Perfume Reviews

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Bel Ami by Hermès

While Bel Ami hails from the 80s it is much, much different from the sterotypical 80s powerhouse fragrance. In fact it's only Bel Ami's distinct masculinity and bold sillage that would cause it to be grouped as an 80s scent, most of which were fougeres and herbal-infused woody/florals. In reality it's unique and borrows from the past while also being timeless. Bel Ami is as unique and successful today as countless other niche fragrances - perhaps it is this very uniqueness that keeps/kept Bel Ami from being a big, popular designer fragrance. While it is typical of the high quality that characterizes Hermes fragrance, Bel Ami does not blend in with the other designers at the mall department store.

There is a massive difference between the original Bel Ami, which is found in a bottle that resembles a cocktail shaker. The new formula Bel Ami is in the same tapered rectangular bottle that Hermes is offering nearly all their fragrances in. The new Bel Ami is a simple leather chypre - competent but nothing outstanding. The unique citrus/leather accord is gone and one need not get too excited about the fragrance. I would rate the new formula as neutral - it's a good, inexpensive leather chypre but that's about it.

As for the vintage Bel Ami formula - one needs to seek it out! It starts with a burst of citrus backed with spices such as cardamom and even a touch of cumin. The citrus/spice combo hints at the timeless Eau d'Hermes while being much richer - perhaps resulting from the florals lurking underneath the topnotes. Within 30-40 minutes the citrus and sharp spices recede into a smooth herbal-backed leather accord which is eventually joined by sandalwood. The spice/leather/wood progression harkens to vintage leather fragrances such as Lanvin Scandal and the vintage Cuir de Lancome. Once again, Bel Ami presents classic accords with a modern twist that sets it apart from its predecessors. The leathery/sandalwood base lasts for a long time, giving Bel Ami about 8 hours of longevity.

Bel Ami isn't for everyone, and I can only recommend anyone give it full wears before judging it. I know my vintage bottle is a precious presence on my shelf.
10th August, 2009
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Silver Bond / Andy Warhol Silver Factory by Bond No. 9

AW Silver Factory is by far the most unique Bond No.9 fragrance. Bond No. 9 is a good house but suffers - like Montale - from being overly ambitious and releasing too many similar fragrances too soon after inception. The result is countless citrus and floral fragrances with only slight variation between them. I first sampled AWSF when it was first released and did not like it at all - too strong, too smoky. However that was at a time when I wasn't into strong, bold fragrances and I had yet to understand or appreciate the use of incense in perfumery. Quite simply, this wasn't a fragrance for a relative newbie - perhaps not even for an amateur collector. I put my samples away, expecting to come back to them someday.

Fast forward to now. I've been exploring lots of incense fragrances and I have an appreciation for bold scents. Breaking out and sampling Silver Factory was like sampling an entirely new fragrance for the first time. AWSF begins with a terric woody incense accord that is very strong and so resinous it borders on being sour. Over the next hour the fragrance smooths out, with a amber appearing to cut the resin and sharpness of the incense. The amber becomes more and more prominent, and borders on being a little bit too sweet for my tastes. The incense never fully disappears but it becomes far less noticeable as the base emerges. Discrete florals fill out the base and a touch of violet becomes distinct, giving more sweetness to the composition. From here the woody/amber/floral base persists for many hours.

Sillage is loud, longevity superb and the structure is solid. The only problem with Silver Factory is that it shows how well Bond can do fragrances, making some of their less impressive offerings all the more regrettable.

This is a Bond I hope to have on the shelf someday. Excellent.
09th August, 2009
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Alluring by Boadicea the Victorious

Alluring stands out to me as one of the better BTV fragrances, many of which are either lacking in good structure or feel boring and not particularly imaginative. On application I thought it may another sweet citrus/white floral (i.e. 'Adventuress' and 'Powerful'), but the topnotes quickly give way to wonderful rose/patchouli, sweetened by a background bouquet of floral notes. The earthy aspects of the patchouli are well hidden by the rose, and the accord has just enough ylang-ylang and other florals to keep it sweet but they don't take over. As the fragrance progresses to the base the sweetness of the florals fades, leaving just the patchouli/rose. The patchouli lingers, eventually becoming a lightly woody base as the rose drops out.

Longevity is very good and sillage is fairly strong, especially at first. As with the other BTV fragrance there isn't a whole lot of innovation, or even distinction, in Alluring. Unlike other BTVs the structure is very good and the fragrance is very enjoyable from beginning to end.

My only real complaint is that the heart accord is strikingly similar to Lady Vengeance by Juliette Has a Gun - but then again it's not like Lady Vengeance was the first rose/patchouli (it's just one of the best). Unfortunately this isn't the only BTV fragrance that seems to be 'borrowing' accords from other fragrances.

I leave it up to each individual to decide if Alluring is worth the high cost - I won't be buying anytime soon (or ever), but this is still a good scent.
08th August, 2009
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Infusion de Fleur d'Oranger by Prada

Being familiar with Prada No.4 (Fleur d'Oranger parfum) I was hopeful that this would translate that wonderful fragrance into an EdP. The parfum presents a rich, vibrant orange blossom - a largely green fragrance with enough subtle citrus to sweeten it a little. I let my imagination wander and I'm picturing that if this 'Infusion' was successful we could soon see other Prada parfums moving from the realm of the obscure into the realm of the obtainable. After all, Prada No.3 would make a fantastic EdP. But I digress....

Sadly Infusion Fleur d'Oranger presents a soft, pale neroli/orange blossom fragrance that is bland and wholly unimpressive. It's certainly not offensive or bad, just disappointing, especially given that nearly every other Prada release is very enjoyable (even with the cheap iris used in Infusion d'Iris/d'Homme). The fragrance stays close to the skin, but I did notice that each occasion I sampled this I got longer than average longevity, at least 7-8 hours. I guess what's most disappointing is that we know Prada is capable of so much more. They have the parfum line to work from, but they chose not to. If I were judge FdO based on expectations it would be thumbs down, but by itself it's an ok scent - just nothing special.
08th August, 2009
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Pure by Boadicea the Victorious

I'm not sure the note pyramid is entirely honest because what I smell is a bit different. Pure starts out like a simple, pleasant citrus - in fact the sparkly topnotes weren't entirely different from one of the Guerlain eaux that I recently acquired. The lemon/cedrat type topnotes give way to a mixed white floral heart and soon a distinctly lily of the valley note emerges. After 1-2 hours the lily begins to fade and a lightly sweetened, amorphous white floral base hangs around for hours. I never detect distinct rose (though it may account for the light sweetness of the white floral accord), and if Pure contains sandalwood, oakmoss, or any woody/mossy type base I don't smell it.

If you separate the so-called 'published notes' from the fragrance itself, Pure is a perfectly competent citrus/floral with good structure and very good longevity. Sillage is what you'd expect from such a fragrance, specifically it's average and were it to be stronger it would likely be very out of place. The quality of materials is very good - nothing smells synthetic or cheap. As a citrus/floral Pure is perfectly acceptable.

If I stopped reviewing here I'd be on the border between thumbs up and neutral. Although fragrances are best judged on their own merits, I can't help but comment on the high-price and purported exclusivity of this new house. As I work through samples of the entire BTV line it strike me that these fragrances typify a lot of what's wrong in niche perfumery. Recently it's as though the niche houses saw a couple other houses charging $2-3/ml and thought "well if they can charge that much so can we." Thus a new house like BTV puts a line of fragrances together, puts them in fancy presentation bottles, and boxes and charges top dollar through limited distribution channels. The problem is that these BTV fragrances - Pure being an excellent example - simply don't have the quality or distinction behind them to command such a high price. There must be enough people who aren't perfume collectors that will drop money on the latest and greatest such that houses like BTV can charge $175/50ml. There must be, because I don't think many people with significant fragrance experience are going to bite at buying simple, competent citrus/florals like Pure when the same money can buy something much, much better. Sure, Pure is 'good' - but since when is just 'good' enough?
08th August, 2009
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Seductive by Boadicea the Victorious

Finally! After countless citrus/florals I've arrived at Seductive - perhaps the only BTV fragrance that stands out in a positive way. ['Complex' stands out, but for all the wrong reasons.]. The topnotes are wonderful - an herbal and tea- infused leather that is both spicy with a hint of sweetness. It reminds me very strongly of something, which I believe to be the heart/base of Profumum Victrix but with less pepper. Unfortunately I've used up my Victrix decant and can't directly compare the two. From the topnotes Seductive slides to a musky/powdery amber and leather - the amber providing just enough sweetness to balance the leather accord. I've never been good at identifying petitgrain, but there is a powdery herbal note(s) that fill(s) out the fragrance. After roughly two hours Seductive arrives at its base, and here we have a problem: Sadly, BTV uses a standard woody/amber base, the same found in countless masculines these days. It's quite a bit spicier and the quality of ingredients seems better, but it's still a woody/amber. Again, my mind feels like there's a relationship to Victrix but I can't be 100% certain of that. Even if it's not Victrix, I absolutely know I've smelled these basenotes before.

Longevity, sillage, and construction are all very well done in Seductive. At this point this is one of the only fragrances from the line I would consider even purchasing a decant of (the other being Exotic), but I'm still very much down on the entire BTV concept. Competent fragrances of good materials in a nice bottle, but with a price that implies an exclusivity and an artistry that the fragrances don't command. Seductive is far better then most of the others but doesn't overcome my reservations with the house.

This is a good fragrance and I rate it positively - and in another bottle by another company for a lower price I'd be interested in owning it, but as with other BTVs it isn't anything overly special.
08th August, 2009
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Energizer by Boadicea the Victorious

Energizer starts with a nice refreshing blast of grapefruit and eventually fills out to a more 'complete' citrus bouquet. The heart contains some less sour notes, probably cedrat and bergamot in addition to lemon because there are hints of green in the heart. Energizer stays close to the skin but get good longevity for a citrus fragrance.

Pleasant? Sure. But then again, so is Hermes Eau d'Orange Verte, Eau de Guerlain, and even Chanel Allure Homme Sport. There's absolutely nothing that makes this fragrance stand out among the hundreds of other citrus fragrances out there, and in fact Energizer is among the more bland of citrus scents. I'd take the Allure Homme Sport over Energizer any day.

Yet another average entry from Boadicea.
08th August, 2009
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No. 5 Eau Première by Chanel

While I love and adore the original No.5, I'll be the first to admit it's hard as a guy finding the right time to wear it - not because I care that I'm wearing a feminine fragrance but because No.5 is so iconic and well known that it requires just the right mood and situation. No.5 Eau Premiere really shouldn't be considered a 'reissue' of the original - rather just a flanker using the legendary No.5 name - however it carries a lot of No.5 DNA and is immediately recognizable as Chanel a mile away. No.5 EP actually bears tremendous similarity to No.22 (especially the vintage, pre-Exclusifs formula) and in ways can be likened to the child No.5 and No.22 would bear if they entered into a romantic relationship.

From the top one gets a healthy dose of Chanel's aldehydes that lift the citrus/peach opening as it moves to the white floral heart. One also gets I sense a light touch of vanilla with lactonic restraint that adds a touch of creaminess to the composition. As the aldehydes fade the jasmine in the heart becomes a little more prominent remains, eventually melding into a soft floral/vanillic base. The initial aldehydic punch is nowhere near as substantial in No.5 EP as it is in No.22, and the sharpness of notes are much calmer than the original No.5. Although the bottle calls No. EP an 'EdP', it's strength and longevity are somewhere between a Chanel EdT and EdP (much as the reviewer Asha describes in her review). Sillage is very good and longevity is 5-6 hours.

No.5 Eau Premiere makes an excellent masculine and provides a perfect fragrance for those situations where you need something light and classy - don't worry, no one will no it's No.5. If you apply too much and aren't used to wearing feminine Chanels the aldehydes will feel a bit overwhelming. Don't worry, they will relax.

I was traveling for work and staying at a hotel adjacent to a Chanel boutique the day No.5 EP was formally released last year. I received a sample that first day and returned the next morning to buy a bottle. At the time only 150ml bottles were available and I was a little bummed because I didn't think I'd ever need that much. Nearly a year later my wife and I have put a huge dent in the bottle and will probably buy another in about a year when this one is depleted.
08th August, 2009
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Aqua Allegoria Rosa Magnifica by Guerlain

A perfectly simple, pleasant linear rose fragrance with a light, 'green' background. Longevity and sillage are as expected (reasonable, not outrageous). If I come across an inexpensive bottle or swap I'd seriously consider a purchase. Being on a rose kick lately, I would compare this to another simple rose, Czech & Speake Rose. The C&S is stronger with nearly double the longevity, but it's also close to triple the price. Both present a high-quality yet simple rose that showcases the note without hitting you over the head with it.
07th August, 2009
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Chia by Farmacia SS. Annunziata

Chia is vanilla/floral with a strong dose of candyfloss - very much like an amped up L'Artisan Vanilia. A touch of florals (orange blossom?) and musk fill out the composition. Chia has strong sillage and lasts forever on the skin. If I sweat while wearing Chia I'm immediately surrounded with the aroma of cotton candy. Although this isn't the mold of the currently popular 'boozy/woody vanilla' (i.e. SDV, Tobacco Vanille, Un Bois Vanille, etc.), Chia is a great niche vanilla and I highly recommend it, especially at just over $1/ml. Farmacia SS Anunziata's other vanilla - Vaniglia de Madagascar parfum - isn't nearly as interesting or complex.
05th August, 2009
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La Petite Robe Noire (original) by Guerlain

La Petit Robe Noir is a bizarre fragrance in that its name - and associate image - is completely divergent from the fragrance itself. One would expect a classy, sophisticated and sexy fragrance. Instead LPRN is a loud, brash fragrance very much in line with the 'vulgar' fragrances Guerlain has been releasing lately.

Reading the list of notes - and knowing a little Guerlain - one can almost put the fragrance together in your head... a cheery sweet citrus/rose topnote accord that gives way to a darker, mellow tea/anise heart and eventually a Guerlain base, perhaps accented by almond such as the base found in 180 Ans de Creation. If this is what you think LPRN is, which is what I thought, you would be 100% wrong just like I was.

Instead LPRN starts off with the loudest cherry/rose ever used in perfumery. It is exceedingly bright, cheery, and strong. It's not sugar sweet like Insolence, but nor is it tempered by the 'hairspray' note either. A touch of lemon pokes out from under the cherry, giving a little sharpness to the topnotes. There is some similarity to Guerlain's Nuit d'Amour, but those fruity/rose topnotes weren't nearly as brash or loud. Unlike some people, these topnotes have not yet turned me off - especially because I thought I knew what was coming from the composition... now when does that tea and licorice kick in......?

If the composition developed as anticipated the cherry/rose would be a fun and loud opening to an interesting fragrance (much the way a loud peach topnote is used in Guerlain's Chypre Fatale). Unfortunately the rest of the fragrance never comes.... I never smell any of the published notes. In fact, I really never smell any other notes, not even the expected Guerlinade base that may have salvaged this fragrance. LPRN ends up just being a loud fruity floral, and if it weren't for the quality of the materials used in the cherry/rose this may just be counted among typical designer fruity florals of little consequence. It is the last fragrance I would think of as being associated with a little black dress, unless that dress is being worn at a college semi-formal.

If what I've said has been overly harsh it is because I am disappointed at LPRN's lack of structure. However all is not lost with LPRN, because the cherry/rose itself is absolutely a ton of fun (and much better then the cherry/champagne accord found in Etat Libre's Bendelirious). When I'm looking for something sweet and fun - often in the morning before going to the gym - I'll blast myself with a couple big sprays to the neck and enjoy. As a serious fragrance or a full daily wear I avoid LPRN. Turin wrote in his book (of Insolence EdP, I believe) that Guerlain 'does vulgar' very well, and that's just what LPRN is.
05th August, 2009
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Miroir, Miroir: Miroir des Vanités / Mirror of Vanities by Thierry Mugler

This is the first in the series of Miroir! Miroir! reviews. Others will soon follow.

As with all the Miroir! Miroir! line there is a distinctly gourmand feel to Vanities. What distinguishes the Miroir fragrances is what goes on above the gourmand vanillic foundation found in nearly all of the scents. Vanities starts off with a bright citrus balanced with anise...sounds like an odd combo (a la Caron Eau de Reglisse) but it works well. The citrus notes lose strength fairly quickly and a subtle woodiness with a hint of vetiver creeps in, enveloping and combining with the anise. The anise and woody notes keep Vanities from becoming as sweet and overtly gourmand as some of the others in the line. Excellent and well done.

I'm not sure why Mugler is keeping this line such a secret because they would be well received by the perfumista/colognisseur world, and they easily put Mugler into niche territory in terms of quality, sillage, and longevity. The Miroir line also represents a departure from Angel, A*Men, and their myriad flankers with which the Mugler name is associated. In the US this line is available at select Saks and via Mugler's website.
05th August, 2009
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Miroir, Miroir: Miroir des Secrets / Mirror of Secrets by Thierry Mugler

I'm dedicating a few days to sampling and reviewing this obscure Mugler line, and into day two I believe this is my favorite of the bunch. All of the Miroir! Miroir! scents are mildly gourmand, with accords anchored to a lightly sweetened, vanilla, but Secrets is the least gourmand and perhaps the most subtle. It starts off with a very curious aldehydic 'green note' I can't specifically identify. This green note is quickly joined by a faint, musky patchouli. The patchouli is not anything like a patchouli-centric fragrance but a subtle and sweet patchouli. For a few hours Secrets slowly melds between very mild background notes (the patchouli always being noticeable) and a vanilla base. I suspect there's some iris in here because the powdery heart/base seems to be more then just a musk. Overall the style of Secrets is very much in the modern Guerlain floral/gourmand mold and in many ways it reminds of Quand Vient la Pluie.

Until it reaches its base, Secrets is remarkably subtle and delicate - pretty and remarkably well balanced. For a few hours I was thinking that this would be the one I would purchase.... but I'm not sure about the base. After such a well developed top/heart perfumer Bertier cheats a little with the base, opting for a fairly generic woody amber I've encountered in countless modern fragrances. There's still a musky vanilla to take the edge of the woody/amber, but the generic ending is akin to traveling in first class for a vacation up until the flight home.

Still, a wonderful fragrance and recommended. Sillage is a bit lower than the other Miroir scents but longevity is superb.

This line, available at select Saks and the Mugler website, is regrettably being kept quiet. It's something like a 'niche' line for Mugler but there's no buzz or marketing of these scents, which are absolutely niche quality and a welcome departure from the countless Angel/A*Men flankers (which still being very identifiable as in the Mugler style).
05th August, 2009
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Derby by Guerlain

I have enjoyed Derby for over a year and only now do I feel I know it well enough to write a review. I'm glad I waited, because had I written a review after buying the bottle I may have been tempted to describe it simply as leather chypre with a distinct mint note in the top/mid. After all, that's what it is.... but it's much more.

While Derby is a product of the 80s and competed in the marketplace with 80s masculines - and while it has the 80s powerhouse characteristics of strong sillage and bold masculinity - Derby is absolutely NOT an 80s fragrance. Rather, Derby owes it's heritage to the classic leather chypres and feminine leathers of the 40s-70s. Lanvin Scandal, Cuir de Lancome, Miss Dior, and most of all Diorling are much more closely related to Derby then its fougere 80s contemporaries. In fact Derby may be THE definitive leather chypre, regardless of gender designation, and the ultimate expression of the genre. I can't think of any such leather chypres after Derby that took the accord any farther.

It's not surprising the Jean-Paul Guerlain would be aware of these fragrances or trained in the classical school that created them. What Guerlain did with Derby is take the basic leather chypre structure and crank up the leather and add a strong mint note. At first the mint was very, very distinct to me and I could not ignore it. Over countless samplings and wearing I was able to enjoy the mint as a cohesive part of the whole composition, a feature that added twang and depth to the fragrance. The distinct mint in the topnotes gives way to a floral heart and eventually a mossy/woody base, all the while the distinct leather chypre structure never giving way. Derby is classy to the extreme, formal, and uniquely masculine without ever reaching into the macho territory of the 80s powerhouses. Derby is James Bond in a tux while the typical 80s powerhouse is a guy with long hair driving a Camaro.

I read someone recently call Derby an old-man fragrance. I disagree - Derby is a fragrance of confidence. It will come off as overbearing and overly strong to someone new to fragrance, and I suggest sampling chypres and vintages to put Derby into context. I also suggest giving Derby many samplings because it does not reveal itself right away - it's simply too dense to be understood and appreciated after a couple experiences. In the year since I first purchased a bottle it's gone from something I liked, to one of my favorite masculines, to what I believe to be in the top-10 fragrances of all time. It's that special.

A comment on vintage vs. current (Les Parisiennes) formula. The re-issue is very faithful to the original but more muted, as though the volume has been turned down 20%. This formula may be best for those who find the original too loud. I've obsessively sought out vintage bottles and probably will always continue to buy them when presented with the opportunity. I'm not sure how Derby will fair if the upcoming rules take away its oakmoss.
05th August, 2009
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Philtre d'Amour by Guerlain

Philtre d'Amour is the ultimate in the pure-citrus genre, and if you're seeking a distinct, bright citrus fragrance with longevity and sillage you need look no further. I can't think of any other citrus that lasts even half as long!

PdA starts with an exceptionally bright melange of citrus notes - lemon, cedrat, neroli, and probably others. The citrus *never* fades, an amazing feat of perfumery - and from application to the last fleeting sniff citrus is ever-present. The citrus topnotes are soon joined by a subtle floral heart and distinct petitgrain, which eventually give way to a subtle patchouli base. Throughout the composition there is a light muskiness to PdA which serves to prevent the citrus from becoming too sharp.

Unlike typical citrus fragrances PdA lasts for many hours (5-6) with normal application. This longevity is particularly outstanding in the complete and total absence of any chypre structure (no oakmoss fixative) and no woody base such as those found in a typical 'eau de cologne'. The patchouli base is not at all what you think of as used in a traditional patchouli-centric, but rather it presents as a tangy woodiness that balances the bright citrus superbly.

The re-issued Les Parisiennes version is an EdP whereas the original, limited-edition release was an EdT. I've had the opportunity to sample the EdT and it's very similar, with less musk, slightly brighter citrus, but shorter longevity.
05th August, 2009
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Complex by Boadicea the Victorious

I rarely pan fragrances because even if I don't care for the accords I can usually find redeeming qualites that others may enjoy. That said, this is by far one of the worst fragrances I have ever sampled. I was hopeful given the notes because I love dark, animalic leather scents but Complex goes horribly, horribly wrong. The top notes remind me of the smell of the underside of an old car - gasolline and dirt. Not gasoline like, say, Dior Fahrenheit - or a 'fuel' type leather such as Caron En Avion - but gasoline. This strong gassy topnote slowly fades from gasoline into something resembling an overflowing cigarette ashtray at which point a touch of violet peers out from underneath. The violet isn't nearly sweet enough to balance the 'ashtray accord'. Not only is Complex difficult to take, but it's not original, either. The leather/violet combo is very similar to Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste. In fact the best way to describe the fragrance is to imagine the smell of someone who just applied Cuir Amethyste to their hand and then dipped their still-wet hand into an ashtray.

Unfortunately for me I dabbed on Complex right before getting in the car for a long drive, thus I couldn't scrub as I normally would have (though it did give me the opportunity to smell it long enough to review it). The sillage is heavy - the small dab overpowered the Pour Monsieur I was wearing - and it has tenacious longevity. I could still smell hints of it hours after scrubbing.

As someone who appreciates the concept as 'fragrance as art, even if unwearable' I have a high threshold for weirdness. However Complex is not an artistic statement gone wrong (such as Etat Libre's Secretions Magnifique), it is just a terrible fragrance.
04th August, 2009
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Givenchy III by Givenchy

Over the last few months I've taken it upon myself to focus on Givenchy III. I wouldn't presume to call myself an 'expert', but at this writing I have 14 bottles in various concentrations (it was made in EdT, EdP and parfum). I sample it almost daily and wear it weekly. Since first sampling Givenchy III just over a year ago it has worked it's way up into my personal "Top-5 Fragrances of All Time" list.

If you are curious about Givenchy III do yourself a favor and don't even bother with the re-issue. It's hardly an echo of the original, and if there's actually any oakmoss in the formula it must be so little as to prevent the chypre accord from being realized. By way of analogy, if the original is the Mona Lisa, the re-issue is a drawing of Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon. It hints at the original without ever actually smelling like it (much the same way 31 Rue Cambon alludes to the chypre genre without actually smelling like a chypre). The citrus is far more apparent and the base not nearly woody/mossy enough in the re-issue. I'm not saying the re-issued perfume is a bad fragrance in and of itself - in fact it's quiet pleasant - but it's not Givenchy III and should never have been so titled.

As far as the original goes, it should be next to Chypre de Coty in the perfume encyclopedia as the definition of 'chypre' is. It is simple and uncluttered. It is utterly timeless, and unlike some vintage chypres it does not smell dated. Smelling deeply, Givenchy III is one of those perfumes in which you can smell multiple layers simultaneously, and as the fragrance develops these layers are always anchored to the chypre structure. From the beginning oakmoss is apparent under the mellow bergamot/floral topnotes, which eventually meander into a green/floral heart. Givenchy III is less soapy and brighter then its peers (such as Miss Dior), and it never becomes overtly floral by any means. The florals give way to the mossy/woody base that persists for a long time, close to the skin.

Everything Givenchy III does, it does smoothly and quietly - always reserved and always elegant. It really is a 'composition' - no notes stand out loudly. Sillage in the EdT is typical of a fragrance from this period (moderate) and longevity a tad shorter (3-4 hours). The EdP is essentially a stronger version of the EdT, with better sillage/longevity. The parfum composition focuses far more on the mossy/woody nature of the fragrance, skipping the citrus and going right to the floral/mossy heart. Sillage of the parfum is about the same as that of the EdT but the longevity is incredible - 8-10 hours easily.

If your thing is modern niche with bold accords and loads of sillage Givenchy III won't be for you. However, if you're into chypres and/or the classics of perfumery you must try Givenchy III because you will love it.
02nd August, 2009
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Diorling by Christian Dior

The reigning queen of all vintage leather chypres! Truly a smooth leather with that chypre/oakmoss structure underneath. The re-issue is nowhere near as wonderful. Although rarely on eBay, Diorling is not forgotten because bottles go for small fortunes on eBay, especially parfums. I was recently testing an 80s bottle of Guerlain Derby when it struck me that Derby has much more to do with fragrances like Diorling then it does its 80s-powerhouse brothers.

Like Lanvin Scandal and vintage Cuir de Lancome, it may be called 'feminine' but Diorling would be a bold masculine by today's standards. Consider yourself lucky if you have a bottle.
02nd August, 2009
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Rose by Czech & Speake

A very well done, simple rose with a light green and woody background. The rose note itself is not too sweet and certainly not sugary. I prefer Dark Rose, especially in vintage formulation, but that's an entirely different ballgame. C&S Rose is completely unisex and wearable by anyone and everyone.
01st August, 2009
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Mimosa by Czech & Speake

Wow - so many bad reviews! I'm glad I sampled this a few times before writing a review. Mimosa is a fairly straightforward white floral. It starts of with a light mimosa note with a touch of geranium. Slowly jasmine joins the accord and eventually a tuberose base takes over. I'm not much of a tuberose fan so I stopped enjoying the fragrance as the basenotes emerged, but until that point I felt Mimosa was a darn good white floral (a genre I usually don't care much for). There are better mimosa scents out there, but this one isn't bad. Sillage was what you'd expect from such a fragrance and the longevity was well above average. As for whether paying C&S prices for a white floral is 'worth it' I leave that up to you.
01st August, 2009
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Louban by Montale

Long ago I got a tad bored with the myriad Montale oud/rose scents, of which Damascus is my favorite. All are very competent but redundant, with slight variations vis a vis the balance between oud and the other notes and perhaps where in the fragrance's progression the oud dominates. Ever since getting a decant of Louban I've been coming back to it over and over. The balance is much different from that of other Montale oud/roses. The addition of incense is a welcome component and the oud itself isn't nearly as dominant. The rose isn't as sweet or thick. Therefore while this is yet another oud/rose it really does stand apart as unique from the others. Overall Louban is more complex, with a lot more going on, than it's brothers and sisters in the line.

On the downside, what I really like about Aoud Damascus (and even more in Micallef's Aoud Rose) is the convergence between oud and rose such that it presents itself almost as a unified note, and this is not accomplished in Louban.

Ignoring the repetition in the line Louban is a fine fragrance, particularly for those who don't want an oud-dominant composition.
31st July, 2009
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Angéliques Sous La Pluie by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

It's taken me 10ml - multiple wears and countless arm samplings to get this ASLP, and when I finally wrapped my head around it last night, a light bulb going off over my head, I put the fragrance on my 'must buy soon' list.

ASLP isn't about the topnotes, the mid, or even basenotes but rather the journey through the development. I love angelique, and Guerlain's Angelique Noir and AA Angelique Lilas are favorites of mine. Thus I had high hopes for ASLP, especially it being a Malle and JCE. As many people have commented, the topnotes are not what I was expecting. A watery, peppery accord with a touch of sweetness? That's it? Unfortunately it seems like a lot of people bailed on the fragrance at this point, which is unfortunate. Over the next two hours two things happen on the skin - the peppered spices become less distinct and the sweet, green/floral note of angelique emerges. Although this is difficult to articulate the spice doesn't just fade and angelique rise, but the accords *collide into* one another. Two distinct aspects of the fragrance merge into one bold angelique accord that has a spicy edge to its natural sweetness. Once the merger is complete this remaining angelique-centered basenote accord is simply gorgeous. I highly recommend anyone testing ASLP to plan on giving it 2-3 hours before coming to any conclusions.

There's no disputing that ASLP stays close to the skin... this is not a fragrance for loud sillage but will work well anytime you don't need/want sillage. Longevity is actually quite good for a subtle fragrance (@6hrs), though this may not be apparent because the sillage is so mild. ASLP is absolutely unisex and a must-try for angelique fans.

Very high recommendation!
31st July, 2009
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Crown Heliotrope by Crown Perfumery

Instead of just pure heliotrope like, say, Santa Maria Novella Eliotroppio, this Crown Perfumery version adds a touch of citrus to the heliotrope in the topnotes. This citrus is bright yet subtle and fades over 20-30 minutes, leaving a crystal-clear heliotrope note. Unlike heliotrope fragrances such as those by Etro and Ava Luxe, 'straight' heliotrope has a green, floral aspect to it as well as having a light almond/vanilla sweetness. Crown presents heliotrope just right and I got a strong soliflore in the mid/basenotes that lasted 4-5 hours easily. The SMN version also presents 'straight' heliotrope but it's a little more musky, muted with less sillage (but no topnotes, it's linear). Neither the Crown or SMN are better then the other - they are simply variations on presenting heliotrope and you can't go wrong with either one.

If you like heliotrope and see a bottle of this (or the SMN) grab it quick because restrictions on using heliotrope have killed the possibility of new, real, heliotrope-laden fragrances being released in the future.
30th July, 2009
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Eau Fraîche by Christian Dior

A 'lost' Roudnitska classic that deserves to be better known. What it is it? Pretty much the most luscious, full citrus composed of so many different citrus notes so that it sweet, sour, dry, and fruity all at once.. It has all of these characteristics simulateously - without any one dominating - because it is so well balanced. The best way to apply is to take about 3-4ml, or more, and just douse yourself with it. You will enjoy citrus as it envelops you in it's aroma for about 45 minutes. Sadly Eau Fraiche vanishes in about an hour, perhaps a little more depending on your skin and the weather. Regardless it's a wonderful hour and I never mind re-applying thoughout the days I wear it, or alternatively I wear it when I don't need an all day fragrance but rather just a refreshing zap of citrus.

As with many fragrances of historic vintage these days, there seems to have been a reformulation sometime recently. The current version is still a nice citrus, but the vintage version just explodes and radiates off the skin like nothing else. It's worth looking around for a vintage bottle; I bought a vintage 220ml bottle for under $30. Now I can splash on with reckless abandon without worrying about running out. Citrus joy!
26th July, 2009 (last edited: 11th August, 2009)
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United States

Grain de Soleil by Fragonard

I bought a mini of this and promptly forgot about, leaving it to collect dust on the shelf. I recently gave it a skin test then full wear and regret the time I wasted without appreciating it. Grain de Soleil starts of as a floral/amber, warm and comfortable. To compare it to another fragrance - it's a more floral, toned down version of Ambre Narguille. I recently sprayed it on my arm before bed and the next morning it was still going strong, with a tasty vanilla/amber base with what feels like a hint of spice to keep it interesting. I don't have much experience with Fragonard but this is one I wouldn't mind a FB of on my shelf.
24th May, 2009
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Sweet Patchouli by Ava Luxe

A simple but pleasant patchouli and vanilla accord. It's got a bit of punch, especially at first (and in the extrait version), but the sillage fades after about an hour. As the fragrance dries down vanilla becomes more prominent and patchouli takes a backseat. Good for people who like patchouli and want a fragrance that doesn't have such a strong patchouli bite.
23rd May, 2009
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Acqua di Parma Profumo by Acqua di Parma

Green and floral chypres have been my 'thing' lately, and Profumo is one of the best I've come across. There is a distinct rose/plum topnote grafted onto the chypre structure that is simply fantastic. It is similar in style to Guerlain's discontinued Parure, but it's not as bright and cheery as Parure. After about 30-40 minutes the rosey/plumy notes fade and a long drawn-out oakmoss drydown emerges that meanders for hours. This may be one of the best oakmoss bases of any fragrance made today. There is an elegance and stateliness to Profumo that must be experienced. Many re-issues of classic fragrances are nothing but pale reflections of their former selves, but this is one that could easily confuse for a 30s era fragrance. Excellent and required for chypre fans. A Neimans SA told me there is a reformulated version now available (because of oakmoss restrictions? She didn't say). I can't attest to the newest version.

On a side note, the presentation is fantastic. The bottles sits in a pedestal base with a slot for the bulb sprayer attachment. The art-deco ribbed glass bottle - sans label - is one of the best looking on my shelf.
23rd May, 2009
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Turtle Vetiver Exercise 1 by LesNez

As Buzzlepuff mentions, this is a limited run of 80 bottles which makes owning it very special but is likewise unfortunate since it would undoubtedly be a popular vetiver that would rival Vetiver Extraordinaire, Encre Noir, and Sycomore. The vetiver presented is quite strong, but earthy, mossy, and damp throughout the entire composition. There are no contrasting sweet notes and really no smoky notes either. Turtle Vetiver is tenacious as it lasted into the next morning for a 24+ hour wear on a few sprays. Sillage at first is almost too robust but does fade to an acceptable-to-be-in-public level in a reasonable period of time. A must-have for vetiver fans.
05th May, 2009
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Note Ambrée by Martine Micallef

The tact I have taken over the last few months when trying a new niche fragrance is to - when possible - get samples of the entire line. I've been finding that trying all the fragrances reveals information and gives me perspective about each particular fragrance I otherwise may not have gleamed. The structure, the techniques, the style, the artistry, etc. all come into better focus when viewed in perspective. It's almost as though seeing the forest helps me understand each tree contained therein.

Thus has been my approach with Martine Micallef fragrances, of which Note Ambree is my first review of the house. I'm reviewing this first because I feel it typifies the line in many ways. The style I am encountering with Micallef fragrances is that they are subtle and full of discrete notes. These discrete, subtle notes can be enjoyed individually as they meld in and out, appearing, settling, and resurfacing throughout the fragrance's life on the skin. The notes however also have the unique effect of conglomerating such that their confluence stands for an interpretation of one larger note. In this case the note is amber, and I assume the name 'Note Ambree' tells us that this is an interpretation of amber without the use of amber, per se. The same effect is created in various other fragrances such Patchouli and Note Vanillee to different degrees.

On application Note Ambree presents a bouquet of florals brightened with citrus (bergamot). Ylang ylang and jasmine are the most prominent florals, and the composition is sweet in a floral - not sugary - way. The addition of bergamot gives the topnotes an amber feel to them. The different florals come in and out of focus, and slowly the bergamot loses visibility as the amber base becomes more prominent. The base is not pure amber, instead a well blended floral aspect always remains. The published notes of rose and iris are never distinct, but I assume they are present to both round out the composition and soften it as only iris can.

As is typical with Micallef fragrances, sillage is light to moderate but longevity is excellent. For a floral/amber, this fragrance is largely unisex - at least as unisex as any straight amber such as L'Eau d'Ambre or Ambre Precieux. If you are a guy who enjoys fragrances such as those you will have no problem wearing Note Ambree.

If you're starting with Micallefs, I recommend this fragrance (highly), as well as Vanille Aoud (one of the more unique from the line), Aoud (Boise) Men, Gaiac (my favorite), and Anabar.


bergamot, fennel leaves, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, amber, iris
08th April, 2009
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Umbra by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Holy Smokes, Batman! This is the type of fragrance I envisioned a house with the name 'Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab' would create, and a fragrance that fits in with the imagery and vibe of its website. Umbra is a dark, strong, and evil fragrance. Essentially linear, Umbra is a huge, unforgiving blast of cedar and vetiver. The cedar is brutally strong and brooding, the vetiver is sharp and bitter. A hint of cinnamon brightens on application but quickly recedes, leaving only the angry, sillage-heavy wood/vetiver. Although there is no distinct patchouli note, I believe it is present as published providing depth and strength.

Perfect for the mosh pit or when you otherwise want to clear space around you, but not unpleasant or poorly constructed. It's different, it's strong, and it doesn't f-around.

Notes: East African black patchouli, cedar, vetiver, cinnamon
08th April, 2009