Reviews by rogalal

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    Tuscan Scent Golden Acacia by Salvatore Ferragamo

    Like the other "premium" designers, Feragamo has not only an "exclusive" line, but a "really exclusive" line above that. Golden Acacia is from their "really exclusive" $250-a-bottle line.

    So what does it smell like? Are you familiar with bitter Italian honeys like chesnut or corbezzolo honey? Instead of being sweet, they're bitter and acerbic and smell kind of burnt. They taste great paired with the right cheeses, but are pretty difficult to love on their own, even though they smell really interesting. That's what Golden Acacia smells like to me - bitter, acerbic, burnt honey topped with vague white flowers. It's fairly true to the smell of acacia flowers with their weird burnt honey and wood smell, and also reminds me of the similar smell of cherry blossoms.

    It's worth noting that the most important thing about Golden Acacia is how much it doesn't smell like anything else Ferragamo would do. It smells like it's dominated by a really high concentration of natural oils, to the point where, had I smelled it blind, I would have assumed it was by someone like Dawn Spencer Hurwitz and definitely not by a mall brand. Thumbs up for quality ingredients and for doing something that's actually "niche-smelling" in their exclusive line. My only warning is that it's quite linear and if you don't like that burnt bitter honey smell, it's not going anywhere for quite a while...

    21st March, 2015


    Jardins d'Amalfi by Creed

    The best description I have for Jardins d'Amalfi is that it smells very Creed. It's got really great citrus topnotes that fade into that "open canister of Tang over a smudge of salty Ambrox for richness" smell that Creed defaults to when they're not feeling especially groundbreaking. Oh, and don't let the vaguely feminine name fool you - while this has hints of flowers and a touch of peach, this is very much a citrus scent that's fully unisex.

    Really, this mostly just smells like "Creed." Fanatics will probably love Jardin d'Amalfi, while those not already swayed by Creed's large existing selection of aquatic citruses will likely not be swayed, though the opening notes really are lovely.

    As for me, I'm not a big fan of artificial-smelling citruses or aquatics, and this lacks the richness of scents like M.I., where the luxury of the concentration makes up for the artificial quality.

    20th March, 2015


    Paul Smith Man by Paul Smith

    A strange sort of smell, Paul Smith Man reminds me of what you'd get if you tried to create an artistic expression of wood by mixing grape drink, nutmeg, sage leaves, patchouli, chemically treated fiberboard, and a touch of bleach. It's really odd, but it doesn't smell bad.

    Mixes of similar notes are extremely common and often fail because they play up the bleachy smell, trying to be "aquatic", but Paul Smith man leaves the bleach in the background enough that it lends a sense of artificiality in an artistic way, as opposed to just smelling common.

    This sort of reminds me of the nuttiness of Kenneth Cole Black, but Man is more woody and way less bleachy. It definitely does smell like a mall scent, just one that uses the usual elements with more skill than its brethren.

    20th March, 2015


    Iris Poudre by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

    Probably my favorite of the Frederic Malle line. Iris Poudre hits the skin with a decent version of Chanel No. 5's powdery lemon champagne aldehydes, played out over a complex mix of flowers that kind of reminds me of Giorgio's infamous candied baby aspirin smell, but spiced with peppery carnation and laid out on a bed of smooth iris. It smells gorgeous, and dries down to a mix of iris and galbanum that's quite nice as well.

    I've taken so long to review Iris Poudre because there's just something thin about it. It smells like one of the world's great perfumes, but watered down. It lasts all day, but is always faint and non-projecting. This is the kind of perfume that could be a Amoage-style luxury bomb as an EDP or the height of richness as an extrait, but instead it's just a dull hum at its chosen concentration. Malle has said that he released this as his first perfume because it has so many expensive ingredients that he know no one could copy it. Maybe that's why it's weakly concentrated - anything more would make a bottle cost too much. Anyway, I think Iris Poudre is a must try, though don't expect to be blown away just because it's so quiet. Maybe some day Malle will introduce a parfum...

    20th March, 2015


    Bronze by Ellen Tracy

    What does Bronze smell like? Surprisingly unique and not easy to describe. It's a complex smell that seems to rely mostly on almond-ish heliotrope, iris, and white soap coming together to form a cohesive smell that's sort of nutty, sort of like flour, and yet rich and perfumey from the iris. There are vague hints of fruit in there, as well as a smell of freshly grated nutmeg and ginger in the heart. There's a chocolate undertone later on, and it ends on a bed of soft vanilla.

    I don't really have a comparison to make. The mix of iris and chocolate may make some imagine of Dior Homme, but the almond heliotrope small makes this completely different. Heliotrope mixed with vanilla usually makes me think of loukhoum scents, but the iris and the spices make sure this doesn't smell gourmand. It kind of reminds me of Malle's L'eau d'Hiver, but it's less floral and less spicy, which leads to my one complaint: Bronze is not really compelling. It's a good scent, but it hasn't worked very hard to win me over despite being completely wearable and smart, even when it should have been fairly easy. Anyway, it's still a thumbs up, definitely.

    18th March, 2015


    Tralala by Penhaligon's

    I thought it would be impossible to create a perfume as off-putting as that horrifying bottle, but I think Duchoufour has done it!

    It goes on strong. If I try really hard, I can pick out some of the listed notes. but it all comes together to smell like gasoline-tainted coumarin on me. I definitely get ClaireV's "nut meal" reference, and I should admit that, while walking around town, I kept thinking I was smelling someone slicing wet potatoes, but it was Tralala. All that being said, there's a very human animalic smell to this, like dried up sperm on REALLY filthy sheets, and it's bothering me quite a bit. If you've ever gotten the "S" note in Le Male, here it is in all its glory, made sort of gasoline-ish by the saffron and weirdly sweetened with boozy cherries and violets.

    Given time, it settles into the smell of a mildewed cardboard box, with a vague cherry and flower undertone. I don't even have the patience to wait for the base. I already know this is a thumbs down and there's really nothing that can save this for me.

    16th March, 2015


    Inspire by Ellen Tracy

    Meh. It starts off with that peach topnote that's in EVERYTHING, and then fades down to peachy rose. There's a bit of something green, but not enough to really interest me.

    I guess this came out before the explosion of fruity florals redefined what "cheap" smells like, and it's been around long enough that its use of that peach was more of a Calyx/Victoria's Secret copy than an attempt to smell like every other mall perfume, but here in 2015, this just smells like all the women at the office who don't care about perfume.

    10th March, 2015


    Corazon Blanco by Mario Tomas

    Corazon Blanco goes through an awful lot of interesting twists and turns. It starts off as a gourmand, a blast of caramelized patchouli and cocoa with sweet condensed milk underneath and a sparkly soda smell on top that reminds me of Inka Cola, with its fizzy bubble gum.

    Comparisons to Angel are inevitable (Corazon Blanco is simultaneously more flowery and darker from the chocolate, and the aldehydes give it an eggy thickness). It also reminds me of the odd but pleasant chocolate/soda combination in Jo Malone's Blue Agave & Cocoa.

    I'm not much of a gourmand fan, so Corazon Blanco was in danger of losing me, but then I started smelling banana sillage and realized that the scent had transformed into a deep ylang ylang, supported by cinnamon and other florals. By the end of the day, all this had somehow faded to a perfect buttery shortbread cookie smell.

    I should say that Mario Gomez is a huge friend of the SF perfume community and a really nice guy. I would have had a hard time giving this a bad review, even if he clearly has much more of a sweet tooth than me, but he totally won me over with the clever transitions and how much ground he managed to cover. Seriously, caramel and soda and cocoa to bananas and ylang to a perfect cookie smell?

    08th March, 2015


    Halston 1-12 by Halston

    These masculine powerhouse chypres are so complicated, but they usually have the same basic elements. There were an awful lot of them for a while there and it's kind of difficult to really identify what each one brings to the table.

    As for 1-12, everything is in its place: Bergamot fusing with lavender to smell kind of fusty. Lemony wood to fill out the middle. Acacia or hawthorn to make everything waxy and 70's. A solid chypre base, further decorated with powerhouse staples like vetiver and oily patchouli.

    Whenever I get to know a scent like this, I feel like I'm deciding whether or not I like it mostly based on what it DOESN'T do, as if I'm judging it based on a checklist of pet peeves more than its own true merit. But that's just me. And 1-12 doesn't smell like cough syrup or dank, nasty herbs, and it's not so waxy that it smells dead. Though it is pretty fusty, which I'm not really a fan of. All in all, that earns it a thumbs up, but I don't think I need a bottle of this.

    03rd March, 2015


    Yerbamate by Lorenzo Villoresi

    For its first few minutes, I find Yerbamate dizzying and irresistible. It's lemony and tea-ish, soapy and musky, and all taking place in a weird sort of hyper-sweetened vetiver and abstract leafy greens. It's ridiculously strong, with a weird sharpness to it. And that's where it loses me.

    At an old job I had, the building manager used to buy concentrated bathroom cleaner that was supposed to be diluted before use, but he never bothered to dilute it, so whenever he cleaned up, the whole building was shrouded in nose-piercing chemical fumes that smelled like a pleasant clean green smell, but way too sharp and harshly soapy, which also served to amplify the sweetness into something saccharine. It should have smelled good, but it was just unbearable.

    That's what Yerbamate reminds me of. A pleasant, almost pretty smell so laden with sweet chemical sharpness and drowned in soapy chemicals that it becomes unpleasant.

    03rd March, 2015


    Phool by Illuminum

    OK, so I have to admit that I didn't want to like Illuminum. The name is so dumb. And the perfume is named "Phool"?? Unfortunately for my sense of French classicism, Phool actually smells amazing.

    It's primarily a fantastic, very real and expensive-smelling orange blossom sweetened with citrus and a great jasmine note. There's a honeyed quality to everything, though more of a woody, slightly bitter honey than anything gourmand. It all takes place over woods - petitgrain (but not the sharp gross kind) at first, later getting more cedar-ish and then landing at a very natural-smelling broken branch sort of base, still bathed in dark bitter honey.

    It smells kind of like someone built a traditional citrus cologne out of really expensive ingredients, but concentrated enough to last all day, and then added in the honey and jasmine just for fun. Definitely a thumbs up.

    03rd March, 2015


    parfums*PARFUMS Series 1 Leaves: Calamus by Comme des Garçons

    There's something about Calamus that's just indescribable. It's a green smell, but also very milky, giving the impression of breaking open an aloe vera or iceplant leaf, all filled with goo. But then, it's also surrounded by a haze of hot plastic, like the odor given off by an overheating piece of office equipment. And then it's also sweaty, juxtaposing the green leaves with an odd human component.

    It's naturalistic, but doesn't smell like anything in nature. It's chemical, but still smells like something alive.

    I just can't stop sniffing Calamus because I find it so intriguing, even though I don't particularly think it smells good. I guess I enjoy its confident chaos.

    28th February, 2015


    Never Never Land by Smell Bent

    Never Never Land begins with a roller coaster ride through all sorts of smells. I get mentholated booze, then butterscotchy retro-amber, then a dollop of civet, joined eventually by butter (this buttery civet amber is a particularly entertaining stage - I would have thought it would be awful, but it was actually quite compelling). Then, a nice sandalwood comes in and all the other elements fall into place, supporting and bringing out clever facets in the sandalwood. Clever, fun, and interesting.

    28th February, 2015


    Delicate Rose by Trussardi

    As mean as this may sound, I always think of Trussardi as a D-list fashion house that makes unimportant perfumes. Delicate Rose caught my attention and made me question that for a moment, but ultimately, I ended up unconvinced.

    It lept from the bottle in a wild swath of roses, not necessarily naturalistic, but certainly not cheap-smelling, garnished by fruit, but draped in just enough powder to make the whole thing smell quite classy and not like a dumb fruity floral. Unfortunately, within an hour, all that dissipated and I was left with a very basic pink pepper/patchouli base. It's that base that not only smells derivative, but actually sends out a distinct and intentional psychological message that whoever is wearing this perfume wants to smell unimaginative and like everyone else.

    It's really quite sad - those topnotes held a lot of promise, but were ultimately just cheap "toploading", meant to fool a potential buyer smelling it on paper into thinking they're getting something substantial.

    26th February, 2015


    Pulp by Byredo

    Every time I spray Pulp, I spend the first 30 seconds marveling at its ridiculously exaggerated juiciness, and then I notice that it smells like a cheap candle and it won't go away for hours and it's amateurishly strong.

    It smells like a "tropical punch"-flavored candy. Sort of pineapple-ish, sort of coconutty. It's vaguely waxy, which is probably cementing the candle association. If your town has a cute little gift shop with little travel candles in tins, there's probably one there that's supposed to smell like papaya or pink lychee or something that smells exactly like this. Meh.

    22nd February, 2015


    Escentric 01 by Escentric Molecules

    I really didn't expect to like Escentric 01 as much as I have, probably because I've long considered the whole line a bit of a novelty. It doesn't feel like there's much to it, but somehow it gets what little it does just perfect, which I guess is a great example of how minimalism is supposed to work.

    So what does it smell like? A nice oak wine barrel smell overlaid with tons of iso E super, so it puts out huge billows of smoky sillage and also has a creamy richness that implies incense or amber without really smelling like either. There's also an abstract feeling of citrus that doesn't really smell like actual citrus. All in all, Escentric 01 somehow hits all the buttons and comes out smelling simultaneously artistic, wearable, and clever. Nice.

    20th February, 2015


    Angélique by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

    Have you ever smelled a flower, expecting something pretty and floral, but instead it just smelled like dewy petals and green plant bits? Angélique seems to be a bit of an interesting study in flowers that don't smell floral. The iris is cool and chalky, aloof even. The cedar and frankincense hum in the background, lending a sort of woody realness without warming anything. Meanwhile, the flowers on top are the non-floral kind, giving a weird sense of vegetal quiet while something in the iris gives a quiet buzz of violet.

    Frankly, Angélique is not a friendly scent. Unlike many irises that become warm, rich, and expansive with vanilla and rich basenotes, this is a cold, distant smell - thin but strong, though not very long-lasting. I imagine it on a Devil-Wears-Prada type, in a fashionable taupe dress tearing down people with her eyes. As such, it's probably not for me, but I think it's clever.

    19th February, 2015


    Queens by Bond No. 9

    Queens smells to me like a butterscotch hard candy, but topped with berries and made fizzy with aldehydes. It dries down to a patchouli-laced pink pepper base, but the butterscotch candy lasts from start to finish.

    It's important to note that Queens, while sweet and reminiscent of candy, really doesn't feel like a gourmand. The hints of toasted almonds and vanilla are equally matched by sandalwood and a patchouli that's more grass than caramel, so it achieves a nice balance that manages to smell sweet without smelling dumb.

    Personally speaking, I prefer my ambers dark and smoky, but this might be great for someone raised on One Million and candy perfumes, but on the lookout for something a step up.

    18th February, 2015


    Cuir X by La Parfumerie Moderne

    So, um.... This is weird. I have two samples of Cuir X, both sprayed from bottles at Barneys, and one is awesome and one is awful.

    The good sample: Something in the family of Knize Ten or Kolnisch Junchten, harsh leather with hints of gasoline played deftly against flowers, but with the edges sanded down just enough to not be quite as unpredictably wild as its predecessors. It gets soapy in the base, which I can see leading to the Cuiron comparisons.

    The bad sample: A huge overdose of that bleachy "woody amber" chemical with violets and gasoline and birch tar in the base.

    So, one sample gets an enthusiastic thumbs up and the other gets a disappointed thumbs down, so I guess that averages out to a neutral. One thing's for sure: I'd never buy a bottle of this without smelling the specific bottle I was getting first...

    18th February, 2015


    Eau Plurielle by Diptyque

    Eau Plurielle is basically a mix of rose and ivy with a pinch of peach on top and some honey and woods on the bottom. It makes sense as part of the same family as L'Ombre Dans L'Eau, but is much less fruity and less funky.

    The "ivy" is actually tomato leaf, so there's a hint of bile in the background, but the honey and woods do a decent job covering it up. My biggest complaint is actually that the peach threatens to make the rose smell kind of cheap and fake. Also, the whole thing is an Eau, so it doesn't last very long. Meh.

    16th February, 2015


    Velvet Tender Oud by Dolce & Gabbana

    Everyone needs to stop saying that cheap aquatic aromachemicals are oud.

    I'm going to say that again: Everyone needs to stop saying that cheap aquatic aromachemicals are oud.

    If you want to spend $300 to smell like the drydown of any cheap mall aquatic or Axe body spray with a pinch of rose and saffron added (which die off within an hour or so, just leaving more concentrated cheapness), by all means go ahead. If you have any sense of what expensive perfumes should smell like, any sense of what oud is, or any sense of taste, just don't even bother sniffing this.

    14th February, 2015


    Pot Pourri by Santa Maria Novella

    I sprayed this on at a local store and sniffed my arm, turned to the SA, and asked "does this smell like ham to you?" She agreed and I walked out determined that this was either going to completely win me over with its cleverness or turn out to be a disaster. Oddly, it was neither...

    So, um, the ham smell... I'm figuring it's some combination of the burnt smell of camphor or birch tar with kitchen spices and cloves, with cumin giving it a meaty quality. It actually only lasted a few minutes, giving way to a rather forward oregano smell with a smoky spice cabinet in the background. A few hours later, I was left with a a quiet herbal-smelling smudge where it had been.

    So, in the end it was the strong oregano focus that turned me off, as opposed to the ham. The burnt quality was a clever touch missing in most of these really old herb-mix perfumes, but alas, this isn't for me.

    14th February, 2015


    Vetiver Veritas by Heeley

    With SO many good vetivers out there, the real question to me is "what does this one bring to the table that the others don't?" For Vetiver Veritas, I'd say the answer is a deep, vegetal grassy focus.

    Apparently, almost all vetiver scents are made with something called vetiveryl acetate (it's the chemical in Molecule 03, so you can sniff it pretty easily), which smells like vetiver mixed with lemongrass and nutmeg. As such, almost all vetivers smell like they have lemongrass and nutmeg in them (think Guerlain or Sycamore or Tom Ford). Vetiver Veritas DOESN'T smell like lemongrass (well, maybe a little) or nutmeg. Instead it smells like dark vetiver roots, freshly pulled from the earth and still wet with soil, with vegetable undertones of celery and lettuce.

    I really like Vetiver Veritas, though the price and its unflinching linearity are putting me off actually buying a bottle. But it still gets an enthusiastic thumbs up.

    14th February, 2015


    M by Puredistance

    Is Roja Dove the Kanye West of perfumers, repeating that he's the best until people actually believe him? His pedigree and his perfume writing are great, but he's essentially created a whole new echelon of expensiveness to house his creations, slowly building up an entire new pricing structure of $700-$1200 perfumes based almost entirely on his name. In my opinion, if you're going to create a whole new gradient of price, you need to match that with a whole new level of quality, and that's where things get questionable.

    Based on hype alone, the general consensus seems to be that M is Roja Dove's finest work, and arguably one of the greatest perfumes ever. I personally think there's quite a bit of the Kanye effect mixing with a healthy dose of "if it's THAT expensive it must be great" that's leading to the worship of M. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just nowhere near that mindboggling.

    So what does it smell like? Amber, with a mix of frankincense and vanilla. There's a realistic ash smell which lends a leathery facet to the topnotes before switching into campfire mode. As the ash dies down, the frankincense, which has always been quite forward, becomes the real star of the scent, sharp and cedar-tinged instead of liturgical. The vanilla smells kind of cheap, but is largely masked - if you have a huge problem with marshmallowy sweet scents, this may be the one to finally win you over, though you may just end up hating it.

    All in all, I greatly prefer Ambre 114 for my smoky amber fix, though M goes much deeper into the ashy aspects. Thumbs up, but I'd never buy this. We live in a wonderful world where great amber perfumes are a dime a dozen, and M feels more like a marketing trick than anything close to the finest example of perfumery that people set it up to be.

    13th February, 2015


    Cuiron by Helmut Lang

    I'm trying, but not quite getting the appeal of the legendary Cuiron. It's got a lot of soap and talcum powder on top, vaguely flavored with unremarkable citrus, eventually drying down to a nice, slightly wood suede note. It's quiet and kind of weak, with only the powdery soap really standing out.

    Given time, it ends up as a spot on my arm that smells just a bit "cleaner" than the rest of me.

    I can see how, in a 2002 sea of Le Male clones and cheap aquatics, Cuiron would smell immensely different and interesting, but it really can't hold a candle to the truly great leathers like Kolnisch Junchten or Creed's Royal English Leather, or even the current crop of interesting niche leathers. Meh.

    12th February, 2015


    Anubis by Papillon Artisan Perfumes

    Wow, that's a lot of saffron. So upfront that it broadcasts all sorts of nuances, from oud-ish medicinal rubber to really dark leather. After a few hours, it's largely gone, leaving only weak traces of its supporting cast - leathery pine, a smudge of vanilla, and a surprising little whiff of caramel patchouli.

    All told, this doesn't do very much or last very long. It's almost like a rough draft that hasn't been fully fleshed out or edited, but there's a certain perfumery skill level it takes to just lend subtle support while a great ingredient does its thing. I really like saffron so I can't help but give it a thumbs up, though I'm confident that I could find a more fully supported saffron out there if I kept looking.

    09th February, 2015


    Pharrell Williams GIRL by Comme des Garçons

    Ew, seriously? The big star of Girl is definitely that generic aquatic "woody amber" smell that's in every cheap men's scent. There's just a minute at the top where it's flanked with interesting sage and vetiver and smells kind of like something Comme Des Garcons might do in their serious line, but then that fake grape smell that's in every mall masculine comes in and cements Girl as commonplace junk.

    In a way, if you've somehow managed to avoid every Axe body spray and discount-site men's scent for the last fifteen years, you MAY find Girl appealing as a sort of dumbed-down Black Afgano or as a mediocre entry path into mass-market "niche". But you can smell like this with very little effort for way less money.

    08th February, 2015


    Hermèssence Osmanthe Yunnan by Hermès

    An interesting first minute-or-two of juicy mandarin, light peach, vodka, and fennel all very quickly settle into a dull smell that reminds me of a vaguely peppery sheet of blank paper, or possibly the vegetal smell of a flower without an odor.

    Besides a belabored metaphor or a modern art piece about the smell of unscented things, I don't see the point of this. The opening citrus is done better in Eau de Mandarin Ambre, and the odd peppery vegetal paper smell is fully fleshed out and better executed in Eau de Gentiane Blanche. The osmanthus is barely more than a wisp of peach. If this had been anything other than a Jean Claude Ellena, I wouldn't have spent so long trying to convince myself to like it.

    07th February, 2015


    L'Orpheline by Serge Lutens Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

    Boring. Like a watercolor painting with brushstrokes so thin and limpid that their swirls of white actually just look like unpainted canvas.

    What does it smell like? Chemicals. Chemicals that vaguely bring to mind oak and lavendar, but in a pool of empty haze. It's sort of burnt in the base, and it goes through a stage where it smells like that cheap aquatic "woody amber" chemical.

    In a way, there's a certain artistry involved in making a perfume that broadcasts so weirdly, like a bubble of subtle scent that wraps around the wearer while the smell to the wearer himself feels so chemically-thinned and barely there. Anyway, I think this falls into the category of "thin woods", one of my least favorite perfume genres. I don't want to pay money to smell nondescript at best, and unscented at worst.

    07th February, 2015


    Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne by Helmut Lang

    I'm not really sure where to start with Helmut Lang EDC. So what does it smell like? White soap in a hot steamy shower, baby powder, a little bit of civet poop, a disconcerting hum of bleach, and a background sweetness that's sort of herbal that gets so thoroughly drowned out by the soapy powdery wet heat that it's barely worth trying to figure out.

    Given a couple of hours, it ends up as a soapy metallic coumarin that's clearly inspired by Le Male, but with all that powder instead of the vanilla. As such, Helmut Lang has a sort of clean/dirty juxtaposition that works with the nondescript herbs to give it a modern niche feel. Realistically, I'm not a soapy powdery musk kind of guy, and the Le Male-inspired drydown doesn't really do anything for me, so Helmut gets a thumbs down, but with a caveat that there's some interesting artistry here.

    06th February, 2015

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