Perfume Reviews

Latest Perfume Reviews

Total Reviews: 128281

Dad's Garden Lemon Tree by Gorilla Perfume [Lush]

Thumbs up for what this is intending to accomplish which is a quick body splash and spray to set the mood and tone of fresh citrus garden for a very low amount of money. But overall, the fragrance and performance are kind of average so I give it neutral as a rating. Dad's Garden Lemon Tree is a body spray more than perfume. Lush packages this in a cheap sprayer plastic bottle that works like a cleaning product sprayer and it gives you a good drenching with one spray. The bottle leaks easily, but the leaking smells good so no problem. Fresh and tart lemon/lime wets the skin and dries quickly. Nice aroma - exactly what you would want from a lemon tree if you could put in on your skin. Supposedly the ingredients are lemon oil, lime oil, bergamot and lavender. I am sure there are at least a dozen other minor ingredients in there too. I don't smell lavender, but the citrus is definitely in there. Smells like the peel of lemons and limes crushed and mixed with freshly plucked leaf of the same tree. The fragrance lasts a few hours while staying very close to the skin. Upon spraying aroma broadcasts 4 feet off the body but this reduces to one foot after an hour and drops to a few inches after about three hours. Lasts longer if you put on more or go outside or heat up from working. This is a great outdoor work fragrance because the aromas are very natural and quite simple and radiant.
25th June, 2016

Vetiver e Poivre by Dr. Vranjes

The worst of Dr Vranje's line so far. Effectively this peppery/minty/synthetic inconsistent vetiver's rendition is quite disappointing and frankly more than mediocre (surely not in line with the rest of collection from this little house). All I detect is a generally "collapsed" structure, a warm sultry ambroxan's presence, hints of vague woodiness and a touch of muskiness (frankly is out of me catching any vetiver in here). Fluidiness (or better, peppery absence of substance) is supreme, I catch cardamom, than is like detecting a fluidy synth amberish woodsy-resin (which is replaced in here by a nondescript resinous-peppery presence). Ambroxan provides a sort of chemical sultry/detergent warmth a la Armani Si or stuffs like that. Vetiver Poivre lacks finally personality, criterion, longevity/sillage, structure and even a minimal whiff of natural approach. Dry down is a pale undiscernible aromatic-hot chemical soapiness. Pass by.
25th June, 2016

Agua Brava by Antonio Puig

Great cologne.
Starts with a very brief citrus top note that disappears in seconds. Unless you're actually with someone at close range when you first put this on, you're the only one who'll ever smell this part.
Then it's all fresh Mediterranean herbs: sage, thyme and the like. It's like having rubbed crushed herb leaves on your skin. I like this a lot.
It's an old-fashioned, masculine "aftershave" kind of scent. It smells of outdoors, summer, southern Europe. It's clean and rugged. Here comes the wannabe poetic bit : Think of a black-haired, sun-browned Spanish farmer getting showered and shaved ready for a summer evening out with his girlfriend. Before the days of mobile phones and when everyone had a car, he'll walk along a dust track, all preened in a white shirt and black trousers, past the sun baked allotments and herb gardens, on his way to her parents' house.
I would wear this when I'm in a manly, aftershave kind of mood. In fact I'd almost say this is the perfect splash on scent (almost, because I hate splash on). It just kind of fits with the feeling.
Projection and lasting power not that strong, but that's appropriate if you consider it as an "aftershave" type thing. It actually lasts a lot longer sprayed on clothes. I'd love to try the vintage version sometime too to see if the (presumably real) oakmoss would come through.
June 2016
25th June, 2016
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

Early American Old Spice for Women by Shulton

Stardate: 20160624

This is the Old Spice that should be in your bathroom and not the dross that passes as Old Spice these days for almost the same price.
Ingredients are top notch. I don't know whether there is much difference between this and vintage OS for Men. From memory I don't think so.
Spices (but not spicy), amber, vanilla/tonka , aldehydes all in perfect ratio. In fact, pointers should be taken from EAOS on aldehyde use and not from No. 5.
I don't know why this is not popular here but am happy it is not as it keeps prices down.


Note: This has been discontinued (for a while now) so you will not find it in walmart. Fleabay may be a good way to go.
24th June, 2016

Brisas by Acqua Flor

A verbena driven super classic Eau De Cologne. In other words, a Guerlain's Eau wannabe.

Seriously, 120 euros for this? Not even Jo Malone.



24th June, 2016

Flamboyant by Acqua Flor

I'm afraid this is anything but Flamboyant. Instead this is a very generic transparent citrusy thing with that undefined, faux sandalwoody / mall-oriented woody base. Smells like one of the latest Yves Rochas. Anyone.

24th June, 2016

Aoud by Acqua Flor

Aqua Flor Aoud reminded me of a cheaper version of Kilian's Pure Oud. A stark smoky woody thing that while avoiding smelling like straight up woodyamber it still feels like a wannabe composition that isn't able to stand out in a overly crowded territory.

Meh

24th June, 2016

Hussar by Acqua Flor

Again, my main gripe with this line is the lack of imagination and creativity. Some of their fragrance are actually pretty decent but they all feel like been there done that type of stuff.

Hussar is a tarry industrial leather a-la Nostalgia and Map Of The Heart Black but sweeter than either. So, smoky leather, dark spices and woods on a sweetish / vanillic base. Nice and competently done but ultimately derivative.

24th June, 2016

Zagaria by Acqua Flor

Aqua Flor is a relatively new brand from Florence that offers a huge range of fragrances with an aesthetic that's not so distant from other, more popular, florentine farmacias such as Farmacia SS Annunziata or Santa Maria Novella. I approached a bunch of their fragrances knowing nothing about the brand and, overall, they all strikes as more or less successful replicas of other more popular compositions.

Zagaria is a versatile, masculine citrusy cologne that shares similarities with both Bel Ami Vetiver and Etat Libre D'Orange Je Suis Un Homme. A pretty decent woody citrus with leathery nuances. Probably one of my favorite in their whole range but given the price I don't see many reasons to pick this over the aforementioned fragrances. Tends to become a bit generic during the late dry down.

24th June, 2016

Xeryus by Givenchy

I find the top of Xeryus intriguing, but something in the base is not quite my style, too coniferous, perhaps.
24th June, 2016

Monsieur Lanvin by Lanvin

It seems that I may not be a big fan of civet. This and Furyo just don't work for me and I blame the civet.
23rd June, 2016
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom

Silent Grove by D.S. & Durga

The opening blast is fresh and summery, fairly bright but is not one of these ultra-fresh citrus scents like Eau d' Orange Verte from Hermès, Monsieur Balmain or Creed's Bois de Cédrat. The citrus is mainly lemon, but there is some petitgrain in the background. A woodsy component with a slightly minty undertone accompanies the citrus in top notes.

The drydown loses this freshness gradually, and a light note odd white tea, linden and a with floral undertone dominate the later stages. The base is the most nondescript part, but even then the white musky impression in the base is quite acceptable.

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

A discrete summery composition, this fragrance Is very pleasant and the quality of the mainly natural ingredients is convincing. It is a bit discrete and not very loud, so a great office scent that has a few creative touches too. 3/5.
23rd June, 2016

Insensé by Givenchy

Tasted this today. I find, it sits squarely in between Lauder for Men and Baruti Melkmeisje. They all point to a Deep Green Forest and the Fir within. All are true and all shine light on the Conifer from a slightly different angle.
First rate and recommended, especially for those interested in the Meditative.
23rd June, 2016
Advertisement — Reviews continue below

Jimmy by Bruno Fazzolari

I am somewhat torn, and could change my mind, but I am giving Jimmy a neutral rating instead of thumbs up. I like the smell, and I like the development, and I consider the perfumer clever, with tricks up his sleeve, but I cannot realistically envision buying a bottle to wear it routinely.
23rd June, 2016

Burberry for Men (Version #2) by Burberry

I thought I was sampling the 1981 version, but apparently it was Version #2 from 1992. I am a fan. I think it has some moss that adds a dimension to make it develop into something even better than the initial half hour, and I think I smell amber in the base making it sweet.
22nd June, 2016 (last edited: 23rd June, 2016)

Chaleur d'Animale pour Homme by Animale Parfums

Another scent that is better to avoid. Good thing it has been discontinued. Starts strong and green with a disappointing middle and lame dry down... It does share to my nose some DNA with the latest Dior Sauvage release... I know but at least Dior had a little better effort as far as the quality of the scent. Try before you buy.
22nd June, 2016

Vétiver Moloko by Ex Nihilo

Vetiver Moloko has a cooling, light green slightly sweet powder feeling that is relaxing and quite comforting to wear. A Moloko cocktail of sorts. Trying to compare this to my other vetiver fragrances is not helpful in understanding Moloko's appeal because it does not have the deep earthiness or rooty grassy aspects of many other great vetiver fragrances. However the green aspect is strong and clear with vetiver plus a dry cypress green note. It is this green dry quality that is strengthened by amyris and the sandalwood sweetness of amyris is further civilized by vanilla in the base. Vetiver Moloko has some sweetness, yes but this is balanced by dry woods and a piercing cold green quality. This one is not a typical vetiver scent but is an all new accord. A fine green cologne that has a relaxing dry, slightly sweet narcotic calming relaxing greenness.
22nd June, 2016

Arden Men - Sandalwood by Elizabeth Arden

My current version (2007), while not a bad scent, has been an expensive loo freshener. Sharp, strong and not worth the effort if the primary interest is sandalwood.
22nd June, 2016
jujy54 Show all reviews
United States

Samba by Perfumer's Workshop

A blind buy for me, based on the name, the bottle, my good luck with Tea Rose, and curiosity about Samba and it's zillion flankers. As cheapies go, it's a good one. Well-crafted, uncomplicated, completely wearable. Like Mysticman, I was expecting something wilder (having partied with Brazilians who had no respect for my recent hip replacement when they dragged me on the floor to teach me samba!), maybe on the lines of Carlos Santana for Women. As it is, I agree with the idea that this has a bossa nova vibe, like the girl from Ipanema.
22nd June, 2016

Opus X by Amouage

A metallic rose. I am a fan of rose fragrances, the good ones, and tried this on my skin. It projects rather a natural rose that shines through, but via a metallic prism. The metallic note is rather penetrating and may be due to the 'varnish' or solvent note mentioned.

I am afraid it did not work out for me. I much rather go with Lyric Man which is one of my favourite fragrances.
22nd June, 2016
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom

Italian Citrus by D.S. & Durga

The opening blast is citrus-based, with a tart orange note with hints of lemon being modified by the chinotto impression such as to add some somber darkness that provides the top notes with an interesting twist. This is not a bright and fresh citrus, but a darker fresh-ish citrus combination.

In the drydown slightly herbal feelings are match with gently balsamic undertones, to which a ambery tone is added in the base. The balsamic side is gentle only, and the amber a bit dull. Whiffs of an earthy dustiness briefly shine through in the later phases.

The sillage is on the softer side and the projection initially good, but after the first hour or two it remains very close to my skin, and I have to dig my nose deep into it to notice the development of this scent. The total longevity is four hours.

This is a slightly unusual citrus fragrance, with the usual limits in performance that are typical for this genre. It is not without its creative touches, so I am scoring it at the lowest end of the positive range. 3/5.
22nd June, 2016

Room 237 by Bruno Fazzolari

Discovering this line, Fazzolari, has been a milestone for me. I have to laugh at this composition, Room 237. I am very close to liking it, and giving it a thumbs up, and it is outrageous. It smells a bit like a hospital.
22nd June, 2016

In Pursuit of Magic by Diane Pernet

My first approach with the Diane Pernet's creations is more than favorable (Shaded and Wanted are great concoctions) although In Pursuit of Magic does not fully confirm my first enthusiastic impressions. First of all this scent is something quite different than what by me expected before an accurate test on skin. I was indeed waiting to try something darkly velvety, silky-rubbery or spiritual-enigmatic while I actually catch on my skin a synthetic (yet accurately rendered) olfactory reprodution of a thick citrus grove's redolent green atmosphere. You get by soon on skin a straightforward citric turmoil, quite tart, fizzy, grassy, earthy, floral, apothecarian and bitter-sparkling. I was expecting the new Donna Karan Black Cashmere (or may be something a la Armani Prive' Bois d'Encens) while I enjoy on my skin the new Frapin Paradis Perdu (in this stage several Xerjoff a la Modoc, or Atelier Cologne a la Bois Blonde/Trefle Pur, may be Bond N.9 a la Little Italy or Byredo a la Mr. Marvelous jump vaguely on mind as well in their opening top phases for several of their characteristics). The note of mandarine is heady as supported immediately by bitter grass, woods, petitgrain, bergamot, orange flower and tangerine, green leaves, bitter green citrus shells and by a vague cedary vibe. Probably vetiver is included in the blend together with cedarwood or rosewood. Initially super-medicinal this juice smells almost realistic (at second impact, if you don't dig too much down the floor being overly exigent). Inhaling this scent it seems you are lost in to an ideally prehistoric silvan universe rich of secular immense appalling trees, bizarre creatures, sedimented omnipresent dark-green moss, brilliant streams and conical sun rays perforating the air through the (disguising the sky) huge trees as being cutting oceanic abyssess. Fizziness (green/leafy citric fizziness) is reigning throughout while I don't get a significant evolution on skin but just a general process of restraintment towards a darker (still hesperidic) pungent woodiness (seemingly rosewood) slightly spicy-piquant, tonkinian and rooty. I detect hints of fir resins, untamed wild weeds (yes freshly cut marjuana-conjuring) and may be galbanum. This stage is slight smoky; smokiness seems growing up gradually but without overwhelming the citric-woody elements or compromising the grassiness. This final phase is too "wild" for my full pleasure, probably overly "enviromental", bitter-herbal and lacking a real level of sophisticated elegance, subtle complexity or originality. All in all I'm not hoocked by this type of scents and Diane Pernet In Pursuit of Magic is nothing extraordinary or enlightening my senses. Usually this kind of juices finally unfold a vanillic or artificially leathery long tail but gratefully it does not happen in this case. Finally (over the 3th/4th hour of development) the juice becomes even darker and apparently fruity-boise with hints of something ostensibly conjuring a blackberries' presence. A pleasant darkly silvan (slightly resinous) citric aroma and nothing more under my severely injured nose.
21st June, 2016 (last edited: 23rd June, 2016)

Insensé by Givenchy

From a 3/4 full vintage bottle bought recently on Ebay.
I have a tendency to try and find the positives in too many fragrances I think, so maybe risk reviews being taken seriously. However, this is so good, so full and "healthy" and sunny, so deliciously spirit lifting, so... scrummy... I can't find the words. It just smells great, reminds me of happy, life affirming things, and makes me feel great wearing it.
Without wishing to plagiarise others' comments here, this is what I get in terms of notes : dense, waxy aldehydes (I increasingly love this note, but still can't really describe it), rich, red fruitiness swirling with floral notes, berries and flowers together, and something green and fresh (this part fades over time). I'm a serial oversprayer, but even I learned 3 (OK 4) is enough to brighten up almost your whole day. I'm not a great advocate of "seasonality", but if pressurised I'd say a summer, daytime scent, only because it's so pregnant with bright, vibrant, rich life.
Can't believe Givenchy stopped making this, but there you go.
Love it.
June 2016
21st June, 2016

Eau de Néroli Doré by Hermès

For an established luxury goods producer, the trick to remaining relevant is to promise both the past and the future. The authenticity of heritage and a bright future of previously unimaginable luxury. This two-step is nothing new for Hermès. Their products are exceptional specimens of craft, but their true artistry lies in manipulating perception.

The brand’s Eau de Cologne series shares the standard Hermès bottle with the Hermessence perfumes but come in in bright, lollipop colors, a carefree alternative to the austere pastels of the Hermessence line. They are ‘note-driven’, just like the Hermessence line. (Grapefruit, narcissus, rhubarb for the colognes versus osmanthus, massoïa and paprika for the high-end.) They are effectively a ‘mini-Hermessence’ line.

Hermès tend very carefully to the symbolism of their products. The language surrounding the products might seem nonchalant but the meaning is specific and the intention is unmistakable. When Hermès launch a product, nothing is left to chance. From images of the product to the text describing it to press events, every detail is deliberate. Hermès know how to manipulate the echo chamber effect of the fashion world with an almost scientific precision. Whisper the stories in just the right places and through unquestioning repetition, they become legend.

The concept of Eau de Néroli Doré is not a new one. This strategy, Finery At All Costs, is an unsubtle one in the first place but Hermès have pulled out all the stops. Their claim of using one half of Tunisia and Morocco’s annual neroli production is an undisguised demonstration of both power and crassness. Hermès are apparently capable of putting the northern portion of a continent on hold in order to suit their product design. (And in doing so, hand you a flawless example of post colonial arrogance wrapped up with a bow.)

No theater works without an audience and here Hermès rely on the privilege that they foster in their consumers. Part one of the strategy is the scale of the act: A multinational claim on a material. Part two is the intent, which is to invite its customers to relish the frivolousness. International economies are bent to your whim. So what that an equally good eau de cologne could have been made with less sensationally-sourced, inexpensive materials? You deserve finery at all costs.

Hermès’s sentimental account of a young Jean-Claude Ellena’s learning to distill orange blossom is an attempt to give Eau de Néroli Doré a sincerity, a human scale. In classic cake-and-eat-it-too fashion, Hermès want to alter the economy of nations, but they also want to project a wide-eyed artisanal purity. For all the spin surrounding Eau de Néroli Doré, it can’t beat the perfume truism that any cologne is pretty much as good as any other cologne. It has an olfactory ‘aftertaste’ that undermines the touted neroli. It smells briefly aromatherapeutic and then like a bottle of cologne smashed on sidewalk cement.
21st June, 2016

Portrait of a Lady by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

The rose and patchouli pairing is such a good fit that it seems like proof of fate. It’s been the basis for a range of leathery, ambery, woody and mossy perfumes spanning woody-floral, chypre and oriental genres. The Malle PR boasts that Ropion used surpassing doses of rose essence and patchouli coeur, a fractionated patchouli. Fractionated naturals are botanical materials that have been separated into their constituent parts by chemical and physical processes, especially molecular distillation, and edited to remove undesirable traits.

Around the time of Portrait’s launch more and more of these ‘tidied up’ botanicals were becoming available. Well understood materials like vetiver, cedar and patchouli saw their challenging attributes reduced or removed, leaving frictionless, blissful versions of the materials. They were sanded, polished and lacquered. Aroma materials manufacturers were pushing their hot new high-tech, stripped-down botanicals. They were an easy sell. They used a version of the best-of-all-worlds tactic to sidestep the endless botanical vs synthetic debate. They are ‘natural’ and therefore good but they have also been made better through chemistry and are therefore contemporary.

Used thoughtfully, fractionated botanicals allowed a measured, precise tailoring of olfactory effects. Unfortunately they also made their way into some simplistic compositions that smelled like ‘easy listening’ perfumes. The niche and mainstream markets of the time were top-heavy with a glut of radiant, synth-woody fragrances. Many perfume buyers had become accustomed to judging the quality of a perfume by how closely it approximated the properties of woody amber materials. These scrubbed versions of botanical materials matched the tone created by woody ambers. An entire fumie cohort was conditioned to respond to the ‘clarity’ of the new generation of fractionated botanicals.

Distillation of materials is not new to perfumery by any means. The recent emphasis on fractionating well-understood botanical aroma-materials stems from the attempt to dissect IFRA-designated toxic materials such as lavender, lemon and the notoriously virulent tea leaf and remove their noxious bits. Think of a fraction as a potent material that has undergone an exorcism.

***

Rose and patchouli have complementary facets that fit like a lock and key and have strong synergy. The camphorous chill of patchouli acts like an astringent to rose, keeping it from settling into the dull beauty that an uninspired rose perfume can have. Rose’s berry notes become wine-like and boozy when paired with patchouli. Resinous materials give rose a honeyed drawl and musk keeps the bloom on the rose. Camphor, berry notes, musk and amber are the olfactory attributes emphasized in coeur de vetiver and Ropion uses them along with incense, benzoin and god only knows what else to create the durable accords that allow Portrait of a Lady to last for days. It is classically Ropion in that rich natural materials and potent synthetics are focussed on the same goal: coherence. The perfume’s sillage and forcefulness hint at potent synthetics. Happily, though, the ear-ringing, gut-churning feeling I associate with over-reliance on particular synthetics to give radiance and endurance is nowhere to be found. Portrait of a Lady showcases Ropion’s exceptional capacity to calibrate synthetics toward specific compositional ends while avoiding their side-effects.

Since 2010 when it was released, Portrait of a Lady has come to stand toe-to-toe with an equally imposing patch-rose, Aromatics Elixir. While AE dominates the mossy/chypre side of the rose-patch hoards, The Lady has become the standard against which woody and oriental side of the rose family is compared. Rose-oud as well. It’s a perfume that begs to be described in superlatives and worn with abandon.
21st June, 2016

Une Fleur de Cassie by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Ropion knows how to make monster florals. Ysatis, Amarige, Alien. Jarring and disturbing to some, ravishing to others. (Count me in the disturbed category.) The key is in the synth-natural play of Ropion’s aesthetic. Take Amarige and Alien (co-authored with Laurent Bruyère). They are considered versions of the soliflor yet to my nose they are so unequivocally chemical in tone as to be science-fiction. Ropion’s mainstream florals are so exaggerated, so counterbalanced with potent synthetics that they can seem brittle. They might pay lip service to flowers, but their magnitude and mathematical sense of proportion mark them as artificial. The hyperbole of the accords will read as graceful to some and as frightening to others. If a flower is like a folk song, Ropion’s florals are Farinelli singing to Louis XV at Versailles.

Ropion puts his ability to leverage floral tones to excellent use in Une Fleur de Cassie. It lacks the stiffness of Ysatis and the shrillness of Amarige but is equally, and proudly, as synthetic as either of the two. The name name might lead you to believe it’s an attempt at a soliflor, but the mix of an odd botanical note like cassie/mimosa with heavy synthetics makes Une Fleur de Cassie a cyborg of a perfume. It pairs scents of mud and metal, cinnamon and slate, almond and glue. The the bold use of seemingly disparate tones gives Une Fleur de Cassie a deep saturation. The balance of large strokes and detail allows it to be as large as Ysatis’s bouquet but far less overdressed.

Une Fleur de Cassie showcases Ropion’s strength at calculating olfactory effects to the umpteenth decimal point. It is a remarkably intricate and precise perfume but the complexity doesn’t lead to obscurity. You don’t need a vocabulary of notes to read Une Fleur de Cassie. The legibility is in the clarity and accuracy of the olfactory aesthetics, not in the list of notes. To lean further into the opera analogy, Une Fleur de Cassie offers a satisfying experience whether you’ve read the libretto or not.

For some perfumers working with a prestigious niche house is the opportunity to branch out from the obligatory mainstream sensibilities of their day jobs. For Ropion its a chance to hunker down and dig more deeply into a genre he’s known for. Frédéric Malle’s approach to art direction is to give the perfumer the resources to pursue his own direction and then to engage in a discussion during the perfume’s creation. It is a measured approach, one that favors a thoughtful composition over an outrageous one. Une Fleur de Cassie’s success is likely due to both Malle’s and Ropion’s input and was one of the perfumes that put the Malle brand at the center of attention when the line launched in 2000.
21st June, 2016

Dans Tes Bras by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle launched in 2000 with a rock-star lineup of perfumers, including Maurice Roucel, who composed the culty Musc Ravageur for the brand. Art direction and commissioning independent perfumers was nothing new in 2000. In fact, it was the founding model of niche perfumery. Early examples Diptyques (1961), l’Artisan Parfumeurs (1976), Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier (1988) were still going strong. The Serge Lutens brand (1992) had attained permanent revolution and were the leader in experimentation.

Hip and trendy were taken, so Frédéric Malle took a different approach with his line. The strategy of the initial roster of FM perfumes was to emphasize quality and distinction. Perfumers were apparently given the edict and the budget to create perfumes of impeccable caliber and taste. Same principle as Amouage, different sensibility. The nine perfumes in the initial launch wore their perfumers on the label, reflecting Malle’s belief in the artist as well as his line’s concept of authorship and publishing. The art direction focussed on the perfumers’ signature styles. Olivia Giacobetti’s En Passant had her characteristic water-color dynamics. Angelique Sous la Pluie demonstrated Jean-Claude Ellena’s expertise with transparent tones. Edouard Flechier’s Lys Méditerranée fits his history of oversized narcotic florals. And so on.

Malle and Roucel were an ideal pair. Malle directed perfumers to work within their sweet spots and Roucel had a history of exploring a compositional motif over the course of years. Musc Ravageur was a tailored version of Alain Delon Lyra, a Roucel fragrance from 1996. Roucel would go on to create le Labo Labdanum 18, Helmut Lang EDP/EDC and Missoni by Missoni, variations on the same aromatic/musk/vanilla-chocolate theme.

Roucel and Malle collaborated again with Dans Tes Bras. Roucel had made violet the principle note of his hairspray-fantasy, Guerlain Insolence in 2006. He punched up the violet and the volume in the 2008 Insolence EDP. Dans Tes Bras, a violet perfume of a very different cut, was released the same year. If Insolence candied violet, Dans tes Bras fermented it. If you can imagine scent-scape of violets and toadstools growing out of vinegar-soaked concrete you’ll catch the shape of the perfume. It’s a doughy floral musk with notes of soil, salt, spice and sour skin. Our nose/brains are conditioned to try to sort scents. Materials that emulate botanicals are assessed for how ‘natural’ they smell while identifiably synthetic qualities aren’t expected to feign realism. Dans tes Bras flips the expected and uses floral notes like heliotrope and violet that smell for lack of a better word, unnatural. With an apparent overdose of cashmeran, the synthetic side of the perfume smells remarkably like something you know, namely concrete sidewalk drying after a rain .

Most Malle perfumes land in identifiable categories, the result of deliberately chasing the ‘best in class’ distinction that the Malle line aspires to. The risk is that many of the line’s perfumes can be seen as simply extra-fine versions of department store perfumes. Dans tes Bras, not so much. In a line that leans heavily towards florals it is the least conventional of the lot.

The Malle line seemed like it was headed for a soft landing even before Estée Lauder purchased the brand in 2014. Eau de Magnolia, Cologne Indelible and Monsieur were a citric floral-chypre, a concentrated eau de cologne and a Soli-patch. Finished and tony but a bit dull. I assume that each perfume in the Malle line will be looked at very closely by the Lauder accountants. If there is a thinning of the line, florals in particular, will Dans tes Bras make the cut?
21st June, 2016

Cadavre Exquis by Bruno Fazzolari

Cadavre Exquis is a gourmand perfume from two perfumers known for exploring ‘classy’ genres like animalic chypres and aldehydic florals. It was made following the rules of a surrealist parlor game called exquisite corpse. In an exquisite corpse the participants take turns adding words or images, or in this case accords and materials, until the project is complete. The final product might be nothing that the participants imagined. The corpse is rigged to favor unpredictability and can give rise to some wonderfully bizarre results.

Perfumers Bruno Fazzolari and Antonio Gardoni’s hybrid backgrounds—the former is a visual artist, the latter an architect—establish the creative landscape where the collaboration can take place. There isn’t a roadmap for this sort of creative alliance, so Gardoni and Fazzolari had the freedom to make it up as they went. The exquisite corpse model provided a framework for the process to unfold but what defined the scope of the project was the choice to make a gourmand perfume. Genre was the gauntlet each perfumer threw at the other.

The perfume may be a gourmand, but it’s a dry one. The decision to go big must have been made early in the process because the perfume is very well finished and doesn’t appear rushed. Gourmand qualities are reinforced by not-quite-gourmand notes giving the perfume an edible/inedible balance. There’s chocolate, but there’s also patchouli, which has a strong cocoa aspect. Creamy vanilla is balanced with vanillic-woody tones that stop just short of pure dessert. The cool quality—is it herbal like licorice or camphorous like mothballs? Both? The juggling of gourmand notes generates gluttonous hallucinations: An orange that drips maple syrup when you peel it. Frozen butterscotch. A mint chocolate brownie that turns to dust as you bring it to your mouth.

Fazzolari and Gardoni didn’t just dare each other, they challenge us, the audience. The gourmand genre is derided by the indie/artisan fumie crowd, the ostensible audience for Cadavre Exquis and the perfumers play with our biases. C’mon, you know what you think of gourmand perfumes. They’re tacky. They’re beneath us. They’re tired. I doubt that it’s a favorite genre of Gardoni or Fazzolari either, but here’s the point of the perfume: risk.

A dicey process, a ballsy choice of genre, a potentially incredulous audience. This is perfumery without a safety net. There are more risks than just the creative: cost, time/labor, the creative capital, reputation. But if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing big and Cadavre Exquis is an enormous perfume that makes no attempt to tone down the ostentatiousness of the genre. It’s rightly been called a monster, but it’s not the Frankenstein version we’ve been led to expect. It’s glaring, conspicuous, undeniable. It’s frightening not because it’s ugly, but because of its candied beauty. It overloads us with recognizably beautiful features until it crosses a threshold and becomes as hideous as it is beautiful. It’s a showgirl.

Cadavre Exquis is more than two perfumers branching out into gourmand territory. It gets at the heart of the relationship between artisan perfumers and their audiences. Forget the product for a moment, do you support the process? Is it enough to buy Fazzolari’s Monserrat or Gardoni’s Maai? They are exceptional perfumes—exciting, beautiful, thoughtful—and buying them supports the artists. But Cadavre Exquis asks us to go further. It’s the put-up-or-shut-up slap to the face. I’ve whined for years about the shitty perfumes that result from low aspiration, demographic targeting, least common denominators, focus groups and flankers. Gardoni and Fazzolari are calling us out: if we want exceptional perfumes are we willing to support unconventional, experimental work? Are we willing to support the artists? Do we trust the artists?

My answer is yes. Beauty is easy, so I’m chasing the monster instead. I bought the corpse and while I appreciate its unconventional aesthetics more with each wearing, I love the ideas that it contains.
21st June, 2016

Rose Privée by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Stéphanie Bakouche’s sensational Invasion Barbare for Parfums MDCI is a hard act to follow, and it’s worth considering that early-career success is not without its downside. The expectation following a Luca Turin 5-star rating of a first perfume is stratospheric. Rose Privée is Backouche’s second perfume, released a full ten years after Invasion Barbare and co-authored by Bertrand Duchaufour, cited by l’Artisan as Bakouche’s mentor. In the intervening years she’s been at the heart of the l’Artisan Parfumeur line, first as a Trainer and then as a Fragrance Development Manager and Perfumer.

The opening of Rose Privée is pure color. Pink rose, silver-green violet, white and pink grapefruit, green basil. But mostly pink, as in pretty. Not as unabashedly pretty as Drole de Rose or as self-possessed as Safran Troublant, Olivia Giacobetti’s two roses for l’Artisan, but Rose Privée is charming and fits the l’Artisan aesthetic. Rose and violet, a classic ‘makeup’ pairing, hint at lipstick but Rose Privée is far from the plumped and ready-for-battle lips of Incarnata‘s cold violet.

The rose of the topnotes is brief but bright, creating an olfactory effect similar to a cinematic lens flare followed by a hazed washout. The eau de parfum fades to violet via lilac, all the while suggesting a range of watercolor pinks and purples. The topnotes are gentle but as they meld into a sweeter, sharper lilac-magnolia accord, the rose seems more fragile than soft. The directness of the synthetic tone easily outpaces any attempt at a full-fleshed natural appearance, which is not necessarily a failure in a perfume. But for one that puts “Rose” in klieg lights and sells itself as a rose de mai, the transition from the topnotes to the musky-berry heartnotes has the feeling of deflation. Streamlined, abstract tones take precedence over verisimilitude to rose and the topnotes blow away in the breeze. Post-rose, the perfume is linear.

The ‘basenotes’ are a better indicator of the perfume’s intention. A calibrated woody-musky shape forms the skeleton of the fragrance. It recalls a softer version of the the finish Duchaufour has applied to many of his woody-florals like Dzongkha or Sienne d’Hiver, but without his signature incense. The odd thing, though, is that unlike the radiance and durability that the Duchaufour treatment usually gives a perfume, evanescence is Rose Privée’s chief trait. The whole experience of the eau de parfum lasts about 2 hours, after which it’s gone without a trace.

If you’re looking for a long-lasting or thorny rose, Rose Privée won’t suit you. But worn as a buoyant, floral version of an eau de cologne, it fits the bill. The rose de mai burns off like the citrus of an eau de cologne and the musky sweetness floats until it fades.
21st June, 2016
Advertisement