Reviews by Somerville Metro Man

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    Somerville Metro Man
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    Mouchoir de Monsieur by Guerlain

    Guerlain Mouchoir de Monsieur

    I love weaing the old classic Guerlains and while I feel they are timeless I also feel they hearken back to a slightly different era, too. I've also heard that this 1904 creation of Jacques Guerlain is supposed to be the EdT version of Jicky. I don't think I'm ready to go that far as I think the similarities have more to do with being Guerlain than trying to be a different version of an earlier creation. From the top it is lemon and lavender with a little bergamot and this is one of the deepest lavenders I've come to wear. I certainly find it deeper than Jicky's start on me. The floral heart of this is gorgeous as a light rose replaces the lavender and this is done in stages and when the lavender and rose are in balance at the interface of the top and heart, my heart like the Grinch's grows two sizes. The base is where the civet note which I think is what everyone seizes on to make the comaprison to Jicky appears. Here I find the civet to be more prominent, than in Jicky, and in perfect balance with the classic Guerlinade finish. Mouchoir de Monsieur translates to "gentleman's handkerchief" and it does remind you of a time and place where gentlemen carried and wore a handkerchief. What I find so amazing is it still feels relevant over a 100 years after its creation.

    02 May, 2009

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    Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior

    Christian Dior Eau Sauvage

    One of the great joys of wearing perfume is that I get a chance to personally experience the history for myself. It is why every time I wear an acclaimed classic like Edmond Roudnitska's 1966 creation for Christian Dior, Eau Sauvage, I am reminded how great artists transcend what is going on around them and lift their art to a new level. Eau Sauvage is one of those scents that does this. From the top the lemon and petitgrain beginning make for a light, crisp beginning. It is as the rosemary and basil mix with jasmine in the heart of Eau Sauvage that this attains the heights of classic. The green, herbal character of rosemary and basil in conjunction with the very light jasmine is the signature stage of Eau Sauvage and the place where Roudnitska shows off his artistry. This leads to a classic chypre ending of oak moss and vetiver. One thing to mention about Eau Sauvage is that as a creation of the 60's this is a scent that doesn't feel the need to raise its voice. It is a light close wearing scent that you can fool yourself into thinking its gone after an hour but you'll keep wondering why you're smelling a hint of it 12 hours later. That hint of genius has lasted for over 40 years, now. Not bad.

    02 May, 2009

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    Acqua di Parma Lavanda Tonica by Acqua di Parma

    Acqua di Parma Lavanda Tonica

    I really enjoy lavender but it can be a tricky note to pull off as it can be too astringent and come off harsh or too powdery and come off too light. In this 1999 release from Acqua di Parma the balance is just right. In truth I want a lavender scent that is going to ring my chimes to sort of hit the middle ground between the two extremes I described above, Lavanda Tonica achieves that. The top is a concentrated blast of lavender it comes acroos as intense but not harsh. It also sems more rounded than lavender is in other scents where it is the central note. The intensity of the lavender is all I get for a good while but eventually the other notes begin to stick their heads up. First I get a nice citric shot of lemon this is followed by an herbal air of rosemary and then a floral accord that seems more rose than anything else. As this finally comes to rest there is a nice sheer amber in the base which gives a nice soft landing. Lavanda Tonica is a strong lavender scent for those who want their lavender straight with no chaser.

    02 May, 2009

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    Déclaration Eau Genereuse by Cartier

    Cartier Declaration Eau Genereuse

    Flankers are not my favorite subject in perfumery. Very often they are weaker un-balanced versions of the original and suffer in comparison. Try the sport version of many popular fragrances to see where I'm coming from. Then someone like Jean-Claude Ellena takes the idea and actually does something incredible with it. The Declaration line he created for Cartier shows how a central theme can be re-interpreted over four different scents. I am a big fan of the original Declaration and as someone who likes cumin in his scents it is a great scent, for me. What about the cumin averse out there? Ellena's first answer was, in 2001, Bois Bleu which stripped the cumin out and left the remainder firmly in aquatic territory. While I liked Bois Bleu it had lost some of the citrus sparkle that was present in the original and I missed that. In 2003, Ellena designed the scent that retains that spark and created Declaration Eau Genereuse. This is Declaration without the cumin and it is all sunshine and light and wonderful, on me. The top recreates the citrus beginning but without the earthiness of the cumin the green notes are much more prevalent. The wormwood is also missing which removes the astringent woody aspects and keeps Eau Genereuse all on the side of lighter, brighter accords as the zesty cardamom and artemesia lead down to a cedar-centric base. This is a clean, fresh scent expertly executed in an Eau de Cologne style. That Eau de Cologne style means not a lot of sillage but on me it stays as a close wearing skin scent for many hours. Ellena has almost made me a believer in flankers. Maybe more appropriately he has made me a believer in flankers designed by Ellena.

    25 April, 2009

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    Fiore d'Ambra by Profumum

    Profumum Fiore D'Ambra

    I do enjoy my amber centered scents and Profumum has one of my favorites in Ambra Aurea which used amber in a way which brought out its more strong lines. In this 2008 release Fiore D'Ambra chooses to explore the sweeter side of amber and is just as successful as its predecessor. Profumum can be frustrating with their note lists, for instance the note list for this scent is ambre gris and opium. Who knows what that means but it does free one to experience a scent without too many pre-conceived notions of what should be there. Other, than of course, amber which is in the name. From the top the amber is present and this is a sweet amber full and round. It is paired with a lovely sweet incense accord that amplifies the sweeteness of the amber without taking over the scent. The amber persists into the heart where there is a spiciness present but it has a floral character to it which makes me think carnation because there is a hint of clove. Again this is partnered well with the amber as the contrast brings out a different facet of the amber. In the base a soft creamy sandalwood mixes with the amber to finish this off in traditional territory with an accord I've smelled many times before and it feels like coming home as the amber and sandalwood mix together like peas and carrots. Profumum have now done two very different takes on amber and Fiore D'Ambra is every bit as good as Ambra Aurea, to me. If I was to be stuck with only these two scents as my amber contingent in my wardrobe I'd be fine with that.

    25 April, 2009

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    Numero Uno by Carthusia

    Carthusia Numero Uno

    Laura Tonatto undertook the task of creating perfumes for Carthusia back in 2006 and Numero Uno was released in 2007. Ms. Tonatto has created a very masculine chypre which develops in a fairly traditional way but holds true to what I think she was trying to accomplish. The top of Numero Uno is a classic, some might say ubiquitous, mix of citrus and lavender as a tart orange note is cut with lavender. This is the opening of many scent journeys and there are no new revelations made in this one just a competent opening salvo which is well-executed. It is in the heart where things get interesting as it is here where Ms. Tonatto chooses to amp up the herbal character of the scent by making thyme the central note but pairs it with ylang-ylang and a camphor note to give the heart of this a vaporous beauty that is unique as it revolves from aromatic herbal to lush floral to the iciness of camphor. This makes for a beautiful heart of this scent. The base is back on common ground as vetiver, patchouli and a hint of musk bring this back to familiar surroundings. For a man looking for a masculine chypre I think Numero Uno could be just the ticket.

    25 April, 2009

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    Philosykos by Diptyque

    Diptyque Philosykos

    It is always interesting to me to go back and visit the early work of aritsts I admire. These early efforts usually hold the embryonic beginnings of what will become their trademark style over time. Diptyque Philosykos is one of those cases. It was the third scent created by Olivia Giacobetti and released in 1996. It was interesting that Ms. Giacobetti was choosing to revisit fig as her central note as she had already used it in her first scent for L'Artisan, Premier Figuier, two years earlier. In that scent Ms. Giacobetti created a rich fig scent. In Philosykos her second take on fig was to strip it down to basics. Right from the top the fig bursts to life and come flying out of the gate. This is a green fig a few days away from being ripe. It is also a very dry beginning as if a warm arid breeze was wafting the scent of a fig grove towards you. As this progresses that imaginary fig grove begins to take shape as the leaves and the wood begin to accompany the fruit of the fig. Finally at the base this wonderful wet earth accord pulls this fig grove of the nose together in a beautiful way. Ms. Giacobetti will go on to perfect this accord in 2000's Frederic Malle En Passant but in Philosykos you definitely sniff its genesis. The overall feel of Philosykos of sheer central accords will be repaeated many times by Ms. Giacobetti and this is a good early example of what will become her signature style. Philosykos is one of my favorite fig scents because of that style.

    25 April, 2009

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    Ho Hang by Balenciaga

    Balenciaga Ho Hang

    Balenciaga would not be one of the first Houses that would spring to mind when asking a perfumista or colognoisseur to start naming Houses. That's a shame because Belenciaga as a House has put out some pretty bold and different scents which are still available at a reasonable price. On the women's side that includes Cristobal, Talisman, and Rumba. Sadly on the men's side there are only two scents left, Cristobal pour Homme and Ho Hang. Ho Hang was created in 1971 and for a scent created in the early 70's it manages to have that spicy oriental vibe of the time without feeling dated in the 21st century. Ho Hang starts off with the traditional mix of citrus and bergamot and while it is nothing new it is well-balanced and performs its function as the gatekeeper to lead you into the heart of this scent. The heart is a magnificent mix of rosewood and lavender. These two notes blend together to create a warm floral heart that is at turns sweet and dry, on me. The base starts with the clean lines of cedar and soon pairs it up with the green of vetiver which tempers the sweetness of the heart quite nicely. Ho Hang definitely hangs around on my skin for a long time and it definitely has some projection but not to the level of some of the big powerhouses from the 70's and 80's. If you're looking for a spicy Oriental that doesn't overwhelm give Ho Hang a try it just might introduce you to a new House.

    25 April, 2009

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    Mugler Cologne by Thierry Mugler

    Thierry Mugler Cologne

    Thierry Mugler as a House is known for over the top gourmands like Angel and A*Men. Thierry Mugler cologne feels out of place against the backdrop of what came before but in 2001 Alberto Morillas took a different tack when he created Thierry Mugler Cologne. Thierry Mugler Cologne is supposed to be reminiscent of a soap used by M. Mugler in his youth. The top full of citrus does come off a little soapy but not in a bad way. It comes off as a homemade citrus soap which has a freshness to it not the defined edges that we usually get from citrus especially at the top of a scent. The heart continues with the crispness of the top and although not listed I get a vetiver feel at this point in the development. One of the notes listed is a secret "S" note, to my nose it smells quite herbal and closer to vetiver than anything else. The base is a light white musk which keeps this scent on the light side all the way to the finish. Thierry Mugler Cologne is not a powerhouse like Angel or A*Men it is a very light wearing scent that has an excellent duration on my skin. There is nothing particularly ground-breaking or special about this but there has to be a place for well-balanced clean smelling scents and this is one of those.

    25 April, 2009

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    Oud 27 by Le Labo

    Le Labo Oud 27

    I've recently realized that Le Labo has been the House that has the highest percentage of scents I really like a lot. A lot of that has to do with the mix of styles that Le Labo puts out. The spectrum between the challenging mix of Patchouli 24 and the unique Rose 31 makes for a House that takes chances and at least for me has rarely fallen flat. Oud 27 is the 2009 release designed by Vincent Schaller and it falls closer to the Patchouli 24 side of things in the Le Labo universe. Oud is one of those notes that is not for everyone and Montale has made a cottage industry of putting out different versions of full-on Oud centered scents. Le Labo, I felt, was going to take a different tack and they do. From the top the Oud is there and it is strikingly bold. It is mixed with saffron and cedar. Oud is one of those notes that many liken to a medicine cabinet or more prosaically, urine. If you have tried an oud scent in the past and it does that on you then I expect the beginning of Oud 27 will be enough to send you screaming into the bathroom to scrub this off. I, on the other hand, love the smell of Oud I find it reminiscent of every bar I frequented in my misspent youth. It always smells to me like the mix of cheap booze, old cigarettes and yes maybe a little of the men's room in the back. I wouldn't call it a comfort scent but it is certainly a familiar scent and one I like. That all happens at the beginning but then its like walking out of that that olfactory bar and into a hazy summer night where somewhere a fire is burning. The scent slowly releases the Oud and uses an incredible mix of sweet amber, and a hint of rose. You can smell all of this while the cedar stays in place. The base of this is a nice rough leather which still retains hints of all that came before. Sort of like if I wore a leather jacket to my imaginary bar and was picking it up the next morning. I'd predominantly smell the leather but I'd catch whiffs of everything else, too. Oud 27 is a challenging scent and I can't recommend it for everybody. If you are a fan of Patchouli 24 I think there is a good chance you'll like this one. I know I do.

    18 April, 2009

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    Un Matin d'Orage Eau de Toilette by Annick Goutal

    Annick Goutal Un Matin D'Orage

    I grew up in South Florida and one of the scents that reminds me of my childhood is gardenia. In my neighborhood there were gardenias everywhere and the sweet, sharp scent of gardenia reminds me of humid days and sunshine. Un Matin D'Orage which means Stormy Morning is a 2009 release by Isabelle Doyen the longtime nose of Annick Goutal. She wanted to evoke a Japanese Garden after a storm. I'm not sure about the Japanese part but a garden after a storm she hits right on the nose. That evocation of a post-storm feel comes right at the top as there is an ozonic note redolent of the way the air smells after a particularly active thunderstorm has passed. It is paired with an aquatic accord and really does a nice job of starting this off on the right foot. As this garden begins to dry out in the sun the scents of the different flowers come back starting with gardenia. Mme. Doyen does a marvelous job of capturing the sweet of the gardenia but there is a green sharpness to gardenia that doesn't translate as well and this gardenia accord stays firmly on the sweet side of things. The other floral in the heart to balance this is magnolia which is less sweet and keeps the gardenia in check and from dominating the development of this one. Finally in the base a mixture of jasmine and champaca bring the sweet level down a notch and finish this with a sense of night falling as the aquatic notes creep back in. Un Matin D'Orage is a 100-proof floral which does one of the best jobs of evoking the garden after a rainstorm I've smelled, to date.

    18 April, 2009

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    Sweet Lime and Cedar by Jo Malone

    Jo Malone Sweet Lime and Cedar

    Truth in Advertising is a concept we believe in and one thing I can say for the Jo Malone scents I have worn, the notes that are on the label are the notes that are prominent. No Le Labo bait and switch here. This 2008 release combines two of my favorite notes and executes a typical Jo Malone style beautifully. The top is the fresh blast of lime full of tart energy. The sweet is provided by a mix of jasmine and ylang ylang. The floral character is there to add a little contrast to the tartness of the lime but not to be an equal partner. Therefore the top comes off very much as a full-on citrus. The transition to the titular partner of cedar goes through a layer of spices that are light and fresh. The most prominent of which is cardamom. This is a quick transition and it gets you right to the very clean lines that cedar affords a scent and here the cedar just lasts and lasts on me leaving me with the epitome of a fresh and clean feeling. Sweet Lime and Cedar is one of my favorites of the Jo Malone line and it wears better on me than the flagship Lime, Basil and Mandarin, while sharing some of the same thoughts in composition. Its nice when you get what you asked for.

    18 April, 2009

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    Armani Privé Cuir Améthyste by Giorgio Armani

    Armani Prive' Cuir Amethyste

    The Armani Prive line was an attempt by Armani to create their version of a niche line. The first two that I have tried of the Prives, Bois D'Encens and Vetiver Babylone have suceeded to my nose in achieving this goal. They were interesting if not terribly original scents which felt more niche than mainstream to me. I looked forward to trying Cuir Amethyste the 2006 release by Michel Almairac who did Bois D'Encens. This was billed as a violet and leather scent and it definitely lives up to it. Right from the top I get a beautiful full-on astringent violet and it is strong on me. If you do not like violet this will be too strong for you. I am a great lover of violet and so it is fine to my nose. A mix of patchouli and birch come into play as this progresses and it makes for a well-balanced and interesting heart. The base is where the leather comes in and this is a soft suede accord which is perfect to finish off the floral beginning. I have seen Cuir Amethyste compared to Serge Lutens Daim Blond and on my skin I don't agree. The violet comes off less sweet and more floral than the apricots in the beginning of Daim Blond. The final notes of suede are probably pretty close but the trip to that final accord is very different. Again I feel that Cuir Amethyste is a not terribly creative well-executed scent and if you like violet and leather it is worth a try.

    18 April, 2009

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    Ungaro III by Ungaro

    Ungaro III

    Sometimes I just want a scent that does the simple things well. Sometimes I don't want to have to work to figure out what is in each phase because the notes that are being used are obvious. Sometimes I like to see when a perfumer has embellished earlier themes. Ungaro III is one of those scents for me it was co-created, in 1993, by Francois Demachy and Jacques Polge. It is a fairly common progression of citrus, patchouli/vetiver, wood. It feels like a thematic brother to Polge's 1989 creation Tiffany for Men. From the top it is a classic mix of orange and lemon, it is bright and fresh and everything a colognoisseur has come to expect from a citrus-forward opening. The heart is patchouli, at first, soon joined by the edginiess of vetiver. Once again no new ground broken here but balanced nicely and adding some depth to the citrus beginning. In the base sndalwood adds smoothness and creaminess to the proceedings, making for a traditional closing argument. Ungaro III is a classic masculine scent, made in a classic masculine style. Sometimes that is all one needs to head out into the world.

    18 April, 2009

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    Déclaration by Cartier

    Cartier Declaration

    Jean-Claude Ellena is my favorite perfumer and as a result I look forward to wearing almost everything he has created. One of the reasons that I enjoy his creations is, as with my favorite rock bands, the song may be different but the inherent style is always on display. In 1998 he created Declaration for Cartier and this is a beautiful scent full of Ellena trademarks. What makes this stand out is it has a little more of a modern edge to it than others of his creations. That modernity starts at the beginning as he chooses to combine classic bergamot with a bitter orange note to create a tartness which is then joined by the rich spiciness of cumin. This beginning is brilliant on my skin as the aromaticity of bergamot cut by the bitterness of the citrus along with the earthy spice of cumin offers different facets to enjoy. Cumin averse colognoisseurs should stay away from this as the cumin stage lasts for quite a while and is not subtle. The progression into the heart is led by another spice as cardamom uses its fresher feel to lead into a central core of green edgy woods dominated by wormwood and juniper. These woods are tighter spicier woods which keep this scent just a little on the green side of things. The base is a mix of the green of vetiver and the clean lines of cedar bringing Declaration home in a fresh burst. Declaration is a beautiful scent all on its own but it is also interesting because it contains themes that will return in scents that Ellena creates over the next few years. Another winner from Ellena for me.

    18 April, 2009

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    Musc Nomade by Annick Goutal

    Annick Goutal Musc Nomade

    Musc Nomade is one of four scents in the Les Orientalistes line created in 2008 by Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal. The inspiration for these scents was said to be the smells of the harem. Up until now while enjoying the other Les Oriantalistes I haven't been whisked away to my mental seraglio. Musc Nomade achieves the stated goal admirably. Musc is one of my favorite notes to see interpreteted by different perfumers and in Musc Nomade MMes. Doyen and Goutal choose to go for the less earthy musc and instead use a combination of three white muscs to add a layer of brightness to this. At the top, the first of the white muscs comes out and it is paired with the nutty note of almond. The almond adds a little sweetness to the airiness of the musc and gets this off to a sparkling start. The heart undergoes a shift as the musc changes and gains a little more depth along with a new partner, tonka, Once again it is a little sweet mixed with the musc and creating a nice accord. The base is also a mix of musc and sweet in the presence of Bombay wood which is the sweetness of papyrus. As this progresses the musc gets a little more pronounced and a little more power until the mix at the end feels very sensual. This is a beautiful light musc which feels light on my skin but yet has a subtle intensity that I enjoy all during its development. No musc is ever going to be completely clean but Musc Nomade has the quality of feeling exotic and a little erotic which fits a scent trying to evoke a harem.

    11th April, 2009

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    Divin'enfant by Etat Libre d'Orange

    Etat Libre D'Orange Divin' Enfant

    Antoine Lie has done two of my favorite Etat Libre D'Orange scents to date, Rossy de Palma and Vierges et Toreros. Both of those scents are very different and I was looking forward to see what M. Lie would do with a note list of: orange blossom, marshmallow, rose, mocha, leather, amber, musk, and tobacco. With a roster like that you would probably think gourmand but this 2006 scent doesn't come off like that on me. The top is the floral sweetness of orange blossom combined with the marshmallow note. This is that slightly sweet, slightly doughy note you get when you open the bag of marshmallows for the first time. It is that doughiness that keeps this from being too sweet. The sweet nature begins to modulate in the heart as the chocolate-coffee mocha note along with rose and a sweet amber keep this sweet. The coffee note is evenly balanced with both the rose and amber which keeps this from feeling like a coffee centered scent on me. Finally in the base the sweetness centers around the smell of leather and tobacco leaf combined with a deep musk. Divin' Enfant is a tone poem of sweet on my skin from the intensity of the top to a more restrained level in the base to a sweetness paired with animalic notes in the base. When I want something sweet that won't cause my insulin level to rise this is the style of scent I'm looking for.

    11th April, 2009

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    Dzongkha by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    L'Artisan Dzongkha

    As a lover of incense scents Bertrand Duchaufour has become my "go-to" nose for these kinds of scents. In his incense portfolio he has Amouiage Jubilation XXV, CdG Kyoto and Avignon, and L'Artisan Aedes and Timbuktu. In 2006 he created a second scent for L'Artisan playing on some of the themes he explored in 2004's Timbuktu. If Timbuktu was the incense of the streets, Dzongkha is the incense of the temple. The combination of floral notes with the incense makes this a much more refined experience than Timbuktu. Right from the top there is a beautiful sweet floral which according to the notes is peony. This slowly becomes the more focused and less-sweet iris. The heart is a mix of the spiciness of cardamom, the smokiness of tea, and the watery sweetness of lychee. Underneath all of this, right from the beginning, is the incense. At the beginning it is lighter and taking second-billing to the floral notes. In the heart is has become part of the ensemble adding both smoke and sweet to the other notes. Finally in the base it has the stage to itself and gives off a memorable soliloquy for my nose. It is always nice that the constants in one's life are there and for me M. Duchaufour, incense notes and excellent scents are becoming as sure a thing as the sun coming up.

    11th April, 2009

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    L'Anarchiste by Caron

    Caron L'Anarchiste

    It was early in my exploration of scents that I tried the Caron "masculine holy trinity" of pour Un Homme, Le 3me Homme, and Yatagan. They were all excellent scents on me. It took a little while longer for me to try L'Anarchiste. Richard Fraysse created L'Anarchiste in 2000 and it is encased in a striking copper bottle designed by Serge Mansau. This is one of those cases where everyone involved artistically on this should be pleased. The top notes are orange in the form of mandarin which quickly are joined by the clean lines of cedar. As this prgresses into the heart the orange becomes lighter and sandalwood joins the cedar to add a creaminess to the wood and to soften some of the edges that cedar brings to this scent. The woods stick around as a plush musk takes over and then the edge returns in the form of vetiver to round out the base. L'Anarchiste fits easily into the trio of Caron men's scents that came before. L'anarchiste falls closer to Yatagan than to either Le 3me Homme or pour Un Homme but really has its own unique place on the Caron spectrum. Looks like the "holy trinity" just gained a fourth.

    11th April, 2009

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    No. 23 by Ava Luxe

    Ava Luxe No. 23

    Ava Luxe is another artisanal House, the creative force behind this House is Serena Ava Franco. One aspect of this type of perume House is the sense of experimentation that takes place. Where a larger House might put out one of two scents a year, an artisanal House might put out one or two scents a month. This leads to more misses than the average big House, but by being able to try different things when they get it right it can be special. Ava Luxe No. 23, released in 2007, is one of those times that its very right. Sandalwood is one of the more widely known notes to anyone who sniffs. In No. 23 Serena has chosen to see what sandalwood can do when paired with different floral notes. From the top the pairing is hawthorn and acacia this gives it a green character to start but still distinctly floral. It is in the heart where geranium and rose pair with the sandalwood that this turns lush. At the end it becomes a sweet amber and incense feeling scent on my skin although neither of those notes are listed. No.23 has been compared to Diptyque's Tam Dao and in construction that is probably not correct as the similarity has mainly to do with the strong sandalwood core of both scents. Tam Dao uses different pairings of notes to explore sandalwood than No. 23 does. One place they are similar is in their quality. As one who likes Tam Dao very much No. 23 holds equal standing to my nose.

    04 April, 2009

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    Kohdo Wood Collection: Dark Amber & Ginger Lily by Jo Malone

    Jo Malone Dark Amber and Ginger Lily

    Jo Malone is a British perfumer known for their simple one or two-note fragrances. As a line they are usually very high quality and they are ideal for layering. That is why the 2008 limited release Dark Amber and Ginger Lily was so surprising to me. For the first time this was a Jo Malone which felt like it was meant to stand all on its own. So much so that I couldn't possibly think about putting anything on top of this because it is so nice it would ruin it for me. The top of this scent begins with a light combination of spices. First to my nose was cardamom followed by pepper and then ginger. This leads to the heart where the ginger slowly morphs into a lily accord combined with incense. This scent was inspired by Japanese incense ceremonies and it is here where that mood is most evoked as the combination of floral and incense comes off near-perfect for me. In the base is where the amber finally makes its appearance and it is combined with a suede-like leather and sandalwood. I'm not sure this is a "dark amber" but it is a deeper less sweet amber than is usually present in the base of most scents. For me this scent is a complete triumph as it mixes almost all of my favorite things and does it in a way that keeps it from being jarring or banal. From spice to floral incense to woody amber this scent pleases me on every esthetic level I hold for perfume. As mentioned above this was a limited release in 2008 but it was brought back in 2009 also in a limited release and is as the time of this review still available. For me this is the best Jo Malone to date and is one of my favorites in any line.

    04 April, 2009

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    Noël au Balcon by Etat Libre d'Orange

    Etat Libre D'Orange Noel au Balcon

    Noel au Balcon is the beginning of a Freanch proverb "Noël au balcon, Pâques aux tisons." Which translates to "If the weather is mild at Christmas it will be cold at Easter". In November of 2007 Antoine Maisondieu created Noel au Balcon as an exclusive to European Sephoras for the holidays. It was discontinued with the close of the holiday season in 2008. That's a shame because this is one of the best scents I've tried from Etat Libre D'Orange and with a wider distribution could have been a mainstream winner for the line, I think. The beginning of this is a beautiful honeyed fruit as the honey drenches a mix of orange and apricot. This is a restrained sweetness and it is a hallmark of this scent as M. Maisondieu uses notes throughout that if used with an unsubtle hand would've ruined this scent. This scent then takes a turn into the spices and pepper, cumin and cinnamon are the prominent notes in the heart. This could be a jarring transition but in this scent it is not. The progression is unusually smooth and the spices are a refreshing contrast to the sweet beginning. The base returns to a mix of sweet as vanilla and musk bring this one home. M. Maisondieu has created a beautiful interplay of sweet and spicy here. One thing is for sure this is not a "mild Christmas" so I can look forward to a less chilly Easter.

    04 April, 2009

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    En Passant by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

    Frederic Malle En Passant

    One of my favorite scent associations is the smell of lilacs and the assurance that that smell lets me know winter is over for another year. Lilac is one of those notes that is notoriously hard to execute well. Most times it is used with a heavy hand and it comes off smelling like a heavy-duty air freshener. Then you have someone like Frederic Malle give Olivia Giacobetti, in 2000, the opportunity to create a scent around lilac and you get En Passant. Ms. Giacobetti has had transparency used to describe many of her scents and in En Passant that quality reaches its apex. From the top the lilac comes across boldly and for a moment I worry that the air-freshener quality is about to take hold. I needn't have worried because the heart is where Giacobetti's trademark transparency takes hold. She tones down the lilac and pairs it with a watery accord. This is how lilac smells to me after a spring rain as the breeze wafts the scent through my window. It is at once heady and close but yet subtle and far away. The brilliance of this scent is that this level of delicacy is maintained for hours on my skin. In other perfumes these kinds of delights are fleeting, in En Passant it is not. As this develops I finally begin to get hints of the wet earth the lilacs are planted in as there is a noticeable greenness that appears. The note list would seem to make cucumber the note responsible for this but it has much more of a wet soil quality to my nose. The one funny note that peeks in and around this scent as it develops is the wheat note which smells like freshly-baked bread, it never lingers for long but it plays peek-a-boo with my nose throughout the heart and base of En Passant. Once again the freedom Frederic Malle has given a perfumer has resulted in one of their best pieces of fragrant work. En Passant translates to "in passing" but it also refers to a chess move which, is not often seen and, is the only occasion in chess where the capturing piece does not move to the square of the captured piece. Olivia Giacobetti has also created a transparent lilac masterpiece that is also a rare piece of artistry.

    04 April, 2009

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    Grain de Plaisir by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

    Maitre Pafumeur et Gantier Grain de Plaisir

    Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier was formed in 1988 Jean Laporte, after his stint at L'Artisan. M. Laporte's vision for MPG was to create a line that hearkened back to Paris of the 17th century. These scents almost all have that sense of being from another time. Grain de Plaisir was one of the last scents M. Laporte designed before turning over the reins at MPG to Jean-Paul Millet Lage. Grain de Plaisir feels like a blast of freshness that one could belive being worn by a male courtier of the 17th century. The top of Grain de Plaisir is the most amazing citrus herbal mix. It is mostly lemon but I also detect some grapefruit along with a very green note which according to the note list is celery seed. This is the bite of lemon with a blend of green that is beautiful. The top of this lasts for an amazingly long time on me, which is unusual for citrus scents but this top is still in control on my skin two hours after application. Since the top is the best part of this scent, this duration is a good thing. The descent in to the heart begins with an almost minty pine accord which mixes with the remains of the citrus and celery quite nicely. The base is a sweet amber which is nice contrast to the tart beginning. Grain de Plaisir translates as a "moment of pleasure". For me this is much more than a moment of pleasure and the top notes of this are spectacular.

    04 April, 2009

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    Lann-Ael by Lostmarc'h

    Lostmarc'h Lann-Ael

    Lostmarc'h is a perfume house located in Brittany in France. Lostmarc'h refers to the last beach in continental Europe. Lann-Ael translates to Angel Heath in Breton. This scent has been compared to a bowl of cereal with milk for the skin. With a note list of buckwheat, cereals, milk, apple and vanilla you can see where this comparison comes from. From the top for me I get the milk note but also a lot of vanilla and the apples are there but quite muted. Because I was in a cereal frame of mind when putting this on I found the comparison cereal to be Cap'n Crunch. This smells like I remember my bowl of Cap'n Crunch smelling after I had eaten all the cereal and there was a little milk left in the bottom of the bowl. What you smell at the top pretty much sticks around for quite a few hours as it develops it becomes creamier as the vanilla takes more of a central role. This is a really unique smelling scent that lasts quite a while on me. I can see wearing this to bed and having sweet dreams of my childhood.

    28 March, 2009

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    Tam Dao by Diptyque

    Diptyque Tam Dao

    Diptyque started making fragrances in 1968 but in the last few years they have really begun to make an impact in the scented world. One of these impact makers is Tam Dao which was developed in 2003 by Daniel Moliere. Tam Dao has bcome a sandalwood reference standard because of the heavy presence sandalwood exerts on this fragrance. There are three other notes listed; rosewood, cypress, and ambergris. While many who love this scent mention it as almost a sandalwood "soliflore" it is more than that due to the presence of those other notes. From the top the sandalwood is clearly present but the note that pairs with it is cypress and the fresh cleanliness that cypress adds produces an edge to the richness of the sandalwood. As we move into the heart the rosewood begins to show up . The rosewood adds a subtlety to the sandalwood and as it becomes more apparent to my nose a suppleness to the development. The ambergris is the sweet version which intensifies the sweetness inherent in sandalwood and brings this to a beautiful close. Tam Dao is like a meditation on sandalwood in three acts and M. Moliere has used each of the partnering notes to explore a different facet of sandalwood. For those who like sandalwood Tam Dao is a must try scent as it should expose you to all of the potential it has as a note in perfume making.

    28 March, 2009

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    Escada Homme by Escada

    Escada pour Homme

    There are some mornings I don't want to be inspired by my perfume or have my perceptions challenged or to challenge other's perceptions. Nope, some mornings I just want to smell like a man, without having to resort to wearing Old Spice. On those mornings my eyes fall to a specific part of my wardrobe and one of the scents that fall into this category for me is Escada pour Homme. Escada pour Homme was released in 1993 and is one of those easily obtained very reasonably priced bottles that smell much better than their under $20 pricetag would lead you to believe. If you look at the pyramid for this one you'll see a ton of notes listed. I'm not sure that all of those notes are there but the ones that are present make for a really nice scent. At the top is a well-balanced opening of lavender and citrus, this is a classic beginning and it is done competently. The heart is a very nice melange of spice with sage and pepper being the more prominent players but there is also some juniper and cinnamon there to my nose, as well. The base is a smooth transition, all sandalwood and musk, once again very well blended. Escada pour Homme is one of those scents that I can recommend very easily because of its economical price and its expensive feel.

    28 March, 2009

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    Allure Homme by Chanel

    Chanel Allure Homme

    In 1998 Jacques Polge created the first scent in the very popular Allure Homme line of scents for Chanel. M. Polge doesn't really create anything groundbreaking here but he does manage to make the first of a line of designer scents that each have their own personality. In the original Allure Homme he starts with a citrus and bergamot top, it has a mix of both mandarin and lemon and it is really nice if not incredibly original. As Allure Homme moves into the heart there is a muted attempt to be bold as there are hints of pepper and labdanum. I honestly think I notice them only because they are in the note list. I wonder how much better this scent could have been if M. Polge had chosen to amp up the interplay of labdanum and pepper more in the heart. As it is they are shoved to the back seat as sandalwood takes the wheel and eventually picks up its regular rider in the shotgun seat, vanilla. I could wish for Chanel to have chosen to push things more but I think this is exactly what they desired from this line a solidly constructed, easily worn, conventional, masculine cologne. On that scorecard they go four for four.

    28 March, 2009

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    Jungle L'Éléphant by Kenzo

    Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant

    Y'know how we say we want more movies that take risks or music that doesn't sound like anything else or perfume that is willing to take risks? Very often we say these things but it seems that these artistic efforts that live up to our desires never seem to stick around for long. Today's example is 1996's Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant. This was one of a pair of scents created by Dominique Ropion in this time period and both of them stand out from my impression of Kenzo as a standard designer of solid scents that don't necessarily push the envelope. At least back in the mid-90's the line took a chance and tried to do that and of course they both are discontinued. L'Elephant is full of the spices I love and while most scents would just stop there L'Elephant continues to accelerate seemingly adding every note in the perfumer's arsenal and somehow making it work for me. From the top this blows in on a stiff breeze laden with cardamom, cumin and clove. There is a hint of citrus but it is so fleeting it took my third sniff of this to convince myself it was there. No, the beginning of this is the cool lemon fresh of cardamom, the depth of cumin, and the heat of clove and it works wonderfully on me. If you are cumin or clove averse the beginning of this will be tough for you, let me ask you to be patient beacause as much as I like the top this one just gets better as it develops. The heart starts with a ripe floral mix of ylang-ylang and heliotrope; the contrapuntal beat is provided by anise and this is full-on licorice which in contrast to the sweet floral makes beautiful music. The note list again lists mango as a note but this time I can't convince myself that it's there. This heart smells like a chai tea as the spices are still there but way in the background. Just as I think things are on the verge of getting too busy in comes more in the form of vanilla and amber and these add to the richness of this scent. The development of this just kept piling on so much I was beginning to feel like the olfactory equivalent of M. Creosote and fearing the one thin mint note which would cause my nose to explode. Let me close this with a warning, this scent is not for everyone it has all of the subtlety of a jackhammer at times and then at other times it rewards you with subtle surprises as these notes interact and create different landscapes to explore with your nose. If you're not into trying weird things, stay away. On the other hand if you're a scent adventurer strap on your pith helmet and head into the Jungle and hunt up some L'Elephant.

    28 March, 2009

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    L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain

    Guerlain L'Heure Bleue

    The more I learn about perfume the more I realize how much more I have to experience. I've come to be a big fan of scents I would classify as modern or edgy. A scent that takes chances and tries to combine notes in unexpected ways. Naturally I also expect that this scent would be contemporary in the date of its creation. Then there are days like these. Guerlain L'Heure Bleue was created by Jacques Guerlain in 1912 and this has everything I would want from a "modern" scent but it was created almost 100 years ago. L'Heure Bleue translates to "blue hour" and is meant to describe the twilight portion of the day as the sun has dropped below the horizon but the stars have not yet appeared. Like Jacques Guerlain it is one of my favorite parts of the day, too. I treasure it not for the tinge of blue that seems to be draped over everything but for the unnatural sharpness that the receding of the light seems to impart to my vision. L'Heure Bleue contains those kind of sharp edges I associate with modern scent making. At the top you are met with orange blossom and bergamot. This is a lovely light beginning reminsicent of the dying of the light as these are bright fleeting notes. The heart is that part of twilight that the night flowers begin to peek out. Anise is the note that shuttles my nose into the deepening dark as carnation and its clove-like character begin to take hold, this is soon followed by rose and violet. The base is vanilla and musk but it is superbly balanced and it is never too sweet or too animalic it is just right. L'Heure Bleue has been described as a melancholic scent and I just don't get that at all. It captures the end of the day and the potential of the evening ahead and I find that exhilirating just like L'Heure Bleue makes me feel.

    28 March, 2009

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