Perfume Reviews

Reviews by mrmorel

Total Reviews: 41

LA Whatever by Rasei Fort

Every few weeks, it seems a perfumer I admire releases a new limited edition. Only 100! Only 10! Only 73! I’m not a rich man, but curiosity can get the best of me, and it often does with this perfume proclivity. Coupled with my birthday, well, “Here’s a present to myself,” I thought.

Though there’s something a little sour up really high in the register, a sort of wafting whiff of evaporating liquor, this is a huge baritone barrage of sugar. Not dark brown, but pure cane sugar. Stewed fruits—sure. But this is more the syrup around the fruit, maybe a splash of rum to cut it a bit. And some oakwood very far in the drydown. And lots of vanilla. But still sugar. Lots of sugar.

Unfortunately, the name of this perfume already gave away the punchline. Meh. Whatever.

I’m not saying this is a bad perfume, but I knew right away this is not one I’d reach for with any regularity. To me, the point of a limited release is to do justice to a really special material, or a really out-there idea. I’m pretty sure ethyl maltol and vanillin were never expected to be treated with such pomp. Fans of Rasei Fort might feel inclined to track this down, but I’m here to say: Don’t fret. There will be more limited editions of 73 or 81 or 13, and whatever they smell like, they will likely be just as good, or hopefully better.

My review here is only based on two sprays—one on my arm, and one on a test strip, where I can still smell it even as the bottle, now sold, is on its way to its new home. So, it at least has longevity going for it. But overall, a resounding “Whatever” from me.
28th June, 2020

Bois Blonds by Atelier Cologne

The wan neroli claimed a cold and left before you even had a chance to get to know him. Whoever it is you are speaking to at this boring party just stares blankly and nods in agreement to everything, exchanging only the most innocuous of small talk. Bois Blonds is unfortunately the white musk cellophane wrapper of a long ago-eaten orange popsicle. Pleasant. Fine. But not one you need to seek out.
11th June, 2020

Baikal Gris by Areej le Doré

A murky green-gray; cloudy, salty, and lightly sweet. Tonka, violet, sandalwood, and ambergris woven together, all smooth and round like an ocean-churned pebble. There’s a hint of vanilla that slides into the softness, though its role is thankfully complementary, barely noticeable as its own. The pine here is not like I think of the sharp conifer or sweet balsam, but rather the impression of the cold air around a tree—all the sort of green nuances mixed into the atmosphere.

I like wearing this when it’s a little drizzly outside—chilly, but not so cold. It wears softly, sort of pitter pattering against window panes, there but not.
30th March, 2020
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Burvuvu by January Scent Project

A cedar in falsetto—higher pitched, sweeter, and softer than you thought it could be rendered. The rose is prominent, but serves to enhance the woods, like a more American take on a classic oud. There is something like soil: clean, damp earth, call it the mushroom if you want, though I feel like it’s missing some of the airy umami qualities that could bring.

It’s beautiful, like a dark enchanted forest, twinkling faeries and all—an image that doesn’t really suit me, but is lovely to experience. It’s very much in the Biebel style of wearable weird with a smile—it’s perfectly level-headed and well-mannered, but here I am wishing it had a bit more of a temper.
19th February, 2020

(Every Day is) Halloween by Sixteen92

Some chilly air mixed with pumpkin spice, caramel, and chocolate. The gourmand elements diffuse a bit and then it’s lots of synthetic sweetness with a sort of woody, oak-like undercurrent that’s almost pretty, if not for the persistent wet fog effect. It’s simple and straight-forward, and very much in the vein of the house style, of which I do not seem to be a fan. Too cloying, too one-dimensional—despite the interesting notes and narratives, they don’t take me much of anywhere. Except to the bathroom to wash my hands. A headache-inducing scrubber for me, unfortunately.
02nd November, 2019

Lonestar Memories by Tauer

When your ranch hand boyfriend knocks on your door late one night after a long day on the farm, wearing nothing but leather chaps, a jockstrap, his cowboy hat, and a few sprays of L’air du desert Marocain—that’s Lonestar Memories. It all starts off a little funky, animalic and meaty from the birch tar with tanned hides and a sharp hit of geranium. But once that leather comes off, it’s a sweet, joyous drydown, the soft and supple sun-kissed skin delivered Tauer-style.

But, did L’ADDM need to go butch leather? I’m not sure. If you feel like the classic isn’t quite masc enough, or dirty enough, or raw enough, or lacks the power top vibes you were after, this is one to consider. Personally, I can’t imagine reaching for this over Tauer’s benchmark classic. That said, it’s still very good, and very sexy, and probably just incredible under the right circumstances on the right body.
25th October, 2019

Freetrapper by D.S. & Durga

This one wears so easily—bergamot and citrus opening that’s tempered beautifully with arid woods and sappy incense. The castoreum and osmanthus give this light, almost anise, sweetness to the background. It’s airy and fresh while being dark enough to have some character. It’s very handsome in an unshaven sort of way.

For those familiar with the brand’s other scents, this one is somehow between Mississippi Medicine and Coriander—lightly citrus and green but with a dark woodiness. Unfortunately, the wearing easily also means it wears lightly, and it doesn’t stick around for too long. I like that it’s vers, but am usually inclined to go for something with a bit more power.
20th September, 2019

Chypre-Siam by Rogue Perfumery

Chypre-Siam was a revelation. I’m not a vintage lover—there are plenty of current artisan and niche houses doing wonderful things that I don’t feel the need to track down perfumes that are long gone, and I’m too young to have any nostalgia for them. But, Rogue has been resurrecting some of these styles, and Chypre-Siam is probably the first full and glorious classic chypre I’ve ever really smelled.

The kaffir lime note that opens this fragrance—lush and slightly candied, a little tropical and coconutty—is unlike anything I’ve ever smelled in perfume before. It’s straight out of Thai cuisine. I wish I could extend it tenfold, but I’ll take of it what I can. It folds beautifully into the overall composition, combined at the opening with a bit of sweet basil and intensely piquant florals (more ylang than jasmine, to my nose). There’s a soft hint of spice, both from a peppery clove note and underlying resins, that help round this out. All over a huge bed of savory, dense oakmoss and a lingering, but subtle, civet funk.

This won’t personally ever be one I wear every day, but it’s an incredible experience. It’s a bit femme fatale to me—a classic archetype, overwhelming and completely engrossing in a dark and slightly dangerous way; sex and a hint of disaster simultaneously. It’s a beautiful, expertly-crafted achievement.
19th September, 2019

Tokyo by Gallivant

It’s true: Tokyo has some beautiful, world-class department stores—from hip and trendy, to luxe and opulent. But… I didn’t expect Gallivant’s take on the city to smell as if I’ve just been blasted by every tester on the perfume counter.

I feel as if the perfume tries to capture the electric spark of the city (through a peppery top note) juxtaposed by its serene back alleys (with incense and an unnamed soft white musk that zips up the base). But it all feels a bit murky—too many competing notes without anything really standing out. It’s a bit floral, a bit spicy, a bit dark, a bit light. But where Tokyo the city makes these dichotomies feel magical, this perfume of the same name feels heavy-handed and off.

The most Japanese notes on the pyramid—hinoki, wasabi, and yuzu—are nowhere to be found for me. And since Gallivant’s brand is ostensibly to capture what’s special and transcendent about a particular place, Tokyo the perfume doesn’t deliver. If anything, I feel as if I’m trapped on the 40th floor of a skyscraper hotel staring out at the city below—clean and well appointed but ultimately anonymous and bland, longing for what is out of reach.
07th September, 2019

Timbre by Chris Rusak

don’t know where I first discovered Chris Rusak’s perfumes—maybe on Instagram, late at night, suggested by another fragrance enthusiast out there. I ordered a sampler along with two sets of his Studio Series, which include sketches of things he’s working on or materials he’s interested in. The four scents of Chris’s main collection are all very good, though none captivated me as much as two of these sketches—the Chypre project (which, if it ever comes out, promises to be glorious), and the Wood/Yuzu project.

Timbre is said to be the “first” perfume to come out of his Wood/Yuzu sketches (and let’s hope there are more). It’s bracingly fresh—petitgrain, bitter yuzu, and juicy orange—tempered by a light cedar and sparkling mineral notes. He added a small amount of oud sometime after the last sketch I smelled, and it’s the better for it—just enough to give the blend a deeper and darker edge without overpowering. I’m not a citrus or cologne lover, but this one is perfect. It’s not butch, nor astringent, just well-balanced and fresh. Chris says it’s designed to be worn by the end of the summer so that the top notes remain pure, but I could see this working during any season, for any reason. It’s a limited edition, but as I write this in July 2019, the last bottles still remain. There’s hope for you.

It bears a resemblance to Comme des Garçons x Artek’s Standard (a perfume I have long had and loved). Where that one feels to excel in the chill of Scandinavian Modern, Timbre has more grain, more nuance, more hand. It’s exceptional.
11th July, 2019

Almost Transparent Blue by A Lab on Fire

It could have been a beautiful perfume—a pop and sizzle of yuzu and aldehydes, grounded by hinoki and herbal thyme. It’s all there, sort of, but what it amounts to is more of “Another Designer Blue.” The whole thing teeters a little too closely to generic duty free, when I was hoping for Japanese-inspired spa tranquility.

The aldehydes admittedly do a great job here: they radiate out from all sides, and feel alive and captivating without being overwhelming. But the citrus lacks the acetic punch of yuzu, and I don’t get much, or any, woods or herbs besides an occasional earthiness set against an otherwise nondescript fresh, clean, and vaguely ozonic sky-hued backdrop.

I’ve revisited this sample many times over the last two years, always hoping to find something I’m missing. Unfortunately, this perfume just doesn’t have a lot to say.
08th July, 2019

Satori by Parfum Satori

This one is so restrained that it’s at the point of being invisible. An obsessive-compulsive incense, Satori is cleaned up, put away, and polished to the point of being sterile, on the verge of medicinal hospital hygiene. Combined with a faint trace of spice, it vaguely recalls the Japanese-style oriental of the original Comme des Garçons, but rendered in grayscale—so much lighter, and without the highs and lows and the dirty honey sweetness that makes that one sing.

There’s really nothing to dislike here—you’d have to apply a gallon to even attempt at overdosing. For those who want a scent to fade into the background, this might do wonderfully. But to say ‘it’s boring,’ well… that’s an understatement.
07th July, 2019

shi_sõ by Nomenclature

Absolutely blasted up front by raw, pungent rhubarb. As it simmers away, there’s an herbal trace… that is, if you can see past the huge wall of Glycolierral. All I get here is milky, green, sweet synthetic ivy. It’s so overdone, missing shiso’s minty, spicy, and bright subtleties. The result is a sterile yet tenacious clean green bore.
13th June, 2019
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Room 237 by Bruno Fazzolari

Room 237 is not a horror ‘fume by any stretch, though the opening is definitely all vinyl shower curtain off-gassing, which then lingers around as plastic tends to do—never degrading completely, but leaving a whiff of something a little minty and cold. At least the room is no longer being fumigated.

After that’s, it’s all clean and proper white florals and some aquatic green notes, maybe a hint of some human musk, but nothing too skanky. There’s a similar sweet base as BF’s Monserrat and Unsettled (this feels right in line between those, maybe even a synthetic diversion on the road between the two), and the opoponax finally gains some ground as the other notes start to die down during its 8+ hour development.

Not bad, but also not really enjoying it. At its core I find it to be pretty, but boring, and the added vinyl note isn’t really adding anything to make me want to dig deeper.
04th June, 2019

Blackbird by Olympic Orchids

It’s more blackberry preserves than fresh fruit to me—sweet and syrupy, with a tamed tart bite. But what could be a garish and cloying berry outfit is set against some woody notes and a hint of evergreen, turning it into more of a flannel plaid. It has a mentholated, effervescent quality that makes it feel fresh and outdoorsy.

But, I wish I could triple the fir and cedar in this. They are just the background, and the berry remains the star throughout. Though unique, Blackbird ultimately feels a bit too docile, too sweet and one-dimensional. It’s a nice fragrance, but I want more from it.
03rd June, 2019

Olympic Rainforest by Olympic Orchids

A light and transparent forest scent that’s thinned and obscured by a misty drizzle. But honestly, I find this one a bit peculiar.

The evergreens, dirt, and wildflowers are a nice combination, and I like that this doesn’t go into deep dark pine territory as it easily could; though I love that genre, this take sets Olympic Rainforest apart. There’s a soft earthiness from the soil, balanced by wet greenery, but then it all rests on a sweet but almost minty base that reminds me a bit of the original flavor of Trident gum. Maybe that’s just the way the camphoraceous balsams expresses themselves against the softer backdrop, but I also get the sense that it’s an odd whiff of some underlying synthetics that are just a bit too dialed up for me, trying to overemphasize the smell of rain.

I’m glad some others seem to find this a true-to-place take on the Pacific Northwest. I don’t dislike it, but it’s also not quite clicking for me.
24th May, 2019

Eau de Minthé Eau de Parfum by Diptyque

People always say “mint smells like toothpaste!” Ok. Fine. But mint also smells like an herb garden, or like a mojito. It has a delicious, green, woody, savory, astringent smell, and even if it’s a notoriously difficult note for perfumers to work with, it doesn’t mean the options are limited.

To decide, as Diptyque has done here, that the best use of mint is to make it into the most innocuous of fresh masculines—vaguely a fougere, but just in the way that any barbershop fresh scent is sort of a fougere (here lacking oakmoss or coumarin in the base to really push it to a classic reference)—well, that just feels like a bit of a let down from a house known for its herbal fresh eaux.

After smelling this on paper, I didn’t dare apply it to my skin. The standard synthetic masculine aroma molecules way overpower any herbal reference. But then this morning, I realized I apply this to my body every day, in the form of my Dove deodorant. Not to say that they are deadringers, but that the temperament was so familiar. Perfume can be beautiful, complicated, refreshing—it has the power to evoke any number of feelings. But if the only feeling is a hygienic clean, I’m going to pass.
18th May, 2019

Sådanne by Slumberhouse

Sådanne is a rose with an accent acute—a rose by the name of a pale pink Provençal rosé, with strawberry and stone and a saline funk to match.

This was a surprising love for me. The sample I had didn’t click right away—something about the rose and strawberry led me to think this was more a bleach-blonde type of perfume. But knowing Slumberhouse, that didn’t seem right. And I’m glad I stuck with it. Despite the brand’s well-known linearity, this one settles into an entirely different beast. In fact, the “settle” is more of a “stale”—the berry starts to decay, the bright acidity starts to ferment, and a furry animalic curtain drops. And that’s when things get really good.

Texturally, Sådanne is pretty thick and fleshy, but it masquerades with an obscurant berry brightness. Lingerie over cellulite. I’m into it.
11th May, 2019

Lampblack by Bruno Fazzolari

Smoky, cypriol-laced vetiver with some orange pith in the opening. The texture of this one is interesting—it’s thick and tarry, surprisingly dense given all the fresh notes. The smokiness isn’t woody or airy, but almost leathery. The start of this is dark and dank, but it settles into a masculine-fresh vibe that I find typical of some of Fazzolari’s fragrances. I’d almost call it gentlemanly in the end, but in the brooding, misanthropic way of a film noir private investigator.

It’s cold weather exclusive for me—that tarriness makes it dizzying in any heat—but I have a strong craving to return to it, or at least to return to its perplexities. One day I’ll go through my sample, but we’ll see if I ever go for a full bottle...
04th May, 2019

Kolonya by Rasei Fort

It starts with a lipstick kiss, humid pipe tobacco, and fragmented memories of petitgrain cologne. But this is a whole world at once; it somersaults through moods and evocations—sometimes super femme floral, sometimes masc darkness, all until it lands on this sweet comforting plum with a pepper nuance. I’m not one who believes in perfume progressions—I don’t need a distinct top, heart, and middle—but it sure is magical here.

It wears light, as you’d expect of a cologne, but it lasts, and it certainly doesn’t feel weak or diluted; it casts an aura. There’s a vintage vibe to it, but it’s not at all stuffy. In short, I think it might be amazing. This is one I want to have around for a long time.
04th May, 2019

Poivre Electrique by Atelier Cologne

The spicy black pepper opening of this is great—it’s kept from being astringent from the fruitiness of the pink pepper, dry cedar, sweet resins, and a very soft rose halo in the background. It’s self-assured but friendly, stylish but uncomplicated. I find most Atelier Cologne fragrances screechy and harsh; this mostly avoids that, but the AC base loves to shout “I’m a perfume!,” and it gets its moment after we find ourselves in the heart. But overall, it’s balanced and rounded in all the ways it should be. It’s very easy to wear, and fairly androgynous—it could skew femme or butch as you wanted it to.

But, with all that positivity, it’s certainly not novel. I’d much rather wear Comme des Garçons’ Blackpepper or Play Black, similar in their peppery top notes but deeper and a little darker in their bases. I recall thinking Blackpepper didn’t last long enough, but whatever it was, it’s surely longer than the hour or two I get out of Poivre Electrique. And then there’s the price. $130 for 30ml? $250 for 100? Sure, you can find it on Fragrancenet and save a bit, but why pay more for fast fashion when you could buy the actual designer outfit?
24th April, 2019

Figuier Ardent by Atelier Cologne

Figuier Ardent is the sportiest, most jock fig scent I can imagine. Super zesty citrus with a sweet but slightly metallic fruit heart, powdery and dry iris carrying it through. It’s completely pleasant, make no mistake, but when compared to the fig-wood masterpiece that is Philosykos? Or even D.S. & Durga’s bergamot and fig composition, Debaser? Then Figuier Ardent looks like nothing more than another designer Blue.

Its DNA is so utterly basic, and the fig so masqueraded behind its varsity letters, that Figuier Ardent is a challenge for me to truly love. I wouldn’t object to smell it on someone else (a handsome, young, muscular sportsman, perhaps?), but on me it rings a little false.
16th April, 2019

Ambergreen by Oliver & Co.

This is not an cologne-style herbal composition as the shiso and basil might have you thinking—it’s cold, bone dry, extremely synthetic, but still somehow approachable. We all have a sense of “green” perfumes—that dewy, wet grass vibe. But this is totally different. It’s sharp, bitter, and astringent. It has the crisp, metallic tang of celery, or of a leaf ripped apart. The ambroxan rings very much like ambergris (and what a pun with the name), bringing a mineral salinity to its core.

It doesn’t evolve much, so that sharpness you get at the beginning is there to stay (for a long time). But that’s sort of the joy of this one. Early spring seems to be its ideal time for me—the first hint of greenery coming out of the bare ground. It’s taken a while to click, but now that it does I find I really enjoy it, even if I find it lacks a bit of pathos. A seasonal wear.
13th April, 2019

Lambrosc by Hilde Soliani Profumi

A friend once mentioned that he wanted to find a perfume that smelled like wine—I’ve taken on that mission as my own.

Lambrosc opens with bright purple “grape”—that kind vaguely reminiscent of concord, but ultimately native only to the candy category; artificial but in a familiar, expected way (what else does grape even smell like??). There’s a mentholated, slightly camphoraceous note on top of that—as if you’ve taken a grape Jolly Rancher to your lips covered in healing ointment. With a stretch of the imagination, you could say this evokes a glass of the cold, effervescent lambrusco from which this perfume receives its name. But… it’s a stretch. I don’t get much progression or a strong base—maybe there’s some moss and white musk lingering back there—just a slow disintegration of that punchy opening.

Not a serious contender for “best wine-like fragrance”—it lacks nuance, funk, all the subtleties that make wine (and perfume, for that matter) beautiful. But we had fun, didn’t we? And as a grape fragrance, it’s pretty enjoyable.
03rd April, 2019

Hana Hiraku by Parfum Satori

The melon opening here is really special—velvety, sweet, a little milky in combination with the tuberose. In fact, it bears a strong resemblance to the cantaloupe-flavored Jelly Belly, even bringing a bit of that waxiness. While I think that suggests its less of a natural melon than a melon with “natural flavors,” its simulacrum is working.

The official notes mention miso and shoyu in the base. Those savory, umami notes are present under the sweet fruity florals, but they’re subtle. Personally, I’d like a bit more of them.

Satori’s perfumes wear *so* lightly that they are almost undetectable to me. Not that they’ve disappeared or fizzled away, they’re still there, just so soft and quiet. Call it Japanese aesthetics if you want, but as a loud American, I could use a little more oomph. That said, its restraint makes it wearable, never loud or cloying. It’s a really nice fragrance, but it doesn’t quite fit my style.
30th March, 2019

Hyde by Hiram Green

Oh boy. I like them tall, dark, and handsome just as much as the next gay, but this is too much. From the vial (vile?), all I got was BBQ, meaty and sticky with sauce. I’ve finally been brave enough to apply it to my skin (just a little, back of the hand), and it thankfully does mellow—yellow florals, the softness of the labdanum, and a hint of vanilla. But like I’ve been tending the grill all afternoon, that tarry, acrid woodsmoke is there to stay.

Hiram Green does impressive things with naturals—I completely see Hyde in line with Slowdive, which I adore. Unfortunately, Hyde does not garner as much appreciation from me. For those looking to cultivate that elegant pitmaster vibe, you’ve found your fragrance. The rest of us—even the smoke lovers amongst us—should only proceed with an abundance of caution.
29th March, 2019

Erawan by Parfums Dusita

Flashback to 1992, visiting my grandmother in Central Florida—her nicotine-stained house, popcorn ceiling yellowing overhead, a vase of small white flowers on an old wooden dresser with a lace doily. It’s grey, humid, and chillier than you expected. The memory is visceral, and recalled precisely by the first 20 minutes of this perfume.

That moment passes, and it settles into soft soft hay with a hint of cedar and vanilla. The tobacco-vibe lingers, but fortunately, it’s a pleasant note, not the stale cigarette of its opening. Some will love this, I’m sure, but I’m haunted by it.
21st March, 2019

Fume by Hendley Perfumes

Fume is almost a forest fire chypre—moss and pine sap intertwined, the former strengthening as it ages on the skin; resinous, sweet, bitter, and a little smoky simultaneously. If La Curie’s Incendo is a campfire in the forest at night, Fume is that fire smoldering the next morning—there’s a lightness to its weight, refracted green light through a density of trees.

It does bear a resemblance to the aforementioned Incendo, and to Slumberhouse’s Norne, but it strikes a balance between these two—forest and fire in equal measure. Because of that, I find Fume to be quite wearable—it refuses the seasonal hallmark of pine-exclusive scents. It’s neither sticky nor cloying; natural and fresh but with deep warmth. I’ve worn it the most of any perfume in my collection this winter. It’s beautiful.
02nd March, 2019

Santal Carmin by Atelier Cologne

Santal Carmin is less focused on sandalwood than I had hoped, but it does conjure some of the ideas sandal would suggest—warm, creamy, hints of spice. There’s a brief (five minute?) lime opening in line with most other AC frags, then the citrus remains as a sherbet sort of sweetness. I find this to be more suede-like as a whole, I guess it’s what they’re calling “saffron” mixed with a hint of “vanilla”—I use quotes because these notes are neither strong nor expressive. But always in the background of this is the “papyrus”, a note AC seems dependent on that I find absolutely atrocious. It appears in so many of their fragrances, and I am at a loss as to why. It’s less pronounced here than it is in some others, but it just adds this unpleasant and grating unnatural sweetness that brings down the whole composition.

Why did I buy so many Atelier Cologne samples at one time? Besides some of the more straightforward citruses, I haven’t found much to love, or even like in the line. Really soft (both in texture and projection), very femme, ultimately pretty boring to me and too compromised by that papyrus. Try Papillon’s Anubis instead… (4/10)
26th December, 2018

Amber Kiso by D.S. & Durga

If I were just paying attention to the notes in this, I would expect dry, smoky woods in the typical DSD style, maybe even bordering on CDG Japanese incense territory. And I’d love it. But this one is truly an amber—rich and sweet, dominated by patchouli, leather, and moss, with a hint of temple incense, dark wood, and a sprig of cypress. It’s less unusual than the description implies, but I have the sense that it’s crafted in a much different way than your traditional amber—I’m finding this almost vanillic sweetness in the patchouli, and more traditional resins are exchanged for Japanese wood notes.

But a traditional amber I still find it to be—that makes it quite different than any previous DSD offerings, but I don’t think it’s entirely different in character from any number of other ambers out there. Of the two ambers DSD released (Amber Teutonic the other), this one is the more conventional. It’s definitely on the femme side of unisex, but still fairly neutral—it’s fairly subdued in the spectrum of ambers. It’s warm and cozy, and quite pleasing in the end, but not unique enough to warrant a purchase from me. And that’s coming from someone with over a dozen bottles of DSD in their collection. (7/10)
22nd December, 2018