Reviews by Topper

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    Encre Noire by Lalique

    It continues to fascinate me that scent fanciers can have such disparate experiences when smelling the same scent. Perhaps it is partly because we each bring our own expectation of what a scent does, or should, smell like. And I think Encre Noir is a prime example of this.

    Before offering a description of my general impression of Encre Noir, I wish to focus on two almost universally perceived scent notes. The first has been described as ink, smoke, a toner cartridge and insecticide. But I don’t experience it as any of these. I spent my boyhood around cut wood and wood of all sorts being cut. Freshly cut wood is naturally and often profoundly fragrant. And is similar to a fine scent in often having top, middle and base notes.

    I never cataloged the scents of various woods, but sometimes a final note could be detected in old objects from which it was made. And often this final whisper of what began as the round and full fragrance of a wood was very, very dry. And that is the note that I experience in Encre Noir. Neither ink, smoke or insecticide, but a very dry wood. Dry to the point of bitterness. Even harsh. A couple of woods are sometimes named in descriptions of the Encre Noir scent notes. Cashmere wood? Is it any of these? I can’t say. Such descriptions are often misleading.

    Many seem to like this scent note, while others hate it. But I find it essential to the composition. It creates a dynamic tension with the other scent notes and elevates what might otherwise be a very nice scent to something much more interesting. This note shows up early and stays throughout. Curiously it is absent for the first couple of seconds after application. Then it arrives and plays counterpoint hide-and-seek with the other scent notes throughout the entire life of the scent.

    And what are these other scent notes? Some insist it’s straight Iso E Super. May be, but I’ve never been handed a vial of Iso E Super, so except from other’s written descriptions, I have no idea what it smells like. But I have also read that Vetiver Extraordinaire has the highest concentration of vetiver essential oils. If so, it is interesting because the scent to which Encre Noir is most similar is Vetiver Extraordinaire. Though Encre Noir is a deeper, rounder vetiver with the counterpoint of the aforementioned bitter wood note.

    Many also seem to experience Encre Noir as very similar to Sycomore, but I do not. While the vetiver heartnotes may be somewhat similar, Sycomore substitutes a musk note for EN’s bitter wood. This note also arrives early and stays for the entire duration of the scent. It is a common musk note that is currently in vogue for many women’s fragrances, and unfortunately, one that I dislike, finding it both cloying and a cliché.

    So what does Encre Noir smell like? Rather than a typical progression of notes it is more a duality of heartnotes in perpetual dynamic tension. You see, the vetiver is accompanied by what seems a sweeter wood creating an accord that is both surprisingly deep and round. That’s one of the secrets of EN; one of the two heartnotes is actually round and deep, and might even be described as sweeter, or at least, not dry.

    The other half of this duality is that bitter wood. These two heartnotes persist from virtually the beginning to the end of the scent, but generally not together. First one is more noticeable, then the other. That is in large measure the brilliance of EN. These two opposites alternate. This provides a note of bitter interest to what otherwise would be a sweeter composition. The overall effect is a round, deep vetiver/wood with a bitter counter note.

    A greater mystery than what it smells like is its progression. Hide-and-seek; now you can smell it, now you can’t. Projection? Yes, but subtle. Duration? Good, and the duality does tend to lessen toward the end as the notes meld a bit more.
    I’ve learned it’s important not to use very much. Perhaps more so than some other scents, EN interacts with one’s own skin to work its magic. More than a spray or two can inhibit this and cause the bitter note to dominate.

    I wear scent to please myself. It helps elevate my mood. I don’t wish it to be objectionable to others, and try to wear it discreetly. But I must admit that I was delighted when, out of the blue, two female acquaintances professed a passionate fondness for the scent of Encre Noir.

    05th May, 2012


    Mark Birley for Men by Mark Birley

    Reminds me a bit of a weaker version of MPG's Parfum d'Habit. I strongly dislike that scent. This is lightly less harsh with a bit of creaminess in the top notes. But is not anything I'd wish to smell like, though many members appear to enjoy it.

    18th October, 2011


    Santal Noble by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

    Gravitas in a bottle. This may be Jean Laporte’s masterpiece. Sweet and dry at the same time. Coffee, patchouli, incense and dry woods all on a thick belly of amber. This is a heavier scent that I prefer for cooler months. The silage and projection are only moderate, which is probably a blessing since this is such a rich scent. But it cohabits nicely with other scents in the environment, and you need not fear inviting it to dinner.

    If you like light, trendy or androgynous scents (Though my wife thinks she wants to steal it!), Santal Noble very well may not be for you. But if you like the scent notes named in a perfectly balanced and evolving accord, and you’re rich, you might wish to pick up a bottle. If you’re poor, you should probably get one sooner, because when you wear it you’ll THINK you’re rich! This smells as if it could have been brewed a couple hundred years ago. It smells like old money.

    And if all this sounds like a starched collar, or perhaps even a hair shirt, it’s not. Santal Noble is very sexy. It’s warm and rich, but in a serious and unblinking way. It doesn’t flirt. During intimate moments the amber base notes rise and project more making this a marvelous scent for romantic evenings.

    I had to learn how use it. Two sprays to the chest work best for me. Application to the extremities or clothing yields little. Longevity is marvelous. Though the top notes burn off quickly, the middle notes of woods last for many hours with echoes of the patchouli and incense occasionally still heard. The amber is still there the next day. And pleasingly, while used almost daily for the last six months, only about a third of the bottle has been consumed.

    I'll add that four years after my initial review I am still enjoying this scent during cooler months, and that little has changed of my feeling for it. An interesting note is that I sometimes wear a silk scarf that comse into contact with the skin to which I've applied the Santal Noble. This scent can leave an echo of patchouli, wood and spice on the silk that literally lasts YEARS!

    05th April, 2007 (Last Edited: 18th October, 2011)


    Route du Vétiver by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

    I wonder if Jean LaPorte was chuckling while he created Roote du Vetiver. When I first smelled it, I thought a better name might be Root of All Evil. I obtained a small sample (No more is needed to unleash this beast!) this past summer, and immediately upon applying the slightest bit, I was overcome by a volatile reek! Blackcurrants? Vetiver? Perhaps if they’ve been dissolved in a vat of acetone! I challenge anyone who’s had the misfortune of becoming too familiar with the stench of this solvent not to be immediately transported back to whenever that familiarity was gained.

    All earlier remarks concerning silage, projection and longevity are right on target. Silage? Like the Queen Mary! Projection? Infinity! Longevity? Forever! Essence of vetiver grasses and roots, blackcurrant, leafy green, bourbon vetiver, precious woods, jasmine, sandalwood and musk? If you say so. But all I get clearly is blackcurrant and the reek of solvent. The remainder does not remind me of vetivers I am familiar with from Creed or Guerlain. I don’t get moist soil or vegetation. In fact, if you take away this scent’s overwhelming volatility, its actual fragrance seems to me quite subtle, and even delicate.

    I’ve sampled it again, now that the weather has grown cold, and must confess it’s not entirely without appeal in cold, dry conditions that minimize its volatility. Not something I’d choose to wear but perhaps not something that will immediately gag the minions either.

    05th December, 2006


    Fou d'Absinthe by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    This is a good scent. ItÕs fresh, clean and woodsy. But itÕs also a more refined and nuanced version of a 1950Õs after-shave. I smell anise and pine needles, and a short time later I smell only balsam. And not very long at all after that, I can smell very little at all. I find the best thing about Fou d'Absinth is its advertising copy. ItÕs a pleasant scent, but itÕs trivial. It reminds me a great deal of a more refined Mennen.

    27th September, 2006


    Green Irish Tweed by Creed

    This is the gold standard of green scents. Simultaneously extroverted, refined and complex. Light-hearted, but beautiful. If it were a musical instrument, it would be a trumpet. Like most Creed scents I’ve experienced, I would describe it as smelling bright and clear. There’s nothing dark or muddy in it. It is a romantic scent. And a sexy scent. While all scents smell differently on, and to different people, women mostly seem to like it. And most seem to like it a lot!

    When I first sampled GIT, I smelled mainly cut grass, and didn’t think I liked the scent. But as the top notes wore down and the accord focussed more on the floral heart notes and powdery musk basenotes, my perception changed. Repeated wearings showed layers of richness and complexity, which had first escaped me. The top notes aren’t grass, but citrus. I neither know, nor will attempt to name them all. But the first impression is of grass because the citrus is in accord with the iris and whatever other floral bits makeup the heartnotes. There are similarities to Creed’s OV. But the both the citrus and florals are brighter and bolder in GIT. And there is ultimately no vetiver to undercut their higher register.

    Perhaps four hours after application, the citrus topnotes are largely gone. The basenotes are rising to combine with the remaining florals into a rich, creamy, powdery accord that I suspect many have described as the Creed house note. I love it! It works on me, and for me. Sillage is prodigious, and longevity is excellent for me too. Faint suggestions even linger the next day after a shower.

    Despite it’s excellent sillage, this scent has seemed to offend no one, and delight many. I would have to describe it as an elegant casual scent. Or perhaps one that is casually elegant. And if it works for you, I believe it’s not out of place in almost any setting.

    09th September, 2006


    Original Vetiver by Creed

    Green. Fresh. Cool. It smells like Spring. Smooth, but rich. Beautiful, though not sexy like GIT, with which it shares some notes. This is a paradoxical scent. Sometimes it is a soft citrus, sometimes fresh cut grass, sometimes a creamy vetiver and sometimes powder. And sometimes a single accord of all of these. This accord is both subtle and profound. It can be addictive.

    If it had the sillage and longevity of GIT, it could contend with this sibling. But OV is puzzling. I have received compliments when I could no longer easily detect the scent. And while the sillage might be extensive, the total effect is of a beautiful, fresh, clean aura, rather than a definite scent. Ladies often like to get close to someone wearing GIT. These same ladies seem drawn to the aura of OV almost unaware of the wearer.

    OV has been a spring and summer scent for me. It is lovely, and suitable for most any occasion. While casual, it’s also elegant. But the despite the paradox and mysteries of its sillage and longevity, it’s mostly gone from my skin after a couple of hours, which is just too short lived for me.

    02nd August, 2006 (Last Edited: 16th August, 2009)


    Parfum d'Habit by Maître Parfumeur et Gantier

    rough dark green wool” - - - - Yes.

    Perhaps once in the presence of mothballs? - - - -Yes.

    Old, dirty army blankets? - - - - Exactly!

    A strange and perhaps a brilliant achievement of the perfumer’s art, but the only scent to ever cause me to feel literally nauseous.

    26th July, 2006

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