Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Shifty Bat

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Café Rose by Tom Ford

My only gripe with Cafe Rose is that it doesn't stick around long enough. The opening, a fuchsia-toned rose blend with a bare hint of spice is accented beautifully by a synthetic but warm coffee and wood base as seen previously in Polo's underappreciated Double Black. It is a showcase for rose (not the bright English variety, but the more dark, smooth, and less cheery Bulgarian or Damask)and an easy wear for men and women, and as of late one of my favorite releases from the Tom Ford line. This is not a scent for casual samplers, but a nod to the real rose fans sampling niche scents. There are countless fragrances out there which straddle the lines of commercial and gender acceptability but this is not one of them. If you do not enjoy the smell of roses, do not enter here. If you are a rose fan, welcome home.
04th February, 2016

Putain des Palaces by Etat Libre d'Orange

If you combined Turkish delight with Japanese Botan rice candy you'd have this pretty little pastel piece. Indecisively dry, creamy, and powdery, PdP is a pale afterthought of a fragrance - one you wear when you only need to suggest. Does that mean it's weak? Well that depends how close you get when you speak.
01st February, 2016

Cologne by Etat Libre d'Orange

An orangey counterpart to 4711. Very classic, fairly short lived, but so refreshing. The opening blast practically shimmers. Longevity isn't great but that comes with the territory. I would've like a dab of oakmoss in the endphase but I bet the guys at ELdO were intentionally trying to avoid being derivative. In any case I can't advocate the price tag for something whose joy can be matched at 1/3 the cost.
01st February, 2016
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Prada Candy Florale by Prada

Candied hair spray. Beware the woman this finds this to be art. A scared peony drowning in dessert.
01st February, 2016

Prada Candy by Prada

If you wish to smell like dusty caramel this might be your treat, but I just can't get behind this simpering sweet-toothed creation. As with many foody scents it overstays its welcome, so points for longevity, at least.
01st February, 2016

1876 by Histoires de Parfums

Ingenious use of litchi, sneaked into the thick of the recipe to poke its frills out at every other turn. A powdery but sometimes sharp spiced rose with an underlying funk, like Hammam Bouquet on the prowl. Her floral coterie are with her but Rose is the star tonight. The drydown is depressingly stark after all the fun I had before it, with a dry and dreary weight suggesting the whole experience was a drug trip on a night out, but man, what a night it was!
Out of a 10-sample pack from HdP Mata Hari was the last one I tried because it didn't sound so compelling in print. I get really excited when I am this wrong.
01st February, 2016

1828 by Histoires de Parfums

I was ready for another fern-n-fir release but upon application was mercifully surprised to find a cool and fresh citrus backed by a strangely sharp -and- smooth wood - there must be nutmeg involved. I am reminded of the odd effect it lent to Van Cleef's Zanzibar. Any instance of camphor you'll catch with this will be tiny, but the vetiver is a clean and pleasant one. This is a very enjoyable scent, but one which has been stylistically plundered by every crap clothing outfitter in every American mall. If you are looking to graduate from your Banana Republic, Abercrombie, or American Eagle woody-aquatic, might I suggest its distinguished father, 1828?
01st February, 2016

1826 by Histoires de Parfums

Quite good anisic white floral which initially reminded be of l'Heure Bleue with more wood, but rather quickly petered out. It has a ghostly thin veil of a body with a finely honed spicy hem but the entrancing effect I get from the opening and the ensuing minutes is quickly lost and the rest of the journey is less memorable. Very pleasant but meek as a kitten.
01st February, 2016

1969 Parfum de Révolte by Histoires de Parfums

1969 smells less to me like a cohesive fragrance and more like being in a room full of disparate smells which paint the scene. It comes off like a softened, feminized version of Animale Animale, softening the grave dirt heavy chocolate-vanilla-patchouli opening with a laughably garish peachy-fruity topping. As the spices emerge I think of Mexican horchata. This was a bit too much for me at first but I must say 1969 dries out nicely, allowing the more 'adult' aspects take control as the sweetness abates. There comes a point approaching the heart of the scent that an invisible threshold is crossed and the concoction is no longer edible, and this is what saved it for me. I would never wear this myself (other than testing and reminding) but I would recommend it to friends looking for a semi-gourmand because it is intelligent and trashy at once. You have to be able to poke fun at yourself to wear something like this.
01st February, 2016

1804 by Histoires de Parfums

While the blending at work in 1804 makes some notes hard to separate from others, the impression I get is this: a sandy, spiced mound of wood and flowers crowned by a single, fresh pineapple. There is rose here but the sweeter aspects, likely vanilla and peach, have bastardized it to the point that it smells candied. The sandal and benzoin, combined with nutmeg, make it feel somewhere right between powdery and sandy, but certainly dry for such a tropical thing. Smells like the color of a good sailor's sunset. Uncomplicated and happy, intentionally blurred like a Renoir landscape.
01st February, 2016

Hugo Dark Blue by Hugo Boss

Dark Blue is one of the more favorable Boss scents to me released between the mid 90's and now. I like the limey cocktail sort of opening and I am a sucker for suede, even if it is much better represented elsewhere. While overall I would rather wear Obsession Night than Dark Blue I must jealously concede that this one has both better staying power and projection than my long-time, blue-bottled buddy from CK. Far removed from greatness due to the ground-down dullness of what should be bright and sparkling notes and the overall quality and feel of ingredients, but certainly worth the price for a fun but not totally immature 'night out' scent.
01st February, 2016

Noir Patchouli by Histoires de Parfums

Oh, finely done. This scent is ripped straight from the ideology of the late 60's into the early 70's. The kids that opposed the U.S. going to war were fighting back with everything - fashion, drugs, lifestyle, anything to oppose the norms which represented their parents' generation and what chaos they had created. Thus was born a more fierce and much less polite form of fragrance - the patchouli leather power frag.
Noir Patchouli opens with an almost oppressively dank duo which immediately set up shop and dominate the first fifteen minutes, after which a gradual emergence of rose and white florals takes place in slow motion. Part Derby, Part Salvador Dali, this is all dark territory, bad attitude with great hair, and f&%# the Man, until the white floral aspects reach full bloom and voila! The restless teenagers have inadvertently become their parents, as a strikingly clean accord similar to the heart of scents like Balmain's beautiful Ivoire takes over, a well-mannered kid dressed in leather on a rebellious streak. What a fun ride.
01st February, 2016

Fils de Dieu du Riz et des Agrumes by Etat Libre d'Orange

If you are dying to smell like a really classy Vietnamese dinner then I have news for you. The ginger, lime, and rice notes are particularly strong.
31st January, 2016
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1899 Ernest Hemingway by Histoires de Parfums

This style of scent is coming back into popularity among many cheap purveyors, most notably in my mind Bijan Black and Penguin. I don't know why vanilla, black pepper, and juniper or fir keep getting thrown together, because they always seem to clash and smell somewhere between toothpaste and makeup, in a messy block of scent with little to no room for movement. While this sounds disparaging I think 1899 is the best of these which I have tried. Now, being the best version of a bad thing isn't great, and it brings to mind the phrase "...world's tallest midget" (coined by John Flansburgh of the band They Might Be Giants), but there are plenty of people who enjoy this style and it is to them I recommend 1899.
31st January, 2016

Fat Electrician by Etat Libre d'Orange

I was going to say something about Fat Electrician but I noticed that rbaker had already said just about all of it. Smoky, dry, woody, nutty, strange, but comfortable - this is pretty swell stuff. The olive wood touch really makes this for me. It's one of those off-kilter and oft-used scents like tomato leaf that makes things less trite for me.
31st January, 2016

Mandarine Glaciale by Atelier Cologne

A deliciously juicy scent, like peeling the skin off a fresh orange. Are you sure there aren't aldehydes in this? It remains bright throughout, and lingers surprisingly well for such a citrus-heavy creation. As the citric top gives way to the woody base it makes the orange smell somehow candied. Certainly the orange counterpart to Eau de Rochas's lemon. This juice may be 'icy' but it has Summer written all over it.
31st January, 2016

Dangerous Complicity by Etat Libre d'Orange

This one is like a Thai version of a Jimmy Buffett song. Unfortunately the composition favors the jasmine and synthetic woods to the extent that that the top notes, which one would expect to be bright and festive, are utterly subdued. Idea > execution.
31st January, 2016

Tilda Swinton Like This by Etat Libre d'Orange

My first impression of Like This was 'a pancake stack with all the fixings covered in potpourri,' but in a good way. My second was 'richly scented candle,' which would normally bother me but it does not in this instance. There is a strange effect in play here, whereby the body of this scent feels at once buttery and saturated as well as dry and crisp. And, instead of the floral parts retreating from the opening on they seem to emerge, like burning one of those novelty candles with coins and other objects inside. It's funny but it really smells golden, and I can't help but wonder if this is a psychologically associative symptom born from reading the notes pyramid. What really wins me over here is the beautiful interplay of the ginger and heliotrope. This is as lovely and curious a fragrance as the woman whose name it bears.
31st January, 2016

Ambre 114 by Histoires de Parfums

There are ritualistic, smoky ambers, leathery ambers, warm, comforting ambers, and indulgent, foody ambers. This release seems to encompass the latter two styles. While it falls just short of edible I certainly get a sort of salted caramel atop baked goods, but the sweetness is tempered well by the herbs, powder, and musk. In fact, this smells a lot like the bottom half of Guess by Marciano for Women (a legendarily potent amber within my circle of friends). The rose, geranium, and woods are just small sprinkles atop the cake here, and it is easy to miss them. This composition isn't likely to blow any minds but I'd be hard pressed to find anyone who disliked it. Projection is fairly close as far as I can tell, but the longevity is quite good. Don't expect much in the way of movement; this is a simple ride - the nose's version of comfort food.
31st January, 2016

Crystal d'Ambre by Keiko Mecheri

Here is another one of those scents I felt dead certain I had reviewed years ago. Oh well, here goes -

The idea of an amber-centric fragrance is a rather crowded field. It's just a simple, winning idea dating back as far as the discovery of incense resins. Ambers just smell pleasant. Mecheri's version is no exception. This ambery iteration is quite benzoin-powdery, and infused with a sort of clean laundry musk to it which lends a bit of a synthetic nature to the composition. But because of this it is (blessedly) not foody to me; I don't feel as though this is an edible amber, no warm cookies out of the oven, no dripping caramel. The labdanum is subdued but adds a bit of darkness to the body, and not a sinister kind of darkness, but more of a private comfort kind. Crystal d'Ambre isn't a great fragrance but it most certainly is as comfortable as it is smooth. It doesn't last (at least on me) as long as most of its kind but I enjoy it for what it is. This is a little abstract but it smells to me like it should look a pale, greyish lilac color.
31st January, 2016

gs02 by Biehl Parfumkunstwerke

gs02 reminds me very much of the Jil Sander 'Man' series of scents, most noticeably the curious there-but-not-there effect of Man Pure. This smells like it should be a very heavy and heady scent but it comes off as really airy. One must truly enjoy wormwood and cedar to wear this, as they always seem to be at the forefront of the fragrance. While I can distinguish the listed notes fairly well there seems to be an olfactory Venn diagram in place, and in the spaces where each note's circle overlaps with another there seems to exist an unlisted note or accord, most notably a whiff of cinnamon and a curious spoiled apple (fans of Halston's Catalyst for Men will be familiar). gs02 could just as easily have been called That Which is Not There.

Buyer beware - I have noticed that most people unfamiliar with the natural smell of wormwood, mugwort, artemisia family plants, and some kinds of musk think they are smelling urine of some kind, and this was my girlfriend's first and so far only reaction to gs02.
31st January, 2016

Aquae Nobilis by Profumum

I was never a great fan of the Velvet Underground but I always appreciated what my friends saw in their music - straightforwardness and simplicity. What we have here is well-trampled territory as far as herbal vetivers go, but but the ingenious use of spicy-powdery geranium gives life to this composition in a way I have not witnessed since I first smelled Yohji Homme. Now, this composition, while fairly similar, is more airy and spaced out, with a strange and light creaminess I would not expect from a vetiver-centric scent. There is also a lotion-like lingering of something akin to olive wood that I am enjoying as I sniff this. Yes, the price tag is unfortunate for something that is only shades better in quality than a high-end designer frag, but I really, truly like this juice. It is simple yet dreamy, and utterly effective in its message. It is like having a parfum version of the rebooted Jaguar (silvery blue packaging), and it is kind to the nose.
30th January, 2016 (last edited: 31st January, 2016)

Play Green by Comme des Garçons

Odysseusm is spot on here about the character of the mint present in Green. Also, this might be the single softest perceptible cedar I have encountered. It is the scent version of a ghost note in music. Green is not particularly edible smelling but it does make me crave a good Thai fresh roll because the interplay of mint and basil is just deliciously seamless. But for all the vibrant, verdant freshness going on in this scent there still exists, humming in the far background, a thin trace of the graphite earthiness of Wonderwood and a few other CdG scents. They like to stamp their goods and I can appreciate that. Don't expect a great deal of longevity out of Green, just expect to feel a bit happier while you are wearing it.
30th January, 2016

Jasmin et Cigarette by Etat Libre d'Orange

Two fun points: 1.The hay and tobacco notes suggest an unlit cigarette, whereas the title is more suggestive of silver screen movie stardom.
2. You would think that, for a smoky scent, they would employ a more indolic jasmine than a clean one. Nope!
This scent is like a snapshot of a girl moments before being peer-pressured into something she does not want to do which she is told is cool. It is a pure white jasmine pretending to be tobacco flower with the help of friends. It is funny, awkward, and as reserved as the gals that land themselves in such a situation. Good stuff, but little in the way of evolution or presence. Still definitely worth trying because it is quite unique and hey, maybe you're that girl.
30th January, 2016

1740 Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums

Whip-Crack! Here comes prom queen Immortelle, riding atop the cheerleader pyramid of her inseparable cronies: patchouli, elemi, vanilla, cedar, and leather. I see the connection to the debaucherous name of this fragrance - this stuff smells like Michael Kors for Men after a particularly raunchy (and probably illegal) night out. This is grand and lasting stuff. I would love to see a version with a good dose of civet.
30th January, 2016

Absinth by Nasomatto

I have been on a recent marathon of potential absinthe-centric scents to add to my wardrobe and this one is near the top of the list in terms of both accuracy and quality. In perfumery (so far) every absinthe scent is marred by either vanilla or excess wood, neither of which exist in the beverage. But I now understand that the notes derived from just the beverage itself would be so utterly fleeting as to be close to unmarketable.
Nasomatto's take on my drink of choice favors the woody side, giving a dry, rootsy feel with a particularly pleasant vetiver, like an apertif spilled into soil at the root of an old tree. I love this composition because it carries all the bitter and resinous greenery (wormwood, angelica) and tempers it so well with the given sweetness and musk (star anise, fennel). Whether or not this smells like absinthe (and it is certainly a close match) this is a beautiful scent to me in the very sense of the word, with decent staying power and a soft but confident projection. I usually balk at fragrances in this price range and end up settling for the occasional sample to get me by but this may very well be my next Derby. Six stars out of five.
30th January, 2016

Black Collection : Whiskey by Commodity

Whiskey is not the right moniker for this scent. It is comprised almost entirely of tobacco flower, with hints of amber and wood. It reminds me a great deal of vintage Old Spice minus the top notes and Avon's original Leather. Quite pleasant but very linear stuff. Smells like a sepia-toned photograph looks.
30th January, 2016

The Dark Heart of Old Havana by 4160 Tuesdays

This Dark Heart is really bright and warm to me. In fact, it smells like a high quality scented candle, particularly the type released by Yankee Candle or similar outfits around Christmas time, that are vaguely ambery and sort of smell like all of the store's wares combined. It is a big, muddled mess but is really quite pleasant in spite of that. Not for me personally, but if you like the idea of smelling like a bowl of freshly sliced fruit salad placed next to a creamy, sugary hot coffee and an unlit Cuban cigar then this scent will bowl you over.
30th January, 2016

Memoir Man by Amouage

The phase comprising the first twenty minutes of Memoir Man is one of my favorite experiences in modern perfumery. It is also exactly what turns many people off of this release. If you combine wormwood with dry woods, moss, and the right musk, you are bound to generate a very bitter, almost ureic effect. It's a love/hate kind of smell, and I sit firmly on my side of the fence with my good buddies Yatagan and Ténéré. And just like with a good 90% of my favorites it took little nose delving to find the rose in the composition. Now, if I could freeze-frame this part of Memoir's movement in time I would absolutely shell out for a full bottle. Sadly, for me at least, the incomparable top is fleeting, and the middle stage hardly a guest. The base, what I imagine scents like Mr. Blass and Midnight in Paris wanted to be if they'd a much bigger budget, is a smoky-sweet leather affair that will carry the wearer till the end of the day. Lovely ending, but it feels like I've met my soulmate, only to be passed off to her good friend. Still, excellent stuff all around.
29th January, 2016

Arsenic No. 17 by Tokyo Milk

Arsenic suffers the same 'great' idea which plagues about 2/3 of all absinthe homage fragrances - vanilla. The only time I've ever smelled/tasted absinthe with vanilla in it is when I made it myself, and that batch did not go over as well as I had hoped. That aside, the opening is very pleasant- a bitter, aromatic green scent tempered with a seemingly kaleidoscopic fennel, and, oddly enough, a pinch of salt, as though the herbs were picked by the sea. The big problem with Arsenic is that the opening only lasts a good 15-20 minutes before you're left with little more than a musky, dusty old vanilla smell, the barest hint of its former self echoing in the deepest recesses, and very close to the skin. Though it leaves me wanting I still enjoy its simplicity. I wish the firm would release a more intelligent version of this, but given their demographic and marketing strategy I won't hold my breath.
29th January, 2016