Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Brooks Otterlake

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Total Reviews: 220

Gucci Guilty Oud by Gucci

Essentially it's Banana Republic Oud Mosaic with a spicy opening (some cumin), and blackberry instead of plum.

It's pleasant (it's not quite as nice as the cheaper Oud Mosaic, which has a better and stronger version of the oud accord), but it's also just another rose-oud in a sea of rose-ouds.
22nd January, 2021

Faunus by La Curie

This is spectacular. I smelled Faunus blind, without any context, and it immediately took me to relaxed walks through the forest with pine trees looming overhead and soft earth beneath my feet.

I've long sought a coniferous fragrance that felt like it actually evoked that experience. Many have hinted at the experience but few have caught it so perfectly as Faunus.

What's lovely is that this fragrance is immaculately polished, too, retaining the forest impression while remaining eminently wearable. I envision myself wearing this regularly.
18th January, 2021

Gucci Guilty pour Homme Eau de Parfum by Gucci

Gucci Guilty Eau de Parfum's great sin is just being a late entry in an exhausted style, but this is actually quite nice. This salty freshie is considerably more interesting and better-composed than the likes of Acqua di Gio Profumo.
10th January, 2021
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Oud 24 Hours by Ard Al Zafraan

The cheapies produced by Middle Eastern houses may be a mixed bag, but Oud 24 Hours stands out as a very good one: a smoother, woodier riff on Black Orchid that I find altogether more amiable and pleasant than its forebear.
10th January, 2021

Baldessarini by Baldessarini

I didn't enjoy the Concentree version (unbalanced and syrupy), but am enjoying my Hugo Boss-branded bottle, which feels a bit like a link in the chain between The Dreamer and Vera Wang for Men (with maybe a touch of Herrera for Men, too). Restrained, easy to wear, mature (but not stodgy).
08th January, 2021

Capri by 19-69

The niche version of John Varvatos Artisan Pure, with a peculiar drydown that feels almost dirty and B.O.-musky.
08th January, 2021

Incendo by La Curie

A stunning interpretation of a campfire.
02nd January, 2021 (last edited: 18th January, 2021)

Ossuary by La Curie

The name fits. Melancholy stone and musty decay. Not the most wearable creation, but it's a fascinating aroma.
02nd January, 2021

Bracken Man by Amouage

Do you want a hearty helping of potpourri with your luxe-niche fougere? Then look no further.
08th December, 2020

Centuries Almond Eau de Toilette by Caswell-Massey

A very "classic," in that distinctly straightforward Caswell-Massey way, fragrance, offering a comforting, unsexy, airy take on almond that nicely balances the intrinsically gourmand elements of the note with a powdery saltiness.

Blended with the tonka, the saltiness gives it something of a pleasing "Play-Doh" dimension, as well as a bit of a marine undertone.

Recommended.
05th December, 2020

Sandalwood by Caswell-Massey

Now marketed by Caswell-Massey as their "Woodgrain Sandalwood," this is bracingly woody and dry, with a bitter undertone. I find it somewhat thrilling, but can see why others might find it harsh.
05th December, 2020

Acqua di Giò Profumo by Giorgio Armani

How do you solve a problem like Profumo?

Profumo is in the style of fragrance that I immediately makes me think of as being "cologne-y." It's abstract and its accords don't neatly correlate to real-world aromatic experiences.

The opening of Profumo causes me to recoil a bit. There's nothing genuinely watery/ozonic/marine about the sea notes here (a version of this with a real sea spray feel, maybe some seaweed, would be much more appealing to me), and the bergamot is the "shower gel" kind, unrealistic and thin, rather than juicy and sharp. The mid and base get more interesting, though, with the smoky quality of the "incense" creeping in, but it still feels shallow to me.

I can't help but feel that Bvlgari Aqva Amara was the superior "designer incense aquatic" of this era, but nevertheless both it and Profumo would have benefited from more realism and richness being given to the notes they each list in their respective note pyramids.
01st December, 2020

Polo Modern Reserve by Ralph Lauren

Carlos Benaïm's original Polo ranks as one of the most iconic masculines ever released, and of the many flankers Benaïm has created over the years, Modern Reserve is the only one that feels like a true sequel.

This is another green, herbaceous leather with a similar core accord, but all the stuff that defined Polo (the pine, the ashy tobacco, the kind of rawhide leather) are traded for cleaner, zestier elements (juniper, myrrh, suede). It's not exactly youthful, but it strays from the powerhouse-y feeling of the vintage original.

It's good stuff, though perhaps isn't deserving of the unicorn reputation it has acquired. It is more full-bodied than the current Polo but also isn't as artful as some of the more upscale Polo-esque variants (such as Floris 1962).
28th November, 2020
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The Fragrance Journals : 1962 by Floris

I have come to find Floris one of the most consistent and capable houses in operation today. Their distinctive Britishness, which eschews any grandiose theatricality, as well as limited international distribution, tends to result in a lack of "hypeworthiness" that keeps the house somewhat under the radar.

1962, ostensibly an ode to Bohemian London (and I suppose there's a slight element of "head shop" to the spice here, but this really is a buttoned-up fragrance of the sort one would expect from a gentlemanly house like Floris), is really the Floris tribute to Polo, to which Floris owes its opening, and Halston Z-14, to which Floris owes its spiced cypress backbone. To its credit, 1962 is considerably more sophisticated and delicate than the recent formulations of either, with a polished blend that speaks to Floris' longstanding tradition of quality.

Fans of the more aggressive aspects of Polo or Z-14 need not apply. Ralph Lauren's Polo was an expression of Lauren's exaggerated caricature of British "old money," and 1962 dials the ostentatiousness back, delivering a subdued creation more in keeping with a spiced herbal scent like Dunhill Blend 30.
27th November, 2020

Cavendish by Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements

An impressively well-done artisanal take on the pipe tobacco blend. A boozy, liqueur-like backbone provides a throughline to woody tobacco, powdery vanilla, and suede. It's realistic while remaining wholly wearable.
22nd November, 2020

Atomic Age Bay Rum by Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements

To me, Atomic Age Bay Rum is first and foremost a spiced orange scent, with a bracing overload of spices, smooth bay rum, and some woodiness. A bit rustic, but in a way that is pleasing. The barrel-aged textures give it a unique, artisanal touch.
22nd November, 2020

Tobacco Nuit by Atelier Cologne

A standard issue tonkabacco with a hit of cumin in the opening that dirties things up and threatens to make things interesting.
19th November, 2020

Havana Reserva by Aramis

Aramis Havana Reserva is a more linear version of the original Havana that skips over the original's opening and goes straight into an amped-up version of the drydown.

It's nice, but not deserving of unicorn status. The original Havana offers a fuller, more satisfying journey.
16th November, 2020

Elixir des Merveilles by Hermès

One of Ellena's more stunning creations from his time at Hermès, Elixir des Merveilles remains the only Eau des Merveilles flanker to be truly worthy of the original.

Elixir is an intensified take on the original masterpiece, and if it owes a great deal to it, Elixir's brilliance shines forth in the way that it rebalances the original formula.

The orange in the original was translucent and ethereal. Here, it's candied, almost gourmand, but Ellena is quick to undercut the sweetness by amping up the marine ambergris base, creating a peculiar sweet-and-salty effect that is unique to Elixir.
14th November, 2020

Neroli Voyage by Floris

Pleasant and gentle, this one will win you over on its herbal nuances (like the nice fennel in the base), or bore you senseless.

It feels like the better-nuanced companion to Colonia Essenza.
12th November, 2020 (last edited: 02nd January, 2021)

Fille en Aiguilles by Serge Lutens

Sweet pine sap with that typical Lutens syrupy, dense structure.

Nice, but as usual with Serge Lutens creations, I find it a bit thick and one dimensional. A more translucent take on this theme would thrill me.
12th November, 2020

Equipage Géranium by Hermès

For my money, this and Elixir des Merveilles are the highlights of Ellena's Hermès tenure. He's more satisfying when he bringd his unique style to bear on established creations.

This is an old-meets-new creation par excellence, less a revision of Equipage than a reinterpretation that stands on its own two feet.

Arguably one of the greatest clove fragrances ever produced.
12th November, 2020

Dhanal Oudh Nashwah by Rasasi

It would be churlish to complain about this stunning creation given the price.

You get a rich, nutty oud with cedar, woodsmoke, leather, honey, and spices. It's as bold as it is dynamic and dark, shifting and evolving according to context.

It's a wonderful companion on cool days.
12th November, 2020

Al Quds by Abdul Karim Al Faransi

A dusty, smoky, soft leather, with a bit of comforting sweetness from the amber. The opening has some slight funk, but it quickly transforms into something smoother. Mildly fascinating.
09th November, 2020 (last edited: 05th December, 2020)

Graphite by Montana

It's hard to fault a fragrance as well-conceived and built as this one. It's a touch too severe for my tastes, but it's a terrific evocation of its namesake.
01st November, 2020

Patrick by Fragrances of Ireland

How can an affordable fragrance in 2020 still have a clear, accurate oakmoss accord? Who knows, but Patrick manages it, indicating that all fragrances gutted due to reformulation needn't have become shells of their former selves.

This is a terrific everyday masculine, as classic and effortless as Eau Sauvage. It's Irish Spring with additional depth and clarity.
01st November, 2020

Vetiver Extrême by Guerlain

Now discontinued, Extrême always felt somewhat redundant: a Guerlain Vetiver for those who didn't like the pungent tobacco of the original. It's a touch thinner as a result, with metallic incense subbing in for the tobacco.

Not a masterpiece, but nice.
01st November, 2020

Vetiver by Guerlain

This hardly needs my commendation, but it's indisputably the greatest of the great vetiver scents. A perfect embodiment of 1960s manly man masculinity (Connery might have worn Jicky in real life, but his James Bond would undoubtedly have preferred the more direct and bold Vetiver), it's a study in how to make a fragrance that is both straightforward and dazzlingly rich.
01st November, 2020

Stash by Sarah Jessica Parker

A bit like the new Pasha Parfum with a dash of Le Labo aesthetics: woody, boozy, warm. A nice creation, to be sure.
01st November, 2020

This is not a Pipe by Demeter Fragrance Library

Demeter is essentially a soliflore house that doesn't get enough credit for its adventurous and clever accord creations.

This Is Not a Pipe is a stunningly realistic evocation of its source material, more of an accord than a full-bodied perfume (though, in that respect, it's hardly different than most niche): an unsmoked tin of pipe tobacco, lightly sweetened with a burnt sugar undertone but decidedly more woody than gourmand.
19th October, 2020 (last edited: 12th November, 2020)