Perfume Reviews

Reviews by rogalal

Total Reviews: 1010

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

My Happy Blue Sky Neroli by Clinique

Blue Sky Neroli lifts its topnotes directly from Mugler Cologne/Creed Original Vetiver - hyper-green grassy neroli with an aquatic sheen. But it quickly dries down into especially salty orange blossom with lingering grassy greens hovering off to the side. A couple of hours in, it's mostly salty sea air, reminding me of the drydown of Acqua di Gio, but greener.

All in all, nothing brilliant or groundbreaking, but quite nice for $20, though the bottle is MUCH smaller in person than it looks on the internet.
11th November, 2018

Aqua Allegoria Flora Nymphéa by Guerlain

Having tested this right after Idylle, I can see a lot of similarities I may have missed otherwise. They're both based on the same powdery, soapy core with raspberry on top, but Nymphéa uses slightly soapy clove and amped up berries in place of Idylle's flowery lily. I wouldn't have noticed the listed orange blossom or honey if I hadn't known that was what I was supposed to be smelling.

In all, Nymphéa is basically a decent berry-heavy fruity floral buried in creamy powder. Not bad for what it is, but not at all what I'm into.
11th November, 2018
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Idylle by Guerlain

I remember being fairly unimpressed by Idylle when it came out, but now giving it a try again, I'm quite enjoying it. I think it's because I've learned to appreciate powdery scents in the years since.

Idylle is a nice white-flowers smell, heavy on the lily but with noticeable jasmine as well. It's powdery and soapy and clean and also creamy and sweet with vanilla, but with subtle indoles and a sour green streak acting as a counterpoint to all the clean elements, creating the illusion of a chypre in the background.

In a way, it's unremarkable - another nice lily perfume - but the attention to detail (the way the indoles fuse with the greens and the vanilla gives this a remarkable depth often missing in this sort of perfume), earns it a thumbs up.
01st November, 2018

La Petite Robe Noire Eau Fraîche - Ma Robe Pétales by Guerlain

Oh, how these reviews make me wish for pistachio dryer sheets... Unfortunately, my little mini-bottle of Ma Robe Pétales smells completely different from the reviews here. Perhaps it was yet another ill-advised renaming, which seem to plague the Robe Noire franchise, but I smell mostly mint.

After reviewing a bunch of these, it's clear that the LPRN flankers are generally different remixes of cherry, mint, greens, and marshmallow. Ma Robe Pétales, at least the version I have, focuses on the green aspects.

It's very minty, supported by sharp, candied greens, with a background hum of charred tobacco leaves. Up close, it's weirdly candied while simultaneously boozy, like a big aromatic candy-sweet mint liqueur with a lump of coal sitting next to it. From a distance, walking down the street, it has an odd smell of burnt toothpaste.

I do have a weakness for burnt oddities in my perfumes, but this does very little for me. Mint almost never compliments anything - it works best as a foil or a counterpoint to other elements, and sitting here all upfront and boozy and oversweetened, it just doesn't hold much appeal. Oh well.
01st November, 2018

La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Parfum by Guerlain

Ack - these confusing flankers! At one point, this was sold as La Petit Robe Noire Ma Premiere Robe Eau De Parfum, but they dropped the "Ma Premiere Robe" part when they introduced a second perfume ALSO called La Petit Robe Noire Ma Premiere Robe later in 2016. I honestly don't believe that the marketing and naming team at Guerlain actually wants to sell these - it's like intentional sabotage....

So what does it smell like? Essentially, this is a rose/berry fruitchouli mixed with one of those violet/suede lipstick perfumes, grafted together by that mint from Florabotanica and every upscale fruity floral since. It's painfully obvious that this was created to try to mix together three of the biggest current trends in mainstream luxury perfumes, as if painstakingly combining three forms of "basic" would make for something innately crowdpleasing. To be fair, it's executed quite well (it's got good projection and longevity and the blending is perfect), but it just aims so low that it's really hard to get excited about it.
01st November, 2018

La Petite Robe Noire Eau de Toilette by Guerlain

There are so many of these Petite Robe flankers now that it's really hard to keep them straight. It doesn't help that this was at some point sold as La Petite Robe Noire Ma Robe Cocktail Eau de Toilette, with the Cocktail either added or dropped - I have no clue.

So what does it smell like? Well, a La Petite Robe Noire flanker, duh. They're all about remixing the same basic elements (cherry, mint, greens, and marshmallow), and EDT/Cocktail is one of the better ones because it's the least marshmallowy.

To me, it has two main themes, pink candy and sharp greens. The pink candy portion starts out like cherry and fades to cherry-ish jasmine, while always played against the sharp greens (mint on top, leading to Guerlain's signature sweet pea, and then pine). The interest lies in the interplay - the mint sours the cherry, while the jasmine makes the pine feel like some crazy sort of wood-flavored bubblegum, and the greens give a sharp booziness that awkwardly cuts through the treacle.

In all, I don't think this really works, in the larger sense that I don't think any of these LPRN's really work. It's just a bad recipe that never seems to be particularly improved, no matter how much endless tweaking it gets, and it's taken on a sad air of desperation at this point. It feels like a song that a band keeps remixing over and over, desperately hoping that the next remix will become a hit, when it's just not a particularly great song to start with.
01st November, 2018

L'Instant Magic by Guerlain

Magic mostly smells like benzoin baby powder with a touch of floral almond heliotrope and signature Guerlain greens on top, ending up more amber as vanilla and sandalwood join the powdery benzoin later.

I don't think it's possible to review L'Instant Magic without reviewing Guerlain's entire history and how it fits in.

I can see how vintage Guerlain enthusiasts would find this simplistic compared to the baroque masterpieces so beloved in their catalog, but this is also gorgeously put together with just enough nods to Guerlain's historical grandeur that it's better by leaps and bounds than the cherry marshmallow fluff they've been focused on in the 10 or so years since this came out.

I don't want to artificially down-vote Magic just because it's no Mitsouko, but also don't want to artificially up-vote it just for being better than Mon Guerlain. In the end, I'm voting thumbs up, because I do really like how this is put together. It exists at a point midway between super-powdery barbershop ambers like Caswell Massey's Tricorn and the modern niche nutty richness of Tom Ford's Fucking Fabulous, a mid-point that I find quite delightful.
01st November, 2018

Paris-Deauville by Chanel

Powdery citrus with a sour green undertone and a level of richness not usually found in the genre thanks to a subtle skeleton of flowers and patchouli. There's an artificiality to Deauville that makes it my least favorite of the three Chanel Paris colognes - while it's perfumey and pretty, it also kind of smells like dish soap or some sort of bathroom cleaner. As MrsDalloway says in her review, I find I enjoy it much more if I don't sniff it closely.
31st October, 2018

Vodka on the Rocks by By Kilian

Basically, a stronger Acqua di Gio for $300.

It's a study in chemicals - hedione and dihydromercenol for abstract freshness at first, quickly settling into calone, that smell of herbs growing in the salty dunes by a hot beach, eventually drying down to a vaguely melon-ish aquatic aromachemical stew.

This is pretty much exactly what Acqua di Gio does, but amplified.

It's a double-edged sword. AdG gets most of its charm from smelling artfully like a time and place more than a perfume. But by turning up the volume, Vodka On The Rocks clearly smells unabashedly artificial, wearing its chemistry on its sleeve in exchange for better projection, which I just don't personally think is worth it.
31st October, 2018

Hermèssence Rose Ikebana by Hermès

Typical Ellena/Hermes, but in a good way. As others have said, this is essentially a study in rose, rhubarb, and cumin, all in a haze of pleasant synthetics, but the magic is that it totally works.

The rhubarb gives a sour green sharpness to the rose, while the rose brings out a citrus/mango brightness in the rhubarb. The cumin, instead of being sweaty, adds earthy depth while, at the same time, a sour rosy haze of plasticky synthetics which would normally drive me batty actually works here, giving an unexpectedly bright shining freshness.

Sniffed casually, I find that this reminds me of Ellena's Bigarade Concentree, but brighter and much less sweaty. Yes, it's weak, so many sprays are required, but I think it's worth it.
31st October, 2018

Nightingale by Zoologist Perfumes

I can't believe this is my 1000th review... I wanted to pick something auspicious, so here's Nightingale, one of my favorites.

Nightingale takes some of the best elements of classic perfumery and painstakingly fuzes them together into something that feels fully historically informed, but still maintains an unexpected modernity.

It kicks off with bright, shimmering cherry over a Patou-esque mix of rose, jasmine, and carnation, melting into a doughy clove core lifted from Mitsouko or L'Heure Bleue. There's an animalic civet that comes through as well, a perfect foil for all the prettiness. The end result is halfway between Patou's 1000 and Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue, but with its own character thanks to the sparkling cherry on top and the distinctive way that cherry mixes with the jasmine and clove. By the drydown, I'm left with flowery clove over animalic soap, which reminds me of a de-powdered Nuit De Noel.

Remarkably, if this sounds like a museum piece, it's very much not. While Nightingale's vintage inspirations cloak their charm in powder, Nightingale itself lets its beauty shine without any impressionist haze, so despite its density and complexity, it feels current and more straightforward than you'd think an intricate mix like this could be, and this means that, while clearly classically inspired, Nightingale never feels derivative.

Honestly, if Guerlain or Caron put out something this good right now, it's all we'd be talking about. Necessary sniffing for lovers of Grand Haute Perfumery.
22nd October, 2018

Cuir Garamante by MDCI

This came recommended by a trusted perfume friend and was really captivating on paper, so I had high hopes.

The first hour or so is great. Rose over very dusty wood, dry but round. With blackberry on top and a really sharp musky petrol stabbing up from beneath. I understand the reviews complaining that this feels overly familiar, but I think Cuir Garamonte makes its case with a very well done balance of extremes - the blackberry is much sweeter than you'd expect from a perfume of this type, but it's balanced by darkness from the noxious, fecal petrol note, which is in turn carefully balanced with the dry prettiness of the rose.

Unfortunately, it all eventually simmered down into a fairly pedestrian aquatic "woody amber" base mixed with saffron and charred birch. I really hate this particular drydown, and it's the reason this scores a neutral instead of a thumbs up, but it does eventually make way for a deeper base of caramelized vanilla, saffron, and residual petrol sharpness which is odd but clever.
21st October, 2018
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Les Heures Voyageuses - Oud & Santal by Cartier

This is honestly one of the best amber oud perfumes I've tried.

It's a classic buttery lumberyard sandalwood mixed with benzoin, incense, and vanilla to form a wonderfully rich amber. There are pie spices and hints of dried fruits on top, while a charred, lightly rubbery oud gives depth of character while adding rich smokiness to the amber.

This sort of reminds me of Costume National's excellent Homme, with it's smoky buttery amber, though I think Oud & Santal's use of oud for smoke instead of the Iso E Super used by Homme is an improvement. Very well done.
21st October, 2018

Les Heures de Parfum - VIII L'Heure Diaphane by Cartier

An interesting mix of ideas. It's taken me many wears to really wrap my head around VIII - it's one of those perfumes that combines familiar smells in a way that's original and a bit confusing, but that works well enough that I wonder why nobody else has thought of this before.

The top is bright juicy orange and citrus with every conceivable "fresh" chemical, a veritable stew of hedione, ozone, and dihydromercynol that calls to mind the better Creeds. Meanwhile, the heart is a traditional mix of rose and plasticky hairspray aldehydes that's often sold as freesia or lilac. And the two ideas are glued together with raspberry and fabric softener.

I realize how problematic this all sounds, all chemicals and questionable ingredients, but the thing that VIII does so well is to make this feel completely comfortable and familiar and not stupid at all.

There's an impressive continuity of character - the way the gratuitous but familiar artificiality of the chemical notes works from top to bottom assures that everything sits in a comforting haze of clean and fresh without ever just smelling cheap thanks to how well the orange/berry/rose combination works in tandem with it.

This isn't usually what I like, but I can't help but give a thumbs up for how carefully crafted this is.
21st October, 2018

Cap Néroli by Nicolaï

To my nose, Cap Neroli is mostly a beautiful jasmine scent supported by lightly soapy orange blossom. It doesn't smell to me like neroli, that green citrus smell I was expecting. Instead, it's one of those "walk in the spring when everything's flowering" perfumes.

I quite like it - it has a lot in common with one of my favorites, L'Artisan's La Chasse aux Papillons, with its extremely literal florals. Cap Neroli ups the ante with a chemically induced projection that I can't quite figure out, which adds to the strength of the scent at the risk of losing some of its natural feel. But overall, it's a beautiful smell. Definitely thumbs up.
21st October, 2018

Paris-Biarritz by Chanel

A pretty little lemon splash. I've worn this multiple times, partly with the hope of getting to know its secrets, and partly just because I'm quite enjoying it. And after all that time invested, I think the secret of Paris-Biarritz is that it's actually remarkably simple, just a nice lemon note with a hint of powder on top and soap underneath. Just nice lemony soap. It doesn't last very long, leaving room for multiple re-applications (which I think is fun), and it doesn't do much, content to just be pretty.
16th October, 2018

EO No.1 Eau de Parfum by Ensar Oud

I'm having a hard time really understanding EO No 1.

On one hand, it's got real deer musk melting together with a very complex oud, so it's vaguely rubbery and gasoline-ish and has a fecal facet, but it's also flowery and a bit charred. But then there's also a densely muddled essential oil smell, floral and resinous and familiar from many lesser natural oil perfumes. It's kind of sharp and herbal, but also appealingly gross in the manner of a proper oud, but everything happens behind a lump of essential oil smell.

The thing I've found most interesting about getting to know EO No 1 is that there's a point where the real musk and herbs combine that I can tell is what old leather perfumes like Knize Ten, with their weird animalic petrol notes, are trying to recreate with modern synthetics. Smelling the real thing is truly interesting, even if I'm ultimately unsatisfied with EO No 1.
10th October, 2018

Mugler Cologne Fly Away by Thierry Mugler

After a quick jolt of pineapple, Fly Away breaks out into a coconut-infused fruit punch, with a pinch of bile to make it especially tropical (you know how papaya and other tropical fruits have a bile undertone?). It gets less fruity with time, ending up as coconutty Malibu rum.

I personally don't like the bile note at all, but I can see how it falls in line with Mugler's playfulness, and also how it goes a long way to cut the sweet fruit overload of the topnotes. But given all that, I'd recommend L'Artisan's Ananas Fizz (while it's still available) or Malin + Goetz's Dark Rum as vomit-free alternatives.
10th October, 2018

Hermèssence Cuir d'Ange by Hermès

My favorite Hermèssence and quite possible Ellena's best work of the last few years.

Somehow, Cuir d'Ange is both completely weird and utterly comforting, in a way that I've never experienced in a leather perfume. It's utterly original, yet somehow familiar.

So what does it smell like? Well, that's complicated... It's got that mix of cumin and sweaty-old-man leather that Le Labo uses a lot (probably most famously in Rose 31), and it's also got a mix of brown sugar and molasses and New Orleans chicory coffee that should smell gourmand but instead is sort of leathery and woody. I don't smell most of the listed notes, but can understand, at least intellectually, how they could be background players.

Yet Cuir d'Ange is way more than the sum of it's parts - this odd combination of woody sugary funk somehow simulates the smell of a horse and simultaneously manages to not smell gross at all, despite itself. In fact, it actually smells fresh. I'm baffled how this works, but very glad to have it to smell. Highly recommended.
10th October, 2018

Oud Saphir by Atelier Cologne

To start, it should be pointed out that this is in no way an oud perfume. That being said, it's a proper leather scent that manages to cleverly incorporate multiple types.

It kicks off with quinoline, the main ingredient in Tuscan Leather, played against greens. This stage is a bit TOO familiar, as there are a ton of these, but it's eventually joined by rich suede and finally dries down to leathery birch tar. The rich suede thankfully manages to keep Saphir from being just another Tuscan Leather clone. Really, it's all about the slow slide from sharp quinoline to the smooth suede to the burnt pine, with a side of greens carefully maintaining continuity the whole way. Not entirely original, but nicely done.

10th October, 2018

Oranges Bigarades by Lancôme

Fresh, juicy orange on top, made especially bright with pepper and happy synthetics. It's joined quickly by what smells to me like green tea essence, but a bit more milky and rich than usual.

That's about it: oranges, lightly milky green tea, and a peppery freshness. This certainly isn't bad, and I'm intrigued by the idea of a fresh citrus that works with more modern elements instead of the typical "eau" mixture. But I tend to think perfumes heavy on green tea essence smell kind of cheap, and Orange Bigarades kind of triggers me, though I could see it finding favor with citrus fans who don't share my feelings about green tea.
10th October, 2018

10 Corso Como Uomo by 10 Corso Como

It looks like I'm the only person here who actually likes 10 Corso Como Uomo, and I think I like it for all the reasons everyone else hates it.

There are two main themes running in parallel here.

First, a very 00's-style iso e super/pepper/clary sage mix that's enough of a cliche that I can see why it turns reviewers away. I personally like the addition of the ginger, and the way what I'm guessing is a pinch of violet leaf adds a silvery sense of gloom to the otherwise camping-in-a-forest notes.

Second, there's a chalky greyness, sort of like ash or clay, but also like cement dust. This is the most realistic petrichor smell I've encountered in perfume, like fresh rain on a cement sidewalk where someone had burned a campfire the night before.

It's this interplay of the forest campfire and extremely urban rainy cement that I enjoy. That dry-but-wet smoky-but-waterlogged forest-but-city duality forms a perfect perfume yin/yang. That said, this isn't an easy wear - Uomo proudly shouts its weirdness, and not everyone wants to walk around smelling like smoky cement, but this is what I always reach for when I'm heading out to the MOMA or to see some weird performance art.
03rd October, 2018

Paris-Venise by Chanel

Paris-Venise is probably the prettiest of Chanel's three new colognes. They definitely take its cologne concentration seriously, as it takes many, many sprays to get much out of this.

So what does it smell like? It's kind of a lemony redux of No 5, with its powdery lemon champagne topnotes and soapy iris cold-cream base, but with No 5's floral core replaced by the clean white smell of Tide laundry detergent. It works - if you're on the market for something very clean but a little posh, this could be a great fit, but I can't imagine buying this personally. Why bother with a watered-down No 5 with detergent instead of jasmine? One for the Chanel superfans - if you're the kind of collector who already has Beige and No 22 and all the different versions and variations of No 5, this is probably for you.
03rd October, 2018

Mugler Cologne Take Me Out by Thierry Mugler

This kicks off with Mugler Cologne's signature grassy green mix of neroli and vetiver, which are quickly overtaken by a very traditional eau de cologne mix of lemon, bergamot, and lavender, supported by petitgrain and what I think is a touch of vanilla for lasting sweetness. There's a smell in the background that seems to be a weird synergy of indoles and bread, which is easily the most interesting thing going on in an otherwise fairly staid and time-tested mixture, but it doesn't last long enough to matter much.

As the fairly understated traditional eau of the Mugler Cologne flankers, this should be an easy sell, though I'd reach for similar classics like Eau de Hadrien or ADP Colonia before I'd bother with Take Me Out.
02nd October, 2018

Addictive Arts : Chasing the Dragon Hypnotic by Clive Christian

Largely that sweetened condensed milk smell made famous by Angel, but paired with green herbs and suede instead of the usual patchouli, lightened with a shot of citrus that gives it an unexpected freshness. Given time, the evaporated milk caramelizes into dulce de leche, joined by brown sugar and mace as the leather fades.

In all, I think Chasing The Dragon: Hypnotic is perfectly nice, well concentrated, and definitely worthy of a thumbs up, though I can't imagine paying almost $900 for this. For a less expensive (though still expensive) substitute, I'd recommend checking out Kilian's Black Phantom, which is similar but adds coffee.
29th September, 2018

Mugler Cologne Run Free by Thierry Mugler

A mineralic, metallic vetiver fused with cinnamon-dusted clove, over a mix of what smells to me like cardamom, ginger, and clary sage, which gives it a tea effect.

So it's kind of like a fusion of Spicebomb and Clive Christian's X for Men, a sort of hot-mulled-wine-meets-Christmas-tea, but with iodine-ish vetiver on top, making sure it never just smells like an overspiced holiday beverage.

Honestly, if I'd heard Run Free described like this, I'd assume it would be awful (it's hard for cinnamon and cloves to not smell cheap), but it works. It smells more expensive than it is, and manages to be just challenging enough to avoid being pedestrian, while being completely wearable. Thumbs up!
29th September, 2018

Rose & White Musk Absolu by Jo Malone London

I guess every perfume company has to have a saffron rose now, and this is Jo Malone's. The topnotes are the familiar rose/saffron/patchouli mix you'd expect, fading after about an hour to a mix of burnt pine and a cheap aquatic "woody amber" base. Sniffed up close, this base is mostly pine and a bit herbal, pleasantly burnt and reminiscent of Guerlain's Oud Essential, but the smell from a distance is all "woody amber", so to folks around me I basically smell like a teenager drenched in Axe body spray.

I can't fathom why anyone would want to pay a premium for this when Jo Malone's own excellent Red Roses is sitting right next to it, palpably better and half the price...
29th September, 2018

Back to Black by By Kilian

Of all the big tobacco gourmands, I think Back To Black is the best, beating out Tobacco Vanille and Ambre Narguille and their numerous clones. The biggest issue with the genre is the problematic mix of ash and sweets, which can awkwardly clash if not expertly executed. Back To Black is my winner simply because the combination of ash and honey smells much better to me than ash with vanilla or amber.

So what does it smell like? Honey, mostly, with subtle bitter greens to cut the sweetness, along with that ash note, and a careful illusion of pipe tobacco created by a combining chamomile and cedar with the honey.

I suppose everyone reading this already knows that Back To Black is necessary sniffing - it's the ultimate gourmand for people who don't want to smell like marshmallows. Though I should say that this was only recently dethroned as my favorite honey perfume by Hiram Green's sublime and mercifully ash-free Slowdive.
23rd September, 2018

Jasmins Marzipane by Lancôme

I love a good jasmine perfume, though my preferences are the two extremes: either largely unadulterated, just a big, mostly plain jasmine allowed to show off its near-naked beauty, or else ornately adorned like Patou's Joy, dripping in jewels and furs and ridiculous excess like the diva queen it is.

This Lancome lands somewhere in the middle, too dressed up to show off its natural beauty, but not dressed up enough to be truly resplendent. The topnotes are promising, big full jasmine topped with pepper, with a novel combination of indoles and peanut butter underneath. I had high hopes for this, but a raspberry jam patchouli quickly joins the party, mixing with the jasmine to to eclipse the more interesting elements, leaving a better-than-average fruitchouli. Fortunately, it fades back, leaving a fantastic peppery indolic jasmine for much of the day.

In the end, I'm willing to forgive the fruitchouli - it's hard for me to dislike a jasmine perfume and this is definitely well orchestrated. My only real complaint is that I can't shake the feeling that someone at Lancome smelled Tom Ford's genre-bending Jasmin Rouge and hired Dominique Ropion to create something like it, but about 70% less interesting, but he made the best of it and ended up with something considerably less challenging, but still good.
13th September, 2018