Perfume Reviews

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Uomo by Valentino

Sex Art Booze Love and
Starbucks Dark Barrel Latte.
Barista stories.
25th June, 2017

Black by Bulgari

I remember buying my first bottle of Bulgari Black, back in about 2000. I read about it in a magazine shortly after its launch; the big hype in the press centered on the tea note, which got my attention immediately, seeing as I was a tea drinker, and a lover of Lapsong souchang. This was right at the time that Sephora first opened in the US, so I headed to the brand-new store in the Houston Galleria, seeing as I could sniff and think in relative peace there, with no sales assistant staring at me while I tried to decide if I liked it or not. I figured I'd need a few visits before I made up my mind.

I don't remember what I expected, but it wasn't . . . this. It came out of the little rubber-coated bottle hitting on all four cylinders, all big, meaty, smoky, and floral in the way that tea smells floral, with an expansive quality that reminded me of redwood forests in the Pacific northwest. The rubber note felt almost like sap (which is where rubber comes from, after all). But what Black really brought to mind was the machine shop at the family business; Dad was a pipeline contractor, and the shop comprised a warehouse of lathe operators and arc welders--hot metal, cool lubricants, and the smell of shavings piling up on concrete. So there it was, a machine shop forest, or a forest in a machine shop, or vice versa. And it was--daringly--marketed primarily to women, although even the early blurbs mentioned that anyone could wear it. I fell in love with it instantly.

The best thing about Black was its aura of mystery. It smelled a little perfumey (from the jasmine on the top, which gets lost once the smoke gets going) and a lot dangerous. Plus, it cost a very reasonable 50 bucks, even at full retail. It took me about 10 seconds before I stuck one of the square black boxes in my little Sephora basket and headed for the counter. I took it home and wore it nearly every day for at least a year; it put me in a sort of friendly ass-kicking mood, which was perfect for surviving the daily insanity of living in Houston, with its batshit traffic and noxious weather.

Now, almost two decades later, I still have one vintage bottle of Black. It's on its last legs, and it breaks my heart a little every time I spray it. Reformulation removed the chewy complexity of the tea notes, exaggerated the rubber, and also brought out the vanilla/tonka accord in the base; the whole perfume went out of whack and lost the balancing act that made it so interesting. Also, unlike many reformed perfumes, the drydown of the original smells quite different: when the smoke dies down (literally), my vintage settles back into a true tea scent instead of the rubber marshmallows of the current version.

I could elegize for several more paragraphs, but it's depressing, and boring, to read reviews that moan on about the ruination of great perfumes. So I'll just say that the latest (and the last, as I believe it's discontinued) edition of Black still smells pretty good, albeit much cruder--a better masculine, perhaps, but a less compelling perfume to my nose. It's still better than 99 percent of the stuff out there, and my heart still skips a beat when I smell it on a stranger. Passionate love has faded to wistful affection. I'll miss it when it's gone.
25th June, 2017

Eau de Cologne Impériale by Guerlain

Fantastic opening, a perfect citrus Eau de Cologne smell, counterbalanced by lack of longevity.
25th June, 2017
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Oil Fiction by Juliette Has a Gun

Most of my favorite "modern" (I wish I could find a better word than that, because modern is such a loaded word, what with High Modernism, postmodernism, post-postmodernism, etc--I've tried using "contemporary" and sometimes it strikes me as a little affected, so I'm back to the m-word for now) perfumes fall into a class of uncategorizable weirdness that renders them almost impossible to write about. Oil Fiction is a great example. It offers plenty of obvious hooks on which to be hung--huge white floral, big ol' tuberose, tropical bouquet, floral oriental--but it doesn't fit into any of those. Sure, the notes indicate that's where Oil Fiction belongs, but smell the perfume, and discover exactly how unfamiliar all these well-known elements can be rendered.

It's not that Oil Fiction doesn't smell like its primary components, because it does. Dominating the perfume is a capacious tuberose on a scale that could conceivably stand toe-to-toe with Fracas, coupled with ylang-ylang to stretch it even further across the canvas, as it were. This part represents familiar enough territory; the floral materials seem excellent, and they call to mind appropriately sultry images until the rest of the perfume begins to uncurl beneath the florals--at which point, Oil Fiction whisks the wearer to a psychedelic landscape populated with freaky mechanical things nestled amid the heady jungle flowers.

I would say that something about Oil Fiction smells metallic, but that's not really accurate; after all, "metallic" usually denotes something simple, one-dimensional, and almost never pleasant--a perjorative, in short, at least in perfumespeak. Something in Oil Fiction evokes metal, but it's more than that: it's like an entire high-tech machine, with all its different layers of industrial materials, including lubricants, has come to life and has integrated itself, somehow, into the perfume's supremely fleshy florals, so that the entirety has metamorphosed into a hybrid life form made of machine and plant in a symbiotic state. I know how weird this sounds; it's science fiction stuff. But this is science fiction perfume.

Another way to look at it, I suppose, is that a clever perfumer (who remains anonymous in this case, although I have some suspicions that I'll come to in a moment) hitched a top accord of superb-quality naturals to a base of modern aromachemicals, but did it so seamlessly that it's hard to tell where one stops and other starts--not an unusual endeavor in modern perfumery, but one that's very hard to pull off with any real success. The way it's done in Oil Fiction offers the advantage of concealing the clunky aspects of what is basically a big ol' woody amber. In fact, it makes a virtue of necessity by integrating the florals and the "amber" into an accord that's unique as well as beautiful; and it adds the technical achievement of bringing together two notoriously temperamental and overpowering elements (the Big White Floral and the Big Woody Amber) and making them only not play nicely, but also seem like they were made for each other. It's like lions and lambs, or sheep and wolves, or whatever predator/prey relationship you prefer, although I'm not sure which element is which, considering how carnivorous tuberose can be. I'm gobsmacked as to the technical aspects, although I'm sure it has something to do with a massive dose of orris butter, smooth and cool and just a little green, but never rooty or powdery in this perfume.

And, I suspect in large part because of its iris content, the perfume wears like a dream. Oil Fiction is one of the few modern/contemporary/whatever you call it perfumes that I could actually sense taking flight off my skin the first time I tested it. I've read the word "flight" used in older, classical treatises on perfume composition (usually in French); and I've experienced it with rich vintage perfumes, mostly the big mamas, in parfum formulation, from the house of Patou--which leads me to conclude that a true perfume flight depends on quality florals as well as meticulous composition. The sensation I get when I first apply Oil Fiction is sort of like watching a jet switch on in a fountain; it's like a stream liquid springing up into the sky, scattering light as it goes. The bottle's sprayer doesn't really do it justice--you get a more diffused surface area, but it happens at the expense of that joyful leap. I prefer to use a sort of pour/dab method instead (judiciously, of course--this stuff is strong), which adds the benefit of a kind of swirling sillage that also evokes the great Patou classics.

The folks at Juliet Has a Gun (a house for which I have not much love, for the most part) present this perfume as a work of art, and I concur. It's a hell of an performance, worthy of titans like Joy and Le Dix. So it's strange, especially in this day and age, that Oil Fiction has no attribution. JHaG founder Riccardo Ricci may be Nina Ricci's grandson, but he's also a self-taught perfumer, and most of his house's perfumes show the kind of naive surface charm that I associate with non-classical perfume creation. However, Ricci has an angel sitting on his shoulder, and probably hanging out in his lab as well. Lady Vengeance, one of JHaG's first offerings, was composed by Ricci's friend Francis Kurkdjian, classical perfumer extraordinaire (and an artist of mind-blowing proficiency), whose hand I sense at work in Oil Fiction. The smooth transitions, the glorious florals, the flawless execution, the way the perfume seems to almost swell from within using cleverly embedded aldehydes--these are Kurkdjian hallmarks. But the real giveaway to me is the chassis of the thing; in his own work, for his own house, Kurkdjian returns with some regularity to the much-maligned metallic woody amber base, trying to tease something beautiful out of those difficult materials--coupling the bases with warm, sexy materials like he does in Grand Soir, or pointing up the base materials with little touches of sweetness like he does in Baccarat Rouge 540--a work of minimalist alchemy that I often return to out of frustration, because I can just see its beauty out of the corner of my eye--and then I blink and it's gone.

I find this notion of discovering beauty in (what I consider) ugliness extremely compelling, in art and in life. Even if Kurkdjian didn't compose Oil Fiction, it's so clearly influenced by his work that I think he still deserves credit for the ideas that drive it. I also think that Oil Fiction his (or a protege's) most successful attempt at the rendering ambrox/Evernyl/whatever presentable, an endeavor that seems kind of quixotic when I think about it. Even Grand Soir, attractive as it is, feels a little like lipstick on a pig to me (perhaps because it's an amber; I don't know); and Baccarat Rouge is, to my nose, literally great on paper but not so much on living skin. Oil Fiction manages that rarest of things: it's bizarre, unique, and cerebral; but it's also as familiar as even your strangest dreams, as comfortable as a sculptural but plush sofa, and as sexy as a pair of beautiful legs wrapped in fetish boots. Oil Fiction is not for everyone, but if you have the attitude to pull it off, it's a stunner, a head-turner, and a guaranteed fisher of men.

Testers are going for a hundred bucks at the discounters' sites. If you love bold, unique perfumes and you're looking for something new, go for it, and wear with abandon all summer long (or whenever you need a hit of sunshine and a little futuristic pizzazz in your life).
25th June, 2017

Allure Homme by Chanel

Wood, spice and eyes closed.
Tobacco sans tobacco.
Toasts with mulled champagne.
25th June, 2017

Platinum Égoïste by Chanel

Turin's "sad fougère".
My poignant recollection.
Time - prophet and judge.
25th June, 2017

Lolita Lempicka The Midnight Fragrance 2013 / L'Eau de Minuit by Lolita Lempicka

I'm amused by the online kerfuffle over Lolita Lempicka, Mark One. I guess it scandalizes some perfumistas that The Guide (via Tania Sanchez) awarded LL 5 stars and hailed it as a masterpiece, seeing as it's made of inexpensive materials, isn't particularly strong, lasts less than a day, costs next to nothing, and seems to be everywhere. We fumies can be a snobby lot, and LL plays to the crowd that "serious" lovers of perfume like to diss: young girls. And LL is a little fruity, a little floral and bears a distinct resemblance to candy.

To understand why that rating happened, it helps to remember that Luca Turin confesses in the same book that he especially prizes novel compositions; and, from her reviews, it seems that Tania Sanchez agrees with him. And, whatever other merits it may or may not possess, Lolita Lempicka, to employ one of Turin's favorite descriptors, smells "legible." It's unmistakeable.

My only real gripe with Lolita Lempicka lies with its poverty of materials. I don't remember smelling it back in the day, prior to whatever reforms it has undergone; but in its present state, it strikes me as interesting but synthetic and rather short-lived. However, this particular Midnight flanker addresses that very problem. It adds a big dollop of luxurious iris, a material that classes up pretty much everything it touches. The result is exactly what I wanted from Lolita Lempicka from Jump street.

For one thing, the iris in this version of LL changes the overall texture of the perfume: where the original feels a little harsh and metallic, this flanker bears a smooth, matte, satiny gloss. Adding iris also tames the screech of the high notes, which makes the violet nitrile a little less fierce--you can decide for yourself whether that's a good thing or not. And since iris is such a superb blending material, it marries the perfume into a coherence that I don't find in the original.

In addition, I suspect that there's a little more red fruit in this version, and some more dark florals. The incense persists gently throughout, and that's what I smell the most as the perfume dies down. LL 2013 (or whatever you want to call it) seems like it lasts longer than the original, but it still doesn't stick around for more than 4 hours on my skin--which causes me no particular problems, since it doesn't cost much.

Overall, I still think that the house of Lolita Lempicka remains a rare bird--a house that offers fun *and* smart, unpretentious perfumes that are widely available and fairly priced. They also don't know a season or an occasion--you can wear these perfumes anywhere, from work to school to dinner to the bar/club/live show/whatever. Their aesthetic speaks to everyone's inner goth kid, but the perfumes aren't moody or mean. They remind me of a bumper sticker I once saw in Houston's Montrose neighborhood (one of the world's epicenters of young people in fishnets and black clothing, believe it or not): on the back of a car driven by an adorable creature in inky eyeliner and fuchsia pigtails, the sticker said "Perky goths have more fun." I can get with that. If you like clever iris perfumes, this one is must; if you think you don't like iris, that goes double. Get it while it's still around.
25th June, 2017
Oviatt Show all reviews
United States

Bentley for Men Intense by Bentley

Bentley for Men Intense is an amazing fragrance. Rich, elegant and powerful, it perfectly represents the luxury brand, from the scent to the wonderful bottle. In the opening it strongly reminds me of vintage M7 although Agarwood is not listed among its notes. The notes that are listed, however, are some of my very favorites—Black Pepper, Clary Sage, Labdanum, Leather, Cedar and Sandalwood. As the intense designation suggests, this is a strong, powerful scent that needs a little gravitas to pull off. It reminds me in some ways of Courvoisier L'Edition Impériale which was also rich, powerful and a bit boozy. The drydown of Bentley for Men Intense is my favorite part—the woods and the Patchouli go on and on with only a hint of sweetness. Perfect for cooler weather, I find that this also does really well—one spray only—in the heat. Instant love for me, along with Absolute.
24th June, 2017

Carven Homme (original) by Carven

Sweet powdered ginger.
Wise guy's carnation '13.
Aromi steers true!
24th June, 2017

Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat by Guerlain

A sharp, vibrant lemon fragrance, classic and flawless smelling, ephemeral.
24th June, 2017

Tangerine Thyme by Providence Perfume Co.

This is a fun tangerine fragrance. The opening is in the refreshing Eau de Cologne style. I can believe neroli and frankincense among the listed notes. The initial citrus blast fades quickly, but some citrus remains in the heart.

The house style is unique compared to anything else I've tried, sort of a country-style perfume with earthy smells.
24th June, 2017

Cuba Copacabana for Women by Cuba Paris

A nicely done "cheapie". Some white flowers here. I smell a touch of orange blossom and I detect gardenia, I think. The woody notes aren't overpowering. The musk gives it a clean base. A kind of tropical undertone, here. It's breezy with a touch of warmth.

Thumbs up, on the bottle design.
24th June, 2017

Lady Gaga Fame by Lady Gaga

A one-dimensional, sweet fragrance. I expected more, from such a unique, creative individual. It makes a nice, casual fragrance suitable for summer. That's about it.
24th June, 2017
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Gucci by Gucci by Gucci

Hear, chypre's oakmoss!
From dark and sexy gourmand
Fordish Lui become!
24th June, 2017

Sikkim Girls by Gorilla Perfume

Nuclear jasmine.
A floral revolution.
Skybilly charm school.
24th June, 2017

Driftwood by Mirus

Mirus is a San Francisco based artisanal perfumery. Driftwood is classified as a woody oriental: "Driftwood evokes the smell of a dry piece of driftwood on a warm, sandy beach kissed by a cool sea breeze. "

Driftwood on my skin has two phases. The first phase is salty, vaguely ozonic, and is evocative of driftwood but more with marine olfactory stereotypes than those of a beach. There are passing similarities to Acqua di Sale, Aquilissima (Hilde Soliani), and even a bit of Sel Marin. However, Driftwood firmly stays in its own realm with the focus being on the woody aspects of the accord. One finds this accord to be quite novel and distinctive. This phase lingers on for a couple of hours before there is a slow transformation to its second phase: the salty, ozonic aspects disappear as a very restrained sweetness creeps in to complement the wood note. At this stage one discovers an uncanny similarity with several aspects of the dry down of Sycomore EdT. Sadly, around the time of this transformation, the fragrance also seems to unravel quite a bit.

Driftwood has its quirks, and is a novel composition, but eventually reveals a few shortcomings. While the first phase of the composition is quite innovative and interesting, it is not assertive or persistent enough. The second phase is not as engaging after the first. However, Driftwood unfortunately comes across as not robust enough for an extrait, and wears more like somewhere between an EdT and an EdP. A more potent concentration with a greater emphasis on its first phase of development would have been much more compelling.

24th June, 2017

Philtre Ceylan by Atelier Cologne

Philtre Ceylan is a part of Atelier Cologne's Collection Orient which also includes Mimosa Indigo, Poivre Electrique, Tobacco Nuit and Encens Jinhae. Philtre Ceylan comes across as one of the most authentic renditions of black tea one has encountered in a while. It begins with an ethereal cardamom laced citrus that immediately transforms into an accord of black ceylon tea. This is different from other black teas including Darjeeling, Assam and other flavoured black teas such as Earl Grey. The aroma is robust, slightly smoky, slightly sweet, dewy, and closer to that of brewed tea than dried tea leaves. The cardamom and a hint of cumin support this tea accord; however, spices are kept to an absolute minimum so that the tea is the focus, and the composition never veers into masala tea territory. This phase is long lasting and linear, till eventually the tea and spice notes diminish a bit as an enveloping, semi-sweet guaiac wood joins the other elements to add a nuance, and to form the final dry down of tea and woods.

Philtre Ceylan possesses good longevity on skin of about eight hours, and is discernible throughout before fading away towards the end. However, the sillage is also soft to moderate, though perceptible, and forms a soft cloud around the wearer. Philtre Ceylan is easily the standout among Atelier Cologne's Collection Orient, and a general highlight in its catalogue. While it is somewhat pricy for what it is, it also fills a gap given the relative dearth of quality fragrances focussing on black tea. Anyone missing Coeur de Vetiver Sacre's brilliant interpretation of tea will be advised to consider Philtre Ceylan. However, personally one finds Coeur de Vetiver Sacre to be best reserved for summers, while Philtre Ceylan is an attractive proposition for an autumnal scent.

23rd June, 2017

Rose Bohème by Providence Perfume Co.

This is an interesting perfume. I'm glad to see red tea listed as a note to help me understand what I'm smelling. Prior to that, "wet hay" was the closest I had come to identifying the smell. It also has a hint of spicy cinnamon, which must also come from the red tea. Thumbs up for originality.
23rd June, 2017

Rodin by Rodin Olio Lusso

This has the effect of deeply indolic jasmine. I don't pick out the notes individually as they are so skillfully blended. A joy to wear, excellent silage. I dread paying for it though as it is very dear. Dries to a sensual skin scent.
23rd June, 2017

Coney Island by Bond No. 9

Love this stuff. It took me a little bit to appreciate just how interesting it is...

Strangely enough, at first it seemed linear to me.

I don't know how I had that impression. The way this scent changes with time is a big part of what I like about it.

The actual accord is difficult to describe. But, for me, it definitely conjures boardwalk/twilight imagery.

This is one I'll always have in the collection.

I do think the projection/longevity could be better, but I just go a bit heavy with the sprays.
23rd June, 2017

Vetiver pour Elle by Guerlain

"Soapy is sexy!"
Or so she said, leaving me
Scandalously clean.
23rd June, 2017

Criminal of Love by By Kilian

stardate 20170623:

I do not get anything other than White Phenyl smell (a common hospital disinfectant made with pine oil and emulsifier).
Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this smell.
White Phenyl to me is what Pinesol is to most of you - not a good scent association.

There is some rose but is drowned in Phenyl.
I can't recommend it.
23rd June, 2017

Statement by Etienne Aigner

Stardate 20170623:

A fresh fragrance, similar to New West in style. So perhaps Calone and spices instead of DiHydromyrcenol for freshness.
I find this much more wearable than New West, probably because it lack the BayLeaf+Rosemary etc accord.

The top projects a lot but as it hits the base (4 hours) the scent becomes skin scent, just like new west skin scent :)

On its way from generic freshness to a great base it pays homage to some of the greats of a bygone era - Cacheral PH, Catalyst (some may say Havana or Dunhill Edition). The musky-ambery base is real quality and typical vintage and I wish it came sooner and projected more.

I am not a fan of freshies (calone is still better than dihydromyrcenol) and so this gets a mild thumbs up at the current prices ($10/oz)

I would have preferred if top was less fresh and base more prominent

23rd June, 2017

Une Rose by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Aw, man . . . this should have been a TKO for me. I'm an enormous admirer of Edouard Flechier, and a complete ho for rose perfumes. Seriously, I'll wear just about anything rosey. Unfortunately, Une Rose involves this aromachemical called Karanal, which Luca Turin says smells like urine to "a small subset of women," of which I am apparently a member.

I can smell great rose materials, and an interesting structure, and an appealing dirty quality in Une Rose that normally would have me going straight to my wishlist, and trolling eBay in search of deals. But that Karanal--it's not like the urinous note in, say, Cadavre Exquis, which smells like an old-school pissoir in high summer, straight out of a Jean Genet novel; it's more like the scent of stale dog pee after you've repeatedly shampooed a rug where the little guy made his mark more than once. It mostly hovers on the edges until the drydown starts, at which point (since I think it's some sort of woody amber material) it becomes the main event.

But--as it turns out, Une Rose has been reformulated without the Karanal. I smelled a sample of the new stuff recently, and it's lovely--lovely, and unfortunately, quite ordinary. I'll happily wear my sample of the new stuff and enjoy it while it lasts, but I'm not shelling out Frederic Malle money for a nice rose. Not while so many excellent roses can be had for a quarter of the price.

I really wish I had been able to experience the original as it was meant to be smelled--the people who love it go into transports of ecstasy when they talk about Une Rose. I love truffles, and I love dirt, and I'm seriously not easily put off by animalics--I routinely wear Salome and La Nuit without a second thought--but the old Une Rose just made me feel like I needed to clean the house or something. And the new one . . . well, it's beautiful, but it's also, unfortunately, quite ordinary. It's worth a sample, just to enjoy the excellent quality materials, but the new composition doesn't live up to its promise, its heritage, or its reputation.
23rd June, 2017

Number Six by Caswell-Massey

One land or two sea
As six turned out to be one
I can smell like me.
23rd June, 2017

XJ 1861 Naxos by Xerjoff

This is an especially Xerjoff-smelling fragrance from Xerjoff: a wall of experimental-smelling billowing chemicals. The Xerjoff signature DNA is pushed beyond reasonable limits in this screamer.
23rd June, 2017

Black by Bulgari

What more can be said on this one?

I ordered it blind ages ago having read countless reviews. It wasn't what I was expecting.

I don't get the Lapsang references - yes, it's smoky, but Lapsang tea has a sort of meaty smokiness, and this is more of a citric, vanilla, amber smokiness. I get something of the same zingy citrus vetiver bitter sweet top I get from Fat Electrician although vetiver is not listed as a note in Black. Again, I wish I actually knew how to identify notes - I might reward myself with a course when this odyssey is over!

I was a Lapsang drinker in my day and I might have some later to actually run some data against my opinions! I'm not a huge fan of tea scents as I don't like the tang of tannin they seem to engender in me. This has none of that.

I love it, especially as the first thing I noticed on smelling was its resemblance to the Je Reviens Memories of Times Past that haunt my dreams. It's got that same oddly sharp chemical bite that I love - which seems to be floral, vetiver, spice, and vanilla all at once. I think the 'rubbery' aspect is what I consider the shared Je Reviens DNA. The sharpness keeps the whole confection light and not too sweet.

It is lovely in autumn and winter, but I'm running out of summery stuff, and it is perfect today - the weather has cooled down a bit and it's cloudy. It has a tiny hint of plasters or bandages - the old very sticky type that came on a roll and smelled 'clinical'. It lasts as a lovely skin scent and is linear enough to stand repeated sprayings throughout the day.

It also makes me long for skyscrapers and modernity - it has an urban feeling about it - perfect for walking city streets and soaking up the energy.
22nd June, 2017

17/17 Damarose by Xerjoff

This doesn't smell too different from a mass marketed fragrance sold in the local mall, a Stella McCartney fragrance, for example, and although the ingredients don't smell precious or unique, this Xerjoff version of a fruity floral does smell well put together. I like the perfumer's work on this, Jacques Flori.

It smells like roses to me for a few minutes, and then it smells more like a rounded fruity floral, easy to where and enjoy, straight forward and unpretentious smelling.
22nd June, 2017

Gris Montaigne by Christian Dior

Stardate 20170622:

A masculine Rose Patchouli floral that does not smell like traditional Rose Patchouli.
There is a grape soda accord too which perhaps adds that je ne sais quoi.
Lasts long and is very safe.
22nd June, 2017
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom

Lilac Love by Amouage

A floral heliotrope with jasmine and good parts of gardenia and other white florals; later on a somewhat flat iris arises too. The drydown is a vanilla chocolate dyad, not dissimilar to molten ice cream but, alas, quite generic, as is the soft patchouli towards the end.

I get moderate sillage, adequate projection and three hours of longevity on my skin.

A spring scent that is not bad, but distinctly unexciting. 2.5/5.
22nd June, 2017