Perfume Reviews

Reviews by misterjohn

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Total Reviews: 14

Tam Dao Eau de Toilette by Diptyque

Thanks to me friends in the sample selling world, I've now taken a small dip into the world of niche and my main conclusion is that, by and large, the emperor has no clothes. This fragrance offers the space note profile: sandalwood. Nothing else. That could be fine. I can imagine a fragrance with just the note vetiver that explores the many faces of that note. But not here. The opening is sawdust, which is kind of cool and interested. Followed by...some slightly varied wood scents and more sawdust...followed up by more sawdust. You get my drift.

In my view, perfumery, at its best, is an art form telling a story in scent. There is no story here. There is little art. This is closer to a photograph, and not a very interesting one. The only thing to appreciate is the verisimilitude of the representation. The wood in this fragrance smells like, well, just like wood. In fact, remarkably like wood and sawdust. That verisimilitude is, apparently, the achievement. But I want art, not verisimilitude from fragrance. If I really wanted verisimilitude, I could stuff my clothes with hamster bedding. I'd smell EXACTLY like pine or cedar (depending on the bedding). But I'm looking for more. It's like a Demeter scent except with longevity.

This is my second one-note nice, and I'm starting to get the impression that, despite the hefty price tag and the laudatory remarks from folks that need to justify having forked over hundreds of dollars for the authentic smell of sandalwood, that the emperor has no clothes! I understand this is not the case with Frederic Malle and other such scents, but an awful lot of this stuff seems like form without substance. I'll take honest designer scents that attempt to tell a story, like Aramis Tuscany, over this any day.
06th February, 2015

Fahrenheit Absolute by Christian Dior

I've been fascinated by this fragrance for awhile now, but am yet to pull the trigger on a full bottle. I have, however, gone through about 8ml of samples and have drawn some definite conclusions. Here are my notes:

Fahrenheit Absolute: A Tale in Three Acts

Act I: Homage to Big Brother
For an all too brief time at the opening of this fragrance, its an homage to its big brother, Fahrenheit, with takes on the classic gasoline note and the intense violets. This, however, is more like a prologue than a full act, for the fragrance soon veers off in its own direction.

Act II: Struggle
Act II is a battle between the forces of goodness, myrrh, incense, and violet, and the forces of darkness, over-rich vanilla, oud, and Darth Cumin. The fragrance alternates between these, sometimes offering the sweet light of the church when incense and myrrh have the lead (usually assisted by violet) but often struggling when the dark forces are in command, especially the nasty BO note of Darth Cumin. Initially, evil typically has the upper hand offering the wearer only fleeting glimpses of what's possible. Gradually, good and evil battle on more or less equal terms.

Act III: Redemption
By Act III, the forces of evil are vanquished and good reigns over the land. The church shines bright with violet light through its stained glass windows. At this phase, which lasts from about an hour in until you wash the fragrance off (it never seems to dissipate on its own), offers serenity and promise. This is what makes the fragrance so enticing. But, like any good drama, one must overcome adversity to truly savor the delights of victory.

Bottom line: It's a great, but flawed, fragrance. There is no good reason the wearer should have to struggle through Act II, but there is a big reward at the end. Great longevity, okay sillage.
04th February, 2015

Boucheron pour Homme by Boucheron

I got a sample of this from MyPerfumeSamples and gave it a go last night. When trying new fragrances, I like to review their notes on BN and then write my own impressions as I experience the fragrance. I began this process but soon stopped. This fragrance just blew me away with its beauty and uniqueness. Rarely can a fragrance transport me into some imaginary world outside of time and space, but this one achieved it. I imagined a spring day on some sunny hillside in Pennsylvania. I pictured a girl just in the first blush of womanhood frolicking, laughing on the hillside. I imagined the girl and a boy, about her age, in love, but awkward about it. All this from a mere sequence of smells. Remarkable.

After the vision passed, I immediately bought a full bottle online.
04th February, 2015
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Équipage by Hermès

After sampling for some weeks from an ever-dwindling 2ml supply procured from the Perfumed Court, I found a vintage bottle at a price too good to pass up. The vintage arrived today, and I was so taken by it that I thought it worth posting a review.

The notes for this fragrance are well-known and well exposited elsewhere so I will not duplicate these efforts. Rather, let me make some comparisons. There are some great leathers out there. Among semi-modern, D&G Pour Homme (made in Italy or Germany but not elsewhere) is one. There are many others. Of those I've sampled or bought, this is simply the best. The richness and depth of the fragrance combined with its "dirty" elements are out of this world beautiful. Viewing fragrance as art, this is a Monet--relatively few brushstrokes producing a transforming effect.

The vintage juice is different from new in all the right ways. It is darker in the opening with a dirty, rustic theme right from the outset. Happily this is dirty in the sense of oakmoss and not in the sense of cumin. As it dries down, the leather is pure, rich and lovely, like a visit to a freshly cleaned stable. The horses are there, sweating and steaming in the afternoon heat. You pick up a saddle, nose right to it as you lift it into place onto your chestnut brown quarterhorse. You pull on your hand tooled boots and prepare to ride. Heading out, it is just you, saddle, riding crop, and the country air in the low, late afternoon light.

Just perfect.
23rd January, 2015

Eau d'Hermès by Hermès

I love Terre d'Hermes and wanted to investigate the classics of this house, so I procured a decant of this from Perfumed Court. As I've become more interested and deeply involved with fragrances, I've found my tastes moving toward more animalic notes, so I thought Eau would be a great fit. Having now tested the fragrance several times, here are my notes:

The initial smell is citrus and a strong waft of manure--horse manure I guess to keep with the theme of the house. It's not completely stinky fresh manure, but more of "the smell of the country" so to speak. The citrus is soon replaced by floral notes, but the dominant scent is manure. As it starts to dry down, the manure smell eases up some, and one can possibly construe the notes as leather and certainly sandalwood, but even here it's impossible for me to get past the smell of poop--highly structured and caeefully articulated, but poop nonetheless.

Some have compared this to the smell of sex. I don't know what sort of sex these people are having, but this is no smell that I'm familiar with as deriving from that process. I assume this note is civet. I've encountered civet before in Kouros, which I like very much, and in others. This is no civet smell I've ever encountered.

I suppose this is a classic, and it is certainly far more interesting and challenging than the run of the mill mall fragrance. I suspect that my skin chemistry must be all wrong for this frag since others write about the non-poop notes while occasionally referencing the skanky elements. For me, the "animal" elements dominate everything else. It's curious that I get nothing similar from Kourosh, which smells fresh and interesting on my skin with only a hint of the animalic. I wish I liked this more since I feel like a bozo giving it a thumbs down, but I cannot, in good conscience, see it as anything other than a fail.

I'm sure to a more acculturated nose, this stuff smells divine. But it doesn't work for me at all. Perhaps that is my failing but, even so, I cannot imagine ever wearing this stuff, even if I did, somehow, convince myself that it is gorgeous. I would worry that others would conclude that, quite literally, I had my head up my a$$.

I don't get this one at all.
11th January, 2015 (last edited: 20th January, 2015)

Mediterraneum by Versace

Back when I was a naïf before discovering Basenotes, this was my signature fragrance. I absolutely loved it and wore it nearly every day for a few years. As I discovered frags for real, I came to see this as an embarrassment and abandoned it. Recently, however, I suffered a twinge of nostalgia and picked up an inexpensive copy on eBay. After testing for a couple of weeks, I've come to a new view about this fragrance.

Med opens with lots of orange, rich, sweet, juicy oranges that are done really convincingly. There are floral notes in the background and they quickly overwhelm the orange with aldehydes. The notes just speed through with this fragrance, in moments, even the floral notes are gone, replaced by woodsy notes and very nice geranium.

This fragrance is sweet, not in the sense of a gourmand, but sweet nonetheless, there are no dry or bitter notes to speak of. Even the woods are done sweetly. Despite this, I don't find it cloying. It's not an overwhelming sweetness, but, the notes are not balanced by anything to counter the sweetness. In a way, this is not a very challenging fragrance, perhaps this was what attracted me as a beginner.

The sweetness starts to dial down with the addition of rose and ferns, but the vanilla base appears at about the same time, somewhat blunting what could have been a neat transition. As it continues into the base notes, sandalwood appears and it looks like it's going to end up as a typical comfort fragrance, a warm, sweet mixture of vanilla, sandalwood, amber, and patchouli. It's heading straight for thumbs middle territory.

Then something happens to change all that. The frag suddenly starts turning green and much dirtier. Styrax and benzoin make their appearance along with what smells to me like a dirty musk, though the note is not listed. The sweetness is not gone, and the two sides move back and forth in terms of prominence as the scent continues to dry down. The animalic qualities of the frag make it far sexier than its early notes would suggest. Suddenly, the scent goes from merely comfortable too interesting, and a bit daring and dangerous. The dry down offers a delicate balance between sweet and dirty that I find really charming and compelling.

While I remembered the oranges and the sweetness of the opening, I didn't remember this surprise ending from my earlier wearings, perhaps reflecting my general cluelessness at the time. Old me bought it for the sweetness, present me will continue to wear it from time to time, not out of nostalgia, but for the nifty dry down. Thumbs up.
11th January, 2015

Versace l'Homme by Versace

This review is for the currently available formulation. I've never used the earlier ones so have no basis for comparison.

I like so-called powerhouse frags. While the initial spray tends to be too loud and screechy to be with others, the note progression and especially the dry down makes this worth enduring. With that in mind, I though Versace l'Homme would be a wonderful addition having read the many positive reviews.

The initial spray is alcohol and lemon disinfectant. I smell like "cologne guy." It's not good, but I can handle it. Things will soon settle down. The top notes mention bergamot, petit grain, and basil, but I smell none of these. I get lemon, lemon, and lemon--a really brassy and cold smelling lemon. Things do improve after a time with the appearance of patchouli, curiously a middle note in the listing. But the brassy lemon still persists--it's the longest top note I've ever experienced. Often, the top notes are the best part of a frag, and you wish they would last longer. But Lysol is not my favorite top note, so I wish it would go away. There is something of a warm vs dry balancing act at work in the mid notes with warm patchouli and amber competing with the dry lemon and sandalwood notes that is sort of interesting.

The best part of the fragrance occurs during the brief interval where the floral notes appear. For a little while, there is the vibe of herbal tea with honey and lemon that is quite enticing. But all too fleeting.

The dry down lists oak moss, musk, tonka and labdanum, all easily recognized notes, but none of this seems to be present. I get leather, patchouli, and, of course, the indomitable lemon. It's a sad little dry down and compares very poorly to Azzaro pour homme, which offers many of the same notes (plus anise of course). The presence of the lemon from start to finish reinforces the impression of a one-dimensional fragrance.

It does last a good long time and projects "well" (if, indeed, it's a good idea to broadcast that you are wearing this dreck.)

From the reviews, I imagine it did not always smell like this in previous incarnations, but buyer beware of the present version.
11th January, 2015

Voyage by Nautica

Based on many threads singling this one out as one of the exceptional values in fragrance, I bought a bottle and gave it a thorough test drive. I had previously experienced Nautica Blue, a complete disaster, and Nautica Oceans, a very pleasant aquatic but a joke in terms of longevity and sillage, so I was skeptical.

Initially, Voyage lives up to the hype. There is a bracing tart apple scent that is original and smells plausibly real. There is a hint of salty ocean breeze, but just a hint, working with the apple. The two notes do not really blend so much as co-exist. Gradually, a darker, lusher lotus floral note appears with the green apple. This is by far the best part of the scent, occurring about 15mins from initial application. Sadly, though, this stage is very short. The shortness of the floral phase is hardly surprising, especially at this price point.

Things evolve to a conventional cedar/amber/oak moss accord, but with a nifty ocean vibe to it. While many aquatics play up clean and fresh notes, this one dares to be a little it dirty and earthy with the oak moss (or more likely, some equivalent-ish chemical concoction). I like the slight animalic quality. While there is an ocean vibe, it's not really very prominent and it dissipates rapidly, leaving only the more basic set of standard male frag notes to do the bulk of the work.

The frag is not very powerful or long-lasting. It's a skin scent after an hour and, on me at least, gone completely in 4 hours. Maybe that's to be expected from an aquatic, but I had hoped for more, given some of the quotes about it being a "beast" in this regard.

At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with this fragrance. It has some high notes, but lacks the "hook" of a really compelling fragrance. It's just kind of meh. Worse yet, I got this in part to please my wife, who dislikes my choice of complex frags like Bulgari Black, preferring aquatics instead. I had really hoped that, even if I thought it was a bit dull, I'd score spousal points for the choice. But no. Her reaction, and I'm quoting, "It's completely meh."

Compared to things like Encre Noire, Bulgari Black, or many others that can be had for around $25, I don't think this offers exceptional value at all. Indeed, I wouldn't rate it much, if at all, above Curve, which is about the same price. Thumbs middle for a few high notes, but nowhere near a thumbs up, even at the cheap price of around $10 I paid for it.
11th January, 2015

Aqua pour Homme by Bulgari

It was aquatics that first got me interested in frags. I liked Cool Water, thought ADG and Issey were heaven, and then graduated onto more interesting frags outside of this genre. After a while, I decided I didn't like aquatics at all, too simple, too little sillage, and too popular. My wife, however, vastly prefers aquatics to others, and bugged me to return to them. Bowing to these wishes, I set out to find something we both could love. I believe I found it in Bulgari Aqua. It's an aquatic all right, but in the purer sense of the word--it's the salt, and green, and earth of the ocean rather than the chlorinated blue of a swimming pool.

After an initial blast of orange, but in the form of Cointreau rather than Florida orange juice, the signature seaweed note emerges, first flying above lavender and cotton, then drifting amid an amber/patchouli/cedar accord. The Cointreau and cotton are nice unusual touches, but without the seaweed, this would be very pedestrian, and not very aquatic. The seaweed note, however, changes everything, casting it's salty green tentacles through traditional accords and breathing new life and refreshment into them. It's daring, creative, and effective. Oh, and they somehow manage to work a tea scent into this during the latter half of the floral section through some sort of pact with the devil, I suspect.

It's a true aquatic, changing the meaning of the term for me. Like Bulgari Black, with its remarkable rubber note, it's also a masterpiece with its signature seaweed scent, which lasts even into the dry down. Happily, it also lasts and, for an aquatic, really projects. Simply the best aquatic made in my opinion.
11th January, 2015

Bora Bora for Men by Liz Claiborne

Bought blind at Marshalls when first becoming interested in fragrances. I figured it was by Liz Claiborne and Curve was okay, so how could I go wrong. Well, even though it was a full sized bottle for very little money, you can go very wrong indeed. I find it simply boring both those around me, wife and son, find it far too much fougere goodness for their liking. Took it camping on hot summer days in the Sierra. I soon found myself banned from the cabin when applying. It was that bad. Apparently the synthetic figs didn't appeal.
07th January, 2015

Soul by Curve for Men by Liz Claiborne

I picked up a clearance bottle of this frag from Ross a couple of years ago. After initially trying, and rejecting it. I thought it good to give it a fresh chance as part of my quest to find the best cheap fragrances. There are several threads on this topic, and Curve/Soul comes up now and again, giving me renewed hope. To set expectations, I review in real time, applying the frag and then commenting on what I get. I then edit this slightly, but what you are getting is a minute be minute account and not a recollection after the fact, for good or ill.

Initial spray is string alcohol with just a hint of citrus. 30 seconds later, it has settled down to a bergamot citrus blend with a distinctly green feel to it. This is presumably the bamboo listed in the notes. It's very approachable and pleasant. A nice mixture of notes that offers a somewhat new take on the citrus/fresh genre.

Sadly, this period is crazily short, lasting only about 2 mins. After an initial hint of lavender at the 1:30 mark after application, by 2:00 this fragrance abruptly transforms from citrus fresh to fougere. The lead notes are sage and lavender, again consistent with the "green" take on traditional notes. This too is completely approachable and perfectly nice though the notes themselves ring false, more "lavender-ish" than true lavender and the same with the sage. Violet is typically a strong note when it appears, but not in Soul, where it is a listed, but undetectable (at least to me) note.

This, sadly, is even shorter in duration than the top notes. By 3:15, these notes are about gone, replaced by a very typical amber/sandalwood base. Other base notes are listed, but I only detect these two. Again,the transition is abrupt, not the sort of clever morphing of notes arising elsewhere, even at a similar price point--the comparison between the handling of notes in Soul and the incomparable, but similarly priced, Bvlgari Black, is instructive in this regard.

Again, the notes are synthetic feeling. The amber is especially lifeless, lacking any hint of sweetness to cut the dryness of the sandalwood. This is a very arid take on these basenotes. Worse yet, unlike the happy, if somewhat cacophonous symphony of notes leading up to the big finish, the dry down is ordinary and is, dare I say it, somewhat soulless.

It remains like this, more or less unchanged, for the next 15 mins or so. Gradually, ever so gradually, things perk up a little. The amber sweetens, and a peppery background appears to enliven things. This is a fragrance that will not annoy, but lacks any sort of interest as well. It's the boring, but well meaning neighbor. He's nothing much to look at, but he'll lend you sugar or jumper cables without hesitation. He's a nice guy, but not someone you invite to the party.

Sillage is slightly below average. You'll leavea scent trail up to 30 mins from application, but not beyond this. Longevity is below average,about 3 hours. Beyond this, you can still pick up the scent, but only by burying your nose in your arm and inhaling almost to the point of asphyxiation.

It gets a thumbs down for offering too little at the price. It's totally inoffensive and mildly pleasant at the outset, but I want more from a frag. For the same price I can have any of the Aramis gentlemen's line of scents, all of which offer more interest.
29th December, 2014 (last edited: 11th January, 2015)

Silver Black / Onyx by Azzaro

Opens with a blast of lemon, almost like Lemon Pledge, but countered by a darker, almost animal note. After a short while, the pledge smell eases and the dark note becomes more easygoing, this time offsetting a peppery note in the background. The pepper gains prominence and, for a time, is about even with the base notes of musk and cedar settling deep into the background but never quite disappearing.

The fragrance projects well and remains for a good long time. I like the complexity and dynamism of the range of scents. It definitely reminds me of its big brother Azzaro pH. Overall, a really nice fragrance and an excellent value. Wear when you are in the mood for something dark and animal. Not for those who want fun, light, and airy. It projects seriousness and sophistication.
12th December, 2014 (last edited: 17th January, 2015)

L'Eau d'Issey pour Homme by Issey Miyake

What a delight. In my quest to find the perfect fragrance, L'Eau d'Issey has been getting a lot of looks in the rotation. Today was cold and overcast here in northern California, but wearing this fragrance is like an instant sunny day.

It starts out like an aquatic with the usual citrus notes. But wait, smell again, there's more going on here. The citrus is not the usual lemon dish detergent scent, it is yuzu with nutmeg and other spices underneath. It's complex, maybe even with a hint of something darker to come.

Now come back to it 30 minutes later. Something has changed. The sharpness of the yuzu has faded. It's still there, but its solo is over. Now it is one instrument in the ensemble. And its joined by some new voices. Those lower notes in the background? They're clearer now--vetiver and sandalwood and cinnamon.Now it barely resembles an aquatic. The yuzu is still there, but the woods have taken the lead, but the harmonies are rich with the addition of the spices.

Come back even later. Things have changed again. Those darker notes are now at the fore. There's a new richness, almost an animal quality to the scent. Sure, the yuzu is still playing a role, but now musk and amber (?) are in the mix, complementing the vetiver and cinnamon.

The closest analogy I can think of is a fine chardonnay. The good ones are not simply lemon and oak bombs. The lemon forms a harmony with butter and oak, the notes change as the wine combines with the air around it. There are rich bottom notes as well.

Yes. It's that good. Soaring, sophisticated, changing, and subtle. It's also different. Despite its popularity, I can think of few imitators. It's a unique scent (even if it is worn by lots of other people). Maybe this one is the ONE. Only time will tell, but it's definitely a strong thumbs up.
01st February, 2012
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Burberrys for Men (Original) by Burberry

Got this as part of a deal with a bunch of frags on ebay. Had never heard of it but, since it cost essentially zero, I figured it was worth a try. Anyway, the bergamot in the open is awesome. Great projection and longevity. Lovely rich scent. Definitely worth acquiring if you run across it.
30th January, 2012