Perfume Reviews

Reviews by bbBD

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Total Reviews: 363
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Eclipse by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Notes: Bitter almond, vanilla, frankincense, heliotrope, cinnamon

Whoofa! Eclipse starts out with almost medicinal blast of almond and cinnamon, to the point that it's actually quite unpleasant. The cinnamon fades within a few minutes, leaving a light, bland almond/vanilla aroma that is very synthetic feeling. I don't get any other published notes, or any other notes for that matter...the fragrance just fades out from there. It's almost as though they forgot to create the heart and base of the fragrance. My negative rating is not simply a case of me not liking the fragrance (I don't), but rather what appears to be a massive structural defect.
07th April, 2009
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Tamora by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Notes: Amber, Heliotrope, Golden Sandalwood, Peach Blossom, Vanilla Bean

What really stands out in Tamora is the peach, which lasts from the topnotes well into the drydown. In the background a light vanilla slowly melds into sandalwood, and the entire composition is made slightly powdery and floral via the heliotrope. A mild and fun little fragrance, worth sampling.
06th April, 2009
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Gluttony by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

A brief glance at the notes (in foetidus' review, below) would lend one to think Gluttony smells like a 4-scoop ice cream sundae, but it's actually much more successful (per the BPAL website, 'hops' is a note that foetidus missed). There is also a little more development and progression then I've experienced in the few BPALs I've tried (but that is so few I cannot generalize from them).

It starts of with a distinctly nutty, hazelnut blast. The nuttiness eventually subsides into a less distinct toffee note sitting on a light bed of buttercream, the effect of which is to smell like a buttercream-nut cookie batter. The toffee lingers, eventually meandering into a coffee/cocoa base. Longevity is incredible 10+ hours with just a dot of oil.

While sweet, the composition is just dry enough (probably the hops) so as to make the composition miserable, though if you don't like gourmands you should stay far, far away from Gluttony. It's important to remember that BPAL fragrances are highly conceptual and are one aspect of an artistic 'piece' that includes the art, themes, poetry, and other writings on the BPAL website. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, and thus one must view its absurd over-the-top gourmand nature in that perspective - it's supposed to be sinfully rich and decadent. As to whether it's wearable that is on the skin of the beholder, but for a few bucks you can own a truly outrageous gourmand.
06th April, 2009
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Obatala by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

This is a bright, vanillic/amber with light woody notes. Very nice.
04th April, 2009
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Burial by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Sharp, tinny, and unpleasant lavender. Not very good at all.
04th April, 2009
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Sweet Almond / Amande Sucre by Ava Luxe

I simultaneously received samples of Amande Sucre and Sinfonia di Note Amande Sucree from a kind BNer. The Ava Luxe blows the Sinfonia out of the water! I've began to realize that what Ava Luxe calls 'eau de parfum' concentration would probably be extrait by most houses. This is a simple sweet almond, bright and cheery with excellent sillage and longevity. It's not toothache sweet, nor is too mute or musky (as the Sinfonia is). Ava Luxe fragrances are of high quality, regardless of genre, but the gourmands seem to shine above and beyond the others. For a simple gourmand at a low price I don't think you can do much better - I also suggest you try Doll Face, another inexpensive but slightly more complex gourmand.
04th April, 2009
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Armani Privé Bois d'Encens by Giorgio Armani

Here in the US the discount chain TJ Maxx and it's sister store Marshalls has received a flood of Armani Prive 'refill bottles', the internal fragrance bottle intended to slip into the wooden container with the fancy pebble cap. The refill bottle itself has a spray and is actually quite solid, physically and visually. In an amazing illustration of exactly how large the profit margin is on these fragrances, the refill bottles sell for $30 (at which price point the chain still profits). As I peruse the reviews, below, many of which mention the high price I almost twinge with empathy for all those who shelled out $150 or more for their bottles. I've had samples of the Prives forever, but because of these deep discounts I've had the opportunity to really play with them.

Bois d'Encens is by FAR my favorite Prive, and in fact it's the only one I enjoy. I've been exploring incense fragrances lately, and BdE is essentially frankincense with light supporting notes. On application the fragrance is all pepper, but within a couple minutes the frankincense note appears. As the pepper fades the frankincense becomes more dominant. The incense note is light and airy with a wonderful balance between being sharp and peppery and sweet and resinous. The absence of other strong notes lets the beauty of the frankincense do the talking, and as Turin points out in the Guide, frankincense has a wonderful quality of 'never smelling exactly the same twice'. I agree with this comment and have found that weather, clothing, situation, etc. all play in role in how Bois d'Encens presents itself on the skin. At first the sillage is very good but fades after a couple hours. Even thought the sillage fades the fragrance continues to develop slowly.

In the drydown slightly sweeter notes appear to balance the frankincense, and as a review below notes these seem to be balsamic, woody notes that have a sweet and resinous aroma of their own. At this stage BdE reminds me quite a bit of Guerlain's epic Bois d'Armenie which is loaded with balsam wood and incense. Bois d'Armenie is, in my opinion, a far superior incense fragrance, but it is also much richer and not nearly as minimalist as the Armani and thus they don't occupy the same niche. Longevity is good, 5-7 hours.

All in all Bois d'Encens is very good.fragrance and that's why I'm giving it a strong thumbs up (I try to judge in a vacuum without regard to value). However, I would never buy this at full price as I don't feel it's THAT good, especially when other great frankincense fragrances like Memoire Liquide Hommage are cheaper, and expensive incense fragrances like Bois d'Armenie are better. If you or someone you know can snag one at TJX/Mashalls by all means grab one. [special thanks to the BNer who bought me a bottle at their local Marshalls.]
02nd April, 2009
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L'Eau d'Ambre Extrême / Ambre Extrême by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Amber is a tricky note for me - I love it when used well in accords, and I love vanilla fragrances. I've long sought a amber-centric fragrance and have literally sampled dozens of such fragrances. [I do own Ambre Narguile, which it more of a gourmand then an amber.] The problem I have with most ambers is the honey-thick sweetness that pushes the note too far. Montale's Blue Amber is the best example of an amber I don't like for this reason.

Ironically, Ambre Extreme is one of the very first ambers I ever tried, and I'd nearly forgotten about it in my search for ambers. What I really like about it is that you get the amber complexity and warmth without the depths of sweetness found in others. Perhaps it's because it's an Ellena work, but Ambre Extreme magically seems to convey the warmth and sweetness of amber while also maintaining a certain transparency that is rare in the genre. There is a slight powdery background and chalkiness that I happen to really like but others may not. The only other amber I found in my search is MPG's Ambre Precieux, but the L'Artisan was far less expensive, and I actually prefer it to the MPG. Longevity and sillage are both very good.

For a straight amber that isn't super-heavy, check this one out.
25th March, 2009
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Scandal by Lanvin

It's taken me a couple tries to get a sample of Scandal that was still in excellent shape. Now that I have, I can report that it is an incredible leather fragrance - among the best I've ever tried. Glove smooth and very luxurious, Scandal is reminiscent of vintage Chanel Cuir de Russie but even smoother and richer. Asha's review, below, is superb. There's no way I can follow such a good review so I won't try.... read her review to learn about Scandal, then go find yourself a sample. If you like leather fragrances it's worth buying a couple bottles on eBay until you find one that still smells good.
24th March, 2009
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Greed by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Greed is a very pleasant, nuanced fragrance that contains patchouli balanced with heliotrope, and the drydown has an earthy/woodiness that is not entirely unlike Parfumerie Generale's Bois Blonde. There is a distinctively leathery quality to Greed, and the fragrance manages to balance woody and sweet notes excellently. Good stuff.
23rd March, 2009
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De Sade by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

Purports to be pure leather, but in reality is a smoky, dark vetiver surrounded by leather notes. The vetiver is unique and very enjoyable. I'd love to write more, but with respect to the BPAL fragrances (of which this is the first I've reviewed), I think it's best to just get out a few notes about it to fill the gap where there is no info at all.
23rd March, 2009
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Tom of Finland by Etat Libre d'Orange

It's taken me quite a while to wrap my head around Tom of Finland, and I have a feeling that this review is probably premature as I will continue to progress in my understanding of its various subtleties, especially now that I have my own full bottle. What we have with TOF is a rare successful convergence of marketing, message, and a very good product. There is tremendous subtlety in this fragrance, and if you're not paying attention you may think it is a simple or boring fragrance. Close and careful analysis reveals it is anything of the sort.

The opening notes reveal an odd accord of aldehydes and a rubber/leather note that will persist throughout the composition (via birch and styrax). Normally a rubber/leather accord would be heavy, but in TOF it is mild and not overpowering. Upon first wearings one would think that this is a result of perhaps a light dosing of the leather ingredients in the mix. This is not the case, rather the rubber/leather is balanced by the aldehydes, light citrus, and the very prominent iris note that provides a powdery, rooty counterpoint to the rubber/leather accord. The effect is to trick your nostrils into thinking you're smelling a mild, powdered leather - but what goes into creating this effect is complex, nuanced, and quite remarkable. Heavier application reveals the mild citrus in the topnotes more clearly, but then one also loses the subtlety of the rubber/leather. With the overarching rubber/leather always noticeable, the citrus background melds into a floral background with what seems like geranium and galbanum. This is not a light leather fragrance, but rather a strong leather fragrance tempered by other accords.

As the florals develop and fade, the notes underlying the rubber/leather become more prominently woody and even peppery for a time. As the heart progresses to the base, the separation between the rubber/leather accord and the underlying notes collapses into a unified base. This unified woody/leatherbase sweetens a little, showing a little vanilla and tonka (and always iris), and becoming slightly musky. Longevity is good, 5-6 hours. Sillage is average unless you really over-apply, but this was not intended to be a loud fragrance thus you can't blame it for having sillage appropriate to its theme.

Now that the fragrance has been described it can be tied into its marketing themes. The intent was obviously not to create a wild, sexy fragrance. Tom of Finland refers to the homoerotic artist who produced works under that name (and the Tom of Finland Foundation with whom this was a joint project with ELDO). TOF art appears on the boxes and different editions are available with different art on the different boxes. The tie in to gay lifestyle, art, and associated issues cannot be ignored.

The simplistic explanation that TOF is supposed to smell like the rubber/leather worn as BDSM outfits - or the absurdly unimaginative idea that this is supposed to smell like a condom - enitrely misses the fragrance's most subtle points. TOF is masculine, but not overly masculine via its use of aldehydes that are typically used in feminine fragrances(fn1). There are sweet and floral aspects balanced with more wild and sensual notes (leather, rubber, tar). Homosexuality is not one-dimensional, nor is this fragrance. The fragrance is neither masculine, feminine, or unisex, but rather it is all three and none of them at the same time. I will leave it to the reader to decide how this ties in with homosexuality for themselves. Overall, I believe the fragrance is tied into the sometime ignored reality that homosexuality is not easily pigeonholed or sterotyped, and nor is it necessarily brash and loud (just as the fragrance is subtle and nuanced). It would be too easy to just make a loud leather fragrance and associate it with homosexuality, ELDO did not take this easy route and instead made a more measured artistic statement with this fragrance. Of the various artistic statement ELDO fragrances purport to make, this is perhaps their most successful and accessible.

If you appreciate subtle fragrances, and especially if you like leather fragrances, this one is far outside the norm and worth exploration. Give it a few tries and don't expect to be blown away on first application because this fragrance impresses the more you get to know it, and it is anything but boring or flat.

footnote 1: See review of TOF on The Scented Salamander (use of aldehydes as typically used in feminine fragrances) at minifroufrou.com.
22nd March, 2009
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Moustache by Rochas

Moustache was my dad's fragrance when I was a child and thus I've always had a special place in my heart for it - and a bottle on my shelf. While I have a vintage bottle of EdC and aftershave, this review is for the current EdC Concentree version.

Moustache is another work of Roudnitska's genius and like so many of his other creations was well ahead of its time (and totally relevant today). The opening blast of lime is tart enough to make your eyes water (it's the best use of lime in a fragrance, imo). Accompanying the lime note is a certain animalistic funk that I assume is civet, and the touch of depth it adds is really what sets Moustache apart from your typical citrus. The tartness subsides fairly rapidly and while the lime remains present, is balanced by a mossy/powdery note and a subtle, light fruitiness that is not tart, but sweet. [side note: the opening is where the EdT concentree really sets itself apart from the vintage EdC. The EdC's opening is much "brighter" and without the animalistic funk lurking in the background. I believe it even foreshadows the brightness that would later be found in Eau Sauvage.].

The drydown is long a pleasant. Rather than a typical woodsy base, it is more green and piney, with hints of fruit and the omnipresent lime that never fully fades. For a fragrance of its age, the longevity is remarkable (though not in the EdC version), and I get a full 4-5 hours. I wish the base was amplified a little because it it so pleasant, but hey - it is what it is. Considering one can easily find a 100ml bottle of Moustache Concentre for around $30-35, this is one of more affordable and underrated classics on the market today. You have to have respect for any fragrance still going strong after 60 years. Considering that Eau Neuve de Lubin is marketed as a feminine, this could easily be worn by either sex.

Absolutely a must-try for everyone with an interest in the classics AND for people looking for a contemporary citrus fragrance.

22nd March, 2009
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Calycanthus by Acca Kappa

Calycanthus is a soliflore of a flower by the same name (calycanthus floridus, which is a flowering shrub). According to the Acca Kappa marketing, calycanthus is "a flowering plant often found in Venetian gardens, [blooming] uniquely in the heart of winter..." Whether or not you want to take their word for it, the fragrance is a very, very pretty floral. The aroma is sweet and similar to that of a violet flower (not leaf), but it retains some of the 'green' aspect of the flower underlying the sweetness.

Compared to other Acca Kappas, this is a sillage-monster, but compared to most florals the sillage is a bit low, but the longevity is pretty good. This is an EdT, whereas most AKs are EdCs. This is an 'off the beaten path' fragrance (in the US) for sure, but if you come across it, give it a try.
21st March, 2009
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Muschio Bianco / White Moss by Acca Kappa

It must be a hallmark of Acca Kappa to have low-low sillage fragrances, as all I've tried thus far are very discrete. White Moss is light musk with mossy, fabric-softener type aroma. Pleasant but very mild, even for a skin scent. In fact, I applied nearly a half ml to my arm and cannot smell anything unless I push my nose up against my arm.

If you want your skin to smell clean at point blank range and nothing else, this fragrance would be for you. I'm giving this a neutral not because I don't like low-sillage fragrances, but because even within the realm of skin scents White Moss is too light - lighter than a body spray or even a deodorant (but at a premium price).
21st March, 2009
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James Bronnley Original by Bronnley

I found a bottle of this fragrance - sealed in a box - at a local yard sale and picked it up for a couple bucks. Without any expectations I was pleasantly surprised. It a traditional, very proper fougere that exudes British-ness. It's quite a bit powdery and not particularly strong. By way of comparison I'd say it's something like Dior Jules but toned down and without the strong herbal topnotes. I will definitely wear this for formal occasions, especially those that require me to be outside in any sort of heat. I can't say it's worth hunting down this fragrance, but don't pass it up if you run into a bottle at a yard sale!
18th March, 2009
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Terracotta Voile d'Eté by Guerlain

You know when you go to an online fragrance retailer and go to the Guerlain page, and a number of 'oddball' fragrances are on the page, many of which are inexpensive and you know nothing about them? Terracotta Voile d'Ete is one of these Guerlains. I have not tried all of these mystery limited editions, but I can safely vouch for the fact that TVdE is a gem and a tremendous value considering the absurdly low prices it fetches on these sites (I bought mine for $22).

TVdE is primarily a carnation fragrance, which naturally has a floral spiciness to it. There are a confluence of other florals, and I believe citrus, that temper the spicy nature of the carnation and result in a fragrance that is very bright and sunny. It is not at all like a white floral, but wears more like a citrus or even a cologne, especially when you first apply it. The fragrance is essentially linear and, as mentioned by other reviewers, stays close to the skin but it lasts as expected for an EdT (4-6 hours). There is a light sweetness as well, which I believe results from heliotrope (there is also a light heliotrope-esque powderyness to the composition). On a side note, Guerlain used their old-school "circle flacon' with the cone stopper (with accompanying detachable atomizer) that used to be used for EdC concentrations of their fragrances. Don't worry, TVdE is an EdT.

A word to the wise: Guerlain may have discontinued TVdE, but it was reincarnated as a member of the Les Parisiennes line under the name Quand Vient l'Ete. If there is any different between the two, there may be a twinge of distinction in the topnotes, but they are at least 98% identical to one another (per a simultaneous skin test). I was seriously considering a purchase of the Les Parisiennes release until a knowledgeable BNer clued me in, as I know clue you in. Don't spend $200+ when you can spend $25! Not only do I recommend you try this, but I'd go so far as to say this is a safe blind buy for fans of Guerlain florals, especially at a the low prices it's available for.
17th March, 2009
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Acqua e Zucchero by Profumum

Yet another deceptively simple, bright and cheery gourmand from Profumum (along with Dulcis in Fundo, Confetto, and the other ambers in the line). The simple accord of vanilla and light fruit notes strongly reminds me of a certain pastry, but for the life of me I can't remember the name of the pastry. Imagine the smell of a rich vanilla custard with a tart berry sauce and you're probably close to AeZ. There isn't much development, but nor is it entirely linear.

The fragrance starts out as vanilla with a light dusting of fruit - they say orange blossom but if that's what it is it isn't very distinct. Over the next couple hours the fruit becomes more noticeably a tart berry note. You might be reading this thinking that AeZ is recklessly sweet, which it is not, and although the vanilla is rich there is a restraint to it, and the dryness of the berry note keeps the sweetness in check. About 4-5 hours after application the berry note recedes in prominence but never fully disappears, leaving the vanilic base that is a touch powdery. As you can expect with Profumum, the materials are of obvious quality, none of the notes appear synthetic or cheap, and both great sillage and monster longevity can be expected with minimal application. Like with all other Profumums, it was perfectly well behaved on my skin.

A quick note by means of comparison to other gourmands: I happen to be skin testing Keiko Mecheri's Lokhoum on the opposite arm as I tested AeZ. Other than being gourmand and having fruit notes, AeZ shares nothing in common with Lokhoum-style fragrances such as the KM/Serge Lutens/Ava Luxe Lokhoums or Montale's Sweet Oriental Dream. The lokhoum/"Turkish Delight" gourmand sub-genre is characterized by a sweet almond note lasting the life of the fragrance that provides the sweet background, giving those fragrances a distinctly nutty and more subtle, maple-like aroma. Remove the almond and they are entirely different fragrances. AeZ is far more bright, the fruit notes far more prominent and sharp, than any lokhoum/gourmand.
16th March, 2009
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Je Suis Un Homme by Etat Libre d'Orange

Je Suis un Homme presents a great men's cologne, though as with most ELDO fragrances there is a twist that allows it to stand apart. In his case the traditional generic woods base is replaced with a patchouli/leather accord. The citrus/herbal top notes are reminiscent of Eau Sauvage, but drier (perhaps the lack of hedione?) and less tart. Within 10-20 minutes little hints of patchouli appear and from there the citrus fades out over the next hour into the patchouli/leather base, the start of which features a particularly prominent patchouli note*. As someone who likes patchouli, this is a great alternative to traditional cologne. Longevity and sillage are both very good, especially for a "cologne" (probably because it's not an EdC concentration, but EdP I believe). Therefore while there are certainly any number of cologne options, this is the only one with the patchouli 'twist' that I'm aware of (even from so-called 'superior' houses, as if the house is relevant to the review itself). As with all the ELDOs, the cost is very reasonable for niche.

* A note on the patchouli/leather base. Before purchasing a bottle, I tend to first purchase a sample, then a decant, then a bottle if all I still think the fragrance is bottle worthy by the time I'm done with the decant. For JSUH, my sample and decant were from different sources, one of which was US based, the other from Europe. There is something of a difference between the two sources with respect to how prominent the patchouli base presents itself, particularly at first. I personally prefer the stronger patchouli and would buy a bottle without hesitation if I knew for sure that the stronger-base version is the one I'd be buying, not that the other is bad, it's just that I would be buying it expressly because of the patchouli-cologne 'twist'. I have no idea whether there are different formulas released in different markets or if one of the samples I received had turned bad for some reason. I'm noting this in case your experience with respect to the base differs from the one I describe in the review, above.
14th March, 2009
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Doll Face by Ava Luxe

Doll Face (EdP) is a terrific little floral/gourmand. The thrust of it is heliotrope, with it's powdery/almond/vanillic aroma. Underpinning the heliotrope is vanilla and musk. I did notice what others have described as a 'plastic' note, which presents itself not really as 'plastic' but rather as a note that is not sweet in a composition in which everything else is. I believe this may be violet, or perhaps another floral note that is very dry. The effect is to add a little twist to what would otherwise be a simple gourmand, and in conjunction with the name does in fact conjure the image of a 'doll' - plastic and cute.

DF is up to the usual high Ava Luxe quality and longevity - in fact the longevity was longer than most I've tried (8-10 hours). There isn't a lot of development, it's more linear, though there is movement towards the sweet musky base. With a bottle cost under $30, you can't go wrong if you like heliotrope fragrances.
07th March, 2009
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B by Boucheron

You know when you do a swap with someone, they (and you) will throw in some random extras, and perhaps if you don't know the person you'll include carded samples you just received from the mall but don't necessarily want (or have doubles of)? Well a carded sample of "B" arrived in a recent trade, and I tossed it on my desk in the 'to try' pile, where it sat for .... well, for a while before I just sprayed it on to say "I tried it, now I can file it."

Well I'll be damned if I didn't sniff my arm some time later and say "hey! this ain't bad at all!". I've seen sampled it many times and I'm very impressed.

B isn't your typical designer (high end designer?) modern feminine. The primary accord is rose and apricot on a background of osmanthus and musk. It is neither sweet or too dry, and the apricot really adds the twang that sets B apart. There isn't a tremendous amount of movement with this one, the apricot become distinct and some light woodiness and sandalwood emerge. The composition remains lightly musky with a white floral support that stays throughout. Overall I find the quality to be very high and far above that of typical designers. There is nothing obviously synthetic, flimsy, or cheap about B at all.

I've read this release, still somewhat new, is pricey ($150), and it's nothing I'll be investing in soon. Maybe a few years from in the future when it's hit the discounters, maybe not. B is something that would work on a woman of any age and I think I'd find it quite attractive on a lady.

Goes to show you don't ever know - watch each card you play, and play it slow.
04th March, 2009
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Bois de Aoud / Original Aoud by Montale

It is what it is - oud! Montale could have chosen to make this wicked stong, but they didn't. Instead, it's a perfectly manageable strength without being too weak, either. I have a suspicion that had they made this more concentrated it would have turned off most people. The result is a pleasant, woody oud. The other advantage of not having it be too strong as that one can appreciate the subtlety and complexity of what oud smells like without being muddied with accompanying notes.

It's very difficult to articulate exactly what this type of oud smells like. The closest I can come is this - when I was young there was a tobbaccoist/ in town who sold cigars, pipes, lotto tickets, etc. Walking into the store was to be flooded with a variety of aromas, not only tobacco but smoke from different sources and ash. This is similar - woody, smoky, a touch medicinal, and rich with many different layers.

I'm so glad to have finally acquired a sample of this - the Aoud series is very hit or miss for me - but this really puts many of the line in perspective. Were I to be in the marketplace for a Montale Aoud, I'd have a tough decision between this and a few others I really enjoy (White, Silver, Damascus, etc. and I own Cuir). Great, great fragrance.
04th March, 2009
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Verte Violette by L'Artisan Parfumeur

As far as florals go, violette is one of my favorite notes, and I've been casually seeking out the violette perfect for me. What I've been finding is that houses interpret violette one of two ways, either very sweet (Tom Ford) or very, very dry (Santa Maria Novella and Caron). L'Artisan's entry splits the difference very well. There is a robust violette note, accompanied by iris which provides a dry, powdery background and subtle 'green' (leaf) notes. The violette is a touch sweet and to me personally is more enjoyable than the bone-dry or sugar sweet varieties.

Special thanks to ubuandibeme for getting me a nice decant of VV. I was not aware it was a boutique fragrance, but that makes sense since I've never seen it outside the LP catalog.
03rd March, 2009
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Patchoulissime by Keiko Mecheri

I loved reading purplebird's excellent review and astute description of the different approaches to patchouli by various houses.

There is nothing wrong with Patchoulissime at all - a dry, light, earthy, herbal patchouli that is as far from 'raw' or 'animalistic' as patchouli can possibly be. It's still patchouli, but by far the kinder, gentler version of patchouli. I'm firmly with foetidus in that I like my patchouli without being watered down, and while this fragrance is well constructed and would appeal to those wanting a mild patchouli fragrance, it is not for me.
02nd March, 2009
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Peau d'Espagne / Spanish Leather by Santa Maria Novella

I generally agree with my man everso on many fragrances, and in my never ending quest to sample every leather fragrance ever made I've come across many whose "Cuir" title did not match the actual scent. I was thus prepared to not be impressed with Peau d'Espagne, even though I'm something of an SMN devotee. Living now in Texas it took me quite a while to source a sample, and at times I almost pulled the trigger on an expensive blind buy.

On first spray I was entirely in agreement with everso - I got a blast of pungent herbs, woods, and amber that smelled little or nothing of leather. Not ready to give up, I gave it ten minutes and noticed the herbal notes were calming down and a leathery quality emerging. Within 20 minutes the herbal notes were merely a side note, and 30 minutes after application I was enjoying a terrifically smooth and rich leather fragrance. I'm not sure why SMN would devise such an opening except maybe that the myriad of notes that combine to create leather require these such an opening as a consequence of the ingredients used ((especially in an old-recipe, low/no synthetic formula like SMNs).

The leather is smooth and luxurious. There is a similarity to Chanel Cuir de Russie (pre Exclusifs) only the SMN has a distinctly more masculine feel to it, perhaps because of the herbal underpinnings that are always subtly present. I generally always get terrific longevity from SMN fragrances, despite their label as 'Acqua di Colonias' (which I don't think they are vis a vis concentration levels), and this is no exception. The leather note, once present, is linear and only fades slowly towards the end. Hints of the fragrance are present over 12 hours later, using 3 sprays.

*SIGH* Another Santa Maria Novella I'd like on my shelf.
27th February, 2009
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Palisander by Ava Luxe

Working my way through samples of the Ava Luxe has been a real joy - quality fragrances that are easy to wear with out compromising on artistic merit or solid construction. It doesn't hurt that there are many near-gourmands, vanillas, and others with notes that appeal to me. Even among so many I enjoy, Palisander really stands out.

I have a thing for rosewood - I love that it's depth, which simultaneous evokes rose and wood has a near-cocoa like texture to it. Other fragrance with excellent rosewood notes are Rochas Tocade and Parfumerie Generale Brulure de Rose. Palisander starts with a solid rosewood note, rich and near-gourmand, accompanied with a touch of musk and a little amber that seems to always be lurking in the background. This note holds down the fort for quite a while, in fact just when you think it's a nice, but linear, fragrance I get little whiffs of frankincense and pepper, but just enough to give more depth to the primary rosewood accord. The combo of amber and incense reminds me a bit of Tauer's Incense Extreme, only Palisander is more subtle.

I stopped paying attention for a little while and it took me a minute to remember what was on my hand. As the base emerges the incense deepens and is joined by a discrete but noticeable vetiver note, along with an increase in musk. The combo of amber, incense and vetiver sounds odd, but it works well and the interplay between the incense and vetiver is particularly enjoyable. From the base the fragrance fades well. Longevity is very good. The only negative is that the fragrance stays a bit closer to the skin than I'd like, especially with it being so enjoyable, however this may be remedied by applying the extrait formulation, which is the one I intend to purchase soon.






Palisander wood (from renewable sources), Japanese Hiba wood, Amber, Incense
Musk, Pink Pepper, Cinnamon, Vetiver
23rd February, 2009
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United States

H.O.T. Always by Bond No. 9

I'm not sure how I missed HOT Always when I was going through a lot of Bond 9 sampling a few months ago, but I did. I have an on again off again interest in Bond 9 fragrances, and lately I've been 'on again' and seeking to fill in the gaps of my Bond sample collection, hence why I ended up with a decant of HOT-A. Why does this matter? The "off again" periods coincide with when I become bored with Bond 9 fragrances. Too many are too similar, and if I sample too many of them in a short period they blend together. The Bond 9's that I like, and that seem to really stand out, are the ones that are different. New Haarlem and Silver Factory are examples such fragrances.

HOT Always is also such a fragrance. Absent is the "[insert distinctive accord here] over a fresh/floral/citrus base" that seems to be the formula for many Bonds. On application I get a blast of cinnamon and patchouli, in fact quite a bit of both. Definitely an interesting combo and one that I like. The cinnamon really adds punch to the patchouli and keeps me engaged to keep smelling my arm. The patchouli note is somewhat restrained, which I understand in the sense that Bond 9 was not looking to make a patchouli-centric fragrance. However I think HOT-A would be more interesting and successful as a fragrance were Bond 9 to have foregone restraint and gone balls out with the patchouli. Alas, they did not. Lurking in the background are a florals that fill out the scent, adding body and also balancing the camphorous nature of the patchouli/cinnamon accord. Again, I think the floral heart and base represent Bond playing it safe and choosing not to really put out a fragrance that jumps out at you (but may not be commercially viable).

The longevity was decent but not great. The initial burst is the most interesting aspect of HOT-A, and were I to own a bottle I'd probably want to reapply every couple hours to keep it interesting. I don't get much from the base in terms of published notes, just a mellowed out patchouli, slightly sweetened. This is one of my more favored Bond 9 releases, but not one I'd want to pay Bond prices for when there are so many great patchouli fragrances out there. Still, a very good release.
23rd February, 2009
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United States

Incense Extrême by Tauer

I've only recently started exploring incense fragrances and find them to be very hit or miss for me, probably a consequence of what variety of incense the perfumer is attempting to capture. What I have found is a 'vein' of incense style that I really enjoy, and I find that style present in Incense Extreme.

IE starts with a frankincense note that is clear and precise but not overwhelming. Balancing the incense is a touch of sweet-but-not-too-sweet - which I assume to be the ambergris. The incense is well balanced with the ambergris, which I suppose may not appeal to those who want a stronger incense note and smokier body. As the fragrance develops woody notes appear along with the incense, and the composition as a whole is lightly powdery.

What I really like is the transparency and delicacy of Incense Extreme. While the CdG incense series is very good, I find them a touch difficult to wear, especially to work. IE is imminently wearable, and as a wearer I can focus on the incense, the ambergris, the woody notes, or I can take a step back and just enjoy the composition as a whole. It reminds of me of Vetiver Dance in the way the notes seem to fade in and out subtly. Multiple wearings reveal different facets of the fragrance each time, and a single wearing just simply isn't sufficient to get a handle on what's going on here

IE reminds me of a slightly toned down version of Memoire Liquide Hommage and a very, very toned down version of Guerlain Bois d'Armenie. I assume thiee is the variety of frankincense that Longevity is good like the other Tauers I've tried. This clearly wasn't intended as a sillage monster but as a more discrete fragrance, thus the sillage is what it is supposed to be. I don't own any Tauers right now, but if I were to buy some this would be my second choice behind Lonestar Memories. Very enjoyable.

From Luckyscent:
Incense, touch of spices, powdery orris, cedarwood, ambergris, frankincense


22nd February, 2009
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United States

Sécrétions Magnifiques by Etat Libre d'Orange

I'm not one for hyperbole, and I've disagreed with nearly every other negative review of all the other Etat Libre fragrances (except Putain des Palaces). I thought the negative and absurd MKK reviews were way off base. Thus I figured Secretions couldn't be nearly as bad as everyone said it is (although the expert opinions I trust like Vibert and mikeperez23 did worry me a little). Well, everyone else was right.

I'm sure this is an artistic statement that someone, somewhere, understands. I'm not going to give it the opportunity to learn what that statement is. I'm not going to describe SM because I can't. I dabbed a tiny amount on my hand, spread it around, let it dry, took a whiff, and dry-heaved. I'm not kidding or exaggerating. I gave it a few minutes and the same thing happened. I scrubbed with the hottest water I could stand. Later I joked with my wife "want to smell the foulest perfume ever made?" I dabbed some on a blotter and again nearly dry heaved. My wife didn't think it was funny.

I wonder what the Henri Bendel shoppers think when they ask to smell this - or do the SAs hide it to avoid such embarrassment? I further wonder where the unsold bottles end up?

The only positive is that I give ELDO props for having the corporate balls to spend the money on a fragrance no one could possibly want for the purpose of making some sort of artistic statement. Perhaps the statement is IN the fact they are releasing an unwearable fragrance, I don't know. The remainder of my SM vial will have a second life as either a gag gift or as a mean prank to be pulled on someone I don't like by spilling it in their car.
22nd February, 2009
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United States

Jules by Christian Dior

I love Vibert's review and description as a BFFF. Jules is squarely in the category of 80s powerhouse masculines. Highly aromatic, I detect a lot of sage in its early stages with galbanum, tobacco and even a touch of citrus lurking underneath. The drydown is unusually smooth, with tobacco/woodsy notes entering the mix as the aromatics mellow out. The base is more 'leathery' smooth than actually smelling of leather. There are moments, particularly in the top/heart, when I can almost detect flashes of another 80s great, Ralph Lauren Monogram. However Monogram was anything but smooth, and in smoothness Jules is more like Aramis Tuscany per Uomo Forte.

What sets Jules apart from its brothers and makes it so enjoyable in today's age is that volume is turned down, and accordingly the 'obnoxious' factor associated with so many 80s powerhouses isn't nearly as noticeable. Accordingly, the sillage isn't outrageous (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), but the longevity is very, very good (8 hours).

Few masculines born of the late 70s/early 80s have stood the test of time so well. Polo is one, Aramis Tuscany, and the now-defunct Rochas Macassar. Dior Jules is among these greats. It's rare that I feel like wearing an 80s masculine, but when I do Jules is at the top of my list. Although increasingly hard to find do not despair as bottles are out there and can always be ordered directly from Dior in a pinch.
16th February, 2009