau de Cologne; an old French advert from the time reads 'Méfiez-vous de l'eau qui dort' - Beware of the water that sleeps. Sleeping water - a canny image for the pale and elusive Eau Sauvage.

Back in the sixties there was less competition in the market place and a masculine perfume could be somewhat diffident about its appeal, in fact anything louder than a whiff of Gauloises might have been thought unbearably vulgar. Eau Sauvage certainly didn't suffer for being discrete, it was a stand out success and nothing came close to matching its popularity.

Not only was Eau Sauvage a commercial success, it was - and still is - critically acclaimed as a masterpiece. In the book 111 Perfumes to Smell before you Die (Les cent onze parfums qu'il faut sentir avant de mourir) the editors of French parfumista magazine Nez selected what they consider to be the most notable perfumes of the modern era. Eau Sauvage is one of only sixteen masculines to make it into the book; it is the only one they describe as a work of art.

21st June, 2018

Dunhill Black by Dunhill

A very synthetic, green blue-grey (not black), woody-amber aromatic.

It could serve as a garage air freshener to hide the smell of oily rag, but quite honestly I'd rather smell the oily rag.

13th June, 2018
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L'Essence de Cerruti by Cerruti

A liquid fougère of sweet powdery spearmint with accents of tree fruits and berries.

Low key but decent. For those times when you want something easy in the background and nothing more.

08th June, 2018

L'Eau par Kenzo pour Homme by Kenzo

Sweet aquatic fougère with spearmint.

07th June, 2018 (last edited: 08th June, 2018)

Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune by Guerlain

A re-run of What About Adam's brilliant shimmering overture of blackcurrant bud and grapefruit, this time extended with a little more fruitiness and some patchouli.

It's surely derivative, but thats not the problem here. Pamplelune is spoiled by a strong chemical sillage thats probably part of a synthetic cassis accord used to replace the mega pricey real stuff. This is a shame because it negates the good work done on the rest of the profile where the sweet, the acidulous tangy and the dark woody patchouli are brought into a fine and delicate balance. No matter how good the rest of it smells, an insistent chemical whiff spoils everything.

The bottom line is that Pamplelune isn't different enough from What About Adam to be thought an original work, and it lacks the material quality to pass as a substitute.

06th June, 2018

Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger

This bitter chemical soup of purple fruit, melon and black tea may - in theory - have been the ideal riposte to CK One but in practice it comes across as sterile and unfriendly.

Not as original as the Calvin Klein, nor as well made, Tommy Girl looks to have set perfumery on a rather dubious path - towards synthetic fakery on the one hand and mawkish syrup on the other.

02nd June, 2018 (last edited: 12th August, 2018)

Chevalier d'Orsay by D'Orsay

Vintage Chevalier and his son - the reformulated version - are like two rooms in the same house. They both have the same citrus, aromatics and woody shape, but the decor in each one is different.

The old Chevalier's taste is traditional, with dark wooden metre-high panelling round the base and a muted, old fashioned, nicotine stained colour on the walls. By contrast the young Chevalier is much more in line with modern tastes. Admittedly, there is a heavy bergamot tinge to the citrus, but gone is the brown wood panelling, and the colours are generally brighter with fizzy powdery highlights which loosely suggest reflections of glass and chrome. The colour scheme is still the same, yellow, aromatic blues and brown, but the brown in the base is now pale, a creamy woody coumarin and musk.

Although the younger, being brighter and more modern is more engaging, they both suffer from the same structural problems. Excessive sourness in the citrus. A vagueness in the aromatic heart accord, which lacks definition and exacerbates the third fault of the Chevaliers, poor longevity. The odour yield drops to little more than a skin scent in the first half hour or so.

Of the two, the younger Chevalier is better. Not only because it doesn't feel as queasy-sour as the elder does, but because it has better complexity (although this may in part be due to degradation of the old juice). The younger is in turn sharper sour, and it shares - in common with the vintage version - the same synthetic feel and lack of clarity in the aromatics.

If you want to smell this type of citrus-aromatic-woody hybrid in good form check out either of the versions of Monsieur Balmain - which are infinitely better than these two.

Chevalier the Elder */*
Young Chevalier **

31st May, 2018 (last edited: 09th June, 2018)

Colonia Intensa by Acqua di Parma

The citrus leather and fruity myrtle accords that Intensa opens with are actually not the theme of the perfume, they're just the introduction. Emergent muguet and spice notes develop them into a twangy fruity accord with an almost disinfectant edge. The fruity and aromatic notes on their own also make a heavier boozy-fruity current that sits underneath the twang, and below the booze is the base - a leather and woody affair.

Intensa follows the citrus - fougère - chypre pattern established by Germain Cellier with the original Monsieur Balmain, and so the evolution from citrus to hybrid fougère is nothing new. Any construction this ambitious runs the risk of collapsing into a mess, and it's the fruity-spicy-muguet twang, as well as the leather, that keeps the show structured and on the road.

The same twangy edginess could however, prove a bit outré for the kind of upmarket client that Acqua di Parma wants to attract, and for a house like this that could have been quite a risk.

Despite that however, this is a sophisticated work - without a doubt. Even at its most edgy no one would mistake Intensa for a Gorilla, say, but it still might crossover to the more conservative niche lover.

Good work from LVMH. With hindsight, it's easy to see why they flankered it with oud - the fit is natural.

31st May, 2018 (last edited: 07th June, 2018)

Armani by Giorgio Armani

As the old saying goes,there's nothing new under the sun. Such was the case with Armani's first fragrance, a creamy aldehydic rose bouquet; pretty much No.22 all over again, but sweeter and lacking that certain magic touch.

27th May, 2018

Live Irrésistible by Givenchy

The fruity floral subject matter of Live Irrésistible and its inevitably synthetic treatment didn't hold out much hope when it came to cutting open the one-shot plastic sleeve and dabbing on the nuclear juice.

What came out on a harsh and powerful skeleton of musks and ambroxan is a fruitiness made of pear and raspberry with a dark blackcurrant edge. The centre is a floral accord of rose and peony with an iris backing, and there's a praline undercurrent. So far this would be just one more anodyne fruity floral but the EdT version has a trick up its sleeve, a whip crack of pink pepper that gives definition to the top and a hard leathery feel lower down.

Broadly speaking it smells like Kenzo World with a memory; with the edges ground off and the gaps filled in.

Givenchy describe this fruity floral as 'croquant et acidulé' which is rather more accurate than the prim English translation 'sparkling and juicy.' I would simply follow the French and call it acid and crackly - like scrunching up thick cellophane.

And it's syrupy, and very synthetic, but despite everything not offensive. The acidity of the fruity side and the pink pepper do make it feel quite aggressive but this is more or less tamed by the rest of the composition - which is syrupy but not too sweet, and with a woody dry element which helps to keep things in check. It all adds up to a very dynamic composition that's angular and contrasty - like a chaotic jazz piece by the wild sax player John Zorn - but, like his ensemble, everything still holds together.

With the absurdly named Live Irrésistible, Dominique Ropion has delivered what LVMH required - and some. He's turned out no masterpiece, at the end of the day it's just an ambroxan fruity floral, but considering the constraints - maximum volume from minimal budget and nary a natural in sight - Ropion has done an admirable job. It's easy to see why Frédéric Malle is such a fan of his work.

This may be a fruity floral but its got one hell of a bad attitude.

26th May, 2018

Le Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier

Does nobody else get shaving foam, herbs and mustiness?

20th May, 2018

Fan Your Flames by Nishane

Sweet boozy coconut with a fresh, penetrating and minty-like overtone. With rolling baccy and an undertone of wood.

A simple and undemanding thing, and not bad, it seems to be designed for layering over your suntan oil before hitting the beach bar; but, I would imagine, completely unwearable the rest of the year.

It's also a blag of What I did on my Holidays.

18th May, 2018

Raffinée by Dana

Lumbering Fracas.

(Eau de Parfum Houbigant)

13th May, 2018

Monsieur Balmain (original) by Pierre Balmain

Germain Cellier's Monsieur Balmain is a classical multifaceted creation that starts with a dry woody citrus - ginger, that leads into a refined aromatic heart, which is layered on a woody leather chypre. It's pretty much Edmond Roudnitska's rather dour Moustache for Rochas cooked sunny side up, but this is much better because you effectively get three themes in one profile. Now pretty dated, the rationale for reformulating it is clear. Still, good work from one of the all time greats.

07th May, 2018

Red Door Aura by Elizabeth Arden

Mostly grating orange flower and an interesting iris accord that starts as raspberry syrup and slowly migrates to violet. The combination of snarl and meow is cool, but RDA's prickly Paris rose doesn't reach its full potential, there could have been more. The loud opening gambit grabs your attention all right but there's little development after that, just a slow drying down onto a plain musky base of dubious quality.

An atypical fruity floral that contains the germ of a good idea but which is rather let down by it's front loaded structure.

05th May, 2018

Sultan Vetiver by Nishane

A frozen jangling mess of tarragon and maybe caraway, sweet powder and pink pepper that all but drowns out the liverish vetiver and cardboard in the base. It's like some kind of nauseating oversweet sinus spray.

03rd May, 2018

Salvador Dali pour Homme by Salvador Dali

Without pretending to know what happened to Salvador Dali pour Homme, I can report that the bottle, sold to me without a box in an Eastern quarter of Paris is only two thirds of the scent that comes from a vintage miniature which still has a price label on the back reading 80 French Francs. Where the bottle has all the stankiness and a blue aromatic accord, the much older vintage sample has that - as well as a sharp citrus head which should, by rights, be less evident than in a genuine new example. Somebody has evidently reformulated whatever went into the bottle.

While the bottle version smells more integrated, it is only because it lacks the citrus head accord. By contrast the original and genuine sample smells more like a complete profile, but it's cruder. The citrus head completes the overall picture but its quality doesn't do justice the rest of the composition - which reads as a powerful aromatic stinker moderated by a sharp citrus accord that unsympathetically cuts across it. The result is they largely cancel each other out and the grandiosity is lost.


And the conclusion I personally draw from this?

Caveat emptor.
29th April, 2018 (last edited: 15th December, 2018)

Carrington by Charles of the Ritz

Ten years after the first ever youth masculine took the seventies by storm, TV soap spin-off Carrington took Brut for Men's sweet anisic and oriental fougère, cheapened it, and added plenty of citrus and woods. No longer the chubby and sweet Brut for boys, this new Brut for grown ups has had it's soft pink marshmallow core battened round by hard and flat angular notes. It's like that fat kid in flares who's just discovered that by putting on a sharp suit he can make Loads-a-Money!
25th April, 2018

Eau des Baux by L'Occitane

The best thing about Eau des Baux is the texture of the two chords - a rubbery squashy marshmallow and an incense dotted cypress.

The contrast between them gives the perfume an unusually raw feel, but because these two chords are so different they lack any common ground and they don't interact. As a consequence the structure lacks internal harmonics, and because the profile doesn't develop much the simple contrast gets a bit tedious.

It smells a bit like peppered marshmallows, a fine dessert perhaps but not a five hour banquet.

19th April, 2018