Reviews by jbr

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    jbr
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    Vanille Exquise by Annick Goutal

    Vanilla and almond... thinking of marzipan? Here - not quite. I wouldn't exactly say that this is a dry rendition of vanilla (at least not more than relatively), but it's definitely not the out-and-out gourmand that many were probably expecting it to be. My first impression was, for just a few moments, something along the lines of suntan lotion, but I soon realized that it was more complex and luxurious than that - what it really brings to mind is some kind of nice, fragrant moisturizer or other bath and body preparation. The vanilla and almond, which are noticeable almost immediately and stay throughout the life of the fragrance on my skin, have a gentle, milky creaminess that actually dovetails quite nicely with the official Annick Goutal PR which makes mention of Vanille Exquise as being inspired by Cleopatra's milk baths. I don't perceive this fragrance as being very powdery, nor do I really actively sense any of the other listed notes - to me, Vanille Exquise is really all about that lovely vanilla-almond accord. With temperate sillage and a comfortable level of sweetness, Vanille Exquise is a good candidate for a warm-weather (and year-round) vanilla, and is worthy of attention both from avid vanilla fans and anyone looking for a not-quite gourmand take on the genre.

    06 June, 2012

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    L'Eau d'Ambre by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    I appreciate the restraint of this classic amber - it is proof that even early on in his career, Ellena understood how to make a quiet, lean fragrance that sacrifices little potency. L'Artisan's website lists the notes as geranium, vanilla, and amber, while others add only patchouly to the mix. Clearly, L'Eau d'Ambre's modest projection is necessitated by the simplicity of its structure - powerful fragrances demand a greater degree of complexity so that the wearer does not feel as if they are being bludgeoned by a single overwhelming note or accord. Make no mistake though, at its heart this is an old-school amber fragrance through and through, and the note list tells most of the story: L'Eau d'Ambre begins with light floral and woody undertones before it takes on a cool, sweet, creamy character in the drydown. It all works beautifully. Anyone looking for a classic amber with the volume turned down a bit would do well to investigate L'Eau d'Ambre.

    03 June, 2012

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    Lalique pour Homme by Lalique

    Lalique pour Homme opens with a big herbal-green accord of rosemary and lavender, with citrus (grapefruit primarily) in the background. I must be sensitive to this note, because the rosemary is really dominant here to my nose, and leaves the rest of the opening notes playing a distant second fiddle. I don't specifically detect the listed floral notes but I do get the cedar in the middle loud and clear. There is a whiff of a powdery wood and vanilla drydown which seems promising but unfortunately Lalique pour Homme stays very close to the skin after about an hour, after which time it becomes so weak that it's difficult to really detect what's going on with it anymore.

    Lalique pour Homme is clearly aiming for a smooth, formal and conservative quality, and judging by the mostly positive reviews, I believe it is capable of filling that niche for others. Unfortunately, it just feels stuffy and awkward on my skin.

    04 June, 2011

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    Piment Brûlant by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    Previous reviewers have mentioned bell peppers - let me go a step further and say that Piment Brulant is more like sticking your nose inside a raw jalapeño. Maybe not LITERALLY a jalapeño, but definitely a pepper with some heat to it. Piment Brulant is both intensely vegetal and unappealingly spicy-hot to my nose. Reading only the note lists will definitely send the wrong impression about what this fragrance is actually about - cinnamon, amber, vanilla, cloves, chocolate, are a few I can recall. Sounds like a gourmand right? Well, maybe if you're a serious chilihead, because any other notes at play here are completely smothered by the overpowering pepper.

    All that said, I have to give some credit here - Piment Brulant is certainly unique and I admire the crafting of such a vivid pepper note, but that simply does not translate into a wearable fragrance for me.

    01st May, 2011

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    L by Lolita Lempicka

    Lolita Lempicka's promotion for L is centered around a nautical theme, which is reflected down to the bottle shaped like a deep-sea treasure, complete with a little starfish and coral. To their credit, there seems to be something to the maritime motif aside from marketing - a few previous reviewers have noted a certain salty note, which I can sense here as well. I can only surmise this is the work of the immortelle, a note which I am not very familiar with. In any case, it is not a major component of the fragrance, but it is a clever touch which adds some intrigue to the scent.

    Fundamentally, L is a vanilla gourmand which brings to mind a variety of sweet associations. The top is an orange creamsicle with a dusting of cinnamon (I wish there was more), while the vanilla becomes deeper and takes on caramelic, almost chocolaty undertones as the fragrance develops. Roucel has a distinctive way of working with vanilla which I can only describe as incredibly rich and creamy, and this is fully evident in the construction of L. Of course, those who make the best gourmands know that there should be something to balance all the sweetness - in Angel it was the patchouli, while here it is musk. There is just enough here to tickle the nose and offset some of the sweetness.

    L is quickly becoming a personal favorite of mine. It is a distinctive, beautiful take on a vanilla gourmand and essential to try for anyone interested in this genre.

    15 March, 2011

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    Nina (new) by Nina Ricci

    Since I just finished munching on a chocolate-caramel apple sent to me by relatives for the holidays, it seems apropos to lay down some thoughts on this one now. Despite the candy association though, this one might not be as sweet as you're thinking it is. The florals here read as being very perfumey to me, and act to restrain the sweetness of the edible notes, which leads me to hesitate in classifying Nina as a full-on gourmand. Certainly, Nina is no Angel. I would say this is an excellent near-gourmand for a woman interested in flirting with some edible notes without the full-on foody experience.

    05 January, 2011

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    Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent

    I wanted to approach Kouros with an open mind - after all, I tend to get along with most fragrances, and it wouldn't be the first time that I would find myself wondering what all the fuss was about after reading so many scathing reviews. Unfortunately, in this case it was quite apparent to me what all the fuss was about here. I don't actually get urine in this composition but the surrounding environs are certainly present, which is to say: this smells like a men's room. A clean men's room, but a men's room nonetheless. I'm not sure if it's specifically urinal cakes, but the aura of some kind of bathroom cleaning product or some combination of them is, to my nose, unmistakably present here.

    I can only surmise that those who love Kouros must not have this specific scent association, or they simply don't mind it, in which case I say, please enjoy it to your heart's content. However, I find it very difficult to enjoy a fragrance that reminds me in any way of a public restroom.

    05 January, 2011

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    Rochas Man by Rochas

    As the most well-known masculine gourmand behind A*Men, it is probably inevitable that Rochas Man is going to draw comparison to the infamous Mugler creation. Personally, to me it seems like Rochas Man represents a deliberate move toward a different school of thought on constructing a gourmand for men.

    At every stage in its development Rochas Man opts for a different strategy then A*Men: the latter's bombastic lavender-and-tar top is replaced with a more gentle sweet grassy lavender, while in the heart Rochas Man chooses light florals rather than heavy patchouli, and finishes with a deliciously sweet amber and vanilla accord rather than A*Men's thick and gooey honey-chocolate-caramel-coffee accord.

    In sum, where A*Men chooses to go deep, dark and heavy, Rochas Man chooses to go light and sweet. It provides a welcome alternative to those who have never warmed up to the former, and expands the possibilities for those who like A*Men but would like a different style of gourmand which is easier to wear at different times of the year (A*Men is almost strictly for cold weather in my opinion).

    Though I've spent most of this review comparing it to A*Men, Rochas Man has certainly earned the right to stand on its own.

    05 January, 2011

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    Encre Noire by Lalique

    Encre Noire is an undeniably suave creation, and from a conceptual standpoint I think it is a complete success. My problem, then, is with the execution. Vetiver can be a tricky note for me, and my appreciation of it in a starring role like this depends almost entirely on what its supporting cast brings to the table.

    Encre Noire has been compared a few times by previous reviewers to Guerlain Vetiver, which I love - personally, I don't see it, and would go so far as to say that in many ways they are really polar opposites. Where the latter is designed to smooth away some of vetiver's rough edges, Encre Noire takes every opportunity to enhance its sharp, pungent earthiness. This approach doesn't really work for me, which, of course, is entirely a matter of taste.

    A well-made fragrance which deserves a respectful neutral.

    03 January, 2011

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    Ice*Men by Thierry Mugler

    The consensus seems to be that Ice*Men is simply a rebadging of the previous year's A*Men Summer Flash, and it makes sense that they would opt for a name change given how little of A*Men there is to be found here. Of course the formula would have to be retooled to make A*Men work as a warm-weather scent, but I would be very hard-pressed to find any connection to the original here if I didn't know that they shared some relation. Well, really, I'm hard-pressed to find any connection period.

    The material from Mugler mentions a "caffeine kick," but, like others, I have been completely unable to locate any kind of coffee note here, and that's a shame, because going for an iced coffee motif here would have been a great way to play on A*Men's accords while lightening it up a bit. What I do get here is a fairly standard aquatic which, to its credit, does have a pleasant patchouli undercurrent to makes things a bit more interesting. Sadly though, Ice*Men ends up being far too wimpy to make a lasting impression, as on my skin it is gone in about four hours.

    So, this one ended up being a disappointment for me, though I do hear that the recent A*Men Sunessence does a better job riffing on A*Men's accords for warm-weather wear, if only I could find it...

    03 January, 2011

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    A*Men / Angel Men by Thierry Mugler

    A*Men is often considered to be the quintessential love-it-or-hate-it scent. More accurately, I would say it is a fragrance which many instantly hate and many others have a certain inclination towards, even if they do not fall in love at first sniff. Indeed, I wasn't completely taken the first time I tried A*Men, but it's the kind of scent that, if it doesn't completely repulse you, compels you to try it again. It's the kind of scent that gets into your head the more you wear it, and I can almost guarantee that anyone who sees any potential to enjoy it will eventually end up loving it.

    For me, the minty-lavender and tar topnotes were the most troublesome the first time I tried A*Men. Certainly, it is a shocking accord at first blush. The sweetness was never an issue for me, as I have always enjoyed sweet fragrances. My concern was that the jarring topnotes seemed to throw off the balance of the scent. However, I've come to enjoy that opening accord over time and can now more clearly appreciate how it segues into the later acts. And of course, those later acts are amazing - the earthy patchouli and coffee grounding the sweetness of the honey, chocolate and caramel remains one of my favorite combinations in fragrance.

    I admire A*Men's unapologetic nature, a trait it shares with the original Angel. I do not read the intent of A*Men as being brash or crude, it is simply an assertive fragrance that not every nose is going to love. Certainly it is not an everyday fragrance even for those who enjoy it, but when the craving hits, you'll be glad you have it in your wardrobe.

    03 January, 2011

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    Jaïpur Homme by Boucheron

    Review for EdP version.

    Jaipur shares a skeletal foundation with Body Kouros, another creation from Annick Menardo of similar vintage - in most ways, however, the two are poles apart. Where the latter is spare and linear, Jaipur is explosively rich and elegant. This is a strong and confident fragrance which also manages to be mannered and polite. Jaipur sticks around for a while - well into the next day I get wafts of sweet powdery spice. Fortunately, I am almost certain that you won't mind its company. Unique and essential to try.

    01st January, 2011

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    Allure Homme Edition Blanche by Chanel

    I often have a difficult relationship with scents intended to be worn in warm weather. The whole light citrus, flowers and herbs thing just usually fails to inspire much passion from me (with the occasional exception of course). I don't expect to be able to wear, say, Egoiste in 90 degree heat, but I usually need something just a bit more substantial no matter the temperature. Fortunately, Allure Edition Blanche provides a pretty darn good compromise, and I have very much enjoyed wearing it this past summer. The creamy lemon note is quite lovely, one of my favorites actually, and segues well into a subtle but satisfying powdery-vanilla base. The effect is something akin to a lemon meringue pie, a sweet summer treat that doesn't weigh you down.

    28 October, 2010

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    Geir by Geir Ness

    The Power of Norway! Now how could a good Norwegian-American like me not love a fragrance with a tagline like that? It may put images of viking warriors in your head, but that's not really what Geir is going for here. Think more along the lines of rugged mountain landscapes and deep fjords, the power of Norway's natural beauty. Though suitable for any season, i have to say that I find this is a superb winter scent, even though it doesn't have a lick of vanilla, spice, patchouli, or leather, those big warm notes that I usually look for in cold weather scents. It has a bracing quality that is amazing when combined with cold, clean winter air. Other houses should take note - this how you make a "clean" and "fresh" scent!

    28 October, 2010

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    Opium pour Homme by Yves Saint Laurent

    I believe that shamu1 has hit upon an important point in mentioning the exotic nature of this fragrance. The mystery and exoticism of the orient was, of course, the inspiration for the original Opium, and I believe that YSL has succeeded in capturing that feeling in the masculine counterpart. It really does bring a sense of wanderlust and the allure of far-away places. By all accounts this should be a fragrance that I love - it is sweet, spicy and warm in all the right places, something that should be right up my alley. The problem is that it's a little too spicy, as in, pepper spicy. This is not the first time that a strong peppery note has caused trouble for me. It just doesn't sit well on my skin. However, Opium is interesting and enjoyable enough for me to go back and sample occasionally. I want to take the trip, I'm just not sure I'm ready to buy the ticket.

    28 October, 2010

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    Michael for Men by Michael Kors

    It has been noted by previous reviewers that Michael for Men is particularly suited for the autumn season, a point I can eagerly agree with. This fragrance really smells like the distilled essence of fall, the overall effect to me being of a strongly-spiced alcoholic cider bubbling away at the stove. Certainly a fragrance of strong character, but I do not find it blunt or overwhelming at all, as my skin seems to have the effect of taming powerhouse fragrances rather than amplifying them. In any case, something to relish in the cool weather months.

    28 October, 2010

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    Zino Davidoff by Davidoff

    Oh my, this one starts off potent! What a brilliant, fat bergamot note we have here in Zino's opening moments. This deserves special mention as one of the best (and strongest) representations of everyone's favorite sour orange I have smelled to date - puts me straight in the mood for some Earl Grey. However, as others have noted, though Zino initially has all the familiar trappings of a classic 80's powerhouse, it doesn't quite go in that direction. Zino opts to lower the speed, swerve off the highway and take the scenic route instead - taking some time to smell the roses, as it were. And the rose here is quite well done, surrounded by some nice sweet spice and woods. The real party for me though is the gentle pillow of a base: sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla - utterly beautiful. Only complaint? Longevity is a little less than I would like in a fragrance of this character, but I'm willing to be forgiving when the rest of it is so good.

    15 May, 2010

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    Bulgari pour Homme by Bulgari

    I admire the house of Bulgari for the way they have cultivated a unique brand of subtle, classy and thoroughly modern fragrances, while still managing to surprise with a few wild left turns every now and again (Bulgari Black, I'm looking at you). Here, the signature Bulgari tea note is well on display, buffeted by light woods and musk in the base. This is a calm, self-assured fragrance possessed of a soft-spoken masculinity, and an easy contender for a spot in any wardrobe.

    15 May, 2010

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    Obsession for Men by Calvin Klein

    Obsession's initial piney/herbal blast which rides in on a brief, faint wave of mandarin can be startling, perhaps shocking even, for one who is not used to fragrances with this sort of strength at any point in their development, much less one like Obsession that comes charging out of the gate with such brashness. Instantly identifiable, I think these opening notes account for much of this scent's reputation for being "dated." However, it would be a shame for young/modern audiences to dismiss this fragrance even if they are not terribly fond of this distinctive but admittedly easily divisive opening. The sweet spices that come in at the scent's heart are, well, the heart and soul of Obsession. Nutmeg, cinnamon - the impression I get is of a nice chai tea, concentrated and amplified to a strength befitting an 80's powerhouse, or a slice of sweet cinnamon bread in the morning. As most fragrances are on my dry skin, Obsession is quite-well behaved with perfectly acceptable longevity and beautiful smoldering sillage. Most certainly not a wimpy fragrance, but I don't think it will clear out a room if you go with one spray too many either. I cannot really detect the listed vetiver in the drydown (strange given that vetiver is such a distinct scent and I am normally able to easily recognize it) - it is all about amber here, sweet and strong amber. Just a beautiful ending for this fragrance. I don't use this word lightly, but I definitely think Obsession qualifies as a classic scent. Extraordinary.

    22 March, 2010

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    John Varvatos by John Varvatos

    I became enamored of John Varvatos over this past holiday season, where this fragrance's aggressively sweet fruity-spicy kick provided a welcome pick-me-up on those cold winter days (and nights). This is a smoothly-blended and easy to like fragrance which manages to retain some unique character despite its crowd-pleasing sensibilities. I sense some unidentifiable note or accord lurking in the background that has this tart-juicy character which I find very compelling - who knows, maybe that "West Indian tamarind tree leaf"? This works to balance out the sweetness a bit and provide depth to the scent. Still, I think one's perception of John Varvatos will hinge heavily on how responsive they are to this fragrance's unabashed sweetness. Rich, warm and sexy in the right context, I am unsurprised that John Varvatos has found so many admirers, and am happy to count myself among them.

    21st March, 2010

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    Égoïste / L'Égoïste by Chanel

    Some fragrances have the power to lift you up - in the case of Égoïste, quite literally. Whenever I wear Égoïste I cannot help but feel as if I am walking taller, prouder, with my head held high. Égoïste says that you are the best smelling person in the room, you know it, and you want others to know it too. Gorgeous, spicy, honeyed sweetness from top to bottom, with radiant but never overpowering sillage and longevity to match. In a league of its own in the realm of masculine perfumery, matched in my opinion only by a select few others, notably Chanel's own Antaeus. A remarkable and singular fragrance.

    21st March, 2010

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    Antaeus by Chanel

    My skin seems to emphasize the sweet aspects of any fragrance I wear, which is not a bad thing at all, as I do have something of a sweet tooth in regard to fragrance. Antaeus is no exception to this, which is fortunate, as I think if I were not able to get a good kick of that honeyed sweetness from the beeswax and sandalwood I may find this to be a slightly dry affair for my taste. As is, however, Antaeus unfolds on my skin as a perfect balance between the dry, masculine leather accord and the sweet beeswax. I have to be agree with LiveJazz in that I do not find Antaeus to be an overly butch or aggressively masculine fragrance - I do believe it projects an air of dignified masculinity, but certainly do not find it to be confrontational or oppressive. In any case, I believe Antaeus stands as a remarkable and distinguished fragrance.

    07 March, 2010

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    M7 Fresh by Yves Saint Laurent

    I was not too enthusiastic about this juice the first time I tried it. I sensed a deep, damp woodiness which reminded me of a forest after rainfall, which I enjoyed. Unfortunately, it also reminded me a bit of the compost pile in the woods behind my house, which I did not enjoy so much. Still, despite the funkiness there was something in this brew which kept me sniffing my wrist throughout the day - I could sense that there was something very interesting going on here, and so resolved to try it again on another day. I'm glad I did. The deep woodiness which was slightly overwhelming at first is now tempered by what I sense as a lovely cinnamony sweetness. Still, despite the "Fresh" appellation, this is not exactly a light scent, for me at least, and not something to be worn on just any day. On the days which I find to be appropriate for, though, I am very glad to have it around.

    23 August, 2009

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    Armani Code / Black Code by Giorgio Armani

    Anise. Urgh. This note and I just do not agree, and it's pretty much all I get from this fragrance until the drydown sets in. And I do actually find the drydown to be quite pleasant, with some smoky coffee and subtle chocolate notes lending it a slightly gourmand-ish feel. The anise overload in the beginning is just way too much for me to bear. Not for me.

    18 August, 2009

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    Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana

    Count me as another in the long line of men who prefer the original Light Blue to the relatively uninspiring pour Homme interpretation. The opening is quite sharp and actually downright masculine to my nose, though it softens significantly with all those florals in the mid notes. And those florals, by the way, are quite lovely, especially combined with the apple note which to my nose sticks around for a good while. Like walking through a fragrant garden while munching on a Granny Smith. This is a fun and completely unpretentious fragrance, something I find appropriate for a relaxing day out with friends or simply lounging around by yourself. A contemporary classic for good reason.

    18 August, 2009

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    L'Eau D'Issey pour Homme Eau d'Été Summer Edition by Issey Miyake

    Very similar to the original, only a bit brighter with more upfront citrus on the top notes. Same warnings apply as with its predecessor - go easy on the trigger, this stuff is potent! Three to four sprays are enough to let yourself and anyone within arm's length be very aware of what you're wearing, any more than that and you'll be clearing out the room in no time flat. This is a bit brash for my taste - when I'm in the mood for a good aquatic I usually reach for Bvlgari Aqua, which I find to be a more subtle composition. Also, this stuff doesn't seem to get along with my sinuses - I get sniffy and sneezy whenever I wear it, and I usually don't have strong adverse reactions like that to fragrances. Pass on this if you already own a bottle of L'Eau d'Issey, if you don't, though, this could be worth a look if you want a strong citrus-y aquatic, it's just not really for me.

    17 August, 2009

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    Live Jazz by Yves Saint Laurent

    Mint? Yup, this guy's got it in spades, along with an amazing, slightly tart, slightly sweet grapefruit on the top. I can't get over how great this combination is, which is good, because this particular accord lasts for quite a while on my skin. I do sense the middle notes, though for me they work in a very subtle way, simply adding a new dimension, a nice herbal depth, to the existing mint and grapefruit notes. The woodsy basenotes are more pronounced to me, adding a lovely, light sweetness. As Big Punisher said, this is really a quintessential summer/warm weather fragrance. Wear this while lounging around in your backyard on a hot day. Have a pool, or know someone who does? Even better. Just dip your legs in though - you don't want to wash this stuff off!

    16 August, 2009

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    Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert by Bulgari

    Spicy citrus opening with the "green tea" note immediately evident. This is what I get for most of this fragrance's time on my skin - there is little (obvious) evolution going on here for me aside from the introduction of some subtle florals in the mid notes. Is this a bad thing? On this kind of scent, I would say no. It is expertly balanced - there is nothing extraneous, superfluous or out of place. There are people who find this approach boring, which I understand, but to me, it is just blissful when done right. This is not something I would wear for going out, it is a scent primarily for your own personal enjoyment, and I believe it can be enjoyed year-round - in warm weather, it is light and refreshing, on a rainy fall day, it is quietly reflective, and on a cold winter day, it can be gently uplifting. An amazing fragrance.

    15 August, 2009

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    Aqua pour Homme by Bulgari

    One of the most authentically "aquatic" aquatics out there. This scent doesn't just try to abstractly conjure the marine atmosphere intended to be evoked by others of its type - the upfront, lifted-straight-from-the-beach posidonia note grabs you immediately and never lets you forget that this is a scent of the sea. Despite the associations, this isn't really what I would consider to be a "beach scent" - I find there to be a moody and gently mysterious atmosphere to this fragrance which makes me think that it is not appropriate for wear in the stifling heat. Rather, perhaps it is one for a rainy day or a walk along the beach in the evening with a cool sea breeze. In any event, this is a very well constructed aquatic which I believe could find favor with both fans ands critics of that scent genre.

    13 August, 2009

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    Activist by Body Shop

    I discovered an old bottle of this hiding in the back of a cabinet in my bathroom. I had not worn it for years, but I am glad to have rediscovered it. On a quick sniff, the overall effect is something akin to... root beer! Yes, to my nose this smells exactly like a creamy root beer float, or perhaps a root beer flavored candy. An appealing accord, to be sure! Closer examination reveals cinnamon and other sweet spices and what I think is a nice pine note in there as well. This could be a good winter/Christmas-time scent, though is not so heavy that it would be unbearable in the warmer months. This is a very fun, easy to enjoy scent, and it's a shame that it's apparently been discontinued in the US market - guess I'll have to import a new bottle!

    11th August, 2009

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