Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Wild Gardener

Total Reviews: 315

La Dame Aux Camélias Cologne De Nuit by Jardins D'Ecrivains

This is the usual Jardins d'Ecrivains core of dusty orange flower backed up by an interesting demerara cake and joss sticks accord, all going head to head with a weird disinfectant tinged syrup.

The messed up froot and antique orange blossom make for a hotchpotch of crudely fitting pieces. Designing a body fragrance thats half monster teen scent and half dusty relic strikes me as an idea thats both wilfully bizarre and somehow inspired.

You may applaud the risqué oddness of it all; pour scorn on such pretentious niche twaddle; or simply come to wonder if someone spilt his red energy drink on granny's potpourri.

In the end however, La Dame aux Camélias is one of the minority of perfumes that improves over time. As the details fade, the profile pulls itself together into a nice confectionary floral but, as with all craft disciplines, it's a matter of swings and roundabouts; the nicer it gets, the less interesting it becomes.

13th May, 2016 (last edited: 14th May, 2016)

Vetiver by Guerlain

Supercilious minty vetiver that feels more like a status symbol than an expression of pleasure. One of Guerlain's Ancien Régime perfumes that hasn't adapted well to modern life, despite the facelift.

09th May, 2016

One Man Show Oud Edition by Jacques Bogart

Bogart fragrances are cheap and usually smell that way, but occasionally you can find one thats good value.

Oud Edition is one such, a modernised version of One Man Show which has been reworked as a double act, featuring a well judged pairing of russet toned Oud and thyme's herbal frisson clearly aimed at the youth market.

Something different from the bog standard Oud then, but having said that, don't expect too much from this budget presentation - it's sweet, undemanding and pretty linear; a crowd pleaser with enough charm to compensate for the lack of development.

27th April, 2016 (last edited: 28th April, 2016)
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No. 22 Parfum by Chanel

A pink satin-clad version of No.5.

The romantic floral bouquet, exquisitely captured by Ernest Beaux's mastery of aldehydes, is what makes No.22 more embraceable than her older sister.

There is no particular aspect to the scent that makes it stand out, but a simple keen loveliness that stays in the memory.

A product of the Roaring Twenties which reflects in its streamlined profile the boyish androgyne silhouette that was the fashion of the day.

A heritage masterpiece.

26th April, 2016

Perfume Calligraphy Rose by Aramis

Another take on the Oriental, this time using amber made from storax instead of the usual vanilla.

The dull, soft sweet character of storax is accompanied for some of the performance by rose, and they create between them an amusing turn of Turkish Delight flecked with incense, cast in a resin and bitter spice shell. But storax upstages the star player and steals the show, persistently hanging around and humming sweetly on stage until some of the crowd have got completely bored with it.

Scientists say that no experiment is ever a failure. If you don't get the results you expected, you have at least learned something useful, ie: the answer you hoped for lies elsewhere. Trying to create an Oriental based on storax instead of the conventional vanillic amber was an experiment. We have at least learned that it didn't work, and that a large dose of storax gets tedious.

23rd April, 2016

212 Sexy Men by Carolina Herrera

A lesser personage than Alberto Morillas would never have got away with it.

I for one am glad he did, but I still can't figure out what's so sexy about a bamboo long house in the jungle and a pot of green sage curry.

20th April, 2016 (last edited: 01st January, 2017)

Vétiver de Puig by Antonio Puig

Average Fougère

Some clever people at Delft University of Technology recently developed an algorithm to analyse the facial features of portraits. They scanned in the data points from many paintings and came up with something called The Next Rembrandt, a digitally generated picture based on the statistical average of the artist's work.

It shows a Dutch burgher in black hat and coat and large white ruff collar. The computer has perfectly reproduced the painter's technique and the picture looks like a real Rembrandt, but the subject appears to lack individuality - he's an everyman with no soul.

This may be an impressive feat of engineering but the folks at Puig have long since discovered the trick. It seems they took the vital statistics of Quorum and Paco Rabanne pour Homme from the safe, ran them through perfume recognition software along with vetiver oil, worked out the average and programed it into their compounding machine.

15th April, 2016 (last edited: 17th April, 2016)

l'eau de parfum #1 (for you) / parfum trouvé by Miller et Bertaux

Féminité du Bois milkshake - with the difficult bits taken out.
Easier to love, but nowhere near so impressive.

07th April, 2016

Samsara Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

Where it was Moguls and Harems that inspired the Oriental prototypes of Les Parfums de Rosine, Samsara is a neo-orientalist work that bears parallels to the phenomenon of Indian Haute Couture which emerged in the 1980s.

The style, based on a hybrid of Indian and Western forms and known as Bollywood Ballgown, was a lavishly embroidered Saree style evening dress, created in India using the latest European fashion training and technology. Guerlain, in partnership with outside perfumer Gérard Anthony created their own version of a western - oriental hybrid in 1989. They did this by applying their skills and technological expertise to traditional Indian materials and tastes - emphasising the sweet over the more stereotypical spicy notes.

Samsara uses a range of flavours found in Indian sweet shops: honey, castor sugar and Demerara, vanilla, spice, starch and milk. These sweet notes form the olfactory ground of the construction, which is offset by a synthetic sandalwood and Mysore oil blend. At first the impression is that there's too much sandal, the obviously synthetic note dominates the other more natural smelling materials; but it plays a crucial role in defining the character of the perfume, which it does in several ways. The Polysantol :

1) boosts the Mysore by giving power and edge to the accord, 2) blocks the gourmand tendency of the sweet notes, 3) bouys up a rather flabby oriental profile by linking with other lighter notes, and it 4) announces that this is not just Shalimar in a Saree.

A stable perfume structure often requires three chords working together like the base of a triangle. In Samsara, along with the sweets and the sandal, the third corner is staked out by a mild rose - jasmin floralesque. This tackles the jagged peak of sandalwood that rises from the pale sugary plain by deploying a large dose of peach C14. It also sustains the excellent bergamot found in the head, and introduces dark spicy tones of opoponax. The aim of the heart accord is to modify the extremes of synthetic sandalwood and the surdose of sweets to bring them into harmony. Not an easy task. Samsara is nothing if not typical of its time, with an eighties loudness and intensity that verges on the brash or even, at times vulgar.

Benjoin has an odour suppressing quality, and when a formula such as this vanillic variation of the oriental is based on a large dose of it, the superstructure must be powerful enough to overcome this technical problem. Consequently the initial stages of Samsara's development are a struggle between vibrant high yield accords and the introverted Benjoin. This conflict is, I believe, the reason for the at times strident character of the juice.

A lot of settling is required for this three chord stand off to find its stasis and it takes a couple of hours for the profile to reach maturity; but when it does, it becomes a pale, well constructed peachy, sweet milky, bitter rose, sandalwood spicy oriental, all resting on a powdery vanillic base of Benjoin and labdanum.

Samsara is a perfume of challenges; the challenge of how to re-present a new Oriental relating to what was happening in the fashion world of Bombay. The challenge of using a vanillic base for an oriental with the associated technical problems of Benjoin. Not least the olfactory challenge of trying to wear this at times difficult perfume. And finally, the complex in-house challenges posed by this princess pretender to Shalimar's crown.

The 1995 vintage juice under review here draws on the traditional Indian forms of sweet making, sandalwood and Attar of rose, to which it adds Western synthetics, French savoir faire and a touch of Guerlainade to create a renewed Oriental.

31st March, 2016

Polo by Ralph Lauren

A solid piece of Anglo-Saxon inspired classicism.

From the outset it hits you with green, and herbal anisic blue notes supported by vetiver, and a brown and purple camphoraceous patchouli exalted by plasticky white musk.

I must admit that I don't like anisic perfumes and I'm not keen on patchouli or white musk but there's something in the way they combine here that really turns my stomach.

Like a Footsie 100 CEO, impressive but not somebody I want to spend time with.

23rd March, 2016 (last edited: 31st March, 2016)

Tocade by Rochas

Tocade - is it just a fad? No.
Tocade is exciting! Not often you can say that about a perfume. It smells vibrant, young, cheeky, and a bit subversive too.

The excitement comes from the dynamic structure of this fabulous meringue like creation, at the heart of which lies a gentle bouquet of Maurice Roucel's trademark magnolia.

This is hidden by two layers of contrasts: a vapid sweetness set against a venomous bitter note, and a wider enveloping layer that contrasts a synthetic hairspray hiss with a chewy caramel.

What gives Tocade its vibrancy is the brilliantly poised dynamic between sweet & powdery and bitter & resinous notes; a niave yet wily combination of seductive warmth and cool obstinacy that amounts to something more than a passing craze.

**** (1994 formula)
19th March, 2016 (last edited: 20th March, 2016)

Eau de Rhubarbe Écarlate by Hermès

Juicy crisp red fruity stem, an herbaceous green undertone and lots of delicately sweet acidity make up this photo realistic portrait of Rhubarb. Underneath lie impressions of a dry hawthorn flower and rose hips, with ionones, all set on an intrusively strong white musky base.

Rhubarb has been stalking perfumery's hinterland for a decade or so now - since it first appeared under the CdG label - but this Hermès is the first time the vegetable fruit has made the big league; begging the question - is Rhubarb a good idea?
I'm not sure; don't know that I would wear Rhubarb myself; I suspect it's rather too gimmicky to stand the test of time, but let high summer be the judge of that.

If only this juice had the power to divert, by one single iota, the course of high street masculines' away from their savage nose stinging grapefruit obsession then I would be content to spend from now until September smelling like I had just stepped into the Wakefield Rhubarb Triangle.

09th March, 2016

All Good Things by Gorilla Perfume [Lush]

There was a Punk band in the seventies who wrote a song called Boredom. It was rough and loud and had a cheeky two note guitar solo that sounded like an offbeat siren; not at all humdrum.

A two tone melody doesn't have to be dull, it just depends on which notes they are and how they're played; and if the contrapuntal solo were Fir resin and Amber by Lush Gorilla, the din could go on all night and it still wouldn't get boring.

26th February, 2016
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Poison Girl by Christian Dior

It must be disheartening for a skilled perfumer to turn out iterations of what everyone else is doing.

What's required of the Nose is to make something that's virtually identical to the one sitting next to it on the promo stand while at the same time retaining its unique selling proposition.

In a market of near clones, all of which closely resemble a commercially successful formula, these USPs can be no more than mere details which when combined make juice X a slight variation of juice Y.

Mainstream perfume thus becomes like the suits of the men who design it. Uniform; intended to blend in with the crowd, differentiated only by small flourishes of ornamentation - a neck tie here, a pair of brown shoes there.

23rd February, 2016

Fille en Aiguilles by Serge Lutens

A richly atmospheric juice of burnt embers and incense; where woodbark, brown humus and evergreen leaves lie strewn with red sweets, and in the distance stands a gingerbread house.

An expressionist fairytale scent that resonates deep in the unconscious.

(Inspiration courtesy of graindemusc)

17th February, 2016 (last edited: 28th March, 2018)

Angel by Thierry Mugler

Tension created by the mixture of edible and inedible notes is what gives the gourmand genre its particular interest. The mind isn't sure how to react to something that says 'eat me' and 'don't eat me' at the same time.

Angel takes this effect one unsavoury step further with its red fruit syrup, candy floss and caramel served up with plummy rose and white flowers, dark chocolate, mothballs, bitter wood and mouldy rot.

The original, most distinctive and probably still the best gourmand on the planet. Certainly the most wicked.

14th February, 2016 (last edited: 20th February, 2016)

Iquitos by Alain Delon

Tsar in Paris makes Gallic attempt at Dandy

Iquitos doesn't so much flout the gender codes as completely ignore them. The problem with this profile is that it goes from an almost brutally hard fougère to a Paris-like powdery soft rose and this makes it structurally incoherent - as well as difficult to carry off.

The second phase of rose based on iris is the best part. Things would have been better if this feminine accord had been left to its own devices, but that would have been no good for Alain Delon and so a cold leather fougére intro was put on top.

Overall, I see Iquitos as a bit too ambitious; it doesn't achieve what it sets out to do (which is to unite masculine and feminine conventions by pretending they don't mean anything,) and so, as a consequence it gets three stars for the effort - but no cigar from me...

09th February, 2016 (last edited: 12th March, 2017)

Aromatics Elixir by Clinique

Aromatics Elixir grabs your attention like a carmine trench coat.

Its rose - coriander - patchouli profile is unique and instantly recognisable and it still divides opinion today, 45 years after it was created. Many people are confounded by Aromatics Elixir and detest it; others appreciate the challenge wearing it poses; some find its strange beauty almost mystical.

Aromatics is a kind of Herm, a milestone that Parfumista's may encounter on their journey; the experience can be for some, like me, a rite of passage.

It is, without doubt, a perfume of huge significance; an outstanding achievement that's transcended its era to attain canonical status in the history of perfumery. But is it really a masterpiece?

For a work of art to be a masterpiece it should either be an utterly sublime rendition of a perfect (Platonic) form, or it must be a revolutionary tour de force capable of articulating a new type of beauty. Unfortunately Aromatics fails on both of these counts because a) the profile is still perfectible - it lacks a certain refinement, and b) its structure is derived from the chypre - and so it embodies no unique vision.

Consequently its very good indeed, but not a masterpiece.

07th February, 2016 (last edited: 08th February, 2016)

Prada Amber pour Homme by Prada

Amber pour Homme reads a bit like Eau des Merveilles - which was released two years earlier. Both are ambitious ambers with aromatic and cineolic notes but the difference between them is EdM has a clever trick up its sleeve. It starts as an amber and then develops subtle nuances as the profile unfolds. These lighter notes carve out space and allow it to breathe. Where EdM blossoms into an intricate structure of anisic herbs, two types of pepper, papyrus and salt fatty ambergris, ApH has little or no development - it just gets a bit powdery.

The only interesting part of ApH is a cineolic side note of cardamom that stands out on open skin; otherwise, when worn under clothing it verges into the nebulous and sweet core. According to Prada, the structure is built around four different accords - amber, fougère, cologne and leather. Amber and fougère I can just about see working (Pierre Cardin pour Monsieur uses these two) but then add cologne and leather as well? Mixing this lot together unsurprisingly results in one big mess with no structure, like blancmange.

What is surprising is that Prada overlook the only distinctive note in the profile - saying cardamom is just another element of the cologne accord ... as if no one would notice it droning on.

If it's the case that the people behind ApH thought they'd found a good idea in Eau des Merveilles and decided to have a go at it themselves, the problem would be they didn't penetrate to the heart of the problem and fully understand the structure they were dealing with. Although the Prada is initially and superficially similar to the Hermès, EdM has buoyant intricacies that raise it above the level of a generic amber while the structure of Amber pour Homme is flaccid and the theme tedious.

03rd February, 2016 (last edited: 19th March, 2018)

Vanderbilt by Gloria Vanderbilt

Orange blossom and tuberose ride in on a gentle wave of aldehydes where they meet fresh green and citrus with a pineapple accent. A praline accord fills the space underneath with a quite neutral and slightly oily hazelnut paste, and this sits opposite a dry lightly spiced tobacco leaf. There is a vague hairspray ambience, as though someone has done their hair ready for an evening out before spraying on the Vanderbilt.

Being a floriental its a night time scent, more at home in a cosy cuddle than daily routines. Its soft, very feminine, and may be a bit cloying when the drier and spicy sides demur to its pink sweetness.

As the intro unfurls towards the more stable body accords it feels a bit uneven from time to time. Then, when it does become fully established, the profile boils down to a sweet pink light rosy floral with strong orange flower and tuberose accents over a layer of tobacco, set on a great dry woody tinged oriental base that lasts and lasts.

Vanderbilt takes a lead from one of the biggest phenomena of seventies perfumery. A construction similar to Charlie's aldehydic head of hyacinth / cyclamen / muguet is used, but in Vanderbilt its pushed into the background. The melon and plasticky leather heart which dominates Charlie is replaced by a heavier praline note, and Charlie's almost indiscernible spice is boosted up. The same high pitched riff is played by both, but in Vanderbilt its almost hidden by the backing band. It's instructive to compare the Vanderbilt note pyramid on another perfume review site with the pyramid for Charlie on Wikipedia. Given the similarities in head and base notes, you could be forgiven for being surprised by how different they actually smell.

Vanderbilt also differs in its level of sophistication; its technically way ahead of the rather cheap pragmatism of Charlie, at least in the samples I am comparing where Charlie may be a reformulation.

Being an oriental, the bottom half of Vanderbilt's profile can be interpreted as a reference to another game changing seventies smash, one that couldn't be ignored. Vanderbilt uses the spices and opoponax oriental base of Opium but tones them right down. What we have is a structure that takes the rather functional blasé notes of Charlie, and an Opium-Lite style of oriental base and employs them in a characteristically Sophia Grojsman type soft rose-centred floral.

Perfume is a sign of the times like any cultural product and this one reflects the eclectic flux of fashions that were around in the early eighties. Trainers (sneakers) appeared for the first time, headbands and sports gear, unisex clothes for women; big jumpers, trench coats, and Gloria Vanderbilt's pioneering brand of figure hugging jeans of course. All of this ran in parallel with a continuing seventies legacy of flowing, more traditionally feminine clothes made in natural fibres and muted colours.

Vanderbilt the perfume reflects this fashion milieu with its elements of the conservative oriental form that represent traditional seventies currents, and it also quotes the new paradigm of Charlie's cool aldehydic floral, co-opted as a symbol of the modern styles emerging in the eighties.

This L'Oreal product is pretty, well crafted and the makers were canny enough to give it the right moves. It was a big hit in its day, but its character is now at odds with current taste. By the standards of today's market (ie. what is sold on the high street,) Vanderbilt is heavy and over mature; its style rather passé. Even so, it remains stubbornly popular. French supermarkets still sell it in box sets at Christmas, and that's proof of lasting appeal if ever there was one.

30th January, 2016 (last edited: 01st February, 2016)

Sables by Annick Goutal

Oriental Experiment

Take a red herbal liqueur of cherry, dried apricot and salted plum.
Mix with burnt sugar and spice.
Pour onto hot dry sand.

Observe that while the liqueur drains away, the massive blocks of Helichysum and peppery amber & sandal do not change much.

Find Sables below Eau du Sud, Voyageur and Fleurs de Sel on the Perfume Periodic Table, in the column marked Salt.

28th January, 2016

L'Eau d'Ambre Extrême / Ambre Extrême by L'Artisan Parfumeur

The first thing you notice is the metallic tang, evoking tea trays and coffee pots shining in the warm light of brass lamps. In combination with the rosy accord (could there be damascones lighting up the profile here?) and notes that suggest Rahat Loukhoum - Turkish Delight, almond pastries and a certain juicy rosewater feel, you have a work that's partly reminiscent of the hospitalities of an Arabian boudoir.

The other notable thing is the antique character of L'Eau d'Ambre Extrême. It smells somehow old fashioned and this gives it the feel of an homage to early 20th century perfume. It's an impressive achievement - to recreate the atmosphere of a pre-modern perfume using 21st century materials.

The name Amber Water captures the technical brilliance of the jus very well; its an eau that recalls a heavy Amber construction.

Something less clear about this perfume can be teased out from the second part of the name; Extreme. Why Extreme? Surely a watery amber is an oxymoron - a contradiction in terms - Ambers are not watery by nature, so isn't this just a compromise between two genres? This further begs the question - why bother, why not just do an Amber pure and simple? Isn't this simply an exercise in perfume pyrotechnics?

Well, it is technically adept, the two genres being successfully fused to produce an Amber and twangy rose hybrid, so it's not a compromise on that score. But when you strip away the clever conceits adorning LdAE: the Arabian Nights atmosphere, the metallic trickery, the gourmand notes, the homage to pioneering perfumes, what's left? Does it stand on its own terms? In other words does it pass the Guy Robert test that 'a perfume should above all smell good'?

Absolutely yes. It overcomes the many doubts I had when embarking on this analysis. It's a rose water Amber that smells good and has interesting subtleties that go beyond what could be expected from the average member of the Amber family.

The usual questions of longevity that hang over an Ellena jus can be overcome by spraying under clothing. This maintains the liquid beauty of the rose far longer than on skin, where it much sooner hurries on to its dusty floral conclusion. Development is a bit static but at heart it's an Amber so no fault there.

Ultimately this is a solidly enjoyable outing which successfully articulates a novel idea. At the same time it can be simply enjoyed at a surface level, putting aside all recondite probing of its cogency.

26th January, 2016

Cobra by Al Rehab

Defanged Poison

21st January, 2016

Amarige by Givenchy

Cool fresh tuberose. Sweet, milky white and metallic.

Alien flower juice, venomous as snake bite.

Mutant spawn of Poison and Sécrétions Magnifique.

Utterly audacious. Insanely powerful.
Totally unwearable.


Rating : zen . zero stars
22nd December, 2015 (last edited: 23rd December, 2015)

Burberry Brit for Men by Burberry

Very sweet woody-amber oriental that manages to be both a bit stifling and screechy by turn.

24th November, 2015 (last edited: 06th October, 2017)

Boss The Scent by Hugo Boss

Hugo Boss have just released their new masculine in time for the Paris Climate Summit.
Another way to avoid releasing noxious fumes into the environment...

10th November, 2015

1000 by Jean Patou

When first it arrives vintage Mille has an unresolved feeling as though it's been made of many small pieces that don't quite fit. It's like a billowing Laura Ashley dress which promotes surface pattern over structure, but the dress is crumpled and the pattern gone awry. A bit of wear smooths that out.

It's an apricot floral with stand out notes of osmanthus rose and iris, but its misleading to pin down such a complex juice to a few simple accords. The other notable note is violet leaf whose green and cucumber nuances give a delicate lift to this voluminous fruity floral. This is anything but the fruity floral we find in modern juices however. Mille's fruitiness is a kind of rich liqueur that adds depth to the floral body.

The type of long formula at work here is radically out of style these days. What is by modern standards a lack of synthetics results in a complicated surface at the expense of firm structure. The advantage of this is the components can change hue as they move. The down side is that the surface obscures the base and we can't see into the structure making Mille difficult to read.

There's a wistful air thats perfectly adapted to the current of nostalgic romanticism which was running through the fashion world of 1972, but quite at odds with the chypre category to which Mille belongs.

It could have been the signature of Margot Leadbetter in the TV sitcom The Good Life (Good Neighbors) sharing her warm yet defensive middle class aspirations.

05th November, 2015 (last edited: 06th November, 2015)

Paul Smith Man by Paul Smith

In these decadent times, not smelling vile has become the first hurdle a perfume must cross, and not all do.

Paul Smith Man is not offensive, but it does fail to meet Sophia Grojsman's golden rule that a perfume should be coherent; the top note should relate to the body and they should be well connected in a solid structure.

Besides all that, there can be no good reason for pairing a sweet amber with violet, they have nothing in common. And because the floral keeps its head above water for several hours, you end up wearing a dry down of violet fudge.

But the thing is, it works, sort of.

04th November, 2015 (last edited: 08th November, 2015)

Paloma Picasso / Mon Parfum by Paloma Picasso

From the heart of dark florals comes a blast of rose liqueur and a plasticky jasmin which together create a weird dissonant harmony. Surrounding this odd ball delight are cocktail bitters, plastic wood veneer and a sweet dry dust that go head to head for the soul of this dark gem.

With a foundation of patchouli, vetiver, a slightly caramelic amber and moss, it builds into one assertive eau de parfum. It's forceful, wilful, and has impressive staying power. There's not a weak bone in its body.

It all adds up to an unsweet, slightly oily, deep ruby floral that makes a good edgy masculine.

This creation (by the otherwise unknown Francis Bocris) echoes the severity of the rose-oud genre, but in place of noble wood rot it pairs the sheen of rose with a textured chypre base. It doesn't appear in long white robes but the austere elegance of black lace. Austere but never cold, Mine is a proud and passionate perfume.

Originally from 30 years ago and now rather overlooked. Mon Parfum deserves to be better known; it has the exotic bravura and romantic intensity of a Mussorgsky piano suite.

23rd October, 2015

Colonia Assoluta by Acqua di Parma

A radiant sweet powdery orange heralds the arrival of the capsicum and citrus backbone of Colonia Assoluta. Eventually the powder gathers strength to return as an orange flower and ylang set piece.

Sadly all the fine work on the carefully controlled development is for nothing. When I wear this, everything becomes overpowered by the shrill top note of capsicum which I find intolerable - it makes my teeth ache as though I'm biting an iron bar. Whats more, it's got massive longevity and holds out right through the evolution, only fading away in the deep dry down.

This paprika / chilli note is the prototype of the high pitch sulphur compounds found in todays designer masculine. Credit or execration (depending on your view) should go to Bertrand Duchaufour and Jean-Claude Ellena who used it first in 2003.

12th October, 2015 (last edited: 26th October, 2015)