Fragrance Reviews from September 2005

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    Envy by Gucci

    Has probably launched a thousand headaches but I like it anyway. Gucci Envy is a green, vibrant floral with a definitive twist, something in the base that makes it a singular scent. Some say it's the smell of money - the literal smell of a paper bill - and in other places I've read that it's a "rare white wine flower that blooms only one week in June every year." Okay...it could be either, could be both, or else something else entirely different, but it's most definitely there among the earnest green sap of the hyacinth, the sweet timidity of the lily of the valley and the powdery cool earth of the iris, honest and unpretentious flowers all. It's almost like an inside joke, these modest, unobtrusive, non-showy garden variety flowers covering up this underlying reek of money, power, unnattainability, decadence. It's an interesting concept, a true parable told in fragrance notes, and given the remarkable talents of the perfumer who brought it to life, I'm not surprised it's as fascinating a fragranec as it is. Hats off, Maurice Roucel!

    26 September, 2005

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    Rush by Gucci

    A fragrance that makes absolutely no attempt to disguise its frankly provocative nature. Even the name carried with it a jot of controversy when Rush was first launched - and the print ads? Okay, no punches being pulled here. This has been identified by some as the prototype for Dior's Addict - Rush? Addict? And do they both owe anything at all to Opium? - and I'm not inclined to disagree, though I much prefer this to Addict. They are about equal in terms of Bourbon vanilla-smoky mysteriousness, but Rush with its gardenia goes into musky-clingy territory where Addict's queen of the night flower veers into a dusty sharpness that sticks in the back of the throat. (I'd call it bug-sprayish but for the fact that I actually like Addict.) Rush is bodies packed tight in an all-night discotheque, Addict is midnight with a dominatrix in an abandoned mansion.

    26 September, 2005

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    Gucci Eau de Parfum by Gucci

    I love, love this fragrance - love it! First and foremost, it reminds me of a spiced dessert syrup that's part of an Indian dessert called golub jamun. It's a dish I've had many times and in the company of good friends, and the resemblance of it to this fragrance is what drew me to the Gucci even before I tested a spritz on my person! It's a fragrance that smells like it looks - lusciously, exotically sweet and thick, a little spicy, delicately perfumed with florals at the fringes (the golub jamun syrup is actually flavored with rosewater - the Gucci instead has orange blossom, a very different floral but also a common flavoring in Middle Eastern/South Asian desserts and so somewhat similar in associative memory for me) and generally just delicious. I will always have this in my collection and consider it a staple; it doesn't seem to get the attention of the other Gucci scents and is perhaps a tad more subtlel than Rush and Envy, but spectacular nonetheless and a stunning example of an exotic gourmand fragrance.

    26 September, 2005

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    Hugo Deep Red by Hugo Boss

    I like this scent quite a lot but something in it makes me inexplicably dizzy and light-headed at times. It's got to be an element in the heart or basenotes as it tends not to hit until I've been wearing the scent for several hours - maybe it's the combination of pittosporum, ginger, cedar and sandalwood? It may also be the overall men's cologne-ness inherent in Deep Red; I honestly believe that was conceived as a men's cologne and then fruit-ified through the topnotes to make it a women's fragrance. It opens with a flourish of mostly cassis and pear and then becomes spicier with wood and musk foundations. It's a fairly potent fragrance and one that needs to be applied with prudence; so long as I stick to one or two sprays total, I don't get the moments of head-spinning disorientation. But sprayed too heavily or worse yet layered with the shower gel and body lotion, this can be a dangerous scent and not in a good way. I would probably pass on my bottle but as this was given to me as a gift from a family member, I keep it in my collection and continue trying to work with it and make it work on me.

    26 September, 2005

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    Fragile by Jean Paul Gaultier

    When this came out, I felt rather let down - I adore Jean Paul Gaultier and his work, and I'm crazy about tuberose, but Fragile just left me so unimpressed. And still does, for the most part. Tuberose, to me, is a rather fiercely deep and serious, take-no-prisoners type of floral, one you either go for completely or else don't go near. The worst thing a fragrance can do is "prettify" this big white flower and turn it into - gasp - something gardenia-like. Not that gardenia's a bad floral at all; I just consider it the, well, the Ava Gardner to tuberose's Jeanne Moreau. If that makes sense at all to anyone besides film fanatics...I mean, Ava was a goddess of beauty and beyond reproach in that regard, but Moreau simply defies description, not because of physical beauty but of other qualities that go well beyond the limitations of appearance. Tuberose is much the same to me, makes those sorts of impressions on me. ANYway, if anyone should have understood these differences, I'd have expected it to be Monsieur Gaultier, but apparently he had other visions in mind. Fragile is a sweet, warm fragrance in which the paradoxically dry steaminess of the tuberose gets covered up by fruit and clipped by the warm vapors of pepper and cedar. It's very feminine but a smidge or ten too predictably so, and only a hair or two less twee than Marc Jacobs' signature scent. (I like Marc a lot as well but cannot tolerate his fragrance - to the point where just thinking about it annoys me incredibly.) JPG's Classique, though it has its flaws, is entirely worlds better and more true to his image than this one, in my humble estimation.

    26 September, 2005

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    BCBGIRLS Metro by Max Azria

    The BCBG scents - all four of them, kind of their own little family - were so ubiquitous for a while there that I felt I couldn't get away from them, and since I never really found them appealing enough to pay full price for, I frankly avoided them. Once they began appearing at places like Marshall's, though, I decided to go for it. All four - including this one, Metro - seem to be built along the same constructs as most of Anna Sui's scents. All of a mish mash with no clear defining notes or orientation, not at all offensive or unpleasant but just confused and watered down. Metro is perhaps my least favorite of the bunch; it's a nondescript mixing of fruits (yuzu, apricot, black currant), florals (gardenia, magnolia, jasmine, lily of the valley) and musk and sandalwood. Fine, except it smells like each one of those notes was taken out, dipped in cornstarch to suitably mute its true nature, and then put back in the mix. It just smells - sweet and little musky and more or less like its counterparts Sexy and Star minus the vanilla that makes those two just a little bit better than this. A thoroughly forgettable fragrance and probably just too young for me.

    26 September, 2005

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    BCBGIRLS Sexy by Max Azria

    If this fragrance could talk, it might say, "I'm not a truly sexy, rich vanilla kissed with spice and deepened with musk, but I play one on TV." It says all the appropriate things, mimics all the right moves and expressions, but just doesn't come off as the real deal. The notes - mandarin, red berry, bigarade (citrus), jasmine, clove, lily, rose, amber, incense, vanilla, tonka, sandalwood, musk - all seem to have been put through a grinder and then mixed through with some kind of fragrance-neutral powder so that they're coated with some kind of barrier that prevents them from being true. I find this to be the case with all the BCBG fragrances and while it doesn't make me hate them, because they're not offensive enough or anything enough to really *hate,* it causes me to not love them either. If I had to choose the best of the lot, though, I'd choose this one, Sexy. The vanilla-spice blend, though muted, pulls it back from the edge of beign truly insipid. Overall, this is the type of fragrance I wear for maybe two days before requesting the check, settling the tab and moving on.

    26 September, 2005

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    BCBGIRLS Star by Max Azria

    I might as well come to terms with it - BCBG did not have my preferences as a consumer in mind whne creating its four-fragrance series of this, Sexy, Metro and Nature. I am not in junior high anymore, nor in high school. I'm not even close to being out of my early 20s. And I sincerely believe that these fragrances are targeted to those in that age range, and even a subset of young women in that age range who like their fragrances soft, soothing, not too pointed or specific. I would classify BCBG Star as a Love's Baby Soft for the 21st century; like 21st century teenagers, it's a little more knowing and sophisticated, quite a bit less naive than back in my day. Like the Love's, Star is at heart a powdery secent; it's simply got a tad of somethin'-somethin' that innocent little Love's, the scent of choice for my generation's adolescent years, never had. Star is front-loaded with white florals that tend toward the clean and powdery side as well as a streak of powdery amber, and then backed up with some very happening musk and moss notes. Again, soft and soothing - not necessarily simple, though not particularly specific either. Just a more complicated kind of simple.

    26 September, 2005

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    Ginger Essence by Origins

    Every so often, I just go mad for this fragrance because it's got such a healthy, invigorating sense of aliveness to it. I associate ginger itself with healthy things - it's supposed to be very good for you - and the Origins fragrance rendition of this zingy root is the best one there is, I believe. Ginger Essence combines an array of citrus notes, heavy on the lemon and lime, with ginger (of course) as well as several other spice notes and a soothing jasmine-vanilla-amber finish that keep the "starring note" form getting too harsh. The opening accords of this scent can be a bit abrupt - I remember trying this on for the first time at an Origins store and thinking, "Um, no thanks," but the drydown comes around fairly quickly and then the composition becomes very pleasing. A little Seven-Up-like but less bland, more complete and sophisticated. I like wearing it most in the fall, when the ginger's natural warmth as a note becomes most apparent. I have both the Sensuous Skin Scent (lighter, EDT like) and the Intense (EDP like) versions and actaully prefer the Sensuous Skin Scent. The lasting power's not nearly as good but I think the overall composition is more balanced in this version.

    26 September, 2005

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    L'Or de Torrente by Torrente

    Alright, two things I need to say before I get into a real review here. One: could someone please tell me where the coffee's hiding in here, because I've darn near tormented myself over the years trying to smell it? And two: Ines de la Fressange (and I really love her, by the way - one of fashion's most beautifully "quirky" and atypically gorgeous women), L'or de Torrente just called and wants its fragrance back, and the bottle too, even if you did shift the heavy gold plate around a bit and play with rearranging the leaf motif. Okay, I feel better now! Time to explain myself, and this fragrance. L'Or de Torrente is still being made and is readily available online from etailer sites including Perfumebay, though not so much anymore at traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. But if you like to try before you buy and can't seem to find a tester of the L'or anywhere, I recommend you get yourself to a Sephora right away and spritz on the new Ines de la Fressange fragrance - because it's essentially identical to L'or de Torrente. The same cough-syrupy black currant topnote livened somewhat by citrus (tangerine for the L'or, neroli and mandarin for the Ines) and light greens (angelica in the L'or, bergamot in the Ines), the same rose-iris heart (rounded out by magnolia in the L'or versus lily and peony in the Ines - hey, close enough). The drydowns are a touch different - vanilla and cedar (quite a bit of both, too) in L'or versus benzoin-patchouli-musk in the Ines, but by the time you get to that point, it doesn't even seem worth noting. True, it makes the L'or a little sweeter-spicier than the Ines, but the differences are splitting hairs to me. These fragrances are more less like twins separated at birth; even the bottles are the same with a twist, partially armoured in heavy gold-plated metal and embellished in the motif of leaves. In the L'or, the leaves are depicted in the metal itself; in the Ines, the leaves are embossed on the glass part of the bottle. Take a look at the two, you'll see what I'm talking about. I was so disturbed when I smelled the Ines (which, just to clarify, is NOT the first fragrance she's put out under her name; there is another, older Ines de la Fressange fragrance and I don't know what it smells like, but it is available at perfumebay. Also, for those keeping track, back in the Eighties/early Nineties Ms. Fressange was the "face" of Coco by Chanel) at Sephora, so aggravated by the fact that it was just so very alike something else I already owned. Took me days to go through my notes and collection and figure out it was the L'or de Torrente. Which brings me back to my original gripe number one - L'or de Torrente is semi-famous for having a coffee note that no one I've ever met has ever been able to detect, self included. I swear it's not in there. I know it's not, darn it! Drives me crazy. Happily, Ines' fragrance spares us the mystery and drama of the present-yet-absent note -no coffee note listed, none smelled.

    26 September, 2005

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    Lily Prune Sublime Vanilla by Lily Prune

    Huh? This is a way bizarre scent. No vanilla exists in it as best I can tell; honestly, it smells of not very good roses, pretty bad musk and - totally serious here - prunes. It has a raisiny, sticky feel to it, with the prune/raisin note coming close to that in Comptoir Sud Pacifique's Princesse Muscat (formerly Coeur de Raisin) though the CSP's is much nicer, much more like good quality red wine as opposed to Lily Prune's slight Eau de Thunderbird. When I tried it on, I was completely puzzled and then repelled; no vanilla in the topnotes, none in the drydown and none to be found anywhere at all. And it was a long anywhere to boot; this stuff has staying power like nobody's business and the bad, men's cologne-y musk only gains fortitude over time. I'm still trying to figure this one out after looking up the notes - how can a composition of white rose, peony, milky notes, musk and amber add up to vanilla? I guess only Ms. Prune herself knows the answer to that!

    26 September, 2005

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    Gucci Eau de Parfum II by Gucci

    Coming off the perfection that is Gucci Eau de Parfum, this sequel is just a big, major-league letdown for me. An essentially pedestrian floral that's way, way too sweet for its own good; the violet-blackberry-black currant-jasmine combo literally clobbers the senses in the most assaultive manner possible. It's so strong I feel as though I can almost see the fumes emanating from the bottle the way heat rises from the pavement in summer. And it's all I get from this fragrance, too, as the drydown doesn't really go anywhere from there. It becomes a little powdery - the heliotrope - after hours and hours, but that's it. I was really digging on Gucci fragrances - Envy, Rush, the first EDP - until this one came out, and since its appearance I feel the house's "edge" has disappeared in terms of scents that best express the brand. Gucci EDP II completely lacks the sense of provocative, on-the-verge-of-scandalous attitude that the other "Tom Ford Gucci" scents possess. Compositions like this one are the antithesis of what I look to Gucci for when it comes to fragrance!

    26 September, 2005

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    Raspberry Fantasy by Body Fantasies

    A nice fruit scent, nothing mind-blowingly special but completely acceptable. The actual raspberry note is not all that pronounced; it is fortified with both apple and peach notes, both of which drown out the raspberry somewhat. Also, the berry is not completely "true" - it has a less-than-realistic quality to it. Personally, I think the raspberry note is a particularly hard one to get right - I've smelled some that reek of powdered drink mixes, others like this that are a touch flat and plastic. But for the $5 and change a big bottle of this body spray costs, it's difficult to complain. When in doubt, you can certainly layer it with other scents - blended with the Body Fantasies Vanilla is an especially nice combination and it works well with other vanillas, too. Or, there's always the old standby - use it as a room freshener! It's actually nicer than a lot of others out there.

    26 September, 2005

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    Scent Gloss by Costume National

    Seems to have potential at first but dissolves into something quite dull. A basic blend of orchid, musk and - depending on who you ask - also rose and/or violet and/or blackberry. Really just a straight-out semi-exotic type of floral balanced on a neutral musk base. Neither here nor there. The "scent color" for Gloss is supposed to be shimmering pink taffeta, but in my head I see a sheer dusky purple fabric that neither shimmers nor sparkles. Costume National scents always disappoint me, I'm sorry to say; I appreciate the brand's fashion but fragrance-wise, not a good label for me. Everything in the line, including this Scent Gloss, is very one-note and lacking in imagination and inspiration. Not truly bad, just boring.

    26 September, 2005

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    Wonderfleur (original) by Mark

    Zzzzz...a dully generic floral with a vaguely sour character. If there's anything wonder about this fleur, I'm definitely missing it. The notes - mango (which I believe imparts that sourness - it's not a good quality mango), florals, greens and patchouli - don't give you much to work with in terms of description. The florals, I'm guessing, are mostly peony and maybe some standard-issue rose and jasmine; the greens are anybody's guess. The patchouli, on the other hand, is present and accounted for and lends the base of this fragrance a distinct note - of garden variety dirt. It's not incredibly strong but not hidden, either. I do like some of Mark's other scents - Hollywood Pink, for one, is really pretty nice, not exceptional but powdery and semi-gourmand. Wonderfleur, though, is a big disappointment and one I would not recommend even if it is very well priced.

    26 September, 2005

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    Dzing! by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this scent -- it's absolutely my favorite, of all perfumes and such that i've ever owned! We're talking the top of my top-ten... D'Zing! feels RICH and SEXY: rich as saffron -- worth more than it's weight in gold, folks -- sexy and seductive from the sandalwood and animalistic qualities. (However, those animalistic notes make it inappropriate for the office, especially on women such as myself.) Absolutely no yucky-soapy-blah notes, it's interesting and warm and complex. But please note: my body chemistry makes Drakkar Noir smell sweet and feminine -- perfume is different for everyone!

    26 September, 2005

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    Balkis by Nicolaï

    Interesting enough to own but not in my top-ten, Balkis STARTS as surupy-sweet, and then settles into a nice cassis-currant, still sweet but not too cloying. (The official description says raspberries, but I'm getting cassis instead, and very little rose.) On some days Balkis seems "berry" refreshing, on others, sort of synthetic or soapy. My body chemistry can make male colognes go sweeter and creamier than intended (i'm a woman), so I think that's why the pepper and base notes in Balkis virtually disappear on me. This scent will definitely shape-shift over a wearing, with a very nice dry-down.

    26 September, 2005

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    Jacinthe des Bois by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    I have a feeling the previous reviewer didn't give this more than two minutes... right out of the bottle, wet, yes it smells sharply-green and not-so-great... but after 2-5 minutes: Perfection! The hyacinth is there, lovely and pure, complemented by carnation and jasmine, with its spicy floral quality delicately tempered by (I think) cedarwood. There is also a ferny-green, almost ozone note, which IMO makes it appropriate for young wearers (i'm in my 20s). There is both gentle subtly and complexity. Jacinthe des Bois is the ONLY light-floral that i can wear that doesn't go too-soapy or headachey or powdery; it's in my top-ten faves because it's so different than everything else I can usually wear. An AAA+++++ scent! .... p.s. please note: my body chemistry makes Drakkar Noir smell sweet and feminine -- perfume is different for everyone!

    26 September, 2005

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    Joop! Homme by Joop!

    This smells like 18 kinds of jungle ass. You wont like it unless you like smells that wait until your not looking, tap you on the shoulder and smack you in the face so hard that head almost comes off. I've heard that Joop in the proper proportion can cause brain damage.

    26 September, 2005

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    Woodhue for Men by Fabergé

    This is without a doubt...The king of the woody fragrances. It was an instant classic in it's day. And you can find it on ebay, once in a while. But it's very expensive and rare. That said...It's simply the best woody fragrance ever made...Hence the name...Woodhue.

    26 September, 2005

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    21 Club by 21 Club

    Woody and strong...But great! It's very hard to find...Not expensive...Just hard to find. But a woody cologne of great quality, warmth, and staying power. Worth a try if you can find it.

    26 September, 2005

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    Eau du Sud by Annick Goutal

    Hands down my favorite verbena scent, which is saying something from someone who grew up on YSL's pour Homme. This dries down to an herbal accord (mint and basil) that contrasts brilliantly with the slight tartness of the verbena. Better longevity than Eau d'Hadrien is another plus.

    26 September, 2005

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    Oscar de la Renta pour Lui by Oscar de la Renta

    Powerful, heady stuff, this is a traditional French cologne with plenty of sillage. Works better in formal situations and in late fall or winter, as it is heavy with woods and spices. I've had this in my wardrobe for over 20 years and can't imagine being without it.

    26 September, 2005

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    Vétiver by Annick Goutal

    This is one where first impressions can be deceiving. Initial application yields a bit of a harsh, discordant mess that takes a few minutes to settle down. But the result is worth the wait. One of the greener and saltier vetivers around, this is a different interpretation than Guerlain's, which is more citrusy and peppery, Floris' and Creed's (1948) versions, which are lighter and brighter, and Villoresi's, which has more prominant woods. A worthy addition to any vetiver lover's wardrobe.

    26 September, 2005

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    Francesco Smalto pour Homme by Francesco Smalto

    C'mon, gentlemen, admit it, we all have one less renowned fragrance in our arsenal that gets more compliments than any of our Creeds, Guerlains, Carons and Chanels. Smalto's original, which was my signature scent for most of the '90s, is mine. A complex and smooth blend of citrus, spices and leather, it is suitable for office or romance and can be used year 'round. A damn shame it has been discontinued, though it is still reasonable easy to find.

    26 September, 2005

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    Sweden Sweden

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    Chaos by Donna Karan

    Unadulterated brilliance. Don't have the energy to go on a rant about the virtues of Chaos now, but let's just say its one of the most smooth, slick, mellow, creamy and spicy leather based scents out there. Like a big piece of suede sprinkled with saffron and cinnamon. Heavenly.

    26 September, 2005

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    Green Tea by Elizabeth Arden

    Works fine as a uni-sex refreshing mist for the summer holidays. Forget the fancy pyramid, this is green tea and citrus, very effervescent. No staying power here, use it like a splash or tonic.

    26 September, 2005

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    Teint de Neige by Lorenzo Villoresi

    The colour of snow is white, as is the colour of powder. And surely Teinte de Neige is the most powdery fragrance ever created, the description even reads: "The essence of perfumed powders". This of course makes it a bit odd, not very manly for example. I still appreciate this one in an abstract way and wouldn't mind having a scented candle of it. Too "MUCH" for personal wear though.

    26 September, 2005

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    L'Air du Temps by Nina Ricci

    Apparently the good Baron de Charlus finds L'Air du Temps angelic. Well if this is the aroma of angels, then please send me to hell right away! If anyone wants to describe that nasty smell of old ladies OD-ing on their perfume - just remember the name of this atrocity. This is really terrible and should be forbidden ASAP. Powder overload with ghastly florals, get it away from me!

    26 September, 2005

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    Lily of the Valley by Woods of Windsor

    Probably the truest rendition available of this lovely flower. It's not a one noter though, some supporting citrus and roses in there to. Not for guys obviously, but there is a huge supporting line with fine soaps etc. that can be used by everyone.
    Check out: http://www.woodsofwindsor.co.uk/fragrnce.php?fragID=2
    for the entire range.

    26 September, 2005

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