Perfume Reviews

Reviews by pocketvenus

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Total Reviews: 62

Fin de Siècle by Libertine Fragrance

Rose-forward chypre

Opens with black currents that are rendered realistically, tart and dark but a touch of Ribena-sweetness prevents the note from being puckering. Immediately after, citrus flares and brightens the scene. A plush, luminous rose blooms until it dominates and anchors the scent, and it continues to do so right into the dry down. As the scent develops, heavier notes emerge: the smoky sweetness of labdanum shaded in with hints of the bitterness of oakmoss. Imparts the barest suggestion of animalism, but it's there. It's similar, if not gentler than the other Libertines. I find animalistic notes in this house are never challenging. Rather, they are soft, coy, tender.

An excellent choice for rose lovers who want something versatile, polished and a little romantic.
02nd March, 2021

MAAI by Bogue Profumo

A blood red provocation

I could start by identifying MAAI as a floral chypre diva. I could note the contrast between its soapy aldehydes with smears of dark animalic musks. I could describe its soaring, brassy florals in more depth, so on and so forth. But others here have already done it so well.

As such, I will instead describe how MAAI makes me feel - like a member of the aristocracy sporting a choker of glittering, fat, blood red rubies during the French Revolution. Qu'ils mangent de la brioche indeed.
07th December, 2020

Nar by Jazmin Saraï

Umami smoke

This entry into the smoky perfume genre offers a novel take with its distinctly savoury opening. It's not the infamous BBQ meat opening of Le Labo's Patchouli 24 but rather, offers the spicy-smoky seasoning of all-dressed chips which sounds awful, but in fact, gives Nar a distinctive edge over other generic smoky woods scents. If you have ever made the drive up to Muskoka cottage country in Ontario and stopped for burgers and fries at Webers, that Hwy 11 institution, the addictive seasoning they use for their french fries is a lot like Nar's savoury-spice opening.

Nar also does not push toward any burning, creosotic extremes. It's a well-balanced, warm scent that wears very well in the cooler months. Definitely worth trying if you enjoy this genre.
01st November, 2020
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Sweet Grass by Libertine Fragrance

Unique, aromatic tobacco

I am not a huge fan of tobacco fragrances, and for the most part, I associate the note with sweetness and warmth, and notes like amber, honey, vanilla, and powder.

Sweet Grass offers a very different aromatic take. It opens with a novel green edge from the rosemary in its opening and a gentle warmth suggested by a hint of cinnamon-like spice and dry bales of hay. The sweetness is of a pleasant, honey-like quality. Rather than pipe tobacco in a smoking lounge, Sweet Grass evokes an impressionistic bucolic scene lit by golden sunlight.

Although it is a different scent, I would place this within the same family as Dusita's Erawan which is also an aromatic scent with hay and tobacco notes. I personally prefer Erawan's sharper green opening and more austere presentation but for those who prefer a stronger tobacco presence and more sweetness, I would suggest Sweet Grass.
01st November, 2020

Sex & Jasmine by Libertine Fragrance

Big indolic sweetheart

This is a big, bosomy jasmine that is very approachable. Its bright opening is achieved with neroli and a touch of banana peel. As it dries down, it increasingly connotes warm flesh.

While Sex & Jasmine is by no means clean or polite - there's definitely indole breath here - but I don't know that I find this fragrance as animalistic as the ad copy suggests. To me, the sex in this fragrance is of the sex kitten variety. While the jasmine brings an indolic heat and a passing hint of plastic, it's by and large inoffensive to my nose. There's nothing dirty to a degree that would recall great skankbombs like Papillon's Salome or Lutens' MKK. Sex & Jasmine also lacks the heady quality that can make white florals seem intoxicating or forbidding.

Reminds me a little of LUSH's Lust but it's of a higher quality where all the loud, grating harshness of Lust has been softened and deepened.

Think Marilyn Monroe reading Henry Miller smut to you in her breathy Happy Birthday Mister President voice.

Note: I am reviewing the 30ml bottle version.
31st October, 2020 (last edited: 07th November, 2020)

Nanban by Arquiste

Flattened cargo from a paper thin metaphor

Nanban has an uplifting peppery citric opening that's weighted with resins and a lovely gentle animalic touch. It starts out quite vibrant despite the richer and heavier notes and it's quite enjoyable at first.

Unfortunately, the dry down's heavier notes of smoke, tar, leather and tea, as well as a more velvety gourmand feel, flattens the scent out instead of deepening and shading it. There's still spice and texture but it's like a pastry chef accidentally squashing a dark and sumptuous layer cake with the heel of their hand. Honestly, the best word I can use to describe the scent at this point is smushed. It smells smushed.

As the scent wears on, the scent gains more definition again but it's only because the smoke becomes more dry and enters burning tires territory. I suppose that's par for the course with the smoky fragrance genre but it smells too heavy handed.

It's not awful, but it's not great. Finally, this back story about some sailing ship with a hull full of spices in the seafaring days of yore, it's been done. Throwing the word Japanese in there is a bit rich when there aren't any Japanese ingredients or anything linking the scent to Japanese culture.
14th September, 2020

Carillon pour un Ange by Tauer

Cyborg blooms

Carillon Pour un Ange starts off with a cacaphony of interesting notes colliding together - florals, damp earth, metals, animalics, rot - that give the scent a sense of heat and excitement. But before long, synthetics start to beat back any suggestion of organic life.

If this is reminiscent of spring, on my skin, it's springtime in a Holodeck. There's a harshness to the scent that's distinctly chemical. I'm a bit torn. It's an interesting take on muguet that doesn't play into the delicacy or innocence I associate with the flower but it skews too far toward something aggressive and grating.
11th September, 2020

Santal Nabataea by Mona di Orio

Sandalwood heaven

Santal Nabataea is easily one of the most gorgeous sandalwood fragrances I’ve ever had the pleasure of smelling. It makes the popular Tam Dao smell like plastic, Santal 33 like laundry detergent. In fact, dare I say it, Santal Nabataea even makes the beautiful Bois des Îles seem frigid.

With Santal Nabataea you are treated to a complex, aromatic, dust-dry scent that manages to evoke both the woody and milky facets of Mysore sandalwood. I find it incredibly soothing and it immediately brought to mind a fragrant sandalwood fan I had as a child that I had long forgotten about.

If you think you don’t like sandalwood but you’ve never smelled this, you are wrong. If you think you like sandalwood but you've never smelled this, you are also wrong - you are actually obsessed and just don't know it yet.
03rd September, 2020

L'Eau à La Folie by Nicolaï

Midsummer days's nap

Folie is not your typical fruity fragrance. As it is a part of the L'Eau line, I expected a refreshing and clean fragrance. Moreover, its notes pyramid suggests a carefree, if not youthful, affair. However, Folie is a little more mature.

It opens with citrus notes and a very tarte peach skin, so tart that it didn't even register as peach to me until I read the notes. As the scent develops, one detects jasmine, its presence light but still showing a more leathery, animalic side before a clean musk emerges and overpowers the flower. There's a density and opacity to the musk that I find unpleasant and too heavy handed. Thankfully, this stage passes as the oakmoss kicks in and the amorphous musk gives way to the dark shading of moss.

Overall, there is a drowsing, plodding, introverted character to the fragrance. It beckons you to set aside your summer read, succumb to the heat, and just doze a little.

I don't detect much in the way of booze or sweetness in Folie. One is better off with something like Slumberhouse's Kiste if you're hoping for syrupy sink peaches.
29th June, 2020 (last edited: 01st August, 2020)

Cap Néroli by Nicolaï

Sultry, sensual neroli

I was expecting a refreshing fragrance based on the mint and rosemary in the notes pyramid and the images of the seaside referenced in the advertising copy.

The opening is bright and citrusy, but even at the start, Cap Neroli is indolic. From a distance, the neroli feels rich, but the closer one gets, the omre the indoles lend a voluptuous, unctuous weight and naphthalene edge that pushes this fragrance into more challenging territory.

If this is a summer scent, this is you peeling off a silk slip that was pressed against your thighs.
27th June, 2020 (last edited: 28th June, 2020)

L'Eau Chic by Nicolaï

Fraternal dupe

It's unfair to base my entire review on a different fragrance, but I find it impossible not to compare L'eau Chic with Malle's Geranium Pour Monsieur, which was released two years earlier than Chic. The notes pyramid is just too similar and I've been well familiar with Geranium for years.

Overall, I would say Chic is softer and reads as more traditional than Geranium, as if Chic came first by a few decades. It's different enough that I wouldn't describe it as a straight up dupe, but perhaps a sibling that's more old-fashioned.

Off the bat, Chic's mint and geranium are more tamed and blended. In particular, there isn't the bracing opening of Geranium's minty mouthwash. There's also a subtle and pleasant interplay between Chic's cooling mint up top and the warming spices underneath that continues into the dry down. While Geranium evolves into a clean white musk, Chic's musks retain a tangy and spicy character, lending its dry down a little more texture and interest.

Chic is not my style and perhaps this is why I find it difficult to consider on its own. Easy going and strong performance for an EDT.
27th June, 2020

Turbulences by Louis Vuitton

Buttoned up tuberose

A fresh, clean and sheer wearing opening dries down to a genteel, creamy finish. Would otherwise be utterly unremarkable were it not for a touch of earthy mushroom and the barest suggestion of fleshy heat that briefly intensifies in the dry down as it melds with one's skin before fading back into an inoffensive, pleasant floral.

There's something wanton about tuberose that always seems to defy any kind of prim and proper representation unless the nose completely defangs her. With Turbulences, think Helena Bonham Carter in a floor length white gown with high neckline buttoned up to the chin walking toward you. As she reaches you, she turns and you realize the train at her back is still stained from that time it was dragged in mud. She glances at you once over her shoulder, her unruly tresses are already escaping the French chignon gathered at the nape of her neck. But then she begins to walk away. From that distance, she could be any woman in a pretty white dress.

One of the better offerings from a mostly milquetoast lineup from LV.
08th June, 2020

Sartorial by Penhaligon's

The old reliable

Sartorial is a pleasant fougere that's one of the stronger offerings from Penhaligon's. Its spicy, peppery opening gives way to a warm amber drydown lightly dusted with tonka. The fragrance has a lovely depth and maintains a dark and bitter edge so that it does not collapse in the dry down, nor succumb to becoming overly sweet.

Its longevity on my skin was surprizing. I gave myself one spray to the wrist in the late afternoon and this lasted until the next morning.

This is a great fragrance for daily wear that is neither obtrusive nor boring. It also, for lack of a better, more analytical explanation, just smells very good to me.
30th December, 2019
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La Couche du Diable by Serge Lutens

Paint by numbers Lutens

With every new release from Serge Lutens we wonder, is Uncle Serge back? For a moment, La Couche du Diable, with its signature moody drama, you think to yourself, yes, he has returned. However, when one recalls earlier scents such as Tubereuse Criminelle or Fille en Aiguilles, you are not so sure.

The opening hits you with a rich, molten labdanum that carries the sweetness of stewed fruit a la Lutens. The notes and name would suggest the potential for something dirtier, but the oud here is entirely defanged and overpowered by the labdanum, offering smokiness and depth although this grows stronger in the dry down. Overall, the scent is dark, pleasing and bears the house "aesthetic" but it also feels a little rote.
30th December, 2019

Neandertal Dark by Neandertal

Homo isoprene

Despite its copy waxing poetic about capturing the textural sensations of foliage and animalic depths, Neandertal Dark is more Encino Man than Quest for Fire. Throughout its development, Dark is synthetic and contemporary rather than organic and natural.

Opens with herbaceous green notes, grapefruit and geranium but a plasticky smoke soon takes over the fragrance. The burning rubber edge becomes less pronounced in the dry down, transforming into a more general smoke and ink while a touch of leather and amber warmth emerge. The fragrance remains pretty clean throughout in that it's skank-free.

Despite the difficult sounding notes, it is relatively easy to wear. It smells "niche" but don't expect the acrid smoky brusqueness of Fazzolari's Lampblack or Zoologist's T Rex. Within two hours, Dark is quite soft and tame on my skin. Fans of Bvlgari Black might like this.
22nd December, 2019

The Moon by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Candied barnyard oud

The Moon opens with a rich, hairy and pungent oud while berry notes enhance its blue cheese aspects. On my skin, the animalic opening is quickly tamed, leaving a fruity, leathery oud that's lively and boisterous in character. It remains this way into the dry down which lasts forever and a day.

Despite its name, The Moon is never particularly nocturnal. Even though The Moon has the "Photoshop touch" characteristic of Malle's other fragrances, it departs from the more restrained character of the house. For example, we might consider how it contrasts with The Night which also leans into blue cheese territory, but refines that into a more solemn composition.

Overall, I found this tested better on paper than my skin. The textured, animalic notes lasted longer and overall, seemed more complex. I also am not sure a fruity party oud is needed, especially at this price point. Other wearers may have a better experience than myself.
24th November, 2019

My Kind of Love : After Sunset by By Kilian

Lychee martini

Remember when every chichi bar downtown had a lychee cocktail? Remember when people said "chichi?" After Sunset is a servicable fruity floral fit for its intended Gen Z demographic because they're likely too young to think a lychee and berry opening is over a decade too late.
19th November, 2019

Rose & Cuir by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

Love conquers all

It is difficult to write about Rose and Cuir without considering its nose and the history that comes before it. Its very name is suggestive of Jean-Claude Ellena’s Hermessences, a line for Hermès that epitomizes the minimalist style he is best known for, a number of which were named after two contrasting ingredients, "Vetiver Tonka," "Epice Marine," and so on. However, if Rose and Cuir’s name and short ingredients list have left you hoping for another light-wearing and pared-down “olfactory haiku,” it will surprize.

Rose and Cuir is a forceful fragrance. It opens with a bright, fresh rose briefly rounded out with berries and then heightened by pepper. After about fifteen minutes or so, the IsoButyl Quinoline kicks in. If you are unfamiliar with the note, think of the fantastically bitter and smoky opening of Bandit. This eventually dominates the scent. For a couple hours following, Rose and Cuir remains a harsh leather wherein the rose and other notes like vetiver all play a supporting role. On one wearing, the aggressive gasoline tinge of the leather became so commanding, the rose was barely discernible, and yet it still provided a major tempering influence to the leather’s brusqueness. It’s like the cinnamon in your chili. You’d never guess it was there but you’d immediately notice if it was forgotten.

The scent slowly shifts its emphasis in the dry down. By the third hour, it is perceptibly a rose geranium and berry infused leather. And it is very much rose _geranium_. By the fifth hour, the floral note has come to the fore as the leather recedes to serve as a smoky foundation.

It’s a ballsy move to present a harsh note like IsoButyl Quinoline in such a pared down perfume. Take Bandit, which has a lot going on, adding creamy tuberose, animalistic musks and a symphonic host of other notes as a counterweight. It’s an elabourate costume, the whole nine yards of SM leather: the cage harness, the overbust corset, the skin tight pants, the lace up thigh high boots. If Rose and Cuir is a domme like Bandit, she’s waxed every inch of her body and is wearing naught but a pair of Louboutin So Kate stilettos. While tapping the ashes of her cigarette onto your tongue.

If you can set aside your expectations of watercolour transparency that typifies Ellena’s previous fragrances, you will find the simplicity and dynamism of the Hermessences is still evident with Rose and Cuir. Here, Ellena has paired two contrasting notes and let them play off each other. Rose is luminous and uplifting, guileless and sanguine; Cuir is sharp with shadows, dangerous and brooding. But if this is a haiku, it is not one of serene, zen-like contemplation, but of stark, noire-ish drama.

Personally, I adore the bitterness of IsoButyl Quinoline but I’m a maximalist at heart and I already have Bandit. Rose and Cuir will probably prove to be too challenging to rank among Malle’s more commercially successful perfumes but I am so glad it exists. Bravo!
17th November, 2019 (last edited: 18th November, 2019)

Le Chant de Camargue by L'Artisan Parfumeur

Olfactory cataract

Camargue opens with a gentle, diffuse hespiridic light. This quickly develops into a slightly powdery and milky sandalwood that is offset by a hint of salinity. These first moments give the impression of a lovely diaphanous veil. The rice accord is abstract and is mostly expressed by powder rather than anything earthy, nutty, or glutinous. If you are hoping for a carby graininess similar to the Jo Malone English Fields collection, you may find this disappointing.

The dry down quickly becomes rather unfortunate, growing more and more unpleasantly opaque. What was once diaphanous becomes a dense cloud of sweet white musk.
12th October, 2019

Les Nombres d'Or : Cuir by Mona di Orio

Iron fist in a kid leather glove

I feel badly for leaving bad to neutral reviews of other Mona di Orios when I actually enjoy most of the others. Cuir is the first fragrance I tried of this house and it remains for me, a benchmark leather. It’s realistic, a little butch, and I detect a wonderfully toasted nuttiness rather than full-on BBQ notes.

Yes, it’s quite dry and smoky. But there’s also something poised about it. It’s not tough like Tuscan Leather’s thick butch bullhide or Knize Ten’s stiff gasoline blonde side. It’s not raw like Anubis’ smoky tanned pelts. I could go on with the comparisons about what Cuir is not. It’s because Cuir is full of contradiction. Tough yet supple. Brutal yet tender. One of those special fragrances that does not lose its intrigue with daily wear.
12th October, 2019

Bigarade 18 by Le Labo

Neroli dryer sheet

Opens with a heady neroli. An unpleasantly dense and amorphous dry down of white musk. Headache inducing.
29th September, 2019

Ella by Arquiste

Effortless retro chic

Ella is a casual yet chic, ultra-femme, retro-green fragrance. Opens with a satisfying hit of galbanum that's balanced with a smoky, welcoming, ever so slightly animalistic warmth that blooms nicely on the skin.

It's what I wished the Tom Ford vert series was, but in comparison, the Fords are simply trying too hard. If Ella is on the Studio 54 guest list and dancing languorously on quaaludes, Vert de Fleur is still preening outside in a loud dress, hoping she'll get in this time.
07th September, 2019

Signature Collection : Nuit Noire by Mona di Orio

Orange shitsicle

I enjoy most of Mona di Orio's scents but I could not abide Nuit Noire. It opens well with a sharp and spicy orange rind, not unlike dried Persian limes. But that promise is quickly overpowered by creamy indoles poured over a fresh turd. And make no mistake, it's almost pure indoles for me, plasticky, mothbally indoles. Did I mention over a pile of excrement.

Perhaps if I'd waited for more than half an hour before desperately trying to scrub this from my skin, something more tolerable could emerge. But life is too short for this.

Don't get me wrong, I love my skank and filth. But it has to be paired with something beautiful. For those who detect a more complex bouquet, I truly envy you because Nuit Noire does smell of higher quality ingredients.
16th August, 2019

Mémoire d'une Odeur by Gucci

The girl with the flaxen hair

This chamomile scent opens with a mineral veil that hovers briefly like a whisper-thin skein of netting before settling into a bittersweet floral with a touch of soft flax. While it is too transparent to be as textured and grounding as dried chamomile, it manages to suggest powder, milkiness and spiciness. Dries down to a gentle musk.

My only complaint is that at one point early on in the perfume’s development, the mineral accord reminded me of the smell of skin upon which chlorinated water has evapourated. It is never overpowering but is unsettling, edging into unpleasant.

Despite Gucci’s Italian roots and the perfume’s French name, Mémoire feels British to me, possessed of a lyrical personality that is expressive, yet unsentimental. An unexpected and understated entry from a designer house.
06th August, 2019 (last edited: 08th August, 2019)

Russian Oud by Areej le Doré

Purring velvet oud

Russian oud is a dense and chewy fragrance with an unmistakably feral opening, even with a light dab on the wrist. This softens into a smouldering leathery oud that plumbs deep with the bitter depth of cocoa while maintaining a medicinal "band-aid" edge up top.

What I like about Russian oud is that it has an oily, resinous character that gives the fragrance a voluptuous richness compared to many woody oud fragrances that can impart a harsh or scratchy sensation. Even the animalistic opening has a lushness to it.
24th July, 2019

Shangri La by Hiram Green

Chypre diffusion at daybreak

Natural perfumes make me think of vegan desserts. They’re an entirely separate category. You can’t expect them to behave like fragrances with synthetics. You must enjoy naturals on their own terms, even when they’re rich-burner-blonde-with-dreads-playing-with-essential-oils terms.

When I heard of an all-natural chypre, I could only imagine the worst kinds of alimentary mockery produced by the vegan world: fake cheesecake using raw cashews run through a blender, fake chocolate mousse made from mashed avocados, you get the idea.

Shangri-La took me by surprize. It is unmistakably a chypre, one that immediately invokes the gentle warmth and light of a summer morning. Opens with a familiar, sensuous contrast of hespiridic notes, a golden floral heart and a dark, bitter base. In the dry down, a rich honey sweetness emerges and blends seamlessly into indolic jasmine before settling into a snuggly skin scent.

I really wanted to love Shangri-La and it does smell fantastic. But ultimately, it is too gentle and blurred around the edges for me. I’m the sort of person who feels more at ease in a leather bustier than a cosy cashmere sweater. I like my fragrances to feel more chiseled. In particular, I prefer my chypres to feel cinched and winched, if not glittering with mean aldehydes. If I’m wearing a goddam chypre in this day and age, I am not messing around. Everyone within striking distance should feel disciplined. Hand me my Bandit.
14th July, 2019 (last edited: 15th July, 2019)

The Alchemist's Garden : Tears of Iris Eau de Parfum by Gucci

Iridial cream poured over a synthetic base

Opens as an unfussy iris soliflore that renders the note as pure and creamy, free of any hint of musty closet, root beer, carrots, earth, dust, cardboard, or bread. The fragrance grows drier and muskier as the scent develops. While it begins to approximate makeup, it never becomes powdery. The dry down stage however, is sadly synthetic and candied.
03rd July, 2019

The Alchemist's Garden : The Voice of the Snake Eau de Parfum by Gucci

Redundant oud

The Voice of the Snake is an easy, polished, Westernized oud with a hint gentle pungency. Smooth and not very long lasting, I was immediately reminded of a Kilian. Then I learned that the nose is Morillas who did a number of fragrances for Kilian. The voice of the snake it seems, has nothing new to say.
02nd July, 2019

Goop Edition 02 : Shiso by Goop

Pleasantly generic spicy woods

It appears this line was met with derision on the Basenotes forums. I am no fan of Paltrow's company or commodified lifestyle but found Editions 01-03 to be pleasantly smoky-spicy-woody creations. They are also better than the majority of fragrances from the nose's personal house, Heretic, which seems to specialize in flat, wan notes and ridiculously weak performance. Editions 01-03 by contrast are deeper and longer lasting. The line reminds me of Aesop’s Hwyl and Tacit save 04: Orchard which is a regrettable apricot that becomes increasingly muddled and musty in the dry down.

02: Shiso is the strongest of the three scents on my skin although the name Shiso is misleading as it implies something fresh, light and green. 02: Shiso pairs fresh, peppery and cool coniferous notes with warming spices grounded by smoky-sweet birch and patchouli. Herbaceousness gives way to dark woods with a dash of cumin. It's not wildly creative but the cumin took me by surprize.
01st July, 2019 (last edited: 02nd July, 2019)

Révolution by Cire Trudon

Your crush’s leather jacket, still warm

My experience with Révolution was very similar to StellaDiverFlynn's. The perfume opens with a bold bonfire accord that’s unmistakably rich with cade. It briefly tilts toward savoury barbecue smoke, as if seasoned with a dash of Le Labo’s Patchouli 24. While the projection is excellent, it is not challenging. Forget the dry, phenolic fumes of Lampblack or Black Afgano. There’s a tactile softness right from the opening that makes Révolution very wearable.

The dry down enters into more woody and tanned leather territory though the smoke is still there at the skin level. It’s a broken-in butch leather made even more approachable by what smells like amber to me.

I can’t say there’s much about this fragrance that seems revolutionary to me, especially now that every niche house and their uncle is releasing a smoky fragrance. Révolution's charms lie not in asserting radical changes but in taking a pugnacious genre into a more wearable, comforting direction. It certainly doesn’t bring to mind the violent days of the French Revolution - as comforting as we may find the idea of workers guillotining their oppressors.
20th June, 2019