Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Mephitis

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Total Reviews: 9

(Untitled) L'Eau by Martin Margiela

Freakishly fresh and pertinacious greenery.

Loses the whip-smart balance that the original Untitled struck in favor of a front-loaded citrus-mint hybrid that overwhelms everything else. Anyone could appreciate how charming this scent becomes once paired with a white shirt and jeans on a summer day, and that is precisely the problem. Untitled gave form to something unbidden and unnamed; L'eau fills no such gaps in the collective imagination. This followup is still worthwhile if your fragrance wardrobe wants a zesty camphoraceous green that just doesn't quit. In all honesty, my dislike for L'eau mostly boils down to a preference for bitter over bright freshness. Whereas Untitled is asperity married to smooth florals, L'eau is juicy, gregarious and wholesome. One is the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets, the other the Golden Boy. Each lovable in its own respect.
18th March, 2017

Passage d'Enfer by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Passage D'enfer is a private, indwelling drama. It feels like being borne underwater by the sheer weight of lilies heaped upon your body by a mass of unfeeling mourners on the riverbank. From despair, hope: amidst the morbid holy white flowers, the motionless incense, the reservoir of salt that gathers on the verge of crying, and a thick veil of musk. From all of these comes, at last, a sense of strength and solace. It feels like looking your demons in the face and yawning. It feels like moving through the grime invisibly, bearing your sorrows with a light step.
18th March, 2017

(Untitled) by Martin Margiela

Untitled threw me for a loop. I was fully ready to receive it as I would an avant garde Jolie laide, striking but unlikable, with a beauty mark that becomes an eyesore in the odd ungenerous light. That this hypothetical itself served as tribute to my own sense of vanity and faux eccentricity only became apparent to me when I finally gave the real scent a proper go-around, met her in the flesh, as it were.

Untitled is innovative and unusual. It is not edgy or provocative, but rather a lovely, forward-thinking entry into what precisely a modern, self-aware (i.e. classically informed) green scent could be. The galbanum is bracing and eye-popping, like a fistful of pollen. (See No. 19, Silences) Its edge is carefully drawn out by the bitter orange, itself daintily folded into the ylang-jasmine heart of the perfume. Just when one could rightly accuse Untitled of being a turncoat two-face, of trading its snappy opening for the inanition of sweet pleasantries, the finale recalls the biting start, modulated in the form of different ingredients. Cedar takes over the whistling high-note, with incense and a freakish amount of white musk rounding out the base. (14% serenolide!)

Whenever I wear it now, I can pick up all these various phases at once, and they peek out in turn throughout the day. The deceit in the branding and concept here is a happy one: where I expected a lifeless minimalist composition, a modern paean to the elemental void, I instead received a deft, fae love-letter to the pulse of life on the green, under the sun, and in the shade.

A mischievous youngling, wise changeling. Otherworldly.
07th March, 2017 (last edited: 18th March, 2017)
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Paisley by Etro

Paisley is a shy oriental. "I'm a very private person," you think when you sniff it. But not shrinking or incurious, just radically self-contained. The first spray admits a shower of cheerful bergamot and pink pepper, the combo provoking a double-take. That opening soon scatters. The rest of the hours are smoothed away by the expert hands of a gorgeous ylang-ylang. The cardamom spices it up but also makes the indulgence feels a little cold and distant, bracingly. Paisley's final wafts aren't perhaps as potent or resinous as a proper Oriental, but they remain fascinating. It's as if a breathtakingly attractive stranger approached you and had a drawn-out heart-to-heart for some short hours before abruptly, unceremoniously departing from your life forever. Add the pang of sudden leave-taking to the overflowing heart-on-the-sleeve sincerity and you have Paisley's compelling mystery.

It's pretty enough to be devastating but discreet to the point of invisibility.

Little throw, ghostly tenacity. Dead lovely, here now, then hereafter all too soon.
24th February, 2017 (last edited: 27th February, 2017)

Rose Anonyme by Atelier Cologne

An inky, smoky rose makes its signature on vellum. The penmanship reflects a confident hand, with its restrained, defined flourishes all within bounds of propriety. Neither too louche nor too lush, this firm rose cologne's dark character is countered by its translucent clarity. A little sweet, a little green, a little dusky. Shadowy in a way that feels like a reprieve. Those looking for something more tenebrous or luminous best look elsewhere.
18th February, 2017

Orchid Soleil by Tom Ford

Indelicate, inapposite white floral. Full-figured tuberose is as enticing as ever. Normally the appeal of an overpowering composition is that it blankets you with its thick, impenetrable veil. Verges on the sensation of a physical unguent, slathered across your person. Inside the indolic haze, you feel as if you've been scouted out and marked by some base animal.

Orchid Soleil is somewhat true to this sensation of oppressive luxury, yet remains oddly light on its feet. The standard plushness has been set aflame, vaporized into a thousand fine motes, suspended across a glittering satin curtain. Its showiness has worn itself out on me, admittedly, but there's something fascinating going on here that someone else might just choose to adopt as a mainstay.

*After repeated wears, I have become aware of a deeply unpleasant plastic note that almost wholly negates my heaping praise. To most, it probably appears a minor misstep, but nevertheless one I can't abide. Consider the vision of a wedding dress maculated by a few material defects. The fantasy either coheres, or doesn't. Orchid Soleil's joyeuse is starting to look a little shabby around the edges, so I must be scrupulous if schizoid and downgrade my rating to neutral.*
16th February, 2017 (last edited: 03rd March, 2017)

Replica Lazy Sunday Morning by Martin Margiela

Its lovely form disrobes at hello, traipsing over to the bed, where freshly laundered sheets remain in sleep-tossed disarray. There's a single rose nestled somewhere in the fabric creases. Then a sylvan twist: the outdoors shifting indoors, with welcome patchouli folded into the mix. All together, the fragrance presents an air of studied indolence, much as its name would imply.

This fantasy is unworkable, of course, but the scent presents it so naturally that one might just imagine such a carefree scene belonging tidily to one's life. Not only the luxury of sleeping in, of lost hours freely given up, but the notion that these preternaturally crisp flowers, the sparkling freshness of your own skin, the immaculate heap of linens have each providentially readied themselves without fuss or help.

Lazy Sunday Morning is an inspired, if understated piece of abstraction. The flowers are a melange, not really putting forth any leads but content to remain a blur of rose, muguet and lily-of-the-valley. White musk's omnipresence would bring the affair down to earth, but it is met with empyrean, crystalline aldehydes and further leavened by an unassuming but critical patchouli.

Really fascinating study on modern tastes. A mocking take on the obsession with purity and freshness that has become something of a malaise. Here is a replica that laughs openly at realism, with a breezy name that quietly invites, then derides, comparisons to a pallid school of minimalism.

Lazy Sunday Morning floats about, versatile and magical: polishing the mundane occasions to a shine and dulling the arch brilliance of life's absurd formalities.




06th February, 2017

Sel de Vetiver by The Different Company

Leafing through collections of Greek myths, over-and-over I encountered descriptions of grey-eyed Athena. Youngling I was, my mind found it difficult to interpret the epithet as anything but a signpost to material fact, praising the goddess' rare and lovely form.

Grey eyes are, of course, a physical feature, but I grew to appreciate the finer points of their vagaries. Athena blesses or curses: turning an orgulous weaver into a spider, granting her mirrored shield to Perseus, blessing Athens with the olive tree. Likewise grey eyes can gleam blue or green. Growing up, growing more comfortable with myths and their rich chains of association, I acknowledged grey as quiet glory. Not tired or old but ageless and fresh.

As with the goddess, so too with Sel de Vetiver.

Genre-bending (floral-herbal-marine)till it emerges sun-drenched and sea-tossed on uncharted shores. Vetiver with the gentlest bite of grapefruit, the fizz of a vegetal gin accord and the impossible evocation of salt. Earthy but lively, with the effervescence of sea spray and the mute fathoms of the open ocean.

Self-assured, winsome, serious.

18th January, 2017 (last edited: 21st January, 2017)

Messe de Minuit by Etro

Preamble: I own the second formulation, with the square label, red paisley box and golden cap. It is a total changeling of the first formulation and they are fundamentally different. I can’t speak to the third formulation’s character but have read that it heavily diminished the smokiness in favor of an uncomplicated bright citrus/wood/oriental character.

Discrete rays of sunlight filtered through rising smoke.

Think of it as an olfactory chiaroscuro, with this contrast most perceptible in the opening. The citrus accord’s exact members are indefinite---I detect bergamot most prominently and can’t be sure of the rest. Its effect is an opening that is both uplifting and searing. (The furthest thing from a clean, mild-mannered orange blossom you can imagine).

While the citrus is winsome in its own way and hardly unpleasant, its own character is heavily colored by the eminence grise of the fragrance---the incense accord. Myrrh, cinnamon (a delicate, almost floral Ceylon cinnamon, that is) and amber combine to yield a smoky sweetness that I cherish each and every time I wear this fragrance. Calling it “sweet” isn’t exactly a faithful or exhaustive description---nothing about the sweetness here is edible or conventionally comforting (though I confess I find it so). These heart notes are compelling and hold on like a vise. In this second phase, this newly-dubbed ‘eminence grise’ incense accord comes into its own and is not thrown in such sharp relief as it was formerly.

The drydown is satisfying and languorous, and sees the small presence of various earthen notes increase. (e.g. sandalwood and patchouli) Those who miss the pungent mustiness of the scent’s first formulation might find its semblance much diminished here.

Messe de Minuit’s longevity is wonderful, lasting up to a half-day on me. Its projection is surprisingly restrained, given the power behind some of the ingredients (Not full-throated, its projection feels weaker than average but much stronger than a skin-scent).

While it is intense and somewhat serious, I find Messe de Minuit's interplay and nuances sprightly and consequently wear it whenever I want to feel privately, lucently happy.
04th July, 2015