Perfume Reviews

Reviews by obscura

Total Reviews: 29

Urban Musk by Tom Ford

I lay out my opinion from the start: Urban Musk smells like a base rather than a fully worked-out fragrance. Do I find the intensely animalic notes intriguing? Yes. Am I surprised that, despite the smack-you-in-the-face barnyard notes, UM is still very wearable? Yes. Is a fragrance that is clearly meant to be layered worth almost $200 for a small bottle? No.

UM is fascinating to me primarily as a study on what a niche brand thinks perfumistos/as want to smell. It certainly delivers some of the raunchy, barnyard notes that I miss in contemporary fragrances. That said, it really doesn't deliver much more. The top notes are deliciously raunchy, and as things mellow out there is still a notable animalic tone. Eventually, however, it dries down to a comfortable musk that smells remarkably of baked goods. There's not much more to it than that.

If this were $40 for 50ml, I would buy up a case of it and layer it with virtually everything I own. But for nearly five times that amount, I'm a lot less inclined to make the commitment.
19th October, 2011

APOM pour Homme by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

This is one you must try on skin. After trying on APOM pour homme on paper, I was unimpressed. It smelled of thin orange blossom on uninspired musk and little else. However, today I gave APOM PH a second try, this time on skin. What a difference! APOM PH seemed to melt into my body and become a halo of fragrance around me.

The listed notes, as mentioned previously, are orange blossom, cedarwood, and amber. Up top, the orange blossom is particularly evident, with a tonality that is reminiscent of Le Male. Especially on skin, the cedarwood comes out subtly along with other warm notes that balance the cool orange blossom. However, the real magic happens later in the day. A few hours in, this becomes surprisingly animalic! A touch of cumin breaks through the lingering orange blossom, which is supported by a base of rich, warm, delicately animalic musk. I don't get much in the way of amber, per se, except insofar as I can imagine hints of labdanum and (maybe) vanilla. Rather, the far drydown smells surprisingly like the drydown of Tom Ford Urban Musk, once the stonking animal notes have mostly worn off.

Is this something I feel like I need to own? Probably not now. However, APOM PH is clearly a superbly executed version of a simple concept. It is refined, yet undemanding. On the surface of things, it smells good, but once you smell a little deeper perfumistos/as will be pleased to find that APOM PH has real depth.
19th October, 2011

Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford

Is this a joke? Tobacco Vanille is nothing other than a bottled version of the masculine fantasy of sitting in a tufted-leather wingback chair in front of a fireplace, with a cigar/pipe in one hand and a glass of 25-year-old scotch in the other. This isn't art, it is caricature, albeit pretty well done.

TV is huge and loud and cloying, shouting, "TOBACCO! CLOVES! VANILLA!" at the top of its lungs. To be honest, though, after it settles down about three hours later, I find it quite enticing (but that is mostly because I like to imagine myself inside the aforementioned fantasy). Would I ever buy this? Probably not, but I will probably never need to--TV is so loud two drops out of my 4 ml sample lasts for days.
23rd May, 2011
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Absolue Pour Le Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian

If you aren't familiar with what benzoin smells like, just catch a whiff of Absolue pour le Soir. AplS is a dense, sticky overdose of resinous/vanillic benzoin paired with miniscule touches of incense, cumin, and woods. To me, the overall impression from start to finish hovers somewhere in between snuffed-out candle and pastry dough, as if you were baking croissants in a claustrophobic room in the basement of a cathedral.

While I normally love the warmth, depth and illusion of salt that benzoin brings to perfumes, Kurkdjian overdoes it here, resulting in a heavy, cloying composition. AplS seems to be composed almost entirely of base notes, with nothing effervescent or ethereal to balance off the darkness, but as a result the fragrance lasts forever. Despite what some of the other reviews say, I don't find this particularly animalic or bodily, but it is far from squeaky clean. As a work of art, I find AplS admirable (it is definitely not boring), but in the end I don't find it as finessed as similar heavy orientals in the Lutens line.
23rd May, 2011

Chêne by Serge Lutens

Had Chene been the first fragrance I sampled during a recent Lutens smelling binge, I probably would have been struck by how amazingly woodsy it smells. However, I made the mistake of smelling Fille en Aiguilles first which, to put it mildly, reeks of rich, sweet pine needles. In comparison, Chene is pleasant and woodsy, but somewhat tame.

That said, in comparison to other woody masculines I've smelled recently, this is far more interesting, with deep mossy notes evident from the start. It is fairly linear, with the bitterness of the herbs mimicking moss until you properly get to the drydown. The heart is pleasantly woody (mostly cedarwood) but underpinned by the ever-present moss. I never would have guessed that there were rum or honey notes, but after an hour or two I can start to imagine them as I smell my wrists.

I'm not sure I like this well enough to buy a bottle, but it's certainly worth a sniff.
05th February, 2011

Artisan by John Varvatos

Absolutely wonderful--growing up downwind of an orange grove taught me to love the smell of orange blossoms in the desert air, and this captures that experience wonderfully. Although this initially struck me as being a tad too sweet, after wearing it around for a few hours I realized that it makes for a wonderful, unexpected masculine. Artisan is a resolutely cheerful fragrance--there is no way to stay in a bad mood with this scent glowing around you.
01st February, 2011

Vintage by John Varvatos

I really wanted to like this one--there was something initially appealing to me about the romantic masculine image evoked by the lavender, tobacco and suede that burst through from the very beginning. However, this ends up smelling a bit too thin, more like a sad wisp of a memory than like your grandfather's leather armchair. The basic structure is definitely there, but it needs a bit of meat on its bones.

That said, my wife loves this one, so I own a bottle plus the aftershave balm.
01st February, 2011

John Varvatos by John Varvatos

This is the fragrance that first caused me to pay attention to--and then love--perfume. JV came out while I was working at a department store, but it didn't attract as much attention as many of the other fragrances. I was looking for something distinctive, and the spicy, leathery notes of JV won my heart.

However, as I've grown as a perfumisto, JV has grown to feel thin to my nose, without the depth I want to pretend is there. That said, I still think it is a pleasant, distinctive fragrance that is at the very least more interesting than many of the masculines on the market. Although it's longevity isn't great, I have gotten many compliments on it over the years, and I still wear it when I'm feeling nostalgic for my department store years....
01st February, 2011

John Varvatos 10th Anniversary Fragrance by John Varvatos

This was a mistake. I was really hoping to like JV10 because the original JV initiated me into my love of perfume, but unfortunately this one is a sad disaster. The cinnamon is indistinct and the wood and leather to my nose read more like a muted, lethargic amber. It has none of the brightness and or spice I the listed notes would suggest, as if everything good accidentally evaporated while they were compounding the fragrance.

If clinical depression had a smell, JV10 would be it.
01st February, 2011

Bleu de Chanel by Chanel

Bleu de Chanel is so disappointing. I was truly hoping that it would draw inspiration from the classic Bleu from the thirties, but instead it is a boring sports fragrance dressed up in fancy marketing. Although it seems to be composed of some high quality ingredients, it is smells like a remake of Slate (Banana Republic) but without the interesting spice of the ginger. That said, all the women I know seem to love it. I guess it all comes down to what you're looking for....
25th January, 2011

Vetiver Dance by Tauer

I'm not sure if Andy has tweaked the formula since some of these reviews were first posted, but my experience with Vetiver Dance is nothing like what the more negative reviews describe. The fragrance opens with a well blended touch of citrus and spice coupled to the smooth greenness of clary sage--the first impression is dry and crisp, but without the bitterness of something like galbanum. The fragrance progresses with two ideas operating in tandem. It's as if the citrus and spice morphs into a rich (but subtle) floral background and the greenness of the clary sage transforms slowly into an earthy vetiver. The overall effect of the heart is earthy and a bit dry, with the florals adding a bit of softness and the warm base bringing a touch of sweetness.

This is not my favorite Tauer (that honor goes to Eau D'Epices), but it's still a pleasure to wear.
25th January, 2011

Amber by Essentially Me

Amber has been troubling me for a few days now, but after more applications than I can count, I’ve finally pinned down what it reminds me of--a classic cocktail. It’s not so much that it smells boozy, but rather that it achieves a tenuous balance that is simultaneously finessed and somehow clunky. In particular Amber makes me think of a drink called the Tipperary, which is a beguiling blend of Irish whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Chartreuse. Like the drink, Amber’s base is mostly outshone by herbs and spice and is at times a bit sweet with touches of bitterness evident in mid-development. Although the details are complex and a bit confused, the overall effect is definitely enticing, with the fragrance drying down to a beautiful spice and resin accord that makes me want to go back for more.
03rd November, 2010

Souk by Essentially Me

One of my favorite things is walking into a local spice shop and being overcome with the multitude of pungent aromas. As pleasant as I find the experience, however, there always seems to be a sort of tension in the air, with all the different spices fighting for dominance. I was a bit hesitant when I read that Souk was meant to evoke Indian spice markets, but to my relief the fragrance captures the beauty of the spices and leaves out the chaos. Souk captures for me the feeling of walking into a spice shop, but in a much different way than I expected. Rather than being a literal recreation, Souk captures both the exotic and comfortable feelings of the spices. The woods and incense hint at something mysterious, piquing my interest in the same way that I find exotic spices alluring, while the florals create a pillow of softness, evoking the same feeling as mom’s baking spices wafting through the house. Depending on how you look at it, either Souk livens up a soft floral with woods and spice or it mellows out woody spices with a gentle rose.
01st November, 2010
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Tangos by Essentially Me

Before I read the story behind Tangos on the Essentially Me website, I was a bit confused by the name of the fragrance. I don’t catch anything that resembles Latin flare--no heat, no spice, no sex. What I smelled was a beautiful, dark green masculine that is halfway between enticing and comfortable. The tobacco is leafy and green with subtle flourishes of flowers and woods atop a stunning mossy-woody base. Eventually, I read the story that Alec Lawless tells about the creation of the fragrance, and suddenly it hits me--this fragrance is not meant to replicate the feeling of a tango, it’s meant to make you want to tango with whomever wears it! While this would be beautiful, if a tad conventional, on a man, Tangos would be irresistible on a woman.
28th October, 2010

Trade Wind by Essentially Me

When I was about eleven years old, my parents bought me a set of incense sticks, and I became obsessed. Any chance I got, I would sneak into the store that sold exotic wares and would run straight over to the incense and smell all of the beautifully named scents. More than anything else, Trade Wind takes me back to these childhood memories, and like memories, this fragrance is much better than the real thing. As much as I loved the idea of incense that smelled of earth, wind, and sea, there was always something thin and slightly sad about the fragrances. Trade Wind captures these smells, but in much richer form, undulating between cool, warm, sweet, spicy, salty, and earthy. More than any other fragrance I’ve smelled, Trade Wind captures a sense of movement, the push and pull of opposing forces, constantly fighting in chaotic harmony.
28th October, 2010

La Joupe by Essentially Me

Alec Lawless describes La Joupe as mysterious and oriental, but it strikes me quite differently. Initially, La Joupe makes me think of a carefree young woman wearing a white blouse and a simple, flowy skirt reading in the park on a warm afternoon. Her hair is in soft ringlets that keep blowing across her face with the breeze, but she doesn’t seem to mind. The well-blended florals of La Joupe are feminine and beautiful, and the politely musky base is simultaneously grown-up and a touch innocent. As the fragrance develops, hints of spice and incense come through, shifting La Joupe in an oriental direction. Even after this transformation, however, it is as if the young woman has changed clothes for a night on the town but has left her hair in the soft, breezy ringlets. Although she is dressed for an evening out, there is something about her that seems slightly girlish, rather than sultry and sophisticated.
25th October, 2010

Fauve by Essentially Me

Fauve is like a dream in which you are walking through a jungle in Madagascar with lush flowers blooming all around and fragrant vanilla pods scattered across the mossy forest floor. However, in the middle of this dream walk, you stumble across a group of Eastern Orthodox monks processing through a clearing, blessing the forest with their aromatic swinging censers. On the whole, Fauve is alternately mossy, floral, and balsamic with a surprising burst of incense midway through its development. In the end, it dries down to a cool, earthy base that is inviting and masculine.
23rd October, 2010

White Blooms by Essentially Me

This is not your typical pristine white floral. Whereas many mainstream white florals are pretty in a too-good-to-be-true sort of way, the natural essences, with all of their complexity, really come to the fore in White Blooms. However, the name is a bit misleading. Rather than being a picturesque snapshot, White Blooms is more like a slow-motion film portraying white petals gently tumbling to the ground. The fragrance opens with a beautiful floral burst, but soon the petals wither and begin to fall. The camera pans down to follow them as they glide past the herbacious stem and vegetal leaves. The petals flutter back and forth as they fall, coming in and out of focus. Eventually, the petals come to rest on the mulch and soil below, equal parts spicy and sweet-earthy with just a whisper of white petals remaining. The first time around I was a bit disappointed that White Blooms wasn’t brighter, but after a few wears I came to appreciate the beauty in the descent.
20th October, 2010

Kuan Yin by Essentially Me

Alec Lawless must have been a baker in another life, and Kuan Yin proves it. Kuan Yin smells distinctly and unmistakably of a bran muffin. Not just any bran muffin, mind you, but a light, fluffy, almost heavenly bran muffin baked with dried apricots and lemon zest. The fragrance opens with bright citrus and floral sweetness, soon giving way to a thicker lemon scent (litsea?) that enhances the apricot aroma of osmanthus. Underneath the scent of lemon and apricot, various herbs, spices, and woods combine to create a high-fiber muffin in the sky, nearly fit to be one of Plato’s forms. Clearly, the question arises: do you want to smell like an ideal bran muffin? The answer: not always, perhaps—but sometimes, definitely yes.
19th October, 2010

Chypre by Essentially Me

There are certain expectations that come along with any perfume named Chypre, and Alec Lawless’s composition begins exactly as expected. It opens with a burst of fresh and slightly resinous bergamot coupled to a touch of dry spice in way that calls to mind the original Pour Monsieur by Chanel. But after about fifteen seconds, Chypre fakes right and spins left, transforming into something completely unexpected. Imagine the smell of your great aunt Lynn’s mohair cardigan that reeks of fifty years of stale cigarette smoke—and now invert that completely. Chypre becomes a deep tobacco scent that touches on all the positive aspects of tobacco, leaving any off-notes behind in your great aunt’s sweater. The fragrance is alternately leafy, floral, resinous, and spiced, all the while remaining rich and sweet without any hint of smoke. Although oakmoss is discernible in the base, the overall impression is somewhere between vintage humidor and freshly baked coffee cake.
16th October, 2010

Une Rose Vermeille by Tauer

URV starts off with a burst of citrus (particularly lemon) that blends well with the rose. Very quickly, the citrus burns off leaving behind a hint of tartness that brings out the raspberry note. Although the vanilla and raspberries verge on being cloying, they stay just dry enough that they remain pleasant. In mid-development, URV reminds me a bit of Flowerbomb, without the overpowering sweetness. All in all, a gourmand oriental clearly made with top-notch ingredients that's a touch more sophisticated that a lot of what's out there but every bit as fun.
28th September, 2010

Imprévu by Coty

Honestly, this is about the most beautiful thing I have ever smelled. It took me a while to track down a bottle I could afford (discontinued fragrances can be difficult to acquire), but it was well worth it. The Parfum de Toilette concentration begins with a burst of crisp citrus, soon turning green with a hint of leather. Slowly but surely, deeper green foresty notes begin to come through, coupled with prominent, creamy woods and a touch of oakmoss. There is something about this chypre that comes across as sophisticated and almost aloof on a woman, but it makes for an unexpected yet inviting masculine. I can't believe Coty no longer makes this masterpiece.
21st September, 2010

Gardénia Parfum by Chanel

This is a review of a vintage (ca. 1950) bottle of Gardenia in extrait form. Sadly, the top notes of the perfume have gone bad, but after about 15 seconds there is a light, sweet explosion of gardenia. However, the gardenia doesn't stick around very long, soon morphing into a powdery field of white flowers. Over the next few hours, the melange of white flowers slowly gives way to a creamy, woody base that is reminiscent of Bois des Iles or Coty's Imprevu. There seems to be just a touch of spice hidden somewhere in the basenotes that makes the drydown feel a touch masculine--peppery frankincense or spicy vetiver, perhaps. This original version seems to be a bit deeper and woodier than the current Exclusifs version, making it a touch more masculine and definitely more mysterious.
21st September, 2010

Silences by Jacomo

Silences is very much in the vein of No. 19, but despite its hushed, mysterious name it comes across as remarkably bright and bubbly. It starts with a rush of bracing green that has a fruity nuance, and develops into a slightly sweet and very inviting floral heart. The drydown is refined but not aloof in the way that some chypres tend to go. As a male, I find No. 19 a bit easier to get away with, but on a warm, sunshiny summer day Silences is irresistible.
21st July, 2010

Dirty English by Juicy Couture

I'm having a difficult time making up my mind about Dirty English. On the whole, it seems like a bit of a one-liner: intensely dry cedarwood and vetiver and not much else. There is a fleeting hint of bergamot in the top notes, but it is barely distinguishable amid the blast of woods. The name strikes me as funny because, if anything, DE is very clean smelling (I can imagine dryer sheets marketed to men smelling exactly like this), but I suppose that it does have a bit of a grungy edge when compared to the majority of men's sport fragrances.

I can't give it a thumbs up because it really isn't that interesting, but it is certainly better than many of the masculines I've run across recently. For me, it is a good office scent--after about fifteen minutes it fades to a subtle (but still bright) woody murmur.
13th June, 2010

Infusion d'Iris by Prada

Infusion d'Iris strikes me as a subtle, translucent woody fragrance with floral nuances. It only hints at iris, but captures the feeling of a cool shade of gray. It never shouts or shimmers, but remains on my skin like a gentle cloak of satin for hours. Though it is neither exciting nor particularly interesting, I find myself drawn to it. I agree with my wife that it makes a wonderful masculine; she says it is what she always wished men's bodies smelled like....
17th May, 2010

Hermèssence Vétiver Tonka by Hermès

Vetiver Tonka is like an artsy split-screen romantic comedy without the happy ending. For the length of the film you watch as the two would-be lovers' paths constantly cross, but they never meet. In VT, the cool, clean vetiver and the warm, caramel tonka remain parallel from beginning to end, maintaining a feeling of suspense all the way to the drydown. There is no overtly happy ending here, but I still love this fragrance. VT is an example of my favorite kind of art--though ultimately inconclusive, it keeps my attention the whole way through.
17th May, 2010

Aromatics Elixir by Clinique

Yesterday, I was walking by the Clinique counter and saw a display of AE, but I couldn't find the tester. I asked the woman at the counter if I could try it, and she had to rummage around in the back for a couple of minutes to find an open bottle. I sprayed my wrist twice and was immediately enveloped by a translucent veil of powdery florals. Because I'm not used to this older style of powdery fragrance, I have a hard time distinguishing notes, but I really don't care because it is just so beautiful. It is hard for me to pin it down--it is lush and thick but not impenetrable, it is a big complex floral but there is something more contemporary about it. I love it, but I'm not sure that I'm confident enough in my masculinity to pull this one off myself...
13th May, 2010

Slate by Banana Republic

I received Slate as a gift a few years ago, and even though it isn't something I would have chosen for myself, I definitely enjoy it. Of the numerous metallic/silvery smelling men's scents I've tried, this is among the better ones. The top is citrusy and metallic without smelling sharp. The heart strikes me as being more floral than herbal (a little bit like a flower shop, with a melange of flowers and cut stems) and reminds me a bit of the dry down of BR Malachite. Every now and then I catch a whiff of ginger, but it isn't as prominent as I'd like. All in all, this is a pleasant, if a bit ordinary, fragrance that is nice for the daytime.
11th May, 2010