Reviews by Somerville Metro Man

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    Somerville Metro Man
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    Jean Marie Farina by Roger & Gallet

    Roger & Gallet Jean Marie Farina Extra Vielle

    It is said that Roger & Gallet Jean Marie Extra Vielle is one of the earliest examples of a modern cologne. That it dates back to 1806 and is over 200 years old clearly puts it in a small group of contenders for that title. This is an eau de cologne which means lighter wearing and certainly if you're looking for sillage and longevity you should move along as there is nothing here for you to see. If you are a lover of well-constructed scents and have an interest in the evolution of the art of perfumery you should stop , spray some on and luxuriate in the beauty of a real original. The top of this is a beautifully bright citrus that just rises off my skin in a fresh wave. Then a note of rosemary adds a greenness to the citrus that brings it back to earth. Finally there is a development of florals that finally end up in a distinct light rose akin to rose water. It is light and refreshing befitting all that led to this place. It is fascinating when wearing this that this was very likely the first time these notes and accords were introduced. To think that this was the first citrus bergamot top and the first rose base makes this a perfume history lesson in a bottle. Also 200 plus years later it is still an example of everything an eau de cologne should be.

    31st May, 2009

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    Eau d'Hermès by Hermès

    Hermes Eau D'Hermes

    When it comes to Eaus I'm beginning to think that Hermes just knows how to do them. Starting in 1951 when Edmond Roudnitska created Eau D'Hermes. I love when a perfumer takes a very known entity and turns it into something that feels their own. Hermes seems to make a cottage industry out of it especially with eau de colognes. Francoise Caron did it with Eau D'Orange Vert and Jean-Claude Ellena did it most recently with Eau de Pamplemousse Rose. Roudnitska did it first, however, and Eau D'Hermes is a testament to his ability. The top of this starts off with the classic Eau de Cologne mix of citrus and lavender, the twist Roudnitska added was cumin. This takes the sparkling usual top off into a much more earthy, grounded direction. This same kind of top would be repeated very similarly in Cartier Declaration with less lavender. The cumin is also less than in Declaration which might make it easier on the cumin averse among you out there. For me the cumin makes the top very special and different. Eau D'Hermes comes to end on a slightly leathery note mixed with a little moss to give this a fougere feel at the end. This is a true Eau de Cologne and therefore will not have a lot of longevity on most people. It fares about the same on my skin as most of them and lasts for a decent period of time. It is always a pleasure to see an artist re-interpret something and Eau D'Hermes shows Roudnitska's skills in top form.

    31st May, 2009

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    A*Men Pure Malt by Thierry Mugler

    Thierry Mugler A*Men Pure Malt

    When I saw the name of this for the first time my mind went to the candy store as I thought of malted milk balls. My mind should've gone to the liquor store and the single malt scotch aisle. The malt in the title refers to the malt used to make scotch and this 2009 follow-up to the successful limited edition A*Men Pure Coffee is as smooth as a 25-year old scotch. Most flankers take the approach of keeping one part of the parent in place and as it was in Pure Coffee in Pure Malt the A*Men base of patchouli, chocolate and coffee is where this scent ends. If you don't like that base, stop reading because it is identical to A*Men and nothing that comes before it will change that. Pure Coffee was good because the intense coffee note at the top helped tamp it down in the base and made the chocolate stand out more, to me. In Pure Malt the titular note has the same effect in making an aspect of A*Men stand out more. The top of Pure Malt is as advertised rich peaty malt. You smell the boozy character bolstered by the oaky barrel it is aged in. Then as this prgresses the caramel that is always present in A*Men is accentuated and brought to the fore by the Malt accord. It totally makes the heart of this different than either version of A*Men that have come before. It bears some similarity to B*Men but I much prefer this boozy beginning which leads beautifully into the caramel before the patchouli, chocolate and coffee come in to remind you of this scent's parentage. This is an ideal boozy gourmand and it is also going to be a nice summer scent as it comes off lighter than A*Men on me as a whole. This makes the second flanker of A*Men to be, what I consider, an improvement on the parent. Rarely is the sequel better than the original but these A*Men flankers are proving the exception to the rule.

    26 May, 2009

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    Géranium pour Monsieur by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

    Frederic Malle Geranium pour Monsieur

    One thin mint, it is what John Cleese offers Monsieur Creosote in "The Meaning of Life". Too often for me one thin mint has led to a note which has resembled toothpaste to me and put me off of enjoying the rest of a scent, Cartier Roadster was the latest example of this. When reading the note list for this 2009 release by Dominique Ropion there it was again, one thin mint, in the person of peppermint right in the top. After spraying it on a card my worries were intensified as it smelled like the mint oil I used to make homemde minted toothpicks. When I sprayed it on my skin, much like M. Creosote, the mint did produce an explosion but a happy one. The top of Geranium pour Monsieur is a vaporous breath of mint, it is the mint brother to the camphor top of Comme des Garcons Monocle Scent One: Hinoki. This feels icy cool and feels like it fills up every nook and cranny in my airway and it is beautiful and fleeting. In the heart the promised geranium comes in as if after the explosion what was left was a vase holding geraniums. This comes off somewhat rose-like and somewhat green and is a near-perfect match to the mint at the top. The drydown is incredibly soft and I can see for many it being too soft as the base is all sheer and light white musk. It is almost too light for me and if it had just a little more bite to it this scent would be brilliant, for me. As it is it is still quite good and still recommended unless like M. Creosote you just can't abide one thin mint.

    26 May, 2009

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    Red Vetyver by Montale

    Montale Red Vetyver

    Pierre Montale has made a name for himself with the extensive Aoud based line of scents he has designed for Montale. As much as I like and admire those, my two favorite Montales are non-aoud scents Blue Amber and the 2008 release Red Vetyver. Red Vetyver is a complex citrus forward scent and you won't hear me use complex and citrus-forward in the same sentence too often. Red Vetyver bursts to life with a grapefruit that sparkles over a base of vetiver. The razor sharp cut of vetiver in contrast to the citrus is a brilliant beginning. After a while the spicy kick of pepper joins the grapefruit and vetiver and this blend lasts for a good while and adds some heat to the chilly top. Red Vetyver finishes out on a bed of clean cedar and earthy patchouli which is the kind of depth you want a scent like Red Vetyver to close with. Red Vetyver has been unfairly compared to Terre D'Hermes and I think that comparison is because they were both introduced within a year of each other and they both start with such distinctive grapefruit tops. Terre D'Hermes is classic Ellena minimalism at play. Red Vetyver is almost the exact opposite of that and happily so.If you like the Montale Aouds cross over to the non-aoud side of the street and give yourself a chance to be impressed, like me.

    23 May, 2009

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    Cardinal by Heeley

    Heeley Cardinal

    Incense will always be one of my favorite notes because I've found that every perfumer is able to do something different with it. In 2006's Heeley Cardinal this might be one of the most accessible incense scents out there. It is certainly one of the most straightforward incense scents out there. Cardinal is a simple composition of five notes; incense, cistus, grey amber, patchouli and vetiver. As you can tell this is incense straight, no chaser. No floral accords or wood accords to get in the way just straight ahead incense. The top of this starts out with the incense in full flower just like you get from a swinging censer at High Mass. It stays that way for quite a while before it becomes modulated by the appearance of the amber which adds some warmth to things. The patchouli and vetiver show up in the base but they never become prominent more like grace notes to the incense. The cistus never seems to breakthrough to my nose at any point which is too bad because a light rose at the same intensity of the amber at the top might have turned this from very good into spectacular. What is here is the best incense "soliflore" I've worn. I like it better than Avignon because it is lighter on my skin and that makes it more versatile to wear.

    23 May, 2009

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    Fou d'Absinthe by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    L'Artisan Fou D'Absinthe

    Absinthe made its re-entry into popular culture via Baz Luhrman's "green fairy" swigging heroines and heroes in his 2001 movie "Moulin Rouge". Absinthe or more correctly the wormwood used to make absinthe seemed to re-enter the perfume world not too long afterward. In 2006 Olivia Gicobetti created Fou D'Absinthe and has, for me, done the best job of capturing the essence of absinthe as a scent to date. One of the notes listed for Fou D'Absinthe is frozen alcohol and the top of this scent gives off that icy feel of something that is vaporous as well and with the wormwood in place right from the beginning this evokes a frozen alcoholic drink. It is unique and marvelous. The heart is full of a peppery kick reminiscent of the burn in your throat as the absinthe slides down your esophagus. The pepper is the most prominent of the spices but there is also a nice slug of clove there as well. Finally the shot of absinthe has settled in your stomach and you get that warm feeling all over. In the base a mix of pine and patchouli play with the wormwood to add some warmth to the end of this one. The use of wormwood and the pine make for an astringency to go along with the warmth that the patchouli brings to the base of this. Fou D'Absinthe is a scent which evokes one of Satine's lines from "Moulin Rouge" as she asks one of her compatriots about a man and wonders whether to attract him she should be "bright and bubbly" or a "smoldering temptress". Mme. Giacobetti has created in Fou D'Absinthe a scent that starts off bright and bubbly only to finish as a smoldering temptress.

    23 May, 2009

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    Sables by Annick Goutal

    Annick Goutal Sables

    In 1985 Annick Goutal wanted to design a masculine scent for her husband cellist Alain Meunier, from that inspiration arose Sables. Perfumery is rife with scents inspired by loved ones and I always find it interesting what a perfumer will choose to pay homage to that loved one. Mme. Goutal made a very interesting choice to center Sables around immortelle, also known as the everlasting flower. Immortelle is one of the most distinctive notes in perfumery as with its distinctive maple syrup and herbal smell it is rarely confused with anything else. Immortelle is also a difficult note to work with because of its strength, a perfumer can't add too much delicacy because it will get overwhelmed and so the choices of other notes have to be bold, as well. Mme Goutal chose three notes to stand up to the immortelle and they are sandalwood, vanilla, and pepper. At the top this is all immortelle as the herbal maple syrupy smell is all-enveloping and very strong. Sables is a scent one has to be very careful about overspraying because I imagine too much of this, particularly at the beginning, would put anyone off of this one. For the first 15 minutes or so immortelle is all you get but slowly but surely the sweet sandalwood starts to moderate the immortelle and in this first phase it realy does help turn down the volume from the beginning. It is when the vanilla starts to interact with the immortelle that Sables becomes special for me as the sweet and dry vanilla takes away the sweeter character of the maple syrup and accentuates the herbal nature. This gets reversed in the base as pepper has the opposite effect and accentuates the sweet while tamping down the herbaceous character. I think Sables is not a safely recommended scent for everyone as the intensity of the immortelle could be a drawback to some. If you are a perfumista who likes intense notes and scents then this is well worth a try.

    23 May, 2009

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    Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

    Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan

    Maybe my two favorite notes in all of perfumery are amber and incense it is rare that I find the scent that combines them. It is even rarer that I find the scent that knows how to bring out the best in both notes at the same time. Christopher Sheldrake does exactly this in Ambre Sultan which was released in 1993. Ambre Sultan is for many perfumistas a baseline amber scent but I find it to be as much a baseline incense scent for me, too. A consistent comment of reviewers in reference to Ambre Sultan is the beginning is too strong, too chaotic, or too unfocused. On me the intensity of the opening is more like the fanfare you hear at a horse race calling the horses to the post. Breaking out of the inside position and showing early speed is is an amazing herbal mix of coriander and oregano laid over a track of sweet amber. This combination holds my attention early but I know that there are some other notes in this race. After we round the turn and enter the back stretch the track changes character to spicier, edgier amber which goes well with the middle running resins that make up the incense and amber middle portion of this race. Here is where the quality shows up and the front-running spices fall back but not all the way. The incense really blossoms and comes to the lead as the middle part of the race winds down. Finally, as we round the clubhouse turn and make the run for home the sweet amber is back and now the late-closing sandalwood and vanilla have joined the incense for an all-out run for the wire. The shifting character of the base from sweet to spicy back to sweet lays down a track that really allows the other notes to perform to their fullest in their part of the race. After the race is won I sit back and enjoy the memory of a well-composed ride from beginning to end and look forward to saddling up with The Sultan for another ride.

    23 May, 2009

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    Ma Liberté by Jean Patou

    Patou Ma Liberte

    I grew up in South Florida and used to regularly ride my bike down to South Beach as a young child in the 70's. During that time the Art Deco buildings were crumbling and you could see the remaining glory in what was, as it was all falling apart. Why am I starting a perfume review with a reminiscence on Art Deco? Jean Patou as a House reminds me of that decaying neglected Art Deco South Beach of my youth. Patou has made so many amazing scents beyond Joy you just want someone to pick up this House and turn it into the perfume version of South Beach today and make it relevant again. The last good new release from Patou was 1987's Ma Liberte designed by Jean Kerleo. Ma Liberte is an example of what I think is an excellent unisex scent. At the top there is a livley heliotrope which is cut by citrus. This leads to a heart that starts with lavender and is joined by jasmine and light spices. There are hints of clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon all throughout this stage. The base is a pitch perfect balance of earthy patchouli, creamy sandalwood and clean cedar. Ma Liberte shows that Patou given over to the right hands could be as relevant and as adored as any House out there. South Beach turned around on the twin influences of fashion photographers shooting haute couture against the decaying deco and Miami Vice. I don't know what it will take to save Patou but Ma Liberte makes me wish very hard for it to happen.

    23 May, 2009

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    Musc 25 by Le Labo

    Le Labo Musc 25

    For their 2008 Los Angeles exclusive, Musc 25, Le Labo wanted to create "angelic whiteness with a core of sin". To achieve this goal they signed up Frank Voelkl who is the nose behind Sarah Jessica Parker's Covet. As with the two other 2008 city exclusives this time the titular note is prominent and central to the scent. From the top you get a sheer white musk mixed with aldehydes. This is a quite lovely mix and is combined deftly to give this a clean beginning. The heart keeps the musk in place and adds a light rose to it. Towards the end of the heart is where the note that was described as " a synthesized representation of human semen" makes its appearance. While it doesn't reach the levels of in your face wretchedness of Etat Libre D'Orange's Secretions Magnifique it does turn this slightly sour on my skin. Thankfully like everything that came before it is only present in an ephemeral way and it doesn't last long, after that the base is almost refreshingly normal. As cedar and vetiver return the scent to its clean beginnings. Musc 25 is an ethereal scent much like many of Olivia Giacobetti's creations. This does create the stated ideal of surrounding an animalic core with angelic white. For me it is that animalic core's slightly sour feel on my skin that throws this one enough off the rails that I won't be lusting after this city exclusive as I have the other two. It is a thouroughly modern scent and I think on some people with those sensibilities this is going to be a flat out winner. Unfortunately I'm not going to be one of them.

    19 May, 2009

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    L'Être Aimé Homme by Divine

    Divine L'Etre Aime Homme

    L'Etre Aime Homme translates to The Beloved Man and Yann Vasnier wanted to create a pair of scents centered around Immortelle and hopefully create a beloved scent. L'Etre Aime Homme is the latest in a number of recent scents I've tried to go for a close wearing spicy feel. This comes off as the antithesis of the old Orientals of the 90's which clobbered you over the head with projection and power. L'Etre Aime Homme is subtle and for all intents and purposes only meant to be beloved by the wearer. The top starts with bergamot and lavender, a traditional, almost generic beginning. Thankfully it takes a turn for the better pretty quickly as ginger and basil appear to add some spring to the step of this. It is here that the inspiration note of Immortelle begins to come in but it is a very light application of its signature maple syrup accord and it is almost immediately joined by cardamom which is an almost perfect transition from the zing of ginger to the soft spiciness of cardamom. The base starts to make its appearance as vetiver holds the edge that the spices have provided before. Vanilla and sandalwood come along to round this scent out and tie it off in a familiar combination. This is a beautifully done scent but if you want something that has projection beyond your personal space this is not that scent. That scent is Annick Goutal Sables especially if you like immortelle. This is instead the scent that only you can smell and allows you to have that knowing smile only a tuned-in colognoisseur should have.

    19 May, 2009

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    Eau de Gentiane Blanche by Hermès

    Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blanche

    What happens when a minimalist takes it too far? In modern art you get Robert Ryman who is known for huge monochrome panels mostly in white or off-white. In perfume you get the 2009 Jean-Claude Ellena composition for Hermes Eau de Gentiane Blanche. I am a big fan of M. Ellena's work and find his minamilist style to allow the notes he uses to have the space to expand to their fullest potential. Unfortunately in Eau de Gentian Blanche this group of notes needs some new companions to bring out their largely unrealizeed potential. Eau de Gentiane Blanche is four notes; white musk, gentian, iris and incense. When you look at that note list on paper it looks pretty good. When you think of M. Ellena interpreting them in his trademark style you think it might soar. From the beginning the iris shows first and it is light and allows for the gentian to join it. Too quickly the white musk is there and then a very faint incense comes out. This development happens in less than 30 minutes and after an hour the remains of the day are mostly memories. This is what happens when a perfumer tries to go too light in attempting to create a modern eau de cologne. Much like looking at Robert Ryamn's solid white panels I'm spending a lot of time convincing myself that there is some there, there when I think the answer is that there isn't.

    16 May, 2009

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    Colère d'Épices by Esteban

    Esteban Colere D'Epices

    It is always a joy to discover a new House and in this first effort that I've tried from the Parisian niche House, Esteban its even better when the scent is good, too. Esteban's stated purpose is to marry Mediterranean and Japanese aesthetics in their perfumes. The 2007 release Colere D'Epices is translated as the "Wrath of Spices" and is part of the Collection Couleurs. This is another case of the name having little to do with what it smells like on my skin. The spice part is accurate but I feel anything but wrathful over this scent. Cardamom and ginger start things off and this is a beautifully subtle start. Cardamom adds a hint of lemon and in conjunction with the richness of the ginger makes the top spicy and breezy. The transition into the heart begins with the appearance of a clove note which then moves into a light floral dominated by heliotrope. It is here in the heart that the stated Japanese aesthetic is most prevalent. The floral nature is kept at arm's length and it never moves into a full frontal floral. The heliotrope is an equal partner with the clove. The base is also a finely balanced mix of amber and musk. The musk comes off as a sheer white musk mixed with a strong, not sweet, amber. To my nose Colere D'Epices definitely succeeds at making a scent which has Mediterranean influence but done in the way of a zen garden where as you focus on each individual component it is nice but taken as a whole it transcends its ingredients. I am now very curious to try more from Esteban.

    16 May, 2009

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    Maharadjah by Nicolaï

    Parfums de Nicolai Maharadjah

    Patricia de Nicolai has shown that her Guerlain bloodline runs true and as the grand-daughter of Pierre Guerlain will always have that mentioned. More's the pity because I think she has now achieved a status where she is creating more new and noteworthy scents than the House which she shares her genetics with. 2006's Maharadjah is a good example of a de Nicolai creation. When you hear Maharadjah you think of India and you probably expect some cumin somewhere in the mix. Then you spray on Maharadjah and you are greeted with a strong opening but instead of spices what you get is lavender. Actually I should restate that, you get Lavender with a capital L. I'm one who likes his lavender but this is an industrial strength blast of lavender. I like it but I can see it being too much for some. The lavender sticks around for a good long time before the expected spices start to appear in the heart. This does have spices that begin with "c" but not cumin and not with a capital "c". The spices here are clove and cinnamon. They very slowly come forward and eventually push the lavender to the background. Once the spice firmly takes the wheel this scent does turn the corner into the expected spicy oriental territory a name like Maharadjah would lead you to expect. The cinnamon comes off very warm on my skin and pretty long-lasting. The spices stick around as sandalwood and patchouli close the scent out with a creamy conclusion. Maharadjah is not a scent for everyone and I imagine the strong lavender at the beginning will be a turn-off for many but it is this level of the unexpected that makes Maharadjah such a fascinating scent for me.

    16 May, 2009

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    Paestum Rose by Eau d'Italie

    Eau d'Italie Paestum Rose

    Paestum was a city in the Roman Empire which was renowned for the roses which only bloomed twice a year. Bertrand Duchaufour is a perfumer who is in the midst of creating his own empire of renowned scents. Eau d'Italie is a line created by M. Duchaufour for the Positano, Italy hotel La Sireneuse and Paestum Rose was the second scent he created for Eau d'Italie in 2006. One of the things I look most forward to in a Duchaufour creation is the twist he will add to something I think I know well. Rose is certainly a note most colognoisseurs know well and M. Duchaufour finds a way to make it seem new to my nose in Paestum Rose. The top contains none of the rose, as a mix of pepper, cinnamon and currant start things off with a spicy tang. From here the rose comes in and it comes in on cat's feet slowly and quietly. All of a sudden the spices seemed to evaporate, like a morning fog, and the rose is left there. There is a hint of osmanthus to help add a little depth to the very transparent rose but this just flows lightly and lushly over my skin. Into the base, incense comes out followed by the unique feel of wenge and a light amber. If I told you a base was composed of incense, wenge, and amber you would probably be expecting the nasal equivalent of a downpour. What is amazing about Paestum Rose is all of the components of the base plus the rose are given space to breathe together and combine, to instead create the nasal equivalent of a spring shower that refreshes instead of drenches. Bertrand Duchaufour is one of the best and most consistent perfumers working today and Paestum Rose is an example of his talent in full flower.

    16 May, 2009

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    Armani Privé Ambre Soie by Giorgio Armani

    Armani Prive Ambre Soie

    I have slowly but surely worked my way through all of the Armani Prive scents. I admire the intent to make high quality, read niche, scents under the Armani banner. On me for the most part they have been successful as I have enjoyed most of them. I have found all of them to be close wearing, long-lasting and well-constructed scents. Ambre Soie was the fourth of the Prives, created by Christine Nagel, in 2004. It definitely shares all of the genetics of its labelmates. At the top a stiff burst of ginger, clove and cinnamon start this with a spicy jolt. From there the amber begins to come in and of the three spices that start the scent only the cinnamon remains to combine really nicely with the amber. This is a sweet amber and in conjunction with the cinnamon it comes across as not too sweet and not as gourmand-like as some other ambers like Hermes Hermessence Ambre Narguile. As this moves into the base I get a nice bracing shot of cedar to add some clean lines to the amber and to finish things in a rousing style. Like all of the Prives there are better examples out there of the central note and style of these scents. Ambre Soie will not be my number one amber scent but it very likely will make my top 10.

    16 May, 2009

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    Piper Nigrum by Lorenzo Villoresi

    Lorenzo Villoresi Piper Nigrum

    There are scents that come along and make a big splash. Usually it is because they have something new to offer. In 1999 Lorenzo Villoresi released Piper Nigrum and this scent still has something new to offer ten years on. Piper Nigrum is the botanical name for black pepper and this is what makes Piper Nigrum different. There are many scents out there that use pepper to effect to add a bit of slap and tickle to the olfactory development. Piper Nigrum puts the pepper front and center and leves it in place for the whole development. M. Villoresi chose some other herbs to join the pepper at the top namely anise, and mint. The pepper is what you smell when you are walking through the spice section and you get to the shelf holding the ground pepper. There is an arid airy quality to the piquancy of the pepper. Add to this the tang of anise and the zip of mint and the beginning of this comes off as a trip to the spice market. The mint pulls away first followed by the anise to be replaced by woods namely the cleanliness of cedar and the creaminess of sandalwood. This along with the pepper makes for a different take on the pepper as it brings out more of its resinous, almost incense-like, qualities and it tones down the spiciness of it all. This development of the pepper continues into a classic contrast of sweet and spicy as a sweet amber pairs with the central note in the base. This juxtaposition really brings out the resinous quality of the pepper to its fullest extent. I can see why Piper Nigrum was so popular when it first hit the scene. What I don't understand is why it still isn't talked about as it has a singular quality I haven't found in any other scent I've worn to date.

    16 May, 2009

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    Vétyver Haiti by Comptoir Sud Pacifique

    Comptoir Sud Pacifique Vetyver Haiti

    Vetiver may be the most malleable and used note in all of perfumery. Although bergamot would have a case to make, you rarely find bergamot as the centerpiece of many scents. The many takes on vetiver and the ability for perfumers to find new ways to use it without them all feeling the same makes vetiver-centric scents an ever interesting field to explore. Comptoir Sud Pacifique is really more known for its line of Vanilla centered scents and in 1977 Vetyver Haiti was their attempt to marry their vanilla sensibility to vetiver. At the top lemon and bergamot start with a light citrusy feel. I think I would've preferred a sharper more bitter citrus instead of the bright citrus because the bright citrus there, is quickly overwhelmed by a combination of vetiver and carnation. This mix of the green of vetiver and the spicy clove character of carnation make for a spicy heart. The vetiver stays firmly in place but the spiciness of the clove fades away and the vanilla that Comptoir Sud Pacifique is known for comes in. I was expecting a bracing blast of sweet vanilla as that is the hallmark of the rest of the line. Instead this is a lightly applied vanilla and it comes as a perfect light and sweet contrast to the clove in the heart. This mix of vetiver and vanilla stays finely balanced on my skin for many hours and is a lovely companion for the time it is there. Once again I am happy to find that in a different pair of hands a new aspect of vetiver can be discovered.

    16 May, 2009

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    Eau de Pamplemousse Rose by Hermès

    Hermes Eau de Pamplemousse Rose

    Jean-Claude Ellena has been blazing quite a trail at Hermes since taking over as House Nose. The extension of the Jardins and the creation of the Hermessence lines have been mostly triumphant to me. It was with a lot of interest that I approached Eau de Pamplemousse Rose. In 2009 Ellena wanted to add a couple of new editions of eau de colognes to Hermes' 1979 classic Eau D'Orange Vert which was created by Francoise Caron. Ellena had stated he wanted to offer new interpretations of Kolnisch Wasser. This collection of Eau D'Orange Vert, Eau de Gentiane Blanche, and Eau de Pamplemousse Rose are to be called collectively "Les Colognes Hermes". How would Ellena's minimalist style mix with an eau de cologne style meant to be light and airy? The top of this starts with the titular grapefruit and it is so realistic that it is a transcendent note. It is a pity that it lasts for what seems like only a few minutes. As the grapefruit disappears the more familiar and longer lasting citrus note of orange takes its place. Because that grapefruit note is so beautifully realistic the orange is almost a disappointment to my nose. Thankfully the heart of this picks up the slack. It is here that a very sheer rose note appears along with a green note I couldn't quite place but also left to be sheer and it felt like I was smelling my rose garden after mowing the lawn. According to the note list the green is coming from a new note called rhubofix which is supposed to impart "a zesty freshness and unique green rhubarb effect". I definitely get the green effect and it does seem to keep the zestiness of the citrus at the top. The base is all vetiver and it is the right compliment to the citrus and the rose and it is also kept on the light side. Ellena has a love for the light and I find Eau de Pamplemousse Rose to be closer in style to the two early Jardins, Mediterranee and Sur Le Nil than to Eau D'orange Vert. On the other hand I do find Eau de Pamplemousse Rose to be a quite modern take on Eau de Cologne and Ellena has shown once again that he is attempting to keep Hermes both commercial and artistic. So far, so good.

    09 May, 2009

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    H&M by Comme des Garçons

    Comme des Garcons H&M

    Comme des Garcons have come to be known for some of the better examples of incense scents out there. Avignon, Kyoto, and Hinoki are all examples of some of the better regarded of the line. In this 2008 limited release for the clothing store H&M Shyamala Maisondieu has added another star to the incense crown of Comme de Garcons. H&M would be a perfect gateway incense for someone who is a little nervous about smelling like a church at high mass. At the top there is cedar but it is a restrained cedar the kind of airy cedar you would get as if you were sawing a cedar board. The real core of this scent then comes in as the incense makes itself known in short order. The smell of this incense brings to mind the smell of the box of incense cones I had as a teenager. It is incense but in a concentrated form which also had a slight metallic smell to it. Don't get me wrong this is full throttle incense, the metallic note is light and not nearly as prominent as in Bond No. 9 Silver Factory. The scent transitions to full resinous pine base to go with the incense and this brings this home beautifully. Comme des Garcons H&M, if it had a wider distribution, has all the qualities to make it a big success. It has a niche feel without getting too out there. It keeps an admirable restraint on all of its development and it is a fairly linear scent without offering up any jolting surprises. H&M shows off its Comme des Garcons pedigree extremely well.

    09 May, 2009

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    Scent by Theo Fennell

    Theo Fennell Scent

    Theo Fennell is a British jeweller who designs fairly bold and theatrical pieces of jewellery. In 2007 Theo Fennell enlisted Chritophe Laudamiel to create a signature Scent for the House. What M. Laudamiel created was a hide-and-seek oriental that twists and turns as much as a snake through one of Theo Fennell's gold skulls. From the top Scent starts off with a strongly animalic musk combined with cumin. The cumin is there to add to the musk and not to take the lead. This is a bold beginning and as it pulls back over time a floral mix of rose and jasmine push their way forward and completely transform this into a floral as the musk seems to disappear completely. Then the same happens again as vanilla and sandalwood slowly come forth and they turn this into a woody vanilla scent and then over time the musk returns to bring this full circle. Theo Fennell scent is an ever-changing tapestry of notes and it is interesting to wear as just as you start to get comfortable with a phase the next one begins to take shape and change the nature of what came before. I'm not sure I want that kind of mutability in all of my fragrances but once in a while a scent that can't make up its mind on what it wants to be can be kind of fun.

    09 May, 2009

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    Jungle Le Tigre by Kenzo

    Kenzo Jungle Le Tigre

    Dominique Ropion created a pair of scents under the Jungle brand for Kenzo. The first in 1996 L'Elephant is one of my favorites. Its zoological companion, Le Tigre, was released a year later in 1997. The two scents are very different but yet there are some similarities. Both scents show a willingness on the part of the designer to try something different. The top of Le Tigre starts conventional with a shot of bergamot but it is joined with a tart kumquat note which adds an edge to the beginning. Also along at the beginning is the note Davana which is an African savanna grass. There is a grassiness below the citrus top and that must be the Davana. It is a quite beautiful beginning. As it continues to develop it becomes more floral as osmanthus becomes the dominant note. Through this stage the scent treads fairly traditional fruity-floral territory but the presence of the Davana gives it a different feel. The joy of Le Tigre comes in the drydown as the sweetness starts to recede and first cinnamon makes its appearance in spicy counterpoint to the sweet that has come before. To pair with the cinnamon is an amazing woody base which has hints of coconut to it. This woodiness comes from Massoia and it is just an incredible finish to this scent. Le Tigre is a more starightforward scent than L'Elephant but the use of the African notes of Davana and Massoia give it a unique character and one keeping in the spirit of being in the scented jungle.

    09 May, 2009

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    Chaldée (original) by Jean Patou

    Jean Patou Chaldee

    You have to love the internet because without it I don't know if colognoisseurs would be able to try some of the vintage classics. Now that the whole world is one big Estate Sale we can find ways to expereience these classics. Jean Patou is a House of many discontinued gems and it is mainly through the mechanisms described above that I am able to wear these creations. Chaldee was created in 1927 by the in-house nose Henri Almeras. In the mid 20's sun tanning and looking brown had been made chic and Patou wanted to create one of the first sun-tanning oils and did that in Huile de Chaldee. M. Almeras took that beginning and turned it into Chaldee the perfume. With that inspiration you might be thinking Bain de Soleil ( for that go to Bond No. 9 Fire Island) or Coppertone (for that go to CB I Hate Perfume At The Beach 1966) or cocoa butter (for that go to Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess) and you couldn't be further from what Chaldee smells like. The top of Chaldee blows in with a light bouquet of orange blossom to start. Then like a florist adding to his bouquet M. Almeras begins to add lilac followed by jasmine and then finishes with narcissus all deep and thick. At this point Chaldee is a deep floral melange that floats airily above my skin. You would think the combination would be heavy but instead it is light and beautiful.The base of this is perhaps one of my favorite amber accords ever as it is combined with oppopanax to create a warmth that seems only appropriate for a scent which was inspired by the sun. I grew up in South Florida and cherish the smell of the beach, from the surf to the tanning products, but Chaldee definitely doesn't smell like any beach I've ever been on in my lifetime. The one thing I do know is if the beaches of France smelled like this in the 20's I want to find myself a tricked-out DeLorean to take me there.

    09 May, 2009

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    Le Feu D'Issey by Issey Miyake

    Issey Miyake Le Feu D'Issey

    When a scent is described as a "colossal failure" and "ahead of its time" it does make one wonder which was right. What one generally finds is reality tends to fall inside the extremes presented by those quotes. So it is with Jacques Cavallier's 1998 creation Le Feu D'Issey. One thing I can say with confidence is that this is not an easy scent to categorize. I've worn it five times and it seems different on me each time. My wife has worn it twice and it has been different on her, too. I think a scent should have some consistency from wear to wear but Le Feu D'Issey sure seems to confound that postulate. At the top I get bergamot and the smell of coconut. This is not the rich smell of grated coconut or of coconut milk. This is the raw smell of the water contained in the nut in the center of the coconut. It contains some of the richness of the meat of the cocnut but it also has a pungency to it. I think it is this accord that cause some people to refer to the opening of Feu D'Issey as smelling "spoiled". For me this is a pungency that I have not encountered before in a scent and on me it wears quite nicely. From wear to wear the strength of this beginning seemed to be slightly stronger or barely there. As this progresses into the heart, jasmine and the controversial milk note come into play. I've only run across one other scent with a milk note, Lostmarc'h L'ann A'el and the milk note here is used as contrast to the jasmine and it creates a richness that brings out the sweet of the jasmine without it being overwhelming. Add to this a light use of rosewood and the heart is a lightly sweet combination of sweet floral and sweet wood. This aspect was consistent from wear to wear. The base went back to being confoundingly difficult to nail down as it seemed like I encountered a different wood every time I wore it. One wear it felt like a creamy sandalwod, another time it was the clean lines of cedar, still another time it seemed like gaiac. Partnered with it was vanilla which was a near perfect transition from the milk accord in the heart. So where do I come down on this one? Surely not "colossal failure". This is envelope pushing perfumery but a fragrance that has an inability to settle down on a person's skin and offer a similar experience from wear to wear is never going to be something the average colognoisseur will seek out. "Ahead of its time", I'm not sure I'm there either this feels kindred to many of the androgynous unisex scents being produced in the late 90's into the new millennium. I don't think if Issey Miyake went back into production this would all of a sudden find an audience and become a huge seller. If I had to categorize this in two words they would be- noble experiment.

    09 May, 2009

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    Cuir de Russie by Chanel

    Chanel Cuir de Russie

    Chanel has all of the history that Guerlain does as a House and it also had its early 20th-century genius of scent in Ernest Beaux. In 1924 he created Cuir de Russie, what was daring about this was he chose to use leather as the center of a women's scent for the first time and created a classic. Flash forward to 1983 and Jacques Polge takes over at Chanel and looks to revive this Ernest Beaux classic as one of "Les Exclusifs". Cuir de Russie had to be reformulated because the birch tar that Beaux used in the original was no longer allowed as an ingredient. The beauty here is Polge shows he is up to the task of restoring a masterpiece to life by understanding how to hold the previous structure. At the top there is a burst of aldehydes and jasmine that tickle the nose. They are like an amuse bouche for the nose as the animalic business of Cuir de Russie comes in straightaway as the leather comes in and stays at first underneath the jasmine and then in combination. There is a moment of pure olfactory bliss as the sweet jasmine and the sweet animalic leather reach a balance that is just magic to my nose. It is a fleeting moment as the leather takes over the heart of this, rich and supple. As this develops further into the base I get a little of the clean lines of cedar, some warm amber and a hint of vanilla but mostly it stays leathery and gorgeous. I've had the opportunity to compare the original Beaux composition with Polge's and outside of what seems to be a slightly more intense leather phase in the heart Polge's reformulation is a smashing success at recreating a masterpiece of perfumery. One could only wish some of the other Houses would treat their classics with such respect.

    09 May, 2009

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    Private Collection - Cuir d'Iris by Parfumerie Generale

    Parfumerie Generale Cuir D'Iris

    Pierre Guillaume has really done an incredible job of creating a number of different scents in his Parfumerie Generale line. Over the course of these creations it is clear that he has a particularly deft hand with gourmand notes and with leather. In the 2008 release Cuir D'Iris, part of the Private Collection, he perhaps creates his most intense leather to date. Right from the top you get leather and it is the leather of a fine leather arm chair. At first that seems to be all that is there but then ever so subtly you smell the vase holding the bouquet of irises that is next to this armchair. This is a powdery iris which is delicateley added around the edges of the leather. I'm not sure I would've placed iris in the name of this scent for all of the heft it brings and the length of its stay. The heart of this mixes a little chocolate in with the leather this is the cocoa powder version of chocolate which comes across less rich and compliments the leather center. The base is all amber and leather and this is exquisite in its depth as the rawer edges of amber rough up the leather and make for an excellent ending to this scent. If you're an iris lover and not a leather lover I wouldn't bother with this one because the iris is really only there for a short time. If you are a leather lover this is a must try because it is one of the finest pure leathers out there, to me.

    02 May, 2009

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    Un Jardin sur le Nil by Hermès

    Hermes Un Jardin Sur Le Nil

    I make no secret of my affection for Jean-Claude Ellena and find him to be one of the most consistent perfumers out there, for me. The scent that sealed the deal on him to my nose is 2005's Un Jardin Sur Le Nil. It was here where I learned what a designer could do with just a few notes artfully chosen and expertly woven together. The beginning of Un Jardin Sur Le Nil starts with a sheer run of citrus which pulls back to reveal a lush fruity note intertwined with the watery feel of lotus. The lotus has an aquatic feel to it that reminds me of the accord I get when standing next to a river. I then get a light woody note which wafts in with a sheer incense. The wood becomes stronger and more pronounced as the incense stays with it but recedes a bit. Un Jardin Sur Le Nil is one of M. Ellena's most assured compositions and I believe one of his best.

    02 May, 2009

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    Black Vetyver Café by Jo Malone

    Jo Malone Black Vetyver Cafe

    Jo Malone Black Vetyver Cafe is my favorite coffee scent out there. Usually when one mentions coffee you think that indicates the scent should be a full-blown gourmand. What is completely refreshing about Black Vetyver Cafe is coffee is used as an aromatic note and not as an excuse to roll out the olfactory buffet of food notes. This 2003 release by Jo Malone is a coffee centered scent that is different. From the top the coffee note calls out its presence but this is the coffee of the roasted bean prior to being ground up. I can smell the rich almost nutty quality of a whole coffee bean and it is beautiful. Where another scent would start piling on with chocolate and vanilla this one takes a different road and instead turns towards the woods . The heart of this contains a woody note which comes out in stages and acts as a bridge to the vetiver in the base. The herbal, green character that the vetiver imparts really compliments all that has come before and finishes things quite nicely. This is a beautifully composed scent which shows that coffee is a note which can stand all on its own without needing something else to go with it.

    02 May, 2009

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    Cyprès-Musc by Creed

    Creed Cypres-Musc

    I've complained often about how some names of perfumes have nothing to do with what is inside the flacon. With this 1948 creation from the House of Creed I needn't have worried this perfume is all about cypress and musk, delightfully so. Right from the top the cypress is present and it is a beautiful astringent wood that has a beautiful aromatic scent to it. As the woodiness mellows I pick up the greenness that galbanum imparts as it adds a sense of life to the cypress. I have heard mint mentioned as a note many have expereienced with Cypres-Musc but I never seem to pick it up. The top and heart of this is all green and woody to me. The base is the advertised musk and it seems to balance the green beginning with something animalic and different. It could be a jarring shift in tone but the musk comes in slowly until after a few hours it has taken over and I hardly remember the shift happening. Cypres-Musc is very probably my favorite Creed that I've tried to date.

    02 May, 2009

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