Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Shifty Bat

Total Reviews: 615

Halston Man Amber by Halston

I picked this one up for a scant thirteen dollars so I could get a feel of where Halston's line now stands in terms of quality. I was not expecting much, to be honest. However, the juice in C-3PO's flask here is surprisingly pleasant. It is a cross between two camps of fragrance I already own, so it is nothing new to me, but I do enjoy it for straddling this line and not teetering to far in either direction. The first camp is the spicy cedar and labdanums: Fever by Celine, Zirh by Ikon, etc. The second is myrrh-centric frags like CK Intense Euphoria and Prada Amber Intense. Halston Man Amber is neither as dark and inky as the first group nor as sweet as the latter; It is warm, spicy simplicity which dwindles in volume in lieu of changing over its lifespan. I think what I like most about it is that the initial blast smells of black pepper. Well, little flask, time to meet your new Halston family.
12th September, 2017

Rykiel Homme Grey by Sonia Rykiel

Opens with a very dry rosewood which, with the added spices, comes off smelling as much like cedar as itself. The citruses are just there to add dimension, and are hardly noticeable in the projection. The nutmeg heart is blessedly quiet, like Kenzo's Jungle spoken at whisper volume. The finish is all about tonka and musk, as the sandalwood is quite synthetic and is mostly masked by the other base elements. I find this powder-dry, hazy focus offering to be extremely similar to the now grossly overpriced Zanzibar by Van Cleef & Arpels. Both will leave you wanting but are each faultlessly pleasant if you are not concerned about projection. Certainly a wear for warmer weather. I feel like the brief for this creation (and likely Zanzibar) was to create a soft accord which mimics real sandalwood, much like Yardley's take on the material.
01st July, 2017

Versace pour Homme Dylan Blue by Versace

It was bound to happen eventually - someone was going to take the citric incense of Habit Rouge and turn it into a loud and annoying aquatic. Part of me is okay with it because it smells like the core of Tommy Bahama's Martinique, but the rest of me is repulsed. I am praying for a sea change that will bring aromatics and chypres back into the designer fore to replace the unabated waves of vanillas and aquas, but I am not holding my breath.
15th May, 2017
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Le Beau Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier

Stretching so far across the idea of 'le Male' that it circles around and catches up with all of its copycats, Le beau Male manages to smell more like Ambro de Jacomo and Ghost Man than its predecessor. The mint and orange blossom make for a breezy, airy duo, while the rather unexpected sage note keeps things anchored to the earth. Lavender and vanilla are slightly recessed from before but remain the overall stars. 'Absinthe' still isn't a single note. Altogether it's a bit of an odd duck fragrance, but I do prefer it to the original, and might recommend it to anyone who thought Ghost Man was too sweet or featured too much aniseed. Interestingly, I get a sort of 'afterscent' reminiscent of cucumber.
15th April, 2017

Sud Magnolia by Atelier Cologne

Atelier does Juicy Couture. Pleasant enough orange-floral opening, followed by a whole lot of nothing. Though it is not a very exciting experience the ingredients are once again excellent. Atelier has a knack for making average scents that soar to the top of their class by using very natural and lasting components, and this is one of them. Nothing really stands out here, but nothing offends, either.
26th February, 2017

Dunhill Custom by Dunhill

Custom begins with a simple apple and pepper opening which, on paper, might suggest a mall fragrance, but is actually very well-delivered and almost delicious. The amber and incense body is extremely similar to that of Mr. Blass by Bill Blass, minus the coriander and vanilla, and costs about as much. Both are seriously good for their price range, but Custom suffers one fatal flaw - While the opening is lovely and full of promise, there is almost no projection. I tried two sprays to the chest and two to my scarf and still could not detect the slightest iota of Custom after a couple minutes. The idea is sound, but the execution is feeble. As a skin scent, however it lasts until the next day, so if you are looking for close-quarters allure this may actually fit your style. This is a Venus fly trap of a scent, in that it basically doesn't exist at a distance, but can be fatal at proximity, and it's an absolute steal at the current going rate. The projection issue is the sole reason I can't give a thumbs up, and I'm sure some readers won't mind much at all about that. This isn't the kind of scent that calls for attention; this is a soft scent reserved for the one closest to you, a love note rather than a mating call. It's beautifully simple, especially if you harbor a bygone love for old school musks but wish they had a touch more English class.

Anyone looking to graduate to a richer take on this would do well for themselves to try Catalyst by Halston. There is a solid chance Custom was meant to be a reworking of Halston's apple-Oriental blueprint, but Catalyst is a rich intoxicant with none of the decorum exhibited by Dunhill's version. It is also equally inexpensive.
25th February, 2017 (last edited: 27th March, 2017)

Oud Saphir by Atelier Cologne

Suede, pepper, and the olfactory illusion of spruce needles - If I didn't know better I'd swear this was a nod at the original Burberrys for Men. Linear stuff but you know what you're buying right away, and you know it's good.
21st February, 2017

Rose Anonyme by Atelier Cologne

Rose Anonyme pulls off what I have only thus far experienced in the now woefully rare Arena di Roma - A quiet Oud. The blend of rose, bergamot, and soft spices makes the whole smell more than a little like potpourri, but in a pleasant manner the likes of which I would normally associate with Histoires or Strange Invisible Perfumes (Lyric Rain in particular). Compared to the usually straightforward and simplistic scents being churned out by Atelier this comes across more like a proper designer fragrance. It is soft but warmly radiant, it doesn't change much during its lifespan, the ultimate drydown is a bit banal, but the overall experience is one of fleeting pleasure and exuberance, and I like that plenty. Anyone who has enjoyed smoking blue lotus should give this one a wear.
21st February, 2017

Vanille Insensée by Atelier Cologne

If you want to smell like singed, buttered tonka this stuff will knock you out. The quieter dimensions at work (especially the moss) keep things in check as best they can, but it's a tough sell to make a truly interesting vanilla-centered fragrance. Not at all a bad scent, overall. Fans of VI looking for a little more dimension may have some fun looking for old samples of Scott McClintock.
19th February, 2017

Royall Muske by Royall Lyme of Bermuda

Upon smelling this I immediately understood what several other releases were trying to do. The core of Royal Copenhagen Musk, the basis of Magnetism by Escada, and who knows how many others were trying to capitalize on the almost grape-like, sweet musk at work here. I wish it was a stronger scent, but at the same time realize that could produce some dire consequences.
09th February, 2017

Joint by Roccobarocco

Joint is a lost and looked-over gem of a fragrance on par with Anthracite or (to a lesser extent) Ungaro III. The late 80's and early 90's saw a tremendous shift which left many worthy releases without the inertia they deserved, and the oddly-named Joint is one of them. Many have compared it to Bogart's Furyo, and I can agree to an extent, but it lacks the deep and resinous incense and amber to match up. That same dried out basil and coriander theme still exists here, but this one focuses more on the spicy side. This is red bell pepper wearing an Arrow collar shirt and wearing a retro musk. It might not suit today's kids but it is sexy. I can't for the life of me figure out how the base can at once be so old and so nonexistent - It's like the base dissolves into the mid to keep the peppery spice rolling along. Overall it's like wearing Furyo without the Head Shop smell, or like Giorgio's Red For Men devoid of any sweetness (the civet is really something). Eau Cendree and the early Jil Sanders spring to mind. Joint is a rather strange scent in that it is like wearing a raging storm which only roils an inch off your body: nearly nonexistent from afar, but irresistibly good up close.

09th February, 2017

Beautiful by Estée Lauder

Another old tuberose monster brought to heel by changing times, tastes, and restrictions. It is still good, and richer than most florals of today, but I kind of liked the bawdiness of the original, which stopped just shy of becoming a terror the likes of Knowing (which strangely came afterward). In any case it's quite the impressive bouquet.
07th February, 2017

Pleasures by Estée Lauder

What else need be said? It's as though Balmain's Ivoire mated with a bar of old white soap and had a lovely daughter. It works as intended and is deservedly esteemed.
07th February, 2017
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Clémentine California by Atelier Cologne

Like most Atelier offerings so far, Clementine is quite natural-smelling, and composed quite well, but ultimately suffers from Boring Base Syndrome. It is surprisingly bitter throughout, and its strange complements of juniper, star anise, and cypress make it smell a Lot like an alternate reality's version of Eau de Grey Flannel in which the grey musk of the base was traded out for a much larger dose of orange in the top. Thumbs up for the first half hour, certainly, but don't expect to be engaged for much longer.
07th February, 2017

Nirvana Bourbon by Elizabeth and James

The playful innocence of Bourbon here is like a young girl wearing her mother's things while she's out of the house. She's parading about, pretending to be luxurious like that older Dior woman she once saw. It's a decent scent, really; soft and warm, comes across as fairly natural, and the tuberose is just a brush of rouge in the mix - it is not part of the outfit, but helps complete the 'look.' I might even give this a wear or two myself if I tire of the thickness of Bath and Body's Oak or vintage Obsession. I seldom wear prominent vanillas, but this really has just enough dry wood to soak it up.

I could have just said, Unisex Corduroy by Zirh," but that would be little fun.
07th February, 2017

Dunhill Icon Elite by Dunhill

If you've been looking for a take on Perry Ellis 360 Black, Bijan Black for Men, or Perhaps, by a farther stretch, the first Penguin release, Icon Elite might be for you. While the suede accord and fake sandalwood bring its composition dangerously close to the brink of vanilla which ruins the former three for me, the threat is just narrowly reined in (but never quite goes away). The quality of ingredients and the body and motion of this would have me guessing that it was a Nest release were I to blind-test it. Nothing I'm clamoring to acquire but it's a neat redirect from the usual citrus and wood, and is far more pleasant to me than the original Icon. Still smells like Dunhill are trying to copy Zegna, though.
07th February, 2017

Dunhill Icon by Dunhill

Why is Dunhill trying to be Bulgari or Zegna? Their theme hasn't been being 'in' since the 50's. I love their old lineup of fragrances up until about 2003, but this is just not up to snuff. Acridly bitter bergamot/pepper opening tainted with a now trendy overdose of cardamom, and of course we have to throw some 'oud' in the base, just so we've covered as much ground stylistically as we can. Whenever I read ad copy for top-loaded releases like this they always seem to have a phrase like,"a touch of modernity," which I am starting to read as, "We got rid of all the real-smelling ingredients so nobody will mistake you for an old man." Icon is painfully disjointed and burnt to my nose. Among the company's roster it feels like a 50 year-old businessman mimicking a college club-goer. Odds are that the folks who like this stuff best will be wearing entirely too much of it. A bit long-winded here, but my rant's over.
07th February, 2017

Rock 'n Rose Pret a Porter by Valentino

I'm not entirely sure why this flanker exists, as it is incredibly similar to the original. What has changed is the presence of black currant now equals that of the starring rose, and the overall body feels more creamy instead of sharp. This interpretation of RnR really scratched at my brain for a while until I finally recognized what it smelled like - Halston's Halston Couture, minus the sunflower. It does hearken back to the early to mid-nineties stylistically, with its brave attempt at pairing juicy odd fruit notes with white florals. I can't say I like this any more or less than the original, but it lacks (according to my Lady) the 'Play-doh' vibe of the first one, so that can only bode well. So, if you like the idea of a big currant-orange-blossom-rose with a syrupy feel and a hint of vanilla, like Victoria's Secret suddenly had a better budget, you can still find this juice on the cheap.

As an aside, I received this by mistake, as I had planned to order another bottle of Rock N Rose, but the vendor apparently couldn't tell the difference between them. Pret-a-Porter looks much the same, but has a pink cap and a hanging tag, while the original boasts a black cap. The bottles are otherwise identical.
31st December, 2016

Tee Time by Anucci

Another surprisingly inexpensive frag I've purchased blind after finding certain notes in the Advanced Search option of the Basenotes directory, Anucci's Tee Time has been a bit of a ride for me. First off, when the package arrived there was definite leakage. Secondly, I couldn't figure out how to open it and began fiddling with the little clubs atop the cap. I would later find that the leaked juice simply sealed the cap shut upon drying. The concentrated base odor was not promising - a rather intense white floral powder and musk. I almost didn't want the replacement bottle I was awaiting.

On to the scent itself-
Tee Time boasts a jarring array of notes, in the late 90's style of things like Viking by Royal Copenhagen or Hugo by Hugo Boss. Up close it smells as odd and borderline gross as one might expect. The real magic is catching a warm trail of the stuff in passing. It is airy and grassy, all jasmine with a hint of citrus, with a beautiful wisp of mint peeking out at odd times. It smells utterly white, and like it was made for a polo t-shirt and dock loafers. Its inherent sweetness apparently only stems from the citrus top and heavy dose of florals which, as a construct, is monstrously at odds with modern climes, but it doesn't become as clogged as a parallel frag loaded with vanilla or orris. The drydown shows how heavily blended Tee Time is, but I can't deny its overall beauty; I can't say I have ever smelled another fragrance even a bit like this. And because of its construction Tee Time is a crying shame - Your lover, your class or work mates, or anybody else in close proximity will probably find it strange, feminine, or cloying, but passersby catching just whiff of this stuff will be scratching their heads wondering what, for a moment, just smelled like a sunny Spring day.
30th December, 2016

cK2 by Calvin Klein

My first impression of CK2 was not a good one; It did not come across as anything I had expected and I initially mistook its softness for weakness. After spending an afternoon with it, I recognized a structure similar to the drydown of Background by Jil Sander. The opening was a bit too powdery and floral, and I was really searching for that 'wasabi' note. I stopped paying attention for a while, and after maybe forty minutes thought I smelled something very familiar - Dzongkha! I suddenly understood the point of CK2, with the peony, vetiver, stones, incense, and unisex labeling all softly recreating the basic structure of one of my favorite l'Artisan creations. CK2 isn't nearly as strong as Dzongkha, and without the papyrus and cedar it is much less woody. The end result is like the Tibetan mountain temple that is Dzongkha on a rainy day. The spirit is still there but the edges are worn off, the volume is low, and the petrichor replaces the smoke of the now dampened incense. Projection drops steeply after the first half hour but the scent remains for most of the day. I feel like this is a reworking of CK Man, and a rather good attempt. If the projection was any better I might have counted it among their best.
11th December, 2016

Dark Rebel Rider by John Varvatos

I don't tend to favor the Varvatos line after their first release, but this one is pleasant enough to wear. And do you know why that is? Because it is a complete, top-down ripoff of Dirty English with a touch of vanilla or similar. Utterly transparent, and the added sweetness does degrade it a bit.
09th December, 2016

Culture by Tabac: Arena di Roma by Mäurer & Wirtz

After years of searching for a bottle of AdR, I was initially quite disappointed with the product. I was expecting some apple-based variant of Minotaure, like a Minotaure-Nicole Miller Hybrid. Instead, the opening was reminiscent of Perry Man without the musk; A slightly fruity and anisic woody scent with a hint of caraway and spice. On top of that let down, the top notes barely last ten minutes on skin, and the heart of it is also comparatively fleeting. But, after spending several days with this scent, I think I understand its purpose better - It is definitely an oud-centric creation, with all of the top notes collapsing into the neutron star of a soft and undeniably pleasant oud to create a close scent which carefully balances sweet, powdery, woody, herbal, spicy, and medicinal tones with the precision of a sought-after surgeon. If you are looking for the boozy swagger and lilt of Miller or the Mediterranean breeze of Minotaure you will find neither here. If you want a quiet and confident caraway-oud the likes of which you will literally never otherwise encounter, Tabac has something for you. Do not expect much (if any) sillage from this one, but know that it is enchanting up close.
21st November, 2016

Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin Eau de Parfum Intense by Lolita Lempicka

The reissued Au Masculin is significantly weaker than the original, favoring an airier quality, a sort of fog of mystery less rooted in the gourmand than it once was. The Eau de Minuit flanker adds woody depth with an oud note and a richer vetiver. And now we have an 'intense' version; intense by the standard of the weakened reissue. Ergo, we now have a new flanker in this EDP which is almost as strong as the original. Scent-wise, it seems to be a cross between 2000's LLaM and the Midnight version - foody, woody, and airy at once. The anise and bergamot rule for an hour before this becomes a sweet, powdery wood. And, in a move which may make a few converts to the brand, the vanilla is barely present, giving this release a little more versatility and reach beyond just being a gourmand. While it lacks much of the faerie mystique of prior releases it is still great stuff (IF you like star anise), and makes me think of a grandson trying on his grandmother Apres l'Ondee's old clothes and trinkets (In a wistful and playful, -not Norman Bates- kind of way). If I felt so inclined, I could now have an Au Masculin for every season.

After wearing this a few times I realized that, for all the different on-paper notes, it is extremely similar in body, scent, and weight to the reformulated Jaipur Homme, with star anise replacing the cinnamon and heliotrope (the base is certainly woodier, though). I love Annick; she always pulls back just before 'too sweet.'
06th November, 2016 (last edited: 25th November, 2016)

Orchid Soleil by Tom Ford

A drier, pepper-forward take on oldies like Shalimar or Emeraude, Orchid Soleil boasts less of a rich Oriental nature and more of a nutty, creamy version of the traditional ambery base. I associate it more with honeysuckle than orchid, but that's probably the interplay of notes at work. This might turn some off because OS smells a little like rice wraps or some sort of cornmeal, but the floral nature is quite pleasant enough to counter this association (for me). It's just a light and happy creamy white floral. It seems like Tom Ford took a stab at making an Etat Libre d'Orange fragrance, sort of in the vein of Fat Electrician made prettier. It really is quite interesting.
04th November, 2016

Boss Spirit by Hugo Boss

Can you imaging a chimera built from parts of Lacoste Pour Homme, Gucci's Nobile, and Drakkar Noir?

Spirit's bracing herbal opening is exactly what I was hoping it would be - wormwood, lavender, and lovely aldehydes. There is some galbanum going on too, but that's less exciting for me; I'm here to see the band, not the roadies. A delicate mint note reminds you of its presence every so often. The leathery-amber base is so supportive of the top notes that the transitions are very fluid. I would have expected a good deal of moss, but I feel the creators didn't want to cloud the sharp, bitter purity of the opening. There are those who will settle for a 'beer' and the fewer who ask for a rich IPA; the kind of people who like as much bitter as sweet, and need a natural touch. Boss Spirit is for green lovers. Spirit isn't particularly long-lasting in terms of projection (it remains very long as a skin scent), but I enjoy it more than any other offering I have tried from this house.
04th October, 2016 (last edited: 06th October, 2016)

Givenchy Play Sport by Givenchy

Every time I read a line like, "...while its musky base provides a modern touch" that almost always turns out to be Marketer speak for, "Cheap and banal." The lemon and ginger are nice, and avoid smelling like a cold remedy, but this whole style has been done to death and beyond, and it is literally the only style I smell on passersby where I live. Everything for men has to be ginger and/or cardamom and synthetic woods. I guess I'm in the minority but I don't think these things smell attractive, or even remotely natural. I've said before that this popularity may just be a collective response from born-and-raised city dwellers with little to no experience with real plant aromas, but even if that is the case it is getting out of hand how trite and utterly similar these designer frags are now. Does anyone notice or care that half of all men's designers this past decade are nearly identical? I think it's actually lowered my standards, because now I applaud almost anything new that isn't a cardamom bomb or vanilla gourmand. Thankfully, there is a trove of gems from yesteryear left to discover, because I'm gonna sit this zeitgeist out and wait for the next one.

By the time I finished writing all that, GPS's top notes were nearly gone. If you pay money for this product you deserve what you get.
03rd October, 2016

Original Penguin for Men by Original Penguin

While Penguin is a very tempting buy for the price I just can't enjoy this style. Scents focused on an accord of vanilla, fir, and pepper are just disgusting to my nose. While the overall presentation here exceeds the quality of the similar Bijan Black, it is still a less-than-favorable fragrance to me.
28th September, 2016

Number 3 / Le 3ème Homme / The Third Man by Caron

For the seventh installment of 'Where did my review from several years ago go?' I will be looking at The Third Man.

It sounded great on paper, so a few years back I purchased a small decant from the Perfumed Court. My immediate impression was wonder of sorts, concerning how a perfume could come off as so natural and suave while also being that strong. In most cases you might get one or two of the three, but this really has it all. We see here the vanilla and lavender of Pour un Homme matched with some bright-as-day bergamot, a licorice-y anise ( a mixture which would be often copied in the decade to come), a swoon-inducing floral heart starring carnation and rose, and a deep, rich bed of tonka and moss. I echo here what many have said before, in that I wish the opening lasted longer (if not forever), but the total experience is decadent and lavish, with a natural yet manicured build like an English country garden in a velvet evening suit. I can think of few parallels to this level of quality in terms of blending, progression, and overall scent. I have tried two vintages so far, both of which are almost frustratingly attractive, like I am insulting the brand by not having a perfect face to match. This is one of the greatest lavenders out there, a real fougere paradise. My only caveat about its use is that, if over-applied re-applied throughout the day, the base becomes thick and stagnant, so watch the trigger.
27th September, 2016

Mustang Blue by Mustang

Mustang blue is a surprisingly competent herbal musk. The opening of lemon, mint, and basil brings Hugo by Hugo Boss to mind, and when the clove and pine of the heart peek out I can't help but wonder if this was a cloning attempt. Blue walks the line between foresty and aquatic, and comes off as very fresh for a short while. It is the blurry, indiscernible, 'Abercrombie' woody musk of the base which condemns the fragrance to mediocrity. It's just too vague, too unexciting, and too much like an over-sprayed mall fragrance for the ending to match the crispness of the opening. In the end, however, it is an exceptional fragrance for something which can be had for ten dollars.
22nd September, 2016

cK one by Calvin Klein

I actually grew to enjoy One after owning a mini for several years. Surely it is synthetic and a little crowded, but it is refreshing and unisex, which is exactly what it claimed to be, and I like that. Perhaps it's the changing climes and trends making masculine florals so rare which changed my mind on this one, but I really like lily of the valley in fragrances, and to me, it is the most prominent part of One's composition. If the base wasn't so blurred and fake smelling this might have crossed the line from good to great.

Edit: The line has been crossed. I have finally acquired a vintage bottle and am happy to report that it is warmer, more natural-smelling, and that the sourness of the opening is more like aldehydes than chemical tartness derived from added citruses, and the nutmeg is actually noticeable. Admittedly, the difference in vintages is a small gap, and the current formulation is still far more enjoyable than most designer releases over the last two decades, but that little difference in texture and authenticity bridged the gap for me.
11th September, 2016 (last edited: 09th January, 2017)