Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Wild Gardener

Total Reviews: 310

Close Up by Olfactive Studio

Exquisite gonzoid mash up of sour cherry, bitter black note and beige tobacco - biscuit. Driven by a power pack of ambroxan, like Kenzo World, Close Up's manga sensibility of Krazy Kolor hair, black leather jacket and cyberpunk boots should win it many friends in low places.

20th March, 2018 (last edited: 29th March, 2018)

Hypnotic Poison Eau de Toilette by Christian Dior

A sweet and chewy balsamic version which is still recognisable by the distinctive top note, but here - with the brilliant audacity of the original toned down - Hypnotic becomes less Poison and more of a gourmand 'sent bon.' Some will no doubt think that's a good thing...

13th March, 2018 (last edited: 27th March, 2018)

Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel

"An affront of fake fruit and brain-eroding chemicals."

"My dog looks severely unimpressed."
Wise counsel from an animal whose nose is so much more sophisticated than the basic model we humans have.

The EdT "smells a bit like an ashtray" and the body lotion even more so.

It's not just that I have a bad sample of the EdP then...

05th March, 2018
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Y by Yves Saint Laurent

It's impossible to get beyond Luca Turin's description of Y as stockings swishing together...

With an uptight feel like green nylons, this vintage old timer comes across as rather haughty at first - not exactly a Blue Stocking but a slightly less conventional green one; it's still someone you might suspect of having control issues though... Gradually, the frigid green floral does let go a bit and a warm russet chypre comes through.

Jean Amic's Y is one of the best green fragrances ever. It completely lacks the kind of synthetic harshness that often spoils the genre. The keynote green effect lasts much longer on the back of the hand than it does on the body, and as with many classic chypres, Y can be worn unisex.


17th February, 2018 (last edited: 28th February, 2018)

Clair de Musc by Serge Lutens

A pretty floral accord and a big bunch of laundry musks.
Better than White Musk by the Body Shop, but at more than twice the price it ought to be. Still unpleasantly chemical though.

10th February, 2018

Calandre by Paco Rabanne

Pale creamy pink flowers on a discrete dark chypre, a texture like varnished wood with a light dusting of powder, a little pollen, a total absence of sweetness ; this minimalist forest green floral is a late sixties essay of female power. A formal scent, it seems to demand sharp tailoring and to have a special affinity for the scratchy old fashioned worsteds of its era. Anyone who smells their office manager wearing this should be in no doubt that she means business.

06th February, 2018

Queen of Hearts by Queen Latifah

Jam rolypoly oriental. Smells like budget Jeux de peau with more red fruits and more razzamatazz.

29th December, 2017 (last edited: 09th February, 2018)

Activist by Body Shop

Cheap, sweet and with monster duration. It actually gets better with time - if you can put up with smelling like apple pie that is.

Activist is about as radical as voting Liberal Democrat, whereas Caron's L'Anarchiste - a sort of spicy Bond villain Jaws version is more like the real deal.

28th December, 2017 (last edited: 05th January, 2018)

Youth Dew by Estée Lauder

I look forward to winter, not for the rain and the cold and the miserably cut off days, but for the chance to dig down to the bottom of my wardrobe and bring out some thick, resinous, spicy oriental; a rich, full bodied composition that would be too heavy and stifling in the heat of July but makes an ideal comfort blanket in January. And among them, one of the stand outs must be Youth-Dew.

It's an amber composite of pale sweet powder, sour-dry orangey resins, and cinnamon. At first there is a nuance of white floral, but that soon fades and incense comes through to back up a cold black spice that adds bite to the cinnamon. Later, a peculiar waxy note emerges, resembling the one that can be found in some 1920's aldehydics - which may show that Lauder haven't messed with the original formula too much. Finally a white musk down at the bottom suggests they may have tweaked it after all...

It's a bit pointless to speak of a traditional head and base structure to Youth-Dew, there isn't much to separate one from the other, it's mostly one long flow of balsamics, powder and spice, and what makes this stolid profile a success is the contrast set up by the two opposing chords of sweet powder and dry resin. They create an internal tension which is then supported by a secondary contrast between the sweet cinnamon and the cold black spice & incense. This allows Youth-Dew to continue in the same vein for hours without becoming dull or boring; it all depends on striking - and then maintaining - the right balance, and perfumer Josephine Catapano has got it spot on in this, her chef d'oeuvre.

This sub-genre of oriental - the spicy resinous amber, first appeared in the guise of Tabu by Dana. Now that a decent formulation of Tabu is a collectors item, it's fair to say that Youth-Dew has become the de-facto grandmother of the lineage. There are two reasons why Youth-Dew has acceded to this status: firstly, Estée Lauder still produce a good formulation of Youth-Dew, and it's available everywhere, and the second reason is that the perfume has benefitted from the way our olfactory tastes have changed since it was released in 1953. Today, it feels not so much like an antiquated feminine but more like a gender-neutral spicy oriental in the manner of Serge Lutens' Arabie or the resinous balsamics of Comme des Garçons Parfum. The similarity between Y-D and these two is palpable.

Because of its age (sixty four this year) Youth-Dew may not be so popular any more - it's not on the cutting edge of fashion after all, but this sweet and comfy feelgood fume could still be worn by anyone looking for an alternative to the Shalimar style oriental.

Youth-Dew the veritable old timer is like a camel coat - a timeless classic. It deserves to be known better.

21st December, 2017

Elements by Hugo Boss

The elements of this pinched woody masculine are clearly féminité and bois.

The effect is like a watercolour sketch of Notre Dame's plum coloured rose window using pigments mixed with battery acid.

23rd November, 2017

Midnight Poison by Christian Dior

Gingerbread, red berries, 'rose', incense, patchouli; retelling of Poison myth, very synthetic. Radiates like Russian nuclear plant. Suggest to avoid but has been discontinued, unlike nuclear plant.

22nd November, 2017

KL Homme by Lagerfeld

Sweet and sour geranium rosewood and orange balsam. Stifling and monotonous. */*
06th November, 2017 (last edited: 13th November, 2017)

Tweed by Fine Fragrances & Cosmetics

Lenthéric : Prim aldehydic muguet-rosy green chypre.

06th November, 2017
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Rush for Men by Gucci

Generic sweet heliotrope style oriental; in the manner of Kenzo Amour but lighter and paler, and here with a slight pique of incense.

Nice, but not completely inoffensive - it gives off chemical whiffs from time to time, especially at the beginning.

Generally pleasant, but bland, and compromised.

31st October, 2017

Carven Homme by Carven

A hack version of the sour lavender and amber of Pour un Homme de Caron as seen through the distorting lens of Envy for Men. It lacks both complexity and material quality and later it turns stagnant. (It's a traded bottle with no box, who knows where it's been these last nineteen years?)

Get the Caron if you want fine tradition or try to find the Gucci if you're a modernist.

25th October, 2017 (last edited: 04th March, 2018)

Tiffany & Co by Tiffany

'Precious made pure' goes the blurb.

There's nothing at all precious about Tiffany & Co but it's pure alright, pure chemical.

This fruity cardboard 'peony' is bad enough on skin but if you really are a sucker for punishment try it on a smelling strip...

21st October, 2017 (last edited: 27th October, 2017)

Muguet des Bois by Coty

Regarding my rather hasty question about Coty's Eau de Muguet, 'if neither Coty nor Roudnitska could crack muguet then who will?', the answer is Henri Robert, who created this, one of the few perfumes Jean-Claude Ellena keeps for reference in his private collection.

Muguet des Bois is, in its own small way a chef d'œuvre. A true rendition of Lily of the Valley but not a dry depiction, there is an expressive delicacy about it that raises a rather spare green floral to the level of poetry.

Despite being an old fashioned soliflore, it can still be worn today (by afficionado's at least) in the same retro fashion that you might wear CK One.

(This is not, you understand, the thing for sale in the adverts but a proper vintage splash bottle.)

20th October, 2017 (last edited: 21st October, 2017)

Silences by Jacomo

This evergreen chypre adds a great frisson to formal attire; a man's formal attire that is...

And because this style is so completely out of date, who will know if you dare to wear Silences that you're actually 'breaking the rules'?

20th October, 2017

Play Intense by Givenchy

Synthetic - but not excessively so; the unusual quality of PI comes from its choice of notes : red fruits, mandarin orange, powdery brown gourmand (carob flour), pink pepper and a blue steel 'lavender'; set on a conventional oriental base.

Stylistically it's a strange hybrid of gourmand, oriental, and fururist metal fougère. These are deployed in the symphonic-synthetic manner of 24, Faubourg; many narrow-range synthetics packed into a seamless composition. But the difference with PI is that its not at all concerned with the classical blandishments of Faubourg, on the contrary, it employs this synthetic style to make an appropriately avant-garde statement. With its metal skeleton, plastic skin and frizzy brown hair, PI would be ideal scent material for a Bladerunner replicant.

But, despite its artificial quality, by sheer will power it seems, this odd creature overcomes its shortcomings (linear, dominated by synthetics, designed by committee) and flaunts them as though they were assets.

On the other hand, like a replicant, PI seems to adapt to its environment and slowly evolves a more humane side as the natural-feeling oriental base finally asserts itself. The naturality of the base serves to underline just how un-natural the rest of the profile really is.

Instead of trying to disguise its synthetic nature, PI demonstrates that this quality is deliberate. Its artificiality is an artifice; something to be celebrated, not excused.

Unlike Faubourg, PI's style is absolutely in keeping with its substance and this coherence is, in the final reckoning, what makes Play Intense a success.

18th October, 2017 (last edited: 19th October, 2017)

Pour Lui by Lubin

Poor citrus aromatic woody thing that was rightly consigned to the dustbin of history.

17th October, 2017 (last edited: 12th September, 2018)

Eau de Cologne d'Orsay by D'Orsay

A modest citrus cologne that murmurs sugar and spicy sweet nothings, i.e. a cologne / eau de toilette in the vein of François Coty's Eau de Coty.

Whether this bottle (poss. 1970's) smells like the original version from 1910 or 1912 is one question; but whether Coty invented this style - the cologne de toilette - or whether his 1920 release was a (much improved) copy of someone else's idea is another, bigger and more important question. One best left to a real perfume expert, my experience not being up to it, evidently... Je m'excuse.

17th October, 2017

Insensé by Givenchy

Insensé appears to have a distant relation to Cool Water: the salty undertone, the bitter fruity direction, the flat topography; but there's even more going on here which is akin to another style of perfumery. Along with Kouros and Jules, Insensé is one of a small group of musky transparent skin scents for men who want to smell good but don't necessarily want to be outed as Perfume Lovers.

Insensé is a bitter, plasticky white floral; unsweet, astringent. Its texture is shiny-smooth, like a milky white glaze on a rough earthenware pot.

Like many masculines Insensé isn't that complex, there's not much of an overt theme here. It's rather elusive, pale and shy - but somehow not introverted. There's a discrete muscularity articulated by a peppery green resin note that pushes through the musks and the flowers at the core, and this in turn is nuanced by woods and powder that allow the base to grow a little sweeter.

And that's it. Pale and bland, and piquant. Without a clear direction it can get a little monotonous. I suppose if you like Brian Eno's Music for Airports you may go for this, but if you prefer Another Green World you may find Insensé a bit boring.

10th October, 2017 (last edited: 12th October, 2017)

Fleur de Rocaille by Caron

Why Caron should have felt the need to put out a modern style bitter syrup floral is understandable in terms of covering all the commercial bases - even if their offering mainly stands out from the rest by the way it smells so horrible and synthetic.

But why they should have named it Fleur de Rocaille when they already had a (hopelessly out of date) wholewheat cake and rose affair called Fleurs de Rocaille is deeply baffling.

10th October, 2017

Chanel Pour Monsieur by Chanel

There's a crisp precision to Pour Monsieur's opening that makes me wish it would stay frozen in time. If Henri Robert had served up just this one straight accord it could have been a work of genius, but as it stands the crisp mathematical algorithm of citrus and moss soon loses its éclat to a sweet and rather chewy chypre base.

The chypre is perfectly good; once it's developed there's nothing wrong with it but as the yellow and black butterfly mutates back into fat green caterpillar there are some difficult moments along the way.

What began with the potential to be a brilliant eau de cologne in the end turns out to be a compromised but still elegant aromatic chypre.

04th October, 2017 (last edited: 12th October, 2017)

Pour Un Homme by Caron

Metallic rosemary-lavender and sweet vanillic sandal. Pour un Homme is barely more than that. Two notes, carefully balanced, unfurling in a slow and steady evolution that increasingly blends warm with cool, chewy with hard textures, beige with blue.

Pour un Homme is for an old fashioned kind of guy. One who is modest and believes that discretion is the better part of valour... and so it should come as no surprise to find that this quiet and simple composition were in danger of being misunderstood in these days of high contrast formulae which broadcast at top volume. To underestimate this scent - just because it doesn't grab you by the nose - would be a mistake. It takes time and effort to get to know this one, (it took me quite a while to come round to it) but in the end the effort pays off.

Until Ernest Daltroff had the idea of pairing lavender with vanilla to create a masculine no one had done anything like it before. Despite the claims made for Jicky (which was originally a feminine) and some of the more dandified eaux de colognes, Pour un Homme was the first Eau de Toilette made solely for men.

For Daltroff this was a brave thing to do, some may even have thought it foolhardy, and for his business it was a gamble - a risky venture into the unknown. Men were not used to anything more than a brisk splash at shaving time which quickly faded away. For perfumers the problem was to avoid making anything for men that smelled (or lasted) like their wife's perfume. Anything effeminate which could pose a threat to a man's sense of his masculinity was to be avoided like the plague.

Anything flowery or sweet must, you would have thought, be rejected by the conservative taste of the male, and that's what makes the uptake of Caron's groundbreaking sweet lavender so remarkable. It was a huge success despite being a masculine that hugged so closely to the feminine codes. Or perhaps (in an era when most men wouldn't have been seen dead at a perfume counter) Pour un Homme was a winner precisely because it appealed to the wives, mothers and girlfriends who actually bought the stuff for their men.

Whatever the reasons behind its popularity, the secret of PuH's success with men surely lies in the subtle blend of traditional and more unusual modern odours. Lavender has longstanding associations with washing and this was the ideal candidate for introducing a perfume product into a man's daily grooming ritual - shaving, the only possible time when he could be induced to put on scent. The strategy, therefore, would be to replace the customary aftershave splash and friction with the new toilet water. To make it more acceptable to the recipient of this new fangled product, PuH opens with a sour vinegary note which is soon joined by the metallic tang of rosemary. Sour sweat and the sting of the razor give an edge to the lavender that would no doubt have been felt as reassuringly masculine by many men; not at all soft or effeminate, quite unlike the rounded pot pourri aroma of the linen closet. So far so good...

And then there is the vanilla base accord, backed up by sandalwood and amber. Sweet, yes, but who could possibly feel emasculated by the smell of toffee, cocoa and home baking; possibly just a slight regression to the oral stage of childhood dependency...? But there are no feminine flowers to scare off the wary male, just a slow evolution of subtly mingling contrasts and harmonies that he could ignore if necessary or enjoy if he chose.

PuH couldn't afford to be brash and in-yer-face like todays 'look at me' selfie style formulae. Back in 1934 Caron couldn't have been sure that men would take to wearing perfume of any kind; they had to tread carefully. This meant they had to offer something that was not too complex or difficult, something built around familiar notes, something masculine yet pleasing to women, something easy to wear yet still a little sophisticated. Something like Pour un Homme.

Even though it may feel tame by todays standards, launching this very subtle and captivating "special creation" for a man was a bold move. Caron took a chance, jumped into unknown territory and their gamble paid off. PuH became a triumphant best seller, and the house's biggest commercial success.

PuH was equally important for the wider world of perfume. It became the foundation for a whole new genre (or should that be gender?) of perfume, the one which has grown into what we now know as the masculine side of the aisle.

Pour un Homme de Caron; two chords that changed the face of perfume, two chords and a visionary nose.

26th September, 2017 (last edited: 27th September, 2017)

Safari for Men by Ralph Lauren

Apple banana citrus, wood, and a green note form a crude and approximate version of PINEAPPLE; so that's Aventus right? Then there's a GINGER note that drags it towards Envy for Men territory, and the fresh aldehydic FOUGÈRE thing going on reminds me of the cool wind blowing through Tsar. In fact there's everything but the kitchen sink thrown into this one. Later, as it settles down it takes on a bit of apple pie.

In the end Safari fm is just too SWEET, and corny Seventies style for my taste.

24th September, 2017 (last edited: 27th September, 2017)

Eau de Muguet by Coty

Coty was a perfumer of great genius. He single handedly created the chypre and amassed a huge fortune from his capacity for creative vision and hard work, but he had blind spots. He once said when Jacques Guerlain does vanilla he comes up with Shalimar, but when I do it all I get is crème anglaise, custard.

He had the same problem with Lily of the Valley. Perhaps it was because he grew up in the era of naturalistic bouquets - perfumes that did little more than try to replicate the scent of real flowers - in a romantic way perhaps - but in a framework that was fixated on realism; and without modern synthetic materials that was the most they could aspire to. Coty's first masterpiece, the delicately beautiful La Rose Jacqueminot was naturalistic. It had many nuanced facets but never strayed far from being a pink rose.

And Eau de Muguet? It's not good. It has shiny realistic Lily of the Valley leaves, and the tender pale rosy bells leeching their hearts into the mix, but it's incredibly crude. It doesn't achieve anything more than a washed out lemony and feeble pink rosiness with a slightly woody and rubbery undertone, a highly approximate likeness to the real thing. Where his best perfumes are subtle portraits, Eau de Muguet is but an illustration.

Coty lacked the molecules that modern perfumers use to recreate unextractable flowers like muguet; this along with his incapacity to finesse the problem into the abstract (he was after all a pre-modernist) and his enormously determined egotism, left Coty with no other recourse than to compose a functional, work-a-day, and utterly uninspired rendition of muguet.

It would not be until Edmond Roudnitska came up with Diorissimo in 1956 that a decent muguet would be achieved, and even then it wasn't a soliflor but a jasmin bolstered interpretation of the flower, not a direct portrayal. For that we have to return to the incomparable delights of mother nature.

If neither Coty nor Roudnitska could crack muguet, who will? and who really wants to any more?

18th September, 2017 (last edited: 18th December, 2018)

Pi by Givenchy

In part this is an orange version of Le Mâle. (Actually it's closer to Fleur du Mâle even though this came first.)

Pine and tarragon attempt to lift the heavy, sickly balsamic sweetness but as these lighter notes fade it sinks more and more into an orangey vanillic blob.

Whenever I go into a service station toilet the smell of orange urinal screen reminds me of this. Pi's orange flower and honeyed balsamic elements - with their affinities to certain nether regions - would certainly make a good masking agent, and IF it were the case that Pi was a source of inspiration for the sanitiser smell this'd be a classic case of trickle down, from fine to functional, from Pi to pee.

However, all laughing and joking aside, this is so excessively 'nice' it's unpleasant, and without any redeeming edginess, it fails.

18th September, 2017 (last edited: 21st September, 2017)

Neon Graffiti by Jazmin Saraï

Based on a Déclaration style cardamom and a mineral - grapefruit Terre d'Hermès accord, Neon Graffiti takes the two Ellena styles and revs them up into incense and concrete overdrive.

To get inspiration for Neon Graffiti, Dana El Masri says she fed the drum and bass 'urban jungle' sound of Sunshowers by M.I.A into her synesthesic brain, and what came out the perfumery end was like she had sprayed a lime green and shit brown tag on the Osmothèque. Nice rebellion! Except almost nobody noticed. Perhaps it washed off overnight. El Masri qualifies as A Disrupter because she did this a good couple of years before Peau d'Ailleurs' more studied milkshake and concrete vision of Urban Alienation hit the streets, or rather hit the niche perfumery boutiques.

Once again perfumery is oddly out of synch with fine art. Street Art, (the art world's posh name for graffiti) was all the rage years ago and now it has properly returned to being seen as just vandalism, whereas decorated concrete seems to have only recently emerged as an edgy underground theme in the perfumosphere.

As well as the cold concrete backdrop of the Menardo & Starck, there's also an earthiness, a spicy warmth that's thrust to the fore of Neon Graffiti which gives it a more accessible feel. The warm end of the spectrum makes it more wearable, but not much so because it builds to an intensity that simply bulldozes any questions about 'plagiarism' or its 'heavy use of cardamom and incense' which threaten to unbalance the composition.

Neon Graffiti goes ahead and imposes its vision, regardless of accessibility, and it is one powerful vision. And then, with the final trick that El Masri gleaned from Ellena, it fades to next to nothing in no time.

Not exactly the Writing on the Wall, but this is evidently a woman to watch.

18th September, 2017

Jardin de Kérylos 16 by Parfumerie Generale

Fig with all the usual nuances : woody, green, milky, bitter sweet, juicy, but this isn't quite a rerun of Premier Figuier, it's more floral than that with a pink tinge from peach and a tuberose with a pronounced metallic edge. At heart it's still a fig though, and while it could work in the hot southern sun, up here in the north I tend to see fig as more room fragrance than fine perfume.

11th September, 2017 (last edited: 15th September, 2017)