Perfume Reviews

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One Man Show by Jacques Bogart

One Man Show must be one of the most audacious names for a masculine fragrance I have ever seen, to the point of initially staying away from it when I first saw the stuff in mall perfume kiosks. I assumed it sold to that narcissistic set of guys that believe in the "Three F's" and no, I won't spell out what they are, but when it and it's house of Jacques Bogart kept coming up in recommendations from fellow basenotes users, I decided to let my gaurd down to try it. Unsurprisingly, this is a loud "typical 80's" aromatic chypre of the "powerhouse" sub-genre, but unlike it's name, isn't quite so brash to actually wear. Those who have worn the previous Bogart by Jacques Bogart (1975) will instantly understand this as a progression on that theme. Perfumer Roger Pellegrino took the biker-meets-boardroom appeal of that debut masculine and cut away all safety restraints, bolstering the top notes and cutting out the leather. I'm not saying this is a flanker, but just a continuation of a dry, aromatic theme in a more boisterous and noticeable direction.

One Man Show opens with bergamot, basil, stiff galbanum, and rosewood, which outside the last one is a pretty grassy, male-centric arrangement. The heart of jasmine and rose is the only real counterpoint to that masculinity, and when the virile base kicks in with a loud woosh, you'll instantly know if you over-applied because all eyes will be on you as it dries down. Castoreum, labdanum, both cedar and sandalwood, plus a dollop of amber touch off the experience. There is surprisingly no oakmoss listed by Bogart, but unless I've lost all sense of smell, I swear some is there. One Man Show sits squarely between Aramis Devin (1978) with it's galbanum overload, and the endless forest of Quorom by Antonio Puig (1981). There is a slight skank to the opening too, so fans of Kouros (1981) and Lapidus Pour Homme (1987) will appreciate the lack of subtlety here, while users of the more dapper Dunhill Edition (1984) will find redemption in the interplay of cedar and sandalwood base notes.

One Man Show is a proper powerhouse that delivers on all fronts for the man still wishing to make this kind of aggressive statement in the 21st century, although more moderate guys might relegate this to the history books because unlike other early 80's classics such as Oscar de la Renta Pour Lui (1981), this one has "no chill" and eschews balance in favor of projection. It sits confident and uncaring if you approve or not, but despite that stance, has spawned a half-dozen flankers and still surprisingly does sell. It's certainly no fumigator like Joop! Homme (1989), but if you wear this anywhere except outside on a cold winter day, people WILL notice you, and just like the title of the juice, you will indeed become your own "One Man Show". Recommended use is obviously cold months, but this really has no context that suits it best outside a vintage 80's nightclub or a brisk walk in February, on the waterfront. You'll be the only out there anyway, so what does it matter? I love scents that encapsulate a period or personality, so I give it 4 stars and thumbs up, but I also realize this is for the serious enthusiasts only nowadays, which suits me fine.
20th February, 2018

Neroli Portofino Acqua by Tom Ford

This is such a beautiful and happy scent.

Perhaps it could be just a bit stronger.

Great stuff. I'm glad I purchased a bottle.
20th February, 2018

Yohji Homme by Yohji Yamamoto

Yohji Homme by Yohji Yamamoto came at a time when the gourmand was just starting to pick up steam on the men's side of the fragrance spectrum, and as one of the final products of legendary perfumer Jean Kerleo before he left Patou (who created Yohji Yamamoto's scents at first), this gets a big push by collectors and enthusiasts. It's an unlikely hero to the fans of Kerleo to be fair, as most of his past masculine scent work seemed to be arguably more traditional in construction, or at least built upon tradition. Yohji Homme was frankly as much the opposite of traditional men's perfumery as one might get in 1999, even compared to the citric ozonics and aquatics of the day. Yohji Homme, as the male counterpart to Yohji (1996); a feminine gourmand that also can be labelled unisex in some ways, didn't seem to take a hard-line stance on it's own gender assignment, which is perhaps part of it's appeal. We were in a new age of deliberately-marketed unisex perfume thanks to the success of Calvin Klein's CK1 (1994), but both Yohji scents made by Kerleo could be enjoyed interchangeably by either sex, despite who they were "meant for", as I see quite a few men sing praises about the perfume, plus vice-versa with women and this. It should also be of important note that this was touched up by perfumer Olivier Pescheux to meet IFRA standards after Patou gave up the license and Yohji Yamamoto relaunched these on his own in 2012 (only to see them discontinued one more final time a few years later).

Yohji Homme opens with bergamot, sage, juniper berry, cinnamon, cardamom, and a very famous licorice note. Some folks cite lavender as being in this, but I can't really detect it myself amidst all the spice and herbs. The middle is quite boozy with a rum note that then later hands you coffee for the hangover it will give you, and geranium lingers in the background before it all dries in a bootstrap type of leather, with soft musk and patchouli keeping it warm and sensual. Cedar is the final detectable note here, and it's another drying counterpoint, keeping the musk and rum from being cloying. It's a much better-balanced and blended gourmand than many later ones created in it's wake, particularly more commercial ones like Spark by Liz Claiborne (2003) or Bod Man Body Heat by Parfums de Coeur (2007) that both go strait for sweet and warm with no mercy. Yohji Homme instead plays off it's own mystique, being sweet at times, then dry and earthy, seductive with it's warmth but also light enough on it's feet for diplomacy in an office setting. It's far from a generalist scent but it has enough angles to do more than smell pretty, no pun intended. I feel this deliberately acts like a tease on skin, making you satisfied with the first impression, but also contemplating what it would do if you got closer to the person wearing it; the stuff walks that fine knife's edge between casual and romantic, much like some of my other favorite past scents such as Avon Black Suede (1980) and Chanel Pour Monsieur Eau de Toilette Concentrée (1989), which are both sexy without trying to be.

Yohji Homme's cedar and fairly heavy synthetic white musk note interplay also recalls Jõvan Ginseng N.R.G. (1998) even if they are worlds apart in construction otherwise, plus Avon would seemingly take a stab at Yohji Homme with a gourmand/fougère hybrid called Intrigue (2001), replacing some notes with barbershop staples and going both way darker/drier and more clearly defined as masculine, which removes much of the charming subtlety of the idea Kerleo presents here. Yohji is a fine fall/winter/early spring scent, and is quite literally the perfect gourmand for somebody who doesn't -really- want that typical gourmand feel of coming across as baked goods or a fruit basket when wearing it. I'd say this is one of the better blended, sophisticated, and balanced scents not only of it's genre, but of it's decade, standing apart from all the mega-linear "ocean in a bottle" scents that were littering the fragrance counters in the 90's, plus all the "olfactory dessert" scents which arrived in the 2000's. It's not for every person nor every occasion, but it's fascinating blend of bright spice, dry woods and leather wrapped in soft musk will keep you sniffing. So far as I can tell no aesthetic changes were intentionally made by Pescheux when he adjusted Kerleo's original formula, since there's only one entry for this fragrance here, so any version will do. Try a mini-sized tube before you spend no modest sum for a full bottle, which is comically also a tube, just much larger.
20th February, 2018
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Vetiver Veritas by Heeley

A burst of grapefruit for about 10 seconds and then it jumps back and hides behind the vetiver and just sneaks a peek once in a while...The mint is also just barely there...what we have is vetiver in all its rooty/dirty/soily glory...i like vetiver, but this ones just so so...smelled a lot of other vetivers that i enjoyed a lot more than this...
20th February, 2018

Ginseng N.R.G. by Jovan

Ginseng N.R.G. is a reinvention of the long-gone but once popular "ginseng" fragrance trope of the 1970's that was the evolution of the "oriental" fougères of the 60's (not to be confused with the oriental fragrance category). Jõvan had a heavy contender in that category with the aptly titled Jõvan Ginseng (1975), but when Quintessence sold to Coty, everything but Jõvan's top titles were dropped. I'm guessing the "N.R.G." in this scent's name stems from the word "energy", and there is a degree of kinetics here, especially in the play between top and heart notes, but this is really nothing like the original, albeit merit-worthy in it's own way. Coty sort of milks Jõvan for revenue from it's biggest classics, as the company helped pioneer mainstream fragrances with musk as the primary theme. It's other big 1990's hit was Jõvan White Musk (1990), which was a clean, simple redressing of the same synthetic musk note forming the basis of the original 70's monster. Ginseng N.R.G., although it's own release, could very well just be another flanker.

The diminutive fragrance only available in a 1oz bottle opens with typical lemon, bergamot, that 90's darling known as fig, and an interesting green tea note. This is likely on purpose as ginseng is often taken orally with green tea, so most folks may associate one as smelling like the other due to that format. From there, we get to the noticeable ginseng root itself, which is surrounded by dry geranium, earthy tonka, jasmine, and carries us into "sheer woods" which to me smells like a synthetic cedar/guaiac/sandlewood blend. The drydown ends in a very voluminous musk note with amber accompaniment that makes this otherwise soft and bright ginseng-themed scent very sensual. It's a rare breed of "clean" and "sexy" that is typically advertised to be contained in a bottle of epically failing body spray, but in this case really do exist in tandem. It's a ginseng and green tea-themed musk, very groovy for the guys out there missing their old bottles of Jade East (1963) or Hai Karate (1967). Honestly, I catch a strong correlation to Avon Tai Winds (1972), but I'm sure that's coincidence because of the stiff tonka and musk.

When I owned this, I used to get oodles of compliments, in fact so many they became unwanted attention. Years ago I worked a retail gig, and during my first Avon phase, I picked this little bottle up for peanuts (and it still sells for peanuts), because of it's holographic label (I was an idiot), and became shocked at how much everyone around me loved it. People would ask me what I was wearing, multiple times a day, every day I wore it, and it became overbearing to the point I stopped. Couple that with the fact that it's particular mix of perky ginseng, tea, bergamot, and rich musk was also a huge headache-inducer for me, and I saw little further use for it, giving my bottle away circa 2005. It's not a terrible scent but feels redundant if you own Jõvan White Musk for Men (1990), or really any 90's fresh/clean citrus/woods/musk ensemble easily found on shelves. For a cheap mostly-inoffensive thrill with lots of go-getting potential, you can do worse, as this is living up to the Jõvan reputation in that regard, but can also do a lot better.
20th February, 2018

Gillette Cool Wave by Gillette Series

Gillette may be more known for their razors and the catchy "The Best a Man Can Get" slogan, but if one ever takes a look at their deodorants, shave creams, and body washes, one will find this popular scent as a selection among them. Yes, this began life as part of an aftershave series called "Gillette Series" and one can expect a similar if slightly above-average longevity from it's castor oil-infused fragrance compounds, but it's really quite respectable, and even good considering. Cool Wave came on the heels of aquatics, ozonics, and "fresh" fougères, so it does give off a bit of a "focus group" kind of a smell where you can tell it was meant to appeal for folks that would probably use one of those, but it has a richer and drier backbone to accompany it's freshness that actually makes it a stand-out from other conventional 1990's company, which is an amazing feet for a commercial after shave.

The opening of Cool Wave is perhaps it's biggest claim to fame: a rain-soaked woods and citrus melange that imparts a dewy vibe in the beginning, not quite oceany like the packaging suggests, but certainly living up to the name. The dry down becomes something a bit richer and drier than that opening, with hints of leather and probably vetiver, not unlike Coty Preferred Stock (1990) but dialed down and not sweet. It's residual musk note comes out in the end and allows this to cling on skin far longer than otherwise. If you're anything like me, you might apply it all over and make day wear out of it, a task at which it satisfactorily performs in warmer months. The product is honestly meant to be a finishing touch to a suite of Cool Wave-scented grooming accessories, so if true sillage and longevity is what you want, you'll have to use all the products in concert. Granted, guys who love older aromatics, chypres, powerhouses, and musks will probably hate this, so I'm not saying it's a must-have piece for any vintage fan, despite it's 1993 launch date.

Cool Wave is a reminder that traditional after shave lotions can be executed in a contemporary manner, and although most of the others in this series have died away, Cool Wave remains relevant as ever. It provides crisp, dynamic, well-designed cleanliness that presaged many of the citrus/woody/musk ozonics that would arrive at the end of the decade. Try saying that about any old aftershave, I bet you can't! Besides, despite everything said, you really can't beat the asking price here, which places the stuff at retail amounts lower than Tag, Axe, Bod and Old Spice aerosols for a 3.4oz/100ml GLASS bottle of something that is easily higher quality and longer lasting, while still -just- being an aftershave! If it isn't the best a man can get (and I doubt anything is), it's at least one of the best values out there.
20th February, 2018

Ambre Nuit by Christian Dior

So many notes to like.

Ambre Nuit is a classy-spicy-boozy-amber scent that features rose as the star note. Definitely getting a nice understated rose in the initial sprays but then into the drydown, the rose becomes the headliner while all the other notes play complementary roles.

Sometimes I feel like it's an unmistakably masculine scent, while other times it leans feminine. It's enjoyable throughout, all the way into the sweet-ambery finish that still clings to that rose note.

Not a beast but it does project nicely and has very good longevity on my skin, lasts all day.
19th February, 2018 (last edited: 20th February, 2018)

Clubman by Pinaud

Stardate 20180219:

I got this cause everyone raves about it and cause I loved Special reserve. This is actually a scrubber. The idea is nice but the composition has a skunky smell that just makes it horrible. Wearing it today and everyone here hates it. Need to take another shower to get this off.
Maybe reformulation killed it. Threw it in the toilet and now everyone is upset cause it is stinking up the house
Avoid this and get the Special reserve instead.
19th February, 2018

Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile by Acqua di Parma

I expected more iris. Unfortunately I get too much citrus from this one. It's not a bad fragrance. It just lacks the floral I wanted. I only get mild iris, orange blossom, and ylang ylang. Not much of a base here either. Feminine, pretty, and perfect for a work environment. This surely wouldn't offend anyone.
19th February, 2018

Satisfaction for Men by Jovan

By looking at the notes tree you would have no indication this was an olfactory disaster waiting to destroy your nose, but unleashed from it's spray comes an attempt to relight the passionate fires that once was Jovan's stock and trade in the 70's, but sadly is no more as a part of the Coty umbrella of companies. Coty still operates Jovan like it's founders Barry Shipp and Bernie Mitchell, by making everything the company produces about getting laid, but in 21st century mainstream culture this no longer yields respectable results since we've been decades since mass-market fragrances stopped being obviously virile, mostly because "clean" and "fresh" still rule the roost with an iron fist. So too have most of the ingredients that used to allow for such virility been restricted, or become too expensive to use outside niche houses (hello oakmoss and sandalwood), making any earnest attempt at sensuality limited to gourmand and oriental concoctions, which this is not. Jovan Satisfaction for Men brings us a fairly textbook fougère but "sexed up" in ways that actually deliver nausea-inducing results. It's quite a shame really as I really wanted to like a modern original non-flanking effort from this house since I find all their down-to-business sex juice from the 70's charming in it's lack of pretense.

Satisfaction abuses a grapefruit opening like many masculines from the napalm decade of the 2000's, but tries to soften the blow to your nose with basil and quince, which in part do just that, however not without adding a weird medicinal quality because of the basil. The heart of cardamom, rosemary, and cedarwood furthers this "Doc Holiday's Cure-All" sort of medicinal tonic feel, and the nauseating quality of citrus and what are essentially food herbs bring about a recollection of tomato bisque which is not something you want to think of when wearing a supposedly sensual fragrance. The cedar would have been better if it was sandalwood, because then a smoother, softer transition to the base would result, but since that would be too expensive, we instead get a strange hamster cage cedar chip note that just furthers the upchuck factor until the amber, tonka, and labdanum take over. The base does the best job it can warming and smoothing out the helacious mess that is the top and heart, but there is just too much conflict with dry culinary herbs, the weapons-grade grapefruit note stolen from a token Y2K ozonic, and the cedar which by itself isn't at fault, but when combined with the rest smells like your pet guinea pig was trying to make an aperitif in his cage while you were sleeping. Heavy citrus, herbs, spice, and sharp woods, performing a struggle-snuggle on a bed of fougère base notes is what you get here folks.

There's just such cacophony here it's really hard to believe this left the lab as a finished product, and carrying the Jovan name at that. Granted, later products have really gone into more exploratory directions with unisex single note selections and new flankers to classic lines, so it's not like Coty was out to destroy the reputation of this shaggin' wagon of a brand, since the original musk STILL sells hand-over-foot besides being more out-dated than a Nehru jacket and platforms, so we can let this slide. The feminine version of this is a completely different story, and although a bit dated for it's original 2010 release, sat respectably alongside other older Jovan feminines. There were a few other fragrances both designer and drugstore that also tried this fusion of herbs, woods, and citrus with a warm afterglow, but they were successful unless this, which quite literally smells like the upchuck I keep eluding to, at least on my skin. I had to scrub this immediately and my bottle sat in the cabinet, with maybe 1 or 2 more attempted wearings before it was given away. I don't typically go at length to review things I don't like, because recalling the experience takes me to a bad place in my mind, but if nothing else, this review serves as a "turn back before it's too late" for somebody that buys this banking on Jovan's otherwise cheeky but effective reputation for romantic drugstore fragrance. This one is definitely a case of Jovan Dissatisfaction.
19th February, 2018

Égoïste / L'Égoïste by Chanel

Égoïste, like most Chanel masculines, is a watershed fragrance among hobbyists and collectors, while just a damned good scent for everyone else, with a lot of history leading up to it's creation. Chanel's own personal historians claim it is a masculine take on the venerable Bois de Iles (1926), which itself was the first notable woodsy perfume for women and second collaboration between Coco Chanel herself and perfumer Ernest Beaux. Just as Bois de Iles had to follow up the epic Chanel No. 5 (1921), Égoïste had to follow up it's own creator's high precedent too, since it was made by Jacques Polge, a perfumer who made the 2nd Chanel masculine Antaeus (1981), and would be the house perfumer for the designer well into the next century. Times had changed greatly since the release of Antaeus, and it's mossy, virile, and assertively masculine style were out to the pastures by the end of the 1980's, which is something Chanel was likely to be acutely aware of when development began on this in 1987 under a different name: Bois Noir. Most folks who follow Égoïste closely enough will sort this out in an evening, but it's impossible to review this without touching on the importance of the now-unicorn-status prototype which was the test bed for this. Bois Noir was sold only domestically in France at first upon launch in 1987, then rolled out a year later to the US as a limited-edition to presumably also test it's marketability to a larger western market, then retooled after feedback was given into what became Égoïste. May I also mention that this name was given only because Chanel thought "Bois Noir" sounded too boring for the male market? Otherwise, it may have just been reformulated and kept the name.

Some will say Bois Noir was a truer representation of a male equivalent to Bois de Iles, the superior version of Égoïste that should have never been changed, and others will say it was simply a heavier but ultimately less exciting prototype that is over-hyped due to it's rarity and expense in the second-hand market, but both arguments are the result of the eternal "haves and have nots" conflict found in any hobby, and honestly neither answer is wrong depending on one's own experience whether that includes owning/sampling a bottle of Bois Noir or not. Égoïste is either a refinement or an alteration of Bois Noir depending on how you feel, but regardless, it is still a male interpretation of Bois de Iles all the same, which was the original intent. The scent opens with tangerine and rosewood, which don't stick around long because the focus here is sandalwood. Like many sandalwood-themed masculines, the ingredients surrounding the primary note are used to compliment, sustain, and project it out more, and such is the case here: the sandalwood appears within minutes and is supported by coriander, rose, and held in place by dry vanilla and ambrette seed. It's one of the few masculines that has a dry vanilla that serves only to preserve warmth, and not ensconce the base in fatty sweetness -which is good in the right context mind you- but such richness wouldn't be balanced here so thankfully it was left out. Égoïste sort of presaged a movement of clean, dry orientals throughout the 90's that ran alongside the aquatics, ozonics, and "fresh" fougères of the day, but with the years of research and testing going into this, it's unsurprising.

Égoïste helped ease the transition from the old guard of aromatic fougères, oakmoss powerhouses, heavy leather/tobacco chypres, orientals, and musks that plumed off shirt collars in the 70's and 80's, by being both friendly to guys endeared to them as well as younger fellas finding this first. Égoïste was the perfect sequel to Polge's own Antaeus, which would by 1990 seem too forceful to those younger folks who enjoyed Cool Water (1988) and Eternity for men (1989). Even if Bois Noir technically preceded them both, it was a market experiment and Égoïste was the final product of that experiment, so Chanel if nothing else could be credited with having foresight other houses did not, as some were still pumping out powerhouses doomed to obscurity into the 90's. It's bright, clean, dry, and fireplace-warm presentation of sandalwood smells just as appropriate in the 21st century as it did the late 20th, and much like Chanel Pour Monsieur (1955), will always be a classy timeless alternative to the "hip and now" for guys who want to smell composed without compromise. It's not entirely without sensuality, but I'm thinking more of a ballroom atmosphere than a night club with this one, even though I'm sure it ended up in them when initially released due to the insane popularity resulting from what was then Chanel's biggest commercial push since No. 5. I see it as having one's cake and eating it too: it's inoffensive enough for any environment save maybe a sweltering summer day, but has more personality and charm than anything else in the market that could also be described as inoffensive. It's a warm hug from a dear friend, bottled and brought to you by Chanel. Enjoy.
19th February, 2018

A*Men Pure Wood by Thierry Mugler

Thumbs up for the smell but I am always surprised at how average the performance is of Pure Wood. It doesn't match up with other heavy hitters in the A*Men lineup in regards to projection and longevity.

Moving on to the smell, it's actually the most accessible and easy to wear A*Men scent for me. This could be an everyday scent in cooler months, it's that agreeable and nice. I get plenty of the familiar coffee and vanilla in the original A*Men but there's not as much tar note, if any. It's replaced by a pleasant, if not generic woody accord that's just fine by me because it's mixes with the other notes so well.

This is right up there with Pure Malt as a favorite of the line but the lack of performance keeps Pure Wood from being the leader of the group.
19th February, 2018

Flora Psychedelica by 4160 Tuesdays

A fantastic sharp floral, with a strong smell of fresh pollen-rich flowers. It mostly smells like lilies to me.
18th February, 2018
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Beautiful by Estée Lauder

A beautiful, deep floral. Lots of rose and tuberose. I think it's a heavier flower scent, more suited for wintertime. Has a woody, green base. One of Estee lauder's classics.
18th February, 2018

Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford

Boozy vanilla, tobacco, something sweet and fruity like a plum or raisin covered in cocoa powder.

Good projection, can get compliments with even minimal sprays, which is probably better because it can be overwhelming.

Excellent longevity. Lasts all day and you can still smell it the next day.
18th February, 2018
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Windsor by Creed

The slightly boozy opening in delicious, with the fresh lime being given additional depth and substance by the woodsy pine undertone.

The drydown develops a lovely rose, which soon is overwhelmed by an intensive, nigh Hammam-Bouquet (the original vintage)-style tuberose, which is not too waxy. Far a while this tuberose is quite the dominant note in my skin.

Cedar and eucalyptus are indeed evident in the base, but the balance is tilted towards the cedar in me. In the first version of Windsor the drydown and the base had a more green touch, which made is rather special indeed.

I get moderate sillage, good projection and five hours of longevity on my skin.

This scent for spring and cooler summer days is beautifully blended in high-quality natural ingredients. I prefer the first original version.
Personally speaking, this is one of my favourites for Royal Ascot. 4/5 for the original, 3.75/5 for the second release.
18th February, 2018

Starring for Men by Avon

The obtuse and experimental 90's period for Avon's masculine scent division bore some rather forgettable fruit, but not because their creations at the time were boring; it was quite the contrary of boring during this decade to be sure, as Avon was pulling out all the stops in an attempt to stay relevant after a bland and overly-commercial 80's. One thing is certain, they didn't try to hang with the "cool kids" by making tons of "fresh" Fougères, aquatics, or ozonics, even if there was a bizarre mutated example from each category. Instead, we were given strange mashups between conventional and cutting-edge, as if their perfumers were looking for unique angles to explore at the cost of good taste. Granted, if you like strange and niche versions of common masculine tropes, then 1990's Avon is a treasure trove to explore for sure, and Starring for Men is one of the finest examples of such esoterica from the time yielding very wearable results. Starring for men is a 1997 fougère and oriental hybrid like it's predecessor Mesmerize for Men (1992) , which Avon seemed fond of producing throughout the 90's and would again the following year with Far Away for Men (1998). Starring for Men was definitely among the richest and most oriental-like of these hybrids, and could almost be just classified as an oriental if not for a few glaring top notes. The overall effect of this contrast is a phenomenal old-world barbershop opening and a creamy sweet dry down that would put a lot of niche houses to shame. Considering who made it, when it came out, and how it was (or wasn't) marketed, Starring for Men came at a time when niche perfumers hadn't yet snuck into malls and people weren't ready to revisit antique styles.

Starring for Men opens with mandarin and apple like mesmerize, but feels like a richer "Mark II" version of that opening with the additional heft of bergamot and nutmeg tacked on in the top notes. The warm and soft opening is almost reminiscent of Paul Sebastian Fine Cologne (1979), but a touch more piquant. Starring then follows far more oriental lines than PS and goes way richer on the heart notes, with dry sage counterbalancing cardamom and a thick bay rum note before finishing in vanilla and musk. The vanilla and musk present here are very fatty indeed, more so than even vintage Canoe by Dana (1936), and the dry down of Starring for Men will stay to skin and create an amazingly radiant glow of spice attached to that bottom end for hours. The stuff will leave a trail if sprayed on shirt, but the top notes will stay around far longer and it will almost feel like you're wearing two different scents when you do so, but if this one has any failing at all, it's that this step will prove necessary if you want it more than a skin scent past the first hour. Avon is ultimately a price-conscious perfumer, or at least they were at the time, and it's evident here in this cologne's ability to hang around all day, but not have decent silliage. Starring for men is odd in that it's clearly an exercise in antiquated male perfumery, just in hybrid form, since it's a direct smashing of a classic fougère top sans the lavender, and the early 80's male oriental, without the tobacco, leather, or olibdanum/labdanum that usually finds it's way in.

It's quite elegant in it's simplicity, which is perhaps the only thing in line with the 1990's, since that was the decade of simpler design. Starring for Men makes a great winter time work scent if you're outdoors and need something that cuts the wind, but also great evening wear in a romantic setting. Nobody is going to realize this stuff is from the 90's, let alone Avon, by the way it smells, and it really is one of the best kept secrets from that decade that probably only failed because of, once again, who released it, how it was marketed, and when it was released. Timing means so much in the perfume world, as relevance makes or breaks anything if it's not deliberately niche. I do take issue with the rather nondescript bottle, which to my eyes looks like it could easily house a feminine oriental from the 1930's, let alone a masculine one from 1997. Seriously, the fluted bottle, gold cap, art-deco design, and thick glass would have you think this was an early pre-war California Perfume Company product, if not for the fact that they stuck with florals until the postwar period when they fully embraced the Avon name for the entire company. This one is definitely out of time, but it's a strange beauty rather than just plain strange like most of the things Avon shucked to men during this period. This is one of the few Avon scents that I'll advise going easy on the trigger until it dries, as it is every bit forceful as that note period suggests coming out of the sprayer. Great stuff!
18th February, 2018

El Cosmico by D.S. & Durga

El Cosmico is D.S.& Durga's interpretation of the atmosphere and evening air at the namesake Marfa Texas hotel and campsite that resides on the wild edge between civilization and the high plains desert. This same aroma is found in many of the desert southwest communities when the sun goes down as piñon and dried mesquite smoke fills the cool night air with cleansing smokey resin drifting from campfire and kiva with a smudge of shamanic essence. El Cosmico smells smokey and dusty with resinous bold notes from piñon, khella and creosote. The appeal of a fragrance like this is not its beauty, but that it transports you to a specific time and place that has a not so familiar and wild adventurous spirit. Many of D.S. Durga fragrances have this same outdoor spirit, but most are easier to wear than this one. El Cosmico is a wild gnarly aroma of piñon pine and burnt creosote. I like the imagery and creativity of this fragrance but I won't wear it because its abrasive character is just slightly off the mark for me.
18th February, 2018

Dark Side of the Goddess by Anna Zworykina Perfumes

Aromatic notes, nutmeg and light resins joined in to a "flat" vegetal accord. Dark Side of the Goddess opens with an "O'driuesque" humid-culinary herbal blast exalting prevalently spicy bay, woodsy resins, herbal notes and myrtle-oil (jump on mind partially Linfedele 1003, Londa 1006, Vis et Honor etc). There is a sort of wet minty-medicinal vibe all around for a while (mostly provided by bay, aromatic plants and myrtle oil). Aromatic ingredients, green dampness, leafy/minty floral patterns and resins are heady on this stage. Well calibrated opoponax and frankincense are immediately detectable, being everything but liturgical, heavy or austere (on the contrary waving out fresh and leafy throughly). Evolution is frankly less laborious than initially expected. Olfactory consistency and "craftamanship" turn immediately out as artisanal and alchemic prerogatives. The final wake is still spicy, vaguely medicinal and delicately floral. Nothing dark or austere under my mediocre nose. A freshly spicy "spring-time oriented" vegetal accord for the lovers of sprouting out spring time nature.
17th February, 2018 (last edited: 18th February, 2018)

Mesmerize for Men by Avon

The 1990's was a very, very strange place for Avon fragrances, particularly in the oft-neglected men's side. The mammoth direct-seller house seemed to have given up all earnest efforts after the start of the 80's and just rehashed what must have by then been seen as ancient barbershop styles, with the only bit of solid effort coming from the designer partnership with Louis Féraud or the gaggle of celebrity/outside brand licensed stuff. If the 80's was full of sellouts and second-rates, the 90's was a decade of mad scientists controlling the perfume labs for guys, with the exception of Mesmerize. Seeing as it's the only masculine fragrance survivor from that decade, and actually outlived the feminine counterpart in some markets (much like Perceive for Men from 2000), Avon must have gotten something really, really right. Did the mad science pay off? Well it looks like for whatever reason, this wasn't subject to the weirdness that otherwise was rampant in that time. There is a small bit of strangeness here, in the fact that Mesmerize for Men is a fougère and oriental hybrid with some unusual gourmand-like notes way before that genre fully emerged, but I tend to think this was done out of frugality than innovation, since Avon's mostly anonymous perfumers compose on a budget.

The first thing one notices is the bottle reminiscent of Ralph Lauren's Polo (1978) but with an Arabian twist. This is no genie's lamp nor are you Aladdin when unstopping it, as what comes out of the gold and blue sprayer is one part convention, and one part quirky. Mandarin meets the nose first, like many richer orientals from the late 80's and early 90's, but unlike Chanel's Pour Monsieur eau de toilette Concentrée (1989) or Égoïste (1990), this marries a peculiar apple note to the orange, giving an ambrosia feel to the opening just as familiar lavender and nutmeg take up the chorus alongside some interesting florals and sage before ending in amber, tonka, musk, and sandalwood. It has the hallmarks of a late 19th century fougère like the original namesake Fougère Royale (1882), which it shares with Zino Davidoff (1986), but doesn't head into as much floral skank, supplanting it with oriental spice and woods a la the aforementioned Chanel scents that were contemporary with this. It's an unusual amount of class on display here, and while this is of the typical eau de cologne strength Avon was still keen on using for it's masculines all the up until the 2010's, it does have comparable projection to an eau de toilette due to it's heady components, just not the longevity.

Mesmerize for Men is honestly a phenomenal option for a guy that only has $15 to spend on a scent and wants the classiest option available without something really dated from a drugstore or in a plastic bottle. It can hang tight at a dinner party full of guests wearing Dior and Guerlain, but it won't pass the 6 hour mark without pulling a Cinderella and turning into a pumpkin. so take the bottle if you're making a cold-weather work scent of it. A fragrance connoisseur stocked with any of the above designer scents may find this redundant in their wardrobe, unless they collect Avon in particular, in which case they can consider this Avon's very respectful entry into the "sweet warm woods" style making the rounds in this period. It's honestly the first male-marketed oriental-ish scent Avon knocked out of the park, as 1978's Trazarra seemed a bit thin for what it tried to be and Black Suede (1980), although amazing in it's own way, relied too much on aldehydes and was more of a leather chypre for it. Apple is still a weird opener for something not specifically a gourmand, but Avon wouldn't be as endearing of an entry-level olfactory empire without it's unapologetic quirks. Mesmerize for Men spawned a litany of flankers in South America, but for most western cologne users, it's the "other one besides Wild Country (1967) and Black Suede I've heard of", which beats a blank.
17th February, 2018

Bergamote 22 by Le Labo

Similar to other fresh, green citrus scents in the style of 4711, Bergamote 22 opens up in that familiar way. I also get the musk in the opening which adds some nice depth to what I thought would be a one-dimensional fragrance. The drydown is less green lemon and more sweet lemon.

It's very clean, so can be worn formally. Probably best for summer but it's very pleasant in all climates.

Projection is slightly above average and longevity is in the 6 hour range.
17th February, 2018

Ferrari Cedar Essence by Ferrari

This is a double thumbs down.
After a mediocre fresh but jarring opening when you are thinking it could go either way in the dry down ie disaster or jackpot it takes a dive.
Think lemon fresh windowlene sprayed on Ikea varnished cedar with potpourri on top. Unfortunately is projects and lasts. Not quite a wash off job but almost.
Enough said.
Uomo is much better -if you must have a Ferrari fragrance- but that's relative only. Even the Neroli is preferable and thats cheap and cheerful but without class.

Fragrance: 1.5/10
Projection: 3/10
Longevity: 3.75/10
17th February, 2018

Gentlemen Only Absolute by Givenchy

A light improvement on the original mediocrely metallic Only. Aromatic spicy vanilla and warmer sandalwood. A fresly spicy/hesperidic light creamy sandalwood with a soapy barbeshop neo-classic (ostensibly aldehydic) vibe. Finally sweetish-amberish (still aromatic) and close to a whichever Roccobarocco Extraordinary for Men, CH 212 Sexy Man or Cuba Paris Cuba Gold.
17th February, 2018

Set Sail South Seas for Men by Tommy Bahama

South Seas seems like a unisex scent. I do get some orange but that's about it. Very weak rum note. In fact, the whole thing is very light. Becomes a skin scent very quickly for me.

Good longevity, it does hang around all day even if it is so light.
16th February, 2018 (last edited: 17th February, 2018)

Van Cleef & Arpels pour Homme by Van Cleef & Arpels

Another old-school classic that checks all the ultra-masculine marks for the overall scent. This one isn't as "stinky" though, has a certain cool, freshness to it. I also find it quite soapy.

Strong performance in projection and longevity.
16th February, 2018

Aramis 900 by Aramis

Smells similar to other old-school classics I've tried. "Soapy" and "barnyard" come to mind.

Strong projection and longevity.

16th February, 2018

Perry Ellis Oud : Saffron Rose Absolute by Perry Ellis

The opening of Saffron Rose Absolute is like other rose-oud-leather combos. Has that dry, medicinal feel but this has no sweetness and the incense-vibe that's usually with those other scents isn't as prevalent. Later the drydown is soft and woody, with a little rosey-sweetness finally coming through. Better smelled in the air than up close.

Decent projection but not as loud as those other scents from the likes of Montale. Good longevity, lasts all workday.
16th February, 2018

Oud Minérale by Tom Ford

Oud Minérale smells cold, powdery, aquatic and medicinal all at the same time. There's something that reminds me of leather as well.

Seems too heavy for summer, probably best for cooler weather.

Powerful projection and lasts more than a day.
16th February, 2018

Aqua Allegoria Anisia Bella by Guerlain

Another lovely green freshie from the AA line. Basil works well to keep the anise in check - it's a note that can easily become a little too much. Still, that note and its oriental associations make this a great frag for transitioning between seasons - lovely for early spring and the autumn. Star anise in the heart and liquorice in the base gives the opening character a longevity rarely achieved with fresh/citrus fragrances. While I get a waft of jasmine, I don't get any violet at all and I wonder whether the scent pyramid is referring to violet leaf - there's an earthiness in there, for sure, which could be violet leaf and liquorice in concert.
Decent projection, weak sillage, moderate longevity.
I think it's a lovely fragrance, although it's definitely not one of the big sellers of the AA line - I got mine for next-to-nothing on *that* auction site. I guess anise and its associates are something of an acquired taste, which is fine with me...
16th February, 2018

Vanille Insensée by Atelier Cologne

Vanilla is a scent I often struggle with, particularly boozy vanillas or anything with even a vaguely cupcakey accord. This is dry, which seems to be a far less common presentation - certainly vanilla isn't something I particularly associate with the cologne genre. As others have said, Insensee means 'insane', rather than 'incense', although I don't find madness or excess in this at all - if anything, it smells rather introverted in character, despite having decent projection; lasts well too, being a Cologne Absolue. I loved it at first sniff and, from the fact that my first sniff was from an amber-coloured, rather ancient-looking sample, I can tell you that it ages well, getting deeper and a little warmer.
It opens with a full and vibrant lime, a juicy opening for a scent which dries down papery, dusty and (as ClaireV so insightfully pointed out) with something of the Communion wafer about it. Maybe it's the lapsed Catholic in me that loves this, maybe it's the bookworm...
It works well as a base under herbal freshies, too - a great way to transition them between seasons. I definitely get a spike of vetiver in the drydown, to my nose it shows as an earthiniess below the papery accord.


Also, am I the only who just loves the Atelier bottles? Like pebbles, there's something really comforting about them in the hand - just the right weight and those rounded corners are lovely.
16th February, 2018
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