Reviews by Somerville Metro Man

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    Somerville Metro Man
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    Black Angel by Mark Buxton

    Mark Buxton Black Angel

    Mark Buxton has been hailed by Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez in Perfumes: The Guide as one of the currently working perfumers they believe to be amongst the most creative noses out there. With that kind of praise it certainly makes every colognoisseur take notice when he produces a new fragrance. It really makes me take notice when he decides to create his own line. In 2009 Mark Buxton created a series of seven fragrances, of which Black Angel is a member, under his own name. I am not a full-fledged member of the Mark Buxton fan club because while I find all of the scents he's made interesting many of them just don't seem to soar in the way that I expect them to. Some of this is due to expectations and some of this is likely due to the simpler reason that our aesthetics are slightly off. In looking through the pyramids for the new series the one that stood out for me was Black Angel and I thought this was a good place to get started in trying these scents out. In this case the pyramid did not lie and Black Angel is quite good. The top is a mix of citrus and bergamot, now stop me if you've heard that as a description of a top notes before. Here Mr. Buxton keeps the citrus soft and instead of the sharper aspects that citrus brings this accord brings to mind more of the pulp. This is also achieved without getting too sweet. This aspect of softness is the perfect lead-in, as this theme continues, as a grouping of soft spices appear starting with cardamom and ginger followed by rosemary and coriander. This early phase of Black Angel is my favorite part of this fragrance as it feels like pulling on a cashmere sweater that just hugs me and comforts me. The heart finishes with a nice orris which is joined by jasmine to add a little sweetness to things. The base is guaiac and patchouli and they stay true to the tone set earlier as both are kept reined in and very lightly used. Black Angel is a beautifully composed scent, which is what Mr. Buxton is known for. In the past, I've found previous Mark Buxton creations to be lacking in some area, for me. Black Angel feels like a complete fragranced idea made reality. Black Angel has great longevity and moderate sillage. I'm going to have to try the other six scents in the Mark Buxton fragrance line but they are going to have to be pretty darn good to be better than Black Angel.

    10th October, 2009

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    Daphne by Daphne Guinness

    Comme des Garcons x Daphne Guinness Daphne

    When I heard Daphne Guinness was working on a scent with Comme des Garcons I have to admit my first impulse was to think of her last name and the beer that it symbolizes and wonder what a beer perfume would smell like. Thankfully, Daphne Guinness is not about the beer and more about style and this 2009 co-production with Comme des Garcons and composed by Antoine Lie. Daphne is definitely all about incense and flowers and that's a good thing. The top of Daphne starts with a nice bitter orange which takes the orange and makes it slightly edgy. This works extremely well as the next note is a deep incense that combines the resinous quality of incense with the tartness of the bitter orange, and the slightly sweet nature of incense mixes with the slightly sweet nature of orange. The heart of Daphne is all floral as tuberose along with jasmine and rose come to the fore. This is mostly tuberose and early in the heart the tuberose and incense are really well balanced. For me the jasmine and the rose push too hard on the floral button and overwhelm the incense which is too bad because I really like the short period where Daphne is mostly incense and tuberose. The base is patchouli and amber and here the tuberose and incense regain some prominence and in combination with the basenotes leave Daphne feeling like a warm incense scent at the end. Daphne has excellent longevity and above average sillage. Overall I like Daphne but I think I would've loved Daphne if there were one or two less flowers in the bouquet.

    10th October, 2009

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    City Rain by Neil Morris Fragrances

    Neil Morris City Rain

    No secret to anyone paying attention that I am a Neil Morris fan. I find all of his scents to be interesting and the 2009 release City Rain is no different in that regard. Mr. Morris likes to recreate an olfactory place with each of his scents and in City Rain his inspiration is the smell of the urban milieu after a hard rain. While City Rain gets that mostly right the only way this happens in my city is if I'm standing near a garden when this rain storm happens because there is a strong floral aspect in the heart of City Rain. The top of City Rain is a mix of green tea and ozonic notes, this gives the feeling of the smell you get just prior to the thunderstorm. The almost but not quite metallic tinge to the air. In the heart of City Rain the storm has passed on by and here is where the floral character of heliotrope and honeysuckle stand out. There is a wet quality to these floral notes which is appropriate. It is in the base where you get the real feel of the aftermath of an urban rain. Here is where I get that wet pavement smell which is both mineral-like and clean at the same time. The mix of the floral heart and the concrete accord persist for a long time before having a little musk warm things up as the sun comes out in this metaphorical rain storm. City Rain like all of Mr. Morris' scents has outstanding longevity and sillage. In most of Mr. Morris' fragrances I recognize the place he's taking me to and in City Rain I recognize many of the scents of the city after a late afternoon rain.

    10th October, 2009

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    Fleurs de Bois by Miller Harris

    Miller Harris Fleurs de Bois

    One of our family friends growing up in S. Florida grew what she called a traditional English garden and it took her an amazing amount of work to keep this bit of England thriving in the tropical climate. One of my favorite natural scents was walking through this garden just after the late afternoon thundershowers that roll through Miami like clockwork. The combination of flowers and damp and wet were what I came to associate in an olfactory way with a garden. When I read that the inspiration for Lyn Harris' 2009 release for Miller Harris, Fleurs de Bois was her walks through Regent's Park in London after a rain I dared to hope that maybe this smell of my childhood could be captured in a bottle. Happily Ms. Harris has succeeded beyond my most optimistic hopes. While I'm not sure how many proper English gardens have citrus trees around them; the one I grew up with did and the top of Fleurs de Bois is a mix of citrus, mostly lemon, and fresh grass. The grass smell is that wonderful lush grassy smell after a hard rain which has earthy undertones but is unmistakably green. This is a beautiful start but we finally get down to the flowers in the garden in the heart; as iris, rose, and jasmine combine in equal measure. I can pick out each note individually but it is when I stop analyzing and let the bouquet just wash over me that Fleurs de Bois is at its best for me. These floral notes smell like flowers still clinging to the stems and dripping with water as the heart contains a humidity and density that is appropriate. The base contains the wood promised in the name as sandalwood supported by patchouli and vetiver finish this off. Fleurs de Bois has average longevity and slightly below average sillage on me. It is always such a pleasure when a perfumer can re-awaken a scent memory and Ms. Harris has certainly done that with Fleurs de Bois, for me. For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to breathe in a proper English garden after a rain give this a try it might inspire your spring planting.

    10th October, 2009

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    Turtle Vetiver Exercise 1 by LesNez

    Les Nez Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1

    The Turtle Project is a 21st century updating of the old-fashioned salon process, i.e. get a bunch of different creative people linked together and see what they come up with. The founder, filmmaker Michael H. Shamberg, has invited perfumer Isabelle Doyen to be part of this and her first contribution is Les Nez Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1. The idea of a talented perfumer creating small-batch "exercises" and releasing them so that we get to see an on-going creative process is fascinating to me. Add in the fact that Exercise No. 1 is pretty good and I'm really excited. Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 is indeed an exercise in vetiver and a strong opening statement on that note. The top starts with the grassy version of vetiver I like quite a bit and it is paired with a citrus accord of mostly grapefruit. This gives Exercise No. 1 a very light beginning. The heart of this begins to tread vetiver territory that feels more familiar as the wetiver becomes a little smokier and a little less green and more rich. The base is a mix of vetiver and wood, mostly cedar to my nose, which sharpens the lines around the vetiver and makes it stand out on its own a little more. Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 has a feel of falling somewhere between Encre Noire and Vetiver Extraordinaire on my vetiver scale. While never achieving the darkness of Encre Noire or the intense smokiness of Vetiver Extraordinaire there are lighter aspects of both of those qualities evident in Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1. Turtle Vetiver Exercise No. 1 has above average longevity and moderate sillage. Exercise No. 1 has been so interesting I am eagerly anticipating Mme. Doyen's Exercise No. 2.

    10th October, 2009

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    Unidentified Fragrance Object / Untitled by Kenzo

    Kenzo Unidendified Fragrance Object (UFO)

    I am a fan of Kenzo as a House, overall. I am especially a fan when they give perfumers some leeway to be creative as they did Dominique Ropion in Jungle L'Elephant. I was very excited to hear that they had asked Aurelien Guichard to create a 2009 limited edition Unidentified Fragrance Object ( Parfum Objet Non Identifie ). M. Guichard stated he was designing this scent around a heart which contained a "marble accord". Marble as in the material used by sculptors and this had me really looking forward to a mineral-laden scent and M. Guichard does not disappoint. The top of UFO is reminiscent of M. Guichard's Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory as UFO also starts with a metallic note. In this case it feels like the metal of the chisel before it starts to bite into the marble. There is a note of orange blossom to keep the metallic accord from getting too strong. The heart is the promised "marble accord" and it has a cool stone quality to it but it also has a curious kind of wamth as well as it turns deeper and more minerally in character. It is like the sun is warming the stone as it is being worked upon. all throughout the development of this stony aspect a sheer frankincense is in place as it seems this artist works with a cone of incense burning in their studio. UFO really stays in place as a mix of incense and marble for a very long time finally allowing a base of vanilla to join them in the end. UFO has above average longevity and is very close wearing with little sillage. Aurelien Guichard is becoming one of those perfumers who is working in extremely interesting directions, for me, and if he keeps working with the same kind of artistry he shows in UFO he won't be "unidentified" for too much longer.

    10th October, 2009

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    Tom of Finland by Etat Libre d'Orange

    Etat Libre D'Orange Tom of Finland

    I have come to appreciate and look forward to wearing all of the scents I have tried from Etat Libre D'Orange. One of the things I like most is their ability to push at traditional perfume composition in interesting ways. Not all of them are resounding successes but I find all of them awaken possibilities to me. Tom of Finland was released in 2008 and was composed by Antoine Lie. In the little booklet that accompanies the bottle it says that M. Lie was attempting to make a scent that "does not disturb the odor of men". Which is an interesting concept but I think I wear cologne so that it does disturb my odor. The top of Tom of Finland is a fresh combination of a slight buzz of aldehydes along with lemon and cypress. I really like the light use of the aldehydes here as it gives the top a little bit of pizazz. The heart of this is all suede leather and it is a nice light wearing leather and Tom of Finland stays fixed as a suede-like leather on me for a long while. That fixation is nice but after too long it gets a tad repetitious and I want the scent to move along a bit, which it eventually does. The base is the weakest part of Tom of Finland as it is a weak mix of vanilla and iris. Tom of Finland has average longevity and below average sillage. It's odd that for the first time I am wearing an Etat Libre D'Orange fragrance and the overwhelming urge I have is to ask for more to be added to it. Unfortunately I think they got it right in their description Tom of Finland does not sufficiently "disturb" for my tastes.

    10th October, 2009

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    Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford

    Tom Ford Tuscan Leather

    For those of us who were around in the late 70's and early 80's Ricardo Montalban used to be the spokeperson for a car called a Chrysler Cordoba. In the commercials for the Cordoba one of the selling points, delivered in Mr. Montalban's beautiful latin voice, was "soft Corinthian leather". It was always a running joke in my head every time I came across anything in leather to ask, "Is it soft Corinthian leather?". When it comes to fragrances there are a number of excellent leathers out there which cover a number of differing strengths of leather but only the 2007 Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather captures what I think of when I'm thinking "soft Corinthian leather". One of the hallmarks of the Tom Ford Private Blends is their ability to focus on a singular note and Tuscan Leather does that magnificently. The top is a fleeting mix of saffron and thyme, there is supposed to be a raspberry note here but I have never experienced it. What I do experience is the lightly spicy safrron and the smoky sage and that is a very nice combination. The heart is where the leather comes alive and this is the smell of leather seats in a new car or a new leather sofa and it is quite wonderful, to me. Over time the leather becomes deeper; almost more broken-in and it picks up some warmth and some woodiness as Tuscan Leather's base comes into play. In many ways Tuscan Leather is a linear leather scent but the ability of the leather to change and soften in character from heart to base makes this a line worth traveling. Tuscan Leather has extreme longevity and above average sillage, on me. As he has done in so many of the Private Blends Tom Ford has crafted another winner, this time focused around leather, perhaps he should have called it Corinthian Leather.

    10th October, 2009

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    Tea for Two by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    L'Artisan Tea for Two

    While I know many people love their coffee, my preferred way to caffeinate myself is through tea. There has been a similar expansion of choices in both coffee and tea over the last few years and I have really enjoyed trying many teas I had only heard of before. One of those teas is lapsang souchong which is a black tea which is dried over a wood fire which imparts a smoky flavor and aroma to it. I had only recently fell in love with lapsang souching the tea when I came across the 2000 release for L'artisan, Tea for Two. Tea for Two was created by Olivia Giacobetti and it is lapsang souchong in a bottle and it is wonderful, to me. I can definitely understand not wanting to smell like a cup of tea but the choice to emulate a smoky black tea gives Tea for Two more character than one might expect from a fragrance named Tea for Two. Right from the top the smoky aspect is apparent and that's the first note I get upon application, this is followed by the note of really rich black tea and here is where Tea for Two smells just like my tin of lapsang souchong right after I open it. Moving forward, Mme. Giacobetti adds in some of the accoutrements of a tea service as the next two notes are the twin spices of cinnamon and ginger. both of these add a spiciness to things but are done with Mme. Giacobetti's trademark etherealness so that while they add heft and contrast they never seem to take over this scent, instead they hover at arm's length. The base is a mix of honey and vanilla with the honey being the more prominent of the two notes. The choice of the sweetness of honey to add balance to the smoky tea is my favorite part of Tea for Two and it is here where Tea for Two spends most of its time on my skin. Tea for Two has above average longevity and sillage, on me. I'm not sure everyone will want to smell like a cup of lapsang souchong lightly sweetened with honey but if this sounds like your...um... cup of tea; drink up and breathe in you're in for a treat.

    10th October, 2009

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    Private Collection Jasmine White Moss by Estée Lauder

    Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss

    The banning of oakmoss as an ingredient is creating some interesting by-products as perfumers try to compose chypres without using the out of favor ingredient. This is leading to a renaissance of chypres being composed as the creativity of these artists is being challenged. One of the latest and best examples of this trend is the third release in the Estee Lauder Private Collection, Jasmine White Moss. This 2009 release is, according to the press materials, a co-creation of Estee Lauder who had been working on this in the 80's and it was re-discovered and finished by her granddaughter Aerin Lauder. I think this explains the feel of Jasmine White Moss as a cross between a strong floral 80's scent and a cleaner more modern 21st century creation. The top of this does go on with a huge floral bang reminiscent of that 80's style. What is nice is where one of those 80's powerhouses would have kept you encircled in that floral cloud; Jasmine White Moss allows the sun to shine in a bit and break up the floral fog. What shines in is what is called in the notes, White Moss Mist. I'm not sure if I know what that is but to my nose it smells like clean fresh oakmoss right out of the package. What that means is this accord has the ability to add some of the depth of oakmoss without some of the funkier aspects that go along with it. It feels like those elements have been left behind in the chemistry behind composing a replacement for it. That doesn't make it smell bad it makes it smell different like a fresh version of oakmoss and in Jasmine White moss it creates a brightness in the heart which I find captivating. Jasmine White Moss stays firmly floral and white moss for most of its development. I get some patchouli and vetiver very late in the drydown but this scent is very much what it says on the bottle. Jasmine White Moss has above average longevity and above average projection. They say necessity is the mother of invention, in this case it looks like Estee Lauder might have been the grandmother of invention for Aerin Lauder and the invention they created is quite beautiful.

    26th September, 2009

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    Encre Noire by Lalique

    Lalique Encre Noire

    When many of us start looking around Basenotes one of the first things we discover is the high level of esteem Guerlain Vetiver is held in. For many of us, I am sure, that Guerlain Vetiver is the first vetiver most of us try. From there it becomes a gateway to the number of great vetivers out there. In my estimation Givenchy Vetyver and Guerlain Vetiver were the alpha vetivers, at the beginning, as both came out in the late 50's early 60's. It took until the 21st century for the next evolution to really take place as there are two vetivers that really take those beginnings and move vetiver forward. Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire is one and the other is the 2006 creation by Nathalie Lorson, Lalique Encre Noire. Encre Noire takes vetiver and roughs it up by adding in some woody notes and more particularly a spicy underpinning that makes it a real "Noire" kind of scent. The top of Encre Noire comes in with the sharper edges of vetiver on display and it is balanced with a light wood of cypress and a hint of smokiness. As this develops the vetiver becomes more herbal in nature which adds some greenness to this and here the woods turn softer, in conjunction with the softening of the vetiver. There are also some spicy notes that become more prominent in the heart adding some complementary edginess to the woods and vetiver. The base eschews the woods and brings in a dark sensual musk to pair with the vetiver. This is where I really get the feeling of something happening in the middle of the night and in a good way. Encre Noire has average longevity on me and slightly below average sillage. It wears fairly close to my skin which makes it an ideal going out at night scent for me. If you're a fan of vetiver you have to try Encre Noire. If you're a fan of great perfumery you have to try Encre Noire. This is one of the best perfumes out there.

    26th September, 2009

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    Carnal Flower by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

    Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

    Most of the fragrances I wear I get them on the first wear and subsequent wears rarely expose something I miseed on the first sniff. There are far fewer fragrances that are much different depending on the temperature and yet are rewarding in both warm and cold. Then there are the rare gems which are ever changing kaleidoscopes of notes which seem to reveal different beautifully complex combinations as if by whim. I think no matter how many times I wear them I'll never figure them out completely. One of these gems is the 2005 release for Frederic Malle Editions de Parfum, Carnal Flower. Dominique Ropion has created an incredible tuberose centered scent that is easily worn by a man and will reward those wearings with one of the most beautifully textured scents you could wear. If you take a look at the note list for Carnal Flower it can be a little off-putting. If you think that a scent with things like melon, coconut and eucalyptus has to be an unblanced bit of craziness, no one could blame you. If it keeps you from trying this, that is too bad. From the top a little bergamot starts things off traditionally and it is quickly joined by the tuberose core of Carnal Flower. The description on the box boasts that Carnal Flower has the highest concentration of tuberose absolute of any fragrance and the intensity of the tuberose throughout the develpopment definitely shows this to be true. As the tuberose begins to come to the fore the first surprise is that note of eucalyptus as the camphor-like nature of that plays elegantly against the sweet floral nature of the tuberose. This beginning has felt different on me every time I wear this. Sometimes the eucalyptus seems like an equal partner and other times it seems like it is a grace note. As this moves into the heart the other problematic notes come into play as the melon and coconut show up but they are kept in check thorughout and are used as complemetary notes. Here the sweetness of both the coconut and the melon enhance instead of detract; as they do for me in so many other scents they are used in. The base is a mix of white musk and tuberose and the musk proves to be a perfect light partner. For something with this much tuberose in it it never rises to the level of seeming to be too-much on me. It stays at an appropriate level for a shared fragrance. Carnal Flower has excellent longevity and excellent sillage. Carnal Flower is just one of the best scents I own.

    26th September, 2009

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    Caprissimo by Carthusia

    Carthusia Caprissimo

    Carthusia makes two of my favorite scents in Carthusia Uomo and Numero Uno. Numero Uno is one of the better chypres out there, on me. I was very excited when I read Carthusia was re-issuing Caprissimo which was reportedly a former gem of a green chypre. I haven't been able to confirm whether this re-issue has any resemblance to the original but I do know that I like this version quite a bit. The top starts with a Mediterranean lemon accord mixed with green aspects. This is an opening that is bright and very common. For all of that familiarity I find it is one I like quite a bit. The heart of Carpissimo is a deep floral mix of jasmine, frangipani, and osmanthus. The green notes from the top stay in place to keep the floral heart from becoming too much the focus of Caprissimo. These three floral notes feel like they are made for each other as they create a heady floral bouquet. The base is a beautiful mix of cedar, sandalwood and myrrh. This mix of woods and myrrh make for a strong base that contrasts the green floral of the heart. Caprissimo feels like another take on a chypre without the oakmoss and the use of the myrrh works for me in that regard. If the original Caprissimo was indeed a green chypre it is my guess that this new incarnation is an attempt to stay true to that original while working within the new formulation guidelines. Caprissimo has average longevity on me and average sillage. Caprissimo is another winner for me from Carthusia.

    26th September, 2009

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    Patchouli Patch by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    L'Artisan Patchouli Patch

    Ever since I first smelled patchouli oil on a person in my early teens I have liked the scent of it. There is something about patchouli that comes off as a comfort scent on me and also, in some way, reminds me of my youth at the same time. I own and like many of the patchouli-based scents that are available and it doesn't take much more than a well-blended mix of patchouli to get my seal of approval. The 2002 L'Artisan release Patchouli Patch does have something else going for it besides the titular note it also has my favorite current perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour as its co-designer, along with Evelyne Boulanger. That takes Patchouli Patch up a notch, for me. The top of Patchouli Patch is an interesting mix of patchouli and the sweet floral note of osmanthus. The combination accentuates the sweeter aspects of patchouli but it also allows the herbal contrast inherent in patchouli to stand out more clearly, as well. The move into the heart is accompanied by sheer white musk which adds a quality of making the patchouli feel broken-in as if you've been wearing it for hours instead of an hour. The white musk gives the feel of a sun-warmed skin accord and that seems perfect. The base is an interesting choice to pair the patchouli with a stark anise. The cool anise is at right angles to the now warm patchouli and gives the base of Patchouli Patch an icy warm feel that is great to experience. The choice of a few notes to go with patchouli which progress the scent from sweet to warm to cool is really quite inspired. Patchouli Patch has avarage longevity and sillage on me. Yes its easy to get me to like a patchouli perfume but in the case of Patchouli Patch its a pleasure to wear and no hardship to enjoy.

    26th September, 2009

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    Saffron / Amber / Agar Wood / Cardamom by Korres

    Korres Saffron Amber Agarwood Cardamom

    Korres is a Greek based Homeopathic Pharmacy that has recently branched out into fragrances. In 2009, they released three scents. The names are the ingredients and the one labelled Saffron, Amber, Agarwood, Cardamom immediately caught my attention as I enjoy all four of those notes immensely. One thing I can say about Korres is they definitely practice truth in advertising as it is those four notes and only those four notes I get when wearing this one. Right from the top the saffron, cardamom, and agarwood are present. The saffron and cardamom are a little more prominent at the very beginning. What makes this scent remarkable is the restrained use of agarwood (oud). In a perfume world full of big powerhouses which use agarwood as the big bold note this scent uses it in such a lightly applied manner I was first worried the note wasn't there when I first sprayed it on. It took a couple of minutes for it to make itself known and unlike other agarwood scents it never dominates it instead keeps a nice balance with the saffron and cardamom which is not easy becasue of the delicacy of those notes. Slowly over a good deal of time the scent becomes warmer as amber adds itself to the mix. This is where the scent stays for a good long time in its development, intricately balanced between all four notes and it is beautiful. Korres Saffron Amber Agarwood Cardamom has excellent longevity and modest sillage. For those who like agarwood but want something that won't overwhelm this is worth a try. For those who have shied away from agarwood because of that tendency to dominate this might be the one version of agarwood that might work on you. For me, this is a wonderful fall scent which takes four of my favorite notes and creates a beautiful whole out of them.

    19th September, 2009

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    Fille en Aiguilles by Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

    Serge Lutens Fille en Aguilles

    I truly enjoy the moment I get surprised by something when I smell it for the first time. Based on all of the advance word on the 2009 Serge Lutens release Fille en Aguilles I was expecting a typical Serge Lutens take on pine needles. The name translates to "girl on needles" which seems appropriate for something that has the following list of notes; pine needles, vetiver, frankincense, fruit, and spice notes. The last two almost need to go without saying, in a Serge Lutens scent, and in many ways those last two come to dominate many scents from this House. That is why this is such a surprising scent to me because Christopher Sheldrake chooses to keep the trademark accords but he dials them way back and creates as linear a Serge Lutens scent as exists. The top is the promised pine needles. So many time when you read pine needles it really means pine sap, the thick resinous accord. Here this is the needles, lighter and airier containing a hint of resin. For those who miss the resin you don't have to wait long as the heart has a full house of resinous notes which starts with a sharp vetiver followed by incense and then slowly joined by a camphor note. This camphor note has the same exhilirating quality that it has when it appeared in a previous Serge Lutens scent, Borneo 1834. The interplay of the astringency of the vetiver, the dry aspect of the incense, and the vaporous quality of the camphor makes the heart of this simultaneously warm and icy. The scent lingers at this stage for the great majority of its development on my skin finally giving way to the dried fruit and spice notes that I've come to expect from the scents of this House. Fille en Aiguilles feels like another great scent for cooler weather but it is light enough that I won't hesitate to wear it in the heat, either. Like almost all Serge Lutens, Fille en Aiguilles has incredible longevity and above average sillage, on me. For a scent with "fille" in it's name this one feels more "homme" to me.

    19th September, 2009

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    Fat Electrician by Etat Libre d'Orange

    Etat Libre D'Orange Fat Electrician

    The more things I wear from Etat Libre D'Orange the more I realize how much I like the risks the House takes. One of the noses for the House who has regularly seemed to connect with my sensibilities is Antoine Maisondieu. Three of my favorites, Noel au Balcon, Vierges et Toreros and Rossy de Palma, are his compositions. When I heard M. Maisondieu had done a "semi-modern vetiver" for the line I knew the 2009 release Fat Electrician would be interesting, and it is. Fat Electrician has the most in common with Vierges et Toreros of the three scents I mentioned previously. It has a strength around its central note that pushes the envelope. Much like the raw leather accord in Vierges et Toreros the vetiver in Fat Electrician comes off rawer and more unrefined than it does in other scents. I like it because it makes it stand out from those other vetivers that I own. The description that comes in the box claims M. Maisondieu is trying to create a "white, metallic, silver' vibe at the top. I'm not sure I get that, what I get is a raw green, grassy accord with a healthy amount of cigarette. This is carried forward into the heart where the vetiver comes in quite intensely and quite green. The smokiness of the cigarettes combine marvelously with the edgy pungent vetiver. The transition into the base, again, according to the note list is supposed to be a gourmand-like "chestnut creme". I don't get that at all as instead I get a great resinous mix of opoponax and myrrh which really finishes it nicely on me. I think I'm pretty thankful that the gourmand notes don't appear on me as I think I might not like this as well as I do if they were present. Fat Electrician has great longevity and decent sillage. Fat Electrician is different than any of the vetivers I currently own and while I think it is definitely worth a try by any vetiver lover it is not going to be one loved by every one of those vetiver lovers. If you do like your vetiver on the strong side invite a Fat Electrician over you might find him to be more interesting than you might think.

    19th September, 2009

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    Burnt Amber by Neil Morris Fragrances

    Neil Morris Burnt Amber

    When it comes to Neil Morris' fragrances I am a big fan. I find that most of his creations work on me and Burnt Amber, created in 2008, is no exception. Burnt Amber has many of the hallmarks of what I enjoy when wearing one of Mr Morris' scents, it has a complexity and density that is far above most of what is available out there. Which is why wearing one of his scents is the equivalent of watching "Lost" on TV. I get everything necessary to enjoy the show on the first viewing, but I always watch each episode twice. Because I get new insights and pleasures when I can take my eyes off of the central action to notice the things happening in the background. Burnt Amber is the same for me. The first time I wore it, being the fan of the central note and the composer that I am, I liked it a lot. Upon further wearing the nuances became more apparent to me and make this one of my favorites from Mr. Morris. The top starts with an interesting mix of plum and pepper. This gives a pleasant sweet and spicy contrast to the start of this. These notes are joined by the promised smoky amber in the title. A very warm amber appears sheathed in a woodsmoke halo. The first time around that was what I noticed most, as it is the heart of this scent. On subsequent wearings I realized that the plum note in particular persists and that adds a dark sweetness to the amber and enhances the sweet aspects of the woodsmoke. The base is a mix of oud and oak over an animalic castoreuem. This is a strong finish, appropriate to the building intensity leading here. Oak adds a hefty, woody strength that is contrasted with the complexity that oud brings. Along with the castoreum this gives the base a depth; and again the addition of the plum, which is still present and accounted for, accentuates the sweeter aspects of all three notes in the base. According to Mr. Morris' website it was this addition of the plum note that was one of the last things added to Burnt Amber and the importance it plays throughout the development of Burnt Amber makes me wonder if this would have been half as good without it. Burnt Amber has incredible longevity and above average sillage. Once again I turn to one of Mr. Morris' fragrances and am amply rewarded for the experience.

    19th September, 2009

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    Bois d'Arménie by Guerlain

    Guerlain Bois D'Armenie

    Guerlain has been very hit or miss on their most contemporary creations which has made me cautious when it comes to trying the new ones especially when it seems to be in territory Guerlain is not known for. Bois D'Armenie was released in 2006 and it was inspired by Papier D'Armenie. Papier D'Armenie are little incnse infused strips, used as air-freshener, they are loaded with benzoin and give off a resinous vanilla scent when burned. Annick Menardo is the nose behind Bois D'Armenie and when thinking of her creations of Bvlgari Black and Le Labo Patchouli 24 I wonder how working for Guerlain will affect her style. There I sit looking at the bottle thinking a strong modern incense scent from Guerlain? Not likely. Happily I sprayed the perfume on me and was instantly enchanted. Anyone who has paid attention to my reviews knows how much I like incense scents. My favorites are all very strong, Bois D'Armenie has opened my eyes to what a subtle incense can do. The very top of Bois D'Armenie captures the sweet smell of burning paper which is appropriate considering the inspiration. From there a beautiful vanillic resin accord comes in. This couldn't be more like the experience of burning a strip of Papier D'Armenie and if this scent ended here it would be good. But there is another word in our name, Bois, and the woods need to show up, and they do in the heart. The incense pulls back and is replaced by a balsam accord and a dry patchouli and this is a beautiful complement to the beginning. There are still hints of the top notes and they accentuate the notes present in the heart. The base slowly becomes more woody over time and there is some musk added to give some more depth to the base. Bois D'Armenie is very long lasting on me but it wears fairly close and as a result does not produce much sillage. Bois D'Armenie might be one of the most quiet incense scents I own, it is also one of the best I own.

    19th September, 2009

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    Oud Wood by Tom Ford

    Tom Ford Oud Wood

    My first exposure to oud as a note came through a sampling of a number of Montale scents. Those scents are beautiful but they have to be worn with care as they are all powerhouses. The thing that stands out in those scents is what a versatile note oud can be. The mix of slightly sweet, the woody character, and the hint of an almost medicinal edge make it something that perfumers can use to enhance one of or all of those characteristics to design their perfume. Most people's introduction to oud came in Yves St. Laurent's M7 which was designed by Tom Ford. Tom Ford has gone on to his own signature line and part of that is his Private Blend Collection. In 2007 he released his first 12 Private Blends and among them was one called Oud Wood. As the man responsible for most colognoisseur's exposure to oud I was expecting a scent that would rival the Montales in intensity. Instead I got, perhaps, the most easily wearable oud-based scent out there. Oud Wood begins with a light woodiness of rosewood and paired with it is the softness of cardamom. This is a beautifully light beginning as the choice to go with a lighter wood like rosewood which also contains some sweet facets to it makes an excellent lead-in to the heart which is where the oud comes out. The oud appears and it has more intensity than M7 but somehow it is less "loud" than M7 or the Montale ouds. This is probably due to a healthy dose of sandalwood, which is also present. The sandalwood becomes an almost equal partner to the oud and particularly the interplay of the sweeter aspects of both woods intersect amazingly on my skin. The base is a mix of vetiver and vanilla. The vanilla again enhances the sweeter qualities of the woods but the vetiver brings out the medicinal edge of the oud and makes the base have a little more of an edge than the scent has had previously in its development. Oud Wood is a long-lasting scent with modest sillage. It is that modest sillage that I think makes Oud Wood a much more versatile oud-based scent than many of the others out there. I own Oud Wood for precisely that reason because there are some days I want a full-on oud experience without feeling like my cologne is preceding me into the room by five minutes. Oud Wood feels like M7 after its left the club and is getting ready for work in the morning.

    19th September, 2009

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    100% Love by S-Perfume

    S-Perfume 100% Love

    One thing I enjoy in my perfume, from time to time, is the weird and wonderful. The rubber note in Bvlgari Black, the tar in Le Labo Patchouli 24, the dried vomit note in Etat Libre D'Orange Secretions Magnifique; okay strike the last one. Sometimes weird just takes you places you don't want to go . Also one persons weird and beautiful is another's "are you kidding?!". All reviews are a reflection of the nose of the reviewer but it is scents like, Sophia Grojsman's 2003 creation for S-Perfume, 100% Love, that are olfactory Rohrshach tests and each person who experiences this scent will get something different from it. What I get at the top is an intense fruity accord which according to the note list should be a mix of cranberry and blueberry. On me it smells closer to cherry, the cherry smell of sno-cone syrup. Very sweet and treading right up to the edge of my sweet tolerability but not stepping over. The fruit stays firmly in place and it is joined by rose and chocolate. Both notes come in, in equal intensity with the fruity beginning, and you get what for some people will come off as a fruity,floral, gourmand chemical spill but on me instead combines into something that seems almost too sweet but its not, something too floral but its not, and something too rich but its not. Somehow Ms. Grojsman pushes right to the edge with all three notes and together they create an accord that works brilliantly on me. The base is almost diasppointingly pedestrian compared to what came before as a mix of musk and vanilla end 100% Love back in common perfume territory. 100% Love is not a shy scent and carries a lot of longevity and sillage so you better like it if you're going to wear it. 100% Love is definitely not a scent that everyone will fall 100% in love with but it is a scent that is 100% creative.

    19th September, 2009

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    John Varvatos by John Varvatos

    John Varvatos

    It must be difficult as a perfumer to be given the assignment to create a designer scent. Probably similar to being an artist working in advertising. You want to be able to show off your artistry but the client has a vision they want to see realized. I think this is why so many times when I approach a designer scent I'm already pre-disposed to yawn because I'm not really expecting anything very different. It is nice when those expectations get dashed, every once in a while. Rodrigo Flores-Roux manages to tread a nice line between commercial and creative in his 2004 creation John Varvatos. In some of the press materials about John Varvatos they trumpet that some of the notes used in this scent were used for the first time. Sometimes there is a reason for that. Happily, in this case M. Flores-Roux uses that novelty to create originality over a base of familiarity and creates one of the better designer scents to be found. According to the note list the top notes are; medjool dates, Mediterranean herbs and tamarind leaves. This combination has a quality of feeling like a dark fruit married to a mix of dry herbs of which rosemary is the most prominent, and it is all tied together with an interesting green note I haven't smelled before; tamarind I presume. The top overall is sweet but the rosemary and tamarind offset it enough to keep it from being too sweet. Sage and coriander are used to transition the scent into a heart of Indian Ajowan, which is a variety of caraway. I have really come to enjoy the use of caraway in colognes, Parfumerie Generale Querelle uses it to stunning effect. The ajowan here carries the same dark spiciness that I get from Querelle but in conjunction with the sage and coriander, in John Varvatos, it feels more herbal overall. The heart transitions to the base on a note of vanilla which carries the scent into safe masculine woody teritory. In the base the unique note is called Eaglewood but it smells like a less-complex version of oud and a more complex version of gaiac. There is also a synthetic added called Auramber and based on the name I'm guessing this is the source of the warm amber feel underneath the intense woods. There is also a hint of resin which also might be coming from the auramber, as well. I find John Varvatos to be very long-lasting with above average sillage, on me. It can be depressing sometime to look out at the sea of designer scents out there and sigh. That's why its nice to wear John Varvatos and be able to turn that frown upside down.

    19th September, 2009

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    Mare by Beth Terry Creative Universe

    Beth Terry Creative Universe Mare

    What is the scent equivalent to that broken in pair of jeans you wear forever? Or the t-shirt that just seems to fit so well? Or the pair of sandals that fit your feet like a glove? None of those choices are the "best" but they impart a sense of comfort and familairity and as I have with clothes; so do I have with perfume. When I want to wear the equivalent of something that just seems to "fit" I choose the 1997 release by Beth Terry Creative Universe, Mare. Mare is a deceptively simple scent, three notes listed; sea salt, avocado, ginger lily. That is all that is there, each note rings out clearly and forcefully. Mare is mostly an aquatic scent and, for someone who is decidedly light on aquatics in his wardrobe, it is surprising how comfortable this is on me. Mare begins with the the brininess of sea salt; it reminds me of the smell of the spray off the front of my boat when I opened the engine full-throttle. It has a cleanliness but also a heft due to the saltiness that feels perfect to my sensibilities. Next up is avocado and this is a brilliant choice to pair with the salty beginning. Most times citrus is introduced in many aquatics. Ms. Terry's choice of a richer accord makes for added depth and the avocado compliments the top note instead of trying to add contrast. The base is ginger lily, a slightly spicy accord, with the clean lines that lily can afford makes this the ideal partner in a scent of this type. Mare develops into a phase where all three notes are present and accounted for and intermix quite pleasantly. Mare has above average longevity on me and decent sillage. Mare is easily my favorite aquatic scent some of which is due to the level of comfort I derive from it. On the other hand, isn't that what every scent should do?

    19th September, 2009

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    Moustache by Rochas

    Rochas Moustache

    Edmond Roudnitska was one of the great perfumers of the 20th Century, the short list of perfumes he created are classics but more importantly they all feel entirely original. What is most interesting to me is when I wear one of his creations for the first time, now, it feels thouroughly modern and unlike other scents out there. In 1949 after having created Rochas Femme during World War 2 he ,in collaboration with his wife Therese, created a masculine for Rochas called Moustache. When you look at the note list for any of M. Roudnitska's creations you realize what can be accomplished with a few notes skillfully blended. The note list for Moustache is simple; bergamot, lime, pine, vetiver, moss, rare fruit. The scent that those notes create is complex and wonderful and almost smells nothing like what that note list would lead you to believe. Based on the note list I'd expect a bright citrus scent with a grassy heart leading to a darkly sweet ending. Instead Moustache wears like a citrus, dark floral, leather scent. It makes Moustache feel like alchemy instead of chemistry. The top is a bright citrus mix of lime and bergamot, as advertised. Then, on me, in the heart I get a dark floral accord which feels like a combination of narcissus and jasmine. I'd also swear there is some patchouli floating around but maybe not. The heart does have the mossy character but it mostly feels like a rich suede leather. Once again, not what I would expect based on the note list. Moustache is another example of how a skilled perfumer can take notes that one thinks they know well and combine them in a way to show new facets of them. Moustache has average longevity on me and slightly above average sillage. It seems every time I wear another of M. Roudnitska's creations I keep fumbling for ways to describe the artistry of his perfume, Moustache is no exception to that.

    19th September, 2009

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    La Myrrhe by Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

    Serge Lutens La Myrrhe

    As an inveterate lover of all things resinous, myrrh is the hardest of the resins to get comfortable with. It can come off as medicinal and sometimes just presents too many rough edges that it makes it difficult, for a perfumer, to work with. I think myrrh has been one of the more mis-used notes out there but when a perfumer has a plan it can sing out beautifully. Serge Lutens and Christopher Sheldrake clearly had a plan when they composed their 1995 release La Myrrhe. They take the very prickliness of myrrh and use it to offset some other prickly notes and make an edgy modern classic. The myrrh in all of its raw glory is apparent, right from the first moments, and it is set against and enhanced by a burst of sparkling aldehydes. There is also an intense anise accord that feels just right, here. This is a typical Lutensian intense opening and it is not going to be for everyone. For me, it is full of razor sharp edges that I keep chasing down. I find the complexity on display mesmerizing. Eventually the aldehydes recede and then a sweet, contrasting honey note appears and this serves to highlight the sweeter character of myrrh and to mute the more medicinal aspects. As this continues to develop I get a lot of sandalwood which matches the sweetness level introduced by the honey but doesn't take it any deeper. Finally a musk and amber base helps warm this up at the very end. La Myrrhe is a beautiful piece of perfume composition that is not easy to wear. While I think everyone should sniff this I'm sure that not everyone can, or should, wear it. La Myrrhe has over 24 hours of longevity on me and is a close wearing scent with little sillage. For me, La Myrrhe is a classic baseline scent and an example of the pinnacle of what myrrh can be in a perfume.

    19th September, 2009

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    Vanille Tonka by Nicolaï

    Parfums de Nicolai Vanille Tonka

    Vanilla is one of those love/hate notes. There are many, me amongst them, that love the comforting feel of vanilla. There are others who feel it is a sickly sweet intruder on their scents and would wish for all perfumers to lock up their vanilla. Vanilla is certainly a popular note in perfumery. Most times I know what to expect when I wear a scent which has vanilla or vanille in the name. Therefore it is a pleasure when a perfumer can surprise me with a new take on vanilla. Patricia de Nicolai does just that with here 1997 release, Vanille Tonka. When you look at the name you think, Vanille and Tonka, this is like double vanilla. The reality is far different, as by bracketing the titular notes with citrus up front and incense in the rear Mme. de Nicolai creates something entirely unexpected. The top is a mix of tangerine and lime according to the note list but it really is mostly lime there is some aspect of something less tart than the lime but the edge of the lime is what carries you into the heart. The heart is vanilla but this is the vanilla of the bean less sugary sweet and more subtly rich. The pairing with tonka bean is great because the sharp lime works to bring out the spiciness inherent in tonka. Particularly the cinnamon character. So often when tonka bean is used I get teasing hints of the cinnamon and clove character that is inherent to tonka. By using the acidity of the lime at the top it seems to make my nose more receptive to the cinnamon and clove, and in turn it keeps what could be a sticky sweet mess of a vanillla heart under control and really miles away from being sweet at all. The base is a magnificent contrast as Mme. de Nicolai gives this a blast of frankincense. This accord feels like as dry of an incense accord as I've encountered and that arid quality realy turns this scent on its ear and turns it into a sweeter than normal incense scent, on me. Vanille Tonka has average longevity on me and modest sillage. Vanilla scents usually tend towards the gourmand side of the street but Patricia de Nicolai has somehow made a genre-bending version of vanilla that is far from gourmand but very close to being unforgettable.

    19th September, 2009

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    Philtre d'Amour by Guerlain

    Guerlain Philtre D'Amour

    I've always liked Eau de Guerlain but I'm not the biggest fan of it. It's certainly not a five-star scent in my rankngs. I always wanted a little more bite to it and a little more depth. Little did I know that all I had to do was work my way down the Guerlain catalog to "P". There I would find the 1999 release by Jean-Paul Guerlain, Philtre D'Amour. Philtre D'Amour works better for my sensibilities as I like sharper edges around my citrus and the feel of Philtre D'Amour is like something worn in the nighttime versus Eau de Guerlain's happy daytime brightness. Just like Eau de Guerlain, Philtre D'Amour begins with lemon but it is paired with a lovely green verbena which hones the edges of the lemon. Both scents use jasmine in the heart but again I prefer the use of petitgrain and myrtle in Philtre D'Amour as it takes this scent in a much more green direction and, for me, keeps the jasmine in better balance. The green accords remain as Philtre D'Amour progresses into the base and they are joined by musk and patchouli. Overall Philtre D'Amour is a much greener scent than Eau de Guerlain and I prefer it for that reason. Philtre D'Amour is a typical Guerlain with good longevity and good sillage. It is funny that Philtre D'Amour is considered a feminine scent because in many ways I think it is more masculine than Eau de Guerlain. Both scents have their time and place but if I'm picking one give me Philtre D'Amour.

    19th September, 2009

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    Acqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile by Acqua di Parma

    Acqua di Parma Magnolia Nobile

    I went to graduate school at the University of Georgia and one of the lingering scent memories of Athens, GA was the smell of the magnolias. Magnolia has a beautiful scent to me and a perfume that is centered around it is one that will appeal to me. Enter Antoine Maisondieu who has designed the 2009 release for Acqua di Parma, Magnolia Nobile. This is the second in the Nobili series to 2004's Iris Nobile. I am a big fan of Iris Nobile because the iris really stands out in that scent and I was hoping for the same thing in Magnolia Nobile. The top is what seems to be the Acqua di Parma trademark opening, bergamot and lemon. I wonder if you are forced to begin with this if you are asked to design a scent for Acqua di Parma. As a beginning it is fine but the sameness of it has the effect of making one stifle a yawn because you've encountered this beginning so many times before. Thankfully, just as in Iris Nobile, the titular star of the show makes its appearance quickly and powerfully as magnolia comes into play. This is a magnolia in full-bloom on a humid early summer day in the South. There is a hint of green but the floral sweet character of magnolia is cleanyl delineated in the heart of this one. The magnolia is joined by a touch of jasmine and a hint of rose but, as in Iris Nobile, those are mere grace notes; the heart of this is magnolia pure and simple. The magnolia stays in place for a good long time before slowly giving way to a woody vanilla base cut with a little vetiver and patchouli. It keeps the sweet level on a par with that of the heart and thus allows the magnolia to continue to linger without being overwhelmed. Magnolia Nobile is a close wearing long lasting eau de parfum. As they did with Iris Nobile, Acqua di Parma has created another singular floral sensation in Magnolia Nobile, let's hope we don't have to wait five more years for the next Nobili.

    30th August, 2009

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    Eau d'Hadrien by Annick Goutal

    Annick Goutal Eau D'Hadrien

    I love to go out and eat at a nice restaurant, order the chef's tasting menu, be presented with multiple courses of amazing culinary concoctions and roll home sated and satisfied. The next day I am usually up for something much less complex. A nice piece of fish simply spiced on the grill and some fresh summer vegetables always seems right. As I eat the simpler meal I am always reminded that there are joys in simpicity. As it is with food so it is with perfume. I will wax poetically about a scent with overlapping accords that combine to create new artistic leaps of scent. Then there is the 1981 creation, by Annick Goutal and Francis Camail, Eau D'Hadrien. This is the olfactory version of simple, well-blended perfection. Eau D'Hadrien has six listed notes but there are only four that I smell when I wear it; lemon, grapefruit, citron, and cypress. The development is as straight-forward as can be. The top is tart lemon and grapefruit but the lemon is dominant. As the scent progresses the citron takes the lead toning down the tarter aspects of the beginning notes. The base is a clean, light cypress note. That's it, there is nothing else to report but that doesn't mean this isn't one of the best citrus scents out there. Eau D'Hadrien has above average longevity especially for this class of cologne. It also just feels comfortable. Like most colognoisseurs I am looking for the next great thing but along the way I'm going to stop and sniff the simple well-constructed things and remember there is pleasure to be found there.

    30th August, 2009

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    Nahéma by Guerlain

    Guerlain Nahema

    A rose is a rose is a rose so sayeth Gertrude Stein. When it comes to perfume that is not true there are many roses out there and not all of them are created equal. Then there are the roses that seem like mythical flowers that seem to have no imitators and no equal. Jean-Paul Guerlain's 1979 creation for Guerlain, Nahema, is arguably the greatest rose scent ever made. According to Luca Turin in Perfumes The Guide this was done without using any actual rose oil. Instead this is perfumers sleight of hand, in other words magic. There are only a few scents that have made me have to wear them multiple time before I feel properly equipped to talk about them. I think the scientist in me believed that I would be able to tease the individual components out the more I wore Nahema to see how rose could be created without rose, I can't. Therefore like the greatest magic acts I finaly admit defeat and just sit back and let the illusion happen because its spectacular. Nahema starts with a heady blast of rose and what I find so interesting is the rose seems to change character a number of times throughout the development on my skin first it seems to be a tea rose, then a bulgarie-like rose, then something else as my head spins trying to follow the bouncing rose until I just let it wash over me. The rose is eventually joined by a lush peach note. This is a peach that is so full and round it would burst if it fell off the tree. This lush peach is perfect and properly defines this as a fruity floral but if you're comparing it to the hundreds of fruity florals that are out there, please stop. That is like comparing a Bentley to a SmartCar. Nahema uses the interplay of both notes to create a symphony and while this is a fruity floral it is in no way over-the-top sweet like so many in the class. As Nahema finally settles into its base a mix of vanilla and sandalwood show up and bring this to a soothing slightly sweet woody close. Nahema has great longevity and sillage. Nahema is one of those benchmark scents; it is an astonishing example of a rose scent, it is an astonishing example of a fruity floral and finally it is just plain astonishing.

    30th August, 2009

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