Perfume Reviews

Reviews by mr. reasonable

Total Reviews: 6

Hermèssence Épice Marine by Hermès

Not a big fan of anything 'aquatic' but I was intrigued to see what JCE might bring to this coastal, spiced, whisky inspired idea for a scent.

From what I have read he was able to use a synthetic for the 'algae' note and rounds that off with a bit of cumin, which in this case seems to 'moisten' the opening - despite the fact that pre-release literature mentioned 'toasted cumin'.

Whatever. It works for me - the coastal hit up front is convincing (there isn't a trace of the obnoxious calone in sight), and then it shifts gear into an interesting, peaty toasted spicy mood, so I guess the cumin idea is a bridge, altho it never overplays it's hand (mercifully).

I shared this with a chef friend, who had actually designed a special menu for the launch of Terre d'Hermes here in Asia, and who was intrigued given that this scent was conceived with a chef friend of Ellena's whose work with spices and whose recommendation of a specific whisky informed the approach JCE took in creating it. My friend felt the cumin was maybe a little 'obvious' initially, so if you find the note difficult approach with caution, but it's quite fleeting and then evolves nicely into a drier, spiced accord that is quite fetching.

It's early days (I picked it up a fortnight ago) but I do like this one and look forward to spending more time with it, particularly when we move into Spring / Summer.

26th December, 2013 (last edited: 27th December, 2013)

Opus II by Amouage

Amouage Opus II didn’t exactly get a rousing reception when it was launched. That first burst of three new ‘Library Editions’ caught people off guard with many Amouage fans asking ‘where is the Middle Eastern stuff, where is the opulence, where is the grandeur’ etc. etc.

Now that we have hit Opus VII I think we can safely say that, while no-one really knows quite what is going on with The Library Series apart from the fact that it will continue to baffle and surprise, it’s perhaps a little easier to take each of the individual works and appraise them for what they are, rather looking for some deeper thematic meaning – or what they are not!

I bought Opus II the day it was released – there was something uplifting and bright about it that just grabbed me. I have always enjoyed stuff that leans in a clove / spiced direction – there is a sense of tonic goodness, not medicinal but getting close, that this style has for me, and living in a place where there is serious humidity for more than half the year this can be useful.

What I have only recently come to realize is that Opus II when viewed as a ‘spiced fougere’, rather than a ‘baseless oriental’ makes perfect sense. This is where, I think, the confusion and disappointment came for many when it was launched – the opening, variations of which can be experienced in Eau Lente and other spicy orientals, leads one to expect a resolve into some sort of rich balsamic base – especially with this being an Amouage!

But the anticipated base doesn’t make an appearance. Opus II just gently persists with a mélange of uplifting ‘crave e canella’, lavender, pepper, cardamom, absinthe and pink bay rounded out with a touch of rose and jasmine – pretty much the same structure and approach (albeit with a little more spice) than a host of aromatic fougeres from the ‘good old days’.

The base has some cedar, patchouli, amber etc. but these are not features per se – more of a backdrop and definitely not at ‘power house’ volume. This can be disconcerting at first but seen as a pick me up fougere that is there for your personal sense of wellbeing rather than for ‘making an entrance’, Opus II delivers beautifully, and at Eau de Parfum strength it manages to retain a sense of lightness for a considerable time – quite a feat.

I have come to increasingly rely on Opus II when summer hits, it seems to sit in quite a rarefied space, along with Olivia Giacobetti’s brilliant Idole perhaps, as a cool spiced tonic that has dispensed with the more traditional aspects of a masculine fougere while retaining the bracing goodness.
01st November, 2013

Timbuktu by L'Artisan Parfumeur

I’ll be honest and say that Luca Turin’s review of this intrigued me enough to just go ahead and buy it – this was a few years ago when I got the ‘niche bug’, although it could probably be called the ‘what’s arriving from Luckyscent this week that I forgot I ordered’ bug.

I was already a fan of Kyoto, having bought that the day it was released, so I wasn’t going in entirely blind – it was clear from The Guide that Duchaufor (along with Buxton) were pioneers of a sort and I wanted to find out more.

The thing from the Turin review that really intrigued me was his comment that Timbuktu had a similar ‘effect’ as the grand-daddy of men’s fragrances, Fougere Royale. I have puzzled over this and think I get it now.

My feelings about Timbuktu are the same today as that first week or so I wore it. It has a put-together crispness about it that while not ‘bracing’ like classic splash-ons of old, is incredibly satisfying. It has the same slightly moistened ‘snap’ to it that a glass of vermouth on a cool but sunny afternoon might offer.

Opinions may vary about the woodiness, the booziness, even the smokiness of this one. It’s dry, in the sense of ‘sec’ as applied to vermouth or some wines, but it’s by no means arid – I personally flash on a boozy, aged dark woods texture that has maybe recently been rubbed with a fine alcohol / oil solution.

I can’t help make a connection with Dzongkha, where it seems the DNA of this one has been used as solid wooden beams framing some cold stone or brick walls (courtesy of the iris) which really does evoke the interior of a Buddhist monastery I visited in Nepal (not Bhutan, but close enough) late one Autumn.

The other thing Turin spoke eloquently about was the radiance of Timbuktu – I like the hi-fi analogy. It has a presence that is really satisfying to me – it seems no matter how much you want to apply it maintains a level that allows conversation . . . the mark of a good audio system, BTW. In the recording studio we would call this transparency, as in a transparent mix. I think this is where the Fougere Royale comparison is apt – it’s compellingly, consistently satisfying but never shouts. I should qualify that by saying that altho it is IMO a 'singular' scent it is by no means a 'one-liner'. There seems to be a bit of a trend to arm some modern niches with nuclear strength bases of vanilla, lavender and other synthetics to appeal to the 'longevity rules' set but Timbuktu retains a shifting airiness throughout that never leads to boredom - it's not loud and it doesn't speak in a monotone.

Where it’s different from a fougere, of course, is that Timbuktu has a singular intensity about it as opposed to a three-tiered structure, (unless I’m missing a sleight of hand in the composition – which is quite possible). I think this is where it makes an interesting (and softly spoken) ‘presence’ that can easily entertain company – it has an incredible ‘openness’ to it. Dzongkha seems to me to be sort of Timbuktu + iris and I don’t doubt Mr. Duchaufor has toyed with other notes alongside, or inside, this idea – I’m really not up on his various works for other clients but my guess is that the idea has been developed elsewhere. I imagine there is at least some crossover in appeal for the whole Hinoki, Sequoia, Wonderwood clan and doubtless others, but Timbuktu has a purity that seems to allow it to stand apart from the other 'woods' out there.

I would recommend this to anyone who is comfortable with a timeless transparent moistened dry woods idea who wants a singular ‘signature’ that is crisp and unadorned – there are no trendy ‘details’ here that will mark you as a fashion victim, and that’s a good thing IMO. Please be sure to dress accordingly.
14th March, 2013
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Memoir Man by Amouage

When I bought Memoir Man the only information the SA could offer was ‘Absinthe – Frankincense – Tobacco’. It's possible I bought the first bottle on the planet as we had Memoir here a month or so before it was placed anywhere else - Amouage were using HK as a test market, I believe, so below is my 'first impressions' from late summer 2010. It has become a staple and possibly my favorite Amouage (along with Homage, which is a different thing altogether).

Memoir Man opens with a moist slightly citric green haze, very fragrant and quite bracing. It took me three days to discern the mint in amongst all this. In that sense MM does bring to mind the opening of a handful of other serious high quality fougeres where there seems to be a bit of a scramble to quickly adjust the collar and tuck the shirt in before smiling at the person in front of you. This is a good sign IMO, because it usually heralds a serious composition, altho MM is not as obviously ‘new-fougere like’ as Opus II, Dhofar, Invasion Barbare et al.

Along with this quite unusual and captivating opening there is a sense of a moist tobacco leaf / herbal quality and an underlying ashy frankincense.

In that sense I think the proposed three-note sketch given to the SA I spoke to is quite accurate. The green minty sparkle encompassing the absinthe, the moist bundle of tobacco leaf and certainly the frankincense are all present and accounted for. On a couple of occasions I have also picked up a glimpse of a ‘Tribute’ note, which threw me a bit – still does – I keep looking for it.

Then MM settles into a deep frankincense+ aura. I am no frankincense expert but I would suggest this leans more towards the rugged, outdoorsy ember like incense of Epic Man (and at a big stretch the ashiness of Serge Noire) than the more genteel cathedrals of Avignon and Encens Flamboyant and so on. It’s not entirely dry to me – there is always a sense of a bundle of fragrant moist leaves hovering above smouldering charcoal.

And this is where I get lost, boys and girls, because much as I would like to wax poetic about the interplay of the leather, woods, tobacco, oakmoss and how the hint of lavender works earlier on I really perceive this as more of a mood or an atmosphere than a collection of easily discernable individual notes (this is why I don’t review).

So – shifting gears somewhat, I’ll put it out there that the quite poetic copy from Amouage quoted above is actually very, very apt. This is an autumnal, late afternoon soft golden light kind of scent to me, and if it is the memoir of a man who has traveled and perhaps seen more of the world (and himself) than some of us would care to, then my proposition would be that he did a lot of that traveling on foot. There is a gravitas to Memoir that I admire, it’s contemplative and there is an air of mystery about it. This is perfume for grown-ups.

This is the first time for a couple of years I have worn a scent almost exclusively for a fortnight and it has given me pause to consider how I approach this whole game - it's just so easy to be dismissive and jump to conclusions based on a sample wearing.

I understand that Man was developed first and then Memoir Woman, which works perfectly in the same way that Epic Woman alludes to Epic Man and then offers a more nuanced floral take on the original. There is coherence between the two, and I did briefly compare notes with Coconut on Memoir Woman – perhaps she will post on it. The floral aspect is there, along with the underlying herbal / leathery tones, and tuberose is apparent to me but in the context of the overall composition, not as a one liner. I would rate this as more overtly floral than Epic Woman, but no less intriguing. They make a wonderful pair, just like the Lyric and Epic duos IMO.

I am sure fans of Epic, Dia and Tribute will enjoy Memoir. Personally I think I like it more than any of them, although it has pointed me back to Epic Man, a scent I may have passed by a little quickly in favour of it’s sister.
29th May, 2012

Mon Parfum Chéri, par Camille by Annick Goutal

I like this a lot, but it's not one that is saying 'like me' at all. If anything it has a sort of 'and who the hell are you' thing going on. The mix of sour plum, verging on fermenting into bitter plum wine, and the patchouli underneath conspire to give it a tough classic chypre feel to me. I know there are lots of 'nu-chypres' out there but this just has the right attitude. It's got a louche, almost blowsy toughness - it's the anti-tween incarnate, it'll make a certain kind of young woman go 'eewwww, gross'.

I tried the EDP and (like Madragore) I actually seem to prefer the EDT, maybe because this one benefits from that blast up front - just seems more moist and expansive, if that makes any sense at all. One female basenoter friend just looked at me and shook her head, another female executive from one of the more 'classical' perfume companies eyes lit up and smiled. I think it's worth a shot if your tastes lean towards the Sous le Vent / Aromatics Elixir style and want to see what can be done now that oakmoss has gone . . . a sense of humour will help, too, this one is fun. One of the absolute best releases of the year.
29th May, 2012

Les Heures de Parfum - IV L'Heure Fougueuse by Cartier

Mathilde Laurent is responsible for a handful of Guerlain offerings, two of which I like a lot - Herba Fresca & Guet Appens / Attrape Coeur (it was renamed when she left the company). There was also a Shalimar flanker that came and went fairly quickly that many think should have come and stayed.

The launch of Les Heures Collection at Cartier (of which this is a member) was very good news as Ms. Laurent was sequestered there behind closed doors composing bespoke scents for well-heeled individuals for a while. (Actually, probably time well spent given this whole new collection). I bought L'Heure Fougueuse when it first turned up here and am now onto my second bottle. This is not a good thing because the pricing is a far cry from my favourite Guerlain Eaux and that is pretty much the way I wear this thing. It has become a spring / summer staple.

The 'horse mane' concept is unique and outstanding. Maté or Yerbamaté seems to be central to L'Heure Fougueuse with it's hay-like / tea-like quality. My only real prior experience of this was in Goutal's Duel, which now seems quite sweet by comparison. L'Heure Fougueuse is a drier take and has a bright enervating vibe, a fresh slightly moist hay in a dry summer sun kind of enervating-ness. There is a natural, lived in slightly human (also mildly horse-like) scent going on, like a sheen of perspiration but not a cumin driven experience a la Declaration - it's quite different. That said, if you like Declaration and the path Ellena has followed in that vein you should try this.

In the early stages I pick up a light sheen of lacquer over the top. It feels like the fine lacquer you might brush over an oil painting - that's the best way I can describe it. It's subtle but gives the opening a kick - there's a hint of something oxidised in there, and, again, this could be construed as animalic if you close your eyes and squint a bit, I guess. It's attractive and somehow defines what I'm smelling as being a perfume rather than a tea-like infusion. High end definition is what we're talking about - you can sense the top end without any brittle shrillness and from that clear perspective you can see the space inherent in this piece of work.

I like the way Denyse describes this (Grain de Musc) as 'justesse'. It also has a 'rightness' about it for me. It wouldn't surprise me if this is one that some people adopt as naturally as the air they breath while the rest of the population just look on shaking their heads wondering what on earth we see in this thing. I am not after a 'signature scent' but this feels so incredibly natural that part of me finds it difficult to even include it amongst the other fragrances in my collection - it just seems like it was always around somehow, it has a primordial quality, an effortless, natural fit. Genius.
15th February, 2012 (last edited: 27th February, 2014)