Perfume Reviews

Reviews by rogalal

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Total Reviews: 886

Lampblack by Bruno Fazzolari

Having worked my way through the Fazzolari line, I think the two big winners are Au Dela Narcisse (an unexpected old-school honeysuckle) and this one, Lampblack. Lampblack seems like an easy sell, being the kind of dark niche that's popular with the sort of perfume aficionado who would enjoy Fazzolari's art-meets-perfume aesthetic.

So what does it smell like? It kicks off with a charred meat note that reminds me of Lonestar Memories, but played against tomato leaf. The meaty quality fades quickly, leaving as the primary smell a complex interplay of burnt charcoal and that tomato leaf. It's a clever mix - the charred wood (which hints at leather as well) does a good job masking the inevitable vomit undertone of the tomato leaf. Meanwhile, there's some fruit hiding in plain sight, acting as a brightening element, as well as a dark, mossy green galbanum base that cleverly ties together the green of the tomato and the woodiness of the charcoal. This should appeal to fans of dark niche like Nasomato's Black Afgano or Byredo's M/Mink, but the leafy greens are enough to make it unique.
02nd November, 2017

Portraits : The Bewitching Yasmine by Penhaligon's

Yasmine goes on with a nice shot of saffron and pepper. The jasmine is mostly buried, acting as more of a sweetener than a direct smell. There's some fairly forward butter, as well as burnt caramel creme brulee adding to the sweetness. I'm guessing there's also some currant at play, as there's a hint of piney green urine in the background. It's an interesting smell, likely inspired by the indie perfumes that define the cutting edge right now, in that it's really rough, clearly informed by Slumberhouse and the like, where it's less about complimentary notes and more about achieving a sweet, dark continuity of texture.

But there's a problem. About an hour in, an inky "woody amber" aquatic base comes in and cheapens everything. By hour two, all that's left is a hint of caramel smothered by what's basically the cheapest base available, leaving Yasmine smelling like an Axe body spray for most of the day. Too bad - this had promise but ultimately fails. Thumbs down trying to pass off a cheap cliche of a drydown in a $250 exclusive perfume. Nope.
01st November, 2017

Night Scented Stock by Penhaligon's

To my nose, Night Scented Stock is halfway between Caron's Poivre (powdery carnation and cloves) and Old Spice (powdery meaty clove). There's not a lot behind the core smell of powder and clove/carnation, save for a touch of bubblegummy jasmine and a nondescript soapy base.

I enjoy scents like this and own a bottle, though I'm quite aware that this is essentially just a slightly more feminine version of Old Spice.
29th October, 2017
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The Bloomsbury Set : Tobacco & Mandarin by Jo Malone London

Tobacco & Mandarin is my pick as the best of the Bloomsbury Set. I think what I like most about it is how hard it is to describe. There's definitely orange and a dusting of cinnamon sugar, and there's subtle tobacco, papery but honeyed, in the background. But the core of the scent is weirdly abstract, a sort of nutty, doughy, tea-ish, make-up-ish, floral mix that reminds me vaguely of the abstract elements of Mitsouko, but removed from the chypre structure and left hanging on its own as a thoroughly modern expressionist painting of swirling beiges and tans, overlaid with the cinnamon, orange, and tobacco. While this isn't deeply complex enough to be a modern masterpiece, it still makes for fascinating sniffing while remaining completely wearable. Thumbs up.
25th October, 2017

Bay Rum by Olympic Orchids

Traditional bay rum is made by steeping bay tree leaves (not the same as bay leaves used in cooking) and cloves and spices in a sugar syrup. Olympic Orchids does a really good job of simulating the traditional recipe with essential oils and regular perfume ingredients, which gives their bay rum much more strength and lasting power than you get with the traditional method.

So what does it smell like? Well, it smells like bay rum - it's such a specific smell that it's hard to describe. It's herbal and very sweet, like clary sage mixed with cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves, but in such a way that it becomes a cohesive whole that's greater than the sum of its parts. Thumbs up.
25th October, 2017

Acqua di Parma Colonia Quercia by Acqua di Parma

Apparently, following the success of Baccarat Rouge, every luxury line has to have a Pure Coffee/New Haarlem coffee gourmand scent now, and this is Acqua di Parma's. If you put aside any expectations of this being a Colonia flanker or smelling like quercus (oak) and take it on its own terms, it's a decent perfume.

At it's core, Quercia is based on the familiar A*Men mix of caramelized creme brulee, roasted coffee, and lavender. It amps up the lavender more than most scents of this style, adding mint as well to really create a thick aromatic herb quality that keeps this from being as sweet as its brethren. As the aromatics fade, they leave behind an abstract metallic haze that gives Quercus a designer sheen that I don't really care for. It also feels more "roasted" than similar perfumes, which sort of implies woodiness without actually smelling like wood.

So, in all, I don't personally care for the aromatics, and that chemical sheen is annoying, but I like the abstract roasted woody quality, so I'm voting neutral, though it's worth pointing out that if you're a designer scent fan who hasn't been able to get into A*Men or others of that style, this might be a perfect less-sweet halfway point that you'd enjoy.
25th October, 2017

Oriental Amber by Pecksniff's

The first few seconds of Oriental Amber are a kick - a clever mix of vodka and pineapple juice. Then it quickly fades into a fairly linear heart. There's amber, but it's that old-fashioned kind that smells more like orange baby aspirin than anything incense-based. It's generically fruity, sort of peachy, kind of citrus, but non-specific. It's a touch powdery, and quite sweet, and there's an indistinct chemical haze that hovers over everything. It's also got ginger, but softened by the powder so it's not as sharp as usual.

This all comes together to smell kind of nondescript, sort of fruity, sort of soapy, and mostly just sweet. It's not offensive in any way, but it's also not very interesting. Dull pleasantries and sweet banality.
25th October, 2017

Five by Bruno Fazzolari

A spicy mix of clove and Red Hot cinnamon, brightened with citrus, and deepened with dusty carnation. There's jasmine, but it mostly smells like bubblegum, and some cedar as well.

It's kind of like a brighter, more candied, classier version of Spicebomb. The mix of cinnamon, clove, and cedar brings to mind CDG's Red collection, though Five is less heavy and wood-focused, being sweeter and more candied from the bubblegum, and also more floral.

I tend to dislike cinnamon/clove perfumes because they often remind me of cheap Christmas potpouri, and Five does kind of fall into that trap, though less so than most because of the candy and flowers. But because of that, though not terrible by any means, Five isn't for me.
05th October, 2017

Viking by Creed

I can honestly say that I've never smelled anything like Viking's topnotes, which is saying a lot. There's clearly mint, but everything else comes together to form a smell I'm having a hard time describing. It's definitely grainy, like wheat or oats, but more like noodles. It also reminds me of the smell of tofu, simultaneously grainy, vegetal, and somehow meaty. There's also greens - sharp lemongrass and something that hints at onions, but green and fresh and not gross. It all comes together to smell like big plate of pad thai noodles topped with a peppermint candy cane.

So does it work? I'm inclined to say no because the peppermint is weirdly out of sync with everything else, but it's kept me utterly fascinated, so I can imagine this ultimately winning me over, given time.

The real unfortunate part is the drydown. After the grains and mint and greens fade, I'm left with Creed's trademark mix of aquatics and woody chemicals, which I've learned to appreciate via Aventus. Unfortunately, it passes through a cheap, horrid "woody amber" mall phase before landing on dark greens - piney vetiver and grassy patchouli resembling a modern aquatic take on a chypre base.

So, deeply interesting topnotes, but with awkward mint, a very Creed middle, a terrible cheap-smelling part, and ultimately a classic but unremarkable base. I think I'm going to vote neutral, because there's enough here that I don't like that I just can't give it a full-on thumbs-up, but there's a lot of interest here. Definitely worth a sniff.
05th October, 2017

Curzon by Geo F Trumper

A fairly typical woody chypre powerhouse, though better blended than many. As such, Curzon is a complicated smell: that chypre smell of fusty bergamot and mossy patchouli cuts through everything, but the real focus is a mix of honeyed hawthorn and lumber-ish sandalwood. There's also that familiar mix of dank green herbs made famous by Aramis, and a hint of pine tar that gives a hint of leather to the underbelly of the scent.

I have no idea what this smelled like in 1882, but this entire style of perfumery and the ingredients to make it hadn't been invented yet. This is so clearly inspired by Aramis, as well as Derby, Bel Ami, and the like, that it's as 80's as Cyndi Lauper playing with a rubik's cube. That's not a complaint - this is actually quite well done for what it is - but just a point of conversation. Thumbs up.
04th October, 2017

Room 237 by Bruno Fazzolari

A fun beachy floral pretending to be an art project. 237 is a really nice mix of coconutty, slightly banana-ish ylang with minty tuberose over rum. It's got salty calone beach air and it's lightly buttery, and dries down to a mix of rich ambrox and that metallic chemical Creed uses in their big masculine releases.

The end result is a kicky tropical floral with rich undertones and a hint of aquatics in the background, like sipping a delicious rum punch on the beach wearing a fresh flower lei.

I personally think the horror movie advertising doesn't do this any favors, but I generally hate all perfume advertising, so I'll just say thumbs up for a fun Hawaiian vacation perfume and move on.
04th October, 2017

Spanish Leather by Geo F Trumper

I think it's worth mentioning that classic "Spanish leather" perfumes aim to recreate the smell of the herbs and flowers that leather was scented with back in the 1800's, thereby creating an illusion of leather to people familiar with what it smelled like back then, but aren't intended to actually smell like leather or contain any of the modern leather ingredients. So if you approach this expecting something like a Knize Ten or Tuscan Leather, you're probably going to be disappointed. Instead, it's a wonderful old-school smell, largely clove and geranium and vinegar, but lifted with white flowers and powder and kitchen herbs and darkened with a pinch of gasoline, kind of like a greener, darker take on Diptyque's Vinaigre de Toilette.

It's a wonderful combination that very much smells old, but has a weird sort of timeless rough familiarity that transcends trends. In terms of Spanish Leather perfumes, I personally prefer Santa Maria Novella's, because it has a crazy animalic petrol raucousness that I think is fun in a wild way, while Trumper's is more staid and practical (I would wear this to the office, but never SMN's). Thumbs up, even if this is a close second when it comes to my personal choice.
02nd October, 2017

In Every Season by Blocki

A burst of bright berry-ish violets that fades down into a fairly commonplace mix of peachy rose, jasmine, and pink pepper. This essentially smells like your average luxury designer perfume with the violets amped up. Not bad for what it is, but not especially inspiring. For what it's worth, I think This Grand Affair is the standout of these Blocki re-launch perfumes.
01st October, 2017
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For Walks by Blocki

Effervescent, perky violets further brightened with mint and sweetened with cherry, while a quiet animalic pinch of urine hums in the background. If that sounds gross, it kind of is, but you have to smell really closely to notice anything other than sweet chemical brightness.

The best part happens as the ionones responsible for the violet in the topnotes make their switch into suede - there's a point where the suede gets creamy and rich while the brightness is still going that's a really nice juxtaposition. The base is a little disappointing, a mix of aquatics and melon with a pinch of soap that reminds me of 2007 in a bad way.

In all, I like the topnotes and the suede middle, though the pee and melon aquatics seem unnecessary, so I'll split the difference and vote neutral.
30th September, 2017

This Grand Affair by Blocki

A nice one. This Grand Affair is a classically inspired floral leather perfume. It's got a lot of the dna of a classic cuir de russie, being built on an impossibly complex, Chanel-esque creamy base of ionone suede, sandalwood, musks, and sweet vanilla iris. The top is a bit of a coumarin bomb, papery and thick with tobacco, while lightly powdery violets and florals add depth. Meanwhile, there's also that animalic petrol note made famous by Knize Ten, fused together with a surprising mint note that adds some interesting sharp edges to a composition that's otherwise quite smooth.

So, realistically, I think This Grand Affair is best described as a halfway point between Knize Ten and Chanel's Cuir de Russie, though less floral than either and with that tobacco instead, likely to appeal to fans of Cuiron and the like. My only minor nitpick is that a higher concentration could have really upped the luxury factor, but I always appreciate a perfume that's clearly designed by and for serious perfume fans with a knowledge of the classics. A great (re)entry to the market from Blocki - thumbs up!
29th September, 2017

Ananas Fizz by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Ananas Fizz is a guilty pleasure for me. Yes, it's a silly fruit perfume, but it's notable for not using that same stupid strawberry, peach, or melon most fruity perfumes use. The pineapple is juicy and realistic, bright and happy, and would be fun, if a bit immature, were it not for the deceptively complicated boozy woods supporting it. There's a note of Malibu rum here, the kind infused with tropical coconut, as well as a leafy green component and something that hints at wood but actually feels more like an element of the pineapple than anything literally woody. It's enough to keep Ananas Fizz from smelling like a cheap candle or candy, though this is still an unrepentant party perfume.

I can see how, based on notes alone, people compare this to Aventus, but they're not similar at all. Aventus is bleachy woody aquatics topped with abstract pineapple, but Ananas Fizz is more directly fun and fruity, like something Escada would make, but better.
26th September, 2017

Paithani by Penhaligon's

Buttery sandalwood mixed with cedar and incense, topped with orange and held together with sour greens.

Remember crepes suzette? They were crepes topped with butter, sugar, and orange zest. In a way, all the elements of Paithani come together to remind me of them, but served in a damp, mulchy evergreen forest. I know this description sounds pretty silly, but it works surprisingly well. Much like its brother Agarbathi, Paithani smells a little dated, in that this sort of smoky woody incense perfume was really popular about 10 years ago, but the butter element is very 2017, so there's a modernity here as well. Thumbs up.
25th September, 2017

Agarbathi by Penhaligon's

A pleasant, if familiar-smelling, mix of woods and incense sweetened with clary sage and clove, over a base of smoky leather and inky "woody amber" aquatics.

Agarbathi basically smells like one of those CDG-inspired iso E super/incense niche scents that were everywhere 10 years ago, but slightly cheapened by the aquatic chemicals lurking in the drydown.

I'm voting thumbs up, just because I'll always have a soft spot for this sort of perfume, but I think you could do better for less money with a sniff through the Commes des Garcons incense collection.
25th September, 2017

Cornubia by Penhaligon's

A truly nice mix, Cornubia is a combination of heliotrope, with its sweet marzipan smell, fused together with clove. There's a really nice cherry/jasmine/rose element in the topnotes, as well as powdery vanilla soap in the base.

I like Cornubia, but (and this is going to sound kind of ridiculous) I find it frustrating because it's *almost* wonderful. With a little more effort (perhaps some chypre basenotes for added complexity, a little sparkle on top, and tweaks to the concentration to amplify the richness), this could have been a masterwork along the lines of the legendary Carons and Guerlains. Don't get me wrong - Cornubia is a good perfume and deserves an enthusiastic thumbs-up, but I just wish they'd put in the extra effort to create something amazing for the ages.
19th September, 2017

Portraits : Monsieur Beauregard by Penhaligon's

On me, this mostly smells like butter, mixed with cinnamon and clove. It's essentially a rich, buttery Spicebomb, or for more seasoned perfumistas, an update of Miyake's discontinued cult favorite Le Feu d'Issey. Given time, as the butter fades, it makes room for sawdusty sandalwood while the spices continue.

In terms of writing an informative review, I'm kind of torn. On the positive side, the mix of butter, wood, and spices is well done. These types of scents often end up smelling like cheap Christmas potpourri, but Beauregard avoids that trap with the carefully crafted mix of butter and wood. However, on the negative side, I can't shake the feeling that this is influenced by (but shockingly simple when compared to) Serge Lutens. In total, I like Beauregard and appreciate its craftsmanship, but feel like there are more artful options out there for fans of this sort of thing.
18th September, 2017

Cuba by Czech & Speake

Now that I've worked my way through the Czeck & Speake line, I feel like their perfumes often start out a bit awkward, with occasional questionable topnotes, but they tend to melt together after about an hour into something quite well put together. Cuba is a perfect example of this. It goes on with burst of toothpaste mint that awkwardly smothers a weirdly meaty and medicinal fougere fern. But somehow, given time, it melts into that leathery sweaty old man smell that Le Labo uses a lot, but with a dash of pie spices for warmth and a rather nice sweet musk drydown that quietly hints at Musc Ravageur.

All in all, I really wanted to like Cuba, and I enjoy the musky basenotes, but I think the mint is a mess, so I'm just going to vote neutral.
17th September, 2017

No. 88 by Czech & Speake

Honestly, it took me a few tries to warm up to 88. It goes on smelling like a fairly typical natural oil perfume - that mix of greens, flowers, and herbs, but 88 wraps its naturals in a chemical sheen that makes everything much louder and brighter than a natural perfume would be. Given time, it reaches a point where it stays most of the day: primarily geranium, with hints of rose for brightness and leafy green herbs for depth. It wears a lot like Brut, not that 88 smells like Brut, but it shares a lot of DNA and has a similar old-school masculine heft and volume, so I think fans of one would probably enjoy the other.

And, for those who care about such things, I've officially received more compliments wearing 88 than I have for anything else in years. One random college girl actually said I smelled like someone's sexy dad, so um, there's that...
17th September, 2017

Dark Rose by Czech & Speake

I really like Dark Rose. It's got a truly dark powerhouse chypre hiding in plain sight, a dank mix of kitchen herbs, oily patchouli, and moss that isn't obvious, but adds tremendous depth to the rose that's the feature of the scent. In addition, there's some rubbery oud that manages to fuse with both the rose and the herbs, tying everything together cleverly, while a shot of aldehydes lends some space-age plastics to the mix.

This is a cologne, so it's not as heavily concentrated as your typical rose/oud perfume, but I think that's more of a strength than a weakness, as it's much more practically wearable than a lot of its brethren. It's also of note that Dark Rose's herbal chypre backbone makes it smell really unique compared to the tidal wave of designer and niche oud perfumes that have come since. Definitely a thumbs up!
08th September, 2017

Rose by Czech & Speake

I find this Rose quite creative. Yes, it's mostly a nice, polite rose, but I like the way it's supported by unexpected notes. It's got hairspray aldehydes on top, which is a common classic combination, but there's just a hint of rubbery oud in there as well, and the combination of the plasticky aldehydes and rubber makes for a really interesting counterpoint to the rose. There's also a hint of dank green herbs, which I find a clever combination as well. I like that this feels straightforward but rewards close smelling. Thumbs up.
08th September, 2017

Oxford & Cambridge by Czech & Speake

I guess I'm going to be the grouch who doesn't like Oxford & Cambridge. At its heart, it's a classic fougere, the kind where the lavender fuses with coumarin and violet leaf to smell like "fern". But there's a big shot of mint on top that's trying really hard to make this smell "fresh", but mostly ends up suffocating the pleasant fern smell.

As far as these classic fern scents go, my favorite is still Gray Flannel, because it's dark and brooding and fascinating. I'd put Oxford & Cambridge down towards the bottom of the list with Houbigant's Fougere Royale remake, another perfume that insists on trying to freshen up something that smells best without the attempts at brightening.
06th September, 2017

Frankincense & Myrrh by Czech & Speake

Sort of a stripped-down version of a classic 80's woody chypre, reduced to a rather generic lumber smell surrounded by bergamot, lemon, and mint on top, with a touch of pine for depth. It's not bad, but quite dull. I'm more disappointed by the lack of character than I am by the lack of incense. Meh.
06th September, 2017

Citrus Paradisi by Czech & Speake

Grapefruit is such a problematic note because it's got that weird green vomit undertone. Paradisi pairs it up with currant, with its cat pee undertone, and surrounds it with kitchen herbs and musks.

In a way, it's gross - the first hour or so is an awkward interplay between fun, fruity grapefruit and horrifying ick. But if you give it time, it all comes together to form a smell I can best describe as lemon candy mixed with soap mixed with Elmer's glue mixed with random houseplants. Yes, it's weird, but strangely compelling, though it's a matter of personal opinion whether it's worth the horrors you have to sit through to get there. I'm voting neutral, because I can take it or leave it, and because the clashing undertones here are nowhere near as bad as I've smelled elsewhere.

Oh, and if it helps: For anyone looking for a straightforward grapefruit scent without the pee and vomit, the only one I've found is Jo Malone's Grapefruit, a candy-sweet clean take on the note.
05th September, 2017 (last edited: 17th September, 2017)

Mimosa by Czech & Speake

I mostly smell white soap mixed with aquatic lily chemicals, lightly flavored with plasticky hairspray aldehydes, jasmine that's more indoles than jasmine, and just a tiny pinch of honeyed mimosa. It verges on mushroomy, and maintains a floral heaviness, but mostly just smells like aquatic soap. It's not terrible, but like others here are saying, it smells quite dated and not especially pleasant. I love a good mimosa note, but there isn't one to be found here, so I'm not finding this very satisfying because even without the mimosa focus, what this is doing isn't that great.
05th September, 2017

Neroli by Czech & Speake

A nice, traditional citrus cologne. Spicy orange and bergamot on top of orange blossom and petitgrain, with soap underneath. Given a little time, it all melts together into a pleasant woody, citrusy soap smell that lasts a few hours.

It's worth noting that this smells like orange blossom, as opposed to neroli, and yes there's a difference. They're both from the flowers of the bitter orange tree, but are extracted differently and smell completely different. An orange blossom note smells floral, like the flowers on an orange tree (and that's what this smells like), while neroli is that sweet but masculine candied green orange smell you'd know from Mugler Cologne or Original Vetiver or many other neroli perfumes, and that's not what this smells like. That's not really a complaint, but more a commentary and a warning that this is quite floral, though the woody petitgrain does a good job balancing the floralcy.

Anyway, as compared to the many other citrus colognes out there, C&S Neroli stands out for its woody depth, and for its pleasant balance of soap and citrus.
04th September, 2017

Cognac by Aftelier

This is really complicated and interesting. It kicks off with a shot of vodka smell, over maple-syrup immortelle and something kind of doughy. There's a background that's a mix of olive and grape, though they combine in a way that doesn't really smell like either one, but instead like a sort of fresh green smell with a sweet, jammy undertone. In addition, there's a curry leaf smell, and some sharp lemony verbena for lift, and there's a boozy wood element in there as well.

The mix of dough, immortelle, and jam makes for an interesting simulation of pancakes with syrup and grape jelly, but this is no gourmand. The curry and leaves and greens and woods keep it from smelling like breakfast.

Honestly, I want to like this more than I do. It's clever and unique and uses notes I've never smelled elsewhere. But in practical terms, it's a bit much, with so many themes running against each other at times. I'll vote neutral and leave it at that.
26th August, 2017