Perfume Reviews

Reviews by rogalal

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Total Reviews: 868

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
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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

Le Bouquet de la Mariée by Guerlain

Marshmallowy vanilla with isobutavan adding its nutty, cream soda nuances, topped with Guerlain's signature cherry candy note and some leafy greens to cut through all the treacle. There's quite a bit of warm, papery tobacco leaf in there as well, and the best part of the day is when the cherry interacts with it, temporarily pushing the cheap-smelling marshmallow to the background.

Officially, this is the extrait version of Les Plus Beau Jour de ma Vie, in a gorgeous bottle to justify the thousand-dollar price tag. Honestly, this smells like one of the better La Petite Robe Noir flankers, but formulated in such a way as to highlight the cheap marshmallow vanilla in the base. It's nowhere near the legendary Guerlains in terms of quality, but it's not terrible if you like the more pedestrian cherry/marshmallow concoctions they've been pushing lately.
26th August, 2017
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White Amber by Creed

First off, this isn't a standard amber perfume, that mix of vanilla and incense. If you're interested in a Creed amber, I'd suggest their Vanisia. Instead, this is a tribute to white ambergris, the most expensive form of beach ambergris.

It mostly smells like ambrox, the rich but subtle creamy basenote that Creed uses as a house note in almost everything. There's citrus and a pinch of swimming pool smell on top of the ambrox. Given time, the the fruit and aquatics fade, leaving a pinch of buttery sandalwood and a hint of cinnamon over the lasting ambrox.

That's about it. There may be some real ambergris in here - it has a quiet oceanic hum that may be from the real thing (at almost $600 a bottle, I'd hope for something to justify the price point), but it's probably just the ambrox. On the whole, there's nothing loud here, but there's a subtle richness. It doesn't smell cheap, but isn't strong enough to smell expensive either. Meh. Thumbs up for smelling decent, but the pricing is just ridiculous, given what this is.
25th August, 2017

Musc Ravageur by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

In its current state, Musc Ravageur smells to me mostly like a classic fougere, lavender over powdery tonka, with some poopy, plasticky musk underneath and a touch of cinnamon and sawdusty sandalwood in the background and a shot of vanilla for sweetness. It's perfectly nice, like Caron's Pour Un Homme with some gourmand elements thrown in.

It should be said that, when I compare my new sample with one from about 10 years ago, there's a rather striking difference. While the current version is fine, the old formula has everything the new has, but is also resplendent with warm honey, funky rum, burnished woods, and pie spices, and has the animalics turned up to match their richer surroundings. I think the old version is required sniffing if you can find an old sample, the kind in the red card.
24th August, 2017

Le Parfum de Thérèse by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

According to legend, Le Parfum de Thérèse was proposed to Dior back in the 50's as a plum perfume and turned down. It's quite pretty and makes perfect sense in that context.

So what does it smell like? To me, mostly coriander, with its round fruitiness, topped with Chanel-esque aldehydes, supported by other fruit (melon, citrus, and perhaps blackberry), as well as rather pretty jasmine and rose. There's an animalic aspect in there as well, more that classic "dirty French panties" smell than anything poopy or leathery, which acts as a perfect foil to all the prettiness.

Of course it's beautiful - just about anything smells amazing in that very classic aldehydic floral chypre setting, and coriander and fruit works exceptionally well. Necessary sniffing if you're into classics like Joy or No 5.
24th August, 2017

Aqua Allegoria Jasminora by Guerlain

After a few seconds of bright, citrusy jasmine, this quickly fades to a white floral lily perfume with a big slug of indoles and a whole lot of white soap.

It's fine, sort of like a discounted version of Guerlain's yearly Muguet perfumes, but the beautiful jasmine is only fleetingly there to smell good on paper. Nice enough, but meh...
24th August, 2017

Phul-Nana by Grossmith

Phul-Nana is quite complex, but I think it can be fairly well described as a combination of common themes. First, it's got the ingredients of a powdery old-school amber. It's also got spicy elements that remind me of bay rum, and there's that gasoline-tinged musk that I recognize from Knize Ten, as well as that vinegar smell you get in some classic chypres. The smell changes over the course of the day, but it's always some combination of those elements.

Phul-Nana was clearly very carefully crafted, but it's just not that compelling, and as with any perfume touched by Roja Dove, it costs about $300 more than it should. Its combination of spices and resins and animalics should be exciting, but somehow comes across as a bit dull. Instead, for similar combinations done with considerably more excitement and priced better, I'd suggest a sniff through Santa Maria Novella's vault of classics, especially their Spanish Leather.
24th August, 2017

London Rain Collection : Black Cedarwood & Juniper by Jo Malone

I've been enjoying Black Cedarwood & Juniper, though I'd probably have been disappointed if I'd expected it to smell like its name.

Instead, it's very buttery sandalwood, lifted with aldehydes. The woods are very subtle, more like a hint of dark woods and peppery, sweaty leather hovering beneath the butter. The mix of wood and animalics reminds me of something Le Labo would do, but the aldehydic butter focus is clever and unique. Probably not for juniper or cedar fans, but I'm enjoying it on its own terms.

Thumbs up.
22nd August, 2017

Fig by Aftelier

Pleasant fruit over a fairly standard essential oil mix/natural perfume base. The fruit hints at strawberry and has a pleasant citric brightness. There's a sharp, resinous sweetness that ties the fruity top to the base. Well done, for what it is, but Aftelier has much more compelling and original perfumes than this, and I'm just not really into this specific sort of natural perfume.
19th August, 2017

Dirt by Demeter Fragrance Library

Yup, dirt. This isn't the earthy dirt smell you get from some patchoulis, or the decaying wood forest dirt smell you get from some woody incense perfumes. Instead, it's the sweet clean smell of fresh potting soil.

That's pretty much it. I suppose this is less iconoclastic now than it was 20 years ago, but it's still fun and surprisingly wearable. Thumbs up!
18th August, 2017

Cassis by Aftelier

This is honestly one of the most unique perfumes I've ever tried. The topnotes remind me of a Moscow Mule, a mix of ginger beer and rum in a copper cup - with the ginger dry and sharp enough to smell almost medicinal, kind of like ginseng tea, but paired with the alcoholic smell as well as the tinge of copper.

Given time, it fades to the smell of A-1 steak sauce (meaty prune and vinegar) mixed with paint fumes. This is the smell for most of the life of the perfume, though a dark green forest smell comes in underneath for the base.

I honestly expected to hate this, as I'm very much not a fan of cassis in perfumes (there's usually an undertone of cat pee or bile that's mercifully not there in this). I love that it doesn't smell like any other perfume I know, but in all honesty, the steak sauce/paint mixture is a bit awkward in terms of everyday wear. But I HAVE to vote thumbs up for creativity - definitely worth sampling if you're looking for something different.
18th August, 2017

Cepes and Tuberose by Aftelier

So, porcini mushrooms and tuberose... This is actually one of those combinations that ends up smelling very different than its parts. The tuberose contributes a vaguely floral effusiveness, but doesn't smell like tuberose. The cepes contributes a dirty, earthy quality, but doesn't smell like mushrooms. Instead, you get a completely unique, weirdly effusive dirt smell, drying down to a fairly commonplace essential oil/natural perfume base.

I suppose this is a bit of a novelty perfume, and it would take someone truly quirky to find this beautiful. I tend to enjoy perfumes that smell like "interesting dirt", but even I'm not ready to consider Cepes & Tuberose as a signature scent, but it's still very much worth a sniff, just for originality.
17th August, 2017

Superstitious by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Meh. A few seconds of old-school flowers drenched in every possible chemical, very quickly drying down to some green kitchen herbs, still drenched in chemicals.

The flowers are nice for a minute, but it's a mix of oregano and basil, with a pinch of cassis, with its hints of bile, that are the stars of the show.

But it's that mix of chemicals - I'm guessing aldehydes and hedione and any other "uplifting" "fresh" odorant you can imagine - that sets Superstitious apart. I can see how they were trying to build a classic recipe into a postmodern abstraction, but I don't really think it smells all that great.

Frankly, I don't get the hype. I don't particularly enjoy the unrelenting chemical haze, and everything else is unremarkable. I get that it's trying to fuse classic hyper-feminine elements with masculine herbs under a surrealist haze, but somehow, with all that effort, the points of interest seem to cancel each other out, leaving Superstition a bit boring. It's not a bad perfume, per se, but if you're desperate enough for an aldehydic floral to pay Malle prices for this, I'd suggest that a trip to, just as an example, a Patou counter would yield better results.
17th August, 2017

Cacao by Aftelier

Orange-blasted bubblegum, made sparkly and effervescent somehow, over musky YooHoo chocolate-flavored drink. This reminds me of Jo Malone's Blue Agave & Cacao, but richer and oilier. I appreciate that this is sweet without being just another stereotypical marshmallow gourmand, but it's just not what I'm into.
16th August, 2017

Shiso by Aftelier

Hmmm... I smell bright citrus at first, quickly fading into kitchen herbs. The backbone is that essential oil smell, a complicated pool of woody, herbal, floral abstraction. The weird part is a strong note that reminds me of something toxic, like oil-based paint or maybe acetone. All told, this isn't really winning me over.
16th August, 2017

Rare Teas Collection : Silver Needle Tea by Jo Malone

Smelling Silver Needle Tea, I was shocked at its similarity to really top-of-the-line osmanthus essential oil. I'm actually quite impressed that a company like Jo Malone would use such an expensive ingredient in their exclusive collection.

So what does it smell like? Well, not the osmanthus I think of from perfume. This isn't a peachy white floral. Instead, it really does smell like fine tea. Unsurprisingly, I love fancy French perfumed teas, and Silver Needle Tea is the closest thing I've encountered in a perfume to opening a tin of classic perfumed tea, with its complex combination of tea leaves, dried flowers, and fruits. There are hints of bergamot and maybe a touch of sage, but the star is that complex osmanthus tea smell.

It's linear, and rather expensive, but gorgeous. If you're a tea fanatic, this may be grail material.
11th August, 2017

Venetian Bergamot by Tom Ford

To begin, this doesn't smell like bergamot. It doesn't even smell like simulated bergamot. Instead, I think it's more aptly described as a "metaphor" for bergamot...

It kicks off with sweet lemon lollipops, joined with honeyed mimosa blossom and extended with that Snuggle fabric softener musk. It lasts forever and doesn't do much, merely getting slightly less lemony over the course of hours. It's pleasant and sweet and bright and rich and forcefully modern, but somehow unremarkable, the olfactory equivalent of a wedding that's not as nice in person as it looks on Instagram.
11th August, 2017

Oud Minérale by Tom Ford

I'm officially pretty obsessed with Oud Minérale. It sounds like it should be so terrible (aquatic oud? yuck!), but it's glorious...

It's complicated and weird, but all comes together to basically smell like a bonfire on the beach. After a confusing initial blast of juicy hedione mixed with pine (yes, juicy pine, and yes, it smells really weird on paper at the store - this is one you really need to try on), the oud comes through, woody and charred, paired with a rich slug of creamy, vaguely oceanic ambrox and calone's salty beach shrubbery smell. It's like they tried to recreate the smell of extremely rare beach ambergris with readily available chemicals and used the oud and pine to tie it all together wonderfully and provocatively.

It's going to take something truly mindblowing to dethrone this as my best perfume of 2017...
11th August, 2017

Acqua di Parma Colonia Intensa by Acqua di Parma

I think Intensa works a lot better if you approach it without expecting anything like the original ADP Colonia. Examined on its own terms, I think it's probably the best fennel perfume out there.

Colonia Intensa is, at its core, a mix of leafy green fennel and animalics - leathery and a touch sweaty, gritty and earthy. It has the skeleton of a powerhouse, with the original Colonia's bergamot and lemon over a dirty patchouli and moss base. There's a hint of that "woody amber" rubbing alcohol smell peeking out from behind the fennel (which is my only real complaint), but Intensa deserves a lot of praise for being the only fennel perfume I've smelled that doesn't end up smelling like rotting onions, and for successfully marrying that fennel with such hyper-masculine elements.

11th August, 2017