Reviews by JaimeB

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    Sous Le Vent by Guerlain

    A mélange of green-herbal, spicy, and floral notes on a chypre ground. This is a very fresh, green chypre, however; a substitution of tonka bean for the patchouli in the base could easily have made it a green fougère, and the lavender does lend it that sort of character. This comes only in eau de toilette formulation, which is rather appropriate to the freshness of the composition.

    Sous le Vent is French for "leeward," as in the name of the Leeward Islands. The scent was supposedly composed by Jacques Guerlain for Josephine Baker in 1933, for her to apply after her dance performances, which were the rage of Paris at that time.

    How can I describe it? Fresh, green, neither feminine nor masculine. I feel it would be suitable for day or night; it would probably be better in warm daytime weather than in cool. It is a bit light-handed to expect much development from it apart from moderate to warm temperature.

    The scent starts out very fresh: dry citrus, herbal, very green. It becomes subtly floral, the jasmine not predominating (but boosting the floral side of the lavender a bit); the carnation contributes a clove-like spicy freshness, and then there's some more green. The iris comes on as slightly earthy, but never chases away the green theme; and the woody notes give it depth and a certain roundness. It has a decent sillage and longevity for an EdT, but doesn't project especially far. Hug someone, though, and they're sure to notice.

    Overall, the fragrance is refreshing and energizing; I would call it generally subtle (by which I *don't* mean weak); the subtlety is in the art of the blend and in the balance.

    If you can find it, it's well worth a sniff. ...Oh, and in spite of Josephine Baker, not just for women...

    20th May, 2008


    Dior Homme by Christian Dior

    Who needs one more review of Dior Homme?

    If you think you do, here's my take on it: This was an unusual scent for men when it first came out. It seemed a bit too powdery, too floral, too sweet. Yet it made an instant hit in a big way, and other designer fragrances for men began to feature iris in imitation of it. I know this isn't for everyone but let's face it: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

    Having said that, let's look at the composition. Iris: powdery; lavender: herbal-floral; cacao and amber: sweet. But also, sage: green; bergamot: green-citrus; cardamom: spicy; vetiver and patchouli: woody; and leather. There is a lot of balance for the powdery, sweet, and floral notes. I believe that balance, along with the novelty of this kind of offering as a mainstream men's scent, is what made it a success.

    I wear it and like it; sometimes I think I like the even more reviled (and to my nose drier) Lanvin Arpège pour Homme even better. Both of these bring iris (orris root) back out of exile from men's perfumery; they set the clock back to 16th century Tuscany and made iris a men's note again. That wasn't easy. Others had been trying, mostly niche houses and "edgy" noses. This was the one that broke through to the larger market.

    18th May, 2008


    Monsieur de Givenchy by Givenchy

    A very clean, gentlemanly scent featuring lemon and verbena notes, ably supported by lavender and spice, a hint of fresh floral, and an oakmoss-woody drydown. An eau de cologne-style scent whose sandalwood, oakmoss, and musk base gives it a hint of the oriental genre. Very classic and chic, it has a minimalist feel that makes it seem much more modern than the Cold War baby it is. At almost fifty years old, it is still in style today.

    17th May, 2008 (Last Edited: 03rd November, 2009)


    Mouchoir de Monsieur by Guerlain

    This is another classic from a hundred years or so ago. The folk wisdom is that this was the follow-up EdT version of the 1889 Jicky.That may or may not be true... Now there is an EdT version of Jicky, and I can tell you, personally, I like Mouchoir de Monsieur much better.

    The official notes (from the Guerlain website) are:

    Head notes : Lavender, bergamot, verbena;
    Heart notes : Rose, jasmine, neroli;
    Base notes : Fern harmony, patchouli, vanilla, iris.

    Other folk wisdom says there's civet in this, but Guerlain doesn't seem to confirm that... or are they just trying not to alarm the timid among us? Or is it possibly subsumed under "fern harmony?" I definitely smell something like an animalic note in this, but perhaps it's just because I want to believe it's really there.

    In any case, my take on this one is that it's a beautiful snapshot of what masculine elegance seemed like at the turn of the last century; and having said that, I want it to be the epitome of masculine elegance today as well! The feeling I get when I wear this is superb, like walking on air. No matter what's going on in my day-to-day pedestrian existence, I can't believe there's anything to be concerned about if I smell this good.

    The wonderful thing about M de M is that you can wear it in just about any temperate weather, although I do think it's nicer in the spring, on a cool-to-mild day. People who encounter it on me seem a little perplexed at first, but if they've noticed, they usually have something very good to say about it. It's quite different from anything else out there (except maybe Jicky), and so it usually gets remarked on a bit more than the run-of-the mill scents people are over-exposed to.

    I have worn this to work, although for me, it works better for leisure situations. It's just that it's hard to be other than carefree when I'm wearing this; it takes an effort to feel I'm seriously responsible for anything other than existing and communing with the beauty of life.

    If there's one word for this scent, as far as I can tell, it would have to be "optimistic."

    15th May, 2008


    Infusion d'Iris by Prada

    A bright, citrus and oriental scent, with touches of galbanum and iris. Perfect for warm weather, which is what we're having as I write this. This is fairly enveloping and rather rich, even a little creamy, without being in any way in-your-face. Pleasant, uplifting, cheerful. My only issue with this is that the combination of iris and benzoin makes for a slightly powdery drydown; and yet, this is less powdery than I would have expected. The oriental notes and the galbanum fortunately seem to go a long way toward mitigating the powdery effect.

    14th May, 2008


    Casran by Chopard

    There are different versions of the notes: some include rum, ambered cherries, and chocolate; others, Moroccan geranium. I couldn't tell you everything that's in this one; but the overall impression is spicy and oriental, and maybe a hint of green and leather. This is certainly an energizing scent for me. It has a great deal of "presence" without being loud or raucous. A bit sharp at first (perhaps the nutmeg and anise?), it dries down to a suave and elegant finish.

    13th May, 2008


    Début by Delrae

    This is a fairly green floral perfume. It starts with a citrus top note sweetened with ylang-ylang and moderated slightly by green leaves. The heart blooms with muguet and cyclamen, softened by the slightly acerbic note of linden flowers. The base is a woody-musky blend, which supports the whole as effortlessly as if it floated on air above.

    This is an airy, springlike scent. The blend of the notes almost inexplicably produces an unmistakably green aura which one wouldn't expect from the fragrance pyramid. The linden note is definitely central to this, its slightly bitter, sharp overtone altering what would otherwise be a rather run-of-the-mill sweet floral accord into something far more intriguing and satisfying. This is marketed as a shared scent, and I believe it can be, though I expect it will appeal mostly to women. Air signs (like this Libran here), the tender-hearted, and the idealistc among the male crowd, however, may find this pleasing, I suspect.

    11th May, 2008


    Devin by Aramis

    Thirty years later, this is still around, and still pleasing, at least to some people. I have been on a green kick for a few days, so this one came to hand today. I think the green top is the most captivating part, but the floral-spicy heart and the woody oriental base with a touch of leather make this a winner all around. Leather chypre; bergamot in the top, moss and patchouli in the base: the classic formula.

    Elegant, but approachable; comfortable; relaxed yet confident. This is the late seventies guy feeling his freedom and totally cool with it. Is today's world so different? Maybe this is one sense in which we could call this a "heritage scent."

    10th May, 2008


    Nino Cerruti by Cerruti

    Very green and slightly soapy. I like this one because it keeps a tradition alive that seems almost to have died out. It smells good, fresh and green, and it backs that up with a good, solid construction. The foundation of this in woody oriental notes give it presence and lasting power. The middle notes with jasmine and carnation are sweet and spicy, which makes for a kind of "romantic" feel to this scent. Moss and fir in the base make the drydown a little different from today's usual. This is an older, fresher style of woody-oriental accord.

    08th May, 2008


    Homme de Grès by Grès

    A little smoky, a little leathery (birch tar?), but mostly herbal and citrusy. This is edgy enough to be bracing, but not enough to be annoying. The best thing about it its is straightforwardness. It gets to the point and keeps to it. It is not linear; rather, it develops quite nicely. Even so, it sticks to its theme and is consistently lemony.

    This is great for warmer weather, but the smokiness makes it appropriate for cooler weather or evening wear as well.

    08th May, 2008


    Armani Eau Pour Homme by Giorgio Armani

    A spicy-floral chypre with eau-de-cologne overtones. Quite an old-school scent for today's taste, I suppose, but still worth the occasional walk in the park. Love that woody-oriental drydown weighted with the chypré oakmoss-patchouli accord. I like this for daytime business wear in mild weather. I would wear it any other time I felt moved to, though; I find it's quite versatile. This is a scent I would call well-tailored, both in the sense that it's well constructed and that it goes well with a coat and tie.

    07th May, 2008


    Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior

    Rosemary, basil.... and something like jasmine, I think. So, I checked, and one website gives the following notes;

    lemon, rosemary, basil, bergamot, caraway, fruit note
    jasmine, rose, carnation, orris root, coriander, patchouli, sandalwood
    oakmoss, vetiver, musk, amber

    I think that sounds like a more complete picture of this scent. Roudnitska's early classic. Very hesperidic, but balanced in a kind of extra strong form by some pretty muscular heart and base notes, beyond the old eau-de-cologne tradition.

    06th May, 2008


    Eau Illuminee by Delrae

    Beautifully and subtly green and herbal on a base of powder and vanilla. This is perfect for a warm spring day. I'd call this a shared scent, though Delrae lists all their scents as feminine. I find it intriguing for its hay-like quality, even though there is only the coumarin note of tonka bean to account for that. The blending of the herbal notes seems to reinforce the dryish hay note remarkably well and very artfully. I especially appreciate the dry quality of the herbals in this. It isn't very lush at all, just slightly sweet and barely lavender-floral, which is really more herbal than flowery anyway.

    05th May, 2008


    Nobile by Gucci

    An incredible green chypre for men. Why this was ever discontinued is a great mystery to me. It is one of the best of its kind. The herbal notes — rosemary, lavender, and tarragon — take the lead, and are soon reinforced by a galbanum accord in the heart. The citrus, herbals, and spice in the top notes are transformed by the florals in the heart and a classic woody chypre drydown lingers with subtle green hues persisting until the end. If only it weren't so difficult to find! I have one bottle in reserve, and then... pfft!

    05th May, 2008


    Tiempe Passate by Antonia's Flowers

    Norbert Bijaoui's formulation is beautiful. The Estonian website gives the following notes:

    Top Note: Bergamot
    Middle Notes: Rose, Mimosa, Cyclamen
    Base Notes: Sage, Amber, Cedar, Vetiver

    I think this is a fairly masculine rose scent. I know the florals sound rather feminine, but the sage and woody-oriental notes in the base really turn this into an offering that both sexes can wear comfortably. If there is one point on which I would fault it, that would be the weakness of the sillage and the longevity issue. These are not serious drawbacks, however. The scent does project a bit, just not strongly enough for my taste.

    Of all the scents from this house, this is definitely the best to my nose. I have to add that I like the name also. It does have that old-timey character to it, being the title of an old Neapolitan love song. When I think of this scent, in my mind's eye I see an old sepia-tone photograph of a couple in circa 1905 clothes, she with a Gibson Girl hairdo, and he sporting a handlebar moustache.

    It's a very affecting scent, and rather romantic — in the dreamy, old-fashioned way that seems sadly forgotten nowadays.

    03rd May, 2008


    Bois de Paradis by Delrae

    This is the first Delrae that I fell in love with, although all of them are rather special to me. I find the BdP scent quite comfortable to wear in some circumstances. I probably wouldn't wear it to work, a job interview, or a first date. For a more intimate or romantic occasion, however, I would readily spray some on.

    It's rich, "tasty," and quite captivating to my nose. The woody-amber notes in the base are the chief feature after the first notes begin to drop out, and they are really very warm, but (to my mind, at least) not overly lush. I wouldn't say the effect of the drydown is so much powdery as "dusty" — a bit dry and a touch earthy. I think that kind of grounds the fragrance solidly and well, but it doesn't overbalance the delicacy of the brighter notes which still linger. This is what i would call a shyly sensual fragrance: not at all voluptuous, but tender and warm-hearted.

    03rd May, 2008


    Rocabar by Hermès

    Woody, aromatic, spicy, herbal, fairly sweet — and a chypre. I find this a very appealing scent. Like most Hermès creations, this smells elegant. I can wear this to work, but it's also perfect for an evening engagement of a more personal character, dinner or a date; perhaps it would be most appropriate at an elegant soirée. One of things it does suggest to me is a night on the town. The juniper berries and cedar really take the lead with this. Lavender, spices and vanilla provide the underpinning and the chypre accord does the heavy lifting. Key words: Smooth. Elegant. Relaxed. Confident.

    03rd May, 2008 (Last Edited: 09th November, 2009)


    Concentré D'Orange Verte by Hermès

    Some controversy about whether the green note in the top of this scent is basil or peppermint. I couldn't say for sure, but it seems peppery and minty to me. This is really a kind of chypre, with patchouli, amber, and even a slightly leathery note of cedar in the base balancing the citrus top note. What I love about it is the vivifying and refreshing tonic effect it has on me. Of course, it is a hesperidic scent, not extremely long -lived, but this one does better than many others by building in that chypre-style base.

    The inevitable comparison to Eau d'Orange Verte, its much earlier predecessor, is IMO entirely moot. I don't think they're all that similar, or at least no more similar than any two citrus scents would be. Bergamot, Lemon, Mandarin, Jasmine, Neroli are the notes for Ed'OV; all citrus and white florals.

    I don't own Ed'OV. It's no that I don't like it, but that I like Concentré d'OV much better. It's much deeper and more aromatic. And, of course, I'm a sucker for chypres and any hint of leather.

    02nd May, 2008


    Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene

    Dredged this up out of the distant past because I saw the review in Turin's book. It really is an extraordinary scent, and I remember that when it was introduced it was very controversial. (Am I revealing my age here?) It was a novel use of green notes in the top to overwhelm the citrus,
    and the sweet floral notes and almondy, slightly powdery drydown seemed out of character with the rest of the scent. I guess we would now say that Grey Flannel's nose, André Fromentin, was a visionary. A leap of the olfactory imagination, for sure.

    From the magnificent Estonian website

    Top Notes: Galbanum, Petitgrain, Neroli, Bergamot, Lemon
    Middles Notes: Violet, Rose, Narcissus, Mimosa, Iris, Sage, Geranium
    Base Notes: Cedarwood, Vetiver, Oakmoss, Tonka bean, Almond

    This is technically a fougère, I guess, because of the oakmoss and tonka bean in the base (but without teh usual lavender), but it comes across as a wacky green floral, with the bitterness of petitgrain and galbanum playing against the sweeter middle and woody-oriental base notes. I rarely wear it, probably (to be honest) because even after all these years, it still shocks me a bit. But I've come to love the progression and the puzzling change to that soft drydown. Hooray for cognitive dissonance!

    01st May, 2008 (Last Edited: 18th August, 2009)


    Acqua di Cuba by Santa Maria Novella

    I have smelled this, but have never given it a full wearing, so pardon me if I miss something here. I really find this very appealing at first, but in the drydown, it goes through a rough patch on my skin in which it becomes rather harsh. After that's over, however, it goes back to being quite agreeable. I wish it lasted a little longer in the top note, which I find very beautiful; but then I think this is an EdC concentration, so there's not much hope of lingering top notes! But I do like it quite a bit, so I'll give it a Thumbs Up!

    01st May, 2008


    Sycomore (new) by Chanel

    Sycomore is a woody, rooty scent at first. It then develops a smoky impression, which persists on my skin for a fair bit. Then comes the chypre top, neroli and bergamot, and slowly the heart-note florals, three of the usual suspects — rose, jasmine and ylang-ylang — with the less customary honeysuckle. Woody, musky notes in the base have already made an early appearance in that opening woods-and smoke accord, but they persist quietly, with the florals, especially the neroli and honeysuckle-laced heart notes keeping the lead.

    For me, this is a shared scent. As a chypre, it hovers in the middle ground between the old feminine and masculine styles. The smoky woods and the slight greenness of the honeysuckle, together with tobacco and cedar in the base help keep it ambiguous within the old scheme.

    This is perhaps a bit understated. It doesn't develop a massive sillage on my skin, but it is noticeable if one gets close enough to converse. It's worthy of Polge and Sheldrake, I think.

    What's the overall impression? You meet someone who's a little rough around the edges, and in hanging with him, you discover progressively that he's a sweet and tender guy. He's surprisingly capable of a lot of feeling. He's not at all coy, but his innate shyness still reserves a little corner of private mystery.

    Top notes: Bergamot, Neroli
    Heart notes: Ylang-ylang, Rose, Jasmine, Honeysuckle
    Bottom notes: Cedar, Violet, Tobacco, Sandalwood, Musk

    29th April, 2008


    L'Ame d'un Héros by Guerlain

    Billed as a re-release, this is very close to the notes in its declared original, Coriolan. For that it deserves high marks. To my nose, however, the overall effect is somewhat diluted from the earlier classic. Some people thought, of course, that Coriolan was rather too brash. It certainly wasn't shy.

    This is a very good fragrance on its own. Even as a successor to Coriolan, it's quite good, considering what other houses do to reformulate their classics without even having the grace to rename them. I would say get the original if you can still find a decent bottle. This one is close enough that you don't really need both. Still, you may want to have it around if and when Coriolan approaches its final disappearance and becomes impossible to get. It will definitely remind you of what you'll be missing.

    29th April, 2008


    Quand Vient La Pluie by Guerlain

    The heliotrope and violet in this definitely recall Après l'Ondée, the centenarian classic from the redoubtable House of Guerlain. It is a somewhat fleeting impression, an allusion to the former masterpiece, a point of departure, if you will, into the modern tribute offering that QVlaP seems to be.

    And this does stand up very well on its own, with a base note of sweet praline and musk, ever so slightly powdery. The rosemary in the top is a departure from the original, too. This is an inspired move, bringing a needed touch of green to the neroli note. The heliotrope-violet combination seems to be subtly transformed as well, either by an undeclared note, by the interaction of some of the newer notes, or by the suppression of the blackcurrant note from Al'O. Perhaps it is just that they brought up the heliotrope from the base notes into the heart. The deletion of benzoin from Al'O does reduce the powderiness a bit as well. Eliminating the orris root certainly further reinforces this change away from powder.

    Fresh, and perhaps slightly more penetrating that Al'O. QVlaP is at once sexier and shyer. A different consciousness for a different age.

    Does this surpass, negate, supersede Al'O? Oh, no... that would be impossible. No one can erase a high-water mark like that! Also, on its own, it isn't really in competition with its inspiration. It just uses some of the same words to say something new. That was then (bow low!); this is now!

    Top note: Bergamot, Rosemary, Orange Blossom
    Middle note: Heliotrope, Violet, Jasmine
    Base note: Patchouli, Praline, Musks

    29th April, 2008


    Déclaration Eau Genereuse by Cartier

    This is my favorite version of Déclaration. I think the appeal is that the basic Déclaration idea is translated into an Eau-de-cologne style. The re-balanced citrus and green notes in the top take some of the bitter birch tar edge off the basic fragrance and enliven it just enough to make it a good warn-weather wear. The trouble is that it's nearly impossible to find; but the trade-off is that the bottle I have is huge! Jean-Claude Ellena has done a great job on this one!

    I find this version of Déclaration very energizing and invigorating. It hangs around just enough, with good sillage, but it's not a one-two punch. With warm weather approaching, I find myself looking forward to the treat of wearing this again.

    29th April, 2008 (Last Edited: 01st May, 2008)


    Cédre by 06130 Zéro Six Cent-Trente

    Spicy-woody cedar that is nice for casual wear. The top is classic, and the spice touches to the heart note are a very good complement to the main notes.

    Sillage is very moderate, and longevity is about average. The only bad thing I can say about this is that it's too comfortable to really grab you. It loses some points in my book for that.

    29th April, 2008


    Sultan Safran / Safranier by Comptoir Sud Pacifique

    I happen to like saffron, so I guess I'm predisposed to a favorable review of Safranier. The top is nice, citrusy and green; then the saffron, flowers and sweet spices declare this to be an unabashed oriental. The woody musk drydown is the perfect grounding for the other notes.

    This is rather sweet and spicy, but not overly floral, in spite of the heart notes. It's soft and quietly elegant. The only drawback is that it doesn't develop a lot of sillage on me, and it becomes more muted as it progresses. Still, all in all, it's quite a good scent.

    29th April, 2008


    Number 3 / Le 3me Homme / The Third Man by Caron

    A fougère with some chypré overtones. At times I think this is understated; at others, simply well-mannered. Definitely not loud. The only thing it reeks of is elegance. The fruit is there to enrich the other notes, but it's the aromatic nature of Le 3ème Homme that dominates. Lavender, rosemary and clary sage are the main players in that aspect of it. Clary sage in particular is the soft muscatel note which gives this its distinct character. Very good for daytime and casual wear, but also very much suited to the office.

    29th April, 2008


    Soleil de Capri by Montale

    Fresh citrus and white flowers with musk and spice in the base. This is a restorative on a warm day, and a very bright and optimistic scent. It doesn't pull any punches. If you're looking for a watery, well-behaved citrus floral, this isn't it. If you want to fly the flag, though, it's your baby! After it dries down, you can take it out for a walk.

    28th April, 2008


    31 rue Cambon by Chanel

    This is one of the best of the Exclusifs line. A chypre without oakmoss. A chypre based on an iris-pepper accord. Iris, rose, jasmine, sandalwood, pepper. Polge says he used a variety of patchouli he likes to replace oakmoss in the base, which he finds too bitter. An oriental chypre.

    These are things one reads about 31 Rue Cambon. It does come across as a chypré scent; but without the oakmoss it leaves you hanging, tantalized to figure out if this chypré scent is a true chypre or not. The equivocation on the genre theme is central, but the overall impression still satisfies. It is modern: not too rich, but making allusion to the old familiar richness of other chypres we have known. With expert fancy footwork, it dances around the chypre concept and leaves us gaping at the mystery of its construction. With all the fragrances in the Exclusifs series, Chanel is playing the notes very close to the chest. Skeletal descriptions of the pyramids, mere allusions to this or that ingredient, when you know there are dozens of elements in the mix.

    Conclusions? Beautiful, captivating, tantalizing, allusive, mysterious... Everything a perfume should be. Everything the wearer would like to be.

    27th April, 2008


    Cruel Gardenia by Guerlain

    I recently decided to get this new creation from the Arts et Matière series. I have to say that I find it captivating. The top notes are classic: an aldehydic peach with orange blossom and rose. The scent then flows into a heart of white flowers with musk and a hint of violet. It finishes with a vanillic-coumarin and sandalwood flourish. It is gentle and not at all loud, but it has a definite sillage. The character of this is reassuring and nurturing, indulging the senses in a wonderfully innocent, yet opulent gesture.

    I think in certain circumstances it can be worn by a man, lightly and with a suitable insouciance. Probably not for work or a first date, to be sure; but for a quiet afternoon, a spiritual moment, an intimate walk with a knowing lover. Wear it and wink at the world; be shy, but win the universe's tacit compliance with a frank and indisputable suchness.

    26th April, 2008

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