Perfume Reviews

Reviews by rogalal

Total Reviews: 1039

Kapsule Light by Lagerfeld

An intentionally unremarkable commonplace masculine. The combination of nutmeg and bleach reminds me of Kenneth Cole Black, so it's basically your run-of-the-mill office scent. If you enjoy Hugo Boss-style discount men's "woody amber" aquatic scents that can be found dirt-cheap online, this is for you, but don't go in expecting anything new or clever.
20th February, 2019

Kapsule Woody by Lagerfeld

Much more complex than the stunted notes list suggests, Kapsule Woody is, at its core, an ionone perfume, with bright violets over suede. There's a rich, complex blast in the topnotes - a mix of plum, rose, buttery sandalwood, iris, and ozone - that calls to mind a postmodern take on Feminite Du Bois, or possibly what you'd get if Creed did a version of Egoiste, but it gets pushed out of the way within an hour by the violets and suede, at which point Kapsule Woody smells like a traditional Cuir De Russie mixed with a lipstick iris. The drydown is nice, if a bit weak compared to the louder topnotes - a mix of vanilla, cinnamon pie spices, and the abstract woody creaminess of iso e super melting into the lingering suede and iris.

In all, this is quite well done, and is definitely one of the best perfume values out there while you can still find it heavily discounted online. It's extremely difficult to find anything else that smells this good for around $30, so try it while you can...
20th February, 2019

No. 1 for Men : 15th Anniversary Edition by Clive Christian

This review is for the limited edition 15-year anniversary extrait version, as opposed to the EDP that's sold all the time. Honestly, it's quite good.

It's a grand, expensive smelling aldehydic chypre in the style of Chanel No. 5 extrait, Joy, or Amouage Gold Man, with sparkly lemon champagne aldehydes on top of florals on top of a rich creamy mix of iris, sandalwood, and musk. What sets it apart are the citruses on top. Where most of this style of perfumes are content to let a bit of lemon and bergamot do the heavy lifting, Number 1 surrounds them with a full-on fruit basket of oranges, tangerines, and possibly a hint of grapefruit. Meanwhile, the florals center on jasmine and carnation, giving it a very expensive feel for those in the know.

If you're familiar with Gold Man, imagine that with the poop removed and the frankincense toned down to make room for more upfront citrus and florals. The base doesn't quite have the over-the-top richness of No 5 extrait, but it's still really good. As such, it's not exactly original, but extremely well done for fans of this sort of thing. Whether the extrait is worth $1500 a bottle is up to your budget, but it's definitely worth a sniff.
05th February, 2019
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X Twist Mate Tea by Clive Christian

The core of X Twist Mate Tea is an especially fruity ionone violet perfume, so it's bright and sweet on top and deep suede leather later. The violets are surrounded by blackberries and cherry and sweetened by jasmine into a thick fruit punch smell. This is topped by Florabotanica-inspired mint, and the whole thing is smothered in a green tea essential oil note.

There are definitely some elements I find problematic, and it's mostly because of that green tea note. It's kind of milky, so the faux candy fruit mixing with the tea kind of smells like Froot Loops cereal in sour milk. Meanwhile, there's a concentration issue as well. One of the great ironies of perfume is that increasing the amount of essential oils in a blend adds richness and a feel of expensiveness up until it reaches a tipping point, at which the high concentration makes the mix smell like a cheap homemade street fair candle. X Twist Mate Tea hovers right around that tipping point, occasionally impressing me with really nice jasmine, and other times just smelling like a discount spa air freshener.

That being said, as much as I kind of don't like this, the base is really interesting. We've smelled ionone suede drydowns enriched with vanilla and musks in countless Cuir de Russie perfumes, but the addition of the milky tea is actually quite genius, bringing out the tea's hidden animalic qualities while adding a surprising hint of green to an otherwise familiar base.

So, in all, I think there's cleverness happening here, but my general dislike of both fruity florals and green tea essence drags this down to a neutral rating...
05th February, 2019

Noble XXI Art Deco Vanilla Orchid by Clive Christian

The more I try, the more I feel it's true that, with the exception of the rather stunning No. 1 for Women, Clive Christian's feminine perfumes are pretty basic. Vanilla Orchid doesn't help matters - it's a fairly standard-issue fruity floral with peachy rose and tuberose over a generic mall perfume base of vanilla, pink pepper, and caramel. For what it's worth, there's a moment at the top where it smells like this may possible contain a decent, rather expensive rose oil, but it's wasted here. Pro tip: Don't spend $400 to smell like this.
28th January, 2019

Daim Blond by Serge Lutens

Ostensibly, this is a mix of ionones (violets over suede) and iris, but there's so much else happening here that it feels unfair to lump it in with the rest of that genre.

Sniffed up close on skin, the smell is puzzling but captivating, a mix of fresh laundry, kheer (the Indian rice pudding flavored with cardamom), and vague fruity tea. There's something in there that combines all of these disparate elements and makes them all smell like some sort of alcoholic beverage, perhaps a yeasty French champagne or the fermenting rice smell of a sake factory. I know this all sounds strange, but it all has the smooth texture of musky suede, so it works.

But then there's the sillage, a gorgeous cloud of violets, plum, and sandalwood that's kind of like Feminite du Bois reimagined as an aperitif, which hovers nicely but that doesn't register when smelled up close (I think this may be why so many people write this off as "weak").

The drydown is the suede and iris you'd expect from something like this, but deepened with that greasepaint makeup smell you get from the drydown of peach aldehydes, as well as a pinch of Serge's signature honeyed base.

This is quite good, and I'll echo the other reviewers who suggest picking this up while it's cheap and plentiful. It may be a bit weird for a blind buy, but if you're a confident fan of iris/suede perfumes, this is definitely one of the more interesting ones.
24th January, 2019

Vitriol d'Oeillet by Serge Lutens

Doesn't anyone else smell the onion?

Anyway, on me Vitriol is a rather nice clove/carnation mixed with dusty iris and frankincense. It reminds me of Serge's Encens et Lavande, but with the lavender replaced by carnation. It's a great combination, darkly pretty, evocative and almost "haunted" in its shadowed dustiness.

But Serge wouldn't be Serge without a trick up his sleeve, so there's also a wayward mix of cat pee blackcurrant and fennel that combines with the dusty incense to smell like old, drying onion skins. It's an interesting artsy undertone at first, but becomes a full-on stinky onion smell a few hours in which just ruins everything for me. Oh well. I appreciate that Vitriol is trying to do something different, but it's a no for me.
24th January, 2019

Clair de Musc by Serge Lutens

Gorgeous honeyed musk. I recognize galaxolide, that Jovan musk that's simultaneously fecal, soapy, powdery, and floral. There's a pinch of laundry musk as well, especially in the beginning, with a petrol/coumarin Knize Ten-style sharp musk in the middle, while the drydown is more woody and floral, with hints of hawthorn and orange blossom. Of course, all of this happens in harmony with Serge's signature honey note, which is finally given a proper starring role here, remarkably balanced and quite beautifully done. I know Muscs Koublaï Khän gets all the attention, but this is very much worth a sniff if you like musks or honey perfumes.
23rd January, 2019

Santal Blanc by Serge Lutens

One of those perfumes that uses a sheen of metallic lavender to knock out your nose and make itself hard to smell. I remain baffled why perfumers do this.

I can tell there's a decent perfume hiding somewhere behind the mask of confusing molecules. The top is a clever mix of Lutens dried fruit and the plummy topnotes from Feminite du Bois, mixing with iris and buttery sandalwood, drying down to fruity amber, but it's indirect and hidden and ultimately too frustrating to be worth the effort. A pity. This had promise.
18th January, 2019

Fourreau Noir by Serge Lutens

I find this interesting, but ultimately not what I like.

It's essentially a fougere with lots of skanky coumarin and lavender, given more edge with bleach and smoothed with pie spices. I find this interesting in theory because most perfumes with a lot of coumarin tend to play up the hay/papyrus aspects, while burying its darkly sharp petrol ammonia funk element in musks or vanilla. Instead, Serge highlights and lifts up the extreme elements, making them even more searing with that bleach note and extremely jagged ginger and nutmeg. He also uses a very metallic lavender, which further adds to the jagged nature of this perfume. Meanwhile, Serge's signature recipe of maple, pie spices, and honey does a masterful job providing a warm, inviting pillow for the jagged elements to sit on. Indeed, the deep drydown, once the metal, bleach, and petrol are gone, is magical, a stunning honeyed brown sugar gingerbread and caramel pecan cinnamon roll smell that's probably the best gourmand smell I've experienced in ages. Unfortunately, you have to sit through a bunch of nostril-searing bleachy nonsense to get to it.

This owes a big debt to Bulgari's Blu, another bleachy pie spice fougere, which in turn owes a debt to Serge's own 5 O'Clock au Gingembre. The metallic lavender also reminds me of Polo, while the bleachy nutmeg has distinct similarities to Kenneth Cole Black.

Anyway, the delicious base lifts this from a thumbs-down to a neutral, but the bleachy fougere genre as a whole just doesn't appeal to me.

18th January, 2019

Douce Amère by Serge Lutens

Lutens' favorite fruits (that dried orange/apricot/cherry mix) on top of some nondescript hazy flowers. The base is that Lutens signature brown sugar gingerbread, but weak enough to not contribute much.

It's interesting to smell a Serge without the challenging notes (no cumin or burnt scallions or any of his other love-them-or-hate-them notes), but I dare say that leaving them out makes Douce Amère a bit boring. It's not bad, but it's just a better-than-average fruity floral.

It doesn't help that this uses Serge's signature metallic lavender, which knocks out my nose, leaving everything a bit weak and indirect. Meh.
17th January, 2019

Rousse by Serge Lutens

Time has been hard on the mid-2000's cinnamon/clove/wood genre, leaving more than a few CDG's and their ilk as unfortunate reminders of a simpler time when we all apparently wanted to smell like the cheapest possible Christmas candles and potpourri. For what it's worth, Rousse lives on as one of the best-in-class examples of the style, thanks largely to its subtlety (something Lutens was definitely not know for at the time...).

Unlike the glaringly obvious cinnamon bubble gum spicebombs of the time (pun intended), Rousse plays its holiday spices against a rather nice rose note, all painted in hazy watercolor on a chalky, perfumey iris/musk canvas. The result is a cinnamon/clove scent that feels quite artistic instead of bombastic. Thumbs up for making me enjoy Red Hot cinnamon again...
14th January, 2019

Cèdre by Serge Lutens

Medicinal mint/cherry cough syrup with a pinch of hamster-cage cedar underneath. The tuberose is present but indirect - I wouldn't have recognized it without reading the notes. Instead, it acts as an amplification device, making everything loud and roundly floral. This stage smells surprisingly amateurish for a Lutens, in that, if you go to a decent street fair, there will be someone there selling homemade soaps scented with cobbled-together essential oils and they will have something that smells similar to this.

Things change with the arrival of the clove. It comes in waxy and mixes with the essential oil smell to come across as a cheap candle.

Finally, something merciful happens and this all self-corrects. The cherry cough syrup somehow turns into jasmine-inflected grape, while the essential oils smell fades into a comforting fuzzy haze, leaving a smell best described as posh, velvety grape kool-aid.

This is a bit problematic in itself, as this sort of jasmine grape kool-aid smell is the topnote of literally thousands of commonplace men's mall scents, so arriving at THIS is a bit of a letdown after the previous mess.

The grape kool-aid is the smell for most of the day, though a nice (but weak) base of honeyed cinnamon gingerbread eventually lingers on after the grape.

In all, this seems like an awful lot of work with no real payoff. Meh.
13th January, 2019
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Encens et Lavande by Serge Lutens

I'm not really enjoying this. On me, the lavender is chalky and dry, but also shrill and metallic. I think the overall idea of combining lavender and incense is clever, especially as there's a dirty wood undertone to lavender that could melt into frankincense quite nicely in theory, but I just don't like the way the lavender smells here.

To be fair, hours in, when the lavender is mostly gone, I'm left with incense and weird sheen that actually works quite well, but I just don't think it's worth it.
13th January, 2019

Un Lys by Serge Lutens

On the surface, this is a pretty standard lily/muguet perfume, soapy and powdery and green and quite strong. There's a shockingly dated 90's marine chemical in the topnotes that's a bit offputting, but if you wait a few minutes, it fades when the rest of the notes arrive.

At its core, I believe Un Lys is actually built on a lavender/tonka fougere, which gives perfumey depth to the lily notes. There's a quiet molasses gingerbread mix of vanilla, ginger, and tobacco running underneath, lifted straight from Lutens' iconic 5 O'Clock au Gingembre, which is really what separates Un Lys from every other lily perfume.

The subtle twists and turns beneath the lily are what earns this a thumbs up.
13th January, 2019

Boxeuses by Serge Lutens

Fairly straightforward ionone violets-over-suede construction. The plum and some synthetics brighten and amplify the violets, while the suede gets kind of lost in soapy dark greens. All told, Boxeuses falls in the category of Cuir de Russie, but it feels kind of thin compared the best of the genre. Chanel's Cuir de Russie is gloriously balanced between brightness and creaminess and animalics, while those who prefer the focus on bright violets that Lutens is attempting to achieve here would do better to try Creed's almost-fluorescent Love In Black. Meh.
13th January, 2019

El Attarine by Serge Lutens

Cumin... SO MUCH cumin... Turmeric, black pepper, fresh green scallions, fried dough, sweet tamarind, chickpea hummus, garlic, paprika.

This smells to me like fried samosas served with tamarind dipping sauce, in a kitchen with an overheating deep-fat fryer on a blisteringly hot day.

Maybe one person in 100 could find this spellbinding, but everyone else will think it's pretty nasty, or at least not a smell you'd want to wear as a perfume (seriously, a garlic perfume?!?). Honestly, appealing to those sorts of odds are what I love about Lutens, but alas, I'm not the one person who wants to smell like this...
10th January, 2019

Mandarine Mandarin by Serge Lutens

It seems to me that there's a rather complex "Lutens-ade" that he uses a lot. It's a dense combination of maple syrup immortelle and cumin, with deep caramel and burnt coffee underneath, while green herbs add mystery and dried fruits and often plum add brightness and density. It changes over the course of the day, somehow simultaneously darker AND brighter in the beginning, passing through a perfumey amber phase, and eventually simmering down to a molten brown sugar syrup spiced with cumin and curry later in the day.

Mandarine Mandarin takes this signature combination of elements and puts some sweet orange in place of the plum and dried fruits. It works well as a slightly freaky gourmand, and not very well as a citrus perfume. I think it could accurately be described as a troubled goth version of A*Men Ultra Zest. Really, if you like Lutens, in all of his confoundingly strange-but-beautiful-but-gross syrupy splendor, you'll like this. If not, you probably won't.
10th January, 2019

Datura Noir by Serge Lutens

If Datura Noir were a person: Loretta, sixty-something, Las Vegas. She puts on her dress (classy, but showing quite a bit of her ample cleavage) and heads down to the casino. It's one of the older casinos, a little divey, but the drinks are strong and the men are nice to her. She can still turn heads, even if the heads, like her, are getting older. She has a fantastic time, getting louder and more bawdy as she drinks...

So what does Datura Noir actually smell like? Loud, minty tuberose with coconutty ylang over powdery soapy white musk, with a dark cherry cough syrup note that starts upfront but ends up as a dark undertone once the tuberose pushes it out of the way. From a certain angle, this does simulate datura (angel's trumpet), but is, at its heart, a big loud bawdy dame halfway between Fracas and Black Orchid.
08th January, 2019

Derby by Guerlain

After all these years writing reviews, something has clicked and I finally GET Derby. It's wonderful!

For years, Derby struck me as a fairly standard powerhouse 80's woody chypre and I just didn't get the hype. But now I get that it really is best-in-class. Yes, it has a lot of the usual 80's masculine notes - that bergamot/moss chypre skeleton, that mix of hawthorn and sandalwood that smells like expensive burnished furniture, a deep herbal facet that imparts masculinity, and just a hint of Guerlain's classic funk. But it's remarkable for how perfectly matched it all is. Powerhouse woody chypres can be beastly (it's kind of their point), but Derby is mixed in such a way that it smells classy - even its 80's-style strength comes across as expensively rich instead of loud.

Putting all of this under a Chanel-esque sparkling, fizzy aldehydic lemon top is pure brilliance, and a big part of what sets Derby apart. Without feminizing the scent, it adds lift and life in a way I wouldn't have expected. Necessary sniffing!
08th January, 2019

Les Heures Voyageuses - Oud & Rose by Cartier

This stuff is glorious! It kicks off with bit of plasticky band-aid oud over sueded leather and vaguely floral soapy musk. This point is nice, if you enjoy leathery ouds, but if you give it 15 minutes or so for the flowers to bloom, it bursts out into one of the most opulent smells I've experienced in a while.

Imagine a grand aldehydic floral like Patou's Joy, but with the musky creamy base replaced with leathery, lightly fecal oud. The plastick/rubber elements of the oud replace the aldehydes, while the oud's complex musky woody richness makes a luxurious pillow to support and display the rather expensive-smelling rose and jasmine.

Of course, this won't be for everyone. There's probably a very small intersection of perfume fanatics who love both a plasticky, realistic oud and a grand old-school aldehydic floral, and as one of those few people, I really respect that Cartier has dared to buck mass appeal in favor of truly grand, notable perfumery with this one. Fantastic!
08th January, 2019

Saffron of Kashmir by In Fiore

There's a complex balance of saffron and sandalwood that feels like the focus of this perfume - an exact point where leathery, sharp saffron gives a dirty, animalic growl to sandalwood while the sandalwood gives an opulent lumberyard expanse to the normally shrill saffron. Many, many perfumes combine these ingredients, but I've never been as struck by the yin/yang between them as I am here.

My only complaint is that there's a background sludge of flowers and resins that only really serves to scream "I'm a natural perfume!" which could probably have been left out, though I can detect how some of the saffron/sandalwood magic is actually highlighted by a hidden but important support system of of dark but rosy geranium. Despite my complaints, this is still great sniffing - I even bought a cute little compact of it.
08th January, 2019

Dark Lord Ex Tenebris Lux by By Kilian

It's weird watching established luxury niche brands trying to reach out to fans of indie perfumes. Dark Lord contains a lot of the DNA often used by new upstart perfumers in a clear attempt to feel more cutting edge. There's the heavy reliance on smoky cade and natural cedar, as well as a Tauer-ade of green resins, and also the use of jasmine paired against dark woods to act as a sweetener. Dark Lord matches all of this up against an Encre Noir-inspired mix of vetiver and geranium.

As such, Dark Lord smells more like a Bruno Fazzolari or an Olympic Orchids than a Saks Fifth Avenue prestige perfume - not that there's anything wrong with that. Personally speaking, I find it a bit harsh and oddly unbalanced, like it has a few too many ingredients for its own good, so I'm voting neutral, but this has made for interesting sniffing.
08th January, 2019

Les Jeux sont Faits by Jovoy

On paper, this is a nice pine forest with hints of booze underneath, but it almost completely falls apart on my skin.

There's a strangely minty pine forest smell, made weirdly sweet and artificial with some sort of saccharin candy note, while a background hum of cat-pee currant, tobacco, and musk pair with that pine and some lemon to smell like old-fashioned bathroom cleaner in a stinky bathroom.

I usually like animalic perfumes and dirty forest perfumes, but this just doesn't get it right. It's like Les Jeux Sont Faits is trying to be three or four uncomplimentary things all at once and, if you look anywhere past the pine, it's just a mess.
08th January, 2019

Insolence Eau Glacée by Guerlain

A fuzzy, comforting cashmere sweater of a perfume, mostly clean white soap mixed with vanilla, lightly flavored with pepper, almond heliotrope, and an indistinct fruity floral brightness on top. I spent some time searching out the listed notes, but it's not worth the effort - the whole point of this is the comfortable soapy vanilla fuzz.

Pleasant, inoffensive, a bit short-lived, but cute and thoroughly huggable. Thumbs up.
08th January, 2019

Hermèssence Musc Pallida by Hermès

Musc Pallida opens beautifully, with rich animalic iris subtly flanked with fruits and flowers and quiet peppery woods. With time, the fruit pushes forward and it takes on a plum hue, which eventually becomes the focus. There's a point where a combination of prune, pepper, and smoke smell an awful lot like A-1 Steak Sauce (or possibly a plummy barbecue sauce), which made me smile at first but ended up getting on my nerves. Things fade from there, ending up as a smudge of fruity green leaves, somewhere between sour tamarind and thin, rosy geranium.

In all, I loved the intro, tolerated the quirky bbq sauce middle, and barely smell the thin drydown, so I'll average everything out with a neutral rating.
29th December, 2018

Hermèssence Cardamusc by Hermès

To my nose, Cardamusc is a study in the combination of cardamom and geranium, taking place over soapy white musk. It's a clever combination - both cardamom and geranium share a dank leafy green quality, as well as fruity and herbal facets, and a floral roundness.

Cardamom can be problematic, as it has a very dark, sour urine facet that can be downright horrifying. The soapy musk does a good job masking it for a while, but a few hours in, after the soap fades, there's a point where Cardamusc ends up smelling like anise liqueur served in a damp, dark, urine-soaked cave.

In theory, I've geeked out on the combinations of smells enough to have enjoyed spending a day in Cardamusc, but at no point have I ever smelled it and just thought "that smells good". Instead, it's more of a curious fascination with something I haven't really liked that much.
29th December, 2018

Dawn by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Dawn goes on with a shock of animalics, from both woody cumin and an especially fecal oud. But the star of the show is really a peppery sequoia forest smell with the animalics humming along underneath, while the oud’s other aspects (most notably a medicinal rubber tinge and those animalics) add character and a creamy richness. This is beautifully balanced and gorgeous if you like this sort of thing, though it seems to fall apart a bit given time, ending up as a mix of black pepper essence and a rather cheap-smelling aquatic rubbing alcohol basenote. In all, it's decent but paying $1500 for some black pepper oil and the same basenote as an Axe body spray feels obscene.
28th December, 2018 (last edited: 29th December, 2018)

White Moss & Snowdrop Cologne by Jo Malone London

On paper, this is a nice mix of iris and soapy musk, warm and fuzzy but a bit thin. On myself, I mostly notice soapy clove in my sillage, though smelled up close I can still get a sense of the soapy elements, along with a pinch of green, which struck me as vetiver, though it could be a trick of the cardamom mixing with the clove.

In all, I'm not that impressed. It's kind of like a poor man's F*cking Fabulous, with the almond milk and spiced nuances replaced with Christmas clove and the richness turned down so far that half the time I don't smell anything there. There was real potential here (if this smelled as good on as it does on a paper strip at the store, it would be noteworthy for its price point), but it's ultimately unnecessary.
13th December, 2018

My Happy Cocoa & Cashmere by Clinique

Pretty much just smells like isobutavan - that weird nutty smoky vanilla that's everywhere. If you've been to the touristy areas of New York, you know those carts that sell hot caramelized nuts and their weird burnt candied nut smoke smell. It's kind of that, but isobutavan is a really common ingredient in e-cigs, so it also smells like vape smoke or a Swisher Sweet cigar as well.

In all, it's essentially Pink Sugar, but with a pinch more musk to give the illusion of chocolate and make it a bit darker in tone. I never really like these, so thumbs down for me, with the knowledge that these are extremely popular, so most sniffers will disagree with me.

As an aside, I'm baffled by the salicylates note. They're the active chemical in acne wash and I didn't even know they had an odor... Odd.
11th November, 2018