Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Brooks Otterlake

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Total Reviews: 183

Individuel by Montblanc

Blunt, synthetic, youthful (albeit in a very "of its time" kinda way), this Bourdon creation took the fruity-fresh 90s fragrance into the sweet gourmand direction that was gaining steam at the time.
07th August, 2020

Dark Rum by Malin + Goetz

A vile, synthetic stew that smells like boozy laundry detergent.
18th July, 2020

4711 Remix Cologne 2018 by 4711

A lovely, realistic take on orange with some of that herbal-soapy 4711 DNA supporting it. It's reminiscent of Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine, but less "orange juice"-y and more "bitter orange peel," with an herbal edge.

It's natural and fresh and bright, more pleasing to my nose than most takes on this theme (including the aforementioned Orange Sanguine).

It's an eau de cologne, so performance is modest, but it outlasts the original 4711 by some measure, hanging around for three hours or so. While you can overspray, I've found it more noticeable with limited application.

I'm using my 5 ounce bottle, as intended, to refresh myself on these humid summer days. It's doing the job.
11th July, 2020
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Colonia Essenza by Acqua di Parma

A traditional neroli eau de cologne with an herbs-and-patchouli supporting structure.

That prominent patchouli somewhat spoils the fragrance for me, because it somewhat dirties up the otherwise clean, refreshing aura of the genre. For that reason, I'm more partial to Colonia Assoluta, which is just as soapy but uses a "clean" amber-musk base to bolster and extend the composition.

That said, it's undeniably well-made, with clarity of structure and fine materials, and can be found for very reasonable prices.

For something with a similar profile but a cleaner dark-woody base, seek out Banana Republic Neroli Woods.
09th July, 2020

Eau des Sens by Diptyque

The eau de cologne genre is a hard one in which to innovate, and if Eau de Sens manages anything, it is to give the classic soapy-herbal eau de cologne a sleek, modern aura.

That said, I can't say I find Eau de Sens particularly thrilling or memorable; it smells like a high-end bar of hotel soap, which means it's by no means unpleasant, but doesn't offer a strong signature accord, either.

Measured against stuff like the Acqua di Parma Colonia line (which is by no means consistent in quality, but offers a spectrum of contemporary reinterpretations of the classic eau de cologne structure), it seems overly simplistic and flat.
04th July, 2020

Pour Un Homme Sport by Caron

Citrus gelato, some herbal-feeling ginger-and-lavender, and salty ambergris, all smoothly blended together. Thick, but refreshing.

I find this altogether more gratifying than the present day Caron pour Un Homme, even if Sport will never have a place in history as a "reference" fragrance in the way its forebear did.
24th June, 2020

F pour Homme Black by Salvatore Ferragamo

If you've had some familiarity with his work, the Polge-ness of Ferragamo F pour Homme Black will be unmistakable.

This powdery, peppery lavender-vanilla scent is unexciting but commendable.
18th June, 2020

Le Baiser du Dragon by Cartier

Originally released in 2003, Le Baiser du Dragon was a nod back to the luxurious feminine fragrances of decades before the "fresh" 90s. There's a touch of Shalimar in the base here, with a fairly straightforward blend of orange citrus, fresh gardenia, woody almond laid on top.

It's boozy and rich and and pleasant, with the prominent florals keeping things feeling clean and non-foody. The gardenia-almond accord holds my attention and keeps from dismissing this as an also-ran, but I can't help but feel that this sort of opulent style has been done with more finesse before and since.
14th June, 2020 (last edited: 15th June, 2020)

Lauder for Men by Estée Lauder

Clumsy opening, lovely drydown.
04th June, 2020

Dirty English by Juicy Couture

Encre Noire's vetiver and cypress serves as a background for a sweet boozy leather.

You have to overspray to enjoy this, because it's pretty light, but the pricepoint allows for that. It's kinda cheap-feeling but that's part of the fun.
04th June, 2020

Habanita by Molinard

A distinctive but repugnant blend of baby powder and rotten flowers.
31st May, 2020

Number 3 / Le 3ème Homme / The Third Man by Caron

The evocative name Caron chose for this scent may be my favorite name for any masculine-branded fragrance ever. I'm not sure how much the scent ultimately suits the film of the same name (there's no undercurrent of mystery or danger here), but it does suggests a kind of old-fashioned European elegance.

That said, as pleasant as it is, I don't find it a particularly interesting entrant in the dandyish spiced floral subgenre, and, as far as I can tell, its primary claim to fame is that it has survived changing cultural tides and IFRA longer than many others in this vein.
30th May, 2020

Séville à l'Aube by L'Artisan Parfumeur

I have had the pleasure of wandering through old Seville late at night.

Duchaufour's tribute to the majestic and peculiar city captures its spiritual essence. Duchaufour builds an artful church-y incense and beeswax composition and then uses sensual and lively floral notes to undercut its seriousness, blending the imminent and the transcendent.
30th May, 2020
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Insurrection II Wild by Reyane

A bracingly medicinal cherry accord serves as the backbone of this aromatic woody-herbal tonkabacco, which offers a central accord reminiscent of Bogart pour Homme, Mugler Pure Havane, and Xerjoff Naxos. The brightest and greenest of this fragrance family, Insurrection II Wild is also the least gourmand of the set, balancing the honey-tonka sweetness with aromatic green notes.

As with many tonkabacco fragrances, there may not be a true tobacco note here as much as it's just defined by a pleasant tobacco-style ambience. The potent medicinal quality fascinates me; it's detectable in Pure Havane, but not to the same extent. I suspect that the cherry accord comes from the marriage of some candied citrus (mandarin?), herbal notes, lavender, and light honey.

Impressively well done and very easy to wear.
23rd May, 2020 (last edited: 24th May, 2020)

Herrera for Men by Carolina Herrera

This fresh, metallic, herbal, floral creation must have felt cutting edge in '91, just a few years before Platinum Egoïste stole its thunder.

There's some sweetened tobacco and spices in here giving it a bit of exotic flair, but it's a freshie at heart, floral and herbal and clean.
22nd May, 2020

Cigar Commander by Rémy Latour

Gee, Burberry really ripped off Rémy Latour with Burberry London, didn't they? Cigar Commander is even closer to Burberry London than the original Cigar, but without the Christmasy spices and a richer, more dominant tobacco.

Cigar Commander has the best tobacco note of the Rémy Latour fragrances I've tried; it's dark, deep, earthy, rich, and a touch damp. It's bolstered by a shadowy fruity-woodiness that seems to be the signature element of the Rémy Latour Cigar line.
21st May, 2020

Number Six by Caswell-Massey

This review pertains to the "Supernatural" EDP, which was launched in 2018 (alongside the still-produced standard EDC) as an attempt to reinterpret the original formula using modern materials. In pricepoint, this is certainly a "luxe-niche" thing, and it's the kind of release one would get from traditional houses like Floris and Santa Maria Novella; new materials, but purposefully old-fashioned.

This Supernatural Number Six is very much an early eau de cologne ala Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Colonia that has been filled out to create a decently performing EDP, but not in a way that panders to contemporary tastes. (In other words, this is very far from "Neroli Portofino.") That drydown doesn't feel very modern at all; it's a gentle, dry floral/herbal musk.

I've been looking for a EDC-style fragrance with EDP performance that didn't go heavy on the green notes or aromachems to boost notes. This is it. There's a refreshing "lemon polish"-style citrus with a robust floral-herbal mid that transports right me back to a flower-filled solarium/nursery I used to frequent.

If you're suffering from sticker shock, let me just say that the quality is undeniable; it's as nice and refined as they can make 'em these days.
20th May, 2020 (last edited: 21st May, 2020)

Heritage Jockey Club Cologne by Caswell-Massey

A less spicy, less opulent Guerlain Héritage with heavier rose and no patchouli.
20th May, 2020

Bottega Veneta pour Homme by Bottega Veneta

What Dior Homme 2020 strove to achieve to be but falls very short of being, Bottega Veneta pour Homme is the classic green-woody reinvented for the Bleu de Chanel era. Elegant and versatile.

If you're looking for a richer take on the concept with reduced Bleu influence, you can look to West Third Brand's Amérique.
20th May, 2020

Bentley for Men by Bentley

Bentley for Men sits close enough in scent profile to its much-discussed Intense flanker that it's easy see why it's been overshadowed, but there are nevertheless prominent differences between them.

To start with, Bentley for Men is boozier than Intense. I love boozy notes, but the opening of this is almost too boozy for me. That spiced rum note blares above the rest of the composition, fruity and sweet. Thankfully, after thirty minutes or so the booziness calms down.

There's significantly less of that thick benzoin/vanilla here than there is in Intense. My guess is that the more prominent vanilla in Intense, when mingling with the "boozy" molecule they share, is responsible for that plastic/vinyl undercurrent in Intense, since I don't really get that plastic/vinyl element here in the original Bentley for Men.

Without the vanilla, the drydown here skews woody and green. It's still sweet, though, and without the smokiness from the incense to blunt it, it can feel a touch sweeter than Intense (even if it doesn't feel as thick or loud). If you never really got the incense note in Intense, believe me, you'll notice its absence here.

The patchouli plays a stronger role here than it does in Intense, and you still get the leather and cedar notes (a little better-defined here than in the Intense version). An hour in and the cedar/patchouli/leather becomes dominant.

All-in-all, it's not better or worse than Intense. The original Bentley for Men smells "nicer" to my nose insofar as it feels like it's more in line with the sophisticated aesthetic of the Lalique fragrances (Lalique produces the Bentley line), but it also lacks the polarizing personality that has made Intense such a much-discussed cheapie.

If you could add a touch of Intense's incense note to Bentley for Men, I think you'd have the best of both worlds.
18th May, 2020 (last edited: 19th May, 2020)

Roma Uomo Cedro by Laura Biagiotti

You're a tourist in Italy, eating lemon gelato while looking out over Lake Como.

Creamy lemon citrus bolstered with vanilla, blended in with woods and cascalone. It benefits from perfumer Annick Menardo's typically soft touch.
18th May, 2020

Bulgari Man in Black Essence by Bulgari

It's not bad, but Black Orient so vastly outshines it that it's hard to particularly recommend.
13th May, 2020

Cigarillo by Rémy Latour

A hard-to-find limited edition flanker to Cigar, Rémy Latour Cigarillo is worth a sniff if you can find it for a reasonable price; like its sibling, it's a drugstore scent with personality and panache. The wood cigar box packaging alone is a treat, taking the "novelty bottle" ethos to a glorious extreme.

If Rémy Latour Cigar was the embodiment of a afternoon cigar enjoyed in the tropics with a cocktail at hand, then this is a midnight cigar chased with sips of ungarnished rum. Cigarillo preserves Cigar's boozy, fruity ambience but this is a pitch-black variation on it: dark woods, dark fruits, and dark tobacco.

Accordingly, Cigarillo feels mature and a touch serious, eschewing Cigar's playfulness and dynamism for a smouldering intensity. It's a scent profile that, if rendered with non-drugstore materials, would feel a touch artisanal; there are a lot of boozy tobacco scents in the world, but none I've tried are quite as shadowy as this.
11th May, 2020

Sheikh Al Faransi by Abdul Karim Al Faransi

Structurally, Sheikh Al Faransi is not hard to describe: potent, salty ambergris is woven into a floral-oud skeleton. But the joy here is not in the intricacy of the structure but in its balance and depth.

The shimmering ambergris note, in particular, is profoundly satisfying.
03rd May, 2020

Witness by Jacques Bogart

The missing link in the chain between Roger & Gallet Open, Montana Parfum d'Homme, and Aramis Havana, Bogart Witness is essentially just the spicy-sweet elements of Aramis Havana taken out and bottled unto itself.

You get a lot of spices, predominantly cinnamon, over a carmelized brown sugar base, with some of the commonplace green-woody elements of the time keeping it from going full-on gourmand.

It's a lot of fun, and its delectable drydown would make this an excellent choice for a crisp fall day.
02nd May, 2020 (last edited: 04th May, 2020)

Jaïpur Homme by Boucheron

Jaïpur Homme EDT blends the European gentleman's floral masculine with a heavy dose of exoticism, and, commendably, this Annick Menardo creation does not feel like a caricature, but more subtly and seamlessly blends French and Indian influences.

Jaïpur Homme feels altogether sophisticated, but not stodgy or rigid. It has a relaxed air that makes this more appropriate for everyday wear than the "powdered wig" aesthetics of the prior Boucheron pour Homme.

It opens with citrus (and if you get it in the first few seconds, it's so sharp as to feel almost antiseptic), but it quickly takes a backseat a the spice-and-floral blend takes center stage. Vanilla and tonka (more tonka than vanilla, to my nose) helps anchor the spices and florals here, but in the EDT it's neither heavy nor intensely sweet, more of a blending agent than an actual force.

Among affordable gentleman's scents with a "barbershop vanilla" backbone, Jaïpur Homme EDT is not quite Guerlain-grade in complexity and artistry, but it's also more wearable, I think, than any of the Guerlains to which it might reasonably be compared, and the immaculately blended spices give it a unique appeal.
02nd May, 2020

Lui by Guerlain

Beyond its emphasis on smoky vanilla, Lui doesn't feel particularly connected to Guerlain's history; smoky vanilla this may have, but there's no real Guerlinade here.

But it does feel more classic than contemporary, with its carnation and clove and vanilla gesturing in the direction of such accomplished scents as Caron's Third Man. We might say it's a bit of classic French elegance filtered through contemporary abstraction.

There's a beguiling, enigmatic aspect to Lui in its early stages; the pear is almost ghostly, and the dry, dusty clove and vanilla creeps in like a fog. It's not especially sweet or gourmandish, instead more like a potpourri with a harvest-time aroma.

There's an air of relaxed romance present in Lui, courtesy of its inviting coziness and lack of pretense or formality. It's a scent that's utterly at ease with itself, accomplished but with no desire to trumpet its own accomplishment.

I must give credit where credit is due to Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk. In Lui, they've made something very special.
02nd May, 2020

Fumerie Turque by Serge Lutens

I don't think the Lutens "aesthetic" is a good fit for my own tastes, given that I like structural clarity and precision, and there's often a certain cloudiness to Lutens' creations that reads to me as somewhat ramshackle.

Fumerie Turque is a very interestingly kind of dry, earthy take on tobacco with some accords I haven't found anywhere else, and it deserves commendation for that. I don't find it exactly unpleasant, but I do find it a bit stuffy in a way that I don't enjoy spending a great period of time with it.
26th April, 2020

1740 Marquis de Sade by Histoires de Parfums

The current version is the one to which I give a hearty thumbs-up. There's a lot of complexity to this opulent, rich leather scent. It's ultimately elegant, despite its cheeky nods to the prurient decadence of its namesake.

The original 2008 release is an animalic bomb that is incredibly well-made but one that I nevertheless find intensely challenging to wear.
23rd April, 2020

Santos by Cartier

Santos first emerged in 1981, the creation of Daniel Moliere (who would go on to create Tam Dao).

While Santos unfortunately hasn't been cared for as well as Pasha has, someone at Cartier cares about it. The recent "ribbed bottle" formulation is a significant upgrade from the prior formulation, nicely maintaining the scent's distinctive spicy-sweet structure. Having tried the original formulation, I'd say the current stuff isn't far off the mark; it's a little drier, with less brown sugar in the base, but the quality is still fine.

The increasingly expensive original formulation of Santos is fairly dry, but it isn't soapy, with a touch of almost gourmand booziness underlying the heavy spices (cinammon, cumin, nutmeg, pepper). The original Santos feels essentially timeless given that it doesn't replicate the more worn cliches of its own time; in a blind-sample, this could reasonably pass as an artisanally-styled scent from a niche house like Serge Lutens.

For something that's aggressively spicy, the original Santos has a lot of restraint, reflecting the tasteful image Cartier wished to project at the time. In the air, it all comes together to form a nice, singular effect that doesn't evolve too much one way or the other: strong, elegant, and a bit exotic. (That taste for exoticism would show up again in the spicy opening of Pasha de Cartier.)

Given that Mathilde Laurent just did Pasha Parfum for Cartier, maybe there's a Santos Parfum looming on the horizon.
22nd April, 2020 (last edited: 27th July, 2020)