An origin myth:
“Once upon a time (about 1993), a prodigiously talented fragrance composer, named Maurice, filled the brief for a perfume from an obscure house called Alain Delon. The perfume was a spicy-sweet, nearly-gourmand oriental with seductively musky base notes, a contrasting white floral accord, and a yummy citrus custard on top. The perfume was beautiful, but despite being among Maurice’s finest works, it was a commercial failure and was eventually discontinued. The perfume's name? Lyra.
Flash forward to the year 2000: Maurice was approached by an artistic director and perfume impresario named Fred. Fred was generous, and allowed Maurice to compose what he pleased. Perhaps saddened by Lyra’s tragic demise, Maurice resurrected her basic structure, but removed the floral accord to leave only the tasty citrus custard, the spicy oriental core, and the huge musky base notes. Maurice and Fred called the new composition Musc Ravageur, and the rest is history…”
Truth or legend? Sample Lyra and judge for yourself.
Genre: Floral Oriental
As is sometimes the case, I offer a dissenting view here. I was wondering how they were going to pull off a carnation, what with the EU’s absurd restrictions on the use of eugenol. Turns out, the answer is they don’t. Whatever Oeillet Louis XV may smell like, it does not smell like oeillet (carnation). Oi!
My experience is that when ‘carnations’ go wrong, they often wind up smelling something like a rose. That’s not the case here. What we get instead is a very sweet spiced amber oriental with a large, but non-descript floral accord on top. The result smells nice enough, but it’s also undistinguished, bland, and very untrue to the presumptions of its title. Oriz L. Legrand has quite a few interesting fragrances (Reve d’Ossian, Violettes du Czar, Deja le Printemps, Chypre Mousse, Foin Fraîchment Coupé,) in its lineup. This is not one of them.
Ambre Précieux plus elemi. No further description necessary.
If that sounds good to you, you'll love this stuff. It smells ordinary and uninspired to me.
02nd April, 2017 (last edited: 05th April, 2017)
Oh my! After years of waiting and searching, I may finally have found my leather-tuberose of choice. Let me explain that I’ve been hoping to find an appealing leather-tuberose accord ever since I first smelled Etat Libre d’Orange’s Vierges & Toreros ten years ago. The central accord struck me as brilliantly creative, but the execution was lacking, with an abrasive chemical base note that I just can’t abide.
Flash forward to 2017. The first time I sampled Adjatay, I dismissed it as an overly sweet and banal tuberose and white flowers composition. Quite the mistake on my part, because Adjatay is much more than that. It just takes its time revealing its true depth. It can take as long as thirty minutes on my skin before the animalic leather and labdanum accord that plays counterpoint to the tuberose emerges and takes its place. Once it does, I immediately understand why the tuberose needs to be so sweet (on the verge of cloying, really): the sweetness of Adjatay’s tuberose precisely balances the leather/labdanum accord. The two fragrance elements sit in perfect counterpoise, generating olfactory tension and energy without quite fighting one another.
A lovely scent. Just give it time to get its house in order.
02nd April, 2017 (last edited: 03rd April, 2017)
A review of the "new," reformulated Wode, which bears no resemblance to the gaunt leather composition Boudicca once offered under this name:
Maybe (OK, likely,) there’s something wrong with my nose, but I’m not feeling the love for Wode. After a light, brisk, lemony cardamom top note, all I get out of this scent is a commonplace clean white musk and some rather harsh woody aromachemicals. The structure, such as it is, seems bare and impoverished – an exercise in minimalism that’s miscalculated and slipped from provocatively spare to disappointingly dull. Hardcore fans of Geza Schoen’s work for the Escentric Molecules line may enjoy the similarly ascetic Wode, but I do not.
19th November, 2014 (last edited: 22nd November, 2014)
I will confess up front: I was desperately hoping that this fragrance would fill the void left by L'Artisan Parfumeur's late, lamented Tea for Two.* It doesn’t, but I’m willing to forgive it and appreciate it for its own, rather different virtues.
Russian Tea Ritual is less of a smoky Lapsang Souchong than a big steaming cup of spiced chai. The tea note is black and smoky, though not nearly as much so as Olivia Giacobetti’s Tea for Two. It arrives on a quickly-dissipating puff of mint and settles down onto a mélange of woods and spices – particularly black pepper – over a foundation of smoky leather and labdanum. It is a rick, dark, warming scent, yet paradoxically, and in a very modern manner, quite transparent. Lasting power is excellent, and Russian Tea Ritual grows more assertively smoky and leathery over time. The drydown, when it arrives, is an evocative blend of labdanum and mildly animalic (and still smoky) leather. All-in-all, a very nice piece of work.This and the equally gratifying Montecristo suggest that Masque Milano is a house to keep an eye on.
* Glad tidings: Tea for Two has been reissued, supposedly in its original form. I will have to obtain a bottle before L’Artisan Parfumeur chickens out and withdraws it again.
The top notes are indeed challenging, though to my nose more sharp and vinegary than animalic. Once that initial jab at the nose subsides, I do get plenty of animalic musk, plus incense and tobacco smoke, over a very dry woody-leathery foundation. The texture reminds me ever so slightly of Olivier Durbano’s Black Tourmaline, though Montecristo is less raw and craggy, and largely lacks the Durbano’s bold creosote note. As Montecristo develops the musk and woods give way to a big, earthy patchouli, which shares the drydown with some labdanum and persistent tobacco. Lovers of dark, austere, smoky scents will probably find much to love here.
(Note that on paper, Montecristo is overwhelmed by an overly potent cedar note. Not so on skin, where the woods are effectively balanced by tobacco, labdanum, and patchouli.)
17th October, 2014 (last edited: 18th October, 2014)
Tango is a spicy, boozy amber composition that may remind some of Parfum d’Empire’s much-admired Ambre Russe. It is dense and dark, with plenty of cinnamon, cardamom, and rose on a viscous, syrupy-sweet bed of benzoin-laden amber. With much of its content occupied by heavy traditional base notes, Tango doesn’t develop as much as it very, very slowly fades to a sweet amber skin scent. Projection and sillage are both impressive, as is the scent’s tenacity. It strikes me as a nice fragrance, but you know, if the vintage Opium were still around, we wouldn’t need this. Then again, there’s always Ambre Russe, which is both more complex and less expensive than Tango. Just saying…
A soft, lightly sweetened gardenia (which is hard to do,) with a healthy dollop of piña colada on top. Very simple, very linear, and quite pleasant, despite a tendency for the gardenia note to grow somewhat flat and artificial over time. Nice, still, if what you’re after is a straightforward, relatively durable gardenia.
Genre: Leather (eventually)
It saddens me to review a fragrance that’s about to be taken off of the market – especially when it’s as appealing as this one. The opening whiff of juicy bergamot and neroli has me thinking “Nice cologne.” That is, for about a millisecond, at which point a potent barbershop lavender intrudes, and I say to myself, “Correct that: nice fougère.” Subsequent developments shatter all my expectations of genre orthodoxy, as big, smoky birch tar and a whole lot of animalic castoreum lead Cologne Reloaded into territory not too far removed from Chanel’s iconic Cuir de Russie. With lavender. Have I mentioned that I'm a total sucker for birch tar and castoreum?
Actually the whole idea behind Cologne Reloaded– a brisk, clean “classical” eau de Cologne structure backed by profoundly animalic leather - hearkens back to Edmond Roudnitska’s brilliant Eau d’Hermès. Not that Cologne Reloaded smells particularly like Eau d’Hermès. Or anything else, for that matter. Despite (or perhaps because of) an ample number of classicizing gestures, this fragrance feels as novel and original as its components are familiar. Evidence, if such were needed, that there’s still plenty of room for invention left within the bounds of traditional perfumery. Antonio Gardoni is a perfumer to watch.
Note: special thanks to alfarom and deadidol for alerting me to this fragrance before it meets its demise.
Notes (from Luckyscent): bergamot, lavender, coriander, crushed plum leaves, cognac, plum, fir balsam, coffee bean essence, red maple wood, teak wood, white musk.
A sparkling bergamot top note is soon steered in the fougère direction by a healthy dose of lavender. Shortly thereafter the bergamot is joined by a boozy-fruity accord, which could convincingly pass for cognac and plums. Lavender, boozy notes, and intense fruit constitute Frank No. 2’s core as it develops, with some reinforcement from a comparatively subtle coffee note. The drydown of sweetened, relatively naturalistic woods and balsam is pleasant, if a bit faceless, but avoids the abrasive woody amber effects that mar the late stages of many contemporary men’s fragrances. Projection and sillage are only moderate, and the scent persists for only a few hours on my skin.
Nothing earth-shattering here, but a likeable, versatile fruity fougère composition that wears very comfortably.
Genre: Woody Oriental
Light My Fire opens on an accord of honeyed tobacco, cumin, and hay, supported by vetiver and clean, mild patchouli base notes. In my experience, the cumin bows out very quickly, leaving the hay, tobacco, vetiver, and patchouli as the principal pillars of the composition. After some time there emerge a subtle smoky note (birch tar?) and a quiet vanillic amber. The former adds some complexity to the overall composition, the latter a discreet touch of sweetness.
Light My Fire grows increasingly sweet and powdery with age, and I can’t say that I enjoy the development as much as the early phases. Once the tobacco and vetiver fade, I’m left with a smidgeon of patchouli over powdery vanillic amber, tonka, and some artificial-smelling woods – a disappointing destination after a promising start.
08th October, 2014 (last edited: 09th October, 2014)
A fuller pyramid from Luckyscent.com: bergamot, Sicilian lemon, cloves, thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, pimento, oak moss, vetiver, amber.
The original New York has always been one of those classic, acclaimed fragrances (along with Chergui, Hinoki, Timbuktu, and Dior Homme,) that I just fail to “get.” I smell an attractive spicy oriental, but nothing very special, and certainly nothing that explains to me the rapture with which most critics seem to greet this scent.
New York Intense smells like more of the same: a perfectly nice combination of clove and cinnamon atop a sweet amber foundation, but still possessed by the bland, faceless, “Stepford wife” quality that I detect in the original. I had hoped that “intense” would mean more distinctive, but I still don’t get it.
06th October, 2014 (last edited: 09th October, 2014)
A alternate pyramid, from Luckyscent.com: tuberose, rose, jasmine, and ylang-ylang, civet, castoreum, hyraceum, dried fruits, sandalwood, oakmoss
Let me say right off the bat that MAAI is probably the most interesting new introduction I’ve smelled in 2014. Imagine a ménage à trois of Muscs Koublaï Khan, Opium, and Carnal Flower on a bed of oakmoss, and you’ll have some idea of this scent’s overall structure. MAAI starts out on a take-no-prisoners blast of animalic notes – mostly civet (reconstruction, I presume) and castoreum. Comparisons with both Kouros and Muscs Koublaï Khan are well-justified. Soon after application the animalic accord is joined by a floral bouquet centered on a lush, buttery tuberose note (à la Fracas or Carnal Flower). Beneath this emerges a spiced amber accord, heavy on both benzoin and labdanum. (Opium, anybody?) Supporting the entire tripartite structure is a surprisingly powerful oakmoss note - more conspicuous than I’ve smelled in any new release in recent memory. I have no idea how perfumer Antonio Gardoni achieves this – ignoring IFRA? an exceptionally potent and convincing reconstruction? Whatever the means, the end effect is delightful and refreshing.
I mean no insult when I say this fragrance could have been composed over half a century ago, by a nose like Edmond Roudnitska or Germaine Cellier. The spiced amber outlasts all but the oakmoss, before, in a surprising development, the scent dries down to a full-circle recap of the opening animalic notes, this time as a subtle and seductive skin scent over remnants of moss and labdanum. Unisex, lasting, and potent as all get-out, with far-flung sillage and projection.
Note: special thanks to alfarom and deadidol for alerting me to MAAI. I moght not otherwise have tried it.
06th October, 2014 (last edited: 08th October, 2014)
Genre: Woody Oriental
Trayee is a fascinating scent: a kind of Indian dessert with a subtle overlay of pot. It’s like eating cardamom-and-saffron rice pudding while your brother-in-law enjoys his bong in the next room. The cardamom, saffron, and vanilla far outlast the cannabis note, giving way in turn to a drydown of vanillic amber, incense, creamy sandalwood, and leathery notes. I detect none of the listed oudh or oakmoss.
Trayee is a complex scent, yet subtle, a gourmand, yet not overly sweet. I enjoy it and recommend that fans of creamy vanillic fragrances give it a try.
Genre: Green Floral
Bright hesperidic top notes quickly give way to a lilac, peony, and rose-fronted green floral bouquet, set in stark contrast to an underlying blend of frankincense, suede-like leather, and amber. These two olfactory masses are bound together by potent white musks. The result is an elusive structure that shifts back and forth between floral and incense before settling into a clean musk and amber skin scent drydown.
I’m not sure I like the floral component here, which (like many a lilac-themed bouquet,) can at times suggest room air freshener. Nevertheless, with its shifty nature, Olympia Music Hall holds my interest into the drydown, which is more than I can say about many fragrances I sample. Certainly a fragrance worth trying.
Note: Don’t be fooled by sampling Olympia Music Hall on paper, where it smells like a chemical aquatic green floral and laundry detergent musk. The resins that add so much interest to the composition emerge much more emphatically on skin.
A fuller pyramid, from Luckyscent.com: lotus, rose, water hyacinth, fig leaf, parsley leaf, osmanthus absolute, cassie absolute, iris, incense essence, jasmine sambac, fig milk, geranium, ylang-ylang, fir balsam absolute, myrrh, cedarwood, sandalwood, vanilla accord, ambre gris, birch, Haitian vetiver, leather, styrax, heliotrope
Ashoka opens on a powdery blend mimosa/cassie and iris, soon overlain by an accord of milky fig sap and incense, lightly sweetened by vanilla. It chugs along in a linear fashion before trailing off into a chalky/woody drydown. (Comparisons to Hermèssence Santal Massoïa are apt.)
Unfortunately, the base notes of chemically sweetened green vetiver and cedar wood are highly reminiscent of those encountered in Arquiste’s Boutonnière No. 7. They were anticlimactic in the context of Arquiste’s gardenia, and I find them equally disappointing and off-putting here. I enjoy Ashoka for the few hours that the fig and incense endure, but find myself wanting to scrub it off in the drydown. Much better on paper or fabric, where the drydown is postponed, than on skin.
Genre: Woody Oriental
Whatever happened to the Diptyque that gave us Virgilio, Eau Lente, and L’Autre? (The last too weird even for me.) The more recent offerings, like 34 Boulevard St. Germain, Eau de Lavande, and Geraniun Odorata, have been either pastiches (the former,) or polite, competently put-together, but exceptionally “safe” compositions (the latter two) that have none of the bold originality of the firm’s earlier work. Volutes is another in this pleasant, mild-mannered, but uncharismatic mold.
The scent opens on a gentle honeyed iris and saffron accord, soon underpinned by some vanillic amber and opopanax. If I inhale deeply, I can just perceive some very demure tobacco hiding behind the sweet resins and iris. The entire composition feels bland, characterless, and yet naggingly familiar. After long wear, I recognize Volutes as a sort of very watered down, pallid reflection of Nicolaï’s iconic New York, prettified with iris, and with all of the spices that lend New York its texture turned down to the setting that reads “innocuous.” Innocuous indeed, but that’s not enough to make me want to wear it.
03rd October, 2014 (last edited: 06th October, 2014)
Nice, but not especially “nero” (black). With a name like that I expected something smoky, dense, or animalic, not a trim, transparent amalgam of saffron, cedar, and sandalwood, barely sweetened by a discreet touch of amber. The overall effect is relatively dry, suave, and sophisticated. My only beef with Nero is what smells to me like an overdose of a clean, white musk that wanders into territory long since occupied by household products like dish soap, shampoo, and laundry detergent. This particular musk smells out of place among the otherwise elegant and naturalistic composition, and I feel that it cheapens Nero unnecessarily. The basic idea is good, but I would have liked it better without that musk.
Genre: Woody Oriental
Intoxicated is almost entirely about coffee and chocolate, and if you’ve been looking for the olfactory equivalent of a slice of fudge cake and a latté, this may be your scent. I find it borderline cloying and lacking in complexity myself, but understand how it might have wide appeal. Except for that $270 US price tag. For that kind of money, I want something less bland and simplistic. Mocha fans with cash to burn should give Intoxicated a try; otherwise, I don’t see much of interest here.
27th September, 2014 (last edited: 28th September, 2014)
If you want to smell like you’ve just finished a joint without the advantage of getting high, this is the fragrance for you. The cannabis note dominates Smoke for the Soul completely, unobscured by accents of grapefruit, tobacco, and cardamom. The composition is simple and relatively linear until it fades into a quiet tobacco and Cashmeran drydown. Now that weed is legal in my state, I expect sales of this scent to soar.
Genre: Woody Oriental
Somehow I expected to have more to say about L’Orpheline, but in the event, it winds up being a very simple fragrance. A brief, intense burst of rather chemical green notes and aldehydes introduces a straightforward accord of frankincense and woods, mostly cedar. I don’t get much, if any, of the patchouli, “ambergris,” or coumarin listed in the printed pyramid. The woody incense accord is almost entirely linear, enduring without much evolution for a few hours before fading into a pale woody drydown dominated largely by clean white musks and Cashmeran. This drydown feels bare and impoverished, especially set against the standards Lutens and Sheldrake have established with scents like Fumerie Turque, Muscs Koublaï Khan, and Ambre Sultan. L’Orpheline winds up smelling disappointing, and there are many more complex and interesting incense fragrances I would turn to in its stead, with Amouage’s Dia and Jubilation XXV, Comme des Garçons’ Zagorsk, Avignon, and Jaisalmer, L'Artisan Parfumeur's Dzongkha, and Parfum d’Empire’s Wazamba not least among them.
Fresh, grassy green top notes introduce an accord of wood smoke and hay that’s at once unique in my experience and highly memorable. The smoke/hay accord is linear once established, and is strongly evocative of bonfires and thick carpets of fallen leaves. This quintessentially autumnal fragrance is both very simple and extremely well-executed. My only complaint is that the solid perfume endures for only two or three hours on my skin. (The eau de toilette is much more tenacious.) I recommend giving The Smell of Weather Turning a try before Lush, with its incomprehensible marketing strategy, makes any more progress in its headlong rush to eliminate the most interesting fragrances from its line.
22nd September, 2014 (last edited: 03rd October, 2014)
A sharp, dry, rooty vetiver, served straight up and linear, with very little by way of evolution or embellishment. While Vetiver Veritas smells of quality vetiver, it doesn’t do anything terribly interesting with the note. This is something of a disappointment coming from Heeley, which has used vetiver so inventively in scents like Cuir Pleine Fleur and Sel Marin. It’s nice enough, but there are equally fine vetivers out there (Route du Vétiver, Sel de Vetiver, Givenchy Vétyver, among others), and for a lot less money, I might add.
A straightforward, linear (presumably Australian) sandalwood composition, accented with a touch of spiced rum and sweetened with vanilla and benzoin. The booze and woods are less stark and bold than in its younger cousin Chêne, and the whole thing is less complex and paler than the more recent Santal Majuscule. Santal Blanc is a pleasant fragrance, but neither exciting nor original. To my mind, the aforementioned Chêne and Santal Majuscule both outshine it as woody entries in the Serge Lutens lineup.
Genre: Floral Oriental
Lots of muguet, rose, tart citrus, and aldehydes make for punchy, if conventionally “perfumey” top notes, which expand into a heady, rose-centered floral oriental heart, underscored by plenty of downy musk and amber. Indolic jasmine and honey lend the composition an animalic warmth to balance out the aggressive use of aldehydes and smooth over the sharp edges of the green muguet.
Balance is indeed a hallmark here, along with an olfactory density that would go out of style in the decades following Scherrer 2’s introduction. Today this fragrance smells nostalgic, but its essential quality and soundness of structure can’t be denied. A scent that’s well worth trying for anyone who appreciates more ample proportions in feminine fragrances.
Féminin Pluriel opens on a brisk, fresh muguet (lily-of-the-valley) top note, which endures as the white floral heart emerges. The white floral bouquet offered here centers on the persistent muguet and a bright, crisp, aldehydic rose, not far removed in style from that encountered in Serge Lutens’s Sa Majesté la Rose. The rose and muguet receive support from powdery iris and a light, clean jasmine, with a nutty vetiver nestled deep in the foundation. The vetiver grows conspicuous in the drydown, which is somewhat unusual for a feminine scent – Chanel No. 19 being a noteworthy predecessor in this respect.
Féminin Pluriel is an elegant, yet cheerful fragrance, effervescent and transparent, yet relatively potent, with more than adequate projection and significant sillage. The scent has plenty of immediate appeal, and is obviously well-crated, if not terribly original in style. My wife took to it enthusiastically after a single sampling, and was very quick to get herself a bottle.
Genre: Floral Oriental
I never warmed up to any of the previous Amouage Library Series entries I've sampled, so expectations were low when I tried Opus VIII, despite positive comments on a number of fragrance blogs. Opus VIII grabbed my attention with intense, animalic jasmine, orange blossom, and ylang-ylang top notes, the indole and what smells like a civet reconstruction cranked up to 11. The ylang-ylang eventually outweighs the jasmine and orange blossom as the heart unfolds, with ginger, frankincense, and sweet benzoin for accompaniment. The animalic elements recede fairly quickly, their place assumed by potent, powdery synthetic musks, which lend the entire composition a dense, enveloping texture that borders on oppressive. Woody notes and a nutty vetiver offer a counterbalance to the powdery musks in the drydown. For some the effect will feel luxurious, to others I suspect it may be cloying.
While I enjoy Opus VIII more than I, II, or III, I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about it. The latter stages never quite manage to fulfill the promise of the seductive opening gesture, and the powdery base notes are too heavy for my taste. Indeed, I find myself wishing the animalic white flower accord held on for longer each time I wear Opus VIII. If you’re able to find it, try Manoumalia, from Les Nez, for a sense of what can be accomplished in this dense, heady fragrance style.
Genre: Fruity Floral
I’ve never understood my wife’s obsession with shoes, but I gather that Jimmy Choo’s extravagantly priced designs are the object of devotion for many a woman. The perfume, I’m sorry to say, goes immediately to the top of my list as “Worst Thing I’ve Smelled Yet This Year.” (Sadly, there’s always room for competition.) It is a shrill, chemical fruity floral so shockingly devoid of merit that I don’t understand how it got made.
Imagine, if you will, the smell of tutti-frutti bubblegum amplified 1000-fold, mixed with a loud patchouli and a bottle of undiluted cider vinegar, and you’ll have a relatively accurate olfactory image of Jimmy Choo. On this evidence, the man should definitely stick to shoes.
Anthracite is a sturdy, spicy fougère that opens on a flourish of lavender, herbs, and bergamot and shifts quickly to a core of clove and floral notes, grounded by sandalwood, oakmoss, and powdery amber. An accord of cloves and woody rose deep in Anthracite’s heart is vaguely anticipatory of Michel Roudnitska’s Noir Epices for Frédéric Malle, released nearly a decade later. The balance achieved between sinewy woody notes and more sumptuous floral notes like rose and ylang-ylang is remarkably well-judged, and the mossy-woody drydown is especially smooth and gratifying.
In terms of composition Anthracite is something of a relic: restrictions on oakmoss and eugenol (clove) and the current shortage of natural sandalwood leave me doubting whether it could be composed again today. Those familiar with the muscular fougères of the 1980s and early 1990s may find that Anthracite breathes some of the same atmosphere as the roughly contemporaneous Lauder for Men and Havana. Anthracite, however, is a far leaner, clearer composition, without the leather and tobacco notes that add weight to many of its contemporaries. In Anthracite’s relative spareness one can perceive faint pre-echoes of Mark Buxton’s later work for Comme des Garçons. The extreme transparency and industrial chic sensibility are not yet apparent, but Anthracite’s clarity of structure and relatively streamlined contours portend the move away from the heavier, baroque elements of 1980s masculine style. Still available online at relatively reasonable prices as of this writing, Anthracite is worth seeking out if a slimmed-down version of the traditional spicy fougère sounds appealing.
An aside: amusingly apropos of the name, the one ounce spray bottle bears a passing resemblance to a charcoal briquette, or perhaps the lumps of coal that naughty children receive in their Christmas stockings.
16th August, 2014 (last edited: 17th August, 2014)