Reviews by Somerville Metro Man

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    Somerville Metro Man
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    Aqua pour Homme by Bulgari

    Bvlgari Aqua pour Homme

    There are times that the perfume business frustrates me. One of the things the designer houses do, in particular, that frustrates me is they don't tell you who composes their scents. Most of the time I don't care who composed the latest celebuscent. Like a ghost writer who pens the latest celebrity "memoir" I'm sure the nose behind a designer scent is doing their honest day's worth of work for their honest day's worth of pay. Then there are unexpected triumphs like Bvlgari Aqua pour Homme and I want to know who it was who made one of the finest aquatics out there. Alas, all that I can tell you about this 2005 release is that whoever made it should be proud of their work because this is what a designer aquatic should aspire to be. In the overcrowded "fresh and clean" field of scents Bvlgari Aqua pour Homme stands out. The top is the typical citrus mix of many aquatic scents, here it is mandarin and petitgrain which lead the way. The uniqueness of this scent takes place in the heart with a mix of two synthetics which come off as something much more and never smell synthetic on my skin. First is santolina which is meant to evoke lavender water. This is paired with posidonia which is meant to smell like "an oxygen-exuding sea plant found in the Mediteranean depths". That description sounds like sea grass to me and anyone who has been on a beach at low tide knows that smell. Thankfully the actuality is that posidonia comes off like a fresh sea breeze full of salt and ozonic notes. This in conjunction with the lavender makes the heart of this especially nice. The base is also a surprising mix of two of my favorite notes of amber and sage. Usually sage is present higher up the pyramid but in an aquatic the weight it can add to the base is a welcome change and it's clean, herbal lines stand out here. The amber in the base is described as a mineral amber and while I'm not getting the mineral aspects I am getting the warmth that amber can bring to a scent and that is also a refeshing change to most of the aquatics out there. I really feel that Bvlgari Aqua pour Homme is the next evolution of Pierre Bourdon's ground-breaking Cool Water and takes aquatics to the next level. I just wish I knew who to thank for making this beauty.

    EDIT: Thanks to fredericktoo he has pointed me to Now Smell This who credit Jacques Cavallier, who also did M7, L'Eau D'Issey, and Tom Ford Tuscan Leather; as the perfumer behind Bvlgari Aqua pour Homme. Thanks for the assist fredericktoo.

    19 July, 2009

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    Opôné by Diptyque

    Diptyque Opone

    Rose can sometimes be the prettiest note in the room to the exclusion of almost everything else. Most of my favorite rose scents are powerful and scream "Rose!" when I wear them. What to do when you want your scent to whisper "rose". For me I turn to the 2001 release from Diptyque Opone. Like many Diptyque scents it is almost a soliflore but for the addition in this scent of a lovely hit of saffron to go with the muted rose. The top of this is a sheer rose that doesn't barge into life and take over the room. Soon enough the saffron asserts itself and this mix of saffron and rose stays in place throughout the development. It is joined by some very light spice and wood throughout the development of this but Opone remains resolutely linear and composed around the two main notes of rose and saffron. This is such a good mix on me that this is a case where the linearity is not so boring on me, as I find with other scents. The ability to keep a lighter touch to the rose makes Opone an easier scent for me to wear when I don't want to be a sillage monster but still want to wear rose. Opone is like most of the Diptyque scents in that it has decent longevity on me but they don't project very much. Opone is the scent I use when I feel like whispering instead of screaming.

    19 July, 2009

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    parfums*PARFUMS Series 3 Incense: Avignon by Comme des Garçons

    Comme des Garcons Avignon

    Incense-based scents are one of my favorite style of scents. I have loved the smell of incense from my teens lighting up a cone in the burner and listening to Led Zep or Pink Floyd on the turntable; to my adulthood and discovering the perfumes that hold the same olfactory pleasures. The perfumer who has consistently hit the high notes for me in this style of scent is Bertrand Duchaufour. He has made five of my very favorite incense scents and I consider him my High Priest of Incense. All stories have a beginning and M. Duchaufour's relationship with incense-forward scents began in 2002 when he designed two of the five scents in Comme des Garcons Series 3 Incense series, Kyoto is the other. Avignon is named after the city in France which was the Papal seat in the 14th century. Appropriately the central accord in Avignon is frankincense which any one who has ever attended a high mass will recognize. In point of fact Avignon is so true to recreating the frankincense accord that I imagine if you have bad memeories of the Catholic church you might find it hard to wear. Thankfully, I don't have any olfactory issues with the Catholic church. Avignon wastes no time getting to business as from the moment this hits my skin the incnse accord comes to life. Just like the priest swinging a censer I am immediately enveloped in a heady, intense cloud of incense. This is a bold beginning and in many cases it would be a hard act to follow as it has to be hard to compose when your crescendo comes at the start. One of the things M. Duchaufour does is to leave the incense accord in play but like that imaginary cloud of incense allow it to recede and be paired with patchouli in the heart. As any child of the 60's and 70's will tell you patchouli and frankincense go together like peanut butter and jelly, they're just natural partners and it is the same in the heart of Avignon. the herbal quality of patchouli added to the sweet resinous incense makes for a perfect balance. The whole scent is tied together with a beautiful vanilla in the base. The vanilla is used to accentuate the sweet quality of the incense and to contrast with the herbaceous quality of the patchouli and the choice of vanilla to close this off is nigh perfect. Avignon is an extremely strong scent on me but it has been mentioned in other articles that it is an excellent layering component when used in moderation. I know it is the incense scent I turn to when I am interested in adding a touch of incense to another scent. M. Duchaufour has gone on to make even better incense scents, Timbuktu & Jubilation XXV, but in Avignon his first steps on the incense road already showed the potential that those future scents would realize.

    19 July, 2009

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    Pino Silvestre by Silvestre

    Pino Silvestre


    You know when you get in a taxi cab and there is a little cut out of a pine tree labeled “air freshener” and it smells like pine. I call that truth in advertising. When you pick up a green glass bottle shaped like a pine cone which is the 1955 creation by Lino Vidal, Pino Silvestre, what do you think its going to smell like? Pino Silvestre is one of the most straight forward scents I own. It is unabashedly an example of "what you see is what you get", just like those pine tree shaped air fresheners. This isn't to say that there isn't some subtlety to this but if you do not like the smell of pine, stay away. The top of this is as quick a transition as I've encountered as there is a drive-by appearance of bergamot and citrus before the pine slams into things. The pine is paired with a great sage The sage adds a beautiful herbal undertone to the pine and makes this quite the enduring pair. If the top was a drive-by, the heart of this is a long slow Sunday drive as the pine and sage lasts for well over an hour. Very slowly and very lightly you get some of the clean lines of cedar and an amber that really adds some depth to this. Pino Silvestre is a long lasting scent that easily lasts all day. If you are a fan of pine then pick up the little glass pine cone and spray away I don't think you'll be disappointed.

    19 July, 2009

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    Le Dandy by D'Orsay

    D'Orsay Le Dandy

    The metrosexual of the turn of the 17th century was called a Dandy and we have come a long way in the two hundred or so years since that term was popular. Although I imagine two hundred years from now we'll be snickering at metrosexual, too. What both terms are trying to describe are a man of the times current in all things from fashion to politics. Smack dab in the middle, somewhere in the early 1920's, Le Dandy was released by Parfums D'Orsay. In 1998 Dominic Preysass updated Le Dandy and it was re-released. With that update Le Dandy had the opportunity to find its 21st century constituency. Back in the times when the term Dandy was used it was meant to convey a man aspiring to aristocratic values, the same can be said of Le Dandy as the dominant notes give off the sense of a smoking parlor and the men conversing after dinner in those long ago times. The top is dominated with a boozy accord that the note list calls whisky but it comes off more cognac-like to my nose. This is paired with a great anise note that really complements the liquor accord. Tobacco makes its appearance next as this scent lights up its metaphorical after-dinner cigars. The heart is a beautiful mix of spices with ginger being the most predominant of the mix. Ginger is an excellent choice as it carries some sweet and strengthens the sweet present in the tobacco. The base is a mix of woods for which I get some sandalwood and cedar, mostly. Again it is the use of the slightly sweet woods which delicately finish this off in grand style. I haven't had the opportunity to try the original vintage version but M. Preysass has created a scent that would make an 18th century Dandy or this 21st century Metrosexual happy to wear.

    19 July, 2009

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    Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene

    Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel


    Sometimes male wearers of perfume remind me of the Little Rascals and their “He-Man Woman Haters Club”. Except it should be more accurately phrased, for what I’m thinking, as the “He-Man Floral Haters Club”. Usually if you’re talking about floral scents most gentlemen tend to shy away from them unless we’re talking about rose or lavender. There have been a number of recent scents like Dior Homme and its iris core that have started to expand some men’s floral vocabulary. I think that the beginning of this might be traced all the way back to 1976 and Andre Fromentin’s creation of Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel. The floral used here is violet and it is used in this scent in such a way as to give you a floral component that also has a green side to it that keeps it from being too floral. The note list for Grey Flannel is five notes simple; violet, lemon, orange, oakmaoss, sandalwood. This is one of those colognes in which every note listed is present and accounted for and to my nose I smell a few party crashers, as well. From the top, the violet is the first thing to hit my nose and the tight floral character of this which also holds a green leafy component is what makes this an ideal note to center a masculine cologne around. There is no mistaking this is a floral note but it is not flowery in character. The choice of pairing this up with tart lemon and sweeter orange makes the top of this very refreshing. As this transitions to the oakmoss heart I’d swear I get a hint of sage. That might come from the violet and the oakmoss together as perhaps the oakmoss brings out more of the green characteristics of the violet. The violet persists into the base and now the floral character is enhanced as the sweet woody sandalwood accentuates that aspect. I can see Grey Flannel being too strong for some as this is no shy flower on the skin it has a noticeable sillage and a persistent longevity. On the other hand if you like Grey Flannel it is a great office scent and it might lead you to give some other florals a try. Grey Flannel is one of those classics that has stood the test of time and at least for me caused me to change the sign on my perfume clubhouse to “He-Man Violet Lovers Club”

    19 July, 2009

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    Cool Water by Davidoff

    Davidoff Cool Water

    If Helen of Troy was said to have the face that launched a 1,000 ships then certainly Davidoff Cool Water can be called the fragrance that has been responsible for the launch of a 1,000 fresh and clean scents. Although I imagine that when Pierre Bourdon was creating this in 1988 he had no idea how slavishly this formula would be copied for the next 20-plus years. That shouldn’t keep one from admiring it now just because the number of imitators has mushroomed beyond belief. Cool Water was the beginning of the signal change from the powerhouse style of scent of the 80’s and it was the very fresh and clean nature of it that made it stand out when it was first released. Back then as the first aquatic scent, it stood out. Now it can be seen as being so straight-forward aquatic as to be considered pedestrian. I still find it to be one of the best in this class. One of the reasons that I think this is that Cool Water still has one of the best openings in the aquatic class for me. The mix of lavender, coriander, mint and orange always make me wonder why I don’t wear this more, for the first fifteen minutes. The mix of light floral and aromatic herbal with citrus always makes for an eye-opening start. In the heart is where M. Bourdon tries the same trick of light floral plus a green note plus a woody note that Cool Water starts to take on a different character. The floral is jasmine but it never gets too sweet as oakmoss and sandalwood are there to keep it a restrained floral sweetness. It is in the heart where Cool Water turns from refreshing to clean as the lines become more sharply drawn. The base of this takes those lines and makes them bolder and thicker as cedar makes its first appearance adding in the cleanliness that will be repeated many times after this in many scents in this class. Along with the cedar a very light mix of amber and musk are present. Neither of those notes rise to a level to muss up Cool Water’s hair and mostly are present to add a little needed depth to the base. As with many of the scents in this class the sillage is modest along with the longevity. Even now when there are probably hundreds of fresh and clean scents to choose from M. Bourdon’s creation still holds its own and shows that while originals can oft be imitated, rarely are they bettered.

    19 July, 2009

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    Azzaro pour Homme by Azzaro

    Azzaro pour Homme

    Success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. One of the ways you can tell that 1978's Azzaro pour Homme is a success is that there are many who claim to be this scent's father. Richard Wirtz, Loris Azzaro, Martin Heiddenreich and the credited nose Gerard Anthony all have claimed paternity and I would be hard pressed to say based on the scent itself who is responsible. According to "The Scented Salamander" there are over 320 ingredients in Azzaro pour Homme. What makes this so surprising is that something which had so much creative discord and then seemingly constructed by throwing in everything on the shelf has come out to be so classic. Azzaro pour Homme is perhaps the best example of an aromatic fougere out there and it has easily withstood the test of time. At the top I get a mix of lavender and anise which is fairly quickly joined by a tart citrus accord. The heart of this is a green herbal mix of what seems like the majority of the 320 ingredients. At times I get hints of sage, basil, rosemary or cardamom. There are also floral components, as well; mostly a soft rose peeks in and out. There is a stronger component of vetiver and sandalwood underneath the herbal goings on but even those notes never overwhelm and as this progresses there is an amazing complexity on display. The base is much simpler as all of the business from before settles down into a musk and amber base which comes as a soothing contrast to the complicated heart of this. It wasn't until the late 90's that I picked up Azzaro pour Homme for the first time and like so many other times in my life I wondered what took me so long.

    19 July, 2009

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    Armand Basi Homme by Armand Basi

    Armand Basi Homme

    I hold a soft spot in my heart for masculine orientals. Calvin Klein Obsession for Men and YSl Opium pour Homme were two of my early favorites in this category but those are powerhouse scents and there are times I want that oriental feeling but without the volume turned up to full. For those times I turn to Armand Basi Homme which was created by Olivier Cresp in 2000 for the Spanish designer. Armand Basi Homme is like switching from the hard-rock radio station to the adult contemporary station on your radio. There is still some music that rocks but there are some more soothing quieter moments to guide you through your day. M. Cresp has created an oriental which manages to capture all the construction hallmarks of the class without taking over the room. This scent is closer in style to Obsession for Men than Opium pour Homme. If you like the feel of Obsession I think it likely you’ll like this one, too. The top of Armand Basi Homme blows in on the lightest of spices particularly an application of cardamom and cinnamon mixed with a lavender. The floral component shifts in the heart to lily of the valley along with the sweeter of the spices nutmeg and tonka. When I first wore this it felt like this scent was headed firmly towards gourmand territory but the base stays pure oriental. The base takes a woody turn with a mix of cedar, guaiac and sandalwood. The sweet theme of the heart is echoed in some presence of vanilla but the base is a woody wonderland most of all. Because the volume is turned down Armand Basi Homme tends to be a closer wearing scent than other orientals but its longevity is quite good despite being so close wearing. So for those days when your scent radio is more attuned to Matchbox 20 than Blink-182 give Armand Basi Homme a spin on your scent radio dial.

    19 July, 2009

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    L'Eau de Tarocco by Diptyque

    Diptyque L'Eau de Tarocco

    Diptyque released a trio of L'Eaus in 2008 and while I thought they were all OK none of them made me feel like they were great. It looks like practice makes perfect as the 2009 release by Olivier Pescheux goes well beyond OK, for me. M. Pescheux has made two of my favorites in his two efforts for Yves Rocher, Irir Noir and Voile D'Ambre. In those cases he takes the titular note and uses it as a central theme to build around. L'Eau d'Tarocco takes a different approach. Tarocco refers probably to the Tarocco Orange but Tarocco also refers to a card game played with tarot cards. I see this scent as a pattern of tarot cards being laid out. The first card laid down is "The Sun" as the top of this is full of orange both tart and sweet reminiscent of a sunny orange grove. The second card laid over "The Sun" is "Strength" as cinnamon and ginger add some power to the citrus in the top. As we move to the heart "The High Priestess" shrouded in roses appears. The heart of this comes in as a full rose accord and can run the risk of being slightly powdery. I think I would've liked a little less powder here. The base is represented by "The Emperor" as the scents of the cedar throne and the incense of the throne room are laid over a very sheer musk. The base is very well-balanced on my skin and in the cedar moves away from the powdery turn that was taken in the heart and that's a good thing. If you're looking for a new summer scent then let Monsieur Metro Man tell your fortune and recommend a trip to the closest Diptyque vendor, there you will find happiness.

    21st June, 2009

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    Ambre Gris by Pierre Balmain

    Balmain Ambre Gris

    When I was a child I received a rock tumbler as a gift. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a large rotating cylinder which looks like a cement mixer. You added rocks and sand and had it roll over and over. I was fascinated that you could put rough rocks into the tumbler and out would come these polished shiny pieces of beauty. In the 2008 scent for Balmain, Ambre Gris, perfumer Guillaume Flavigny has performed a similar trick with amber and taken what can be a rough sometime harsh note and put it in his rock tumbler and created a shiny amber beauty that seems new to the nose. The scent opens with a floral flourish of tuberose balanced by pepper, cinnamon, and immortelle. The choice of immortelle is a particularly inspired one. Tuberose can be one of those extremely off putting notes as it can be too overwhelmingly sweet using spices like pepper to offset it is a well-known approach. The use of the maple syrup accord of immortelle really keeps the tuberose on a much tighter trajectory and allows what is to come in the heart the room it needs to breathe. The heart begins with a soft resinous accord of myrrh. This is joined by an amber of incredible complexity. When the amber first makes its apeearance it is a sheer accord which seems to rise naturally from the myrrh but then it gains some strength and becomes an amber which hews closer to its resinous qualities. This almost comes off like a full incense scent at this stage. This changes again and the amber becomes the sweet amber which takes over and now the cleanliness of gaiac compliments the sweet and brings this scent to a beautiful close. The dry down in the heart, as you feel the amber acting almost like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon to all of a sudden fully appear in all of its glory, is very special. I found myself sniffing constantly to catch the next bit of nuance that was happening all throughout the dry down. Amber can sometimes be a rough beast but in the hands of M. Flavigny it has been transformed into a beautiful shiny gem of a scent.

    21st June, 2009

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    Midnight Sea by Neil Morris Fragrances

    Neil Morris Midnight Sea

    I had a great childhood growing up in S. Florida. One of the best things about it was I didn't go to summer camp. We had close firends of the family who had a son my age, Buddy. When school would get out in the beginning of June we would set sail on Buddy's parents 52 ft. sailboat down into the Caribbean for 8 weeks or so. What I remember most on those trips was being awake late at night as we were anchored in port and the smell of the ocean at night. Neil Morris has a knack of painting olfactory landscapes with his lush, densely constructed scents. His 2007 creation Midnight Sea is no different as he takes the typical ozonic sea accords and dresses them up for night adding in depth and power. To start the scent he uses a very freshwater note of water lily. This gives the aquatic feel with out the salt present and the feel of a night blooming flower of some kind coming awake. It is in the heart that the smell of the ocean comes alive as the salty accord full of iodine appears in contrast to the lush floral of the top. There is also a musk here which Mr. Morris uses in two other of his Midnight series, Midnight Flower and Midnight Forest. I'm not sure how this note achieves this, but it somehow adds the feel and smell of a humid night into these scents which enhances the feel of things happening at the midnight hour. This musk feels like a warm sultry breeze which carries on it the scents of things moving around just out of sight in the dark. This, in conjunction with the sea accords make the heart of this reminiscent of many nights falling asleep in my hammock with my head near the porthole breathing in the smells of whatever island we were anchored near. The base of vanilla and patchouli eventually take over things and leave Midnight Sea on firmer more recognizable ground. Neil Morris' scents are powerful creations which I have found to be rewarding compositions in their complexity and their beauty. It is nice that whenever I want to set sail, in my mind, Midnight Sea is always at hand.

    21st June, 2009

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    Dirty English by Juicy Couture

    Juicy Couture Dirty English

    I am sure that many of us have become tired of visiting the department store fragrance counters and being appraoched by the line reps pushing their latest and greatest. They all use the words "fresh", "clean", "woody", "aquatic", "sensual"...yadda, yadda, yadda. Except for a visit to my local department store in 2008. The line rep was headed towards me and the words "no thank you" were already forming on my lips when she said a word I don't usually hear from them "spicy". At which point my response died on my lips and I said "oh really?" She held up a bottle of Juicy Couture Dirty English and sprayed a strip and handed it to me and to my pleasure she was correct. In a department store world of nose-numbing sameness Claude Dir designed something that stood out, for me. From the top is a mix of spices layered over cypress. What M. Dir uses as his spice is a pepper, cardamom, and caraway mix. This scent along with Parfumerie Generale's Querelle again confirm to me the beauty of using caraway especially in the top. It is such a different alternative to bergamot while allowing for other notes to find their space. Caraway imparts a lushness to the top and it is used perfectly here with the pepper and cardamom. The cypress is the right light wood to carry this scent into the heart which is a deep leather accord which owes its depth to a woody ingredient called Santal Fatal. Santal Fatal is described as a mix of sandalwood, cedar, and vetiver. I definitely can't pick out those individual notes but there is an herbal woody partner to the leather that gives power to the heart of this. The base is a close-wearing musk which is really nice. Dirty English has a nice development in terms of sillage, at the top and heart, and it actually projects pretty nicely but by the time the dry-down has fully happened it has become a musky close wearing scent. I can see this being an ideal clubbing or date scent as early in the evening it will be out there for all to enjoy but by the end of the evening it will require someone to get close to get the rest of the story. My hat's off to M. Dir for pushing the envelope; in this style of scent there are many places where this could have gone off the rails and into excess but he skillfully kept it on track and has made a stand out designer scent.

    21st June, 2009

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    Rive Gauche pour Homme by Yves Saint Laurent

    Yves St. Laurent Rive Gauche pour Homme

    What is the colognoisseur's equivalent to Old Spice? What do you do when your olfactory palate has evolved? What happens when the drugstore scent doesn't give you that thrill anymore? In my case I look to the 2003 creation of Jacques Cavallier under the artistic direction of Tom Ford for Yves St. Laurent, Rive Gauche pour Homme. Rive Gauche pour Homme pulls off a quite neat trick of having an old-fashioned barbershop vibe but with sleek modernistic fixtures in this establishment. At every phase there is a note or accord that hearkens back to the old paired with one that is more decidedly modern. The top is a good example as there is no more classic top note than bergamot but the pairing of it with the licorice of anise and the herbal note of rosemary give it a more contemoprary zing. The heart is a deep lavender whose depth is created by the addition of rose and clove. In previous barbershop scents Carnation and the clove character is very prominent but fleeting. M. Cavallier's choice to dispense with the feel and just put the clove in makes for added longevity and unexpected intensity in the heart. The drydown to the base uses the most identifiable of the barbershop ingredients vetiver and once again pairs it with the more modern gaiac to end Rive Gauche pour Homme on a woody green finish. Rive Gauche pour Homme is also one of the most versatile scents one could own. It is appropriate from casual to formal and because of that versatility could easily be one of the better recommendations for someone looking to own just one bottle of cologne. I know if I was stuck with just one bottle Rive Gauche pour Homme would be a great choice.

    21st June, 2009

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    Luce by Beth Terry Creative Universe

    Beth Terry Creative Universe Luce

    When you're a colognoisseur do you have an everyday scent? Is there a scent you pull on like an old flannel shirt when you want to feel comfortable? The answer is probably yes and the answer is probably different for all of us who love perfume. I have found that Beth Terry Creaitve Universe as a line has become the group of scents for me that have filled that purpose for me. Mare, Te', and Vita are the ones I have tried and like very much. Beth Terry's third creation for her line was 2000's Luce. Ms. Terry has used tea as her inspiration for all of hjer scents and in particular bergamot is present in all of them. Luce is the first scent that the tea theme doesn't go beyond the bergamot in the top. Along with the bergamot she uses one of the classical pairings of lavender but there is also a tart apple note that is also present this really makes for a unique opening. The heart is a mix of the "almost rose" of geranium and actual rose. This floral aspect is kept very light. The base turns woody with a hint of amber. What makes Luce and all of the Creative Universe scents so easy to wear is the lightness of composition. Luce like its labelmates never will knock people over with its sillage. On the other hand for such light compositions they have an unusual longevity which makes them unique Ms. Terry is a perfumer who does not push out scents one after the other and I believe the care shown in making and perfecting them one at a time shows through clearly. It is definitely nice to have more than one comfortable t-shirt to choose from.

    21st June, 2009

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    Black Tie by Washington Tremlett

    Washington Tremlett Black Tie

    There are arguably more quality rose scents out there than any other note. Rose has certainly been one of the notes perfumers have used from almost the beginning. The British perfumer Washington Tremlett released Black Tie in 2007 and in many ways it feels like many other rose scents out there but yet somehow manages to feel unique. As I wear Black Tie I am reminded of many other scents I've tried. At the top Black Tie starts with a lovely saffron and sage accord. The saffron is reminiscent of both Czech & Speake Dark Rose and L'Artisan Safran Troublant. As this moves into the heart a rose geranium mix takes over. Again this reminds me of the other Czech & Speake, No. 88 as well as Domenico Caraceni 1913. The base is a mix of sandalwood, vanilla, musk, and patchouli but it comes off with a strong agarwood character to my nose and that makes Black Tie very reminiscent of many of the Montale Aoud scents. When a reviewer is mentioning other scents from other Houses one could take that as a sign that the scent being reviewed is maybe not so good or original. Actually the opposite is true. The fact that Black Tie calls to mind a number of scents that I like is a good thing. Black Tie has taken many of the things that work best in those scents and fused them all here into a beautiful whole. In many ways Black Tie sort of feels like a "greatest hits" musical compilation for my nose. One that I'll enjoy "listening" to over and over.

    14 June, 2009

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    A*Men Pure Coffee by Thierry Mugler

    Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Coffee

    Flankers have become the perfume equivalents of movie sequels. Just like movie sequels the more numbers that go behind the title the less original and interesting it usually is. There are exceptions to both rules Cartier Declaration and its flankers and The Godfather. What makes both of those cases stand out is the artists behind them chose to use the original as a stepping-off place to create again as opposed to an original to be copied. In 2008 Thierry Mugler decided to turn to Jacques Huclier who created the original A*Men, 12 years earlier, and Christine Nagel to create A*Men Pure Coffee. One of the consistent criticisms of A*Men as a scent is it is too overwhelming and the notes and accords are layered on with a too-heavy hand. While it is true that A*Men could never be considered a subtle scent I am not one who agrees with that criticism. I think A*Men was an attempt to take a number of very strong notes and try and make them into a balanced whole, which succeeds in my opinion. A*Men Pure Coffee seems to indicate that M. Huclier has heard that criticism and in Pure Coffee attempts to turn down the volume. The way he does this is to use coffee as an accentuating note which allows particularly the chocoalte present in A*Men to come forward. The top of this starts with a roasted bean flavor of coffee. This is different than the coffee present in the base of A*Men which is more of a brewed coffee accord. This accord is the smell you get after you've ground the bean. The astringent oil is present as well as the coffee aroma. I've always noticed the chocolate in A*Men but in Pure Coffee it seems like the chocolate has gone from milk chocolate to dark chocolate as the accord now comes in as almost bittersweet in character. Thie interplay of coffee and chocolate is what makes A*Men Pure Coffee different than A*Men. What makes it the same is the base as patchouli comes in followed by that brewed lighter coffee note present in the original. I will say that while the base is unmistakably A*Men it does seem more muted than in the original. A*Men Pure coffee has proven to be that rare brew that actually improves on the original.

    14 June, 2009

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    Eau Noire Cologne by Christian Dior

    Christian Dior Eau Noire

    In 2004 Christian Dior creative design head Hedi Slimane commissioned a trio of colognes for the Dior Homme line. They were Cologne Blanche, Bois D'Argent and Eau Noire. Eau Noire was designed by Francis Kurkdjian and was to be a scent, like Annick Goutal Sables, which used immortelle as the central core to build this cologne around. Immortelle has, to my nose, a powerful and distinct maple syrup accord and it can be that loud talker in the room that doesn't let another note get a word in to the conversation. That makes it a tricky note to work with as a perfumer and a tricky note to appreciate as a colognoisseur because if you don't like it its hard to get away from it. The top of this is immortelle barging into the room in all of its powerful glory but wisely M. Kurkdjian has chosen to allow clary sage to arrive at the olfactory party at the same time. I found this to be an interesting choice as it makes the immortelle feel more incense-like than sweet and it is a good partner to immortelle because it does accentuate a different facet of the dominant note. The shift into the heart comes as the sage moves over to a corner and lavender joins the conversation. In much the same way that sage accentuated the incense quality of immortelle, the floral lavender brings out the more floral quality of immortelle and makes this feel, almost, like a debate of equals. Finally the lavender is exhausted by the everlasting immortelle and in the base vanilla enters the fray and here allows immortelle to be what it is most commonly, the maple syrup sweet over some vanilla flavored pancakes. Here is where immortelle finally arrives at what we expect and immortelle finds a conversational partner that can hold its own against it. Many perfumers realize when you have a central note to be the center of conversation it is important to find partners that allow the listeners to appreciate different aspects of the thesis. M. Kurkdjian has done this in such a way that as you close the door on this olfactory party you don't even mind that the loud talker was in the room.

    14 June, 2009

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    Le Baiser du Dragon by Cartier

    Cartier Le Baiser du Dragon

    You know how you buy a book for the cover? The paperback with spaceships in battle, swarthy lotharios, sandaled warriors with big...ahem..swords? Every once in awhile I try a scent because of the name. The nice thing about most scents is you get to try without buying, unlike the paperback that ends up half-finished collecting duston a bedside table. Le Baiser du Dragon was created in 2003 by Alberto Morillas, by some accounts it was supposed to be a feminine vetiver. If that was the goal he failed. Instead Sr. Morillas has created a powerful woody oriental which seems much more apt to be named after a dragon that any feminine vetiver could have been. The top is a beautiful syrupy almond accord paired with neroli. The lighter aspect of neroli balances out what could be a very heavy almond accord. There is a little bite of green in here as well which the note list would make me think is gardenia but this is a gardenia that never comes into full bloom on my skin. The heart is all clean cedar in its straight-edged glory. There is a little musk present to muss up the staid cedar but not enough to make it uncomfortable. The base of this is a really lovely patchouli and amber mix; as in the heart the amber is there just to keep the patchouli from being all that you smell. It is in the base that there is supposed to be some vetiver but I've worn this scent many times in many different temperatures and have yet to encounter this vetiver, perhaps the dragon ate it for lunch. I might have bought Le Baiser du Dragon for the title but unlike those dust gathering paperbacks I look forward to picking this one back up.

    14 June, 2009

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    Patou pour Homme (original) by Jean Patou

    Patou pour Homme

    Masterpiece, the word is thrown about quite a bit here on Basenotes. It is probably as subjective a term as it gets especially in realms of the senses. My check on what a masterpiece is came near the end of a two-week trip to Italy. We had been to Ravenna, Venice, and Florence; and on our last day had finally booked a ticket to the big art musesum in Florence, The Uffizi. We had been in a number of museums at this point and to say I was burnt-out on looking at paintings would be putting it mildly. I was walking into a gallery and going "pope, baby jesus, mary, medici, next!" Until I walked into one and went "pope, baby jesus, mar....oooh wait that's different". I'd walk up for a closer look and the artist would be Titian, Raphael, Botticelli, or Carvaggio. These pieces stood out. They had something extra or different. Sometimes a depth and sometimes a use of color that was clearly unique from the other well-executed paintings surrounding it. The point here is that when you encounter something different than the rest you immediately know it. So it is with Jean Kerleo's 1980 masterpiece Patou pour Homme. Patou pour Homme is easily one of the best scents I have ever worn on my skin. From the first time I wore it until this time there has never been a time where I haven't been blown away by its beauty. What makes it so special on me? This is that rarest of scents where I can pick out individual notes but it is the harmony with which they combine which makes this special. This is perfectly embodied in the opening of this scent. The beginning is an herbal medley of bergamot, sage, pepper, and tarragon which is quickly joined by lavender. When I first spray on Patou pour Homme the herbal character roars out of the gate but the lavender is right there to bring it under control and make this an accord that is spicy and floral without being identifiably one or the other. This is the rarest of scents in that it can take well-trodden notes and combine them in a new way to make me experience them differently. This happens in the heart. How many scents have vetiver, cedar and patchouli? How many scents would amp up the clean lines of cedar, combine it with vetiver to give it an edge, and add a little earthiness in patchouli? Probably the same number. In Patou pour Homme. Kerleo chooses to let the patchouli take the fore and uses the clean lines of cedar and vativer to constrain its usual expansive nature. This turns into a patchouli that is dry but not earthy. It becomes almost resinous, like incense and incredible, on me. The heart comes off like an incense accord but an incense I've never smelled in real life. This is the rarest of scents in that all that has come before sets you up for a knockout punch at the end. Kerleo was clearly going for a fougere feel and his base goes for that using oakmoss, sandalwood and labdanum. The labdanum comes first as it continues the resinous feel of the heart and allows the transition into the base. This base has one of the most arid sandalwoods I've tried and in conjunction with the labdanum and then the oakmoss this forms a woody mossy resinous accord that is gorgeous. It lasts and lasts and lasts on me. Patou pour Homme deserves to be in the Uffizi of perfume so a bored colognoisseur can walk in and go " aquatic, oriental, chypre....ooh that's different".

    14 June, 2009

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    Eau d'Orange Verte by Hermès

    Hermes Eau D'Orange Verte

    There is nothing that goes with a hot summer day better than the right eau de cologne. A light composition full of bright citrus notes that feels like a lemonade for the skin. I usually want to douse myself in my favorites. I have come to find a few that are my stand bys and I try all the new attempts but the one I keep returning to is the creation of Francoise Caron in 1979 for Hermes, Eau D'Orange Verte. In 1979 it didn't begin its life as Eau D'Orange Verte it was originally named Eau de Cologne D'Hermes. I'm glad it went down to the Perfume Courthouse and changed its name because Eau de Orange Verte is exactly what is delivered when you spray this on. The top is the bright mix of orange bergamot and lemon and it is tart and sharp. The heart of this is the green/orange in the name as the orange accord deepens and is joined by a green accord that balances it beautifully. As the greenness recedes there is a very light floral accord that comes through before cedar brings things to a close. Eau D'Orange Verte is a traditional eau de cologne and is not meant to have much staying power or sillage, and it doesn't. On the other hand it is hard to overspray this so you can feel free to spray much more than you would with a regular eau de toilette. Eau D'Orange Verte is one of those scents that makes me look forward to a heat wave.

    14 June, 2009

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    Orris by Tauer

    Andy Tauer Orris

    Andy Tauer is one of the nicest guys in all of artisanal perfumery. He is generous about sending out samples to the community, very forthcoming with information and clearly loves perfume. So why don't his scents send me the way they do others. Tauer has hit a solid 50% and even the ones I like are not my great loves. Until now. I had heard about Orris, the 2006 very limited release, and based on the note list it sounded like my kind of scent. Of course based on the note list L'Air du Desert Marocain is also my kind of scent and it leaves me cold and wanting more. Orris was first released as a series of samples to his faithful blog readers, see what I mean about nice. Then after much begging and pleading Tauer released a very limited edition of 200 bottles. The reason is that it is difficult to source the quality of materials needed to make this scent and that quality is evident at every stage of this one. I am a lover of iris and rose and the use of these with many of my other favorite accords might make Orris as close to a perfect scent for me as I'm likely to find. The top of Orris starts with the mix of iris, rose, pepper, cinnamon and grapefruit. The floral character is what hits my nose first followed by the tang of grapefruit and the zing of pepper and cinnamon artfully kept at a level that keeps the spices from overwhelming the florals. The iris, rose and cinnamon linger and are joined by what might be my favorite incense accord. This is is not the high mass incense or the head shop incense, this is incense from inside a Tibetan temple in which a fire is built as there is a smokiness in conjunction with the sweetness of the incense. Combine this with the now-dominant rose and cinnamon and the heart of this is incredible. Finally the woods make an appearance as a mix of sandalwood and agarwood (oud) show up and now turn this scent into a woody wonderland as the creaminess of the sandalwood complements the strength of the agarwood and brings this to a resounding crescendo at the close. Orris is a deceptively strong scent as it feels like a skin scent but based on the people around me it has some sillage and projection. I'm not in the habit of saying I'm looking for a "holy grail" or the "one scent I'd save in case of nuclear holocaust" but Orris is definitely on the short list of scents I'd consider for those positions.

    07 June, 2009

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    Bigarade Concentrée by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

    Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentree

    I grew up next to an orange grove in S. Florida. Much to the chagrin of the grove owner I would spend many an afternoon up in the branches of his trees eating the, literal, fruit of his labors. Sitting up in the high branches of an orange tree with the tropical sun beating down on me, sweaty from climbing and covered in orange pulp and juice. That carried a unique scent for me that I thought I would never experience again as my orange tree climbing days are behind me. Until I had the good fortune to spray Jean-Claude Ellena's 2002 creation for Frederic Malle, Bigarade Concentree. This was a follow-up to his 2001 scent Cologne Bigarade also for Frederic Malle. Bigarade Concentree uses the same four central notes of bitter orange, rose, hay and cedar as Cologne Bigarade but the balance and intensity in Bigarade Concentree makes it a much superior scent. The top starts with the bitter orange but that bitter accord also carries a green, tree sap kind of quality with it too and it smells like the rinds of oranges ripening in the sun. There is a cumin like sweaty accord present here that is not accounted for in the note list. This has a very similar feel to Hermes Eau D'Hermes and as Ellena is a big fan of that scent I have a feeling it was intentional on his part, his homage to that scent. As that begins to fade the very lightest of roses appear and then this is followed by the dried grass note of hay and the clean lines of cedar which in conjunction smell just like the sun-baked branches of an orange tree. Despite having Concentree in the name this is a very light composition and I can see it being very fleeting on some skin types. Thankfully on my skin it lasts and allows an old man to revisit his orange tree climbing days of his youth without fear of injury.

    07 June, 2009

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    Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta by Acqua di Parma

    Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta

    I am an avid reader of horror fiction and two of my favorites are Stephen King and Peter Straub. In 1984 I was giddy with excitement when I heard they were going to write a book together, "The Talisman". I didn't stop to consider that their styles were pretty different and the things I liked about one when added to the other might not work as well as it could. Flash-forward nineteen years to 2003 and I hear Bertrand Duchaufour and Jean-Claude Ellena are collaborating on creating Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta. Giddy with joy, again, but then I stopped to think how was Ellena's minimalistic approach going to mesh with Duchaufour's ability to plumb the depth of certain notes and accords? I spent a lot of time while I was reading "The Talisman" thinking this passage was written by one of the authors and that passage was written by the other. I was guessing I was going to feel the same way about Colonia Assoluta, and I do. The top seems all Ellena and the heart and base seem Duchaufour. The top that I ascribe to Ellena starts with an orange citrus blast which is then supported by a creamy, lemony cardamom and the light zip of pepper. This has the fingerprints of Ellena all over it. Each note holds its place and combines for a simple elegance. If this was Ellena's scent to finish, on his own, I would expect some simpler accord leading to a sheer base. Instead this is where I think M. Duchaufour's style comes to the forefront as the transition away from the top starts with a bold floral accord of jasmine and ylang ylang. It is beautiful but it doesn't flow as easily as it should from the top. It almost seems like I've layered a new scent on. The floral gives way to a Duchaufour signature woody base of clean cedar bolstered with a hint of incense and amber. As much as the top is classic Ellena the base is classic Duchaufour. Colonia Assoluta is a good scent and it leaves me in very much the same place I was when I closed the book after finishing "The Talisman". I enjoyed everything I just experienced but I wonder if just one of the creators was involved was there magic to be found here?

    07 June, 2009

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    Scent Intense by Costume National

    Costume National Scent Intense

    Laurent Bruyere designed Costume National Scent Intense in 2002, sadly he passed away at the age of 43 in 2008. Many will likely remember him as the co-designer with Dominique Ropion of Thierry Mugler Alien. I will choose to remember him for his line of perfumes made for Costume National of which Scent Intense is my favorite. When I was early on in my perfume discovery phase I was looking for a different kind of amber. Scent Intense was recommended because it was simple and led to a different kind of amber at the end. That advice was spot on. M. Bruyere uses as his inspiration for the entire Scent line that of hibiscus. Growing up in S. Florida we had many hibiscus growing in our yard and neighborhood. I was dubious that the very delicate sweet scent of these flowers could be captured in a scent. In Scent Intense the top is a smoky tea note with a very delicate floral character to it. The note list identifies it as "jasmine tea" but the usual intense sweetness of jasmine is tamped way down in favor of the tea. It is that supression of the sweet which allows the hibiscus note to float free in the heart of this. This is as I remember hibiscus smelling on a humid morning in my yard. Very delicate and yet unmistakably floral in nature. the tea combines beautifully with this and allows the delicacy of the hibiscus a platform to radiate from and shine. The base is a warm amber which is the appropriate soft landing for this scent. There are some woods off in the distance but the base is really all about the amber, on me. Scent Intense is another of these scented haiku which manage to do with four notes what many other scents fail to do with the kitchen sink.

    07 June, 2009

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    Vetiver Oriental by Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

    Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental

    I am an avid comic-book reader, excuse me graphic novel reader. One of the more fun books to read was a series called Marvel Team-Up, each issue Spider-Man would team-up with another superhero. Sometimes they were cool and sometimes they felt forced. The one constant to everything was Spider-Man. Vetiver sometimes seems like Spider-Man in that many perfumers look to team-up vetiver with new notes to see what will be found. So it is with the 2002 Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental created by Christopher Sheldrake. If I'm looking for a perfumer who knows the art of the team-up M. Sheldrake would be the nose I'd most likely think of first. His ability to find two different versions of chocolate and patchouli in Serge Lutens Borneo 1834 and Chanel's Coromandel is testament to this ability. In Vetiver Oriental the team-up is to put vetiver on top of a traditional oriental base focused on amber and see what this produces. From the top the vetiver comes out, this is the vetiver that feels sweeter and less woody. I characterize this as more grassy and green than rooty and deeper. This is the opposite tack taken from Borneo 1834 where it was the rooty quality of patchouli that was emphasized. The heart of this is centered around iris and this is a perfect choice to hold the middle ground in this team-up. The iris here is both sweet and slightly astringent and actually serves more as a palate cleanser than a real heart of this scent. The heart is the base which is a mix of chocolate and amber. It is the combination of these two notes that create the Oriental half of things. This is a sweet amber combined with a less-dominant cocoa powder accord to keep the sweet of the amber in focus. The best part of the development of Vetiver Oriental is when you get the contrast of the bittersweet green of vetiver, the floral sweet of iris and the deep rich sweetness of amber all together it is truly a beautiful team-up. It reminds me of when Spider-Man and The Hulk teamed up and what sounded forced turned out to be surprising and fun. Christopher Sheldrake has made a scent that is at turns surprising and fun, another successful team-up.

    07 June, 2009

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    Vetyver by Carlo Corinto

    Carlo Corinto Vetyver

    It is said, on Wikipedia, that vetiver is present in 90% of western perfumes. For a note that is so widely present it is always surprising to me how versatile it is as an ingredient. As I write this I think of all of the different vetivers I've tried and how they are distinctly vetiver-focused. The best of them manage to find a style and sensibility to call their own and to stand apart from the crowd. So it is with Carlo Corinto Vetyver which first appeared in the 1980's. This is not the same scent which is currently being sold as Carlo Corinto Vetiver the spelling lets you know it is the original version. The newer version is nice, the original version is spectacular. The top is classic lavender and citrus but it only lasts for a little while as the vetiver comes to the fore quickly and takes over the proceedings. The vetiver accord here is a cross between the sweet version present in Guerlain Vetiver and the smoky version present in Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire. When I say cross that's what I mean in that it never reaches the sweetgrass feel of Guerlain or the campfire smokiness of Extraordinaire. Instead in Vetyver it is more like walking through a field of newly growing vetiver in the spring that still has some remnant of the fall burn lurking about. This mix of smoky and sweet is what makes Vetyver a real stand-out for me. The base is a strong hairy-chested sandalwood which is to be expected from a scent that was born in the powerhouse 80's. For those who want a strong masculine vetiver-based scent, with longevity and sillage, Vetyver is very likely the scent you are looking for. This is a sophisticated, thinking man's kind of scent. Too bad Carlo Corinto has chosen to dumb this down and release it as Vetiver these days.

    07 June, 2009

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    Helmut Lang Woman by Helmut Lang

    Helmut Lang Eau de Parfum/Helmut Lang Woman

    In 2000 Helmut Lang had Maurice Roucel create two scents for each gender Helmut Lang Man and Woman. In reality they were two different strengths of the same scent with Man being the eau de cologne version and Woman being the eau de parfum version. It is curious that a brand like Helmut Lang which was known for its androgynous clothing designs actually made an effort to gender classify their signature scent. It is equally curious why he chose M. Roucel to design these scents as his scents have a lushness to them that also seems to be the antithesis of the Helmut Lang design aesthetic. Especially since these two scents are really only different in their emphasis on certain notes I find that I prefer the Eau de Parfum version as it has a strength to it that appeals to my aesthetic. The top starts out with a soft entry on a wave of florals dominated by jasmine and lily. This is a fleeting short-lasting top as the real business of this scent takes hold as musk and rose hold sway in the heart. This combination reminds me very much of Serge Lutens Muscs Kublai Khan as it contains many of that scents deeper muskiness without the intensity present there. The base of this is a creamy mixture of vanilla and woods including sandalwood mostly but joined by some cedar to add some clearly defined lines to the woodiness. Helmut Lang EDP is mostly about musk, on me, and it comes off light and appropriate for daily wear. Where I would never think about wearing Muscs Kublai Khan into the office I happily wear this one. Does that make Helmut Lang EDP, Muscs Kublai Khan Light?

    07 June, 2009

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    Black Orchid by Tom Ford

    Tom Ford Black Orchid

    In 2006 Tom Ford was ready to take on the world of perfume and with Black Orchid he was looking to make a signature statement.Tom Ford was already well known to most perfumistas due to his design of Yves St. Laurent M7 and Rive Gauche pour Homme, Estee Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude, and Gucci Rush. All of these were bold statements and I think I was expecting to feel the same kind of boldness in the first scent with his name on it. Instead I was met with a complex arrangement of notes which add up to one of my favorite mainstream releases. The top of Black Orchid is where the interesting stuff lies as it starts off with a shimmery bergamot which is quickly joined by jasmine and something that is earthy like patchouli but not quite patchouli. This is what I assume to be the (in)famous black truffle note. This is followed by a fruity accord which smells vaguely tropical. The black truffle note really adds something to the traditional fruity-floral and makes it something to keep sniffing over and over again. The top is so interesting and it does linger for a good while that one almost forgets that the rest of the scent while traditional is still quite nice. The heart becomes woody with the presence of the aquatic feeling lotus wood. This is rapidly joined by one of the creamier vanillas I've sniffed. If you like vanilla this is a beautiful presentation of the note. The base adds some deeper woodiness in sandalwood along with patchouli to finish in a conventional way. Black Orchid is marketed as a feminine scent but the floral aspect of it is only really present at the beginning. From there on the mix of woods, vanilla and patchouli make this trend more to the masculine side of things. Black Orchid is everything a successful mainstream scent should aspire to be but most of all its good.

    31st May, 2009

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    No. 88 by Czech & Speake

    Czech & Speake #88

    Are there floral scents that are masculine? There are certainly men who can wear floral scents but is there a floral scent out there that any man can wear? There are probably many but I would gues that at the top of many colognoisseur's list would be the 1981 creation of John Stephen, Czech & Speake #88. What is remarkable about Czech & Speake #88 is that out of seven listed notes only three are non-floral and to my nose I don't really smell two of them. This is a highly skilled composition which mix a number of floral notes in a very muscular style. The top comes across first with geranium, there is supposed to be bergamot here but I never get any hint of that. In many ways geranium comes off as a lighter rose and that leads perfectly into the heart as rose does take over. This gives the effect of a slowly ripening rose accord as you move from top to heart. Just as the rose begins to recede in comes a mix of cassie and frangipani to keep things on the deeper side. The scent finishes off with a huge slug of sanadalwood and the mix of the rose and sandalwood is marvelous. This last part of the scent, the mix of rose and sandalwood, lasts for a very long time and it is what you take away from a day of wearing this scent. So go ahead guys while you might not put a flower in your hair, spraying some Czech & Speake on your skin is not so scary.

    31st May, 2009

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