Latest Fragrance Reviews, Updated Daily

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    L'Ame d'un Héros by Guerlain

    Genre: Chypre

    As a reworking of Guerlain’s discontinued Coriolan, L’Ame d’un Héros is a conservatively styled spicy masculine chypre. Though it occupies similar territory to Moustache and Chanel pour Monsieur, L’Ame d’un Héros distinguishes itself with a prominent juniper note that imparts a decidedly “outdoorsy,” coniferous character.

    The central accord of oakmoss and bergamot with juniper, nutmeg, and immortelle is instantly recognizable from the old Coriolan, but L’Ame d’un Héros is rounder, gentler, and altogether more suave. Coriolan was loud and aggressively “butch,” and always struck me as an overstated 1980s fragrance that arrived after its time. The more polished L’Ame d’un Héros seems like less of an anachronism. I could argue that it’s also more tame, or even bland by comparison, but I can’t deny that L’Ame d’un Héros is the easier of the two to wear.

    19 June, 2014

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    Private Collection - L'Oiseau de Nuit by Parfumerie Generale

    Genre: Leather

    This is a tart, smoky amber scent, with much emphasis placed on the leathery, animalic aspects of labdanum resin. It intrigues me in that it manages to be at once dark and transparent, an impression I’ve only received before from Olivia Giacobetti’s Idole and Tea for Two. In fact the longer I wear L’Oiseau de Nuit, the more I’m reminded of Idole. L’Oiseau de Nuit shares the Lubin scent’s “boozy” quality, its smoke, and its leather, though they are presented in a simpler composition, without Idole’s black cumin and saffron. But where Idole dries down toward smoky wood and leather, L’Oiseau de Nuit resolves to a tangy amber base that, while attractive, is also more conventional.

    In a limited wardrobe, I’d consider this scent somewhat interchangeable with say, Ambre Russe, Ambre Sultan, or Ambre Precieux, and were I limiting myself to one amber scent L’Oiseau de Nuit is not the first I’d choose. For this specific sort of booze, amber, smoke, and leather structure, I’d take Idole over L’oiseau de Nuit as well, as I prefer Idole’s comparative depth and complexity. However, if like many, you find Idole too confrontational, L’Oiseau de Nuit might be a better bet.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Instant de Guerlain pour Homme by Guerlain

    Genre: Woody Oriental

    Spicy woods, green notes, and a touch of sweet citrus dominate the opening of L'Instant pour Homme, with a warm, nutty heart accord developing in their wake. Spices - particularly nutmeg - and woods remain central to L'Instant's structure, and are bolstered by touches of powdery amber and vanilla. The olfactory texture is smooth and buttery throughout, which makes L'Instant feel oddly reassuring to wear.

    L'Instant could easily have slipped into the overcrowded realm of crass vanilla gourmand scents for men, but there is absolutely nothing crude about this fragrance. The balance between woods, spices, and vanilla is so perfectly judged that L'Instant appears to float effortlessly outside of traditional genre boundaries.

    My only reservation regarding L'Instant is that the drydown is too powdery for my taste. This is a matter of personal preference, though, and if you're comfortable with sweet powdery accords it probably won't put you off.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Infante by Divine

    Genre: Green Floral

    L'Infante is a diaphanous yet complex green floral blend that evolves continually on the skin. One delicately rendered floral note after another floats by, each wrapped lovingly in gentle sweet spices and vanilla. There is also a persistent crisp green note in L'Infante's background,and I hold this in part responsible for the scent's remarkable buoyancy.

    Though the two smell nothing alike, L'Infante's weightless elegance reminds me of Creed's beautiful Fleurissimo. L'Infante may be transparent, but it has relatively powerful sillage and projects well from the skin. I encourage the ladies (and brave gentlemen) to give it a try.

    19 June, 2014

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    Nostalgia by Santa Maria Novella

    A bit of a tease, this one.  The gasoline/leather top notes  give the expectation of a true gas-pump fantasy. But along with gasoline’s scent, Nostalgia has gasoline’s volatility.  Still, the crackly woody drydown of Nostalgia is a wonderful scent in its own right, top notes or not. And for those of you who like woody fragrances but don't want a warm, harmonious feeling, Nostalgia remains fairly cool, carrying the chill of evaporation that gasoline has on your skin.

    Two thoughts. One, this is an interesting option for those still mourning the loss of Fahrenheit’s original formulation. Two, Nostalgia points out that in the language of perfumery, gasoline is a woody note.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Homme de Coeur by Divine

    Genre: Floral

    An iris scent for men that’s modern without being trite, Divine’s L’Homme de Coeur is exactly what Dior Homme should have been. After a brief citrus fanfare L’Homme de Coeur reveals a creamy, smooth iris that reminds me a bit of Maurice Roucel’s Iris Silver Mist for Serge Lutens. In this case the iris is spiked with a dab of lively juniper – a very clever touch that offsets and lightens the velvety texture of the iris. L’Homme de Coeur’s iris rests on a foundation of lightly sweetened crisp woods that keeps what could have been an overly thick scent surprisingly clear and buoyant.

    None of this projects too much, so L’Homme de Coeur works mostly as a skin scent on me. It sweetens gradually as I wear it, but always remains quite cool, drying down after three or four hours to a soft woody (cypress?) and vanilla base. This is a very dignified and discreet scent that would be easy to wear on almost any occasion. It’s not sexy or romantic, but it’s very, very civilized. L’Homme de Coeur belongs beside Iris Bleu Gris, Iris Poudre, and Iris Silver Mist in the upper echelon of iris fragrances.

    19 June, 2014

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    Passerelle by Tommi Sooni

    Have you ever watched a streetcorner card hustler working the crowd playing three card monte?  It used to be big in New York in the 80s. It’s a spin on the shell-game. It’s a classic short-con.  It's only three cards, right? No one's hands can move that fast, right? And those other nice-looking people win, right? (Ringers—the other part of the con.) It was endless fun watching the tourists fall for it.

    Passerelle is three-card monte with flowers. Granted, in perfumery flowers aren’t actually flowers, they’re ‘floral notes’. That’s the long-con of perfumery. The jasmine starts watery and sweet and the honeysuckle is a temperate climate’s closest thing to a tropical sensibility.  Then the floral notes cycle through tones: sweet, then leafy, then rosy crisp, then cold and vegetal. It’s the floral three card monte.

    The heart notes begin when when a growing mimosa notes kicks in. Perhaps this notes was hidden underneath the shuffling of the headnotes, but I don’t smell the mimosa for the first 10 minutes or so of Passerelle. Maybe it’s simply the catch-me-if-you-can nature of mimosa. I often have a hard time identifying mimosa in a perfume. It seems to have an ambiguous quality, like a statement followed by a retraction. Sweet, but not entirely. Waxy, but not really. Powdery, almost.

    Unfortunately, the mischievous quality of the start of the perfume burns itself out pretty quickly and the Puck-like start of the perfume seems like a ruse. The perfume becomes undistinguished in the particular way that a mixed florals can grow faceless. A touch of green remains, but it is too sweet, suggesting that the freshness of the opening of the perfume was too much effort to maintain, and Passerelle threw in the towel.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain

    Genre: Floral Oriental

    The olfactory equivalent of a sigh. Powdery, floral, moderately indolic, and unabashedly "perfumey," L'Heure Bleue is an archetypical classic women's fragrance. The white flowers here are spiked with a bittersweet, somewhat sharp, and (yes,) nocturnal flourish that seems to evoke a melancholic reverie in some wearers.

    Unfortunately, for all its transporting beauty and emotional power, L'Heure Bleue seems not to have aged well. Whenever I smell it I'm left feeling that it's somehow stuck in its own time, and not all that relevant to modern life. It is a scent that I admire, but do not enjoy.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Herbe Rouge by Ayala Moriel

    Genre: Chypre

    L'Herbe Rouge opens with a green, bitter lavender, followed almost immediately by a very sweet, juicy orange. The bright citrus persists as unusually smooth green herbal notes emerge to round out the heart accord.

    The lavender herbs become at once earthy and creamy, almost suggesting coconut (?!), while the citrus takes on a very tart, acidic quality. At this point L'Herbe Rouge is almost two different scents at once; rich, dry, and earthy side by side with thin, brisk, and tart; neither component interacting with the other. The effect is extremely odd, but I'm not sure whether or not I like it.

    An hour or more into the development, the fruit and the herbs integrate into a soft, slightly sweet accord, but there is discordant sour note on top of it that I find quite disturbing. The sour note eventually recedes, leaving a mild, slightly bittersweet, herbaceous drydown that fades away rather quickly. After two or three hours I can't detect L'Herbe Rouge at all.

    In the end, this scent leaves me a little bit puzzled, but not really intrigued enough to spend a lot of time figuring it out. My suspicion is that this fragrance needs different skin than mine to develop properly.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Être Aimé Homme by Divine

    Genre: Woody Oriental

    The two previous men’s scents from Divine, L’Homme Sage and L’Homme de Coeur, both elicited love at first sniff from me, but it’s taken me much longer to come to grips with L’Etre Aime Homme. I wrote a review of L’Etre Aime Homme last year, when it was first released, but since it had not yet been listed in the Basenotes Directory I set the review aside…and apparently misplaced it.

    Wearing L’Etre Aime Homme again sparks no memory of that previous review, which suggests just how much less potent and immediate an impact it had on me than its two brothers. L’Etre Aime Homme strikes me as the most subdued and enigmatic of the trio, and that’s quite a feat, since it’s composed around immortelle, which is notorious as one of the most intractable and overbearing notes in perfumery. It seems to me that immortelle is difficult to dose. Use it in any quantity, and it tends to dominate a composition at the expense of all other ingredients. (Annick Goutal’s love-it-or-leave-it immortelle foghorn Sables is a case in point.) Without carefully chosen and proportioned savory accents immortelle can also become syrupy sweet and awkwardly “foody.” So much so at times as to suggest artificial “maple” food flavoring. Divine’s perfumer Yann Vasnier controls immortelle’s bullying tendencies by using it in moderation, and avoids the maple syrup trap by setting it in a decidedly inedible woody context.

    Only the most fleeting of bergamot and aromatic top notes usher in L’Etre Ame Homme’s sweet woody heart, which sustains an unvaried pulse for several hours. The dark woods and immortelle are accompanied by sweet culinary spices and the barest hint of dry patchouli, which together lend the scent a deep, cozy warmth. Warmth enough that I’d find L’Etre Aime Homme oppressive in the summer heat, even though it’s not an overly potent scent. L’Etre Aime Homme is odd in offering sillage disproportionate to its modest potency, so while it never comes across as loud, it does linger in the air, such that you’ll catch hints of it if you retrace your steps within a room.

    After all this, L’Etre Aime Homme’s drydown is a disappointment, consisting as it does mostly of a “sandalwood” that smells to me much more like a skimpy, hollow, dusty cedar of no particular character. This limp exit sends me right back to wondering exactly what to make of L’Etre Aime Homme. On the plus side, it is remarkably deft in its use of immortelle, and gracefully sidesteps both the hackneyed gourmand effects and the crude bombast into which that ingredient can so easily drift. The deficits are a certain perplexing want of character and that dull, flimsy drydown. The balance leaves me still ambivalent. L’Etre Aime Homme is a pleasant scent and for the most part an accomplished composition, but after the delightful L’Homme Sage and L’Homme de Coeur I wanted more.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Eau by Diptyque

    Genre: Oriental

    Diptyque’s first scent has a stupefying opening: it’s a blaring accord of cinnamon Red Hots candies and citrus rind that while blatantly artificial, keeps me sniffing just because it’s so utterly weird. As things progress the citrus settles down, the cinnamon candy mutates into cloves, and a soft rose emerges in the background, all of which results in a much more conventional carnation accord. At a distance L’Eau’s main movement is a pleasant rose/carnation over creamy woods, but smelled up close there’s still something harsh and disturbingly “chemical” about it.

    Like so many of the Diptyque scents that have come since, L’Eau remains relatively linear once its core arrangement settles into place. As it wears on I feel that this represents Diptyque’s trial run at personal fragrances – which of course, it was. As such, I can’t say it was a promising first effort. Its oddness soon begins to look like clumsiness, with the clove note in particular being far out of balance. In retrospect it’s both remarkable and gratifying that L’Eau’s successors include such beauties as Virgilio, Eau Lente, and Philosykos. More an item of historical interest, I think, than a viable personal fragrance.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Eau Trois by Diptyque

    Genre: Leather

    Well, it's not run-of-the-mill, that's for sure! I get tart citrus and celery in the aromatic opening, soon underpinned by dry woods (perhaps cedar) and a distinct resinous conifer note. There's also a lot of rosemary in this blend, and this gives the herbal accord a decidedly culinary twist.

    Unfortunately, I must be seriously anosmic to something in this fragrance, since the next thing I know it's disappeared on me. In fact, I almost have to disqualify myself from reviewing L'Eau Trois since I catch so little of it. A very faint celery note lingers on my skin for an hour or so, and that's as much as I get.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Eau par Kenzo pour Homme by Kenzo

    Genre: Aquatic

    There's really not much to this one. A thin lemon eau de Cologne with an enormous barrel of Calone dumped over it, and about as necessary as plantar warts. What was I expecting? The stuff is blue.

    19 June, 2014

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    Lys du Desert by Decennial

    I smelled Lys du Désert when it was first released and not long after I first sampled Orange Star.  The similarities seemed apparent. The salty, umami ambergris note in Orange Star radiates from Lys du Désert as well. The two also share a mid-range sweetness, not sugary, not resinous. Mmmmm… Candied Skin™. The real point of comparison, though, is the mood. Both have a tidal quality, ebbing and flowing almost imperceptibly.

    The first scent of each is thick and enveloping. It's blanketing, and fills your nose and upper respiratory tract the way a drop of oil on paper infuses and becomes part of the paper’s structure. Both Lys and Orange Star play a bit of hide and seek. They seem to disappear or fade about 15 minutes after I apply them.   Soon, whiffs of the perfume return, strong in scent but elusive in location. Is it still on my wrist? Is it just behind me? Is it somewhere else in the room?   Or has it, as with the oil on paper, somehow become a part of my respiratory tract and my sense of it is internal?

    The other shoe dropped for me when I smelled Lys du Désert again after having tried Noontide Petals. Lys du Désert is the bridge from Orange Star to Noontide Petals, and makes perfect sense.  Imagine the musky rose of Noontide Petals without aldehyde ‘wings’.  Without the lift from the aldehydes, Lys du Désert doesn't sing with quite the angelic range (read: castrati soprani) of Noontide Petals. Not one whit less beautiful, desert Lily is more of an Earth Angel.

    LuckyScent were lucky indeed to get this fragrance. I don’t mean any disrespect in pointing out the similarities of these perfumes. Art deserves to be discussed in terms of an artist’s body of work, and a perfume resembling its immediate predecessor as well as the one that would eventually follow it is the sign of a creative mind bubbling away.  And though Andy Tauer doesn’t seem the type to spike the ball after a touchdown, three winners in a row is nothing to sneeze at.

    I’m not a perfumer, and I’m not versed in the construction of perfume. I can’t speak to the simplicity or complexity of the construction of any of these perfumes. But as a perfume wearer, I recognize that the the legibility of these perfumes enhances the experience of wearing them. Clarity and intelligibility don’t often equate with effortlessness, and the chance to see how an artist works with ideas he’s honed to their essentials is a pleasure. 

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Eau Guerrière 20 by Parfumerie Generale

    Genre: Woods

    L’Eau Guerrière’s top notes include a citrus so tart and acidic that it flirts briefly with vinegar before stepping back from the brink. The aggressive “sky” aldehydes no doubt contribute to the searing brightness of this introduction. The volatility of these materials ensures that the opening flourish is brief, and what follows is a dry, transparent accord of citrus, wood and frankincense. It’s pleasant and straightforward, if not earth shatteringly original. I have no idea what cinchona bark is supposed to smell like, but whatever it is, it makes no distinct impression beyond “nice wood.”

    Its name notwithstanding, I find L’Eau Guerrière to be a very quiet scent, with minimal sillage and projection. It wears very much as a skin scent, especially as it works through its drydown of incense and warm, vaguely animalic musk. In mood and style L’Eau Guerrière closely parallels spare, dry, niche incense fragrances like Heeley’s Cardinal and Olivier Durbano’s Rock Crystal. I frankly find Comme des Garçons’ Avignon richer and more exciting than any of these, and would turn to it for dry incense before the more elusive Parfum d’Empire offering.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Eau de Ryokuei by Menard

    Genre: Green Floral

    An utter beauty. L'Eau de Ryokuei begins with citrus and very light, transparent floral notes. The citrus top notes soon retreat and leave the heart to an exquisitely limpid floral accord. The floral notes here are so well blended that I can't easily distinguish them. A bit of lilac? Some muguet? Perhaps a touch of lotus blossom? The blend is ethereal without being anemic and liquid without being conventionally "aquatic."

    The closest parallel I know to Ryokuei's olfactory texture is Olivia Giacobetti's En Passant for Frederic Malle. While the two smell nothing alike, both evoke similar emotional responses: gentle reverie tinged with heartbreak. L'Eau de Ryokuei is like a delicate watercolor rendered with just a few well-placed brushstrokes. It may not be all that lasting, but its evanescence makes it all the more haunting.

    I'd prefer to smell L'Eau de Ryokuei on a woman than on my crude and hairy self, though it's apparently marketed as unisex. It would take a more refined and cultured man than me to pull this evocative beauty off convincingly.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Eau de Circé 05 by Parfumerie Generale

    Genre: Fruity Floral

    L'Eau de Circe starts out with a weird sour fruity note, but soon morphs into a sweet (and I mean SWEET) fruity floral. My immediate impression is not mushrooms, but bubblegum and lollipops and cheap perfume for teenage girls. Not nice.

    The nasty synthetic fruit note goes away after a while, leaving an undistinguished white flower bouquet in its wake. Why bother?

    19 June, 2014

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    Ysatis by Givenchy

    Givenchy Ysatis (1984) gives me some new thoughts on scent and memory. It comes from an era when I rarely wore perfume, and didn't pay attention to the state-of-the-art at all.  Still, I remembered it instantly when I found a perfectly preserved vintage specimen recently.

    Ysatis is more nuanced than Dior Poison, less car-alarmish than Givenchy Amarige, less cartoonish than Boucheron by Boucheron. There's no doubt it's cut from the same cloth, though. It's a classic 80s signature fragrance.  In the 80s, an era noted for valuing assimilation and aspiration, a signature fragrance wasn't one that made you stand apart, it was one that loudly signaled your inclusion with a group, or affiliation with a type. No one of these fragrances was fatal, but together, they were nightmarish. (note: At this time I lived in New York City, a city of public transportation and confined spaces.) They made me appreciate the ridiculous slogan of the era: Just Say No.

    So, memory.  I remember associating this perfume with the go-go sensibility of the 80s. It was a time of gross misproportion, of ill-judged dynamics.  The perfume and fashion of the era might have been set-dressing, but their were indicative, and Ysatis demonstrates the inappropriateness.

    Example:  shoulder pads aren't my style, but I can understand their use in suits jackets dresses. In the 80s, shoulder pads were used in short sleeve T-shirts. Imagine a T-shirt so poorly fitted that the bulk of the voluminous fabric hanging about your waist must be tucked into your high waisted jeans. Slapping some packaging material into the shoulders of this T-shirt does nothing to mitigate its inattention to the human form. In fact, it highlights it. The person who wore this T-shirt/jeans combination wore Poison in elevators. Wore Cacharel Lulu to brunch.  Wore clouds of YSL Paris on the RR. Wore Amarige to the gym. You get the picture.

    Ysatis shares the era's sin of volume, but it utterly typifies another great miscalculation of the time, which is the overuse of formality.  The market of smart sportswear had yet to be unearthed in the 1980s. The choice was often torn Levi's or a hideous dress, and the hideous dress usually won. A variation of an old bromide was reinvented for the 1980s: If it things worth doing it's worth doing... with ruffles, with chintz, with gris gris, with cheap adornment.  "Jewelry" was stated,"costume" was implied.

    Seen from later eras, Ysatis could be considered tasteful version of the big 80s perfumes. But what is the value of a slightly more tasteful monster?  It’s like someone kicking you hard in the balls, but not as hard as he could have. Dominique Ropion is a master of the highly calibrated floral perfume. But for current use, Ysatis lacks the camp of Opium, Poison, Giorgio. They are dated and caricaturish, but they’re fun.  Ysatis, Ropion's tailored monster, is so busy sucking in her cheeks and posing she doesn't crack a smile.  

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Eau D'Issey pour Homme by Issey Miyake

    Genre: Aquatic

    Anyone who follows my Basenotes posts and reviews knows that I’m no fan of aquatic scents, and hence not predisposed to enjoy L’Eau d’Issey. Indeed, I find its brash, synthetic, calone drenched opening repugnant. To me it smells less like the ocean than like an industrial chemical – which I suppose is exactly what calone is. I don’t detect much change as the scent ages, except perhaps for a few bright flowers and a helping of artificial fruit flavoring. (Think green Lifesavers.) Two or three hours later I’m left with a harsh woody (cypress?) base, but as Issey transforms it passes through a phase that I can best describe as rotting seaweed.

    One thing I dislike about L’Eau d’Issey is that its ozonic note is not even minimally blended. The result is crass and crude, as if L’Eau d’Issey has its naked butt up against the school bus window, mooning any motorist unlucky enough to pass. Paradoxically, I have to give the scent some credit for its brashness – it’s far less bland than the thousands of limp aquatic imitators that have come in its wake. As much as I dislike it, I must also acknowledge L’Eau d’Issey’s significance in the history of scent. It is a landmark composition that epitomizes the past decade’s dominant fragrance genre. So though I rate it very low, it’s not so much because I think it smells bad (which I do), but because there are so many more well-constructed, nuanced, and sophisticated clean aquatic scents to choose from.

    19 June, 2014

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    V for Women by Clive Christian

    Clive Christian V is a patchouli-chypre.  One approach to make up for the lost moss at the heart of the classical chypre is to overdose the patchouli.  It's an approach that's been done before the IFRA ever sank their claws into oakmoss.  Witness the undisputed champion Clinique Aromatics Elixir.

    It's simple, really.  The cost/quality imbalance in perfumery is laid bare.  Consider the following list of the same idea done better and costing much less:

    Clinique Aromatics Elixir
    Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Chérie
    Aramis A 900
    Histoire de Parfum Noir Patchouli
    État Libre d'Orange l'Après-Midi d’une Faune
    Le Labo Ylang 49 (well, somewhat less.)

    Of course, as none of the above smell like Aromatics Elixir sprayed into a pissy diaper, they all have a leg up on Clive Christian V.

    I'm beginning to regret all the times I said how odd it is that no one's ever really followed in the footsteps of Aromatics Elixir---that nobody’s really tried to imitate it.  Bad imitation on my wrist, I'll watch my tongue in the future.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Eau d'Ambre by L'Artisan Parfumeur

    Genre: Oriental

    The mildest mannered amber I've ever sampled. I don't wear amber to be mild mannered. Dries down all nougat and vanilla, without the sexy edge I look for in this kind of fragrance. Pleasant, but hardly interesting

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Anarchiste by Caron

    Genre: Woods

    I honestly can't understand what all this outrage and revulsion is about. Blood? Nope. "Rusty bucket?" Nada. Copper? Only on the bottle. Certainly not the Antichrist, a zombie, or even vampire juice.

    After all the hoopla, what I smell is a very pleasant, well-made woody scent with a good deal of sweet citrus on top and a politely musky base. The orange top note is lightly "mentholated" by cedar leaves, and I suppose if my imagination were much more vivid I might say it smelled like cough syrup, or metal, or something more exotic and disturbing than citrus and cedar sap.

    At any rate, the sweet orange and cedar soon blend with some softer, sweeter woods and a generous dash of cinnamon to make a smooth, spicy accord that persists for a couple of hours before the musky-woody drydown sets in. This accord strikes me as quite suave and sophisticated - good for the fashionable, cultured urbanite who's always perfectly accessorized.

    L'Anarchiste is really very nice, versatile, and easy to wear, and hardly all that weird. The only real fault I find in it is that doesn't last as long as it could, which strikes me as odd coming from a house that's bred such marathoners as The Third Man and Yatagan.

    19 June, 2014

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    L'Air du Desert Marocain by Tauer

    Genre: Woody Oriental

    L'Air du Desert Morocain opens as a very heavy amber and honey blend, quickly joined by some sweet citrus and a beguiling touch of smoke. Over the first few minutes the honey and amber settle into the background while the smoke intensifies and a very well-rendered tobacco note steps forward. The citrus persists for some time, like a cool breeze that lifts the composition and keeps its sweetness from from becoming ponderous. Some incense pushes its way forward over time, while the sweet amber resurfaces, and then grows more and more dominant. The drydown is sweet, smoky amber and persists for a long time.

    This is a complex and impressive oriental scent that will appeal to lovers of the Serge Lutens line. While it's individual notes and tone recall such Sheldrake/Lutens classics as Ambre Sultan, Chergui, Arabie, and especially Fumerie Turque, it's not derivative of them. In fact, it's better balanced and quite a bit lighter, which I think makes it much more wearable. A very fine scent.

    19 June, 2014

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    Calypso by Robert Piguet

    Calypso has its finger in quite a few pies.  The aquatic note makes you think you're going down one road, but the floral quality says otherwise. Then there's the salty, smoky quality and a smooth suede notes. Oh, don't forget the powder.  

    Calypso is awkward and I can’t quite tell if it works.

    The disparate notes don’t read as a complex formula. They’re awkward and make you think that the perfumer might have been indecisive about composing Calypso. The fragrance it most reminds me of is Gorilla Perfumes Breath of God, although I also catch a whiff of Parfumerie Générale Psychotrope's Jolly-Rancher-on -acid note. Calypso is arguably more worked out than Breath of God, but it’s also less interesting.

    Quirky but mannered, Calypso feels like a conversation with someone who's accent you can't quite pin down. It leaves me with the suspicion of an dodged question, as if the perfume is resolved but I'm not quite.

    19 June, 2014

    Way Off Scenter's avatar

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    L de Lubin by Lubin

    Genre: Chypre

    L de Lubin is a traditional aldehydic green-floral chypre, very much in the mold of Givenchy III and the original Calèche, though set in a somewhat higher register. It opens on a sour, vinegary top note that I don’t much care for, but this dissipates within ten minutes of wear as the central chypre accord assembles. The heart has all of the dark earthiness of a classic chypre, including the mushroomy, forest floor funk of the lichen known in perfumery as oakmoss.

    Perhaps it’s all the aldehydes, or perhaps it’s the powdery aspect of L de Lubin’s floral notes, but for whatever reason, this scent reads to me as intensely retro in character. Compared even with older chypres like Mitsouko or 1000 (no lightweights themselves,) L de Lubin seems heavily “perfumey,” with a strong grandma’s closet vibe to it. In league with that, L de Lubin is a potent scent: it projects at least a yard from the wearer and leaves an ample cloud of sillage behind it to boot. Both a little too loud and a little too shrill, L de Lubin comes off as crass and clumsy next to more rounded and subtly blended chypres like Aqua di Parma Profumo, Heure Exquise, or the aforementioned Givenchy and Hermès scents. I see it as a throwback scent, and not one that adds anything unique or original to the chypre genre. With the far more suave and subtle Givenchy III back on the market, L de Lubin seems superfluous.

    19 June, 2014

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    Notes by Robert Piguet

    A scenario popped into my head the moment I smelled Notes. Aurélien Guichard made a flanker of Jean Paul Gautier le Male called le Male Terrible. Piguet’s Notes could very easily have been his first draft, returned by the client for being too similar to the original.

    I haven't smelled all of the new Robert Piguet line, but having both Calypso and Notes in the same line seems a mistake. Although they don't smell particularly alike, the similarity of their construction is close enough that they fill the same slot, and neither is a stellar perfume.  Calypso is a 21st-century Cool Water and Notes is a spin on Jean Paul Gautier’s le Male.

    The new Robert Piguet line seems intended for a younger, less perfume-experienced buyer than their Futur and  Fracas buyers. Oddly for Aurélien Guichard, a technical master with a particular proficiency in balancing linear and traditional forms, Notes and Calypso both come off as rather monophonic. It's possible that the perfumer aimed low and hit lower still, hoping for the perfume equivalent of a catchy pop song, but winding up with a jingle.

    19 June, 2014

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    parfums*PARFUMS Series 3 Incense: Kyoto by Comme des Garçons

    Genre: Woods

    Kyoto is the driest and most translucent of the scents I’ve tried from Comme des Garçons Incense series. It’s texture is spare – ethereal even – with cedar, smoky incense, and very little else. If Avignon is cathedral incense and Zagorsk is resinous conifer incense, Kyoto is the charred ash of incense already burned. Yet for all of its simplicity, I find Kyoto a compelling scent. There’s a certain meditative stillness about it, and if any fragrance I’ve tried recently comes close to embodying the notion of Zen, this quiet incense is it.

    As you’d guess from my description, Kyoto is not a potent fragrance. In fact it may epitomize the idea of the “skin scent.” It leaves the impression of having walked through a cloud of incense smoke, of which a trace has lingered on one’s clothes. Unfortunately, Kyoto is a bit ephemeral, and begins to dissipate rapidly after a couple of hours’ wear. The drydown is a stark as the rest of the scent’s phases, consisting of a sparse accord of vetiver and cedar. On the whole I’d consider Kyoto an aesthetically successful exercise in olfactory minimalism, but I do wish it had a little bit more “umph” and endurance.

    19 June, 2014

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    Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent

    Genre: Fougère

    Given all the controversy surrounding it, Kouros is a scent I approached with trepidation. As it happens I need not have worried. After Ungaro II, or even Jicky, it's not that much of a shocker.

    Kouros opens with a powerful blast of citrus and civet, and I'm guessing that the civet note is what turns so many people off right from the beginning. Granted, the civet in Kouros is in-your-face, rather than subtly integrated as in Ungaro II, but it's not mishandled, either. As the citrus note fades, honey and strong floral notes come into play behind the civet to create an animalic, yet sweet new accord. This dense heart is where Kouros strays dangerously close to the liquid excretion territory inhabited by the putrid Amouage Gold. Luckily, some bracing spicy notes, perhaps clove and cinnamon, pull Kouros back from the brink. (Though not without some suspense.) It's very easy to see how at this stage Kouros could become offensive. It is, after all, the granddaddy of all 1980s powerhouse fragrances.

    As things progress a bit of astringency (vetiver? artemisia?) slips in to balance out the civet/sweet floral accord. From here Kouros launches on its extended and well-executed drydown, with traces of the civet over incense, musk, and vanilla. After a few hours, things even become downright powdery. A surprising end point for a fragrance that goes on so wickedly potent!

    All in all, Kouros is a bold scent that was pioneering on its first release. It still stands out tall, like an isolated mountain peak among the timid, undistinguished fragrances that crowd today's designer landscape. Kouros will always be a polarizing scent, as is any that features a prominent note of civet in its composition. Given its animalic character, Kouros's sheer strength and great sillage can also make it hard to wear. In fact, it's not a scent I ever have occasion to apply. But for someone eager to make a bold, if rather crude, statement, this is a fragrance to try.

    19 June, 2014

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    Knowing by Estée Lauder

    Genre: Floral

    Knowing is a rose so big that a family of four could take up residence inside it and still have room to entertain. You know it comes from the 1980s: never before or since have floral scents been as loud. Knowing is to rose what Giorgio, Amarige and Poison are to tuberose. A scent like Joy is feeble next to Knowing, and of the older florals only Fracas comes to mind as matching its flamboyance.

    For all its heft, Knowing is still a great rose. It may be big, but it’s highly articulated, filled with interesting detail, and surprisingly well proportioned. Smelling Knowing navigate its way around being too sweet, too heady, too soapy, or too fruity is like watching a circus elephant pluck a daisy by the stem. How can anything so huge be so poised and dexterous? Knowing will appeal to those who love Pierre Montale’s grand rose scents, and I might even go so far as suggest it as a less exotic, though much more affordable, rosy alternative to Amouage Lyric. In case my description leaves any doubt, Knowing fills the room and lasts forever. There’s no turning back once you press that sprayer!

    19 June, 2014

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    Dia Man by Amouage

    Amouage Dia Man (Dia), poor dear, suffers from the Middle Child Syndrome. Dia sits in the long shadow of older Amouage brother, Gold Man, and can't match his egregious, universally adored younger sibling Jubilation XXV.  And what's with the names?  Dia? Day Among such names as Gold, Honor, Epic, Beloved. You might as well have named Dia Bob.

    The smart money, though, will look past the names, the hype  and Amouage’s own trepidation. With the substantially quieter Dias, Man and Woman, Amouage wanted to take a step back from the apparent grandness of the Gold twins.  The middle child might get lost and become invisible to the outside eye, but for a child with a strong sense of self and a good degree of introspection, this scenario could be perfect.  This fictitious child is Dia.  Dia has a composure that is ideal for those who appreciate beauty over finery and values refinements over attention seeking.

    Dia is spicy, woody, ambery and just two shades away from grim.   Many of the Amouage men's fragrances are statement perfume's. They announce your arrival. Gold, Ciel, Epic. I'm thrilled to see such unrepentant beauty in masculine fragrances, but as a daily wear, they can be ball busters.  Dia is perhaps the perfect daily wear perfume if you wear perfume as a gift to your own soul. Dia works it's magic over time, reminding you that pleasure should be neither postponed nor uncommon. I’d love to try Dia reality-gameshow style as a test of character. Put a sample of men in a room with all the masculine Amouages and ask them to pick the one that they would wear as a signature perfume. Introduce me to the men who choose Dia.

    19 June, 2014

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