Le Petit Grain opens with a very natural lemon and bitter orange tandem with aromatic lavender and mint-like green rosemary support. Moving to the early heart, the lemon recedes, while the aromatic lavender and floral bitter orange gain strength, joining an emerging dominant woody green rose-like petitgrain that takes the fore with grassy, slightly woody vetiver providing additional support. During the late dry-down the composition turns much woodier, as the vetiver takes center stage with subtle oakmoss support through the finish. Projection is average but longevity outstanding at over 15 hours on skin.
I received a bottle of Le Petit Grain as a generous gift from a friend who will remain anonymous a while back (you know who you are), but I had never sniffed the perfume before and it never popped on my radar previously for trial. The first time I sprayed it on skin I knew my friend had chosen a "winner," but the composition appeared to be a bit of a "one trick pony," so to speak. Now having worn the perfume many times over, I can safely say that just isn't the case. Sure, as one might expect with a name "Le Petit Grain," petitgrain plays a very large role in the key mid-section of the composition's development, but after further review just as prominent as the petitgrain, is fine floral bitter orange that pairs perfectly with the ingredient. Additionally, while the bitter orange and petitgrain are the most easily identifiable, the aromatic lavender early and woody vetiver late are key to making the composition stand out over many other high quality petitgrain driven compositions. Ultimately, Le Petit Grain succeeds at providing the wearer a very pleasant smelling fresh, aromatic offering that is quite versatile, while providing a few twists along the way to keep one intrigued throughout the journey. The bottom line is Le Petit Grain is another winner from underrated perfumer Lyn Harris, earning it an "excellent" 4 stars out of 5 rating and a strong recommendation to all. It goes without saying my friend chose well and I am very grateful to now have this wonderful perfume in my collection.
Amour de Palazzo opens with a slightly sweet clove, aromatic ginger, cinnamon-like nutmeg and gentle pink pepper quartet. Moving to the early heart, the spice quartet remains, now in support of a leathery labdanum and deep patchouli duo that takes the fore, with an emerging incense-like cedar as key co-star. During the late dry-down the spice and labdanum vacate while the cedar remains, eschewing its incense-like facet as it joins natural woody papyrus in support of the emerging modestly sweet amber and slightly animalic musk focal base note pair through the finish. Projection is average, but longevity outstanding at well over 15 hours on skin.
Amour de Palazzo is a bit of a dark horse. One can immediately tell it smells exceptional from the get-go, but it appears more simplistic in structure and progression than it really is. It took a few wearings to really "crack the code" so to speak, but once one begins to notice the subtle shifts in its apparent linear progression you can't miss them going forward, and the perfume's charms become all the more apparent. The first thing one notices on application is the perfumer's deft use of mixing several spices that complement each other perfectly with just a taste of the leathery incense heart accord to come. Speaking of that leathery, woody incense, it really represents the soul of Amour de Palazzo, and to say it smells sublime is an understatement. The cedar and labdanum really drive the heart accord, but aromatic earthy patchouli really holds the two together. Then seamlessly and frequently unnoticed, the composition shifts to the fine amber, wood and musk laden late dry-down that smells completely natural. It goes without saying I am a big fan of Amour de Palazzo, but the highest compliment I can give is despite its relatively lofty price tag; I reached for my wallet and bought a bottle for my collection. The bottom line is the $260 per 50ml bottle Amour de Palazzo appears as an excellent but linear woody incense composition on first glance, but there is much more than meets the eye (or nose, if you will) to this "excellent" to "outstanding" 4 to 4.5 stars out of 5 rated composition and it is all good.
Vaara opens with a mild saffron spiced slightly dewy, airy rose. Moving to the early heart, the spiced airy rose remains as star, deepening, while adding in supporting moderately sweet honey, slightly sharp floral peony and well-integrated subdued cedar wood. During the late dry-down, the honeyed spiced rose considerably recedes, leaving its remnants supporting emerging slightly sweet sandalwood from the base. Projection is average but longevity very good at around 11 hours on skin.
Penhaligon's is a house that tends to offer up mundane, safe traditional perfumes. While there is nothing wrong with traditional, per se, it is the mundane that has generally disinterested me and many others. That said, the house while not veering too far from its roots has in recent years added some real character to its releases, beginning with the sublime Duchaufour-like As Sawira, and now with Duchaufour's own Vaara. Vaara starts things off on a high note with an outstandingly transparent and natural smelling watery rose. When the rose turns airy, adding the supporting peony floral, the mild, natural smelling cedar and fine saffron spice to the mix I knew Penhaligon's had another winner on their hands. The combination is extremely complex, and it took several wearings to really appreciate all its subtle nuances, especially the initially faint cedar that grows in strength as time passes though never calling attention to itself. If there is a mild weakness, it is in the late dry-down as the rose recedes and sandalwood takes the fore. This combination definitely works, but it lacks the complexity of the composition's mid-section. I suppose when one can only fault a late dry-down being "less complex" than the heart, it is not much in the way of criticism at all, and indeed in the case of Vaara there is little to criticize. The bottom line is Penhaligon's may have a stodgy release history, but the house is making subtle strides to change this and the $160 per 100ml bottle Vaara is yet another "excellent" rated 4 stars out of 5 success. Vaara may not be quirky or particularly innovative, but it does smell *darn* good!
Monsieur opens with a very quick dash of orange-laced rum, as a slightly synthetic smelling vague wood infused smoky patchouli immediately emerges and takes control. Moving to the early heart the smoky, synthetic wood infused patchouli continues as star, increasing in strength while adding a slightly sweet vanilla and near soapy frankincense supporting tandem to the mix. During the late dry-down the patchouli remains, shedding its smoky facet, as a slightly animalic musk emerges as co-star, supported by smooth suede leather and remnants of the now dry vanilla through the finish. Projection is above average and longevity very good to excellent at around 12 hours on skin.
When I heard my favorite house was releasing a new composition that was supposed to be the "masculine" counterpart to my favorite perfume, Portrait of a Lady, I, like others got excited. While Portrait of a Lady certainly is "masculine" enough for me and most others who have actually worn it, sometimes macho gents need a perfume specifically marketed towards them in order to feel like they have the "green light" to wear the composition -- Enter Monsieur. Unfortunately, my excitement quickly evaporated when I found out the perfumer behind the new composition was not Portrait of a Lady's brilliant nose Dominique Ropion, but rather Bruno Jovanovic, easily the least talented perfumer in the Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle stable (with only one "passable" release -- Malle's own Dries van Noten). Uh oh... Enormous disappointment in perfumer choice aside, could Monsieur prove that all of Jovanovic's many previous sub-par perfume outings were just learning opportunities for creating his first masterpiece (or even his first winner) in Monsieur? Time to find out...
Monsieur has been touted by Malle as containing one of the largest concentrations of patchouli in a perfume, and having now worn the composition on skin several times I can definitely believe it. Monsieur is almost *all* patchouli, all the time. This would not be so bad in and of itself (if not a tad boring), but the patchouli presentation used in Monsieur is of the somewhat rough around the edges aromatic smoky variety. This is the polar opposite presentation of the ingredient to the one favored by this writer. One could have hoped for smooth sophisticated patchouli like the stuff found in Javanese Patchouli by Zegna, but instead we get rough and ready patchouli a la Patchouli 24 by Le Labo without the far superior perfumer's skill used on that one. It doesn't help that the composition is extremely linear, with the smoky synthetic wood-laced patchouli taking center stage throughout from start to finish, only adding significant supporting musk and a touch of softening suede leather late. In truth, suede in the late dry-down is the only thing that separates this perfume from being a total failure, instead salvaging it to the level of minor disappointment. What it *doesn't* do to this writer's chagrin is buck the trend of unfortunate releases by perfumer Jovanovich. One has to wonder when Malle has so many top superstar perfumers "under his roof," so to speak, why add someone to the fold who isn't anywhere near their talent level? The bottom line is the $290 per 100ml bottle Monsieur does nothing to buck the trend of disappointment after disappointment by perfumer Bruno Jovanovic, earning it a "below average" 2 to 2.5 stars out of 5 rating and a mild avoid recommendation. My advice is to stick with *far* superior Portrait of a Lady and just call it "Monsieur," if you must... This release only confirms a counterpart was never needed, nor wanted!
22nd February, 2016 (last edited: 21st February, 2016)
Baccarat Rouge 540 opens with a brief dash of saffron spice infused dulled orange before quickly moving to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, the orange morphs to a vague, slightly transparent and relatively sweet fruity floral jasmine accord, as powerful woody amber takes on the starring role, with significant powdery oakmoss and fir balsam support. During the late dry-down the composition remains highly linear as the powder infused woody amber continues to control sans the jasmine and sweetness, now with mild cedarwood support through the finish. Projection is very good to excellent and longevity outstanding at nearly 24 hours on skin.
What a stinker Baccarat Rouge 540 is. I knew in seconds I would detest this composition, and sadly after a couple full wearings on skin my opinion hasn't changed. The initial dulled orange is tolerable, but that only lasts five seconds before the composition turns cloyingly sweet from the woody amber, and extremely powdery from an unpleasant and poorly implemented oakmoss and fir balsam tandem that is suffocating to the powder averse like this writer. As the composition is highly linear, things don't change much all the way through the finish, letting the nose torture continue on and on... and on. In truth, there really isn't anything I can say positive about the composition's smell as it is all bad, really. At least on the flip-side for those perfume warriors that can tolerate wearing this scary stuff, the performance metrics, especially longevity, are absolutely outstanding. So if you are insistent on wearing an early "worst new perfume of 2016" candidate (at least easily to the nose of this writer), you will live with this stuff all day and all night without any fear of it wearing off. The bottom line is Baccarat Rouge 540 may seem like a relative bargain at its current selling price of $300 per 70ml bottle (as it originally was sold as a 250 piece limited edition in a fancy Baccarat crystal bottle for an eye popping $4000), but in truth $3 is paying too much for this "poor" to "very poor" 1 to 1.5 stars out of 5 rated horror. Spending your $300 at the baccarat *table* is a better investment.
French Line goes on with an aromatic mix of mild, slightly powdery rose, carnation and jasmine with hints of subdued coconut and more substantial sanitized patchouli support, before quickly moving to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, the now supporting rose, carnation and jasmine floral melange gains slightly more powder as it pairs with powdery amber from the base, now joining a significant co-starring moderately rough leather and patchouli tandem that takes the fore. During the late dry-down the amber-laced florals take a back seat, as remnants of the sanitized patchouli and subdued coconut join slightly animalic musk through the finish. Projection is excellent and longevity very good at around 10 hours on skin.
French Line is a real find. On first glance, one sees a relatively unimpressive looking bottle that doesn't inspire confidence in its contents, but looks can be deceiving and indeed in this case they are. As soon as one applies the composition on skin you get a quick whiff of wormwood before the sublime rose and carnation florals take over. When the jasmine, patchouli and leather join the fold, the composition smells absolutely heavenly and probably is at the best part of its universally great development. The powder, shortly thereafter, gains some steam, firing a warning shot that it might go too far, but the perfumer skillfully stays just under the "danger line" for the powder averse like this writer to enjoy the composition while providing enough of the stuff for powder fans too. The late dry-down is probably the least interesting aspect of the composition's development, not because it smells anything less than exceptional, but rather because it is rather subdued, as the aromatics largely vacate to shift to a slightly animalic musk driven finish with patchouli and coconut support adding subtle depth. Speaking of the coconut, while it never is a huge player in the composition's overall fragrance profile it deserves special mention. When one envisions coconut they probably are thinking tropical drinks and climate, but the stuff used in French Line is much more subdued and skillfully used than that. There is no "tropical island" vibe in French Line at all, with the coconut used more as a softener to the aromatics and later to the musk. At the end of the day, French Line proves that one should not let a fancy bottle (or in this case the opposite) drive whether one should or shouldn't try a composition, as if you skip sampling French Line due to its unimpressive housing you are missing yet another one of the 80s wonderful smelling greats. The bottom line is the long since discontinued French Line is very difficult to find and will most likely cost one dearly to acquire on the aftermarket, but with its extremely polished mix of florals, leather, patchouli and even coconut, this "excellent" to "outstanding" 4 to 4.5 star rated rare gem is absolutely worth the effort and cost to acquire. Superb!
04th February, 2016 (last edited: 03rd February, 2016)
Sicilian Mandarin goes on with an aromatic mix of sharp bergamot and mandarin orange with green petitgrain support. Moving to the early heart, the bergamot vacates with the mandarin and petitgrain remaining now as co-stars, as an underlying vague synthetic woody accord mixed with hints of spearmint permeates the green citrus aromatics. During the late dry-down the composition stays relatively linear, but the vague woods meld near-seamlessly into the petitgrain with the mandarin tandem, remaining in faint support through the finish. Projection is above average and longevity good at 9-10 hours on skin.
Zegna's Essenze collection has pretty much impressed across the board, so I decided on buying one of the sole offerings I had not experienced previously, Sicilian Mandarin, when a rare significantly discounted bottle showed up on the market. Now having worn the composition on skin many times over there is a lot to commend, but all is not rosy. The open is probably the best part of the composition's development, as like others in the Essenze collection, Sicilian Mandarin uses very high quality bergamot up top, meshing perfectly with a very believable mandarin and petitgrain tandem. So far, so great! Then things move into reverse as a vague synthetic woody accord joins the fray, most likely norlimbanol derived. These norlimbanol derived vague synthetic woods thankfully are used rather deftly by perfumer Harry Freemont, but particularly in the early heart they still call too much attention to themselves, detracting from the fine green citrus aromatics. The other minor negative is the composition doesn't really develop much thereafter, with the key movement being the much better integration of the synthetic woods into the aromatics. One additional mention of note is that most find the composition's projection metric rather lacking, but I didn't. No, this is no powerhouse for sure, but the first couple hours in particular had significant projection on skin. All-in-all, Sicilian Mandarin may be one of the weakest entries in the Essenze line (if not the weakest), but despite its shortcomings I can't say I regret the blind buy at about 45% off of full retail price. Had I paid full retail I might be singing a slightly different tune about the blind buy, but there is no denying even the weakest link in the Essenze series still smells pretty darn good. If only Zegna provided samples of this line to prospective customers it would get a lot more well-deserved recognition, but alas, the only way to experience the Essenze line is through only a couple retailers in-person. The bottom line is the $195 per 125ml bottle Sicilian Mandarin is far from perfect, but the "good" to "very good" 3 to 3.5 stars out of 5 rated composition still has a lot to recommend, earning it a solid recommendation to all.
Exception opens with a benzoin sweetened mild cinnamon spice and patchouli tandem, with significant aromatic lavender support. Moving to the composition's early heart the cinnamon turns nutmeg-like, as natural smelling cedarwood rises from the base to join the remaining slightly sweet patchouli and aromatic lavender. As the composition continues through its mid-section the lavender gradually shifts from aromatic to powdery, as aromatic green fir and powdery oakmoss join the remnants of the patchouli in support with the cedarwood and benzoin vacating. During the late dry-down the moderately powdery green fir and oakmoss tandem remain in control as relatively dry sandalwood joins as co-star and slightly powdery vanilla and deep amber add support through the finish. Projection is excellent as is longevity at just under 15 hours on skin.
Exception is yet another great 80s powerhouse composition that while relatively unknown, deserves so much better. As soon as one applies the composition on skin you immediately get a gorgeous gentle cinnamon and mild to moderately sweet patchouli tandem that melds perfectly with the supporting aromatic lavender. All three key ingredients are completely believable. When the composition adds in fine smelling cedar to the mix it gets even better. In truth, I would not be surprised at all if the composition contains a relatively large quantity of high quality naturals throughout. On the flip side, if there is any weakness worthy of minor mention it is later in the heart when the powdery oakmoss and coniferous fir join the party, as the powder gets just a tad overwhelming for a period of time before the sandalwood in the late dry-down effectively cuts it. All-in-all, Exception is yet another raging success from Men's marketed perfume's greatest decade. In short, Exception is nothing short of Exceptional! The bottom line is the long-since discontinued and relatively difficult to find Exception is proof positive that even drug store perfumes from the 80s largely smelled great, earning an "excellent" 4 stars out of 5 rating and a strong recommendation to powerhouse fans.
Salome opens with a honeyed musky orange before quickly moving to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, the initial musky orange turns into indolic orange blossom, as an absolutely huge amount of starring dirty cumin spice enters, joined by co-starring animalic hyrax, with dirty jasmine and slightly powdery carnation in support. During the late dry-down the dirty florals and the cumin recede and finally vacate, leaving the remnants of the animalic hyrax and now moderately powdery carnation to join hay-like coumarin through the finish. Projection is average, but longevity outstanding at well over 15 hours on skin.
Salome has been making quite the splash on the perfume scene since its release last year in 2015. One of the frequently mentioned standout attributes claimed is its heavy use of animalics, and this reviewer definitely concurs, for better or for worse. The key animalic attribute used in the composition's heart is hyrax. The best way to describe hyrax is an animalic hybrid with characteristics of musk, civet and castoreum. In the case of Salome, the musk aspect comes out early, and as time passes the smooth castoreum facet takes control in the late dry-down with the civet relatively subdued throughout. If the liberal use of hyrax isn't animalic enough for you, the perfumer adds indolic jasmine and orange blossom to the mix for an increased dirty nature to the composition. While one might think all these indoles and musky animalics would be too much to handle, surprisingly they work to a relatively large degree, especially late when the castoreum-like facet of the hyrax controls. Unfortunately, there is a big show-stopper here, and it is in the form of an extremely large amount of dirty cumin spice that shows up seconds after initial application and dominates through the early heart, not completely vacating until the late-dry-down. This dirty spice is wholly unnecessary and overpowering to the extreme. It is as if the perfumer wants to dare the wearer to see just how far over the line they can go before crying "Uncle". For this writer, the animalics, while not really to my taste were tolerable, the indolic florals while additionally not to my taste were surprisingly interesting, and the powdery carnation never got too powdery to call it a day. Unfortunately, that dirty cumin used was just too darn much, particularly when added to the already overly dirty animalic mix. At the end of the day, Salome is the kind of composition one can appreciate as a work of art, but wearing it is quite another thing and this writer *wears* perfumes. The bottom line is the $160 per 50ml bottle Salome is definitely a departure from the common, bland "fresh" compositions of today, but while its heavy indolic florals and deep musky animalics are tough to wear but never overly-so, its dirty cumin absolutely is, earning it an "average" 2.5 stars out of 5 rating and a neutral recommendation. Setting aside the rating, if deep musky animalics with dirty cumin spice work for you, absolutely give Salome a try as it is bound to impress (though I would argue many vintage spicy animalic perfumes smell better, are much more wearable and can be had for considerably less money with some effort), but if heavy animalics, indoles and dirty spice are not your thing, this one will scare the heck out of you!
03rd January, 2016 (last edited: 05th January, 2016)
BaseNotes Kiss My Ass opens with a heavy mix of culinary herbs and spices, with fiery red pepper and cumin as two key standouts with a deep olive-like significant supporting accord. As the composition moves to its heart (it contains no base notes, hence one of the reasons for the name) the fiery spice and herb laden olive-accord gains a relatively rough leathery facet, along with a mix of dulled florals that gradually turn slightly powdery near the finish. Projection is very good, and longevity excellent at around 12 hours on skin.
When I first heard this composition was being released at the tail-end of 2015, I didn't really know what to expect. With a name like "BaseNotes Kiss My Ass" (not so subtly alluding to the Basenotes perfume related web site that Pregoni has had issues with) the composition could have intentionally been made as an awful foul smelling concoction created as a potentially vindictive gag, but luckily, perfumer Angelo Pregoni instead chose to create a serious (or at least as serious as he gets) composition that has no base notes -- and it smells amazing. The open is immediately recognizable as Pregoni's trademark blend of culinary herbs, fiery spices and subdued florals, but in similar fashion to his composition I named the best smelling perfume of 2015 of those I sniffed, Scent & Chemistry Kiss My Ass, this one is more reminiscent of Pregoni's original O'driu series releases. As I feel many of the original series from the house were Pregoni's more innovative, talented and provocative work, this is a very good thing and I hope he continues on this path. Without base notes one might expect the composition to fall apart on skin relatively quickly, but my experience has been anything but, with the composition holding up extremely well in all performance metrics, not reigning in the projection and adding a very well-done leathery facet to the key heart with excellent effect. The bottom line is the 32 piece limited edition $260 per 75ml bottle BaseNotes Kiss My Ass has Pregoni finishing the 2015 year in fine fashion, adding a successful follow-up to the first composition in the new series, earning an "excellent" to "outstanding" 4 to 4.5 stars out of 5 rating and a very strong recommendation to fans of the house.
Habit Rouge Dress Code opens with a strong blast of slightly sharp orange citrus bergamot with a hint of underlying dulled soapy rose. As the composition moves to its early heart a slightly spiced woody accord takes control with a co-starring moderately sweet tonka bean and vanilla tandem with moderately rough leather joining the remaining dulled soapy rose in support. During the late dry-down the composition remains highly linear, as the vanilla and tonka sweetened mild spiced woods remain, with the leather gradually receding, revealing a slightly creamy praline supporting note hanging around through the finish. Projection is deceptively outstanding, as is longevity at over 20 hours on skin.
Habit Rouge is one of the most historically significant perfumes targeted to men in fragrance history. As such, any new release that uses its name in the title like Habit Rouge Dress Code does is bound to be heavily scrutinized. In the case of this reviewer, the original Habit Rouge didn't wow on first or even second impressions, taking quite a considerable time to win me over, but while I never *loved* it, win me over to at least a largely positive opinion it did, enough for me to buy and keep a bottle in my collection. In the case of Dress Code, perfumer Thierry Wasser definitely recognizes and honors the original Habit Rouge's roots by keeping many of the classic's characteristics within, but Dress Code definitely goes much further than just rehashing the past. In this case, the lemon open of the original is swapped for a more orange-like bergamot, with an almost gauze-like soapy rose undertone. The result is surely interesting, but a big step backwards, as the lemon open was my favorite part of classic Habit Rouge. Things in the heart then turn to a moderately sweet, near-gourmand aspect in Dress Code, with its heavy reliance on a tonka bean, vanilla and creamy praline trio melding with smooth woods and supporting dulled soapy rose. In my mind, this creamy sweetness is a major step back from the more aromatic dry classic, but there is no denying that Wasser takes some risks here while not tarnishing the original's distinct identity within. On the plus side is very nice leather that is used to balance some of the more gourmand aspects of Dress Code, and in this case it is handled extremely well, mixing with the rest of the ingredients perfectly. All-in-all Dress Code is an intriguing and relatively innovative flanker of a well-regarded classic, but one has to wonder if sweetening the composition was the best way to go. In the mind of this sweetness averse reviewer the answer is a resounding "no," but to those that love the classic and can tolerate moderate sweetness in their compositions, Dress Code could be a great fit. The bottom line is the $100 per 100ml bottle Habit Rouge Dress Code keeps strong ties and reverence to its classic parent, but veers off in an unconventional and potentially polarizing way, earning it an "average" 2.5 stars out of 5 rating and a "neutral" recommendation. If you love the original I suspect you will enjoy Dress Code too, but if the original wasn't your cup of tea and/or you dislike relative sweetness in your compositions like me, I dare say Dress Code may disappoint.
Equipage Geranium opens with a blast of soapy fresh, natural minty green geranium with a dulled rose undertone. Moving to the early heart, the slightly sharp, minty green geranium takes the fore, melding with a co-starring lemony sandalwood and rosewood tandem, as a spicy saddle soap accord joins in support. During the late dry-down the sandalwood takes control, as the geranium vacates, turning relatively dry while eschewing its earlier lemony facet, as the leathery spice mixture remains in support through the finish. Projection is average, but longevity good at between 8-10 hours on skin.
I am one of the relatively few people who never quite warmed to the original Equipage, even the original formulation. Oh, I have a vintage bottle in my collection to keep my "perfume enthusiast" card intact, but in all honesty I never wear it, as while I can appreciate the composition's quality and the skill used to create it, something about the rosewood in it just did not click with my taste, coming off a tad stodgy. Enter the 2015 release, Equipage Geranium by Jean-Claude Ellena... While many may question my sanity, I have worn this new composition on skin many, many times and I dare say Ellena has found a way to take the original Equipage foundation and successfully bring the composition into modern times by adding a fresh, soapy clean minty green geranium to the top and heart notes. One wouldn't think this would have a dramatic impact on the composition, but it really does. The result is a perfume that retains its classic roots while additionally feeling just a tad modern, enough so that wearing it is easy for all. Ellena also added a spice mixture to the woods that does a great imitation of supple leather. The whole thing is an outstanding effort that may be Ellena's final solo output for Hermes before retirement, and if so, he is going out on a very high note. The bottom line is the $128 per 100ml bottle Equipage Geranium is potentially Jean-Claude Ellena's swan song for Hermes, delivering the goods big time with his best work in a decade, earning an "outstanding" 4 to 4.5 stars out of 5 rating and a very strong recommendation to all. Equipage Geranium is surely one of the best compositions of 2015.
Trance opens with a slightly sweet deep, jasmine spiced fruity hybrid pruned plum accord with a vague woody undertone. Moving to the early heart, the spiced pruned fruit melds with the woods as co-stars, with smoky amber joining in support. During the late dry-down the majority of the fruit vacates as slightly powdery remnants of the amber join the jasmine spice and wood through the finish. Projection is outstanding and longevity excellent at well over 12 hours on skin.
Trance is one of those obscure discontinued late 80s compositions that have fallen under the radar of most perfume enthusiasts. It quite frankly would have done the same for this writer had it not been composed by Edouard Flechier of Parfum d'Homme, Havana, Une Rose, etc. fame... Oh yes, and of course there is also his mid-80's blockbuster, Poison, which actually is what Trance most reminds this writer of. Indeed, as soon as one sprays Trance on skin the tie to vintage Poison's jasmine and plum is all too apparent. In the case of Trance, Flechier takes a lot of his winning Poison formula and tweaks the plum to a more dried prune-like fruity aspect, while adding in some vague but far from synthetic smelling woods. Trance's late dry-down goes in a different direction than its predecessor, with a gorgeous combination of the woods with the remnants of the floral jasmine spice proving an intoxicating combination. So in short, while the original vintage Poison is a masterpiece and needed no alterations, Trance really proves equal to the task, adding yet another winner among so many others to Mr. Flechier's vast repertoire. The bottom line is the long-since discontinued and extremely rare Trance may have significant ties to Flechier's own earlier masterpiece Poison, but it proves that similar to how he changed Montana's great Parfum d'Homme into the equally great Havana by Aramis, with a bit of tinkering vintage Poison's formula works yet again in Trance, earning it an "outstanding" 4.5 stars out of 5 and an extremely strong recommendation if you can find a bottle or sample (and yes, it is definitely worth the effort to do so). Chalk up one more masterpiece for Mr. Flechier!
Convivio opens with a nose tingling blast of bitter grapefruit before slowly transitioning to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart the grapefruit smooths out, but remains as it joins coniferous green, woody cypress with a mild synthetic blonde woody undertone. As the composition moves through the heart phase the cypress becomes the focal note with the grapefruit receding to just noticeable support, as the synthetic blonde woody undertone gains a bit more prominence. During the late dry-down the composition eschews most of its coniferous aspect, leaving the remnants in support of the smoothed out synthetic blonde woody accord with subtle underlying traces of rugged leather through the finish. Projection is average, but longevity excellent at around 15 hours on skin.
Convivio starts out with a really nice fresh blast of grapefruit, but that kind of thing has been done many times over. The composition truly starts to distinguish itself from other fresh perfume when the coniferous green, woody cypress takes over in its mid-section. This is also the point where the synthetic blonde woody accord makes itself known. The blonde woods are derived near certainly from cashmeran, an ingredient that usually is a deal breaker as it tends to overpower most compositions. Luckily, in Convivio's case, perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin has done an outstanding job of keeping the cashmeran-derived blonde woods to a very subtle, well-controlled level that supports the cypress surprisingly well. The late dry-down, however, is probably the best part of the composition's development as the cashmeran joins ambroxan to smooth out but also enhance the blonde woods with the remnants of the cypress adding just the right natural smelling woody counter with even a touch of leather detectable late. The composition is far from perfect, and the cypress can be just a bit much as it reaches its peak mid-heart but all-in-all Convivio is a refreshingly light blend of naturals and synthetics in harmony with each other, creating an appealing result. The bottom line is the $190 per 75ml bottle Convivio has its flaws, but is particularly notable in the way it utilizes cashmeran so skillfully that it adds to its appeal, earning it a "very good" 3.5 star out of 5 rating. Certainly recommended smell-wise, but Convivio's full retail price may be a bit of a stretch.
Bronze Age Homme opens with a combination of orange bergamot and slightly sharp grapefruit citrus, with some very gentle supporting pink pepper and traces of underlying cedarwood. As the composition moves to its early heart the cedar joins the bergamot and grapefruit as co-stars, as vetiver and fir balsam provide an effervescent sparkle and slight varnish-like aspect to the overall fragrance profile. During the late dry-down the composition stays relatively linear with the citrus-woody heart accord remaining through the finish only adding a slight green mossy sheen. Projection is above average and longevity average at about 8-9 hours on skin.
When I blind bought Bronze Age Homme I went into the purchase with very low expectations. I mean, how good could the stuff be when it is sold online for under $10 delivered (at the original time of purchase)? I can throw all my reservations out the window, because in actuality Bronze Age Homme smells terrific. The best way to describe the composition is a lighter, brighter, less dirty Terre d'Hermes style composition. Now it is no secret I am a huge Terre d'Hermes fan and I don't make comparisons with it lightly, but Bronze Age Homme certainly is worthy of the comparison. Do I like Bronze Age Homme as much as I love Terre d'Hermes? In a word, "no". That said, I can definitely see a solid place for the composition in one's wardrobe if either they want a less intense, happier Terre d'Hermes or maybe the prospective buyer is on a tight budget and can't afford Terre d'Hermes but really doesn't want to feel like they are settling. I am frequently telling others in discussion groups that price and quality do not necessarily go hand and hand in the world of perfume, and Bronze Age Homme proves this all too true. It turns out I should be following my own advice instead of assuming the worst based on selling price as this has got to be one of the best buys on the market, and an excellent buy regardless of price. The bottom line is the $13 per 100ml bottle Bronze Age Homme proves price and excellent results don't necessarily go hand in hand in the perfume world, earning a "very good" to "excellent" 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5 and a strong recommendation for perfume seekers on a budget. If one already owns Terre d'Hermes or my new reference in the space, Tzora by Anat Fritz it is debatable if Bronze Age Homme is something one should pursue, but if you enjoy those compositions but want something less dense with a brighter demeanor it is a surefire winning option.
The Noir opens with an aromatic fig and mild orange-laced black tea leaf accord with a slight supporting cedar wood undertone. Moving to the early heart, the aromatic black tea accord deepens, taking on a mild smoky tobacco-like facet with the underlying slightly synthetic smelling cedar wood also more prominent. As the composition moves through its heart the slightly synthetic smelling woods gradually fold into the aromatic black tea, never being completely masked, but very well-integrated to the point that they almost seem like another aromatic facet. During the late dry-down the composition shifts gears completely as the aromatic tea and cedar vacate, revealing smooth musk, gentle vetiver and a touch of vanilla in the base through the finish. Projection is average, but longevity excellent at well over 12 hours on skin.
One of the most consistently excellent active perfumers today is Frank Voelkl. Apart from his stellar work elsewhere, Voelkl has produced most of Le Labo's impressive offerings with compositions like Santal 33, Ylang 49 and Iris 39. Now, we can add The Noir 29 to his list of winners. The composition immediately impresses with its brilliant use of fig to amplify the aromatic aspect of the featured black tea accord. Voelkl then brings out a similar slightly synthetic smelling cedar wood to the stuff used in his modern masterpiece Javanese Patchouli for Zegna. Unlike Javanese Patchouli where the smooth, dominant patchouli soaks up the woods primarily; in the case of The Noir, the synthetic woods are harder to hide and at first I thought they might be problematic. Luckily, after further review the answer is "No," as about a half hour or so into the heart phase the woods gradually get absorbed into the black tea accord. No, they are never obscured, but they become a key facet of the overall presentation, so skillfully integrated to the point that their slight synthetic nature becomes even a positive rather than a distraction, with an added tobacco-like facet providing a new element to counter them. The late dry-down is a bit of a mundane pleasant musky vanilla-like affair that won't set the world afire, but it somehow works as a nice change-up from the earlier aromatic wood-laced black tea. The bottom line is when I saw Voelkl's name associated with the $240 per 100ml bottle The Noir 29 I strongly suspected I would love it, and true to form it fails to disappoint with its "excellent" 4 stars out of 5 rating, earning it a strong recommendation to all.
Ryder goes on with a moderately sweet smoky amber and pipe tobacco-like accord. Moving to the early heart, the composition stays relatively linear, as moderately sweet smoky amber grows in strength, becoming sole star, with the supporting pipe tobacco taking on a slightly booze-laden cola aspect while adding a natural cedar wood undertone. During the late dry-down the amber all but vacates with its remnants turning relatively dry, as slightly powdery vanilla and faint jasmine join-in, over a dry, stark natural woody base. Projection is excellent, as is longevity at around 15 hours on skin.
Ex Idolo's first offering, Thirty-Three, was a surprisingly superb outing from relative rookie perfumer Matthew Zhuk. After being wowed enough by Mr. Zhuk's first composition, obviously his second, Ryder, merited a sniff tout de suite. Having given the new offering several full wearings on skin it is time to see how Mr. Zhuk fared on attempt two for his house. The short early answer is "OK"... Smoky amber seems to be all the rage nowadays, and it seems like only yesterday I was wowed with Tango by Masque and many others of lesser quality. Here, Mr. Zhuk pairs the smoky amber (that smells not unlike relatively sweet smoldering wood to a large degree) with a not quite believable supporting pipe tobacco accord that actually smells more like cola syrup (or at least as a significant component of the accord). More believable are the natural deep cedar-like woods, conjuring up the planks used at a tobacconist shop or maybe even a humidor. The whole thing has been done before, but the cola is something relatively new, and the execution by Zhuk is excellent. The problem, aside from the lack of innovation, is the smoky amber is just a bit too much. It initially impresses, but as time passes it gnaws away at your senses, wearing out its welcome in relative short order. The gentle powdery vanilla and vague woods in the base are a pleasant but mundane affair; welcome to a degree after the smoky amber onslaught, but ultimately meriting a shoulder shrug. The bottom line is the $185 per 50ml Ryder is the kind of composition that impresses early, but as time passes and on future wearings when one looks beyond the initial polish on further reflection really is nothing new, earning an above average 2.5 to 3 stars out of 5 and a neutral recommendation with a positive bias. If one is looking for a smoky amber composition, Tango by Masque is a superior offering outright, while also providing a bit better bang for the buck.
Seyrig goes on with a waxy iris and dirty cumin tandem with a slightly soapy floral Ylang-ylang and aldehydes derived undertone. Moving to the early heart the cumin grows to co-star with the now focal soapy fresh Ylang-ylang and aldehydes also increasing in strength, with a subtle oakmoss derived mild ashy accord joining remnants of the waxy iris in support. During the late dry-down the composition shifts gears, featuring the slightly powdery facet of the oakmoss, joining with subtle, slightly animalic musk through the finish. Projection is above average to good and longevity excellent to outstanding at 13-15 hours on skin.
I need to mention that I have no idea what the seyringa flower smells like as I don't believe I have ever sniffed one in real life, but as soon as Seyrig was applied on skin it was instant disappointment. The open is an odd mix of dirty and soapy clean, as body odor-like cumin is folded into a clean, soapy aldehydes laden floral accord. The "icing on the cake" cementing my disappointment was the presence of waxy iris, that when combined with the cumin conjures a passing similarity to Declaration by Cartier (a composition I dislike immensely). As bad as things start, Seyrig does improve as the dirty cumin and waxy iris both gradually recede about two hours in, leaving one with the soapy clean aldehydes and yellow florals, adding just the faintest hint of underlying oak moss-derived ash but nothing coming even close to alarming. At this point the composition has a sharp, almost fresh vetiver-like feel, proving much easier to wear than the earlier development. The late dry-down is a relatively easy mix of mild powdery oakmoss and relatively clean musk with just a faint hint of leather. At the end of the day Seyrig is a letdown. No, you won't find the composition making its way onto my "Worst Perfumes of 2015" list nor dare I say many (or even any) others, but coming from such a talented perfumer, Bruno Fazzolari, who gave us the outstanding Lampblack and many other excellent offerings it just seems like we should expect more, much more. The bottom line is the $110 per 30ml bottle Seyrig tries to mix clean and dirty aspects with little success, earning it a "below average" 2 to 2.5 stars out of 5 rating and a mild avoid recommendation.
*Note: This is a review of the current formula of Domenico Caraceni 1913.
Domenico Caraceni 1913 opens with a light, airy rose with a slight dull orange undertone. Moving to the early heart the rose remains, losing some of its initial airy nature and swapping in substantial powder, as the orange undertone grows into a co-starring role melding with a tobacco-like note, giving the composition a balmy overall texture. During the late dry-down the powdery rose-orange-tobacco accord gradually recedes, revealing a touch of radiant frankincense in the base coupling with woody cypress through the finish. Projection is excellent and longevity very good at 10-12 hours on skin.
The original release of Domenico Caraceni 1913 is extremely well sought after, so much so that bottles were selling on places like eBay for upwards of $400 a piece the last time I checked. Unfortunately for this writer that was far too much to risk for a blind buy, so I never got a chance to sniff the original release to my chagrin. It was great news when the composition was re-released, now giving folks like myself a chance to see what the legion of fans of the original were crowing about. Unfortunately, while I haven't smelled the vintage for comparison, the current release really isn't anything to write home about. The open starts off quite nice with a very natural smelling transparent airy rose. Unfortunately, that initial transparency is short lived, as a dull orange note starts out as support, gaining momentum while coupling with an odd tobacco-like substance as time passes to reach near-parity with the now powdery rose, spoiling the party. The overall heart accord really is unimpressive to say the least, and the combination of the powdery rose with the dull orange and pseudo tobacco really reminds me of a cross between lipstick and powdery makeup. On the positive side, the late dry-down salvages the downward spiral rather nicely, as once the powdery rose and dulled orange recede, the composition unveils a fine frankincense and woody finish that smells very good, making one wish they could have just skipped the middle section of the composition's development entirely, getting to it earlier. The bottom line is the $135 per 100ml Domenico Caraceni 1913 starts and finishes well, but its key middle is near-torturous to endure, earning it an "average" rating of 2.5 stars out of 5 overall and a neutral recommendation.
Unguentum opens with a warm orange cinnamon spiced black tea accord with a mild synthetic woody undertone. Moving to the early heart, saffron spiced, slightly sweet honeyed resinous opoponax and natural tobacco mingles with the remaining synthetic woods that have grown into co-star status, adding a sharp concrete-like violet tinge. During the late dry-down the synthetic woods swap for more subtle natural smelling ones, joining the remnants of the saffron spice in support of slightly powdery vanilla from the base that is sole star through the finish. Projection is average, as is longevity at 7-9 hours on skin.
Unguentum is an interesting composition that I still after several wearings don't quite understand. The spiced orange tea open smells quite good but almost immediately is marred by initially subtle synthetic woods. Once you get past the open and the tea vacates, the synthetic woods become more of an issue though never get quite out of control as they do in so many other perfumes. The honeyed opoponax works relatively well with the extremely natural smelling tobacco, the latter reminding me of the stuff found in Bright Leaf by Murdock but thankfully *much* more subtle. If the synthetic woods could have disappeared the perfumer might have really had something, but alas they are at their strongest in the key mid-section and are a moderately odd distraction. During the late dry-down the composition completely shifts gears all to the good. Powdery vanilla has been done many, many times before, but Luca Maffei skillfully keeps the powder to a minimum, allowing very subtle woods to shine through sans their earlier synthetic qualities. This may not be the most innovative of finishes, but it certainly is a pleasant one, ending the development on a high note. The bottom line is the 160 Euros per 100ml bottle Unguentum is a bit of a mixed bag but with more good than bad, earning it an "above average" 2.5 to 3 star out of 5 rating and a mild recommendation with reservation.
Sunshine Man opens with a slightly medicinal smelling combination of moderately sweet lemon, orange and pineapple fruit-laced aromatic lavender before moving to its heart. As the composition reaches its early heart, things stay extremely linear with the starring fruity, slightly medicinal aromatic lavender remaining in full force, now supported by a significant dill spice and sharp cedar undertone with powdery vanilla joining the fold as time passes. During the late dry-down the lavender finally vacates, leaving the supporting cedar wood to couple with the now starring powdery vanilla through the finish. Projection is very good to excellent, and longevity outstanding at over 20 hours on skin.
Let me give folks a very quick review for those who are looking for an early verdict on Sunshine Man... The best way to describe my opinion of the composition is in one word, "terrible." With that said, my further thoughts for anyone who really wants to waste more time on this unfortunate concoction are that while the composition is neither derivative nor lacking innovation, it leaves one with a distinct feeling that it was a bizarre lab experiment gone awry that Amouage decided to move forward with despite knowing so, or at least should have. I have enjoyed lavender when coupled with lemon before like found in the great simplistic Living Lavender by the talented Roberto Dario for his own line released last year, but its implementation here with the medicinal orange (what Amouage rather optimistically refers to as "orange brandy" in the official notes list) and even pineapple of all things is scary stuff indeed. Add to this disgusting combination the significant sweetness and *dill,* and you have a really poor end result to put it mildly. The only minor saving grace for this mess is the late dry-down when the sweet fruit and lavender, dill and all vacate, to leave a boring but passable cedar wood and powdery vanilla finish. The truth is Sunshine Man has the word "scrubber" written all over it from the moment of application. As an aside, near equally puzzling to the ultimate question of why this lab experiment gone wrong was released is the company releasing it. It is true Amouage has branched out somewhat from it early roots that lead to most of its best offerings, but if someone had me sample Sunshine Man blind, I would never in a million years have guessed this was an Amouage release as it has absolutely *none* of the hallmarks the house is known for. The bottom line is the $395 per 100ml Sunshine Man is an outlandishly "poor" rated offering from a house that is apparently looking unsuccessfully for a new identity, earning it a 1 to 1.5 star out of 5 rating and an extremely strong avoid at all costs recommendation to all.
Iris Cendre opens with a relatively sharp, carrot-like clinical iris with a tinge of underlying bergamot citrus support. Moving to the early heart, the iris remains the star, now adding a supporting gentle smoky amber accord and a tinge of leathery labdanum rising from the base with barely detectable slightly powdery violet. During the late dry-down the labdanum takes control eschewing most of its leathery aspect, swapping in very natural smelling woods with the very slightly sweet amber remaining in support sans smoke through the finish. Projection is below average but significantly more than a skin scent early and longevity is deceptively very good at over 12 hours on skin.
Iris is a note that this writer admittedly is not a fan of. As such, it was with some trepidation that I applied the sample of Iris Cendre on skin to see if it could buck the trend of others in the genre that didn't impress. I am happy to report that while I may not be a fan of iris focused compositions generally, I certainly am a fan of *this* one. From the open, the composition distinguishes itself by featuring a very high quality iris note that avoids the powdery aspect frequently encountered with the ingredient. This iris is stark, a touch sharp and very carrot-like, not unlike the iris used in reference iris compositions like Iris Silver Mist. While the iris is impressive enough, the deft use of subtle bergamot blended with it by perfumer Rasquinet makes for a stellar tandem. Once the smokiness arrives in the early heart it never overpowers the starring bergamot laced carroty iris, instead providing subtle depth and maybe even a touch of leathery darkness for balance. During the late dry-down the composition shifts gears near entirely, as it turns into a fine natural smelling woody affair, with just a bit of the leathery aspect remaining from earlier to set it apart. The whole development from top-to-bottom is extremely well-done and transitions are seamless. On the negative side to those that find projection important, the composition really is not a huge projector. Early, it almost exhibits average projection but an hour in while certainly more than a skin scent, it definitely hangs relatively close to it. Longevity was a bit of a mystery initially, as the first time I wore the composition I really thought it was all but gone after about 8 hours, and on my fragrance-friendly skin that really isn't very impressive. On the second wearing, and subsequent ones thereafter it turns out I was mistaken, with the perfume hanging around well past the twelve hour mark. I guess I just didn't notice it because of its lack of projection, especially late. All in all, if you are looking for a powerhouse look elsewhere, but if you can deal with its projection issues (which may be a strong positive for many situations) Iris Cendre is a superb smelling iris composition that even an iris hater like me wants in his collection. The bottom line is the $187 per 50ml Iris Cendre transcends the stereotypical aspects of the iris genre, making fans of even some that tend to dislike the ingredient, earning an "excellent" 4 stars out of 5 and a strong recommendation to everyone except those looking for monster projection.
Swan Princess goes on with a tinge of bergamot citrus and slightly metallic floral cyclamen before quickly transitioning to its early heart. Moving to its heart the cyclamen and bergamot vacate as an absolutely huge super-powdery near almond-like heliotrope rises from the base, obliterating everything in its path save supporting cedar wood, and faint peony and rose florals. During the late dry-down the powdery almond-like heliotrope remains, coupling with semi-sweet, smooth sandalwood and slightly animalic musk through the finish. Projection is very good, as is longevity at 10-12 hours on skin.
The first outing from The Vagabond Prince, Enchanted Forest, was a drunken fruit punch focused dud despite being composed by the extremely talented Bertrand Duchaufour. After that fiasco, surely reenlisting Duchaufour for its next release, Swan Princess, must result in a better outcome, right? In a word, "Wrong." As bad as the initial outing was, this one is regrettably even worse. The key culprit is a torturous combination of supercharged powdery heliotrope and near synthetic smelling cedar wood that completely doesn't work. Duchaufour tries to bridge the gap with subtle floral peony, but while he has done a stellar job with that ingredient in the past in his brilliant Rose Cut for Ann Gerard, here it fails miserably. Things at this point become a pretty linear affair, and if one doesn't like what they sniff now, it doesn't get any better late. Knowing what Duchaufour is capable of I have to believe the real trouble with these compositions for The Vagabond Prince must lie in some unfortunate briefs he has had to work with. In truth, I am quite afraid to think what The Vagabond Prince will ask him to come up with next. The bottom line is the $200 per 100ml bottle Swan Princess is a messy floral woody concoction that its talented nose just "phones in," earning a "poor" 2 stars out of 5 rating and a solid avoid recommendation.
Bally Masculin opens with aromatic, slightly powdery lavender and underlying anise. Moving to the early heart, the composition stays relatively linear as the lavender and anise remain the focus, with soft patchouli and a supporting soapy, leathery accord joining the fold. As the composition moves further through its middle, the lavender largely vacates, leaving the remnants of the now supporting anise to join the remaining rough leather and newly arrived green, slightly powdery oakmoss rising from the base. During the late dry-down the composition turns to a woody vetiver focus with hints of the oakmoss remaining in subtle support joined by slightly sweet soft amber through the finish. Projection is average, as is longevity at about 8-9 hours on skin.
Bally Masculin is a composition that took quite a while to completely win me over, but win me over it has. The aromatic lavender smelled quite pleasant from the get-go, but the anise was keeping me from completely embracing the composition despite liking it immediately. It is rare that my opinion changes to a large degree on any composition, positive or negative, but with Bally Masculin every time I would wear it new elements that I initially missed behind the lavender and anise fougere front emerged. Over time, the leather that was hiding under the aromatics reveled itself, and later the oakmoss that I completely missed the first few wears is now unmistakable. I could go on and on, but what appeared on first sniff to be a classic fougere that was competent and likable, but relatively unremarkable is actually *quite* remarkable. In short, I stand corrected. The bottom line is the long-since discontinued Bally Masculin is difficult to find nowadays and will most likely cost about $100 for a 100ml bottle on the aftermarket, but it has a lot more going on than what is smelled initially, earning it an "excellent" 4 stars out of 5 and a solid recommendation to classic fougere lovers.
It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Angelo Orazio Pregoni's perfumery skills. His first limited edition all-natural line in particular set the standard for modern innovation and brilliance. The original releases were at once potent and to some off-putting, but complex, off-the-beaten-path and for the most part absolutely amazing smelling perfume to those that "got" them. To this day, while Pregoni has expanded his lineup considerably, adding in small quantities of synthetics while branching out sometimes into slightly more easily accessible offerings, the original releases represent his best work. The challenge, as one who owns many of these compositions, is they can indeed be polarizing to the public, and while I may love wearing them, at times a bit more of a lighter touch would work wonders for their versatility as long as it didn't sacrifice their brilliant uniqueness in the process... Enter Scent and Chemistry Kiss My Ass (mentioned hereon-out as "S&C KMA").
S&C KMA has all the fingerprints of the best O'driu earlier offerings... It has the trademark culinary herbal mix, the fiery capsicum, the natural smelling cumin-driven spice, the olive-like oily undertone, the dulled florals and spunky vetiver underpinning it all. In short, this is classic O'driu through and through. What it intentionally *doesn't* have is the super-strength and potency of most other O'driu releases, eschewing the projection and density for a much more light and airy but relatively close to the skin nature. Lest anyone believe that Pregoni has just watered down past compositions, while the projection is subdued, longevity does not suffer with a very good 10-12 hours on skin.
S&C KMA is a tough composition to describe to those unfamiliar with Pregoni's early work. It would be all too easy to reference brilliant earlier works like Laltrove 1001 and others, but as few have had the privilege to smell that highly limited edition work it doesn't do much good to the uninitiated. All I can say is that like most of the initial series releases that I would encourage anyone to sniff if they get the chance, S&C KMA is another that really can't be described well in writing, requiring one to get their nose on the composition to sniff for themselves. To those who *are* familiar with Pregoni's early work, you should be well-prepared for what you are in for here, as all the good stuff fans of the original line love is present. The key difference is now you can wear those greats for personal enjoyment anywhere with relative ease. It shouldn't really matter what others think, but when working in close quarters sometimes you have to make accommodations, and with S&C KMA you give nothing up on the longevity or the composition smell at all, only the projection. To me, this is a major step forward for Pregoni in showing he can stay true to his uncompromising roots smell-wise, while showing a deft touch by making the composition much more versatile for daily wear. I'll wrap this up with saying that some of the most recent O'driu releases haven't quite clicked with my tastes like the earlier work did, but with S&C KMA, Pregoni has shown that when he wants to he can whip up true genius, and at least as of the time of this review, S&C KMA is the best new release I have sniffed this year. The bottom line is the $260 per 75ml 16 bottle limited edition S&C KMA is a brilliant return to form by extremely talented Pregoni, earning an "outstanding" 4.5 stars out of 5 rating and a super-strong recommendation, especially to lovers of his earliest work.
Polo Supreme Oud opens with a slightly animalic smelling smooth Oud oil accord, with faint hints of cinnamon spice support. Moving to the early heart, the smooth Oud remains the star, now growing in intensity with the cinnamon spice remaining in subtle support while coupling with a barely detectable underlying vague synthetic woody accord and a touch of tonka bean derived sweetness. During the late dry-down the cinnamon and Oud vacate, leaving an emerging slightly sharp vetiver as star through the finish with remnants of the vague woods remaining in support sans the earlier sweetness. Projection is below average but longevity is excellent at well over 12 hours on skin.
Polo Supreme Oud seemed almost from the get-go as a cynical money grab from Ralph Lauren to cash in on the current Oud craze, and with the line's long streak of failures there was little to persuade one otherwise. The perfumer behind Polo Supreme Oud is none other than Carlos Benaim of original Polo fame. Years ago, having Benaim's name associated with a composition meant money in the bank, but Benaim has had few winners since his Polo masterpiece from the late 70s, and indeed has created a few later disappointments for the Polo line already... Luckily, despite all my apprehension and fear of yet another Polo release unworthy of sharing its name with the original, Polo Supreme Oud was a pleasant surprise. Oh, the "Oud" used for the composition is surely fake, but unlike so many others in the overcrowded genre that smell completely unbelievable, this faux Indian Oud oil accord smells relatively realistic, its barely noticeable synthetic nature mostly obscured by Benaim's deft use of dull cinnamon as a counter balance. Ironically, the best part of the composition has little to do with Oud (fake or not) at all. Instead, the largest pleasant surprise is the late dry-down, where very enjoyable, slightly sharp vetiver emerges, coupling perfectly with the remaining dry woods that smell relatively natural at this point. In truth, had the composition led with the vetiver instead of the Oud, this review would have been even more enthusiastic, but as is, the composition has a lot to crow about, and while nowhere near Benaim's career defining stunner from the distant past, Polo Supreme Oud shows the perfumer has some life (and talent) left in him yet. The bottom line is the approximately $80 per 100ml bottle Polo Supreme Oud may not contain any of the real stuff, but it shows in the hands of a perfumer who knows what he is doing even synthetic Oud can smell good, earning it a "very good" 3.5 stars out of 5 rating and a solid recommendation. Finally, the first Polo release worth owning since the long since discontinued Polo Crest (even if despite the name the composition hasn't anything to do with the Original Polo save using the same perfumer).
CH Men Prive opens with a benzoin sweetened, nose tingling synthetic grapefruit accord before quickly moving to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, the faux grapefruit morphs into a varnish-like synthetic spiced whiskey accord, flanking vague synthetic tobacco-laced woods. During the late dry-down the synthetic booze vacates, leaving moderately rough leather as star through the finish with remnants of the vague woods in subtle support. Projection is minimal but longevity is outstanding at well over 15 hours on skin.
In the more objective portion of the review, the words "faux" and "synthetic" seem to popup all too frequently. In truth, most compositions contain a large amount of synthetics, and smelling synthetic can be a good thing in many cases. Unfortunately for CH Men Prive, smelling synthetic this time is not a good thing at all, and really makes the composition come off as unbelievable and rather cheap smelling. The grapefruit starts things off really poorly, as very few would really believe this was grapefruit they are smelling, instead you get some weird approximation of the citrus, unfortunately sweetened to an annoying degree by benzoin found in the composition's base. Speaking of "annoying," the most annoying aspect of this disappointing effort is its liberal use of all too common and never welcome "vague synthetic woods," throwing in some fake tobacco and whiskey for good measure, just in case you didn't notice how fake the rest of this thing smells. In truth, the only redeeming quality of this dud is in the late dry-down, as much more believable leather finishes things off rather nicely. It is far too little, too late, however, and by the time you reach the leather many may have already scrubbed this sucker off. The bottom line is the approximately $80 per 100ml bottle CH Men Prive is a considerable departure from its relatively decent smelling, easy-to-wear predecessor, but a highly unwelcome one, earning a "below average" 2 to 2.5 stars out of 5 and an avoid recommendation to all.
I Miss Violet opens with smooth carrot-like iris and bright slightly aqueous, semi-metallic violet leaf. Moving to the early heart the composition turns mild to moderately powdery, as the violet leaf gives way to a floral violet and supple suede leather starring tandem with the iris remaining in significant support. During the late dry-down the leather turns somewhat more rugged and more pronounced as it joins a deep, natural smelling vague woody accord and dark musk with just a hint of underlying vanilla-derived sweetness through the finish. Projection is below average and longevity just above average at 9-10 hours on skin.
The Collection Excessive offerings have been the real standouts in The Different Company's line-up, so any new release bearing that moniker demands attention and I Miss Violet is its latest entrant. The first thing one notices when the composition is applied on skin is it has a very different presentation of violet and violet leaf than one might expect. The presentation here is just as much about smooth iris and suede leather as it is about the violet, semi-metallic leaf and all. The last time I was this surprised in a violet presentation (in a good way) was Violette Fumee by the late, great Mona Di Orio. The two compositions really are dissimilar for the most part, but both commendably take the violet and show true innovation in its presentation and use with other materials. The late dry-down on the other hand is a more mundane though competent leathery woody affair, but the journey getting to it is quite worthwhile. My main gripe with the composition is its performance metrics are far from stellar. At this kind of price point, one expects a bit more oomph than the near-skin scent found here, and a bit more tenacity wouldn't go amiss either. That said, middling performance metrics aside, I Miss Violet is a fine creation by the talented Bertrand Duchaufour that while maybe is just a hair behind the other offerings in Collection Excessive, holds its own against most peers rather well. The bottom line is the $245 per 50ml I Miss Violet is a largely successful, innovative release marred only slightly by its semi-dodgy performance metrics, earning it a "very good" to "excellent" 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5 and a solid recommendation to all except those seeking a powerhouse (or those hunting superb value, as $245 per 50ml with this kind of performance is a bit of a tough sell).
Enygma goes on with a blast of saffron, with almost cinnamon-like nutmeg spice support. Moving to the early heart the saffron and nutmeg spice hang around in support, joining faint unidentifiable florals, as the composition adds dry tobacco and synthetic, slightly rubbery woods to take on the role of co-stars. During the late dry-down the spice and tobacco vacate, leaving stark sandalwood paired with slightly smoky vetiver through the finish. Projection is below average and longevity very good at between 11-12 hours on skin.
Enygma is probably the worst of the initial four Onyrico samples I have tried to date. The saffron and nutmeg open starts things off quite nicely, but all positive momentum is lost when the synthetic woods and ill-conceived tobacco arrive shortly thereafter. The dry tobacco and woods mesh quite poorly, and at this point, many will call it a day and scrub the thing off. Fortunately, the late dry-down saves things to a large degree, as the troublesome tobacco and synthetic woods give way to a fine vetiver and more natural smelling dry sandalwood starring tandem. Enygma obviously has some appeal, and on the whole I would have to call it largely successful, but the crucial heart disappoints to a degree that one has to wonder if it is worth waiting for the pretty decent finish. The bottom line is the 160 Euros per 100ml bottle Enygma is just that with its puzzling mid-section that spoils an otherwise relatively impressive start and finish, earning it an “above average” 2.5 to 3 star out of 5 rating and a neutral recommendation with a slight positive bias.
Empireo opens with radiant, slightly sharp frankincense, supported by a brief blast of nose tingling orange bergamot citrus. Moving to the early heart the citrus vacates, leaving the remnants of the frankincense to support an emerging vague woody accord that takes the fore with additional almond-like heliotrope and dulled rose florals. During the late dry-down the composition turns moderately sweet as the florals give way to a relatively dry vanilla and amber led dry-down with the vague woods remaining in support through the finish. Projection is below average, but longevity is excellent at over 12 hours on skin.
Empireo is a tough composition to evaluate. The bergamot spiked frankincense open really smells quite good, and the heliotrope and rose florals in the early heart are certainly interesting and more than a bit different. The main problem with the composition lies in its use of slightly synthetic smelling vague woods. The woods have a bit of a dry sandalwood bent to them, but the accord doesn't quite smell like the sandalwood I am familiar with. Additionally, during the late dry-down the vanilla smells just a bit "off" from what one might expect. In this case "off" doesn't mean "bad," but it does smell quite different than most presentations of the ingredient and not particularly in a good way. The composition does smell reasonably appealing on the whole, but it is hard not to feel with some more tweaking it could have been significantly improved. At least one aspect is a vast improvement over other offerings in the Onyrico line, performance. Empireo's woods in particular are relatively tenacious, something severely lacking in the other Onyrico releases tried to date. The bottom line is the 160 Euros per 100ml bottle Empireo presents an almost split decision based on its up and down fragrance profile, but it has slightly more ups, earning it a "good" rating of 3 stars out of 5 and a modest recommendation.