Reviews by Somerville Metro Man

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    Somerville Metro Man
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    Nuit de Cellophane by Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

    Serge Lutens Nuit de Cellophane

    A scent called Cellophane Night conjures up memories of my mis-spent 20's in NYC in the mid 80's and the theme nights at the clubs. I can't say for sure but I just feel that somewhere during those days one club must have had a Cellophane Night. When I see a name like that from Serge Lutens and his partner in scent Chris Sheldrake it makes me shiver with anticipation. Nuit de Cellophane is a 2009 release from Messrs. Lutens and Sheldrake and I have to say based on the name wasn't what I expected. Serge Lutens' stock-in-trade has been scents that match lush central themes with other notes that should approach from right angles. The surprise in Nuit de Cellophane is this as linear a scent as I've tried from Serge Lutens. The top of this is fruity floral territory as a melange of fruit mixes with a bouquet of white flowers. The indoles are out in full force here and they are what remain as the fruit recedes fairly quickly. The heart of this is indole heaven (or hell if you're not an indole afficianado) the jasmine and osmanthus seem to come at me in waves and it is here where the scent feels most like something reminiscent of cellophane. I know when I unwrap a package covered in cellophane I sometimes get that plasticky smell and it is the indoles here that are most reminiscent of that. The base is musc and sandalwood and holds no surprises as it is a nice dusky finish to the florals that led you here. While wearing this I kept waiting for the unexpected to make its appearance but it never did. I think this could be a Serge Lutens for people who have been turned off by the weird, I would call it interesting, notes of past Serge Lutens scents. It will have to be for those who love indoles and white flowers because that is the most prominent and long-lasting phase of Nuit de Cellophane. For me, I feel the same way I probably did about Cellophane Night back in the 80's. For a concept that held such edgy promise it just turned out to be another fun night on the town. Ditto that for Nuit de Cellophane.

    21st March, 2009

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    Brooklyn by Bond No. 9

    Bond No. 9 Brooklyn

    Laurice Rahme’s Bond No. 9 line has explored most of the neighborhoods of Manhattan and now under the creative direction of perfumer Laurent LeGuernec, in 2009, the line takes a trip across the bridge into Brooklyn. Brooklyn is marketed to be a woody oriental which is to “tilt towards the masculine”. I picked up the graffiti covered bottle, which is fabulous looking, hoping to be as impressed by the juice contained inside. The top of this is grapefruit but more the tanginess that comes from the rind of a grapefruit and not the juiciness of the pulp. In compliment is the lemony smoothness that cardamom brings. This top note lasts much longer than the normal citrus top note and I was able to sniff it on paper and my wrist hours after application making this one of the longest lasting grapefruits scents I’ve worn. When I tested this on paper and on my wrist the middle notes listed of cedar, juniper and geranium never appeared and I kept sniffing to try and find them. Things were much different when I did my usual full-body application. After multiple sprays I do get the cedar and juniper but they are very subtle on my skin and I’m not sure if I wasn’t hunting for them that I would be talking about them. Mainly because as the grapefruit finally burns away the base of this is really quite nice; as first a leather note comes in followed by guaiac. For a note which is getting as much use as guaiac is lately I am finding its versatility to be quite astonishing. Here it adds a clean edge to the supple leather and doesn’t overwhelm as it has in other guaiac containing scents I’ve sniffed lately. I can see where this does slightly tilt towards the masculine but this would be easily worn by a woman who likes a woody scent as the wood is not layered on with a heavy hand. With a graffiti covered bottle I think I was hoping for an edgier scent with more modern sensibilities, what I got was a surprisingly long-lasting woody citrus that I think will be just right in the warmer weather. Unlike the graffiti on the bottle I won’t be trying to scrub this off my walls.

    21st March, 2009

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    Ambra Aurea by Profumum

    Profumum Ambra Aurea

    Amber is one of my favorite ingredients. Mainly it is because it can be used in such different ways. There is the sweet amber that is so familiar in many amber forward scents. There is a sheerer subtle amber when it is used as a compliment, and not the focus, usually adding to the warmth and depth of a scent it is used in. Then there is full-on amber in all of its glory which has an almost medicinal edge to it. The two best examples of this are Montale Blue Amber and Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan. Until now when I've wanted that blast of amber those have been my standards. Profumum released Ambra Aurea in 2007 and it has a very short note list. One note short: Grey amber. In many ways that note list does accurately capture what is going on here. Right from the moment this is sprayed on my skin I get the blast of amber that reminds some of a medicine cabinet. To me it is a strong edgy smell full of angles and planes. What I like about amber is it is a note that can be on its own because as it develops on one's skin it will take on all of the forms of amber. The hard-edges finally strip off and after a couple of hours the sweeteness of amber takes the reins and this stage stays for hours. Towards the end of the day as it is wearing off I get the sheerness of amber and it makes me want to go get something else to layer on top of it because I know it will bring out some new facet of whatever I would apply on top. Ambra Aurea is not going to replace Blue Amber as my favorite amber but it is nearly as good and that is not faint praise in my book.

    21st March, 2009

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    Encens Flamboyant by Annick Goutal

    Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant

    Isabelle Doyen and Camille Goutal are the creative forces behind Annick Goutal. In 2007 they released three scents called Les Orientalistes, Encens Flamboyant is one of these. The inspiration behind Les Orientalistes is supposed to be the smells of a harem. When I wear Encens Flamboyant I'm not sure the scent picture they want to paint is the one that comes to mind on me. From the top the "encens" is in full force. The note list calls this "frankincense essence and resinoid". There is definitely a liquidity to this incense that makes it feel more lush than most frankincense accords I've sniffed. Nutmeg is also present in the top to lend a sweet rounding to the frankincense. There is almost an oiliness to the way this feels at the top. That quality allows the frankincense to linger and then I get what I would describe as the smell of wet concrete after a spring or summer rain. Some might call it a musty note but to me it is more a wet note which goes well with the development to this point. The concrete phase is fleeting and short before the real star of this scent takes over. This turns into a beautiful woody scent dominated by fir trees. The balsam of this in conjunction with the remains of the incense is a beautiful combination that just lasts on me. At this point I feel like I've walked through a cloud of incense into a fir-lined forest after a spring rain. None of that feels particularly harem-like to me. While Mmes. Doyen and Goutal may have missed in their imagery they have scored a direct hit on my incense sensibilities and created a scent I will add to my growing incense harem of bottles.

    21st March, 2009

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    Kenzo Power by Kenzo

    Kenzo Power


    To know that Olivier Polge can make a masculine floral one needs go no further than the magnificent Dior Homme. To wonder if M. Polge can catch lightning in a bottle twice one would have to wear this 2008 release from Kenzo which describes itself as "an imaginary flower in the heart of a woody ambery fragrance". I wore this with great anticipation because of M. Polge's previous success. The top is a mix of the citrus-flavored spices of bergamot and cardamom along with a pinch of coriander. This makes for a refreshing intro to the floral business that is to take place in the heart of Power. This floral accord is called "an abstract floral note". I think I can be a little less abstract than the ad copy. On my skin I get what smells like a combination of osmanthus, lily and jasmine. This mix comes off as clean and not so much a pretty floral as a more cleanly edged floral appropriate for a masculine scent. The final stage is the promised woody amber which is cedar and amber. This keeps Power firmly on the clean side of the scent line. I like Power quite a bit and find it to be a better everyday scent than Dior Homme. That doesn't mean I think it is better than Dior Homme on an absolute scale. What I mean is that when I want the ubiquitous fresh and clean scent but I also want something that is still interesting to me I'm going to be reaching for Kenzo Power. I don't know whether this is catching lightning twice but I do know that M. Polge has made me want to try his next take on a masculine floral very much, whenever that is.

    21st March, 2009

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    Lys Méditerranée by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

    Frederic Malle Lys Mediterranee

    In 2000 when Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle came into being they hit the scene with eight scents. Six of these were impressions of specific floral themes. Lys Mediterranee is Edoaurd Flechier’s, of Dior Poison fame, take on lily as inspiration. Right from the top this is a lily blast. The top is a mixture of lily of the valley which keeps it sweet but is cut by an astringent, but spicy, partnership with ginger lily. As you transition into the heart there is a whiff of saltiness befitting a scent with Mediterranee in the name. It is subtle and is soon mixed with the lighter citrus of orange blossom and the slight muskiness of angelica root. The scent ends on a base of sheer white musk which pairs with the floral remains of what has passed before quite nicely. Lily can be a tough act to pull off without bringing to mind funeral parlors with badly recycled air. M. Flechier has done quite the opposite as he has brought to life a sun-drenched garden in a villa overlooking the blue of the Mediterranean. This never gets too heavy on me and the muskiness added by the angelica and white musk keep this solidly in unisex territory. This is another winner from Frederic Malle for me.

    21st March, 2009

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    Le Rivage des Syrtes / PdN1 by MDCI

    Parfums MDCI Le Rivage des Syrtes/PdN1

    Patricia de Nicolai has been called the spiritual heir to Jean-Paul Guerlain and in her eponymous Parfums de Nicolai label she has created some classic scents of her own, most notably New York which is a representation of her Guerlain bloodline, she is the grand daughter of Pierre Guerlain, and her ability to make it her own. Parfums MDCI has hired Ms. De Nicolai to create two new scents for them and Le Rivage des Syrtes is the first of those scents released in 2009. The name comes from a novel by the French author Julien Gracq. Gracq is known for writing which centers on “….the promise of meaning, but there is no meaning”. That might be the theme but trust me there is as much meaning and intent as a perfumer can bring to bear on a scent. The top starts, with what is becoming clear, is one of Ms. De Nicolai’s skills and that is the deft hand she uses with citrus, namely orange. Here the orange is the lush pulp inside the peel which is paired with a juicy pineapple. This could come off as fruit salad in other’s hands but here it is an incredible start. The heart of this is all floral as the orange does a Benjamin Button and ages in reverse as orange blossom leads the way followed by tuberose and a sheer incense note so light you only get hints of it. The best of Ms. De Nicolai’s scents tend to be built around vanilla and in this one vanilla is the linchpin of the base, there is a little musc but this one ends up vanilla. The interplay here between the fruit at the top and the floral plus incense down to the vanilla shows a perfumer at the top of her game and one living up to and improving on her glorious heritage.

    14th March, 2009

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    Hermèssence Vanille Galante by Hermès

    Hermes Hermessence Vanille Galante

    Jean-Claude Ellena became the house perfumer for Hermes in 2004, since that time he has been on a creative and popular run rivaled by few perfumers. Upon arriving at Hermes he created the Hermessence line in which he applied his minamilist esthetic to “single note” scents. The earliest entries like Ambre Narguile and Vetiver Tonka are some of the best loved scents out there by both perfumistas and colognossieurs. As the Hermessence line has evolved the scents have grown to be more that just Ellena’s musing on the titular note and more about what can be discovered by making that note part of an ensemble and letting it show a different side. This is just what is realized in Vanille Galante, the 2009 addition to the Hermessences. The top of this is a lily in spring. It is a very tightly coiled scent surrounded by a green accord. Very faintly as the transition to the heart happens, almost like shouting from across the street, vanilla is noted as present. In the heart there is spiciness to go with the hint of vanilla. The spices are rounded off by something that according to the notes is ylang ylang but it seems different to my nose from other ylang ylang I've encountered before as it seems to be more synthetic and less natural. The vanilla finally makes a more prominent appearance in the base, as combined with sandalwood, it completes this scent. This is another great example of Ellena's style of perfumery as the whole scent develops in sheer and light stages which combine in unique ways to create a complete experience. Vanille Galante wears very lightly and close to the skin and it sometimes seems like its gone only to get a whiff to remind you that it is there. Vanille Galante is a worthy addition to the Hermessence line and Ellena's body of work.

    14th March, 2009

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    Black Sea by Martine Micallef

    M Micallef Black Sea

    Husband and wife Martine Micallef and Geoffrey Newman established M Micallef in 1997 and Black Sea is one of their earlier efforts. This is a spicy scent which manages to not be overpowering on me. Right from the top the spices come out to play as clove and pepper show up first. They give way to the saffron; soft, smooth, and exotic. The saffron leads the way into the heart which is predominantly gaiac. The mix at the interface, between top and heart, of saffron and gaiac is breathtakingly beautiful and I wanted it to last longer. It seems like these two notes are olfactory soul mates to my nose. The gaiac is joined by an incense note as the saffron fades away. This part of the development suffers because of what came before, it is fine and it isn't jarringly out of place, I just wanted this to be something more. The base is vanilla with the gaiac and incense also sticking around in the background. I like Black Sea but there is a moment there where I thought this was going to be incredible.

    14th March, 2009

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    Vierges & Toreros by Etat Libre d'Orange

    Etat Libre D’Orange Vierges et Toreros

    Tuberose! Say it out loud and many men run the other way as this single note would be one that would be described as feminine by many of those men as they look back over their shoulder trying to get away. It is why when Team Antoine, Lie and Maisondieu, undertook the goal of making a “tuberose for men” in 2007 the result was sure to be interesting. Pair that with Etat Libre D’Orange known for their demure marketing, naming this Virgins and Toreros, and you’ve doubled down on interesting. Right from the top the tuberose makes its appearance but this isn’t a lush floral, this is an edgy tuberose and just to butch it up a bit it is paired with a full compliment of tough guy spices, pepper being the most prominent. The heart is where this one really shows off its masculinity as a full leather accord struts into the mix. This is the leather of a well-worn-leather jacket. The base mixes in some vetiver and patchouli to round things out but this is most of the time a leather and tuberose scent. I think Team Antoine did a fine job here using tuberose in a way to make it palatable to most floral-aversive men. It only dominates the scent for a short while and with the spices to keep it from getting too powdery it is quite nice. The leather is the predominant note of the scent and that keeps it from becoming the gateway floral to something more gender challenging like Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower. I like this one quite a bit.

    14th March, 2009

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    Chanel Pour Monsieur by Chanel

    Chanel pour Monsieur (1955)

    Chypres are one of the classic perfume families but it is a hard family to find masculine scents in. It's not that the class is inherently feminine, it isnt. Its more that the best examples of the class are all more commonly classified as feminine scents. That changed in 1955 when Henri Robert composed Chanel pour Monsieur and perhaps created the best masculine chypre. The scent starts out with the typical fresh top of bergamot and citrus. What I enjoy about the top of Chanel pour Monsieur is that I can pick out the individual citrus notes present. First it is lemon, then orange all with the bergamot entwined. The transition to the spicy heart of this is ushered in by cardamom. The lemon character of the spice forming the perfect intermezzo until coriander and delicate ginger join in. This spicy heart just sings on my skin and to my sensibilities. The base is a mix of cedar and oakmoss to usher this home in classic style. There are many scents that wish they could do what Chanel pour Monsieur pulls off almost effortlessly, which is to ooze class from every note. One caveat this scent is discontinued and extremely hard to find. The Chanel pour Monsieur Concentree that is widely available is a different beast entirely. To experience the best masculine chypre you will have to do a little hunting. I think it is well worth the effort.

    14th March, 2009

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    Noir Patchouli by Histoires de Parfums

    Histoires de Parfums Noir Patchouli

    When your House is called History of Perfume you can already tell how high they are trying to aim. In 2005 they created three scents focused on one note. Noir Patchouli is the first of these I've tried. The top of this starts out with a roar of patchouli which is matched only slightly by some spice. I like patchouli but the top of this was so much patchouli I was worried that patchouli was all this was going to be. I needn't have worried because as we progress to the heart the patchouli pulls back and it is matched with rose and a different set of spices from the top. Here there is some pepper to add some edge to things. As we get to the base here is where this one comes alive as a leather note becomes a co-conspirator with the patchouli. This end phase lasts and lasts and is really quite evenly balanced between the two to leave this in a great place. I have read that for others the patchouli seems to disappear after the top. I didn't find that, patchouli is at its most aggressive in the top and the floral character of Noir Patchouli clearly rules the heart but it is on equal footing in the base. For me, as one who likes his patchouli you can serve it up to me "Noir" anytime.

    07th March, 2009

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    Caravelle Epicée by Frapin

    Frapin Caravelle Epicee

    Caravelle Epicee roughly translates to Spice Ship and while that may conjure visions of Frank Herbert's Dune this scent is true to its name in a literal sense. Caravelle Epicee was created in 2007 by Jeanne-Marie Faugier. Ms. Faugier created four scents for Frapin the well known French cognac company. All of them are interesting but Caravelle Epicee is the best of the lot, for me. The top starts right off with a mix of pepper, nutmeg and a sweet amber. The voyage continues as new spices make their way into the mix with coriander, cumin, and cardamom all making their presence known. For those for whom cumin is a problematic note this is another of those scents where its presence is clear and present and if it isn't your cup of tea I'd book passage on a different ship. It is in the base where we find out the wood our metaphorical ship is made of, sandalwood and gaiac as well as the other cargo we are carrying which is a sweet tobacco which turns the drydown of this soft and creamy. This is one of my top 10 scents but that is because I love spice notes and this scent seems to carry all of my favorites. In less skilled hands this could be a case of too much but Ms. Faugier creates a voyage I look forward to taking again and again.

    07th March, 2009

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    Absinthe by Slatkin

    Slatkin & Co. Black Fig & Absinthe

    Christophe Laudamiel was tasked with creating a line of frgrances for Slatkin & Co. Black Fig & Absinthe is the first I've been able to test and if this is any indication of the rest of the line I'm going to be digging around in bargain bins. Slatkin & Co. was acquired by the parent company of Bed, Bath and Beyond and the fragrance line has been placed in limbo. Which is a shame because at least in this case this scent desereves to find a wider audience. Until now, when I think of fig scents the green fig of scents like Diptyque's Philosykos or L'Artisan Premier Figuer were the standard. In Black Fig & Absinthe, M. Laudamiel creates the polar opposite of a green fig. Right from the top this fig is the note of a concentrated fig paired with a deep currant that brings to mind a dried fig in all of its depth and power. Anise is the next note and it is the perfect transition between the intensity of the top and the base. In the heart this becomes very similar to Lolita Lempicka au Masculine as the anise really does take over for awhile. Once the anise pulls back; the wormwood, medicinal quality of absinthe comes in and adds a new facet to what has come before. This is a powerhouse of a scent with each phase of it carrying a longevity to it that allows a colognoisseur to truly savor the entire development at a leisurely pace. I can't tell you how much I hope that the powers that be realize what a gem they have on their hands and eventually re-release this one, I know I'll be first in line on that day.

    07th March, 2009

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    Cuiron by Helmut Lang

    Helmut Lang Cuiron

    I do have to admire a scent which has a note list like this; top notes, "fluid" leather; middle notes, "sensual" leather; and base notes, "noble" leather. If that doesn't give you a clue about what this scent is all about then I don't know what will. Created in 2002 and now discontinued, but rumored to be making a return, Cuiron is a benchmark leather scent. While the description of the top notes might be a little grandiose they do capture that this scent goes through three distinct transitions of leather. The "fluid leather" stage is paired with a plum note and that is a good pairing as the sweetness of the plum plays counter to the leather in a quite pleasant way. The "sensual" leather of the heart is the intense leather reminiscent of Knize Ten. This level of leather can come off as having a note similar to petroleum products like gasoline or motor oil. It needs to be kept in check by the perfumer to be successful and it probably will be specific from wearer to wearer how prominent this note comes off on them. For me, it is a comforting note which is part of a deep leather scent and never becomes too much and it smells intense. Into the base and the "noble" leather, this is a softer suede-like leather which reminds me of the transition in Serge Lutens Daim Blond after the early apricot has left and all you are left with is a luscious suede leather. The base of this is a little more intense than the suede in Daim Blond but that is the way it should be. Especially as the transition from the more intense leather in the heart requires more chutzpah to not be overwhelmed. Very late in the development I get hints of sandalwood, which is not listed as a note. As Cuiron tends to last, as a close wearing scent, on me for 12-14 hours I get a lot of opportunity to tease it out and it sure seems like sandalwood is there. For those who want to experience all of the highs and lows that leather can bring to a scent Cuiron is a great experience. One I hope can be brought back into production so that more will be able to take the ride.

    07th March, 2009

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    Comme des Garçons 2 by Comme des Garçons

    Comme des Garcons 2 in the Silver Words Bottle

    I have had a difficult time with most of Mark Buxton's creations as when he gets it right as in Vetiver 46 I really like it. Then there are note lists and intentions that seem like I should like them more as in Comme des Garcons 2Man which comes off OK but not great on me. He does keep things interesting which is what keeps me coming back. In 1999 he composed Comme des Garcons 2, the intent was to create a scent which recalls "black ink". He has created a scent which does have its own character. Right from the top there is a healthy dose of aldehydes coupled with a citrus and floral accord which is more tart than sweet giving this a very tight opening stanza. The heart expands to include a spicy mix of cinnamon, coriander, and cumin.The base is a mix of cedar, vetiver and juniper which ends this as it began, with a zingy astringency. Mr. Buxton can never be accused of minimalism as most of his creations are chock full of notes. In this case he has found a tricky balance by bookending a spicy middle with the tight and tart, top and base. I don't know if this reminds me of "black ink" but I will definitely sign up to wear this again.

    07th March, 2009

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    Neil Morris for Takashimaya New York by Takashimaya

    Neil Morris for Takashimaya New York

    I just am enraptured by this one. Neil Morris has created his first scent for Takashimaya in New York at the end of 2008. This scent feels like the synthesis of many themes I have enjoyed in previous scents by Mr. Morris. This also manages to evoke the asian esthetic of the store, Takashimaya, this is made for. It starts off with the fizz of aldehydes, currant and bergamot. The aldehydic fireworks are beautifully offset with the currant and bergamot. Then the floral heart of this comes alive with cherry and plum blossom combined with narcissus. All of my favorite Neil Morris scents contain narcissus in them. This time he lets it support the very asian mix of cherry and plum blossoms. The base is cedar and bamboo and the mix of these two notes ground this with a woody base that feels perfect. This scent reminds me of a Japanese garden in spring as the trees are full of blossoms. It is another winner from Neil Morris for me.

    01st March, 2009

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    Coromandel by Chanel

    Chanel Coromandel

    One thing I can say about all of the Chanel exclusifs I've worn so far is they don't feel the same to me. Coromandel starts off with a patchouli and spice top. Now this is not the patchouli of the Summer of Love this is the patchouli of dried,powdered root.Dry and desiccated and light, mixed with the spiciness this is an unusually light start for a ptachouli-forward fragrance.The patchouli remains throughout the development as in the heart I get some florals beofre the chocolate accord makes itself known. As before, this is the chocolate of cocoa powder dusty and rich. The base is amber and musk and is the most conventional part of this scent on me. Thankfully what has gone before was unconventional enough that I forgive it. How this is not marketed as unisex is quite beyond me.

    01st March, 2009

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    Blu Mediterraneo Mirto di Panarea by Acqua di Parma

    Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Mirto di Panarea

    The Acqua di Parma Colonias are all three quite nice takes on the citrus-forward scents and I like them all. The Blu Mediterraneo line has been less successful on me and its my respect for the Colonias that keeps me trying these as they come out. I liked this one more on the strip than any of the others and so I had hope this would be better. I was not disappointed as right from the top I got a nice tight composition of orange, lemon and bergamot. What is nice about this is that each note is present and accounted for. This combination is the beginning of hundreds of citrus fragrances but when it is done right you are reminded why it is such a successful top and it is done right here. This then blends into a very subtle floral heart with jasmine and hints of rose mixed with a juniper note that adds some bite. A heavier hand would have obliterated the top of this but here this is like walking from the citrus groves into the flower garden on a spring day. The base is also subdued, cedar combined with a very light amber. For me, this is another well-done scent from Acqua di Parma which can easily be placed next to the Colonias without embarassment.

    28th February, 2009

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    Gaiac 10 by Le Labo

    Le Labo Gaiac 10

    If pink is the new black; is gaiac the new sandalwood? I've certainly noticed the use of it has increased in the last half of the year as it seems to be cropping up on note lists all over. Annick Menardo has created a gaiac centered scent for Le Labo's city exclusive line, in late 2008, called Gaiac 10. She is the nose behind Patchouli 24 and Bvlgari Black which are two of my favorite off-beat scents and I was curious to see where the creative process would take her in this case. I've said in other reviews that the essence of clean and fresh for me has been cedar but I think I'm going to have to revise that as gaiac is going to be another note that will conjure that combination for me as well. If the phrase clean and fresh just made you think this is boring, far from it. From the top the gaiac holds the stage and does what a clean note hasn't done for me in the past and also exude a depth. The reason for that I believe is that Ms. Menardo has paired the Gaiac with, according to the notes, four different muscs. These muscs add a depth to the bright intensity of this without overwhelming the sparkle of the gaiac. Truly a skillfully executed balancing act. With the gaiac holding my attention from the start this scent becomes more intense as it develops. As we move into the heart cedar comes into the mix to continue the themes begun at the top and double down on it. I get a hint of what seems like orange here but it isn't listed in the notes. As we head to the base the intensity builds as incense notes combine with the gaiac and cedar to finish this in spectacular fashion. This scent was created to be a city-exclusive for Tokyo and it feels like an Asian aesthetic is at work here. The top is the simplest part of this scent and things add to it and increase the complexity until you are left with a co-mingling of all that has come before. I would not classify this with Ms. Menardo's off-beat creations this is more a testament to how much beauty can be created from simplicity. I have to conclude with how sad I am that due to the marketing decision of Le Labo to charge exorbitant prices and to only be able to buy this in Tokyo many people will not have the opportunity to experience this perfume. I would love to be able to tell everyone who likes fresh and clean to try this scent because I think it elevates it to a new level. The sad part is I can't in good conscience ask people to jump through the hoops Le Labo has put in place.

    28th February, 2009

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    1740 Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums

    Histoire de Parfums 1740 Marquis de Sade

    There are some perfumes that are going to have a hard time living up to their name. Any scent named after the most publicized libertine of all time is going to have to be a combination of the sensual and the novel. In this case I think Histoire de Parfums did a pretty good job. The fragrance starts with a bergamot and light leather beginning. It is a quite lovely mix harkening to that which the Marquis is most known for. Continuing that theme the leather deepens into the heart but adds some heat in the form of spices cumin and cardamom. All of this is enhanced with an earthy patchouli. Here is the sensual heat that the name promises. It is as we move into the base that the novel makes its appearance with a candied fruit note that makes for a shift in tone. It doesn't last long before the patchouli ushers in a mix of wood and vanilla in the base with the leather note still present. This is a lush scent which in my opinion lives up to its name.

    28th February, 2009

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    Poivre 23 by Le Labo

    Le Labo Poivre 23

    Le Labo has taken the step of making exclusive scents for the cities they open new outposts in. The Dallas, Aldehyde 44, and Paris, Vanille 44 are among my favorites from Le Labo so the difficulty of obtaining the scents can be annoying. That's beyond the ultra-expensive price tag once you get to the city in question. Late in 2008 Le Labo released three new city specific scents for LA, tokyo and London. Poivre 23 is the London exclusive to Liberty of London. Poivre 23 was composed by Nathalie Lorson who has made my two favorite scents from Lalique, Encre Noir and Perles de Lalique. A quirky aspect of the Le Labo scents is that while they are all named after a note they rarely display that note front and center. Poivre 23 breaks that rule right off the bat as the first note that hits my nose is dry pepper. We have a great spice store near our home and this is exactly the smell I get when I walk over to the pepper section. Thn from there an almost seamless transformation takes place as the pepper very casually mophs into a dry frankincense note. It is so hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Again this is the smell of the incense unburned ,dry and very light on the skin. Just when I think this is going to stay spicy, vanilla appears and softens the edges. The vanilla is also applied with a light hand so this never really becomes sweet just more creamy or rounded. The base continues with the light foot on the gas pedal as amber and patchouli finish this off with sandalwood playing around the edges in a peek-a-boo style. This is a scent full of powerful notes that in other perfumes and other hands would make for a scent that could knock one off one's feet. That Ms. Lorson has been able to combine these in such a subtle fashion it almost feels like the perfume version of souffle, rich and oh so light. I wish I could tell you to ignore this scent because of the pretentiousness behind it all but I just can't do that, I think it is one of Le Labo's best.

    28th February, 2009

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    Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum by Aedes de Venustas

    L'Artisan Aedes de Venustas

    From the moment I saw the combination of notes on this and that it was created by the "High Priest of Incense" Bertrand Duchaufour I couldn't wait to see where this fell in Duchaufour's incense spectrum. Duchaufour has created three of my favorite incense-forward scents in Jubilation XXV, Avignon and Kyoto and incense-prominent scents Timbuktu and Dzongkha obviously comparisons will naturally have to flow. From the top this starts off as a sweeter incense very much like Jubilation XXV. What differentiates this is the fairly rapid appearance of a leather note underpinning the incense that gives this scent a different facet than Jubilation XXV. There is also a pepper note present throughout the top and heart which adds a spicy edge right out on the periphery this is more reminiscent of the spices present in Timbuktu without rising to the full-throated level present in that scent. In this one it is a pinch whereas in Timbuktu its the whole darn spice cabinet. In the heart a rose note comes in and mixes with the leather and pepper and incense and this is where Aedes de Venustas takes on its own character and blossoms on me. This middle is tremendously balanced and rich on me. It lasts for quite a while before letting the basenotes of patchouli, musk and vanilla have their turn. This is another incredible incense scent from Duchaufour which is slightly deeper than Jub XXV but lighter than either Kyoto or Avignon. Depending on whether you are an incense glutton, in which case you'll want all of them; or someone looking for the one incense scent to be part of your wardrobe Aedes de Venustas is worth a try.

    28th February, 2009

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    Private Collection - L'Ombre Fauve by Parfumerie Generale

    Parfumerie Generale L'Ombre Fauve

    There are times I want to be a fly on the wall when perfumers are coming up with the name for their creations. Many of them give you insight into the scent you are about to put on. Then there are scents like L'Ombre Fauve. L'Ombre Fauve translates to Bestial Shadow. I don't know what kind of picture that calls up in your mind's eye but with that name I'm thinking an animalic, deep, dark scent. BZZZZT! Wrong! Thanks for playing, maybe next time. The note list is deceptively simple; amber, musk, woods, incense, and patchouli. The result of this is not so simple. The top leads off with a very light amber and incense and is beautifully subtle. The amber is sweet to complement the sweeteness of the incense. The amber changes character almost completely in the heart as it becomes a less sweet, more dry and ethereal amber; as the sandalwood holds court. Finally the amber once again turns into a deeper note, which contains the edgier quality that some people describe as medicinal that amber sometimes gets,which complements the patchouli present in the base. The note list says musk but I'm having a hard time picking it up. With a scent named L'Ombre Fauve I'd expect the musk to be way more prominent instead of having to send a search party out to find it on my skin. This scent feels opulent on me and lush. If I was going to name this I would call it "Study in Amber" because on me it presents three distinct faces of amber through the progression and I want to linger over each one.

    28th February, 2009

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    Scent 79 for Men by Jil Sander

    Jil Sander Scent 79 Man

    I tried this and really liked it when I wrist tested it and the SA gave me a sample to try. Giving it a full wear I'm still liking it but I don't think I'm going to love it. The start is sage and incense which comes in a little depper than a typical top but still it gives way to the best part of this scent which is the floral heart. The heart is a mix of jasmine and violet where the sweet of the jasmine and the tart of the violet intertwine really nicely. The only drawback here is the heart of this is fleeting and fast on me lasting for only a short while. The base is leather and vetiver with some sandalwood and is a nice grounding after the heart. This is one which definitely wears close to my skin and has longevity issues, as well. This is a well-made scent and it is interesting and I feel like I should like it more. The longevity makes this a neutral although while it is there it is pretty good.

    28th February, 2009

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    Stephen Jones by Stephen Jones

    Comme des Garcons + Stephen Jones

    If one associates certain Houses with class or sophistication the one thing I associate Comme des Carcons with is edginess and risk-taking. Trying a new scent by them is a little like a high-wire act, exhilirating when its great, like Hinoki and a long fall to the safety net when its disappointing, like White.When I heard this co-production with Stephen Jones would be centered around violets I was excited as violets are one of my favorite smells and if anyone was going to do an edgy violet it would be Comme des Garcons. When I heard Antoine Maisondieu who did my beloved Hinoki was the nose my expectations were as sky-high as my metaphorical high-wire. This one starts off chock full of aldehydes shooting off in every direction, once the fizz dies down the violet peeks out but it is a scorched violet returning to life after a fire as there is a little bit of a scorched wood note present. The violet stays front and center as more florals join in but never take over the lead position just add a depth to the astringency of the violet. The base takes a good long while to come through all of this and it is a mix of wood and vetiver which feels just right to bring this trip across the high-wire to a close. This is as out there a scent as it gets and I can see someone just hating all that is going on here but for me this is as good as it gets.

    28th February, 2009

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    Vetiver Dance by Tauer

    Tauer Vetiver Dance

    As I've started my intensive sampling of many lines Tauer is the House that is the most dividing for me. Both of the Incenses, Rose and Extreme, I like a lot. L'air du Desert Marocain leaves me cold and wondering what the fuss is all about. I sprayed on Vetiver Dance wondering which way this would go for me. The top starts with a mix of pepper and sage on the olfactory dance floor and while it is nice it fails to kick up its heels enough on my skin. Soon enough the star of this show makes its entrance as vetiver whirls on stage and never really leaves. The ambergris in the heart melds really nicely with the star of the show and it is in the middle where this starts to build some momentum. Unfotunately it all goes flat for me in the base as the tonka and cedar just lie there exhausted and out of breath. This is a nice scent well-made and full of quality construction but it just doesn't rise to the level of doing a spicy paso doble more like a slightly out of rhythm fox trot on me.

    28th February, 2009

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    Elixir by Penhaligon's

    Penhaligon's Elixir

    Olivia Giacobetti is one of the most reliable noses out there, for me. On my personal scoreboard she has always scored a hit but for Idole de Lubin. It was with high anticipation that I sprayed on her latest creation Penhaligon's Elixir. This is a beautiful composition that on me feels just right for a winter morning. The top hits high C with a spicy mixture of cardamom, cinnamon and clove. These three notes are skillfully combined but it is the next note into the mix that elevates the beginning; as a vaporous eucalyptus joins the 3C's and give this the feel of a sauna where someone spilled a spice basket on the hot rocks. This beginning is so good I want to keep spritzing myself so I can keep experiencing it. That would be bad because the heart of this is tonka, incense and vanilla. Another trio of notes that pulls this one into a softer place from the spicy beginning. The incense keps the transition from being jarring and as the tonka and vanilla arise the transition into the heart is complete. The base is the yin and yang of sandalwood and guaiac which brings this to a woody close. Penhaligon's Elixir is easily my favorite Penhaligon's to date and Giacobetti has another hit on my scorecard.

    28th February, 2009

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    Gotham by Neil Morris Fragrances

    Neil Morris Gotham

    Early on in my exploration of niche lines I was introduced to Neil Morris' perfumes by ComDiva. I ordered some samples and have become a fan of his creations. Neil Morris creates dense landscapes of notes that can be overwhelming at times but when he gets it right this density feels like immersion in a personal scented wonderland. Of all of his scents Gotham is my favorite. Gotham begins with an intense mix of yuzu and pepper, the spice and floral character mixed just right. The transition into the heart is subtle and beuatiful as narcissus is the core around which rose and leather are wound in intense strands of complexity. If you are not a fan of narcissus I think the intensity of the note could be off-putting. For me, it is beautiful and indolic and twists and turns with the leather and rose to make beautiful music. Very slowly this gives way to a warm amber, redwood and ambergris base which leaves me feeling warm and comforted in the drydown. This is as intense a scent as I own and every time I wear it I feel surrounded by beauty and a scent who's complexity allows me to discern new nuances upon every wearing. This is easily one of the top 10 scents that I own.

    28th February, 2009

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    Hindu Grass by Nasomatto

    Nasomatto Hindu Grass

    There are some Houses out there who have delusions of grandeur and try to cloak the art of perfumery in as much smoke and mystery as possible. Nasomatto is probably the biggest practitioner of this approach. Nasomatto does not release note lists, the perfumer, or some sense of what the scent is supposed to smell like. For example the only description available for Hindu Grass is that it "aims to breathe the belief in universal peace and love". That's a tall order for a world leader and I have no idea how to correlate that to a scent. You could get a clue from the name, Hindu Grass which led me to think and hope for incense with a green and herbal component. I didn't get any incense at the top I get a blast of sweet which seems to have a camphor/menthol-like component. This is an interesting yin and yang to start that is pleasant but then the heart is overwhelmed by a nuclear strike of patchouli that obliterates almost everything for a good 20-40 minutes. It was so off-putting that it was only after the fallout from the heart had dispersed that the combination of green and amber came through and was really nice. I like the top and base of this one but the incredible lack of balance present in the heart completely puts me off this one. For something that wants to uncover the greater mysteries I guess the answer is Patchouli.

    28th February, 2009

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