Reviews by DutchSchwag

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    DutchSchwag
    Netherlands Netherlands

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    rating


    Big Pony 4 by Ralph Lauren

    The most classically inspired and executed of the four fragrances in the Big Pony series, #4 is a simple lemon and kyara wood fragrance affair that attempts to add a more gentlemanly respectability to the lineup and succeeds to a limited degree in doing so. The lemon/woods combination was the foundation of men's fragrances in the 19th century and is so common that Big Pony 4 treads no new ground nor offers a more natural or different interpretation beyond bare bones simplicity to the wearer.
    Still, given the lack of florals or spice, this may be quite appealing to allergy sufferers or newcomers trying to feel out the basic notes and is a good springboard from which to dive deeper into the genre. The whole four scent collection is a very fine introduction for beginners, if not also a fairly well conceived marketing ploy targeting the 16-25 market. For more experienced adventurers, Big Pony 4 hits the higher notes early and comes off a bit too synthetic, but after the ten minute mark settles into a rather pleasant if stale citrus woodsy that can certainly be labeled inoffensive. Lacks a solid, deeper base note to give it weight and character but works fine enough for a range of events and affairs. Longevity is around 4-5 hours but can be quite spotty, projection is more towards a skin scent but has its moments in the initial application. For what it is, woods and lemon, it is fairly well blended and appealing enough for the casual wearer.

    11th February, 2012

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    Big Pony 3 by Ralph Lauren

    Big Pony 3 is as simple as fragrances come; two notes and a very linear life that for some particular reason seems to be the longest lasting and most durable of the four in the Big Pony cannon. From the opening spray the mint asserts itself over the rather organic ginger note but after 5-10 minutes both begin a bit of a struggle for supremacy, with the ginger becoming more prominent and ultimately coalescing into a rather finely blended mix that is well balanced and spicy and projects exceedingly well compared to the first two in the series.
    Definitely recommendable to anyone who enjoys ginger but wants something simple and fresh without frills. Shocking longevity, 6-8 hours is quite common and 10 hours is not out of the question on some. Certainly given the simplicity this will be criticized for its sheer banality and imperative cloying qualities, and while this is certainly true, this is a very decent simple spicy that works well in the context of providing four different mood fragrances for the casual wearer not yet ready to stop and smell the roses.

    11th February, 2012

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    Big Pony 2 by Ralph Lauren

    A musky chocolate scent with very little personality but adequately executed. Not as bad as some would imply, the musk and chocolate do interplay rather well here, but unfortunately there is very little movement nor any character. It sprays on a skin scent and dries down as linear as it came and is gone around the three hour mark.
    This works very well as a unisex blend and I imagine it may actually adapt better to certain skin types than the other three in the Big Pony collection. The chocolate is rather light and thus the musk lifts its higher range qualities forward, implying almost some form of white chocolate.
    The thing to keep in mind with Big Pony #2 is that it acts as nothing more than a skin scent and if you are looking for projection or a bit more substance you will not find it here.
    A rather synthetic chocolate musk affair, certainly not groundbreaking or worth seeking out, but as enjoyable as a cheap bar of chocolate at the candy store.

    11th February, 2012

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    Portfolio Elite for Men by Perry Ellis

    Alcohol heavy opening salvo quickly gives way to an attractive fresh apple minty floral that is very attractive and manages to smell the most natural of any of the Perry Ellis openings. Loc Dong injects a layer of white currant that certainly adds a balance to the more acidic elements of the green apple as Gypsy mentions, but it is also the interaction of the floral middles (lily and geranium) and the noticeable spicy touch of cardamom that create a very light and sexy atmosphere that allows the apple to float over the top with ease.
    Perry Ellis Portfolio Elite is beautifully blended and balanced, an excellent bargain and beyond just being a work fragrance like the original Portfolio, this one is far more versatile and can be used at night. In fact, there are no real limitations to PE Portfolio Elite, it has the makings of an excellent signature scent, though it does suffer from being extremely linear after the opening. Still, the projection and longevity are both exceptional, with 8-10 hours the norm on my skin.
    Along with Perry Ellis 360 Red and Perry Ellis Reserve, Perry Ellis Portfolio Elite is one of the showpieces of the Perry Ellis line and can often be spotted at discount prices. One of the best affordable fragrances for men I have come across. Exceptional and certainly good enough to justify it elitist pretensions on the box.

    26 January, 2012

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    Portfolio for Men by Perry Ellis

    Attractive pear dominated opening that though a bit heavy on the synthetic side doesn´t overpower and unfortunately fades all too quickly from the scene once the musk comes to the front in the dry down. Conceptualized as a work fragrance and for that purpose well executed. Inoffensive, a bit sweet and musky with no really overpowering green elements that could induce allergies or bad vibes.
    Synthetic lavender similar to the one in Perry Ellis 360 Blue but far more restrained starts to assert itself in the middle notes five minutes in and pushes the blast of synthetic pear aside. For a minute or so the lavender is very astringent and cloying, before calming down when the base notes assert themselves.
    The musk creeps in 10 minutes into the scene and absorbs some of the harsh synthetic lavender and pear accords and from that point on projection begins to falter but never really slips into skin scent territory until deep into the dry down.
    Perry Ellis Portfolio is a musky, soapy middle-of-the-road release with no real presence or personality, perfect for the modern, politically correct American office space where impressions are assumed to be threatening. Instead what you get in this one is a musky dryer fabric sheet scent during the dry down that dominates the fragrance for most of its life and surprisingly holds on to the skin for a full work day. Very solid longevity for a light fruity fragrance, lasts 6-8 hours, though unremarkable and common as it is, it is still pleasing.
    A less greenly and lighter version of Wings by Giorgio Beverly Hills. Serves its objective as a work fragrance to the hilt, but offers little else.

    26 January, 2012

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    360 Degrees Blue for Men by Perry Ellis

    Cypress and lavender heavy opening that gives just a hint of citrus in a very understated and brief appearance before being completely blown over by the overpowering and cloying lavender and tarragon in the middle notes. From about the two minute point on, this is nothing more than a linear lavender bomb that shows no class, balance or sophistication and unfortunately for the wearer, has monster longevity and projection that can only be saved by washing it away. The base notes are soft and undercut by the simple lack of balance, as the lavender never relents to allow anything else space to breathe.
    This one is the only true dud in the Perry Ellis 360 line, with Red, White, Black, the Original and Reserve all inviting and enjoyable affairs. Some have mentioned this being a Drakkar Noir clone. It does certainly have many of the notes but is so poorly blended that my nose can´t get beyond the synthetic and cloying lavender note. In my view, this is one of the worst fragrances on the market for men and is one to be reckoned with as far as headache inducing and overpowering and is not for the faint of heart. The synthetics completely dominate from the 2nd minute onwards and never relent. This is simply unsatisfactory and will hopefully be discontinued in the near future.

    24 January, 2012

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    360 Degrees for Men by Perry Ellis

    Influenced by Eternity, Kenzo and Hugo Boss and their blending of herbs, citrus, spice and fresh accords, Perry Ellis 360 smartly takes the lavender, sage and juniper of Hugo Boss´s Hugo and Calvin Klein´s Eternity and then layers a strong front of cardamom and synthetic sensual woods on top to create something quite unique and top heavy. 360 is aggressive, harsh and bold but it never oversteps its boundaries, coming dangerously close in the opening but calming quickly to a fairly linear lavender, juniper and woods juice with just the right amount of cardamom spice to stand out.
    Perry Ellis 360 takes a bit of time for your senses to adjust and appreciate. This is not the type of scent you will immediately fall in love with, but something that requires a few wears or a more experienced and tried nose to fully appreciate its originality and solid blending of organic and synthetic notes.
    This is a strong and aggressive fragrance that can come off a bit harsh and astringent at first but dries down into a wonderful sensual wood accord that is neither harsh nor natural but smells quite attractive never-the-less. I wasn´t impressed with Perry Ellis 360 at first, but grew to appreciate it as I explored other 1990´s fragrances inspired by Calvin Klein´s Eternity. This is certainly one to be appreciated by for anyone who enjoys Hugo by Hugo Boss, the original Kenzo, Polo Sport or even Davidoff´s Cool Water. The herbs and spices are done very well in this one, it reaches a nice balance of synthetic and natural that is very hard to pull off.
    Not for everyone, given the roughness of the juniper and cardamom against the lavender and sage, but for those looking for a bit more daring and boldness, Perry Ellis 360 is a great affordable option with solid projection and longevity (6-8 hours).

    24 January, 2012

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    360 Degrees White For Men by Perry Ellis

    Le Male toned down and more synthetic leaning without the cinnamon, mint and lavender and holding its identity more in the middle notes and strong reliance on the vanilla. The citric elements listed in the top notes never really reveal themselves, this explodes into a vanilla and floral powder bomb quickly and stays linear throughout. In PE 360 the lilies of the valley and orange blossom echo the loudest and give it a more floral and lighter quality than Le Male. Le Male suffers a bit from being too heavy on the cinnamon and lavender for a powder fragrance and in this respect the lightness of Perry Ellis 360 White does work to its advantage. Still, Le Male is far more impressive and better constructed and layered. The dry down is less balanced, with a heavier reliance on the vanilla and thinner cedar than Le Male, which holds a deeper bass with the sandalwood and amber.
    Still, this is a credible adaptation of Gaultier´s Le Male and an affordable alternative for those not willing to pay the sometimes exorbitant prices required for fifteen year old designer fragrances. Still, there are better copies of Le Male out there, see the cheaper Cuba Gold or the even lighter and more skin scent leaning Cubano Gold. Both do a better job of recreating the lavender essence of Le Male. Perry Ellis 360 White relies more on the vanilla, cardamom and floral elements in its interpretation Still, this projects fairly well until the 3-4 hour mark and then nestles in to skin scent territory before dying out around the 5-6 hour mark. The drydown is rather bland and can be cloying because of its highly synthetic construction and gaudy vanilla that dominates the cedar where in Le Male the amber and sandalwood provide more balance for the vanilla.
    A very respectable and enjoyable fragrance never-the-less.

    Originality */ Scent ***/ Blending *** / Projection ****/ Longevity ****/ Quality ****
    Overall 3.25

    24 January, 2012

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    Lacoste pour Homme by Lacoste

    Lacoste Pour Homme is a very well constructed and balanced citric aquatic that though not innovative or uniquely original in conception, is outstandingly executed and one of the best aquatics on the market.
    The beautiful opening of citrus and apple integrates very well with the juniper and cinnamon that never offends and manages to hold a very reserved and balanced personality without ever overwhelming. One of the best uses of apple I have come across in a fragrance, it seems to give the grapefruit a bass from which to balance it against the spicier middle notes.
    Incredibly pleasing, becomes somewhat linear once the vanilla ripens over the middle and top notes, but the vanilla only seems to add a creamy note without losing its balance or becoming overly assertive. The sandalwood and cedarwood make for a light foundation that allows the vanilla and musk to come through unmolested. This give Lacoste Pour Homme a lighter feel but because the scent is so well balanced it doesn´t detract from the overall scent in the slightest.
    Incredibly versatile, pleasing and refined.
    Longevity is not bad, 5-6 hours is the standard, though on some skin chemistries this one never goes beyond a skin scent after the initial thirty minutes of application so a blind buy may not work for everyone.
    The epitome of well executed, well blended and organically based.

    19 January, 2012

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    John Varvatos STAR USA by John Varvatos

    Rodrigo Flores-Roux certainly knows his way around light, naturally organic, airy fragrances, judging from his already solid resume. The mastermind of Zirh´s two great, if not short lived creations and the entire John Varvatos line, Flores-Roux does not venture too far from his comfort zone with Star USA.
    Designed to compliment the twenty something fashion line targeted at middle-class youth looking for an alternative, retro DKNY look but seeking a bigger price tag, Star USA packs much of its punch in the marketing and bottle design, conceived as a vintage beer bottle, and leaves little for longevity or staying power.
    The opening salvo of ginger, juniper and citrus is organic and pleasing enough, if not a bit formulaic, but never really projects and lacks any substantive personality or bite beyond being resigned to a skin scent. The ginger features nicely early and is certainly inviting and seductive enough over the juniper, but unfortunately doesn´t stick and fades to the background around the thirty minute mark, a harbringer of the overall lack of staying power for Star USA.
    The middle notes never really come to the forefront to balance the composition and give Star USA structure or personality. Once the ginger fades to the background, no other element in the middle or basenotes steps up to assert itself, leaving a rather hollow balance of accords. It is at about the thirty minute mark, just after the ginger disappears that Star USA digs deep into the skin and becomes evermore untraceable and indistinguishable, ultimately flaming out within two hours of application.
    Star USA lacks any strength or force and seems far too light, even for a fragrance conceived as a light fragrance.
    Warm, soothing, charming and subtly sexy. Star USA can work very effectively as an intimate skin scent but doesn´t project or breathe long enough to work as an evening or day-wear fragrance. Certainly a great deal of potential here if it was devised to have any stamina whatsoever. But unfortunately the current released version was released without the foresight and attention to detail necessary to justify its MSRP. A reformulation with emphasis on stronger projection and longevity could be a real contender. Unfortunately the initial release is a skin fragrance without much bite, classy enough in its assemblage of organic notes but far too unassuming, linear and generic for its own good. In the same vein as the Givenchy Play line in its transparent attempt to appeal to 20 somethings more taken with packaging and perception than quality and substance.
    A pleasing, sensual and organic scent that may in fact work better for women, inoffensive if not also untraceable after a couple of hours.

    17 January, 2012

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    Givenchy Play by Givenchy

    Givenchy Play is a very well packaged and marketed cologne implying digital sophistication in the 21st century and a 24/7 urban lifestyle where being in the know and having technology are one and the same. The bottle is sleek and stylish, replete with Ipod decor intended to appeal to the 20 something crowd in an attempt to persuade them a spritz of Givenchy´s disappearing act inside the beautiful bottle can offer an even more modern hipness if applied correctly.
    Unfortunately for all those involved, Givenchy Play is nothing more than a well designed marketing ploy.
    The opening accord is a well balanced and attractive blend of citrus and amyris wood that instantaneously collapses into a skin scent and begins to fade quickly without any substantive projection or longevity. One of the weaker fragrances on the market, 2-3 hours can even be overly ambitious during the rather bland patchouli and floral drydown that comes as a bit of let down given the unique opening blend and amyris wood note that promises something different. but ultimately ends up blending in to a rather staid and uninspiring standard release.
    Inoffensive and lacking any real muscle, Givenchy Play under-performs in longevity and projection and ultimately fails to delivery anything really modern or innovative beyond the short lasting amyris wood note that manages to fade into the background rather quickly. Play is better suited for those who are easily convinced quality is a matter of packaging and perception rather than attention to detail. Massively overrated, push pause on this one, if you can manage before it fades out on its own.

    03 January, 2012

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    Santa Fe for Men by Aladdin Fragrances

    Alcohol laden opening quickly cools into a vanilla, cinnamon spiced nutmeg fragrance that relies heavily on the vanilla. Certainly does take liberal inspiration from Caron's Third Man and lesser so from Calvin Klein's Obsession but it does seem to dig deeper into 1970's mandarin, powder and spice giants like Lagerfeld for its inspiration.
    Santa Fe is certainly not a head-turner and is dangerously close to cloying and may not work for some skin chemistries. I wouldn't suggest it for a night out or a clutch evening when an impression can go a long way. It lacks the complexity of its influences but it is a decent, casual scent with excellent value given the somewhat organic smelling elements and low price. Still, the blending itself does imply a certain cheapness but that can easily be overlooked given Santa Fe's lack of pretension.
    Santa Fe doesn't evolve too dramatically, moving towards a linear vanilla and powder bomb five minutes into the initial application. It sticks around fairly long for its price, with 4-6 hours not uncommon. Projection is not overwhelming, but it certainly is detectable and doesn't seem to slip into the realm of skin scent until midway through the drydown.
    A pleasing enough scent for those who enjoy vanilla and a little bit of spice that should only be used sporadically, as this one can be very cloying. For the price fairly enjoyable and worth the investment as a change-up in an already loaded arsenal. Nothing exceptional, but for those on a budget a tremendous bargain. Simple and a bit too powdery to work as a signature scent.

    02 January, 2012

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    Burberry the Beat for Men by Burberry

    Burberry's The Beat is quite possibly one of the sleekest and sexiest packaged colognes on the market today. The bottle and graphic design invokes southeast London middle-class smugness with working-class rebellious hipness, neo-new wave and dance rock and roll sophistication and youth, drawing from mid 1960's pop art and merging it with modern practicality and faux-metal plastics to create something all-together representative of "hip" for the times. A fragrance house very conscious of its English associations and Beat is the epitome of Burberry showing no shame in celebrating the popular perception of London as the rock and pop elite youth couture and doing so by deliberately seeking something traditional and classic yet repackaging it in a brilliant, modern way.
    Pepper and an interesting combination of violet and vetiver form a very appealing and balanced opening that quickly vanishes to pure pepper overtones thirty seconds in and drones out anything else except in short flashes. The bourbon never really introduces itself formally while cedar seems to poke its head in despite not being on the pyramid. The nicely conceived synthetic leather shows itself in flashes and seems content to take a back seat to the black pepper notes that dominate completely and make Burberry Beat a very linear fragrance. Sort of a wasted effort given how well the leather was done in this one.
    The violet leaves give way very quickly in the opening to the black pepper note and from that point on this is purely a spiced affair. Settles in quickly as a skin fragrance two to three minutes into the initial spray and nests there for the rest of its life without ever really projecting.
    Amazingly inoffensive for a pepper fragrance, but that could be due to its weak projection and skin scent pretensions. Nothing really stands out as exceptional, none of the notes really seem tremendously blended or mixed in a sophisticated manner that resonates. What we are left with is a brilliantly marketed and packaged item that leaves us feeling a bit dissatisfied and desiring more substance but is just smooth and spicy enough to tide us over until dinner time. And with very average longevity, generally four hours, dinner will be ready sooner rather than later. A fun fragrance none the less, nice for work and certainly a welcome respite from the plethora of over-indulgent citric fragrances on the market.

    06 December, 2011

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    Acqua di Giò pour Homme by Giorgio Armani

    Giorgio Armani's great silver strike in men's fragrances, Acqua di Gio fifteen years later is still a massive seller that forced the industry to adapt to the aquatic revolution. Certainly ubiquitous and overly duplicated, it still maintains its dignity through masterful blending and honest simplicity
    Acqua di Gio is citrus, water, jasmine and hints of floral accords that compliment each other exceedingly well. Obvious attention to detail and craftsmanship are on display, with a beautiful layering of the notes that comes off very well-blended and suggesting more natural accords. Simple from the bottle design to the formula to the blending, AdG excels in bridging a classic look and citrus formula with a modern emphasis on light jasmine and white musk to give the citric elements more weight behind them without coming off too sour or too synthetic. This does what the 19th century lemon and lime fragrances did but with less patchouli, alcohol and cream and more lemon and water. All the while lasting far longer (4-6 hours is reasonable, though under the right circumstances 8 is not uncommon) and projecting very well for a fragrance with such light structural underpinnings.
    Not overly citric, the lemon and citric notes hold out longer with AdG than they do in many of its prodigies but with a well-crafted professionalism that never overwhelms or suffocates the other notes. Clean, fresh and a tremendous success because of its simplicity and versatility as an every man, every occasion spray for those who prefer to smell nice and inoffensive without thinking too deeply about it. It also suffers for that same reason, AdG is almost so standardized, inclusive and versatile that it doesn't really adapt to different skin chemistry the way other herbal aquatics do and is excessively linear and prone to overuse. Still, a revolution of sorts for those prone to allergies induced by the more floral and herbal aquatics, AdG is incredibly wearable and never comes close to cloying.
    As influential as any cologne since Davidoff's Coolwater in the late 1980's, though Armani has managed to maintain a level of respectability by not over saturating the market with officially released spinoffs of their signature scent the way Cool Water and Calvin Klein with "One" have. Inclusive, versatile, sporty, professional, refined and casual, Armani's Acqua di Gio is everything to everyone, excessively wearable and extremely well-blended. Will stand the test of time.

    02 December, 2011

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    Burberry Sport for Men by Burberry

    An interesting, commercial change of direction for a respectable fragrance giant and a smart, perceptive attempt to capture a younger audience to compliment their clothing line. Burberry Sport is the closest thing to a Portuguese bar in Lisbon on a breezy June evening with the sea and the juniper floating around in the air.
    Starts with tremendous promise with an opening of citrus and ginger that gives off a very un-synthetic clean and fresh feel and does it in a well blended way in which the ginger aids the grapefruit note and enables it to reach a higher range in a natural way . If you knew Burberry wasn´t trying to capitalize on the popularity of Acqua di Gio by going with grapefruit to give it originality, maybe this would be something profoundly unique and original. As it is, Curve Wave seems to have already laid the path along with the hundreds of other aquatics before it, but commercial perceptiveness by a corporate entity is nothing to criticize too strongly. Especially when the scent itself may in fact be completely unnecessary and unjustifiable, but still completely enjoyable and refreshing.
    Burberry Sport stays quite linear throughout, not necessarily a negative given how well the grapefruit blends with the other notes, but it seems rather simple compared to some of their other releases. The real issue seems to be its lack of staying power. It is not uncommon for Burberry Sport to flicker out in two to three hours and by the second hour already wear so close to the skin that it takes a fair amount of energy to recognize it on your skin. For that reason alone, it can´t seem to justify its MSRP for men looking for something dependable.
    Frivolous, unnecessary and unlikely to tread any new ground, Sport is still a well blended and a well conceived aquatic, with a very nice, organic take on what is sometimes an incredibly synthetic genre. A very solid fragrance for a younger audience who don´t put as much emphasis on longevity and originality. Targeted and marketed for the twenty and under crowd and the packaging and scent itself is nice enough to hit a bulls-eye with that target audience. One of the few bottle designs that incorporates hip-hop and rugged urban hipness with practicality and versatility. Sleek, sexy and practical.
    If not one that dies a bit too young for its own good.

    Overall 3/5 (Quality 3.5/Originality 2.0/Projection 3.0/Longevity 2.5/Value 2.5/Scent 4.5)

    21st November, 2011 (Last Edited: 04 December, 2011)

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    Polo Sport by Ralph Lauren

    Harry Fremont's resume certainly needs no introduction; the man who a year later dropped CK One on the masses, was already well ahead of the curve on the aquatic revolution when he came up with Polo Sport. Polo Sport is thick with seaweed throughout, with a nice touch of citrus in the opening before completely giving way to the dominant seaweed note for the rest of the dry-down.
    Certainly shocks and disorients the uninitiated because it is so different from the standard fragrance. The opening is very think with seaweed and cloying citrus, but after a few moments the ginger creeps into the seaweed and creates a spicier, less projecting dry-down that uses many of the standard Polo elements and notes, which don't seem to be able to assert themselves over the heavy dose of seaweed.
    Works well with natural skin chemistry, producing a natural, warm and organic scent that wears close to the skin and manages to mask most body odors during physical activity. Given the "sport" monicker for that reason, but really this is more of a beach fragrance that resonates strongly with those who have spent an early, misty morning on a Northern Californian or Southern Oregonian pacific shore. This is one of the best souvenirs one can pick up to bring back images of the colder beaches of the northern California coast, wealthy in sea-life and seaweed along its banks.
    Projection and silage are fairly average, with longevity a bit of an issue, usually under 4-5 hours and wearing very close to the skin. Still, if you can appreciate more organic scents like seaweed, this is an incredibly original and unique extension of using organic notes.
    Polo Sport is very unique for its time, most likely more than a little inspired by the success of Nautica the year before and the influx of newer, trendier Polo inspired fashion houses taking a large portion of the 20 something crowd. The packaging itself reflects a time when the Ralph Lauren name was more vulnerable and less self-assured, trying to modernize with a new logo to go with its new jeans line, in an attempt to break from its illustrious past and more emphatically, the Baby Boomer generation. Polo Sport was Ralph Lauren's deliberate attempt to capture Generation X.
    Not refined for formal wear, but a fantastic, casual alternative to the plethora of synthetics on the market, Sport is original, organic and oceanic, like driving along Pacific 1 Highway with the top down on a September morning. A best seller largely because of the Polo name, but the Polo name does still stand for quality fabrics, oils and materials and not taking shortcuts in China.

    The Pacific Ocean in a bottle.

    Overall 4/5 (Quality 3.5/Originality 4.75/Projection 2.5/Longevity 2.5/Value 3.0/Scent 4.0)

    17 November, 2011

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    Cuba Red by Cuba Paris

    Cuba Red, like the rest of its Cuba stablemates, relies more on its novelty elements thanks to its cheap but creative packaging that combines several disparaging and contradictory elements. A Cuban cigar body with the face of an American inventor and statesman from Pennsylvania raised in a world of Quakers and German immigrants, Benjamin Franklin, manufactured in France and given a name referencing pastoral tranquility? Maybe Thomas Jefferson and images of Tobacco fields would have been more fitting for the entire affair, but for its embracing of pure tackiness, Cuba fragrances are synonymous with fun.

    Cuba Red is a thick tobacco, spiced cinnamon and cypress fragrance that forms the backbone of the marketing and packaging concept that is Cuba. It is where the conception of faux-exoticism, Cuban cigars, pre-1960's America comes to fruition in the juice and reflects quite clearly that beyond novelty, Cuba also has something to say about substance.
    Cuba Red borrows liberally from Cigar and Aramis Havana, but seems to find its own niche by finding a compromise between the two that is less herbal and woodsy than its influences. At times Red invokes memories of the original Polo in its opening, but with far less green and far more brown and soot. This is a dirty fragrance in its reliance on tobacco but it comes across clearly masculine. In a sense, this is a tip of the hat back to the agricultural gentlemen of 18th century Virginia, an attempt at refinement in a sea of tobacco fields and slaves, that brings us closer to the rootsy, labor intensive reality of masculinity and wealth and fortune made by tobacco that built the first great American families of power and repute.
    Red is incredibly linear, unimaginative and clearly unoriginal given the heavy debt to Aramis, Remy La Tour, Polo, etc. Cuba Red is earthier and less refined than its influences, but therein lies the beauty of it. A no-nonsense tobacco fragrance that makes no excuses for itself by trying to hide its core with floral elements, Red brings the tobacco to the front from the beginning and leaves it there for its relatively short life span.
    Consistently short on life and duration. Four hours is generous, two hours more realistic for most wearers. Not a head-turner and certainly not one for a formal night out, Cuba Red is for a man looking to reconnect with older, more masculine concepts of what masculinity used to be. A wonderfully priced monument to nostalgia. Well executed from its conception to its fruition.

    26 October, 2011

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    Cuba Orange by Cuba Paris

    Cuba Orange, like the rest of its Cuba stablemates, relies more on its novelty elements thanks to its cheap but creative packaging that combines several disparaging and contradictory elements. A Cuban cigar body with the face of an American inventor and statesman from Pennsylvania raised in a world of Quakers and German immigrants, Benjamin Franklin, manufactured in France and given a name referencing pastoral tranquility? Maybe Thomas Jefferson and images of Tobacco fields would have been more fitting for the entire affair, but for its embracing of pure tackiness, Cuba fragrances are synonymous with fun.

    Orange begins with a fruity and overpowering synthetic blast of orange peels, tobacco, amber, cream and a touch of spice. To call it overwhelming and abrasively cloying would be a bit understated, and this is when most already lay a justified negative verdict on Cuba Orange.
    Then something quite remarkable happens. The tobacco note starts to assert itself into the middle notes and transforms the fragrance into a better balanced and more wearable scent. The modified scent that stays linear from the middle notes on balances itself more into a peaches and cream (possibly vanilla?) desert being eaten in a smoked filled Andalucian flamenco bar. In the background of that bar orange peels are being burned to honor its Syrian Arab/North African roots, the two cultures that originally brought the orange to Spain in the ninth century and transformed the culture into a citric growing paradise. This is what Cuba Orange smells like. Granada in the old gypsy quarter on a warm summer night.
    Previous reviewers are right on about the similarities to Rochas Lui and Dunhill Desire, this serves as an interesting compromise that bridges both. The tobacco note doesn't really fit with the fruitier elements. It has a hard time mixing with natural skin scents and can imply the smell of sweat during the dry-down. Very sweet and synthetic and a bit too much amber and cream for sensitive noses.
    There is no real occasion or place for a fragrance like Cuba Orange, but it's still interesting. This one projects more than most Cuba fragrances, still as far as life-span, you shouldn't expect to get more than three hours but it grows on the wearer once you get past the richly synthetic opening.
    A flawed but still enjoyable compromise between Rochas Lui and Dunhill Desire. Not as bad as the reputation that proceeds it. Cuba Orange is a viable, affordable alternative to more expensive fruit and tobacco fragrances and despite its lack of class and attention to detail in the mixing, still fun and enjoyable and a perfect transporter to Andalucia !



    26 October, 2011

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    Cuba Blue by Cuba Paris

    Cuba Blue, like the rest of its Cuba stablemates, relies more on its novelty elements thanks to its cheap but creative packaging that combines several disparaging and contradictory elements. A Cuban cigar body with the face of an American inventor and statesman from Pennsylvania raised in a world of Quakers and German immigrants, Benjamin Franklin, manufactured in France and given a name referencing pastoral tranquility? Maybe Thomas Jefferson and images of Tobacco fields would have been more fitting for the entire affair, but for its embracing of pure tackiness, Cuba fragrances are synonymous with fun.

    The opening is a burst of lavender and alcohol that calms down quickly into a familiar CK One aquatic/floral, but reaching higher into the floral qualities. The middle notes are when the metallic elements of Azzaro Chrome surface, but they last only a few flashing moments before the nondescript dry down of lavender, musk and vanilla take over.
    Cuba Blue smells astonishingly good and well-blended and the most natural of all the Cuba releases, despite being a wholly synthetic creation. Not exactly Chrome, leans more towards Calvin Klein's CK One but with far lower projection and silage and about a quarter of the lifespan. A fresh scent with a touch of floral, musk and moss that is far less cloying than Cuba's original release Gold. Hard to pick off the skin, works to its advantage in that the lavender doesn't ever overwhelm.

    The major downfall of Blue is two-fold. It simply clings too tightly to the skin and lasts only about an hour before becoming quite faint and unrecognizable. Blue is a light, earthy aquatic and lavender fragrance better suited for the heat. Nothing particularly distinguishing, but the most natural smelling of the Cuba line.
    Completely and purely unoriginal in all but the packaging, Cuba Blue is pathetically light and weak, short-lived and cheap, but oh so fun and unique, all the same. Only for those with a sense of humor and an appreciation of camp and pure tackiness.

    25 October, 2011

    rating


    Gravity by Coty

    Packaged in a futuristic space-age fantasy retro early 1960's bottle that invokes images of spaceships and moon landings, Gravity insinuates daring and exploration in its name and handsome design. Unfortunately the innovative marketing design cannot completely mask a mission that should have been aborted long before lift-off.
    Gravity fails on all accounts to tread new ground or enhance the baser, more natural scents of man. What is does offer is novelty. Tasteless and off-putting as it may be, it's still an inventive combination of notes seldom seen combined. Maybe for good reason. Few fragrance houses would feel confident enough to release this bomb and even fewer to keep it circulating well into the twenty-first century.

    Gravity's opening is a spiced, leathery, pepper-clove synthetic mess that seems to blend incongruent and contrasting notes that only succeed in amplifying its synthetic core.
    The leather base, so heavily synthetic as to invoke images of Bruce Jenner's mug, cripples the opening from the first moments and only seems to recede after an extended opening stretch of harshness that can go as long as twenty minutes.
    When the leather base finally does step to the side, the pepper top reasserts itself over the middle notes and drowns out the hint of lime and citrus. The pepper notes create temporary relief from the synthetic leather note that seems extremely out of line from the rest of the note pyramid.
    This is not good, this is not even mediocre, this is somewhat uninspired, if not cloying and amateur in lack of attention paid to detail with the blending notes. The leather basenote is worth experiencing just for the sheer morbidity. An incredibly uninspiring if not completely repulsive scent for the world to be introduced to. All leading to an incredibly unremarkable but more bearable dry-down that saves the scent from completely disappointing.
    Better bought for the bottle design more than anything else, that is the true force drawing anyone to Gravity.

    13 October, 2011 (Last Edited: 19 October, 2011)

    rating


    Touch for Men by Burberry

    As a very loyal Burberry guy, I wanted to like this fragrance. Especially considering the wonderful opening accords that are sweet, floral and spicy all in one magnificent blast of two minute bliss. Unfortunately the middle notes kick in soon after and create a tremendously harsh imbalance of notes on my skin. It seems like Burberry had the right idea on this one, but seems to have misfired on the blending and the heavy reliance on musk during the dry-down, which creates a cloying and very synthetic overtone that destroys its appeal. Comes off very overbearing and aggressive in the dry-down on some, most likely because of the floral, powder and violet mixing with the musk. Borders on tacky and outright old-fashioned, invoking grandma like perfume traces. One of those scents that is quite unique in its conception but lacks in its execution. Harsh and heavy, this one can invade the sinus membrane and wreak havoc, it seeks to find a balance between old school and new, floral and spicy, fruit and oriental and ultimately comes up short, but still a decent scent for some who can carry its heavy and flamboyant ingredients. Solid projection but longevity was not that impressive on my skin, only around three hours maximum.


    26 April, 2011

    rating


    Fujiyama Black Label by Succès de Paris

    Dangerously synthetic to the point of cloying and irritating, Black Label has a heavy rubbing alcohol and floral opening but quickly is uprooted by a harsh and heavily synthetic middle note 20-30 seconds in that destroys its appeal. Black in name only, has none of the appeal of many of its competitors. Spicy to a certain extent and suggestive as an oriental but poorly blended and lacking any character or charm. Calms down after 10 minutes but the unappealing note remains throughout. Projection is below average and longevity is around two hours maximum. One to avoid, even at a budget price.

    23 April, 2011

    rating


    Fujiyama Homme by Succès de Paris

    Comes on very strongly with a harsh lemon and citrus bite that quickly adapts to the skin and holds a rather pleasant citrus aquatic for the first few minutes that seems to flicker in and out. Develops into a refreshing and spicy scent in the middle notes that also reveals its synthetic core, not for the faint of heart but considering its price and nature, not at all as bad as some would imply here. Has very low projection until about 15 minutes in, when it suddenly awakens for a very under-appreciated and beautifully refreshing vetiver dry-down that projects better than other aquatics 4 times the price. The dry-down lasts until about the 90 minute mark, when it begins to dramatically fade, and by the two hour mark is distinctly faint and on life support. Don´t expect anything more than two hours, this is one of many cheaper, more synthetic, inorganic colognes , but despite that maintains a bit of quality as a nice, cheap aquatic alternative for the budget minded consumer.
    Refreshing and inoffensive, if not a bit watered-down, but for the price and understanding its limitations, this is a solid purchase for those who enjoy aquatic fragrances. One of the better dry-downs among the aquatic family tree, and not as linear as many of its competitors. Has a bit of personality, not so fast writing this one off.

    22 April, 2011

    rating


    Contradiction for Men by Calvin Klein

    Like many of the CK products for men Contradiction is certainly packaged well and insinuates a certain faux sophistication on the dresser drawer when on display. The problem is in the pretentiousness of the fragrance itself. The opening salvo is heavy on the alcohol and a fruit bomb gone awry. It quickly turns into a mix of fruit set against common pepper and spice to gel with the marketing pitch and name. Wears very close to the skin after about a quarter of an hour and does not relent in the struggle that seems to be at play between the fruit and spice notes. Finally flickers out after a handful of hours, generally around the 4 to 5 hour mark, but similar to later creations Euphoria and Man in their low projection and subtle, close to the skin fruity vibe.
    Very commercial creation that seems to have been designed purely to fit a marketing strategy rather than allowing the creators to find artistic freedom and conceptualize their own product and marketing to react to that. Almost too heavy handed, calling something Contradiction and then putting two seemingly opposing opposites, fruit and spice, against each other in a contrived attempt to assert something altogether new and revolutionary.
    Very synthetic and though not all together vile, certainly not up to the standards set by the original MSRP. Has become a steady member of the clearance club recently and most likely will be discontinued as CK continues to over-expand its empire with bland and uninspiring fragrances that bring in solid money behind the CK name.
    What can be said that Foetidus has not already said? Like usual, not much. Suffice to say this is nothing dreadful, but less than average. If spice is what you crave, look no further than Burberry The Beat. If it´s fruit? Ck Euphoria Intense is a better bet under the CK name. Escape another one.

    16 April, 2011

    rating


    Drakkar Noir by Guy Laroche

    Drakkar Noir is a fascinating blend of woodsy, green and dark leather insinuations with fruity top notes that overwhelm in the initial blast but quickly drydown to a warm and charming leafy, floral fougere that pays no mind to subtlety. This is a powerhouse fragrance with incredibly strong projection velocity that lives well into old age on the wearer and dies a wonderfully aromatic death. Beware frag elitists, this is a very linear fragrance with a no-nonsense approach that states rather boldly in its initial blast what its intentions are and never detours from it.
    Thing is, what Drakkar Noir is is nothing to point your noses up at. Noir is blended with the utmost professionalism, finding a way to layer a linear fragrance and keep the patchouli in the distant background while maintaing the perfect amount of juniper.
    Simply a masterpiece in men´s fragrances, Draakar Noir created a wave of reaction within the industry for years afterwards, leading to a wider range of attention to men´s fragrances. May be overworn and overcopied over the years, but don´t let that take away its essence as a wonderfully strong and daring cologne that can pass itself off as both formal and casual, winter or summer, day or night. As influential and as great as they come.

    08 April, 2011

    rating


    Royal Copenhagen by Royal Copenhagen

    Royal Copenhagen is a very generously priced and bottled vintage barbershop creation with mediocre longevity and projection in its present reformulated incarnation. The vintage version is blended with more care and more natural notes. The current reformulation´s initial shot hints at reasonable comparisons to Canoe, but it is far more tolerable because it lacks the heavy accent on the patchouli that strains Canoe at times. Royal Copenhagen is a musky, powder keg fragrance with a short fuse and a very linear and boring evolution that lacks any subtlety and stays rather linear the whole way through. More a fresh, powdery aftershave in the vein of many of the early 20th century fragrances, Royal Copenhagen was old-fashioned even in 1970, designed when the 1920´s were becoming in fashion again and the ragtime era was becoming a brief fad. Serves its purpose as a fresh splash on and certainly is more appealing than Brut, but not a fragrance that has an identity outside of its time. Formulated in an era in which aftershaves took precedence over spray cologne, this is ultimately an aftershave cologne for those who want to invoke memories of 1950´s barbershops. Nice for nostalgia, but nothing to seek out. Royal Copenhagen is a drugstore fragrance that misses the mark given better products available at even lower prices like Clubman, Old Spice, Aqua Velva, etc.
    Still, a rather boring but inoffensive fragrance that induces a calming nostalgia for a barbershop era gone by. It has its loyal audience, but ultimately there are simply too many better blended, more subtle and sexier scents than this.

    05 April, 2011

    rating


    Armani Code / Black Code by Giorgio Armani

    A wonderful scent. A creamy lemon, chocolate and tonka bean confection with an overlaying layer of spice that unfortunately for all involved, doesn't last beyond a couple of hours, which is very disappointing given how nicely blended Code is. Code is a masterpiece of blending contrasting and complimentary elements and putting them into one incredibly unique and timeless scent.
    Full-bodied, creamy and delicious, Code is one for the ages, even if it falls short in longevity and is a bit too heavy on the wallet with an inflated MSRP. Hated simply for its own dramatic success as one of the most purchased fragrances on the market, this is a commercial success for a reason, it is classy and understated enough to accompany a formal event and fruity enough to be an everyday spritzer. Code is the essence of department store fodder for the masses but it has a timeless element to it that should bode well for it compared to its contemporaries thirty years down the line.
    Code wears somewhat close to the skin, but its ingredients allow it to stretch out a bit and it does go through several phases of development, at least three during its brief lifespan. But given what else is out there and how few scents ever manage to hit it out of the park like this, I can overlook the standard Armani negatives as far as its lack of longevity and its high price tag and give it a proper thumbs up for invention and class alone.

    19 March, 2011 (Last Edited: 26 April, 2011)

    rating


    Nautica Competition (new) by Nautica

    A synthetic cloud of Axe body spray blended with very little attention to detail or standards for natural ingredients, Competition is better left in the dust and was smartly discontinued. It lacks subtlety or pleasant tones to push the synthetic element to the the background. A failure.

    19 March, 2011

    rating


    cK one by Calvin Klein

    Calvin Klein was always about two things in the 1990´s, at least in the fragrance realm, and both of those were inter-related. Packaging and marketing, with packaging an extension of the Bauhaus minimalism meets 1990´s existentialist faux-artsy commercials being crafted to coalesce into a middle-class neo-riche.
    This stuff is beautifully packaged, the elixir jar another one of Klein´s subtle but smart campaigns of simplicity implying sophistication and class.
    But ultimately things come down to quality and substance, though CK One may have been groundbreaking in its reach and stretch and in the colognes that soon followed, CK One does not seem to stand out all that particularly well against its proteges these days. In fact, to be blunt, the reformulation smells quite cheap and uninspired. That doesn't mean it always was, because at its top, the lemon citrus bite and floral accords that rise to the surface shortly after the opening do have a certain charm and unique blending, especially given its time period.
    This seems better as a nice every-day skin soother rather than a reliable cologne. Longevity on this is somewhat tame, 3-4 hours can even be quite ambitious and unattainable. That must be why the reformulation comes in such massive quantity.
    The notes themselves are a creative blending of citrus, floral and tea, with jasmine seeming to standout in what might constitute as a bit of a mess, but a nice mess all the same. It certainly helped open the door for the success of Acqua di Gio and many other aquatic based fragrances and for that a certain respectability has to be given, but overall, CK One is simply nothing too exceptional to seek out beyond wanting to pay homage to a historical trendsetter or as an after-shower body after shave for the soul.
    Weak longevity and maybe a bit above average projection for an aquatic, but expires far too quickly for its price-tag. A refreshing musky background persists all the way through which seems to work with the other ingredients. A bit daft and ordinary in a modern sense, but that's only because CK One's incarnation itself helped lead the way to more open doors in the fragrance market. For that reason, should be respected, but nothing to seek out for its own sake as a head-turn. The reformulation leans more towards the synthetic and floral.

    16 March, 2011

    rating


    360 Degrees Red for Men by Perry Ellis

    One of the great values in men's colognes, Perry Ellis Red is a reasonably priced alternative to Acqua di Gio with many of the same ingredients simply arranged in a different manner and with a slipping of cinammon and coriander to give it more spice and make it less clear to lawyers this is a direct copy of big selling AdG. Given the plethora of citric aquatics on the market asking for big payoffs despite limited projection, this is a wonderful godsend. There is a spicy undertone here, just like the earlier reviewers have indicated, but it isn't anything that powerful, the base is very linear and very aquatic all the way through.
    Perry Ellis 360 Red has excellent longevity for the price, 7-8 hours is not uncommon, though it does tend to wear close to the skin towards the middle point. Still, the dry-down is pleasant and combines sandalwood and moss with vetiver in a very well-blended fashion but generally sticks to its core of citrus and cinammon.
    This can be had for reasonable prices, usually around $25 for a 3.4, and it's worth every penny given how solid the longevity is for an aquatic. Don't agree that this is highly synthetic and cloying, this is probably the least so of any of the 360 line, implying a certain natural blending though it certainly has a synthetic element, the solid blending somehow manages to overcome its cheaper ingredients.
    PE360 Red suffers more from a lack of creativity packaging wise than anything else, and for that it certainly suffers with elitists, but for the money, this is a fabulous purchase that belongs in any aquatic rotation. Can even serve as a signature scent for anyone looking to avoid the ubiquitous presence of Acqua di Gio.

    15 March, 2011 (Last Edited: 25 January, 2012)

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