Perfume Reviews

Reviews by ClaireV

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Total Reviews: 416

Issara by Parfums Dusita

Issara is the most immediately likeable and wearable of the initial Dusita trio. For a fougere, it is surprisingly lush and sweet, deftly side-stepping the beardy, Brut-ish machismo of most of this year’s fougere revivals (I’m looking at you, Le Barbier de Tangers) and aligning itself with softer takes on the theme, such as Chanel’s Boy. The topnotes sparkle like sunlight on fresh snow – friendly, crisp pine mingling with mint and sage, faintly sugared with tonka bean and a starchy white musk. There is a beautifully fresh, green “salt” note here, reminiscent of beach grasses and sand dunes.

I only have two issues here, really – first, that the musky, tonka-ish drydown is rather synthetic in feel, in comparison to the more natural Oudh Infini and Melodie de l’Amour (I suspect a touch too much of either Ambroxan or Iso E Super), and second, fougeres used to be the unpretentious backbone of the male grooming world, so I’m not sure if putting it in extrait form or pricing it at €295 for 50mls isn’t missing the point somewhat. Issara is a very good fougere, but for that type of money I’d rather buy a 200ml vat of Chanel’s Boy and just splash it on with gay abandon.
16th December, 2016

Mélodie de L'Amour by Parfums Dusita

Mélodie de L'Amour is, to my nose, a powerful statement on jasmine, the filthy kind that drapes the insides of your nostrils in the matte black ink of pure indole. Very little to differentiate here at first between the flat wall of scatole that rises off a fresh turd and a jasmine decaying right off the vine, which is how all jasmines would be if I had my way. Boy, it fairly pins my ears back. There is the faint breath of rotting fruit to add moistness to the dank, flat tonality here, a peach or pear perhaps, with an undertone of acrylic paint or turps.

Later, it develops a green, rubbery, creamy cheese odor that I assume is gardenia, but it is successfully managed by that wall of jasmine and never approaches the rancid horror of Dame Perfumery’s Gardenia soliflore, which smells like black spots on butter taste in my mouth. Mélodie de L'Amour is the rare instance of a floral that smells more like an animal than a plant, joining the ranks of other bloodsucking florals such as Manoumalia, Rubj, and Une Fleur de Cassie, perfumes I never know if they going to wear me, eat me, or f&*k me.

16th December, 2016

Oudh Infini by Parfums Dusita

Oudh Infini has far more of the animal, furred warmth of a pack animal than a tree or resin, so at first my nose thinks it smells heavy deer musk, not oud oil. But then I’m reminded that there are a couple of pure oud oils out there that mimic the characteristics of deer musk, such as Ensar Oud’s Yunnan 2003 oil, which has a furry thickness to it that makes me think I can just reach out my fingers and touch the warm animal in front of me.

It is a brave act, you know, to launch a commercial perfume that smells like this. Those of you who have grown up on farms will not be shocked – neither will people who wear pure oud.

But the rest of you? Prepare your nostrils, for Oudh Infini smells intensely of warm sheep, packed ten deep into a shed in winter, the warm (tallow fat) smell of their oily wool mixing with their shit-smeared backsides and the soiled straw beneath. I pick up a faint hint of roses, faded and sour like the emanation from a vase of roses in a locked room. It is not pleasant, it is not pretty, but it has impact.

Past the ferociously animalic, barnyardy opening, creamy sandalwood and vanilla turn the oud into a crottin of goat’s cheese. It’s refined and gentle – as I mentioned once to purecaramel, like dung strained through a silk stocking.

Oudh Infini does an excellent job of sketching out what one would smell in a real oud oil – evolving slowly from barnyard, feces, pack animals to runny cheese and flowers and herbs. It lacks perhaps only the more complex depth of camphor, smoke, sap, and woods that form the backbone of pure oud oil, but all the other markers are there.

However, and this is a big however, I am having trouble placing Oudh Infini in a hypothetical wardrobe. I love pure oud oil but I also love fragrance compositions that present me with a different, more artistic impression of oud. My trouble with Oudh Infini is that it smells too close to the real oud oil experience for it to succeed purely as an artistic interpretation of the oud theme.

In other words, if I want something that smells like real oud oil, why not (for reasons of cost and others) just go for oud oil? Naturally, personal preferences in terms of how we prefer to wear perfume come into it, but if you are thinking of a real oud oil experience, then there is little else as magical as an essential oil (oud oil) that can give the nose all the complexity of wood, fruit, flowers, dung, soil, and ozone without any help from a fragrance laboratory.

If I want to wear a proper perfume based on oud, I’d go for more ambitious, complex perfumes such as Oud Shamash or Oud Osmanthus. They don’t smell as authentic oudy as Oudh Infini but verisimilitude is not what I’m seeking when I wear oud-based perfumes. I want the smoke and mirrors.

16th December, 2016
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Noir Epices by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

We’ve been enjoying an amazing autumn here in Ireland. Lucky enough to live in the most sheltered spot on this rain-sodden island, we spent most of October and November trawling the long, golden beaches and kicking over the leaves in castle parks. The sun never stopped shining, temperatures barely dipped below 15 degrees, and we were all in such a damn good mood. Then one day, driving back from a jaunt to Kilkenny, I made the fatal mistake of saying to my husband, “And imagine – the kids haven’t been sick even once!”

Jesus.

Naturally, there hasn’t been a dry tissue in the house since. There’s been the flu, chest infections, and a torn cornea that necessitated an emergency hospital visit and a hefty bill (no health insurance). More familiar with hospital waiting rooms than I’d care to be, I have developed a perfume strategy that helps a bit. I wear powerfully radiant, antiseptic fumes that march ahead of me, wiping whole rooms down with Dettol before I enter, and whisper “Do not fuck with me” to receptionists.

Yeah, so, I’m wearing a lot of Noir Epices. It is a difficult, somewhat prickly perfume - a sort of stripped-down, Vorsprung Durch Technik version of Coco. Re-engineered to remove all the sweetness and ballasting amber; it’s the perfume equivalent of whittling a comfy sofa into a Philippe Starck chair.

In the opening notes, a hot pink rose stumbles onto the scene, flushed and boozy, washed down with the metallic sheen of geranium leaf. It is intensely beautiful to me at first because I get the impression of fullness – the bitter greenness of the geranium balanced by the rose, and the dry, peppery spices are backed up by rich woods. Singed orange peel and clove burn through spices, florals, and woods, purifying the unclean air around me and excoriating the flesh around open wounds. Noir Epices is the answer to the plague.

I feel fierce when I wear this, but eventually the very things that make me feel protected wear me down. Wearing Noir Epices is like putting a pure vitamin C serum on your face – the burning feels good because you know that it is active, but at the same time, the discomfort is real. Noir Epices has all the trappings of a rich spice oriental - the acidity of spilled orange juice, dry pomander woods, black pepper, an excitable rose – but completely lacks the underpinnings. There is no amber, vanilla, or creamy, hefty woods to round this out in the base, and while I understand that its appeal comes from this woody weightlessness, I would wish for a kinder, more forgiving ending. Noir Epices is a stern judge of character.

Longevity and sillage are outstanding, 7 hours at the least. I recommend Noir Epices to anyone in need of a magic potion to ward off illnesses, and to fans of spicy, dry orange-rose pomander fragrances such as Coco and Maharanih.
16th December, 2016

La Fumée / La Fumée Classic by Miller Harris

It’s funny how sometimes it’s the fragrances you love and wear the most are the ones you never bother to write about. I’m on my second bottle of this elegant woods and resins concoction, and yet now when I sit down to put pen to paper, I realize I’ve never really analyzed the notes. La Fumée performs quietly in the background of your day, like smoke from incense or oud embedded in the fabric of your clothes. It starts off on a greenish frankincense note, like crushed pine needles, pepper, and lemons, and that fresh, masculine vibe continues for much of the scent.

Wafting in and out of the composition is a light smoke note from a combination of the cade and birch tar, but there is also a dry labdanum in the mix, performing its teetering act between tinder-dry paper that’s about to catch fire and liquid tar. Creamy sandalwood takes over from the piney, terpenic facets of the frankincense, nudging the scent into a faintly sweet-and-sour sweat direction. But none of that describes how easy this scent is to wear, or how pleasurable in its humming-in-the-background way. Whereas other resin scents hit you over the head, this one wears like an elegant, transparent veil that exists only at the corner of your field of vision. It’s small but perfectly formed.
08th December, 2016

Patchouli 24 by Le Labo

It’s true that Patchouli 24 smells like smoking tar pits and the aftermath of a chemical fire in a tire factory, but that doesn’t fully explain why it’s sexy.

I remember the first time I wore this. I had been swimming in a city pool with my husband and young son, and my skin still smelled of chlorine when I sprayed it on. Somehow, the combination of pool chemicals with the burned, smoky “electrical fire” facet of Patchouli 24 and the thin, poisonously sweet slick of vanillin pooled at the base of the scent made me smell like a total badass, like Lisbeth from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, chasing a bad guy down on her motorcycle. Even though I was wearing jeans at the time, one spritz and I felt like I was dressed in a black rubber cat suit and heavy black eye liner.

Patchouli 24 makes me feel like I always thought Piquet’s Bandit would make me feel but didn’t – powerful, but also female. There is a salty-sweet “glazed ham” quality to the smoke note here that just sends me over the top. The dreaded fir balsam (or could it be vetiver?) sweat note makes an unwelcome appearance in the far drydown, but idly enough it’s not the deal breaker it is to me in other scents such as Baccarat Rouge 545 or Encens Flamboyant. The only reason I don’t wear it more often than I do is because every time I am in the car with my family, my husband stops the car to check for an electrical shortage or fire of some sort.
08th December, 2016

Oud for Love by The Different Company

Oud for Love is supposedly the feminine counterpart to The Different Company’s Oud Shamash, which I also love, but to my nose, both of these fragrances are completely unisex. Oud for Love is as beautiful as Oud Shamash, if that’s possible, but takes the (supposedly real, Laotian) oud note in a different, more gourmand direction than the smoke and woods of Oud Shamash. Here, the sour oud oil note is wrapped up in a gentle wheaten note, a hot breath of bread or cake coming from a baker’s oven. The cumin, saffron, heliotrope, and whiskey notes are probably what conspire to create this impression, a thread of sweet grains or powdered malt linking them all.

There is spice, too, in the heart, and an earthy, creamy ylang note. But the lingering impression is of gently caramelized, milky, breadiness that buffets the medicinal twang of the oud to perfection, bringing to mind long ancient wooden tables spread with sweetmeats, honey, and freshly-baked bread in drafty banquet halls in medieval castles. Still, the balance tilts more towards woods than food, and it is only very subtly sweet, in the way that bread and milk and whiskey are contain a natural, round sweetness of their own. Highly recommended to people who find most oud compositions to be too harsh, sour, or medicinal – this is an oud that’s been breastfed and wrapped up in a cashmere shawl.
08th December, 2016

Santal de Mysore by Serge Lutens

When I first smelled Santal de Mysore, I said to myself, as long as Serge Lutens keeps making this fragrance, I will be happy. If all my other bottles were to be destroyed in a fire, I’d be ok with just this one. Hyperbole? Probably. Just trying to get across how much I love it.

What I value most about it is its dichotomy. It is both wet and dry, and intensely so at the same time. At first, the wet elements come to the nose – a big, spicy red butter curry with blisteringly hot black peppercorns crushed to release their oil, and something green, frondy, and aromatic, perhaps dill or fresh fenugreek. There is a tamarind sourness to it but it is also very sweet, as if cubes of salted caramel have been set on top to slowly sweat down into pools of butter.

I don’t understand when people say a perfume smells like a curry like that’s a bad thing? I can think of no better smell than this. My mouth waters at the host of hot spices and aromatics. I slaver like Pavlov’s dog every time I go near the stopper.

Talking of the stopper, sniffing Santal de Mysore from the bottle gives me a jolt of recognition every time, because it smells like real Mysore sandalwood. But on the skin, this impression disappears, as the big building blocks of flavors and spices jostle each other for position. Drawing your nose back from your arm, you notice these clumps of notes magically coalescing into a true Mysore aroma – deep brown, buttery, arid, resinous. Salted butter dried and made into a red dust. Put your nose back to that spot on your wrist, and the Mysore impression falls apart again. This is a fragrance that plays peek-a-boo with its wearer, and it’s mesmerizing.

The wet, creamy curry accord hangs around, but it flips on a switch to dry, aromatic sandalwood dust when you’re not looking. Look again and it switches back to wet and spicy. When I catch glimpses of the dry, dusty facet, it smells like zukoh, a powdered sweet incense that combines camphor, cloves, and sandalwood. The drydown is pure magic, the curry notes fading away to a caramelized sandalwood incense aroma, with hints of honey and amber rounding out the dry woodiness.

Why do I find Santal de Mysore such a gorgeous, satisfying wear? Because it’s not a straightforward representation of sandalwood like Tam Dao or Wonderwood. It takes you to a fantasy Mysore sandalwood destination by way of the Silk Road, weaving through curry spices, aromatic oils, and incense sticks as we go. It’s also a scent that makes your perceptions of it turn on a dime: wet then arid, savory then sweet, creamy then dusty, spicy then herbal and green. Sandalwood in a House of Mirrors – its basic shape remains the same but what we see each time we look is different.
08th December, 2016

Oud Luban by Aftelier

I like to think that when he died, Leonard Cohen was laid naked in a white shroud, anointed from head to toe in Ancient Resins, and then burned on a pyre that floats off down the Ganges. But recently, I learned that Cohen loved more than one of Mandy Aftel’s creations. In fact, Cohen wouldn't go out without a drop of her Oud Luban on his person.

Learning that made me reassess my imagining of Leonard Cohen as a gloomy, depressive poet, anointed with the biblical-smelling Ancient Resins. Because Oud Luban is an oud fragrance that takes what Luca Turin mentioned as an “inherent brown study grimness” characteristic of the material and shoots it through with a light-strobing blood orange note that makes it feel like liquid late-afternoon sunshine.

Superior, Hojari-grade frankincense from the Dhofar desert in Oman adds a bright, terpenic freshness that sidles up to the citrus and supports it – think crushed pine needles, with their juicy, lemony, green scent on your fingers after you touch them. And all this against a very smoky, leathery oud oil that is darkness personified. A superb, natural-smelling, joyful balancing of dark and light, Oud Luban displays a sort of switching-on-of-the-Christmas-lights effect.

I don’t think I have ever smelled a perfume that works oud quite like this. The smoky, growly undertones of real oud are there alright – no mistaking this for a synthetic variant – but its usual tendency to spread its gravel-voiced gloominess over everything has been reined in by the bright, citrusy resin elements. I think of it as humorous and hopeful.

And maybe this humorous, fey thing is a truer portrait of Leonard Cohen than my historic, mental imagining of his character. My dad recently told me a story he had read somewhere, of Leonard Cohen at a party. He just sat down on his own, picked up a guitar and started to strum, quietly humming the words to one of his famous songs. Bit by bit, women, young and old, began to kneel down at either side of him, listening intently. One of his friends whispered to him, Leonard, did you notice that you’re surrounded by women. Without looking up from his guitar and strumming away, he whispered back, “Works every time”.
05th December, 2016

Ancient Resins by Aftelier

Ancient Resins by Aftelier was developed by perfumer Mandy Aftel in cooperation with, and expressly for, the great Leonard Cohen himself. It smells exactly what you’d think a Zen guy like Leonard Cohen would like – a warm treble base of resins that balances the bitter, cleansing properties of something that might be used in a Shamanic ritual with the dusty smell of wood, paper, and rosin breaking down in old record stores or bookshops.

I’m not sure it makes much sense to analyze this beautiful oil too much – just let it wash over you in a peaceful wave, just like Cohen’s music – because it is, at heart, just a collection of resinous basenotes. And yet, the total effect is uplifting in a way that belies the simplicity of the blend.

Balm of Gilead is a note that jumps out at me, though, for its unusual biblical associations. Looking it up, it seems that the name refers (in religious history) to a balsam that was used as a spiritual balm to weary souls in Talmudic, Old Testament, and Muslim/Arabic history. Sources differ over what species of tree actually produced this balsam, although it seems to be either from mastic (green, herbal-smelling), pine, or terebinth /turpentine trees.

Although the opening notes of the oil are indeed very pine-like, I assume that this comes from the terpenes naturally present in the frankincense, because Mandy After clarifies that the Balm of Gilead note in Ancient Resins comes from poplar buds, from the Populus species of tree. These trees produce a nicely balmy scent on the white undersides of their leaves, and are used to produce the modern-day versions of the Balm of Gilead – basically, a wound- and spirit-healing balm.

And Ancient Resins is healing. It is healing and calming and restorative. I can see why Leonard Cohen reportedly wore this every day of his life. I was, coincidentally, wearing Ancient Resins in my hair when I heard that he had passed away. I had been using it almost every day since I received a generous sample of it, because the American elections had just taken place and I was feeling stressed out. Ancient Resins seems to have the power to right everywhere that is wrong in the world, just like Cohen’s music. A knitting together of things that have been fractured.
05th December, 2016

Soliflore Tuberose by Dame Perfumery

After my scarring experience with Gardenia, I was almost wincing the thought of having to try Tuberose, the last Dame Perfumery decant included in my swap with my American friend. Thankfully, Tuberose smells just like the tuberose used in Tubereuse Criminelle, which is to say, beautiful and slightly ugly and a bit weird (in a good way). It goes on smelling like spilled fuel, rubber, camphor, and Listerine – you know, tuberose. It’s just tuberose, doing its tuberose thang. You either like it or you don’t, but this is a good, straight-forward rendition for the purists out there that can’t hack the oddness of Tubereuse Criminelle, the smoky tobacco of Tubereuse 3 Animale, or the hallucinogenic green freshness of Carnal Flower. Me, I will stick to the more evolved stuff. I got bored of this quite quickly.
05th December, 2016

Soliflore Mimosa by Dame Perfumery

I lived in a country that held a mimosa festival every year, with parades and little girls wearing head garlands of mimosas threaded together – so I know what mimosa smells like.

Honestly, mimosa smells a bit odd at first. The perfume, Mimosa, is very true to the bloom in that it comes out of the bottle smelling like a golden, clear vegetable oil, slightly flat and oily to the nose. Within this oil aroma, there are small puffs of something quite like heliotrope – almond-like, puffy, sweet, reminiscent of Johnson’s Baby Oil, only not as “purple” or “cherry pie”-like. There are also whiffs of glue, the kind you give your kids to use for art projects. All in all, a very odd but childishly appealing aroma. Not terribly floral, but very true to life.

Later on, a powdery “yellow” pollen tonality develops, which in turn ushers in a sweet, translucent cucumber note. From this point onwards, the scent of Mimosa is mostly about that cucumber and pollen combination, which suits me just fine. I like this aspect of mimosa. The second part reminds me very much of Jo Malone’s Mimosa & Cardamom, which in turn reminds me a bit of the milky cucumber/dill/gripe water side of Le Labo Santal 33. But if you want to experience mimosa on its own, then this soliflore – Mimosa - is an excellent point of reference.
05th December, 2016

Soliflore Gardenia by Dame Perfumery

Gardenia from Dame Perfumery is a no-go for me, I’m afraid. I admit I’ve never smelled a gardenia in real life, but if it smells like this, then keep it far away from me. I am quite willing to recognize that this is very true to life, given that all the other Dame Perfumery soliflores are remarkably true to their source material. But tell me, does gardenia really smell like moldy butter, melted candy canes, and plastic? Because this is what Gardenia smells like.

Upon spraying it, I was immediately assaulted by the stench of butter that has developed black spots, and forgive me if this reference strikes you as being overly specific, but it is a clear olfactory memory from my time living in Belgrade in 2001.

Back then, the country was just opening up after years of NATO sanctions and obviously German producers were dumping all their stock on us cheaply. I would buy Meggle butter from the supermarket, and maybe 7 times out of 10, there would be black spots on it. If you have ever smelled butter that has gotten to this stage, then you’ll know that it is one of the worst smells in the world. Sometimes, the black spots would be slow to emerge and you’d eat some of it, and immediately your mouth knew that, shit, this was black spot butter.

Later, it developed into a creamy candy-like smell that my five year old son identified as “sweeties”. He thought it was pleasant and asked me to buy it. I guess he never smelled black spot butter – his father and I had only begin dating when black spot butter was a part of our lives, otherwise he never would have asked me. I have bought a fair few perfumes on his request (Un Bois Vanille, Etro Heliotrope) but I’m afraid I can’t indulge him here. Even the memory of it is making me dry-retch.
05th December, 2016
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Soliflore Narcissus by Dame Perfumery

I think Narcissus is the clear standout in the Dame Perfumery soliflores I have thus far tested, although they are all very true to their source materials. Narcissus smells extremely dirty when first sprayed, like a men’s bathroom that had been hastily (badly) cleaned with cheap disinfectant, a nuance that runs very true to the flower’s fetid, inky barnyardy smell in nature.

But given a few minutes to settle, the sillage blooms with all the nicer aspects of narcissus itself – the yellow, oily pollen, the stemmy green aroma, the pale sweet powder, honey, grass – a heart-warming mixture of green and yellow hues, a ripped-from-nature smell that was both rudely animalic and elegant.

Wearing Narcissus allows me to recognize just how important a role narcissus plays in the grander compositions of Chamade and Le Temps d’Un Fete. It also confirmed that Romanza by Masque is stuffed to bursting with the stuff. Excellent work, and it makes me want to explore even more of Dame Perfumery's soliflores. A strange fact about this fragrance, though – it smells much nicer in one’s sillage than close up, on the skin, where it retains that dirty bathroom facet.
05th December, 2016

Elixir des Merveilles by Hermès

God, Elixir des Merveilles is such a weird perfume. The first time I tried it, I remember thinking – this right here is why people hate perfume. It was overly rich, sweet, muddy, with all the elements jumbled together in that overdone blur that defines “Rich Bitch” perfumes to me. The second time I tried it, I thought “I should learn how to read labels better” because I’d been aiming for the Ambre bottle.

Third time round, something clicked for me and I began to like it. Now I have odd, sudden cravings for it. I think it’s because I was finally able to figure out its structure. There are two sides to Elixir des Merveilles – the syrupy orange peels dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt on one side, and on the other, a massively butch clutch of resins and moss. It’s basically a super-gourmand grafted onto a super hairy-balled aftershave.

Both sides are as oversized as clown shoes. The oranges dipped in caramel and chocolate are sweet to the point of being grotesque. One minute you think it’s gorgeous, the next you think, Christ, this stuff is absolutely gross. The sprinkling of what feels like celery salt over the treacly mass is probably one step too far. I swing between feeling repulsed to wanting more. The countermanding element is rather chypre-like: a brusque, musky cedar, smoky balsams and resins, moss. It’s really quite dry, bitter, and smoky.

The exaggerated forms of the two parts give the perfume a cartoonish Jessica Rabbit shape. It’s like watching an overloaded plane trying to take off or Kim Kardashian walk across the road in a tight skirt. You half fear it’s going to topple over any minute. But somehow the whole thing seems to hang together and work quite well. It’s a great winter gourmand, and the oranges and resins make me think of Christmas and oddly, Theorema.

Just don’t put this on if you’re not in the right mood for it, because it sticks like glue and seems to grow grander by the minute. At times, I find it enveloping and rich – just right for a cold winter’s day. But at other times, it begins to wear me down. When my hand glides over the small bottle of it that I bought, I have to think twice before putting it on.
05th December, 2016

Vento nel Vento by Bois 1920

One of the most satisfying fragrances I’ve worn in a while. Like Dior’s Mitzah, Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute, the recent Contre Bombarde 32, and Bois 1920’s own Real Patchouly, Vento nel Vento blurs the lines between amber, incense, spices, and woods, making it rather difficult to pin down. Which is exactly what I like about it.

Listen, this is not ground-breaking stuff. But it is a good kitchen-sink of a thing that’s absolutely perfect for when you feel like wearing something oriental-ish without condemning yourself to a full day of enough straight-up amber to put you in a sugar coma or, worse, a monastic incense that feels like a hair shirt by dinnertime. This gives you everything rolled into one – amber, resin, smoke, spice, sugar, patchouli – boom! And you’re done.

The opening is all about balmy, dark frankincense paired and smoky labdanum resin, lifted by a thyme or rosemary note that makes me want to bite my arm. The herb is phenolic, like smoke rising off a tar pit, making me think of the burning thyme note at the top of Interlude Man. I don’t get any of the listed peony or pink pepper notes, thank God. I bat those things away like flies on my burger.

Although it is not sweet at this point, the smoke and herbs are balanced out by a smooth, round element that I can’t define exactly but adds a toothsome, edible quality. Perhaps it is the lemony cream of the elemi resin. But it almost reads like soft black licorice vines, the mild ones perched precisely between sweet and salty and whose major selling point is their satisfying yield as you bite into them. Vento nel Vento gives good chew.

The slightly tarry, smoky labdanum stretches out into the heart, and as the thyme and frankincense taper off, it is joined by a smooth amber and patchouli. It’s at this stage that I’m most reminded of Mitzah and Real Patchouly, because they share something of this honeyed, labdanum-driven amber accord, its golden clarity given depth by the bittersweet, earthy patchouli.

There is a small touch of oud in the heart, enough to give it an interesting sourness that smacks of wood chips and herbs soaked in water before distilling. The oud note is very subtle and natural-smelling here – no harsh, synthetic off notes at all. Indeed, one of the things I appreciate the most about Vento ne Vento is just how natural it smells to me.

Another thing I appreciate is its round, creamy feel. Often incensey ambers or ambery incenses ruin the effect by having one element stick out too much, such as a too-sharp herbal note or an overload of vanilla. In Vento nel Vento, the whole is perfectly round, smooth, and integrated. It is complex, but so perfectly blended that no one note catches at your skin like a forgotten clothes pin.

Vento nel Vento starts off with immense volume (sillage) but does a surprisingly gentle fade-out so that it becomes very quiet after 3-4 hours. In the base, a beautifully salty-sweet ambergris note starts to glow from underneath the pool of creamy sandalwood, contributing a musky, salted caramel glaze to the finish. It is subtle – not so much the smell of ambergris tincture itself with its usual marine and earthy funk, rather the effect of white ambergris, which has little scent of its own. White ambergris, the finest grade, acts instead as a magnifying glass held up to the other notes in the composition. Here, it adds a sensual, skin-like glow that animates the resins, amber, and sandalwood like blowing onto hot coals.

For what it’s worth, every time I’ve worn my sample of Vento nel Vento, it has garnered the most compliments I have ever received outside of Bottega Veneta EDP. Not only from my family, but from complete strangers on the street, staff at my daughter’s nursery, and even a policeman! Go buy it if you have the money – it’s a limited edition of only 1,920 bottles, so when it’s gone, it’s gone.
17th November, 2016

Arbolé Arbolé by Hiram Green

Hiram Green’s new fragrance, Arbolé Arbolé, is his best work yet and the one that I would race out to buy in a heartbeat. Featuring woods and patchouli this time, Arbolé Arbolé, is the perfect autumnal riposte to Green’s entry for Spring, the bright and sunlit Dilettante.

There is a wonderfully soft, smutty quality to the patchouli used here – it’s quite clearly patchouli, but there are no headshop undertones, and it is not camphoraceous, green, or oily. Instead, it has a pleasantly stale, waxy chocolate softness that recalls vintage make-up, heavy silks taken out of storage in cedar trunks, and huge beeswax candles dripping over everything.

There is no beeswax in Arbolé Arbolé, though. Hiram Green does not use any products of animal origin in his all-natural perfumes, be it beeswax or ambergris. However, there is no denying that there is a homeopathic “waxy” thread running through most of Hiram Green’s perfumes, a sort of cosmetic, floral wax tonality that smudges the corners of the other notes and gives the perfumes a slightly retro, vintage glamour. His perfumes wear as if lit from within by candlelight.

If you’re used to modern woody fragrances, with their piercing synthetics blowing them up into bombastic stadium-fillers, then Arbolé Arbolé will ask you to adjust your television set. Natural perfumery is where the nose goes to take refuge from the eternal parade of modern woody ambers. Arbolé Arbolé takes cedar, patchouli, and sandalwood and melts them down into a silky wood smoothie.

All of the individual characteristics of the raw materials – the cedar, patchouli, sandalwood – have been rubbed off and sanded down until only a smooth, integrated woodiness remains. There is none of the normal bitter muskiness of cedar, none of the raw, earthy, or leafy facets of patchouli, and the sandalwood registers only as a unifying texture of creamy butter.

There is a faintly smutty, sexy quality to this perfume that appeals enormously. There is no musk used here, for obvious reasons, but there is nonetheless a vegetal muskiness that smudges the outlines of the different woods used, almost like ambrette but with none of the green apple peel rosiness that goes along with it. Arbolé Arbolé also shares the same soft, warm “musky cocoa powder” sexiness with Mazzolari Lei and Parfumerie Generale L’Ombre Fauve, both of which also blur the lines between patchouli, musk, and ambery-vanilla aromas so smoothly that the nose doesn’t immediately recognize one or the other.

However, those are both perfumes that mix naturals and synthetics, so they may not be the best point of comparison. In the sphere of natural perfumery, I think that Arbolé Arbolé has a similar feel to some of Neil Morris’ work in America, especially the slightly grungy, waxy (and surprisingly vintage-smelling) patchouli used to great effect in Prowl. Arbolé Arbolé is smoother and more refined; lighter in texture. Fans of Loree Rodkin’s Gothic I might also want to check out Arbolé Arbolé because it shares something of that waxy vanilla-patch vibe.

Arbolé Arbolé takes its name from a famous Lorca poem where young suitors try to persuade a young girl picking olives to go off with them (but she refuses). In my mind, while wearing the perfume, I can see the golden brown colors Lorca describes when talking about the darkening afternoon light:

When the afternoon had turned
dark brown, with scattered light,
a young man passed by, wearing
roses and myrtle of the moon.

Arbolé Arbolé has incredible sillage and tenacity on my skin for a natural, and yet it never feels muddy or thick. It is a linear but thoroughly warm and sensual experience for me, with only slight transitions in the body of the fragrance from waxy wood smoothie to faintly powdery vanilla. It is sweet in a natural, woody way, and the powdery touch at the end is not excessive. Personally, I absolutely love it.
16th November, 2016

Plein - Jeu III-V by Sauf

Plein Jeu III-V (no way I’m remembering that without an index card) was supposedly inspired by a flight of angels, and in many ways is the clearest link to LAVS, because it employs the same peppery, slightly soapy incense accord.

Plein Jeu makes great use of aromatics and citrus, with the contrast between the hot ginger, zingy citruses, and cold, waxy/green frankincense providing a lively, interesting start. There is jasmine in the heart, of the cool, fresh variety, but the note doesn’t really hold its own against the peppery, oily frankincense that dominates.

It is nicely smoky, pure, ethereal, and there is a slight creaminess that links it clearly to the other two in the collection: Contre Bombarde is ambery-creamy, Voix Humaine is floral-creamy, and Plein Jeu is black peppery-creamy.

By running so close to the sacred church frankincense theme, however, Plein Jeu risks being muddled up in the same category with other, perhaps greater peppery, cold church incense fragrances such as Avignon, Bois d’Encens, and even LAVs.
14th November, 2016

Voix Humaine 8 by Sauf

Voix Humaine 8, inspired by an organ stop called Vox Humana that imitates a human voice, layers a very bare-bones incense accord with a host of creamy, sweet white flowers, chief among them orange blossom.

I don’t care much for the rather skeletal, modern Iso E Super incense accord here, but the chemical taste in my mouth recedes when the sugar, milky floral accords are drip fed into the composition. There’s a very pleasant meringue-like airiness to the florals here, like rice grains puffed up to double their size in hot milk and sugar.

It’s an interesting fragrance because it’s basically a pared-down Buxton or Schoen-type incense exoskeleton layered with a sweet, sugar white floral like By Kilian Love. Ultimately, it turns a little too soapy and clean on me to enjoy fully but I appreciate the attempt to land a white floral incense without immediately calling to mind Chanel No. 22 or Passage d’Enfer.
14th November, 2016

Contre Bombarde 32 by Sauf

Of the SAUF trio, Contre Bombarde 32 is the clear standout and my personal favorite. I see this fragrance as an improvement over LAVS, which although soaring and celestial, was too soapy and cold for my taste. It also had a hollowed-out feel to it that made it slightly depressing to wear.

Contre Bombarde 32, a name that just trips off the tongue, takes the beautiful incense from LAVS and layers it with an immense, sugared amber with burned sugar edges and sweet, dirty old church pew wood, giving it a far more satisfying, chewy texture that fills the mouth.

The opening is quite bitter and green, zinging with unburned, lemony elemi resin, bitter orange, and a brusque, sourish cedar, but quickly it becomes creamy with amber, sugar, and resin-rubbed woods. Think LAVS crossed with Amber Absolute crossed with the unctuous gourmandise of Rosarium by Angela Ciampagna and you can begin to imagine what a toothsome experience this is.
14th November, 2016

Stash by Sarah Jessica Parker

I read somewhere that Sarah Jessica Parker wanted her new perfume to smell like contraband, hence the name Stash. But the first image that jumped to mind when I heard it was the abbreviation of “mustache” and the association has stuck. The mustache association turns out to suit the perfume perfectly – it’s as sexy and androgynous as a pretty girl dressed in drag for the night, fake mustache included.

Stash starts off as dry as a bone, with a bitter, peppery cedar dressed up with a sinus-clearing sage note. There’s a faintly watery-milky green note floating around in there that reminds me somewhat of the green violets in Santal 33 and the minty fig leaf in Santal Massoia, but the green note doesn’t direct any of the focus away from the dry, masculine woods. Add in some frankincense and what emerges is a creature in the same mold as Kyoto by Comme des Garcons – a stripped-down, minimalist cedar-incense with a tinge of something green and resinous.

My feelings about this are mixed. On the one hand, I think that Parker has succeeded in making a fragrance that is as anonymous and androgynous as Santal 33 and Kyoto – perfect for that low-key sexy vibe that Manhattanites go nuts for. It shares that same intimate, but at the same time oddly room-filling woody radiance that makes people wonder if you’re wearing perfume or if it’s just your skin and clothes that smell so good. The sage note, in particular, gives that witchy impression of a good, cleansing smoke-out to drive away djinns.

But the flip side of that premise is that Stash is a perfume that smells better at a distance than up close, on the skin. It’s a more of a scent of an ambiance - a gift to other people in your vicinity – than a pleasure for your own nose. None of the elements here truly work for me – I am unenthused about the bitterish cedar (mostly because in recent years, cedar has come to be synonymous with Iso E Super and Cedramber, even when the real stuff has been used, as here) and the dry sage, vetiver, and pepper make me think of dreary generic masculines.

I will give it this: somewhere in Stash’s development, all the dry, woody elements coalesce into a sweet, creamy finish that reads – at a distance – as sandalwood. Sometimes, days later, I catch a whiff of it on my sweaters and I fall in love with it. So I spray it again and am disgruntled, all over again, by the weak, bitter cedar and watery green notes that I find so bony and unsatisfying. Fast forward a few hours, and I am entranced by the creamy cloud that now surrounds my person. I smell warm, approachable, and ready for a hug.

In the end, I also struggle a bit with how to evaluate Stash fairly. It’s like talking about the smart kid who’s eons ahead of his classmates in Grade 1, but bump him ahead to Grade 3, and he struggles a bit. Stash is clearly head and shoulders above other celebrity perfumes – it is cool, sexy, androgynous, and not at all sugary or dumb. Bumping it up into the niche category, among whose brethren Stash really should be evaluated, and I find that it still holds up pretty nicely against similar stuff like Santal 33, Santal Massoia, Kyoto, and Tam Dao. It doesn’t stand out in that company. But it doesn’t fall too far behind either.

I've been wearing it a lot. It's a perfect little thing for autumn - slip it on, forget all about it, and go kick over some leaves.

Price-wise, Stash is a much better deal than any of those androgynous, woody-incense perfumes in the niche category, and so I recommend it thoroughly to people who are into this type of scent but who want to achieve the same effect with less money. I paid €32 for a 30ml bottle, shipped over to me free from the UK Superdrug. I just found out that you can buy it in Boots, but you pay €45 for 30ml. God, people in the Republic of Ireland get completely shafted on price – better buy direct from the UK, if you can.
14th November, 2016

Au Coeur du Desért by Tauer

Au Coeur du Desert is the extrait version of L’Air du Desert Marocain. But certain nuances have been dialed up and some down, so that while it is recognizable as a twin to the original, it is definitely a fraternal rather than identical twin. Those who love L’Air will love Au Coeur too; but maybe those who found L’Air too demanding to wear may find a version that suits them better in Au Coeur.

The petitgrain in the topnotes has been turned up a pitch and extended far into the heart. This drenches the scent in a bracing, citrusy sourness that momentarily reads as very masculine, petitgrain being a popular feature of fresh, lemony aftershaves. The citrus is so bright and piercing that it throws the other notes into deep shade, making the cedarwood and patchouli seem darker. If L'Air du Desert Marocain was the red-gold of the desert sands and the harsh glare of the sun, then Au Coeur is a melting chocolate brown, the color of the long shadows of a log cabin lit only by the fire.

The spice notes are searingly dry – cumin and coriander seeds dry roasting in a cast iron pan over an open fire. The coriander in particular seems to have a very dirty edge, and teamed with that bright sour petitgrain, there is a brief impression of a lemon rolled in dirt. This sudden maleness, a slight undertone of male funk, was always present in L’Air du Desert Marocain, though. The spicy funk survives in Au Coeur intact.

The tinder-dry, papery Atlas cedar has been strengthened, and there is also more patchouli, but it the dry, clean type of patchouli (possibly even patchouli coeur, an extraction of patchouli that takes the clean, dry part and discards the damp, chocolatey facets). I am also convinced that there is an iris-leather accord hiding in the heart, because there is something of Lonesome Rider’s bright, dusty leather here.

All this creates that familiar feeling of being surrounded by smoking, papery cedar trees. Except whereas L’Air du Desert Marocain puts you outside in the desert with the smell of cedar trees on the hot air, Au Coeur conjures up an inside space: a log cabin with a crackling fire, every piece of furniture made with dry, aromatic cedarwood.

The greater focus on the woods (cedar and patchouli) means that I would call Au Coeur de Desert a dry, aromatic, spicy woods fragrance rather than the dry, aromatic, spicy amber-incense fragrance that is L’Air du Desert Marocain. To my nose, the ambroxan has been turned down a bit in the extrait, so instead of the dry, sweet n' salty crackle of ambergris, the smoky cedarwood and spices simply fade out, getting softer and slightly sweeter with time.

The increased dosage of certain materials – the patchouli, the cedar, possibly iris – has the effect of rendering the texture of Au Coeur denser and slightly moister than its big brother. By no means would I call Au Coeur creamy, but it is certainly less parched.

Of course, this has an effect on the overall feel of the fragrance. Where L’Air du Desert Marocain is airy and scaled to cathedral proportions, Au Coeur has less air between its molecules and is confined to a smaller, cozier head space. It wears more closely to the body and although its longevity is truly stupendous, it speaks with an indoor voice. The same dry heat connects them both, but their expression of that heat is different.

It must have been a helluva thing, creating a flanker to an acknowledged masterpiece of perfumery. It would have to land exactly on that sliver-thin wedge of the wheel between the magic that made the original so great and something new to chew on. I think Au Coeur du Desert more than succeeds. I don’t think it will convert the haters, but it will surely give those of us on the fence a little push. Warmer, plusher, and more intimate in tone, if anything, Au Coeur will bring more women into the fold.
06th November, 2016

03. Apr. 1968 by Rundholz Parfums

I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Rundholz 03.Apr.1968, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me since I also fell hard for al02 by biehl parfumkunstwerke, by the same perfumer, Arturetto Landi. This is obviously a perfumer who likes to balance out bitter resins with mulled wine and stewed fruits. I bet he is the kind of man who would never take his morning espresso without something dolce on the side, an amaretto or a ricciarello perhaps. My kind of man, in other words.

What Landi has done with 03.Apr.1968 is to take the minimalist structure of church incense and flesh it out with a gaudy array of rich, bitter, and tooth-rottingly sweet flavors. It smells like a fat wodge of Christmas cake doused in brandy and set to burn on a priest’s censer alongside a hulking lump of frankincense. Underneath these smoky, soiled-fruit aromas, there is an enticing whiff of heliotrope, a huge purple chunk of marzipan charred at the edges. Smoke fights with burned sugar, and we all win.

The fruit, in particular, is what makes this incense smell unholy, so unclean. It is supposedly lychee, but really it could be any fruit – apples, raisins, dates - because the fruit is so close to collapse that all you can smell are the high-pitched alcohol fumes of decay that belong exclusively to fruit. Joined with a phenomenally dry, dirty frankincense that flits queasily between clove and bay leaf, the fruit is anything but wholesome.

Luca Turin was the first to point out that the appeal of Amouage’s Lyric Woman lay in its “plangent, overripe note, the exhalation of forgotten fruit in a sealed room.” The rotting fruit note achieves a similar effect for 03.Apr.1968, at first coming off as a little stomach-churning, but then working to moisten and plump up the bitter, austere incense.

Many people have compared 03.Apr.1968 to the late, great Norma Kamali Incense, and yes, there is most certainly a kinship. The frankincense used here is similarly dry and almost stale, lacking all the fresh lemony/pine-like nuances usually associated with frankincense. Reacting with the fruit, booze, and sugar, the frankincense takes on the spicy bitterness I associate with copal resin, which along with smoky labdanum is what gives Norma Kamali its unique character.

But in truth, 03.Apr.1968 occupies the same general category of incense as Norma Kamali rather than smelling exactly like it. They are both fatty and overstuffed, the very opposite of the crisply tailored haikus of Comme des Garcons. They are both rather dirty and unwholesome – the type of thing to wear to a bacchanalia rather than to church. But nothing really smells like Norma Kamali Incense. And that’s as it should be. However, for my money, the puffy, burned sugar heliotrope touch makes 03.Apr.1968 makes for an easier wear.

Well, easier, but by no means easy. It’s a huge, potent fragrance that takes commitment to wear, and even then I would only attempt it when the barometer goes below 10 degrees Celsius. Only three notes are listed: frankincense, lychee, and heliotrope, but the overall effect is so rich and multi-dimensional that I wonder if that’s really the notes list or if the perfumer is so skilled that he was able to wrangle a wealth of detail out of these raw materials. Either way, 03.Apr.1968 has jumped straight to the top of the very short list of incense-dominant fragrances that I truly love.
06th November, 2016

Baptême du Feu by Serge Lutens

It’s the final moments before the band appears on stage. I’m right at the front and I can feel the tension in the air as the crowd pulsates restlessly behind me. We’ve all been waiting too long and now it feels like something is about to happen. I taste metal in my mouth. The air crackles with the peppery smell of dry ice. Through it all, I can smell the aftershave of the man next to me and I wonder if he’s wearing Insensé, because it’s sharp but also floral. I don’t know whether I feel threatened or excited.

This is what Baptême du Feu smells like to me.

Technically, my nose tells me it’s a curl of orange peel smoking on a Bunsen burner, overlaid with a dry, grey haze of gunpowder. But the atmosphere the perfume creates is more than the sum of its parts. There’s a dry, throat-catching quality to the pepper and ginger that feels like it might burn your lungs if you inhale too deeply. There is both ash and metal floating in this strange mixture, like the aftermath of an industrial accident.

The gunpowder calls to mind bonfires, fairgrounds, and dark clubs vibrating with sexual promise and danger. It’s a gun or a round of fireworks freshly discharged, and the tense moment right after when people don’t know how to react.

In a way, Bapteme du Feu reminds me a bit of 540 Baccarat Rouge, if only in its strange, sweet-peppery supersonic radiance that is actually very hard to define in words. 540 Baccarat Rouge is supposed to smell like crushed rubies, and successful or not (I say not), it does manage to put across something of that very abstract idea.

Bapteme du Feu is similarly abstract. Whether it succeeds or not depends less on its technical construction and more on the feeling it is able to summon up inside of each individual wearer. It’s a half of a perfume, then, just lying there waiting to be picked up and made into something whole by you supplying the other half of the equation: your imagination. In me, it conjures up a memory of a club or the excitement I felt when standing in the center of a press of bodies, dry ice flowing around me. This vision is half me, half the perfume.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere captured so vividly in the topnotes does not hold together for very long. The fragrance starts to fade out into a very sweet, almost candied note, exposing a standard chemical exoskeleton, the usual base I’d expect from a designer perfume, not a niche one (although I’m getting used to that too).

On the upside, it’s nowhere near the level of Iso E Super or Ambroxan pain I suffer in stuff like Sauvage or even Lutens’ own L’Orpheline. It’s comfortably worked in, whatever it is. I just think that it’s too plain a material – this radiance-giving molecule – to carry a perfume like this all the way.

I’m not sure that Bapteme du Feu is quite the return to form that people were hoping for from Oncle Serge, but it’s as strange and as atmospheric as some of his earlier work such as Mandarin Mandarine and La Myrrhe. Running counter to what many people expect from a Lutens, it has no syrupy, dried-fruit sweetness at all. It is as bone dry as Chene or Gris Clair, with a side of burnt orange peel. Despite the ginger note, there is no relation to 5 O’ Clock Au Gingembre beyond a sharp, citrusy aftershave-like nuance I pick up in both.

I recommend at least a sample to see if your imagination provides the spark that lights this particular tube of gunpowder. I think it’s an interesting, slightly challenging perfume that doesn’t go out of its way to be sweet or playful or even particularly pleasing. And in the face of so many dull and commercially pretty fragrances out there, this makes Bapteme du Feu a Good Thing indeed.
28th October, 2016

L'Attesa by Masque

Luca Turin thinks that L’Attesa, the newest fragrance from Masque, composed by Luca Maffei, is the best iris fragrance on the market today. It allows, he says, the normally ephemeral iris butter to shine without being bullied by other, stronger notes, but doesn’t denature it so totally as to render it pale and bloodless.

For what it's worth, I agree. L’Attesa pulls off a remarkable balancing act. The iris butter is fleetingly rooty at the top, reminiscent of the iris in Iris Silver Mist, but with a buttery, floral aspect that rids the iris of any raw potato alcohol facets that many people (myself included) find so challenging in the Serge Lutens.

It develops into a rounded, slightly powdery, slightly doughy iris note that denotes pure luxury. In terms of purity, I could mention Irisss by Xerjoff, but since L’Attesa lacks the moist carrot/violet nuance of Irisss, I don’t quite think that’s it. Irisss has a cool, creamy sweetness to it; L'Attesa is tart and almost beery.

The beery note would be the “champagne” listed in the notes, which comes off as both sour and strangely inviting, like yeasty gasses emanating from bread dough on its second proving.

It effervesces around the iris, making it as buoyant as a raspberry in a glass of bubbly. The lifting effect of the champagne accord would make me think there could also be aldehydes at work here but for the fact there is no hint of soapiness or anything metallic. Still, that tart, sour lift to the iris butter is amazing. It lends a sort of exuberance to the opening, a sense of excitement that recalls the “pulling the tab on a soda” effect of Iris Poudre, but without that scent’s slightly rough, chemical-woody undertow.

To my nose, though, the bergamot in L’Attesa plays almost as important a role as the iris and the yeast accord. The bergamot oil used here has a glossy, citric bitterness that cuts through the buttery texture of the iris and turns the dial on its color wheel from somber grey to a greenish-yellow. It sets the tone for the entire fragrance; bright, sharp, tart.

It also makes me think of the Chanel irises, notably 31 Rue Cambon, with its icy, bergamot-drenched iris, and No. 18, with its olive-green, Vermouth-like one. Additionally, the No. 18 has a distinct bread-like note, as does L’Attesa. Don’t take this to mean that they smell alike, because they don’t – just that there are parallels here between the classic Chanel treatment of iris and the Masque one.

The base - well, it's hardly the point of the fragrance. L'Attesa fades out in a genteel fashion, simply growing more ghostly as the day goes on. There is a vaguely woody-leathery feel to the bottom of this, but it's ephemeral and hazy, and I'm not really getting the full flavor of the oakmoss and the sandalwood that's listed. But I think that goes back to the dilemma that Luca Turin mentioned in relation to perfumers working with iris, in that it's difficult to choose notes to go with the iris that won't drown out its wispy delicacy. So L'Attesa bows out gracefully, like an actress who knows that two encores are more than enough; it would be greedy to ask for more.

All in all, I think L’Attesa is stunning, and if you’re an iris lover, you won’t want to miss out on it. It features a remarkably pure, buttery iris that leans more towards that luxurious, new-Bugatti leather smell than towards violets, lipstick, root vegetables, or face powder, but it’s also far from an iris soliflore, with a significant presence of bergamot, neroli, and that “champagne” accord. Refined and easy to wear, I think this is far less challenging to wear than my personal favorite from Masque, Romanza, and could be signature scent worthy for the avid iris lover.
28th October, 2016

Égoïste / L'Égoïste by Chanel

My husband came to me the other day and told me that he’d seen Burberry Touch for Men for €20 at a local pharmacy and was thinking of getting it. I held my hand up in the universal sign language of “Lemme Stop You There”, remembering the last time he bought perfume on his own (Dior Sauvage, oh the horror, the HORROR), and glumly handed him over a big bottle of Egoiste. “You wear men’s perfumes?” he asked me, confused.

Yes, husband. Yes, I do. When perfumes are as good as Egoiste, women will purloin them and claim them as their own. He doesn’t even know about my Dior Homme Intense habit yet.

Anyway, the great thing about my act of supreme generosity is that Egoiste now lives in our downstairs loo, where it gets splashed on with gay abandon onto the husband, me (whenever I go in there), and my two children upon whom I use it as a body spray. The very act of bringing it out into the light has meant that we are all currently luxuriating in the fabulousity of Egoiste.

Egoiste opens with a tight little nubbin of spice, its mandarin orange oil, cinnamon, rose, and lemon notes swirling together to form an effervescent coca-cola accord that never fails to lift the spirits. Sometimes the rose becomes very big, sometimes I barely notice it, as I think it knits itself into the smooth rosewood and tobacco very cleverly.

The new version is definitely weaker and thinner than how I remember it smelling in the late 1990’s, when I recall it being a big hit with several boyfriends. To my nose, the tobacco has been amped up, and it is the crumbling, dusty sort that can smell a little like earth and dried leaves – similar to the tobacco note in Journey Man.

Thank God, though, that the sandalwood in the drydown is still the rich, sweet, spicy gingerbread sandalwood that I love so much in Bois des Iles and Mona di Orio Vanille. Before I moved from Montenegro to Ireland last summer, I sent all my perfumes on ahead of me (strapped to donkeys, over the Alps), and I found I missed my sandalwoods the most. My Egoiste is therefore a bottle I bought in Montenegro a week before I left, procured solely to give me comfort during that tumultuous time of my life, and I clung to it despite the sweltering 40 degree heat. Of course, reunited with my perfumes back in Ireland, I kind of forgot about Egoiste. Until now.

Longevity is ok – about 4 hours and definitely not as strong or as rich as the older versions. It’s perfect for men AND WOMEN who love big, spicy woods perfumes with a coca cola twang and a creamy drydown. For me, it’s pure cold weather comfort in a bottle.
28th October, 2016

Immortelle de Corse by L'Occitane

I’m a big immortelle fan, to the extent that I grow it in my garden and own decants or samples of pretty much every perfume iteration of the note. To me, it smells in turn of delicious hay, tea, leather, maple syrup, honey, booze, curry, and sometimes dried grass. It is not a simple, one-dimensional smell, so that’s why I think it’s not redundant to own more than one fragrance that features it.

Initially, Immortelle de Corse smells like whiskey mixed with Acacia honey. The rich booziness that rolls off the topnotes remind me somewhat of the Scottish whiskey note in Like This, which also features immortelle, but with less smoke and gingerbread, and more of a simple, liquid honey.

There is a maple syrup-like chewiness to the honey that’s pitched halfway between amber and burned sugar, but the accord never comes off as heavy or sickly. Immortelle can be slightly cloying, but here the potential clinginess of the maple-honey note has been cut with notes of black tea, which introduce air and smoke.

There is also a dry, powdery iris evident in the drydown, which joins with the delicious smell of sun-baked hay and benzoin to make you think of lazy harvest afternoons, smoking on a shady veranda and looking contentedly at all the haystacks you’ve just built. Basically, it’s a cornucopia of harvest smells – wine must, honey, booze, hay, and tea.

Longevity is great – about 6 hours on me, when it fades into a leafy, curried warmth that is pure immortelle. The kind of person I see enjoying this would be a fan of other autumn harvest fumes such as Botrytis, Volutes, and 1270.
28th October, 2016

Opus X by Amouage

Slumbering my way down the line of modern Amouage releases, I tripped over Opus X and was jolted awake. Not rose, I thought, but rhubarb and custard sweets, with a green note so acid that it could strip the enamel from my teeth and the protective lining from my tongue. Amazing – superb! A metallic, oxidized rose that will either slit you or crumble away into dried blood flakes.

The convoluted Amouage back story makes sense this time – a 1681 violin maker loses his wife in childbirth, and sobbing, he rubs her blood into the rosin of the violin he is making so as to allow some part of her to live on forever. The story, told in the 1998 film, “Red Violin,” has the violin passing from generation to generation, causing sorrow wherever it goes.

The perfume contains four rose oils and accords – cabbage rose, a “bloody rose” accord, rosebud, and rose oxide – perhaps representing the different emotions the violin has paid witness to over the years. Most startling is that rose oxide note, which drenches the heart in a noxious, metallic bitterness that smells like heartbreak and spilled blood. The fragrance turns on a geranium axis, its peculiar blue-green rosiness providing a petroleum-on-a-puddle gleam that snaps your head to attention. There is possibly some oud in this, but I can really only smell the metallic rose and green leaves.

And it’s oddly familiar, in a comforting way. It is perhaps the rusty blood and geranium sheen from Rossy de Palma (Etat Libre d'Orange), or the faint rhubarb-and-custard creaminess from Tocade (Rochas) – maybe even a bit of that bitterness of the rose oxide from Dom Rosa (Les Liquides Imaginaires). All these fragrances share an ability to needle you and rub your tongue raw with sharp, metallic accents while beguiling you with a softer, milkier side that makes you forgive it its jarring sharpness. The overall effect is truly very striking.

It’s brave of Amouage (and Christopher Chong) to put out another rose-centric fragrance so close to the orbit of the almighty Lyric Woman. But Opus X is so different from Lyric’s smoky, rubied orientalism that these two roses might pass each other by in a dark alley one night, blissfully unaware that they are of the same species. It’s also amazing to me that Amouage found a new angle on the rose-oud theme, even if I don’t really get the oud component here (no loss, believe me).

Opus X is so unlike what I expect from Amouage, actually, and I suspect that most people would struggle to fit Opus X into their expectations and picture of Amouage. Maybe that’s why Opus X has flown so low under the radar. Well, it’s on mine now.
03rd October, 2016

Bois de Paradis by Delrae

Have you ever built a fragrance up in your head for ages before even smelling it? I do that a lot. The town where I live sells nothing fancier that Beyonce Heat, so I am completely dependent on the Internet.

So, I read. 95% of the pleasure I get from perfume is reading other people writing about it. Words set off a moving train of vivid images in my head, and if a person is a talented writer, they can bring a perfume to life for me in a way that just smelling the damn thing simply will not do.

These images and dreams of a perfume can slosh around my head for years until I actually smell it. Can you imagine the utter joy when the images I’ve filed away in my mental library actually lines up with how the perfume smells? Unfortunately, Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis doesn’t quite live up to the movie reel in my head.

There is just something a little too insistent, too overwrought about Bois de Paradis. It bowls me over….then sticks in my craw. Each time I put it on, I think of the immortal lines of Hotel California - this could be heaven, or this could be hell.

The problem: In the middle of a pool of rich, luscious florals, fruits, and woods, a strident tone eventually juts out and catches my skin on its jagged edges. It’s like running your hand down a gleaming wooden banister and finding one tiny splinter. It gets in the way of what I signed up for.

What I signed up for: A luscious rose-berry syrup, heavily spiced but suspended in a golden elixir, so delicious I want to drink it. Fresh blackberries and dried currants swimming in some kind of quaint alcohol, like mead or mulled wine and draped in the same golden, autumnal haze that I associate with other rich, honeyed harvest scents such as Botrytis and 1270 by Frapin. This, right here, is my bailiwick. Mah wheelhouse.

The splinter: The syrup boils over and becomes pure resin. The woods funnel into pine sap, with a helping of mint, blackcurrant leaf, and camphor, introducing an “aftershave”-like aftertaste. These notes interfere with a creamy-dry, rosy sandalwood in the base. I want to shove aside the throat-catching resin, pine needles, and mint, and enjoy my sandalwood unfettered. It won’t allow me. (If I wanted pine needles and mint, I would wear Nuit Etoilee).

Despite the odds stacked in its favor at the start, it is not a buy for me. But I am grateful to have been given the chance to try it. DelRae stuff is almost impossible to find in Europe.
03rd October, 2016

Grand Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

Grand Soir depresses the hell out of me. Not because it’s a bad perfume (it’s not), but because it’s a Golden Retriever of a perfume and I was hoping for another one of Kurkdijan’s Rhodesian Ridgebacks like Eau Noire or Absolue Pour Le Soir.

But let me be clear. I don’t dislike Grand Soir because it’s not Absolue Pour Le Soir or Eau Noire. I dislike it because not only is it not daring or original along the lines of those perfumes, but it’s not even as pleasant-smelling or cushy as something like Ciel de Gum. It's just doesn't smell great. To my nose, it's yet amber stuffed with potent woody-ambers like Norlimbanol or Timbersilk. And I expect better - far better - from a house such as Maison Francis Kurkdijan.

The rough synth edge on Grand Soir is unpleasant and harsh/burnt to my nose, pulling it surprisingly far away from the plush, velvety “night in Paris” effect that MFK was going for. Admittedly, I may be more sensitive to the presence of synthy woody ambers than most people. But, honestly, it ruins the experience for me entirely.

Apart from the disappointingly, soullessly chemical side taste to Grand Soir, there is a fundamental lack of balance here. Playing to the trend for modern fougeres, there is a bright, resinous lavender in the topnotes that feels natural and refreshingly unsweetened, but once the aromatics melt away, there is nothing left for the nose to play with beyond a waxy, honeyed amber powered with the burnt, chemical smokiness of that woody amber. There’s no counterpointing.

Both Absolute Pour Le Soir and Cologne Pour Le Soir have effective counterparts to the sweetness of the honey and amber; APLS has an almost bitter, smoky depth to it thanks to the incense, and CPLS has a touch of rosy sourness. Grand Soir has only the short-lived aromatic of the lavender, and that synthy woody-amber thing going on; without any other contrasting notes, it develops into a rather flat play-dough amber. Tonka, benzoin, and vanilla add body and sweetness, but with three materials that smell largely like, well, vanilla, there is no counterpointing ballast with which to balance the fragrance.

Ultimately, Grand Soir is as painful for me to wear as Serge Lutens’ L’Orpheline and Amouage’s Opus VI, both of which come off as bare-boned chemical skeletons draped in something smoky and something unctuously sweet.

03rd October, 2016