An aromatic fusion of rosewood, lavender, vetiver and sandalwood – though the sandalwood is wanting to my nose. Conspicuously in the minority, I don't enjoy Sandalo as much as others seem to, finding it sour and aggressively spicy.
The first minutes are an achingly lovely dawn of molten gold.
Sharing the leading peach note with Enlèvement au Sérail, Promesse is fruitier up top and sweeter at base and overall more vivacious, less creamy, and with a subtle inky bitterness that takes it in to chypre territory. The risk with both this and Enlèvement is that so many other fragrances, in lesser hands and with stingier budgets, want to be just like them, so there's the risk of familiarity breeding contempt. But if you think this is an overpriced version of something you've smelled elsewhere, try sniffing them side by side. Prepare yourself for an 'Allegory of the Cave'-type revelation.
Male-to-female reassignment usually involves something being removed – but not here, where the original's vetiver, tonka and nutmeg are retained and added to with white florals and a clean musk, the happy result of which is Vetiver Pour Elle. It's sweeter, less confrontational than the men's Vetiver, the kind of thing you could comfortably wear on public transport, and reminds me at times of the reissued Derby.
Lemon, mint, linden, white musk. Not bad, but far less stimulating than Cologne Blanche from the same collection.
Choreographed around notes of peach and jasmine, Enlèvement au Sérail is, surprisingly, less similar to Mitsouko than to Cuir de Russie for a total effect that depends on these plus ylang-ylang, rose and tuberose. But you get the idea: Enlèvement, while not doing anything new (unless being a statuesquely beautiful fragrance in the twenty-first century is novel… which some may well believe), is in the greatest of company. Wake up wearing it the next day and you'll smell like Cleopatra herself.
Proudly classicist and grand in scale like Habit Rouge or the Amouage Jubilations, this is not so much a chypre as an exuberant floral with an overarching powdery vanilla sweetness. There's green bitterness and aldehydes to begin and just a hint of big cats as the fragrance dries down, which it does at an enviably debonair pace.
MDCI continues to bless us with fragrances that are exquisitely crafted (by Betrand Duchaufour in this instance) and that smell like your favourite historical romance novel made flesh.
Jeux de Peau would have benefited from greater weight placed on its darker notes of immortelle and toasted cereals. More maple syrup and less cheap caramel, please! Before the inevitable sugar crash, the scent does a nice impression of a plump croissant smothered in apricot jam.
It's not as if Lutens hasn't fallen into this sticky trap before, yet he still sometimes misjudges the balance between what's appetizing and what's merely edible.
Review of the re-issue in 2010 by Gorilla Perfumes, previously B Never Too Busy To Be Beautiful:
Lemon and lime opening that turns honey-like and then almost greasy smelling, sort of coconut-oily. The central arrangement of clove, coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg generates an unmistakable effect of… wait for it… Lebkuchen. But those Lush signature citrus notes adamantly refuse to let Dear John evolve into a properly gourmand treat. And that's not all: there's a weird, burnt match-like smell late in the day. All of which leads me to enquire, Dear John, what exactly would you like to be?
The James Bond stuff (the name, the gadget-like bottle) is fatuous, but the scent is supremely tasteful. M is a classic-smelling leather with a moss-to-amber trajectory. There are floral notes of rose and jasmine and a hearty sprinkling of cumin and cinnamon. The drydown is surprisingly, enchantingly bright, as if the lemon topnotes had been reignited, or like that moment on the cusp of night when the sun unexpectedly gilds everything before melting completely.
The stuff is eye-wateringly expensive, but just glancing at the Sauternes-coloured extrait is sufficient to fragrance you for the day.
Bertrand Duchaufour's Bois d'Ombrie appeared in the same year as his Dzongkha (L'Artisan), and the two share plenty of iris-leather DNA. However, Bois d'Ombrie is boozier and more resinous, with notes of whiskey, vetiver, oppoponax and patchouli that don't appear in the more incense-themed Dzongkha. If the latter is ferrous grey and ethereal, Bois d'Ombrie is a deep mahogany and palpably solid, a superb balsamic leather to sit alongside its briny leather Eau d’Italie sibling, Sienne L'Hiver.
An initially vine-fruity, then sweetly musky, patchouli that smells throughout like damp churned soil. No surprises here, just a smoothly attractive patchouli.
Comme des Garçons 2 is a crisp, translucent floral from when Mark Buxton was breaking new ground in the late 90s. It smells better from a distance, less jarringly synthetic, and enjoyable in a metallic-sheen, spicy rose, sorta way.
That there is a Comme des Garçons 2 Man implies that the guys on the oil rig would probably give you funny looks if you wore this one to work. I tend to agree.
The supine, pebble-like, chrome finish bottle is witty and ingenious.
A fluorescently bright lemongrass and jasmine over Australian sandalwood. Isn’t that first hour of freedom always the best? Unfortunately a shrill metallic note stalks the fragrance, while the citrus notes eventually run amok and eclipse the delicate 'Oudh heart' of this olfactory triptych (you can smell the components in isolation at select Lush stores). Pleasant nonetheless.
A juicy bouquet dipped in chocolate. Contra Sophia Grojsman's gross 100% Love, Maurice Roucel proves that an elegant chocolate fruity floral is possible. The effect is crystal clear at first – orange blossom, rose, peony, melon, apple, and that fine cocoa – but I should point out that the chocolate melts before the flowers drop their petals.
A sinister fragrance of grass and thorny hedgerow. Route de Vetiver smells like damp soil, musky blackcurrants, rotting leaves and projects a malignant disdain for company.
Vinaigre de Toilette is not a fragrance per se, but a multipurpose ‘tonic’: it can be used to add shine to hair, as a skin astringent, to scent rooms and clothing. I've still to try it as a salad dressing. My sample was put in an atomiser by Diptyque so it'll be reviewed as a perfume. It's an offbeat, slightly sour combination of fragrant thyme and what smells like hot rubber that is not unpleasant, with a medicinal air of ‘I-know-what’s-good-for-you,whether-you-like-it-or-not’-ness about it.
Gris Clair is composed of a minty, slate grey lavender and incense over a powerful amber base. It has a 'dry heat' feel and smells eerily like a combination of scorched dust, burning sugar and the inside of a dry cleaner's. It goes on for days if you'll permit it, but I've yet to decide whether this is a compliment or not: I can imagine this being a migraine trigger for some.
Do Son isn't as refined as Frederic Malle's Carnal Flower, smelling two-dimensional and unnaturally sweet by contrast. But it is a serviceable tuberose and far more wearable than, say, Dior Poison.
Vétiver’s grapefruit topnote is sharp as an unsheathed knife; its base of caramel and fudge (i.e. more tonka than the officially listed coffee) a sweet plea to let your guard down. The vetiver itself sings clearly throughout François Demachy’s simple, alluring scent and it easily secures a spot on an already crowded pinnacle.
Intriguing but flawed. The main notes are clove, violet, Cashmeran, heliotrope and white musk, and the composition is progressively bright, sour, and salty. There are hints of Roucel's earlier Tocade (cedar and Troll Doll) and Insolence (ozonic violet), but more conspicuous is what smells like Wet Ones, those antibacterial tissues swiped across babies’ bums (in this regard see my review of Roucel's Labdanum 18 for Le Labo). I know Roucel claims this as his ‘clean skin’ fragrance, but someone should've thought to enquire whose skin and which part of the body.
Some of the problem with Dans Tes Bras is that, at least to begin with, it smells disconcertingly similar to products (hairspray, soap, toners) that can be found in any bathroom and which are far cheaper than anything in the Frederic Malle range.
Paestum Rose is a scent of dark and dried out things, of fruits and flowers (blackcurrant, osmanthus, rose) and woods (myrrh, patchouli, cedar) in their twilight phases. It’s a dusty draught of cinnamon and incense. And if comparing it to potpourri didn’t sound like a backdoor insult – Bertrand Duchaufour probably isn’t even capable of suburban twee – I'd use it here to get at the spicy, desiccated, compact quality of its charm.
Jasmine and tuberose heavyweight. In terms of development this is straight as an arrow. Serge Lutens' murkier, less glaring jasmine soliflore, A La Nuit, is engrossing in a way that Olène struggles to be.
A nonsensical combination of fruit salad and tarry leather. Think: Pineapple vs. Bomber jacket ('Royal Pineapple' according to the nauseating Creed PR). Tom Ford's Tuscan Leather attempts a similar shotgun marriage with raspberry. There's a starchy note wafting through too, like stale Smash, thus making Aventus a fruity-leather mashup. Does that not sound enticing?
A graceful, musky lavender from the monks of Caldey Island. The lavender is minty bright while the base (a musk called 'Exaltolide', according to Luca Turin) is smooth like soiled velvet. Hugo Collumbien, the creator, has managed to anchor the ephemeral lavender note without drowning it. A divine scent at a bargainous price.
Years ago Caron's Pour un Homme seemed almost sickly sweet to me, like bad ice cream. Now I find it as comforting as an old teddy bear. The lavender/vanilla duet is smart and unpretentious, while the supporting cast of cedar, musk, rosemary and sage all feel more prominent than they once did (the herbaceousness is pointed up by the green juice), and the fragrance correspondingly more intricate. I'm glad my nose has caught up.
Devoid of the animalics of Jicky or Musc Ravageur, the scent is a clean, warm, caramel glow tinged with blue, like ink creeping up parchment.
If you want to cut through the Caron custard, try layering it with Caldey Island Lavender to bolster both the lavender and the underlying musk.
25th August, 2012 (last edited: 26th August, 2012)
Diptyque fragrances tend either to be strange (Virgilio, Opôné, Oyédo) or pretty (Do Son, Eau de Lierre, Ofrésia). My preference is undoubtedly for the former, but the fruity-floral Vetyverio leans towards the latter and falls quite flat. In particular there are some jammy, almost tropical notes (apricot?) that feel out of place here. I'm not sure if conspicuous florals within a vetiver-dominated fragrance is ever a good idea, but Guerlain does a better job of it than Diptyque with Vetiver pour Elle.
This smells like the shiny, taut leather interior of a new car. Some claim to detect a cocaine note; I'm far too angelic to be able to comment. There is the dusty waft of thyme though, which I wish had been amplified, and the hint of cigarette stubs. But all this is moot: Tuscan Leather is wrecked on the teeth of an unnaturally sweet raspberry note that refuses to perish and whose inclusion I find utterly bizarre.
A big, boozy (rum), woody (cedar) vanilla. While the vanilla of Le Labo’s Vanille 44, likewise released in 2007, is painted watercolour-thin and matched in weight with gaïac, Spiritueuse Double Vanille is a single accord stacked very high, a sort of vanilla Tower of Babel, with competing notes of red berries, sawdust, tobacco, treacle, and green olives (strange but true). Heady stuff.
A fizzy bergamot opening you can almost chew on, but before you have time to swallow the thing shrinks to a postage stamp-sized rosey musk of no distinction.
A bright, impeccable iris-vetiver. It is fleeting – consider this a sort of iris cologne – but delightful while it lasts. The iris is alternately doughy, steely and a touch leathery, with woody undertones throughout. The drydown is less plush than that of other Chanels, its floral chorus dimmed considerably. This is one of those fragrances that I want to spray from arm-length height, half a dozen times, and then twirl in the descending mist.