Perfume Reviews

Reviews by jtd

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Total Reviews: 503

Passion by Annick Goutal

The emotion passion has come to be confused with the expression of passion. Focussing on quixotic symbolic gesture, passion has come to mean any attention seeking act. With a vocabulary borrowed from the romantic comedy, itís a very long short-hand. Set this in a culture where an actionís value varies directly with the number of people who witness it and passion loses its meaning as an internal state.

Annick Goutalís Passion fits an older definition that describes an emotional state on the spectrum from enthusiasm to compulsion. Yes, there are objects of passion, but passion is what you yourself feel.

Passion, the perfume, is gorgeous. Itís a blended floral, a prospect that by itself is hit-or-miss, but itís also a combination of tropical and seasonal white florals. A failure with this mix of genres could be a disaster, but Passion is exquisite. It is identifiable and has excellent form along with an ambiguity that lends itself to mystery rather than indecision.

Mixed florals such as Patouís Joy and de Nicolaiís Number One show that the Ďprettierí aspects of a flower, the sweetness and light, are important, but the expertise lies in the perfumer's use of the rawer, less obviously fetching side of the flower. Passion draws on this underbelly of the flower to paint a mixed floral, but because it used both classical and tropical flowers, it has a larger palette to draw on. I donít find Passion overwhelming or oversized. It is buttery and textured and relaxed. Passion lets its hair down. As for us men, Passion leaves its shirt-tails untucked suggesting not so much informality as the desire for an easy range of motion. Again, passion isnít about the reading. itís about the inspired state.
30th November, 2012

1740 Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums

Perfume genres are based on composition (components): chypre (oakmoss), floral, gourmand, fougere (coumarin), oriental (labdanum), fruitchouli. Sometimes these categories are helpful. They hold together. For instance, I like chypres and I donít like sweet gourmands. But there are exceptions that make the compositional genre approach less effective. That is, Iím inclined to like fougeres and I generally donít like aquatics.

In my head I tend to use other qualitative categories that feel more functional to me. 1740 falls squarely into one. 1740 is large, full, expansive, rich. Itís rumbling, church-organ harmonious, full-bodied. Typical of the conundrum of talking about perfume, although I have a clear image of what this sort of fragrance is, I donít have a good word to name it, to describe it. My fall-back is Huge Fucking Perfumes. The fragrances in this pseudo-genre arenít necessarily alike in structure, they just wear similarly for me. They tend to fall into two subcategories: chewy/boozy (Mauboussin by Mauboussin, Kiss Me Tender, Daphne Guinness, líOmbre Fauve) and dry (Sikkim, Mahora, Yatagan, Aromatics Elixir, Cuir díIris.) Some have a foot in each camp like Aramisís JHL and Havana.

1740 is a huge fucking dry perfume. Leathery and tobacco-ish, dense but expansive, rich but not bubbly. This sort of fragrance tends to get pigeon-holed with aspirational gender goals. ĎItís the sort of fragrance Cary Grant, Morgan Freeman, George Clooney...would wear.Ď Since gender is really fantasy, the original war/role playing online-game, with the gaming community historically being humanity, letís expand the field. 1740 is the sort of fragrance that Michelle Wie, Jane Goodall or Gwen Eiffel... would wear. Worn for yourself, itís the center point between cozy and stimulating. Worn for others, it projects confidence and contentment. For me, perhaps even more than other fragrances, a huge fucking perfumes deserve to be worn primarily for yourself. Others liking it, or not, is beside the point.
30th November, 2012

L'Air du Desert Marocain by Tauer

I read Susan Orleanís The Orchid Thief years ago. Some time after, I saw the film Adaptation, about which I knew nothing except that it had something to do with the book. To make a film about the inability of the screenwriter to adapt the book was an interesting premise and I found I loved the film. It was smart and exceedingly entertaining, a balance Hollywood manages to find only rarely.

Iíd hoped to be clever enough to dream up some ingenious way of talking about líAir du Desert Marocain. I thought if I waited long enough, it would become clear. Two years down the road, Iím throwing in the towel on wit and inspiration.

I wear perfume every day, but this is the perfume I wear when I want to make wearing perfume a special occasion. I think of it as remarkable, but since Iíve never managed to be able to say anything sensical about it, remarkable is precisely the wrong word. A well-considered piece of abstract art shouldnít be judged more successful as it grows closer to the descriptive or narrative. Those criteria are irrelevant. Despite its dreamy name, líAir is an outstanding abstract perfume in that it is rich with ideas and imbued with possibility. If anything, it is more evocative than suggestive. I donít think, desert. I donít think, smoke = incense = sacred. I smell it and my head rises, my shoulders release, my eyes open and the world becomes saturated. This is how perfume is art.
30th November, 2012
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Musc Intense by NicolaÔ

I wasnít expecting armpit musk from Patricia de Nicolai. For that I look elsewhere. I might have been expecting boozy-berry-sweet. As it turns out I got neither. Musc Intense is as much a white floral as it is a musk. It starts with snappy florals, starched rather than lush. Rosey, yet white. Thereís a feel of alcohol, but not booze, if you catch my meaning. More like slivovitz than creme de cassis.

Musc Intense grows drier and crisper. Then it ignites. The heartnotes and drydown have the feel of flowers drying before your eyes. The crispness becomes brightness, the brightness grows glaring and in the end, Musc Intense has a cold-flame feel akin to Lauderís White Linen. Where White Linenís drydown reveals a warmed cheek of musky rose, Musc Intense stays blue-flame cold. This glaring tone suggests the corrosive feel of powdered laundry soap, but it does so with a wink. The implication of the cheap side of musk along with double-distilled flowers shows the humor of Musc Intense. It is simultaneously chic and cheeky.

Patricia de Nicolai is recognized for her taste and refinement. Kudos to her for spending her style-capital on a cocky and sassy yet modish little number like Musc Intense.
30th November, 2012

Nuit de NoŽl by Caron

There was a television commercial for make-up that aired when I was young. It tried to sell the viewer on the notion that nobody would even know you were wearing make-up! Not too bright, I took this to mean that make-up did nothing whatsoever. I thought if nobody notices, why wear it? To this day, Iíve never understood make-up.

Nuit de Noel strikes me similarly. It smells identifiably Ďperfumeyí yet on the level of perfume, it comes off as forcefully non-descript----intentionally under-recognizable. It is a soft chypre, soft like a seat-cushion filled with marshmallows. It doesnít evolve over time so much as it fades into the skin. Once on the skin, though, it doesnít disappear. It gives the impression of of something ostensibly hidden but easily found. Itís the person playing hide and seek who heads for the nearest tree, then hides behind it, peaking out often to see whatís happening.

Low wattage, low sillage, if you close your eyes, it might smell like either a tiny spritz of perfume or a whole lot of make-up. Great for a man if youíre willing to accept the implication.
30th November, 2012

Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens

Vanilla is a key component to both the contemporary dessert/gourmand and the classic amber oriental. Vanilla is almost inescapable in perfumery, but itís usually found in the familiar company of labdanum, balsams, resins, spices or ethylmaltol in the above genres. It takes effort to dissociate it from the foody, cuddly feel. Despite its brief plastic/cotton-candy camouflage topnote (wonderful!), un Bois Vanille does just this. After the foody misdirection, BV avoids the expected. The tease of edibility shows itself as a licorice note, not cotton candy. The licorice also keeps BV from going the amber/oriental route since the genre is almost by definition warm, round, thick. Licorice here comes off as anise-like not candy-like. Itís cool and focussed and it brings out vanillaís sharp, bitter side, making it more potent than plush.

After the expansive opening the heartnotes are fairly quiet, with a dry, airy feel that I would think to associate with frankincense, not vanilla. By drydown BV is dusty but still taut, reinforcing the point that vanilla can be strong and direct without being lush. BV stays cool as it winds down and resists becoming a skin-scent, further bucking a vanilla stereotype.

BV solves a problem for me. One of very few in perfume fan-dom, I donít like Caronís Pour un Homme. The lavender/vanilla combo has no synergy and reminds me of the feel of a stuffy head. In BV, the cool side of the licorice fuses with the vanilla in a way that I imagine Pour un Hommeís minty lavender and vanilla combo works for the rest of the world.
30th November, 2012

Diane by Diane von Furstenberg

I'd imagine that a challenge for a perfumer working on a mainstream release in an identifiable genre, with mindless briefs, insufficient budgets and vague/contradictory restrictions ('We want a big cotton-candy perfume like X and Y, but classier, edgier and, you know, not really so cotton candyish. And it should read as exclusive and expensive but, you know, not really cost anything.') is can you manage to make a good perfume?

If novelty is valued exclusively over quality, then youíre screwed. But look at some of the historically and artistically successful perfumes that were neither first nor, frankly, innovative: Mitsouko, LíHeure Bleue, Shalimar. Thereís something to be said for considering objective product guidelines: is it well designed, well produced and does it work well and consistently? My examples are the classic early 20th Guerlains for a reason. The classic perfume house is neither the designer who uses fragrance as an accessory to pump up profits, nor the niche line that employs the implicitly short term strategy of defining itself as something other than the mainstream. Chypres, orientals. Guerlain relied on recognizable genres, made exceedingly good perfumes based on these genres, the perfumes sold long and well and now are icons.

Diane von Furstenberg is a mainstream fashion company, so the expectation should be low. Fortunately she trusted the creation of the perfume to a classical perfumer, Aurelien Guichard.

Diane is not Guichardís most innovative work, but it is an exceptionally good perfume and it is perfectly legible. It is neither transparent, in the sense of cheap motives, nor simplistic. It sits comfortably in its genre, the woody, musky-floral, illuminating the best facets of the genre. It balances its opposing tendencies (light/dark, creamy/sharp) with just a touch of tension, giving an easy richness. Diane alludes to a number of perfumes from different genres. The references are more cheeky than copy-cat. The opening of the edp suggests Rochasí Tocade and Gres Cabaret. The opening of the edt evoke Aromatics Elixir and Agent Provocateur. The heartnotes of both remind me of Guichardís own Azzaro Couture. Diane is very much its own perfume. The reference to other perfumes is part of the legibility of Diane. At all times it is its own perfume, an easy musky patchouli rose with elements of the chypre, the woody floral and the oriental rounding it and padding it.

Using a recognizable genre could be safe or it could be daring. For a less talented perfumer the big-target approach makes a recognizable genre an obvious choice, especially if the project has a low budget. It makes for easy recognizability to the consumer, and if the genre is a popular one the least common denominators line themselves up. For an expert perfumer, the challenge is, how to rise above the pat, the already-tried. Guichard does so with apparent ease and with a sublte Ďin your faceí boast. He manages to make 2 variations, the edt and the edp, both of which are successful and just different enough from each other to suggest that the are distinct answers to the same question.
30th November, 2012

Lady Gaga Fame by Lady Gaga

Thank god perfume has the capacity to reveal truths that current mass media cannot. If you were to believe the visual imagery, the music, the PR, youíd assume that Justin Bieber was the tween idol and Gaga was the Edgy Artist who Will Not be Restrained ©. But Bieberís perfume, with its stagnant topnotes becomes a kool aid made with non-potable water and has at least some edge.

Gagaís scentscape of the mall shows that sheís the true tween queen. The shock appeal of stunts like the meat dress and Drastic Fashion is transformed in this perfume into the shockingly banal. Fame is a cloying, simple fruit soup. It rides a tight line between the dual sensibilities of 1) yet another faceless vapid floriberry, and, 2) worse.

Born this way? Reductionist, but thatís where the pendulum has swung and I get it. Smell this way? Good lord, no.
30th November, 2012

Jasmal by Creed

I really don't find the indolic jasmine that others mention. The opening is not appealing, but it is interesting for the fact that it does hold together some opposing elements. The topnotes , while not smelling of jasmine to me, are sharp and arid, yet green and crisp and a bit urinous.

I spent a brief paragrapsh on the topnotes. Let me be more concise with the next two and give a snapshot of the complexity and charm of the perfume in its heart and basenotes.

Gets soapy.

Smells like inexpensive lily of the valley.

I used to try to understand Creed, and felt that I just wasn't a Creed customer. Knowing that their concept ('the esteemed house of Creed') and their representation of the company strike a nerve in me, I've given them more benefit of the doubt than I otherwise would have. I'm revising my opinion. I simply don't think that the bulk of the Creed fragrances I've tried are very good. The compositions are unfocussed, often derivative and evolution of the fragrances tends to be unengaging.

To end on a positive note, I really do like Irisia.
30th November, 2012

Virgin Island Water by Creed

Virgin Island Water wants to convey "tropical." It doesn't smell so much like the Carribean as it does a Brit on holiday in the Carribean. It doesn't smell like coconuts and warm weather flowers. It smells like mojitos, piŮa coladas and suntan lotion (that's the anscestor of sunblock to you kids.) I smell VIW and I visualize the stereotypical holiday traveller. The pasty skin turning red and the oddly conceived shorts, socks and shoes combinations.

Another risk of the piŮa colada flavor is that it can evoke the scent of fabric softener. Where Angel might be able to pull off the edible/poisonous contradiction, VIW can't. But then again, I don't like piŮa coladas. The irony (well, one irony) of this perfume is that the cloying aspects would be magnified if worn in a hot, humid location, the Virgin Islands for instance.

Despite the build up to the 2012 Olympics I feel that England itself needs no PR. Does GB really need Creed, then, to export its equivalent to the ugly American, the holiday traveller with visions of 007 dancing in his head?
30th November, 2012

Original Santal by Creed

Creed engender devotees as often as they do conspiracy theorists. People either seem to fall for the story or they mistrust it. Other than Irisia, which I am partial to, I haven't found a Creed that I enjoy. Though Creed's marketing schtick is particularly ludicrous and pretentious, is it really any worse than, say, Chanel or Taylor Swift? If you accept that all marketing is lies told for the sole purpose of luring you in, then style and story really make no difference.



But Creed's marketing and mythology are such an easy read that it becomes fun. When the life of leisure and affluence is sold to you over and over with each perfume, you come to realize that they're not even trying to sell you the image of a particular lifestyle, but the very notion of aspiration. As for Original Santal itself, a century late in the game Creed want to sell you not just a perfume but an empire.

Reading between the lines of the name tells you a bit about this this perfume up front. The name and the date of release tell you the same thing twice--there won't be much real mysore sandalwood to it. "Santal": commercial sandalwood harvesting has been banned in India since the late 1990s and the dwindling supply available is too expensive for largescale commercial perfume use. As for "Original" I defer to the logic of Creed's Original Vetiver, which, not being a vetiver perfume, implies that Original Santal will not be a sandalwood fragrance.

There are a few possibilities for Creed making a sandalwood fragrance today. 1) The Creeds have hoarded pre-ban sandalwood in the wine cellars of their ancestral castle. 2) They rely on synthetic sandalwood chemicals. 3) They recreate a sandalwood scent using other elements such as cedar, woody ambers, rosewood, lactones, etc.. 4) They make a fragrance that has no particular relationship to the scent of sandalwood. 5) When thay say Mysore, they mean Australia sandalwood. My money is on # 4, but 2, 3 and 5 have a ring of truth to them.

Sandalwood oil has a number of olfactory qualities, all of which can be sensed in harmony but are clear enough to be singled out. Woodiness, sweetness, creaminess, tartness. Richness, really. OS takes the slightly wrong angle of each quality and mixes them into a murky, lingering perfume. It smells a bit like rum sick to me, but to read the reviews at rating sites like Basenotes and Fragrantica, a lot of people enjoy it.

I know I spend more time writing about Creed's talk than their perfume. And while I do believe that all marketing is equal, the differences being stylistic, Creed want to sell you a particular fiction phrased as history before they even start to sell you a perfume. Their implication of authenticity in a bottle should be questioned as closely as their perfume. Creed engender devotees as often as they do conspiracy theorists. People either seem to fall for the story or they mistrust it. Other than Irisia, which I am partial to, I haven't found a Creed that I enjoy. Though Creed's marketing schtick is particularly ludicrous and pretentious, is it really any worse than, say, Chanel or Taylor Swift? If you accept that all marketing is lies told for the sole purpose of luring you in, then style and story really make no difference.



But Creed's marketing and mythology are such an easy read that it becomes fun. When the life of leisure and affluence is sold to you over and over with each perfume, you come to realize that they're not even trying to sell you the image of a particular lifestyle, but the very notion of aspiration. As for Original Santal itself, a century late in the game Creed want to sell you not just a perfume but an empire.

Reading between the lines of the name tells you a bit about this this perfume up front. The name and the date of release tell you the same thing twice--there won't be much real mysore sandalwood to it. "Santal": commercial sandalwood harvesting has been banned in India since the late 1990s and the dwindling supply available is too expensive for largescale commercial perfume use. As for "Original" I defer to the logic of Creed's Original Vetiver, which, not being a vetiver perfume, implies that Original Santal will not be a sandalwood fragrance.

There are a few possibilities for Creed making a sandalwood fragrance today. 1) The Creeds have hoarded pre-ban sandalwood in the wine cellars of their ancestral castle. 2) They rely on synthetic sandalwood chemicals. 3) They recreate a sandalwood scent using other elements such as cedar, woody ambers, rosewood, lactones, etc.. 4) They make a fragrance that has no particular relationship to the scent of sandalwood. 5) When thay say Mysore, they mean Australia sandalwood. My money is on # 4, but 2, 3 and 5 have a ring of truth to them.

Sandalwood oil has a number of olfactory qualities, all of which can be sensed in harmony but are clear enough to be singled out. Woodiness, sweetness, creaminess, tartness. Richness, really. OS takes the slightly wrong angle of each quality and mixes them into a murky, lingering perfume. It smells a bit like rum sick to me, but to read the reviews at rating sites like Basenotes and Fragrantica, a lot of people enjoy it.

I know I spend more time writing about Creed's talk than their perfume. And while I do believe that all marketing is equal, the differences being stylistic, Creed want to sell you a particular fiction phrased as history before they even start to sell you a perfume. Their implication of authenticity in a bottle should be questioned as closely as their perfume. Creed engender devotees as often as they do conspiracy theorists. People either seem to fall for the story or they mistrust it. Other than Irisia, which I am partial to, I haven't found a Creed that I enjoy. Though Creed's marketing schtick is particularly ludicrous and pretentious, is it really any worse than, say, Chanel or Taylor Swift? If you accept that all marketing is lies told for the sole purpose of luring you in, then style and story really make no difference.



But Creed's marketing and mythology are such an easy read that it becomes fun. When the life of leisure and affluence is sold to you over and over with each perfume, you come to realize that they're not even trying to sell you the image of a particular lifestyle, but the very notion of aspiration. As for Original Santal itself, a century late in the game Creed want to sell you not just a perfume but an empire.

Reading between the lines of the name tells you a bit about this this perfume up front. The name and the date of release tell you the same thing twice--there won't be much real mysore sandalwood to it. "Santal": commercial sandalwood harvesting has been banned in India since the late 1990s and the dwindling supply available is too expensive for largescale commercial perfume use. As for "Original" I defer to the logic of Creed's Original Vetiver, which, not being a vetiver perfume, implies that Original Santal will not be a sandalwood fragrance.

There are a few possibilities for Creed making a sandalwood fragrance today. 1) The Creeds have hoarded pre-ban sandalwood in the wine cellars of their ancestral castle. 2) They rely on synthetic sandalwood chemicals. 3) They recreate a sandalwood scent using other elements such as cedar, woody ambers, rosewood, lactones, etc.. 4) They make a fragrance that has no particular relationship to the scent of sandalwood. 5) When thay say Mysore, they mean Australia sandalwood. My money is on # 4, but 2, 3 and 5 have a ring of truth to them.

Sandalwood oil has a number of olfactory qualities, all of which can be sensed in harmony but are clear enough to be singled out. Woodiness, sweetness, creaminess, tartness. Richness, really. OS takes the slightly wrong angle of each quality and mixes them into a murky, lingering perfume. It smells a bit like rum sick to me, but to read the reviews at rating sites like Basenotes and Fragrantica, a lot of people enjoy it.

I know I spend more time writing about Creed's talk than their perfume. And while I do believe that all marketing is equal, the differences being stylistic, Creed want to sell you a particular fiction phrased as history before they even start to sell you a perfume. Their implication of authenticity in a bottle should be questioned as closely as their perfume.
30th November, 2012

Pan Ame by Jean Patou

The dry fruity floral is an interesting bird. It allows for a nuance in composition that is hard to convey in a syrupy fruity floral. Patouís Enjoy has a lovely crystal upper register, and Gucci II edp includes a dry, leafy/herbal aspect that gives it a beautifully full feeling within a narrow tonal range. Pan Ame's violet pear is interesting but not quite as balanced as the other two. I imagine Pan Ame (2001) was intended to be a ladylike or grown-up version of the kiddy fruity florals that were rampant at the time, and in this respect it succeeds.

The upshot, unintentional unless Jean-Michel Duriez is a secret satirist, is that the flowers smell plastic and the fruit has an acetone bite. This is the spiritual ancestor of …tat Libreís Vierges et Torerosí vinyl floral. Wear it as you would V et T and itís surprisingly rewarding.
30th November, 2012

Girlfriend by Justin Bieber

This perfume actually makes me like Justin Bieber. Who would have thought this young celeb would choose to balance out the fruity/grapey/berry-like concoction that was given to him with the polluted harbor note of Sťcrťtions Magnifiques? Brilliant!

If SM is brackish spunk and white florals, Girlfriend is that spunk with kool-aid. The drydown arrives quickly and is pure grape-berry fruit punch, but the top and heartnotes are interesting. No joke. This stagnant marine note might have found a better home in Girlfriend than in SM.
30th November, 2012
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Excess No. 28 by Tokyo Milk

Excess is a woody, amber/patchouli that smells gritty/pretty, like sweet sawdust. It is slightly raspy and, while resinous-sweet, feels luxuriously dry. It has the tendency toward flatness that Iíve noticed in others from this line (Arsenic, Crushed) but if you look close, it has a narrow range of depth and dimension, like the finest sandpaper. This is amber that doesnít rise up and surround you. It is calm yet compelling up close and has restrained sillage. Hardly excessive, rather lovely.
30th November, 2012

Blonde by Versace

Iíve railed against the soliflor before (see Fracas) but I must stand up for Blonde. I blind-bought the extrait and was surprised to find the closest thing to tuberose flower Iíve ever smelled out of a bottle. It perfectly captures a Philip Glass-like cycle of flower, bitterness, sweetness, rottenness. The extrait holds close to the skin after the first ten minutes, when it performs for the wearer and intimates only.
30th November, 2012

Mayotte / Mahora by Guerlain

Despite the current and seemingly endless 1980s revival of cheap fashion for tweens to twenty-somethings, the 80s are gone. Thank god! Donít let that horrid decade haunt you! Still, if there were one thing that I could tease out of the 80s and bring to the present it would be polarizing perfumes. To the propagators of 1990s-styled apologetic perfumes, to the radiant Iso-E Super wearers, to the nanny perfume mob who would rid the world of fragrance (Watch out! Color is next, then oppressive fabric.) I say wear Poison! Wear Giorgio and Opium. Blast yourself with Lou Lou and walk in public in the light of day!

Better still, try Mahora. 1980s in scale, 1970s in indulgent style, 1920s in complexity and sophistication, Mahora (2000) paid tribute to the decades that preceded it as it dived headfirst into the new millennium.

From the spicy animalic start, through the creamy floral heart, to the woody-vanillic drydown, Mahora is as rich as they come. Using principles from classical perfumery, but seemingly new compositional tricks, Guerlain laid claim to the fairly unpopulated genre, the spicy-animalic resinous tropical woody floral. This perfume does draw attention to itself. So what? If you donít like it, donít wear it. Polarizing is great! Part of the aesthetics of perfumery, as in any art form, is that in addition to critical consideration, we should identify what we like and what we donít. How else can we proceed in what is both an artistic discussion and an exercise in pleasure?

That said, I disagree with those who do not like Mahora and therefore say that it is a bad perfume. In addition to its volume and attention-seeking, it is calibrated, dissonant enough to hold oneís interest and shows textbook classical evolution. Mahora shouldnít have been discontinued, it should have been studied.
30th November, 2012

Kingdom by Alexander McQueen

I pulled out my sample of the discontinued (?) Kingdom edp with the thought that Iíd single it out in my general complaint of the misuse of cumin to attempt to recreate animalic notes. When cumin is used to imply animalic notes, it typically doesnít work, smells fake and makes the perfume seem cheap. I canít say that Kingdom entirely escapes this trap. My complaint isnít that the cumin is strong, but that it doesnít actually recreate the animalic, and therefore, seen simply as a heavy spice note, is imbalanced and out of place. As I revisit Kingdom, I still find that a spurious note sinks the fragrance, but its not the huge cumin topnote. The real culprit is the mushy-musky drydown that seems like a thwarted attempt to emulate sandalwood.

Francis Kurkjianís LumiŤre Noire pour Homme made me rethink the use of cumin. It pairs a roasted cumin scent with rose and recreates the feel if not the exact scent of the rose chypres of the 1970s-1980s. Kingdom reads more as an oriental than a nouvelle chypre, but both show that cumin is more effective as a patchouli adjunct than as a castoreum/civet/musk parallel.
30th November, 2012

Crushed No. 32 by Tokyo Milk

Crushed is a bright, pretty, green, grassy jasmine demi-soliflor. Itís delish and itís balanced. It has a buoyant sweetness that the cloying fruity-florals of the world should emulate. The name says it all. It smells like a handful of springtime grass, stems and flowers rubbed together in your hands and sniffed.

It smells fantastic, but is it a perfume? I love to smell it out of the bottle and even on my skin, but I find I never wear it. It captures my difficulty with the three Tokyomilk Dark series Iíve tried (Excess, Arsenic and Crushed). Crushed is effectively a base, closer to a scent than a fragrance. I wouldnít complain if I smelled this on someone else, but I prefer to wear a true perfume. That said, Crushed, with its inherent Spring briskness, would be a great alternative for any man who wears a fragrance with ďfreshĒ or ďsportĒ in its name.
30th November, 2012

Arsenic No. 17 by Tokyo Milk

Iíve been trying a few of the Tokyo Milk Dark collection, and while theyíre deft and smell nice, I canít shake the feeling that they lack dimension. Arsenic captures this impression. It is an interesting and successful culmination of disparate notes that really does mimic the medicinal/poisonous scent of absinthe, one of its listed notes. It moves from an effervescent top notes that suggests aldehydes, to a grainy, woody heart dusted with powdered cardamom.

Although it shows evolution over a wearing, Arsenic feels two-dimensional from top to base. It suggests that itís built for a generally nonperfume-wearing Anthropologie customer who finds in it a scent that doesnít smell like her notion of ďperfumeĒ and likes it. If introducing fragrance to someone who doesnít otherwise wear it smells this good, Iím all for it.
30th November, 2012

Fleurs de Nuit by Badgley Mischka

Follow-ups to fist time successes are notoriously difficult and Badgley Mischka appear to have tried to recreate the win by following a similar strategy to the original Badgley Mischka. The original perfume was a syrupy fruitchouli released in 2006. While the genre may have been generic, the perfume was not. It dressed up a shady fruitchouli fragrance not with the intent to make it make it more acceptable, but to make it better than any others. It included layers of rot and booze that were more potent than any simple fruity sweetness. It smelled terrific and was a clever commentary on a genre that was considered hackneyed by the time of its release.

Badgley Mischkaís sophomore offering, Fleurs de Nuit, suggests jasmine and its sweet-sweaty atmosphere. Even more, it implies night-blooming jasmine, the vampire of fragrant plants, with a narcotic miasma of flowers and flesh. Unfortunately, having built expectation into its name, Fleurs de Nuit defeats itself. Without the requisite seamy side, and with the addition of a half can of cling peaches, FdN is both loud and vague, like someone who gestures madly to get your attention, and once she has it, forgets what she meant to say. Itís not that FdN isnít pretty. Itís a simple, clean jasmine with no sharp edges and no distortion. It simply doesnít stand out either on its own or in comparison to other fruity florals.

The original Badgely Mischka gave buyers a category they thought they knew and then pulled out the rug from under them. FdN takes the first part of the equation, using an easily recognizable category, here a sweet fruity floral, but neglects the other half---the twist, the subversion. Aiming for the center of the market, but with nothing new to add to it, FdN comes off as both generic and derivative. Iím not so much disappointed in the perfume itself as I am surprised and perplexed. Given the smarts and audacity of the first release, why follow up with a such a timid strategy? The answer, and the fun, really, lies in the next flaw in the strategy.

FdN apparently tries to win buyers with the dual strategy of the generic (larger potential market share) and the derivative (the herd instinct.) The herd instinct, perfected in menís fragrance and marketing, relies on the principle of safe buying, which is to say that buyers will want to try something that they identify as different from what they have, yet the distinction is so slight as to be indistinguishable to most others. Itís the daring mocha caramel 3-shot decaf trenta latte with 1 % no foam drinker one day branching out and trying the same WITH foam.

Hereís the derivation: To my nose, FdN smells like an undisguised attempt to make the jasmine version of Juicy Coutureís tuberose. Juicy Couture by Juicy Couture stripped the tuberose note of its dark side and paired it with a sweet, plastic musk sheen. Where JCís acetone muskiness shellacs the tuberose so that we see it through a prism, FdN coats its rinsed-clean flower with a sugary fruitiness and winds up like a large scale blur. In drydown, JC hangs together solidly. In FdN, although there is a slight reference to the original Badgely Mischkaís fruity Ďflavorí, itís a superficial allusion. FdN skips anything like the originalís brandy/ammonia decay, and the drydown is a fairly quick jump from blurred to bland.

I donít like to berate a perfume. In this case, though, the perfume is so formulaic, and the strategy of diving to the bottom of the middle of the pack is...what? Miscalculated? Cynical? A counterintuitive attempt to manage high expectations? For high-end frock makers to want to compete head-to-head a maker of garish track suits and diamante accessories, at least symbolically through their perfumes, is baffling. The follow-through from perfume to packaging is consistent, though. Iíve always thought that the original Badgely Mischka bottle was an example of unintended kitsch, but FdN tops it, making the Juicy Couture spangly bottle seem like a spectacle of good taste.
30th November, 2012

Love in Black by Creed

Iíve never read another review of Love in Black, so Iím sorry if Iím repeating what others have said. I saw a bottle of this in a shop and just had to try. The bottle is that matte black that people spend thousands of dollars on to paint their AMG Mercedes a sort of urban camo so that they wonít be seen wasting their 500+ horsepower in gridlock in LA traffic. This color on expensive cars is an example of the strained symbolism of contemporary demonstrations of wealth that reads like an overbred poodle. Itís so particular, so focused, so self-conscious. The desired message (ďIím hip/fashion forward/a trendsetterÖĒ) gets lost in the actual communication (ďIím so effete that if you could see inside these blacked-out windows youíd see me fussing with my pocket square and cuff links.Ē)

But who cares about the bottle? Itís clearly an iris perfume, but thereís something off-kilter about the angles of iris that are emphasized. The papery and bread-like aspects of iris root are there, but they smell stale and sour. The fascinating bit isnít the notes, though. Itís the progression. After 10 minutes of topnotes, I couldnít smell a thing. Itís as if I could Ďfeelí with my nose that the perfume was still on my skin, but I literally couldnít smell it. Did I go nose-tired that quickly, or is it the composition? I thought this was the briefest perfume in history, then oddly, another 30 minutes later, I sniffed again and found a lingering but noticeable sweet scent like inky bubblegum.

Stale bread wrapped in moist paper. Then silent running. Then bubble gum. Was this commissioned by Etat Libre? Not my thing, but pretty god damned clever.
30th November, 2012

Devin by Aramis

Devin fits perfectly into the Lauder school of boy/girl pairings. The girl side of the pairing, whether it was the original fragrance or the sequel, seems generally to be the greater of the two. Larger (Aromatics Elixir compared to Aramis 900), heavier (Cinnabar to Aramis JHL), or more forceful (Aliage to Devin.) The Aramis by Aramis/Estťe Lauder Azuree pairing is the exception to the pattern. Both are equally sharp, encompassing leather chypres but each takes a slightly different path. Perhaps this parity stems from their origins as descendents of the renown steamroller, the original GrŤs Cabochard. ĎGreaterí in this case only implies size or volume, not quality. For example I find the softened Aramis 900 lovely, but not quite as appealing as the blockbuster Aromatics Elixir. Yet JHL, with its blowsy, floral side, makes a much more interesting perfume to my nose than Cinnabar on which itís based. Cinnabar seems to aim for richness and depth but winds up mired and weighed down.

Like JHL, Devin is a toning down of the original on which itís based: Aliage. Aliage is sharp and direct, but also singing and smiling. Differently than JHL, which redirects the spicy/resinous quality of Cinnabar, Devin filters Aliage. It screens the brightness through a chypre-sieve, unfortunately losing the best parts in the process. Aliage is not so much bright as utterly clear, like brook in a snowy winter. It suggests briskness, even a slap of chill at times. Losing these very qualities, Devin is unfortunately a bit smudged, more room-temperature than cool. Devin feels like Aliage served as reheated left-overs. A particular point, Devin filters out the rich and expansive aspect of galbanum while keeping the sweetness, which, without the compensatory resinousness, appears saccharine sweet, like a shrill whisper.

Devin is one of the few instances where a chypre base is unsuccessful. It weighs Devin down without adding the smolder or mystery that the drydown of a chypre typically implies. It gives a dull opacity that constrains Aliageís defining characteristic, which is an expansiveness, a clarity. Aliageís drydown starts about 4 to 5 hours into wearing. Devinís starts in 30-45 minutes. Devin ends quietly and stays very close to the skin, possibly a goal given its male target audience. Drydown is its best side, though, and I should add that Devin, when reactivated by a little sweat/activity hours after application, has a lovely musky closeness.

Iíd prefer not simply to compare perfumes. You know, the whole Ďby comparison we sufferí bit. But all of the Lauder twins, by nature of their parings, implicitly ask for this sort of examination. With most of the other pairs, Iíve savored both and appreciate the different statements they make. I own and wear Aromatics Elixir, Aramis 900, Azurťe, Aramis by Aramis. Theyíre sensational and each has its place. In this case, though, Iíve never had an instance where Iíd wear Devin when I could choose Aliage. Boy/girl versions cannot be easy to compose. This sort of statement about gender and perfumery requires expertise and nuance in order to succeed. While I donít love Devin, the four Lauder pairings are a tribute to Bernard Chant who composed them all as well as Cabochard. Brilliant thinking, brilliant perfumes.
30th November, 2012

Dot by Marc Jacobs

Candy-berry sweetness. A summer mid-day sun reflected at you by a mirror made of sugar. Like a mirror, Dot reinforces two-dimensionality.
Everything, even sharpness, can be reduced to flatness in a mirror.

Not shriekingly chemical, or at least not any more so than any other girly perfume that presumes that fruit needs to be sweetened before being eaten. Dot is more noticeable to my nose for its lack than its presence. It doesnít ultimately smell actually fruity or floral in any truly identifiable way because it has no anchor. I wouldnít so much call it linear as I would call it purely topnotes. Itís the olfactory equivalent of a ringing in the ears.

This is the sort of fragrance I canít enjoy as a perfume even if I were to like the way it smells. Firstly, it has no connections, congenial, antagonistic or otherwise to skin. Secondly, itís like the berry version of a maraschino cherry. The cherry might have been fruit at one time, and although it still signifies fruit, is really just an odd bit symbolism (nature, bleached, then made better, sweeter, brighter) that I would remove and discard before I ate my sundae.

All that aside, I love this perfume, although Iíd be happy never to smell it again, because it was selected by my niece today at Bloomingales as I taught her how to shop for a perfume. She was thoughtful, took her time, chose Dot and is thrilled with it. I love my niece, and consequently love Dot.
30th November, 2012

Voyage by Nautica

Maybe the true problem is that I don't understand why "aquatic" fragrances are considered intrinsically aquatic. Do they bear any more relationship to water than any other particular style fragrance style? I believe it's the triple whammy of conditioning: 1) This category of scent has been used in so many masculine shower, shave, and grooming products that men have been conditioned to affiliate them with water. 2) Water, water (and glossy advertising) everywhere. Weíve grown numb to the modelsí antiseptic sweat of leisure and their stoic tolerance of the yachting life, but the water has seeped into our brains. 3) These aquatic scents are composed without any of the seamy bits that have made classical perfumes nuanced and suggestive: nothing animalic or indolic, no funky musk. No living reference point. Hence the fascinating marketing that has sold us on the scent of the ubiquitous but odorless water. Aquatic? Marine? Ozonic?! This word is one of the greatest ciphers in perfumery and advertising, proving the point that through careless repetition, a word that has no fixed significance gains a sweeping vagueness of reference at the same time that it loses any precise meaning. If I sound snobbish, I apologize. Iím simply in awe at the power of the marketing.

I found Nautica Voyage for quite cheap, hazily remembered something about it, looked up Luca Turin's review and then bought it. I love Roucel's Missoni, so wanted to try what Turin had likened to Missoni in what I had hoped would be that unicorn, that transgression of gender: the pretty, floral for men. I can vaguely smell the similar componentry to Missoni, but itís nothing compared to Voyage's derivation of Cool Water.

Voyage is Cool Water, minus. Minus the metal astringency that balances the non-specified fruit. Minus boldness. Minus refinement. Minus a nice smell.

Derivative not subversive, Nautica Voyage is one of the hordes of clones riding Cool Water's coat tails that Turin and most other perfume critics refer to at some time or other.
25th June, 2012 (last edited: 04th March, 2013)

Black Musk by Montale

I know that this fragrance is viewed as that result of crossing two other Montale scents, but I see it as an exercise in abstraction. A sharp, whistling musk, like the one in Thierry Mugler's Cologne is the perfect match to a woody quality that makes for a sort of leather scent-mirage. The wood seems like patchouli plus oud, inflected with something in the mace/nutmeg/cardamom range.

Black Musk's cleverness is in creating a tarry quality with patchouli, spice and just a taste of oud, then dry-cleaning it with a prickly musk that someone along the way surely told the perfumer was the wrong musk. No pillowy soft or bosomed musk. The result is a cool, inky leather scent that focuses more on the sharp nature of tanning chemicals than the hide itself.

I'll take this chance to own up to a bit of fumie apostasy. I don't particularly like oud, and since itís usually the overwhelming center of perfumes that contain it, most oud perfumes donít capture me. Likely this quirk has saved me a pile of money on niche perfumery and the laughingly late-to-the party top-shelf lines from the designer/perfume houses. This implicitly self-defeating strategy of the perfume houses launching Ďexclusiveí lines in order to appear Ďniche-yí has produced an inordinate number of oud fragrances. (To witness niche, copying designer, copying niche, please see the Kilian Ouds.) Very few use oud as a minor part of an accord, one where you might not even recognize oud, such as Black Muskís delicious vinyl/leather accord. Shame, yeah?
25th June, 2012 (last edited: 28th June, 2012)

Palais Jamais by Etro

Palais Jamais should be a mess. Citrus, floral, smoky, herbal, vetiver. Was that rubber? Was it supposed to be leather? Palais Jamais somehow keeps its parts distinct and well behaved. From top to base, PJ maintains an ungainly balance. The elements don't come together---that would be the mess---they just follow their courses. The lighter elements recede, the heavier notes come forward, and PJ's drydown is suggestive of a sharp, dry, smoky tea. PJ manages to suggest dry, wet and burnt simultaneously. Great trick, actually. Always captivates me.

There's something objective in tone about PJ. It doesn't come off as blended or harmonious. It doesn't become a skin scent. It stays put and asks you to approach it, to consider or admire it as you might a piece of abstract art. A successful if oddly modern attitude for such a staid design house like Etro.
25th June, 2012 (last edited: 27th June, 2012)

Bal ŗ Versailles by Jean Desprez

Bal a Versailles went right over my head when I first tried it. It seemed like an old-school, animalic/powdery floriental. Whether you like that sort of perfume or not, the balance of the elements is crucial. Bal a Versailles just missed that balance---not enough powder to hide the skank. But as I eased into it, I got it. If I didn't put it into the Genre-Box, it came into just the right gauzy focus. Sweaty, decrepit, unashamed.
25th June, 2012

Sira des Indes by Jean Patou

I bough this years ago and gave it away. I didn't dislike it; I just couldn't find a place for it. It's a bit of a grab bag in terms of genre. It lands somewhere between neither/nor and all-of-the-above. The bright side is that Sira des Indes doesnít have to follow the expectations of genre. It's breezy and tropical. It's spiced cream. It's quite sultry, and despite not fitting our genre expectations, it is very specific and isn't likely to be mistaken for anything else. And it's loads of fun to play with. Try its seepingly sweet humidity in arid desert heat. Try it in snowy winter.

I've never worn it in a hot, humid environment, but I imagine it might seem a bit mushy. This is a perfume that plays with tropical elements. In a truly tropical environment, it might read as phony. Still, try it sometime when you know you're going to sweat. The creaminess falls away, and the florals read like shimmering heat.
25th June, 2012

Iris Bleu Gris by MaÓtre Parfumeur et Gantier

Great treatment of iris root. It's there at all times; in the green soapy topnotes; in the rootlike yet powery heart; in the dry double root base of iris and vetiver.

We tend to compare iris fragrances. The scent of iris root and the aromachemicals used to recreate it comprise such a particular yet complex set of notes that comparison is almost inevitable. Dior Homme, Chanel 19, Iris Silver Mist, Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre. Yup. The most directly comparaable perfume, though is the wonderful and underestimated Bas de Soie from Serge Lutens. Iris Bleu Gris doesn't have Bas de Soie's metal cum hyacynth notes, but otherwise the heart and base, and the trajectories they follow are very close.

We speak as if Dior Homme created the first masculine iris. Jean Laporte thought to release an iris-centered fragrance in the early 1980s and it's still with us 30 years later.
25th June, 2012

100% Love by S-Perfume

Dark chocolate & berry vomit. No hyperbole, no sneering. Iím an RN and smell a lot of vomit. This smells like dark chocolate, a couple of blueberries and gastric secretions.

Is this meant to be experimental/supercilious as in Secretions Magnifiques? Itís part of the S-Perfume condom-covered line. Is it meant to refer to some aspect of sex (that apparently Iíve never experienced)?

Iím vaguely perplexed, but it smells so awful that I have no interest in returning to the scene of the crime and getting to the bottom of it.
04th June, 2012