Perfume Reviews

Reviews by rogalal

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Total Reviews: 827

Noir Epices by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Noir Epices is really quite confusing, one of those perfumes that seems to be telling multiple stories simultaneously. On one hand, it's got a traditional attar mix of rose, patchouli, and sandalwood (and maybe even a pinch of rubbery, fecal oud), so parts of it will feel familiar to fans of that sort of scent. Simultaneously, there's a mix of dark, oily, powerhouse herbs. And then there's the topnotes, a mix of pollen-drenched acacia and honeyed mimosa fused together with bergamot and a lot of aldehydes.

Somehow, it all comes together. There's a powerhouse chypre hidden in plain sight, but the aldehydic flowers (so sharp as to be almost piquant) make sure this is never particularly masculine. Meanwhile, the attar elements mixed with the herbs and spices create the illusion of an Asian market brimming with Nag Champa and lots of heady soaps and incenses. The end result is confounding, kind of gross, and more "haunting" than "beautiful". It's one of those perfumes that doesn't smell especially good, but is always interesting. Thumbs up for artistry and chemistry, but not necessarily for everyday wearability.
19th July, 2017

Une Fleur de Cassie by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

It's almost impossible to really describe what Une Fleur de Cassie smells like at first blast. Ostensibly, it's honeyed mimosa and aldehydes over perfumey musks, but there so much else going on as well. I like JTD's description of "mud and metal, cinnamon and slate, almond and glue." It's a tightrope walk between weird rubbery clay-ish synthetics, old school perfume elements, and beautiful flowers.

While the complexity of the first couple of hours makes for fun sniffing, the real magic happens in the drydown, where the honeyed, pollen-laden flowers melt into a pillow of rich, luxurious pie-spiced vanilla, nutty sandalwood, and soapy musks. It's GORGEOUS. Thumbs up for entertaining weirdness, as well as truly inspired perfumery in the base.
19th July, 2017

Angéliques Sous La Pluie by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Cool, chalky iris and chilled vetiver made icy with ambrette seed, under the watchful eye of Elena's signature mix of peppery chemical brightness and sweaty cumin. I have no idea what angelica flowers actually smell like, but this is clearly a dirty, peppery iris.

Sous La Pluie exists at a point midway between Chanel No. 18's icy outer-space ambrette and peppery ambrette iris/vetiver mixes like Bulgari's Eau Parfumée au Thé Blanc, or Elena's own Eau de Gentiane Blanche for Hermes, though I'd pick any of those three over it, largely because I just don't like cumin that much and simply find them more pleasant.
18th July, 2017
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French Lover / Bois d'Orage by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

In the late 00's, every niche line had to have one of those iso e super/pepper/vetiver/incense perfumes. Bois d'Orage is Frederick Malle's.

What separates it from the pack is a really complex mix of animalic notes. There's cumin and sweaty-old-man leather and a big blast of cat poop currant, all of which combines with the smoky pepper and piney cedar to smell like some sort of incredibly dirty, sweaty, poopy forest. It's weirdly resplendent in its celebration of woodland rot, which makes it interesting, but not exactly easy sniffing.

All told, Bois d'Orage is one of those perfumes that I appreciate but don't really like, so I'm just going to vote neutral and leave it at that.
18th July, 2017

Knight Of Flowers by Mikmoi

Knight Of Flowers is my favorite of the current Mikmoi lineup. It's a sketch of what you'd get if you combine rather expensive flowers with bay rhum.

The end result is quite nice. It kicks off with the smells in parallel: a realistic, bubblegummy jasmine alongside that rush of bay tree leaf and sugar syrup you get in a good bay rhum. Given time, it blooms and comes together. A complex white floral accord develops around the jasmine, while a carnation-hued clove ties together the flowers and the bay rhum.

If you're wondering, because this whole thing is a meditation in masculinity/femininity and it's kind of the whole point: Knight Of Flowers skews fairly feminine with its upfront jasmine and white flowers. It would be difficult to imagine some bay-rum-wearing lumberjack feeling masculine in this, but for us effete city folk, it's a hip little touch of androgynous fun. Thumbs up!
11th July, 2017

Vanille Insensée by Atelier Cologne

Just another cheap little vanilla. It's that dumb marshmallow frosting vanilla, with isobutavan added for a hint of nuts and creme soda, and a touch of boozy immortelle that's trying its best to class things up but fails.

Right now, in any town in America, you could go to Ross or TJ Maxx and find a candle or a room spray that smells like this for less than $5. This is the dictionary definition of what "cheap" smells like.
11th July, 2017

Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

So, that sweetened evaporated milk note from Angel mixed with very artificial-smelling chocolate musk. There's an iris richness in the background, but it smells more weird than luxurious, and it's all quite salty. Add to that a dollop of isobutavan, that chemical that's usually mixed with cheap vanilla to give it hints of smoky nuts and creme soda. Paired up against Van Noten's backdrop, it just adds to the weirdness, like disembodied nutty smoke over that odd musky milk. Oh, and the whole thing kind of also smells like molten plastic.

So there. I hated this every time I smelled it for years before finally trying it on. And now I'm just confused. Giving it a few full wears, I no longer dislike it for its weirdness, but I still dislike it for using its weirdness in such a thinly transparent attempt at being "important art." This is trying so hard to be a museum piece that it's not fun or warm and the only thing it really evokes is a sense of its own self-importance. In all, I can't down-vote a perfume for being too artsy, especially after down-voting literally hundreds of perfumes for NOT being artsy enough, so I'm voting thumbs up. But I don't think I'm going to wear this very much now that I've finished writing my review...
11th July, 2017

Eau de Magnolia by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

I'm having a hard time deciding if I like Eau de Magnolia or not. It's one of those perfumes that has a fairly direct smell (limpid flowers) but achieves that via an extremely complex support structure.

So what does it smell like, in depth? It goes on with lollipops of every possible flavor made petite and perfumey with soap and fabric softener musk. But the real star is a mix of orange blossom and rose, made to smell limpid and gorgeously watercolored by a carefully matched piquant vetiver. There's more (for instance a pesky pink pepper that only really shows in the sillage), but the whole point is how the florals are made to smell so evocatively watery with a combination of vetiver and cheap synthetics.

And that's where my problem lies. As much as I am in awe of the limpid florals, I'm turned off by the crass pink pepper/lollipop/fabric softener elements. It's like a fantastic statue carved of the finest marble, but then when you look up close, part of it is clearly made of cheaply molded plastic. If this were almost anyone except for Malle, I'd just vote thumbs up and leave, but I expect more from him. If anyone should be able to do this without stupid pink pepper and lolipops, it's him. So that's why I'm voting neutral.
11th July, 2017

Luna by Penhaligon's

So, there's that complicated fusion that happens when you mix rose with grapefruit, tomato leaf, and blackcurrant. It was made famous by L'Ombre dans l'Eau - a beautiful limpid watercolor of dew-kissed roses on a verdant pond played out over weird undertones of cat pee and vomit. It's a fascinating yin/yang of breathtaking beauty and stomach-churning filth.

Well, Luna does that also, but with jasmine instead of the rose. It works quite well, especially since they mercifully toned down the gross elements a bit, adding an additional support structure of geranium and berries, along with some salt for depth.

While I can't give Luna many points for originality, it's nice (as well as a little nasty) and its prettier elements really are strikingly beautiful.
22nd June, 2017

Un Dimanche à la Campagne by Guerlain

So, on a recent trip to Las Vegas, I made it to the Guerlain store, slightly drunk (don't judge, it's Vegas - everyone shops drunk there), and walked out with an enormous bottle of Un Dimanche à la Campagne, a boutique exclusive eau de cologne. It's one of those eau's that only lasts about an hour, meant to be resprayed often for fun bursts of freshness.

It's smell is based on that Mugler Cologne mix of neroli and vetiver, which comes together to smell very piquant and green. Dimanche adds in green tea extract, which gives a milky matcha richness, and a bright mix of lemon and bergamot on top.

Back home and sober, I probably shouldn't have bought this. The best thing about it is the neroli/vetiver mix, but you can find that executed better elsewhere (Mugler, Original Vetiver, etc), and I'm not sure I like what the green tea is doing. That being said, it smells nice on towels and around the house, so I'm sure I'll end up having fun working my way through 200 ml's of this, but I'm not sure it's essential sniffing.
15th June, 2017

Eau de Lit by Guerlain

Officially, Eau de Lit is a home scent that's also wearable as a proper perfume. It goes on with a huge blast of chemical brightness - my best guess is that it's hedione, because it combines with bergamot in a way that's familiar from scents like Eau Sauvage, but much less balanced and much more chemical. I understand that, by definition, home scents should come on strong and bright in order to quickly mask unpleasant odors, but all this unbalanced hedione seems like a weird choice.

Thankfully, the chemical blast fades quickly, leaving a very nice mix of violets, suede, chocolate, and iris over musks (both the clean soapy kind and the dirty civet kind). This deep animalic chocolate leather mix is satisfying, and smells warm and complex on sheets and towels. That being said, it's impossible to review a chocolate iris scent without comparing it to Dior Homme Intense, which is arguably the better of the two, thanks to Lit's awkward first blast and Dior's smoothly calculated beauty.

In all, I'm still voting thumbs up, in that falling asleep in a quiet hum of this is deeply pleasant, but I think there are better options out there as far as chocolate musks go.
15th June, 2017

Eau de Cashmere by Guerlain

So, Guerlain is selling this is as an add-on perfume to be layered with its L'Art et la Matiere collection. That's really saying something. The Matiere collection started off brilliantly as an experiment in combining featured notes with the legendary Guerlinade base (benzoin in Bois D'Armenie, for example) and gave us some of this century's best Guerlains. Unfortunately, at some point it lost the point and dropped the Guerlinade in favor of cheap marshmallowy vanilla.

So, basically, Eau de Cashmere is all the ingredients you need to turn a cheap, common vanilla into a modernized Guerlinade. There's honey and rum and that fusion you get when chamomile and cedar combine to smell like pipe tobacco. There's a quiet hum of iris and moss, along with ambrox and hints of benzoin amber, as well as a pinch of powder on top and some of Guerlain's signature candied cherry.

It's fascinating as a marketing strategy, almost a full-on admission to their most loyal fans that they've put out a lot of cheap marshmallow crap lately.

But all that aside, does it work as a stand-alone perfume? Yes, definitely. Pipe tobacco and rum with hints of fruit and amber and a touch of complex greens. It's gorgeous. Imagine Spiriteuese Double Vanilla with most of the vanilla removed, leaving it lighter for warmer weather, but with a complex warmth nonetheless. There's a chemical component hovering as well, a combination of the powder and some sort of brightening chemical, which I would usually dislike, but which adds a weird sort of freshness that counterbalances the richness. Thumbs up - I'm considering a full bottle...
13th June, 2017

Aqua Allegoria Bergamote Calabria by Guerlain

I have to admit that, whenever I sniff a new bergamot perfume, I'm always hoping it'll smell like Earl Grey tea. They almost never do, so I'm happy to report that Bergamote Calabria actually is a really good Earl Grey scent.

It seems to be mostly a really clever interplay between the bergamot and cardamom, which adds a chai tea effect. The tea rests on a woody platform, and there's just a hint of sweet soap in the background keeping things rich.

Definitely a thumbs up for fans of tea scents.
03rd June, 2017
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Muguet 2017 by Guerlain

I think this is probably my favorite of Guerlain's yearly Muguet perfumes. 2017 is especially dirty, pairing its lilies with an overload of filthy indoles. The result is animalic and borders on woodsy, but is thoroughly grounded as a flowery. There's also a loud white floral mix in there, and as the indoles fade, a citrusy green comes into focus that makes it clear that a lot of the support structure and greenness I had been attributing to the lily is actually neroli.

Very strong, loud even, but well executed and you'd expect this sort of unapologetic broadcasting from a perfume this expensive. Thumbs up!
02nd June, 2017

Wicked Stepmother by Mirus

So I guess I have a big question: Here we are in 2017, and for more than a decade now, perfume companies have used sweet fruity florals to appeal to non-savvy consumers, a cheap entry point for teens and the polar opposite of haute perfumery. Given this, is it even possible to make an artful, intelligent fruity floral any more, or has that become an oxymoron?

With that in mind, I give you Wicked Stepmother. It goes on with a blast of real, expensive-smelling jasmine (yum!) mixed with some "old-lady" aldehydes and soapy musk, all paired up with a big apple candy note. I can tell it's trying for artfulness. That jasmine is clearly there for aficionados and the juxtaposition of apple and "old lady" elements makes for a clever metaphor for the wicked witch from Cinderella. As the jasmine fades from prominence, a touch of cinnamon-dusted clove comes in, leaving the heart smelling like apple candy mixed Spicebomb. Further through the day, I'm left with apple soap and finally, just the fruit candy lingers on.

So, do I like this or not? I appreciate the thoughtfulness of it (and that jasmine!), but no matter what it's paired with, I can't shake the feeling that the apple candy smell is just dumb, so I've never been able to just let go and enjoy it. In the end, I guess it's a personal hangup as opposed to a lack of quality, so I'm voting neutral as opposed to a full-on thumbs down, but I'm ready for auteur perfumers to stop it with the fruit candy notes.
01st June, 2017

Black Phantom : Memento Mori by By Kilian

Black Phantom is clearly inspired by Pure Coffee or New Haarlem, but takes the coffee gourmand in its own direction.

There's roasted coffee, of course, paired with burnt sugar caramel and that evaporated milk smell from Angel. What Phantom does differently than its coffee brethren is to leave out the forward patchouli and lavender that usually dominate the genre, opting instead for a very buttery sandalwood. It's the mix of sweetened condensed milk and butter that ends up forming Black Phantom's core - after about an hour, most of the coffee and everything else fades, leaving this milk/butter mix for most of the day.

If the milk/butter mix sounds weird, it sort of is, but it's a fun take on gourmand, bringing to mind Mexican wedding cookies or tres leches cake. I like that it's sweet without relying on overused vanilla or stupid marshmallows, but would nitpick that it's a bit tedious in its linearity once the coffee fades. But I still think it's fun and deserves a thumbs up.
31st May, 2017 (last edited: 19th June, 2017)

Vétiver Extraordinaire by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Of all the important niche vetiver perfumes, Vétiver Extraordinaire is probably my least favorite.

I do love the smell of vetiver in general - the combination of grassy green, bright lemon, nutmeggy spice, inky undertones, and subtle iodine for depth makes for delicious sniffing. From what I understand, almost all vetiver perfumes use vetiveryl acetate, a derivative of vetiver oil that has all these qualities. Just to be different, Frederick Malle and Dominique Ropion decided to create their own chemical instead, derived from meticulously cleaned vetiver grass, in order to create the "purest" possible vetiver smell. And while I love their audacity and their gamechanging chemistry, I'm afraid I just don't like how it smells.

Somehow, the iodine facet is greatly exaggerated, so there's a very clear metallic twang, like licking a battery or the taste of blood. I find it kind of stomach-churning, actually. The whole thing is searingly sharp, almost surgical. For depth, there's a licorice/geramium element in there, as well as something that smells kind of like toasted bread.

I think this is probably required sniffing if you really want to KNOW vetiver, but I don't really like wearing it. In all, I can't give something this deeply thought out and interesting a full-on thumbs down, even if it makes me kind of sick, so I'll vote neutral.
31st May, 2017

Kewda Vetiver Attar by Persephenie

These Persephenie Vetiver Attars have been really fun sniffing, seeing how vetiver reacts when paired with miscellaneous other elements.

From what I read, kewda is an Indian flower that smells like fruity rose, and it's commonly used in perfume oils and deserts. It seems to be a bit overpowered by the vetiver here, more of an abstract floral roundness than a specific smell, adding depth and nuance to the vetiver. I like the smell of raw vetiver, so I like this attar, but for a really exceptional blend of florals and vetiver, I'd suggest going with Persephenie's Tuberose Vetiver Attar, which gets the interplay just perfect.
30th May, 2017

Parijata Vetiver Attar by Persephenie

Of the five Persephenie Vetiver Attars, I probably like Parijata's smell the least, but paradoxically find it the most interesting.

Apparently, parijata is a form of Indian jasmine, but in this attar it doesn't smell particularly floral. Instead, it fuses with the vetiver to smell like spicy leafy greens. Arugula, watercress, mustard greens, and dandelion leaves come to mind - there's definitely a "salad" vibe to the smell. But it also somehow exaggerates the vetiver's iodine undertone, giving a shrill metallic note to everything, like the sensation licking a battery or using a cheap spoon that tastes like metal.

I like the salad greens, but dislike the pronounced iodine element, so I'm only voting neutral for this one.
30th May, 2017

Loewe 001 Man by Loewe

So, 001 Man is largely based on that aquatic "woody amber" chemical that I detest, the one that smells like a mixture of bleach and rubbing alcohol that's in all the cheap mainstream masculine scents. That being said, this is probably the most artful, interesting use of that dreaded note that I've tried.

It pairs that note with an interesting combination of 70's sexy musk and dusty oakwood. It makes for a fascinating combination, the way the dusty wood fuses with the aquatic chemicals under the soapy haze of retro animalics really does work. Unfortunately, the rest of the day is just a slow unraveling and downhill slide - as the musk fades, the aquatics take over focus and eventually, even a smudge of maple syrup immortelle can't keep this from ending up as a weak Azzaro Chrome drydown.

In all, I just CAN'T give this a thumbs up. But fans of men's mall scents should definitely give this a try.
28th May, 2017

Royal Eagle Black by Stefano Ricci

Royal Eagle Black starts out promising, with juniper berry, oregano, and kitchen spices over a menacing darkness. It had me hoping for some sort of oud/powerhouse combination, but then that grape drink smell you get in masculine mall scents came in, and the darkness turned out to be that cheap aquatic "woody amber" basenote. There was some tobacco partway through and a touch of amber in the base, but there's no getting around that this smells like a slightly classed-up Axe body spray.

I've had this conversation with perfume reviewing friends: Really expensive scents just aren't made for people who actually know a lot about perfume. There is no combination of ingredients and master nose that justifies a $700 bottle, and Royal Eagle Black is a perfect example of the kind of upgraded mainstream scent that typifies the price point.
26th May, 2017

Royal Service by Creed

This kicks off with the classic Creed bergamot and lemon opening made famous by Bois du Portugal, but with a mandarin aldehyde kick that fuses with the more natural elements in a way that's pure Creed. The citruses quickly fade to greens, mostly basil and celery and something grassy, but paired up with dihydromercinol, that metallic ozone smell Creed uses in a lot of their more modern scents, so there's a clear push/pull between the more natural and very artificial ingredients, but with a familiar nod to Creed's favorite notes. The drydown is that metallic smell mixed with a smudge of Creed's signature ambrox.

In all, this is precision engineered to appeal to Creed fanatics, which is good because I can't imagine who else would pay $1750 for this. In total, it's good in a Creed way, but viewed without the reference points and insider appeal, this is really just a weak, short lived cologne with weird synthetics mixed in, probably warranting just a neutral rating.
25th May, 2017

Loewe 001 Woman by Loewe

001 Woman starts off strong with a complex mix of oldschool peachy butterscotch amber, with rose and jasmine florals, all under a rich buttery smell. It's quite nice, but unfortunately dries down to a rather cheap-smelling peach fabric softener that's a big disappointment after the great topnotes. Meh.
22nd May, 2017

Simply Belle by Exceptional

White flowers and a touch of peach over a thick stew of fabric softener musk and warm soap. It reminds me of those Tocca perfumes, or Jack Twist says, something Gendarme (but without Gendarme's greens and funk). All told, this is by no means a grand statement of haute perfumery, but it's not stupid or candied or basic and you could certainly do worse for the discounted price.
20th May, 2017

Cologne Indélébile by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

So, this is basically a standard eau de cologne recipe - citrus and lavender on top with orange blossom and petitgrain to extend the smell. In its quest for improved longevity, it's also got some mandarin aldehydes in there, with their cheap plasticky artificial orange smell. And that's about it.

I've said in multiple reviews that it's almost impossible to screw up orange blossom, because it's just such a beautiful smell. But yeah, lesson learned: don't add cheap plasticky mandarin aldehydes. All in all, with so many great eaus and orange blossom perfumes out there, I wouldn't bother with Cologne Indélébile.
20th May, 2017

Trouble in Heaven by Christian Louboutin

I really appreciate when someone here and now takes the time to put together a fabulous musk perfume. The genre feels out of fashion, but Trouble In Heaven does a great job modernizing something classic.

It's got that 70's "sexy" musk paired with vanilla, but there's also a tonka/coumarin/tobacco haze, and the whole thing has a powdery fuzzy quality. I like how the tobacco gives it a modern feel, while the boozy tonka elements take something that could have been a lame Jovon or Shalimar clone and make it something great in its own right.

Thumbs up!
16th May, 2017

Tornade Blonde by Christian Louboutin

One of those warm, fuzzy perfumes that's mostly a mix of pink pepper and fabric softener. The abstract musky fuzziness dominates the scent, but there's an undercarriage that reminds me of Burberry Brit mixed with tropical ylang and pineapple, with a decent vanilla holding everything together. But really, all of the non-fuzzy elements are just background noise - the main even is the comfortable abstract softness.

The pink pepper dumbs things down a bit, and the fabric softener doesn't smell particularly luxurious, but the rest holds it own. Altogether, I'm voting neutral, as this just comes across a bit to common for its price point.
14th May, 2017

Feu Secret by Bruno Fazzolari

I've quite enjoyed getting to know Feu Secret.

It starts with iris, flanked with orange and vetiver similar to Chanel's 28 La Pausa, but Feu has a substantial base of forest woods and amber resins, along with a large helping of buttery sandalwood.

The iris/amber/butter/forest combination is well executed - as the iris fades, the resins come through more forcefully, while there's a consistent buttery log smell that adds richness while tying it all together.

Well done.
13th May, 2017

Bikini Questa Sera by Christian Louboutin

I didn't have high hopes for this (come on, it has "bikini" in the name!), but it's actually quite good.

It kicks off with a mix of raspberry and violets that had me concerned that it may be just another fruity floral, but they were quickly joined by a nicely tempered tuberose and wonderful orange blossom. The tuberose was in the forefront for a while. As it faded just a bit, the orange blossom came forth, mixing with the buttery indoles of the tuberose and the pinch of lingering raspberry, along with something subtly honeyed (perhaps acacia?) to form a truly beautiful floral mixture.

This is strikingly well engineered. It broadcasts loudly in a way that's luxurious instead of cheap, and the clever use of raspberry makes it feel very modern without dumbing it down. Very much a thumbs up. Floral lovers should definitely give it a try.
12th May, 2017

Fantasia de Fleurs by Creed

Raspberry candy mixed with pretty jasmine and rose with a pinch of plasticky aldehydes to keep it from smelling like a stupid fruity floral. It's nice but not great. That raspberry note is clearly crafted using C-16 Strawberry aldehydes, also known as that cheap strawberry shampoo smell, And the hairspray aldehydes smell kind of like rotten, moldy plastic, so the florals have to work especially hard to shine despite their questionable surroundings.

Personally, I'd stick with Creed's similar-but-better Fleur de Thé Rose Bulgare over this one.
10th May, 2017