Reviews by Somerville Metro Man

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    Somerville Metro Man
    United States United States

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    Derby by Guerlain

    Guerlain Derby

    It's nice to know that even the big houses can screw up sometimes. There is no bigger house than Guerlain and their inability to market a scent as good as Derby makes one wonder who was responsible for the marketing and whether they've made a better effort in their new post as head of Axe Body Spray marketing. Derby was created in 1985, pulled from the market in 1988, them sold only in Paris, then discontinued due to issues with ingredients, reformulated, but only re-issued in Paris and a few stores and now reportedly discontinued again. To date, I've only worn the reformulated version and that is what this review covers. The inspiration for Derby was said to be the remains of a Roman amphitheatre in Tunisia that Jean-Paul Guerlain was touring. If he was inspired to create a grand, classic scent by the sight of this edifice, he succeeded. The top of this is a delightful and refreshing mix of peppermint, bergamot, and lemon. This is a scented version of the cooling taste of peppermint but translated into an olfactory accord. It is unique and makes the use of mint in a scent like Cartier Roadster seem clumsy by comparison. The top soon gives way to a heart of pepper and florals mainly jasmine with a subtle amount of rose thrown in. All of this is applied with a gentle hand and kept in exquisite balance. If the word floral usually makes you flinch when talking about a masculine scent I think this never reaches the level that this in any way feels feminine. As much as I like what has come before the base of this is a masterpiece of balance. All of the components of many men's colognes are present but they are exquisitely combined to make one realize what the sum of the parts can really equal. Leather leads the charge and holds the center. It is soon followed by vetiver, then patchouli, then oakmoss and finally sandalwood. Each of these notes seems to present itself and then blend into the whole making the drydown into a constantly evolving expereience. This is an amazing cologne. In my opinion this is the best Guerlain masculine in the line. If I had to have only one Guerlain this would be the one.

    28 February, 2009

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    Coriolan by Guerlain

    Guerlain Coriolan

    Guerlain Coriolan was created by Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1998 and was soon discontinued and considered a flop for Guerlain. Much like the Roman general Coriolanus it is named after who was accused of corruption and fled Rome to find refuge in the arms of the enemy tribe, the Volscians, he had previoulsly defeated. After wearing this I am hard pressed to understand why this was not more widely accepted. Coriolan starts off with a huge blast of lemon and bergamot. This is a standard opening for many masculine fragrances but what allows this to stand out is both notes are very tight and distinct to my nose. The lemon is tart with just a hint of sweet, the bergamot adds the right complement of aromaticity. It feels just right and progresses into a spice-laden heart of coriander, juniper, nutmeg and a medicinal note which is provided by absinthe. Coriander and juniper are the main constituents of gin and the heart of this has the bite of a good martini but the absinthe adds a potency to the heart and a complexity that kept me sniffing over and over to tease out the different strands presented to my nose. This ends in a classic chypre fashion full of oakmoss and patchouli and, as at the beginning of this, each note holds its own place and is allowed to stand on its own. Coriolan has all the hallmarks of the best Guerlains out there, complex construction, quality ingredients, and classic composition. This is a powerhouse scent and overapplied could easily be overwhelming but conservatively applied this is a beauty. Guerlain has re-released Coriolan and supposedly toned it down a bit under the name L'Ame d'un Heros. One can hope that unlike Coriolanus who led the Volscians back to the gates of Rome only to withdraw at the sight of his mother that Coriolan can one day return to the perfume pantheon in glory.

    28 February, 2009

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    Bel Ami by Hermès

    Hermes Bel Ami

    Hermes introduced Bel Ami in 1986 and according to many websites and posters on Basenotes was reformulated recently. I believe the bottle I have is the old formula because one area of agreement in the new formulation is there is more citrus on top. On me, the bottle I have is more a mix of pepper and what I would call cardamom but cardamom has a sort of lemon character to it and so it might be lemon but it feels like a dried lemon. After the spice fades a raw cedar note appears like a newly hewn piece of wood has been heaped on the olfactory fire. Then the leather shows up and this is a quite beautiful and deep leather and it lasts for a long time. Very slowly the well-balanced base of vanilla and patchouli mix with the leather and by the time all three are on equal footing the transformation is elegant and sophisticated. If the alleged re-formulation is more citrus prominent and less pepper and lighter lemon, like I experienced, I could see that I might not enjoy that as much as what I just wore. I hope that it isn't another case of changes made for the worse, as the version I'm wearing is beautiful.

    28 February, 2009

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    Basala / Basara by Shiseido

    Shiseido Basala

    Shiseido is, of course, the corporate influence behind Serge Lutens but they do put out scents on their own. Sad to say many of these scents are for the asian market only and they are difficult to find. Basala was created in 1993 by Dominique Preyssas who is better known for D'Orsay's Le Dandy. In Basala she has created what feels to me like a very asian feeling scent. Almost scent Haiku if you will as each transition is mostly made up of two notes which lead to the next. The top is a bright mix of citrus and lavender. The lavender is really in near-perfect balance with the citrus to create a dry astringent beginning. The heart is spice and woods which is very similar to the middle of Obsession for Men to my nose but somehow a little more reserved and a little better composed. The base is a classic pairing of sandalwood and vetiver and with the herbal feel of the vetiver to provide contrast to the creaminess of the sandalwood you bring to a close a well-constructed chypre. This is clean, austere perfume construction which shows, like haiku, even the simplest of themes can lead to beautiful artistry.

    28 February, 2009

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    Perles de Lalique by Lalique

    Lalique Perles de Lalique

    With the new restrictions on the use of oakmoss no style of scent will undergo more change than the chypre. It is and will be a challenge for perfumers to create something in this style without using the signature note. Nathalie Lorson's take on a modern chypre came out in 2006. I was introduced to it by picking up a card I thought had something else on it and being struck by this beautiful pepper note. When I asked what this was I was told it was Perles de Lalique. The top comes off very fresh this could be the start of many current bestsellers. Quickly this fresh accord is joined by a delicate rose. This is applied lightly allowing the fresh accord and the rose to complement each other. The heart is where the pepper note which so intrigued me on the card resides and it is paired with a note-perfect iris. This combination works so well on me and this phase lasts a good long time on my skin. The transition from here is a smooth ride to the base which is a light application of patchouli combined with musk. My favorite chypres show off different facets as they develop and this makes for a memorable olfactory trip. Perles de Lalique certainly qualifies on that score and Ms. Lorson begins the discussion of what constitutes a modern chypre in fine form.

    28 February, 2009

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    Bois des Îles by Chanel

    Chanel Bois des Iles

    To be a well-rounded individual one should experience the classics. Certainly that holds as true in perfume as it does in any of the other art forms. One set of these classics are the five Chanels created by Ernest Beaux in the 20's. The most recognized is No. 5. Bois des Iles is one of the other four scents created and it is as much a classic as No. 5 is to my nose. It starts off with the aldehydes which are No. 5's signature. This similarity is so strong I had to take a look at the bottle a second time to make sure I wasn't spraying No. 5 on me. The aldehydes in the EDT strength are as long lasting as any aldehydes I have ever had and one's tolerance for aldehydes, if you find them annoying, will be tested. I love the fizz and pop of them and most of the time they don't last long enough for me so this is a pleasant experience for me. There then comes a beautiful group of florals which join in starting with jasmine, joined by ylang-ylang, lily, and finally a soft rose. As the heart comes alive the signature note of Bois des Iles is the gingerbread accord present here. This is gingerbread cake as it comes off quite moist because it is paired with an almond note, I think that is what makes me think cake. The real star to my nose, of Bois des Iles, is the sandalwood base. The sandalwood is mixed with vetiver and a very light musk to make this one of my favorite sandalwood scents out there. Some of that is because it is slowly revealed over the course of the development of this scent on my skin and when it makes its appearance it brings this scent home beautifully. The sandalwood is what remains and it lasts for a very long time on me even in the EDT strength. It's nice to know that sometimes when you experience the classics you truly inderstand why they are classics.

    28 February, 2009

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    Monocle Scent One: Hinoki by Comme des Garçons

    This was amazing on me. From the moment this hit my skin it just took off. The sap notes of camphor and turpentine combine with a moss-hung fantasy forest of cypress, pine, and cedar. This is the most like being in a live forest scent of anything I have experienced thus far. I waited to write this review until I wore Kyoto again as I felt there was some similarity between the scents and there is. To call this Kyoto Extreme wouldn't be far off the mark but it would be underselling the construction of Hinoki. There is a transparency of top to base from the first moment this hits that is unique. The base is present right from the start but over the hours this lasted on my skin the base intensified and became more pronounced in a lovely way until I was just left with the woods scent.
    One caveat I think this is a scent that needs to be tested on the skin. I tested it on a strip six weeks before actually testing it on my wrist. On the strip the camphor note was too forward and almost medicine cabinet-like, it put me off. Once I put this on my skin that camphor note blended seamlessly with the rest to make a transcendent whole. I wasted six weeks before giving this one a chance, don't repeat my mistake.

    19 May, 2008

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